Why I Went “Rainbow”

If you’ve been on the internet or glanced at the news at some point after Friday, you’ll probably be shaking your head at “yet another post about SCOTUS passing the same-sex marriage law.” Or as Surgeon put it: “everyone and their mother is posting about that.”

But, dear Reader, I have so many things to say about it.

Let it be known, first off, that I was born into a conservative Hindu family. I grew up not knowing anything about being gay. Hell, I didn’t even know about sex until I was finally introduced though my IGCSE Biology class in tenth grade. Sex was as taboo a word as the worst curse you could think of. And sex between man and man or woman and woman? Let’s just say I thank my friends and literature classes for being brought up to speed there. Surprising as it was, it never really irked me. They exist, I told myself, and they don’t affect me.

Fast-forward to 2008, when Prop 8 (which eliminated the right for same-sex couples in California) was on the ballot. I remember the doorbell ringing and my father’s lovely voice floating into the den as he spoke with the two, clean-shaved, tie-adorned gentlemen handing him a flyer.

“Well of course I’ll vote yes,” he stated matter-of-factly, “we are Hindus, and we too think it’s a moral outrage.”

There were some sighs of relief and light laughter, the door closed, and the day went on. But something had been tripped in me. I sat there in the den for a long, long time. Should my being a Hindu really affect a random group of people who are NOT Hindu and want to live their lives their own way?

No. Of course not. Why should I dictate anything at all for anyone but myself? Let them be who they are. They have never asked me to be anything I am not.

When I brought this up with my father… well, I made it a point never to bring it up again. So, my fellow religious readers, I hear you. I understand the choice you’re grappling with, and I know the burden is heavy. But for me, it has become a simple choice when it comes to morality: do I harm anyone by making the choices I do? Voting yes on Prop 8 would have… it would have caused so much pain for good people who simply wanted to be together. Voting no? Sure, it may be uncomfortable for some to encounter gay couples, but no harm is being inflicted by either parties. Same-sex couples do not advocate their sexual orientation. They advocate awareness and acceptance, both of and by themselves and by society. What more can you expect from human beings who have been persecuted, segregated and mis-conceptualized for as long as history can remember?

Despite this moral realization, the issue still didn’t affect me. It was still them and me.

But then I met Surgeon.

Yes, Surgeon is a man, and I am a woman. But Surgeon is not Indian. He is not Hindu. In fact, when I first told my parents his last name, my mother’s face went a pale, sickly yellow.

“What do you MEAN!?” she whispered, “he’s from those who we cannot even… WE DON’T DO THIS!”

My father’s face wasn’t exactly any better. He demanded that I come to my senses, pick someone else, “ANYONE, but him,” and stop seeing Surgeon.

Now, understand this, Reader: Surgeon’s family is from Iran. Which means, inherently, his ancestors were Muslim. Which means that REGARDLESS of the fact that Surgeon does not practice Islam and is Agnostic, to my family, he’s Muslim.

Which means their eldest child is also about to carry a Muslim name.

And that simply cannot be done, Reader. If there is anything that is culturally banned, it would be a Hindu-Muslim marriage.

It was at this point in my yet-too-short-to-be-wise life that I finally understood what it meant to be a couple that loved and could not marry. Society has trained us to see this issue as “gay” marriage. No, Reader. No. This is a MARRIAGE issue. Always was and always will be. It would also serve us right to remember that a mere 52 years ago, in this very country we love and cherish, “states believe that the Negro (sic) is not the only threat to their racial purity, and therefore forbid whites to marry American Indians, West Indians, Asiatic Indians, Mongolians, Malays, Chinese, Japanese, Africans, “half-breeds,” and mestizos.”

52 years ago! Had I met Surgeon then… well, I’d been a criminal. A criminal for loving someone and desiring my all to be with them in the most honorable of ways.

And that, Reader, is a feeling I do not want to bestow on ANYONE. No one, NO ONE, deserves to feel this way about a thing so human as love.

As for those of you who, also like me, feel that government has really no business in dictating who marry’s who and hence refuse to celebrate accordingly (Facebook’s Rainbow Filter, for example) for SCOTUS’s few successes… please, stop it. For once in your life, put yourself and your opinions away. Bring out instead the compassion in you that drives you to be empathetic, that let’s you feel the joy in others, that revels in beauty and the sheer possibilities we have by being alive and go “rainbow.” Go “rainbow” for courage. Go “rainbow” for love. Go “rainbow” for gratitude.

Go rainbow because you, too, are human.

Rainbow

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The Resident’s Prom

The event is a rather common one. The chief residents throw a graduation party every year. Surgeon has managed to skip out of half of them so far, but being chief in a month now requires his presence.

