After tooling around Southeast Asia for several months, Thaddeus, the very dear husband of mine, started a slight manipulation of the truth, a seemingly insignificant lie. He was well intentioned and tried to look to the interest of others, if that softens the blow at all.
Pronouncing the letters T-H together is a completely brutal task for Asians. It is actually really impossible, as their mouths and tongues have not been trained to say such craziness.
I am not saying anything bad about other languages, just stating the difficulty with pronouncing new sounds. This is something we struggle with everyday as I fail miserably, attempting to repeat words or phrases. It is completely embarrassing, when they look at me struggling and give a smile back saying “it’s ok”.
Everywhere we go, we hear “Hello friend” or “Mr. Mr.” followed by “what’s your name”. Thad started out saying his name was Thad, then Thaddeus, then would spell out T-H-A-D, to no avail. It didn’t matter what he tried, as we would hear back Ted, Tad, Ed, Chad, etc. Eventually Thad would give a nice smile and say yes, that is it.
After a few months of this same conversation happening, Thad started introducing himself at Tad. That was it. No need for discussion, or running it by me first. It just happened one day, when I heard “Hi, I am Tad”. I am still getting used to it, but it has been so much easier.
Now, mentioning to Thad that I was going to write an article calling him out on a blatant lie, he had this response: “I am just giving them the name that they give me anyways.” Call it what you want, I am not here to judge, as I am seriously now contemplating my own little deceitfulness…
I cannot remember how many times I have had the same conversation regarding marriage, over and over again. It was kind of funny at first, even a compliment really, and now I don’t know what damage I am doing to this Asian culture. The last few examples of this conversation were with the man looking at my passport at customs, our dive master, and then today, a random electronic salesman. This was all within the last two weeks.
Today’s conversation, like many others, goes as follows:
Random person feeling open to ask personal questions: Is that your boyfriend you travel with?
Me: No, that is my husband.
Random person feeling open to ask personal questions: Wow. Where is your baby then?
Me: No, no kids yet.
Random person feeling open to ask personal questions: How old are you? Like 24? You are too young to be married. How old is your husband?
Me: I am 30. I know, I am getting pretty old. (Thanks for bringing that up) Thad is 31.
Random person feeling open to ask personal questions: How long have you been married?
Me: Almost seven years.
Random person feeling open to ask personal questions: Speechless. Face in utter shock. Doesn’t know what to say…
Me: (Feeling awkward, like I am an awful person) No kids now, but really soon, with a smile.
I have tried explaining along the way that in our culture, it is common to wait to have children, be married for a few years, and get established before trying. I once even said that some couples choose not to have children at all.
That was a mistake. In Southeast Asia, the culture views children so highly and has this patience and deep love for kids, a lot of kids. There is huge pressure, more in certain countries than others, to have a child as soon as possible after marriage. If you are married, you have kids. It is simple really.
I tried explaining our cultural norms, but it is so far from their reality and comprehension, that I stopped. Telling people that I am married, and am not planning kids yet, even after seven years, is not taken very well.
Leading me to let assumptions be made if at all possible. There have been many times where the ‘Random person feeling open to ask personal questions’ fills in the blanks for me, assuming we are newly married or even on our honeymoon. When this happens, I let it ride. This is easy.
It is only when, like today, the conversation goes like above, that I am seriously contemplating changing a few tiny, very minor, details around, such as: years to months, 30 to 20, married to dating, just little things… To not upset the cultural norms, be an outcast, alter generational, passed down mind sets, or be disrespectful in that country and culture.
I guess I have time to figure this out until we return, since we are heading to Italy and Spain in a few short weeks, where there is a whole new culture to adapt to.