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December 23, 2009

Tom Takes a Wife Part 2

Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysia – A beautiful woman sleeping next to me! I had to pinch myself to make sure this was real. Yes, this incredible sensitive being was my wife in a slumber reminiscent of an angel minus the wings. Or maybe she had them stored some place in a closet.


Dressed in white pants, a white shirt and a black songkok on my head, I went to her uncle’s house to await the marriage ceremony. My representatives, daughters Christine and Mary, the Imam of the local mosque and my friend Abdullah all sat around for the walk to my future bride’s house right around the corner.


Abdullah, then informed I had to have the ritual Islamic bath. I entered the kitchen and stripped down, covering my lower body with a sarong. We walked to a hose outside on the side of the dwelling where I washed my face, ears, feet to ankles, arms to elbows with clean clear water three times. In the heat, it felt really good.


Dripping, I strolled back through a room of about 20 people and into the kitchen to dress. I was handed a towel to dry off and about 18 ladies, of all ages, decided to have a look, staring was more like it. This was the first time ever that anyone can remember that a white guy was marrying a local girl.


I have hair on my chest, a white blanket between and above the nipples. Malay men lack this feature and, as I dried my chest, the ladies all moved a step closer, peering through their Islamic garb to have a closer look. The elderly were especially curious and I became a bit self conscious as they giggled and chatted among themselves. They spoke a dialect I did not understand, but I think it was all good.


In procession, we walked to my bride’s home. I could not touch any other woman, except my daughters, as I had been cleansed. The next person I would touch would be my bride. Not wanting to be hosed down again, I avoided every lady, making a wide berth around them.


I sat in the rear of the crowded room with people craning through the ground floor windows, as the engagement ceremony proceeded. After more prayers, my eldest daughter placed a gold band on my wife’s right hand which signified she was taken. Usually, this ceremony is five months before the legal wedding but we decided to combine the two because it would be difficult for my daughters to attend. It takes two days of travel to get here, even in this jet age.


I then proceeded up to the front, sitting with my legs crossed next to my bride and the legal part of the ceremony proceeded. The major responsibilities of each person were outlined and defined the marriage. Given great emphasis was the part about how I must sexually satisfy her and she me. I really did like this requirement.


I had to recite two statements very quickly without stopping. This was the transfer of responsibility for Surianai (means sunshine in Malay) from her father to me, part of the Islamic requirements. I read it through after practice and got it right the first time. Many congratulated me as even the local grooms have trouble with this part because of understandable nervousness.


Afterwards, we had a big feast served buffet style. Salty fish, beef curry and veggies were heaped in piles to feed a couple of hundred people. We were driven back to my condo to begin life anew, a fresh start in love, hope and future.


…Life is good!

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