This evening for me, however, is going to be a first of many things. Among them are:

1. I’ll be meeting Surgeon’s co-workers

2. I’ll be dining at the Ritz

3. I’ll be introduced as his WIFE

Number one is a little nerve-racking because here I am, a humble teacher of writing, about to mingle and converse with people who quite literally save lives on a daily basis. While doctors/surgeons individually are not intimidating (I’ll have to tell you what Surgeon looked liked on our first date one day), when they are massed together, it’s like entering a world that a plebeian like myself will never quite grasp. The jargon is completely beyond me sometimes, and I often marvel at the jokes they laugh at. I suppose this gathering is especially trying because I’ll finally be able to put faces to the many nicknames Surgeon and I have given to his many attendings, interns and fellow residents. Surgeon’s stories and complaints about his hospital and the people he works with abound, but one of the things I adore about him is that he never puts a name to anyone. That’s when I started giving people three word sobriquets: “Oh, you mean The Animal Lover?” Well, tonight, The Animal Lover is going to have a face… and part of me doesn’t want to know all these faces. There is a joy and a freedom in keeping certain groups of people unknown to a certain degree. Your spouse’s co-workers fit this category quite perfectly.

Number two is a little exciting, actually. As a foodie, I am curious to know what exactly will be served on my plate tonight. A chickpea patty? A summer risotto? A completely unknown but extremely marvelous vegetarian delicacy? Bring it on.

Finally, number three. While calling Surgeon “husband” seems exceptionally natural at this point (I don’t, for example, forget and call him boyfriend or whatever), being called a “wife” is still a little surprising. What’s more, people are expecting to meet me as Surgeon’s brand new wife. Surgeon and I were pretty private about our relationship and marriage, so I suppose the allure for everyone else is amped up, but for Surgeon and I, it’s all the more uncomfortable.

It’s the sentiment behind number three that’s causing a slight dilemma for me at the moment, and it’s perhaps one that you’ll scoff at: what the hell am I gonna wear!?

Surgeon didn’t give much advice. He grinned at my worry and said, “Think of this thing as the Resident’s Prom. Dress whatever way you like!”

So do I wear an evening gown, or do I wear a sari?

As a child and teenager, I donned many Indian outfits, be it for Indian parties or American ones. Part of this was because my mother forbade us girls to wear dresses after we turned seven or eight. Actually, she forbade pretty much anything except for loose jeans and long-sleeved shirts. I look like the ultimate nerd in many of my old pictures (glasses and all). While I loved the way a sari looked on me, I longed to wear American dresses with their many cuts and shapes. So when I finally got my freedom in college, I went out and bought some. Cheap ones at first, but once grad school hit, I started collecting glorious pieces.

This is the one I have in mind to wear tonight:

Dress

Yet, another part of me wants to be traditional. I want to bring my culture. All of these people I am going to meet tonight will see my skin, of course, and will assume I am Indian, but marrying Surgeon makes me even more so American. This made me panic just a tiny bit and I found myself sifting through the many, many, many saris I own but have never worn. They are all so beautiful, intricately decorated with embroidery and beads on bright, lush colors, like this one:

Sari

They both sing to me. They both identify with my tastes.

So what do I wear? What the hell do I wear?

A Child’s Vow

I was seven.

Most people consider the age of seven as the age of reason: it’s when a child has developed a moral conscience and can be held accountable for his/her actions to a certain degree. Telling a lie at age three, for example, would be dismissed with a mother’s chuckle. By seven, a lie is usually punished with, in my case, a knowing, piercing glare and a stern rhetorical question.

Besides learning a little more about “right” and “wrong”, like most seven-year-old’s, I had my share of scraped knees and tomboyish foolery. Trees and rough bike rides were my best friends, and my sister (two years younger) was the epitome of everything I didn’t want to be. While she was meticulously fashioning her doll’s hair into elaborate braids, I was secretly debating if I should cut my doll’s hair shorter so it wouldn’t tangle so much. She dreamed of a house, a kitchen, and most of all, a husband. A smart husband. Maybe a doctor!

I remember scoffing at her. The reason in me was already growing against the word “marriage.” There was no way I, WS, would marry. And least of all, to a doctor. EVERYONE wants to marry a doctor. I wasn’t going to be everyone.

“Okay, make a promise!” my sister leered.

“I promise not to marry a doctor. Or anyone!” I jeered right back.

And for 20 years, that vow held fast. As a college student, I steered away from the pre-med men, and then in grad school, meeting someone with the term “medical school” attached to them was always a sort of shadow hanging over my conscience. The label scared me. The label it would add to ME scared me. My community was filled with young women being hitched to young doctors. It looked like a cult of women going on random cruises and beach side vacations with their “hubby”, sporting glistening rocks on their fingers and designer bags on their shoulders, and worst of all, seemed to call themselves “doctor’s wife” before ANYTHING else. Their identities were tied to their husband’s in a way that no other profession seems to these days (I mean, Amal Ramzi Clooney doesn’t say “I am an actor’s wife!” as an introduction. It simply isn’t said).

I, for one, wasn’t going to be that. I had a vow to keep, after all.

Until I met Surgeon.

It took nearly three years, but the vow slowly dissembled it self, dissolving with understanding, trust, and as clichéd as it sounds, a profound love for an individual who is so much more than a surgeon. For now, suffice it to say that my seven-year-old self is a little disappointed, but then laughs and whispers,

“At least he lets you climb trees!”

What more does a wife need?