Proper Introductions: The Evolution of a Wallflower

proper_introductionsMy twelve-year old daughter and I stood at the edge of the wedding pre-party. The crowd of barely knowns and complete unknowns jumped and seethed with motion and noise. Happy. Dancing. Talking. My daughter’s eyes grew wide watching the crowd. She pulled herself straight and leaned back away from the room as though reeling from a sour scent.

“Mom, can I go run outside?”

“Uh huh,” I said.

One blink of the eye and she vanished, racing around the giant estate my husband’s family had rented for his sister’s wedding.

Damn, I thought, there goes my plus one.

Today, my husbands beautiful sister marries. This marriage brings together a Persian family and Indian family. Both the bride and groom are of the first generation born in America. Both are doctors. The celebrations started months ago, on the east coast, where the Indian contingent threw a lavish party complete with bright costumes and choreographed dance routines.

Last night we experienced the rehearsal dinner, hosted by the Persian side. Today begins with a Catholic ceremony at a church, followed by a Persian ceremony at a waterside resort, followed by an after-party that from all rumors will likely surpass that of the grammys.

Epic. Excellent. Extraordinary. But back to my problem. Me, bewildered, at the edge of crowd of barely-knowns.

Through the glass on the expansive front doors, I could see my daughter scaling the neighbor’s fence to drop down and disappear into a field thick with scotch broom. Lucky kid.

While my husband and I have been together over six years, it was just recently that we decided to tie the matrimonial knot. Even more recently came his family’s acceptance of my place in his life. Ours is a second marriage. Divorce does not play well with families from the old country. The beginning of our relationship a nano second after his first marriage ended did not start us off on a good foot with his parents. Rule breakers may be fed to the exclusion dogs.

Standing there, watching grandmas and aunts and uncles merge and separate and mingle and mix, I took deep breaths.

These are good people, I told myself. Give them the chance they never gave you. My husband locked eyes with me, sending me a helpless, sympathetic smile from his position at the sound board where he had been roped on arrival into playing DJ. Whatever happened, I was going to have to face it alone.

And then it began, the first pulling on my hand.

“Oh hello! You must be Ali’s wife. I am his mother’s best friend from Texas. I heard so much about you.”

Another gentle pull, “Oo la la, look at Ali’s wife. So beautiful! Would you like wine, my dear?”

Directed by a bevy of manicured hands, I made my rounds and introductions. Relatives flown in from California, from Texas, from Iran, from New York, from India. I dined on a plate loaded half with ghormeh sabzi and half with curry. I danced with the ladies in pastel suits, flicking wrists and twisting hips. I even sat for a few minutes with my husband’s father, on the balcony, trying not to push too hard in a friendly argument that raced from immigration, to Iran, to privilege, to gay rights, to my husband’s exercise habits.

By the end of the night, even my wild daughter had worked herself into the crowd. Her party clothes hung damp from her dashes through the landscaping sprinklers. Small sticks and organic bits and pieces stuck her hair. She laughed with the ladies, eating the endless stream of treats pushed into her hands. She enchanted two younger girls who followed her around as though her adoring minions. Only after exhaustion caught up with her did she pull out her book and settle into a forgotten nook.

By the time pans of pie and baklava replaced the platters of meat and rice, and the music evolved from bouncy, upbeat Persian pop to even bouncier, louder, more upbeat Persian pop, I could mangle at least eight new names with ease and work my shoulders on the dance floor as though I’d been doing it since I was knee-high. Best yet, I learned I could confidently interject myself into any family cluster with the utterance of the one phrase sure to win me favor.

“Hello. I’m Ali’s wife.”

I figure it will only be a matter of time before I may simply introduce myself as Kelsye.

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