Showing posts with label marriage. Show all posts
Showing posts with label marriage. Show all posts

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Marriage Just Makes Things Easier

“Marriage just makes things easier.” 

          My husband and I were visiting with an old friend, a physicist who was getting serious with a woman, when he made that statement. In this particular context about marriage, our friend was talking about health insurance and child custody. He was serious about the relationship – and a person can always argue that marriage is just a piece of paper – but in this society, practicality dictates that two people who are committed to each other are better off formalizing their union by marrying. My husband and I nodded at what our friend was saying – marriage, the legal contract between two people, does make everything easier. Health insurance, child custody, property laws, immigration - these are some of the very tangible benefits that come when two people sign a marriage contract.
          My husband is a foreign national. He came to the U.S. for graduate school and stayed afterwards, working first as a post-doc, then as an engineer for a large company. Although he has always had a visa, there are certain hassles that are inherent to holding a work visa in this country. Several years ago, one of our friends, who was on an H1B non-profit visa, lost the funding for his position. He was given several months in which he could find a job or else he had return to India. Luckily, he found another position and was able to remain. But if he hadn’t, once his visa expired he would have been required to leave the country immediately, leaving all traces of his life behind.
          For me, marriage means that even if my husband loses his job and cannot find another one immediately, he will not be forced to leave this country. Marriage also means that we can share health insurance, which, in light of a serious accident I had several years ago, is a precious thing indeed.  I can always say that my relationship isn’t defined by a piece of paper.  Emotionally, it isn’t. But practically speaking, marriage allows us a certain protection, one that is barred to many other couples simply because of their sexual orientation. 
          It would be selfish for me to argue that other couples, who are also committed to a future together, cannot enjoy the same privileges that I take for granted.

Monday, July 23, 2012

On Trying To "Have It All" As A Mormon Girl

          I was a fourteen-year old girl attending a Mormon camp called “Especially For Youth”.  After a seminar meant to excite the youth about serving full-time missions - taught by a very cute blonde boy who had recently returned from his own - I was standing in line for lunch.  I struck up a conversation with the boy next to me, who had also attended the same talk.  My enthusiasm for serving a mission was at an all-time high, as I started gushing about how much I wanted to serve, how important the work was to me.  I was fourteen and I wanted to be the perfect Mormon, to live up the standards that everyone expected of me.  I wanted to be everything that everyone expected of me.  
          “I just can’t wait to go on a mission!” I said, looking at the boy.  He was average cute, which in the hyper-competitive world of Mormon courtship, was enough.  Even at fourteen, I was all too aware of the overwhelming pressure of marriage and its implications on my eternal salvation.  
          He looked at me and arched his eyebrow.  “Aren’t you supposed to be concentrating on -- other duties?” he said, the meaning in his voice plain.  
          “I can do both!” I said.  He shrugged, looking skeptical.
          I was hurt; I turned my back on this guy, who looked uglier and uglier by the moment.  I dismissed him as a pompous jerk.  I convinced myself that I could still do it all.  
          A few months ago, I discovered a talk by Gordon B. Hinckley, the man I considered to be a modern-day prophet of God.  I was twelve when he gave this talk; two years later I got angry when a boy dismissed my goal to become a missionary.   Hinckley gave this talk during the Priesthood Session of General Conference; only the men were allowed to attend.  

“Now I wish to say something to bishops and stake presidents concerning missionary service. It is a sensitive matter. There seems to be growing in the Church an idea that all young women as well as all young men should go on missions. We need some young women. They perform a remarkable work. They can get in homes where the elders cannot.

I confess that I have two granddaughters on missions. They are bright and beautiful young women. They are working hard and accomplishing much good. Speaking with their bishops and their parents, they made their own decisions to go. They did not tell me until they turned their papers in. I had nothing to do with their decision to go.

Now, having made that confession, I wish to say that the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve are united in saying to our young sisters that they are not under obligation to go on missions. I hope I can say what I have to say in a way that will not be offensive to anyone. Young women should not feel that they have a duty comparable to that of young men. Some of them will very much wish to go. If so, they should counsel with their bishop as well as their parents. If the idea persists, the bishop will know what to do.

I say what has been said before, that missionary work is essentially a priesthood responsibility. As such, our young men must carry the major burden. This is their responsibility and their obligation.

