The moment I have been anxiously waiting for and dreading all at the same time has finally happened. Many of the other volunteers experienced this cultural exchange within the first three months in country, so you can just imagine my anticipation for the big event. Every little girl dreams of this day, no matter what country or culture they come from. Yep he proposed… oh wait, that happens on a weekly basis here, and it is definitely not what I dream of. No I finally was able to attend an Armenian wedding!!!
This wedding has been the talk of Spitak for months! It was suppose to take place in October, but the week before the big event, the bride’s grandmother passed away. They re-scheduled for two weeks later, and as it happens that week the groom’s grandmother passed. Talk about unfortunate timing. Finally after about a month of waiting the wedding was re-scheduled and I was somehow invited. Now my relation to the family is as follows; I teach the youngest daughter Sylvia and she is in my English club. Other than that the bride and groom once picked me up while I was walking in the rain and drove me home. I had never met them before and was shocked, and a little frightened that they knew where I lived! But apparently that is all it took to be an honored guest on the biggest day of their life!
So why have I been dreading this day? Well, where to start? For one, the day I found out I was invited my host mom came into my room to inspect all of my cloths so she could choose what I would wear!! No joke! She sighed as she went through my dismal wardrobe, searching for anything that would work. She found the one black dress I brought for special occasions, and with a look of distaste said it would work unless I wanted to go buy a new dress! HA on a Peace Corps budget? Yeah right! I explained to her that I had to pack everything I would need for two years and was told to bring a conservative dress, not anything too fancy. She offered to sew it up for me to make it shorter and tighter, I apologetically declined. Then I received a lecture about how I should do my hair, how I had to wear heels and she made sure to tell me a number of times that I had to wear pretty makeup. Does this mean I don’t normally wear pretty make up? Aye Kez Ban, she took all the excitement out of me, and made me feel like an ugly American duckling! Then of course my brother had to chime in and told me I must start practicing my Armenian dancing! If you know me, you know I don’t dance, I just don’t. So the thought of having to practice Armenian dancing for a wedding where everyone would be watching me, scared the hell out of me!
A few days before the wedding, my school is all abuzz with the news that Miss Alyssa will be going to the wedding. The people who were not attending were excited for me to experience their culture and wanted me to report back to them what I thought. The people, who were going, were even more excited, telling me I had to dance with them, and makes toasts and such. No pressure or anything! And of course everyone had one question, what are you wearing?!?! You have got to be kidding me, I thought. I moved out of L.A. to a village and the cloths I wear are still important?!? This is a erie side of Armenian culture, though they may not have money, what people wear and look like are still very important here. It is a huge part of the culture to look your best, wear the cutest shoes and wear pretty make up. I rarely see young women in Armenia not looking their best, once you are married it is a different story, but the whole goal of adolescence through young adulthood is to find a husband and one must do everything within her power to do that.
You can imagine how much pressure I felt the morning of the wedding as I got ready. I took a shower and “blow dried” my hair. I put on heavy eye make-up and my best dress and high heeled boots. When I walk out of my room to make myself some coffee my host brother and mom are waiting to see me. “Alyssa Jan, can’t you do something with your hair? Do you have gel or anything?” Umm no, I am in the Peace Corps, I did not bring hair products. Thanks a lot!
As we got into the cab to be driven to Spitaks only restaurant I noticed something very fishy, my host mom was wearing jeans!!! Yes jeans! What the hell, she can wear jeans but my black dress isn’t fancy enough?!
To be continued…