We do not ask the young women to consider a mission as an essential part of their life’s program. Over a period of many years, we have held the age level higher for them in an effort to keep the number going relatively small. Again to the sisters I say that you will be as highly respected, you will be considered as being as much in the line of duty, your efforts will be as acceptable to the Lord and to the Church whether you go on a mission or do not go on a mission.

Now, that may appear to be something of a strange thing to say in priesthood meeting. I say it here because I do not know where else to say it. The bishops and stake presidents of the Church have now heard it. And they must be the ones who make the judgment in this matter.”  

          Gordon B Hinckley was a man that, as a fourteen-year-old girl, I considered a Prophet of God.  I discovered this talk a few months back and every-time that I think about it, I feel hurt.  I don’t why this talk hurts me so much, more than ten years after leaving Mormonism.  I suppose because as a fourteen-year old girl the idea of serving a mission struck me as one of the few accomplishments I could aim for in equal accord with men.  
          At the age of twelve I had been inducted into the Young Women program; the lessons about marriage and children were already starting to weigh me down.  And the thought of marriage terrified me; I wanted the luxury of waiting until I was at a reasonable age.  This luxury seemed denied to me in the Mormon world, as most of my fellow Young Women were getting married before the age of 21.  I had just seen the first of my peers get married off - she was eighteen, just a couple months out of high school, when she married a man who had noticed her a couple years earlier while serving his mission.  The ward made a huge fuss over my friend - they talked about her as the ultimate success, having fulfilled her highest potential at the precocious age of eighteen.  And while I was supposed to be happy for her, the thought of marriage at such a young age terrified me.  
          Serving a mission meant that I could defer the prospect of marriage for a few more years, until I was old enough to feel ready. I didn’t want to be married at a young age.  I wanted a life that included a little more than simply marriage and children.  I wanted something of my own; an education, maybe a career.  Some goal that was mine and mine alone.  I wanted to have it all.  
          And yet, even at the age of fourteen, the doors to a larger world were closed to me.  I wanted everything and yet the prophet was instructing the men in my life to hold me back from having it all.  

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Coffee Love Story

          I was raised to believe that drinking coffee was a sin.  No one in my family touched the black liquid; to bring coffee into my home would have been sufficient to spark a small war.  Having never been exposed to coffee, the very smell was enough to make me feel queasy.  Even after leaving the church, I stayed away from drinking coffee.  Sometimes, when I was cramming for exams and needed the caffeine, I would drink large cups of badly brewed coffee, which was sufficient to convince me that coffee wasn’t anything to get excited about.  If I needed the caffeine, I stuck with my standard Diet Coke.  
          And then I met a boy.  I was at a party when I struck up a conversation with a grad student in engineering.  He was funny and smart and we talked for hours as the party slowly died down around us.  He gave me his number and I resolved to call him again.  Which I did.  I called him, we talked, and we decided to meet for a coffee.  He picked me up after work and took me to his favorite coffee-shop.  
          This was not just any coffee shop.  This was a special coffee shop, with some of the highest standards in the industry.  The beans are ethically sourced and roasted locally by a master with years of experience.  The coffee is then prepared by baristas that have gone through months of rigorous training in order to pull a single shot.  The result is an espresso that is rich and earthy, with a beautiful caramel crema. 
          We talked for hours as I savored my coffee.  My horizons opened up, both by this new realization of the art of coffee as well as my conversation with a man who was raised by a single mother in India.  He told me about the trials of growing up in a highly orthodox Brahmin family while I told him about the trials of growing up in a highly conservative Mormon family.  We discovered a commonality in our experience that transcended cultural barriers.  Here was another person who had challenged his up-bringing and in so doing, had become more open-minded, more tolerant, more aware of humanity in all its glorious diversity.  I sensed I was on the verge of something spectacular.  
          Six years later and I find myself married to the same man that introduced me to good coffee.  There have been challenges of the sort that are inherent when two stubborn, strong-willed people from two very different cultures choose to get married.  But in-between these struggles have been a lot of good times.  We have shared a lot of laughter and had a lot of conversations that have challenged my view of the world around me.  I have a partner that makes me laugh, that reminds me to stop taking life so seriously, whose smile lights up the room.  More than that, I have a partner who understands the trials of walking a different path in life.