Becoming Jeffuchi

Thursday, February 12, 2009
THE MALE MIND

Yesterday, Gopal G. suggested that we try to remember the person we fell in love with and married. Think back to those heady days when you were dating your partner; when you were figuring out how to enter forever together and all that jazz. Here, Jeff Weber talks about his imminent entry into a crazy Indian family (which happens to be mine), on the eve of marrying his crazy lady (who happens to be my sister).

Jeff Weber lives in San Francisco and designs humanoid robots, prosthetic limbs, and machines that entertain. The off switch is always within arms reach so you don’t have to worry.

(Did you catch that? He designs robots! He is super cool.)

On a sunny day, the joke always goes like this:
Me: “Am I golden brown?”
P: “No, you are burnt red!”
Me: “No, really I’m turning golden brown, like toast? Aren’t I?”
P: (silence)

The reality arrives when I lay in bed and the sheets feel like sandpaper on my skin. In the morning I see more similarities between me and strawberry jam than golden crust on my toast. When I have kids, will they give me a hard time too? What will their jokes be? Will they get a laugh at me for being the whitest guy on the beach? Will they get a laugh at me being the only one to pause for sunscreen application at family gatherings involving my new family? I certainly hope so because my fiancĂ©e P does. It makes her laugh, which is inevitably followed by her touting her built in sun-block, and then complaining about her chances of becoming burnt toast. Our children will probably complain about the same thing – Woohoo! (at least they won’t have to look like dad the lobster). Thinking of them doing this as I search for the ultimate SPF makes me happy. It brings me back to the present, and the events that will lead up to my kids making fun of me.

I’m getting married this summer. I’m engaged to the one girl it scares me to think I might not have met, but did, and now can’t imagine living without. Polaroid cameras, riding the zipper at the fair, and our rowboat quest for fried dough that almost ended in MIT sending out a search party brought us together. Building bicycles, animation machines, and a life and family together has made us inseparable.

Bringing our families together has and will be fun, a little bit chaotic, and at times confusing. For me it was a learning experience to maneuver myself into the thanksgiving chaat line, and my voice into her family’s excited conversations, but I’m almost a pro. Although I’m pretty sure I’ll never shake off the “too quiet” ruling (which every non-Indian seems to get), really it’s because I have a hard time talking while I’m eating. At least I won’t get the “doesn’t eat enough” ruling. I’m not being polite with my trips back to the kitchen I just love eating at P’s house.

We are planning our wedding with P’s parents, MotaDad (he is by all means a BIG DAD, the Indian Papa, a true Ganesh, and I’m excited to say my future father-in-law) and Ammi (who made my jaw drop and my heart grow the first day she referred to me at ‘beta’ (which was four years after we met!). I’ve been to almost every kind of wedding now, and let’s face it, Indians know how to celebrate. My first experience was P’s sister’s wedding (MD and Ammi’s first daughter and my soon-to-be super-sister-in-law) and it was a labor of love that will be remembered for generations. I remember MotaDad greeting us: barefoot, stick dancing, and bear hugs all around. I also recall my attempts at bhangra dancing, 3 suit changes, and 300 Aunties and Uncles wanting to make sure I was “enjoying the festivities”. I think I still am. (Occasionally I’ll get an email to confirm that. Thanks Uncle!) Slowly I started to feel like part of the family as more and more my name became “Jeffuchi.”

Soon I’ll be on the mandap with P. Our wedding ceremony will be mostly Hindu but not entirely traditional. I won’t ride an elephant (I would if I could) or a horse in the barat, or wear a kurta or sherwani. But the barat! Holy Moly I’m excited for it, and it’s just the beginning. My family will probably need a little help……ok a lot of help. P jokingly suggested we help by starting the barat at the bar. I want it to involve both families – my brother, my mom, and hopefully my soon-to- be brother-in law, as well as all of the aunties and uncles and cousins that have shown me how it’s done. I’m sure my family will get the hang of it, and I predict any formal separation of families (i.e. who’s dancing and who’s not) will end when the dhol drummers begin. I know P’s family will be jumping.

Ever since I’ve been engaged that’s how I picture MotaDad and Ammi – joyous and jumping. It makes me happy. I remember visiting last spring to talk with them about my future with P. I was so nervous the first half of my visit I couldn’t sit still or eat, and somehow tea time that day involved a table of food. I did eventually talk, and asked MotaDad and Ammi for their blessing. MotaDad stared at me for what seemed an eternity, tried to give me a hard time being the jokester he is, but couldn’t hold his laughter.

For that split second of eternity waiting for his reaction, I had a strange thought. I looked at my arm and imagined it turning golden brown.

But it didn’t have to. Now I’m “Jeffuchi"...

But yeah, I still get sunburned.
16 comments:
Tani said...

Oh, this is very sweet! Good luck to you guys. Jeff, Indian families don't stop being crazy but you learn to "enjoying" it...!

J.G.P. said...

Hahaha. You could write an entire encyclopedia about how Indian families work and operate upon the arrival of a non-Indian into a daughter's bedroom...! It sounds like you are loving it and finding the humor it in which is great! I married my sunburns-easily husband 5 years ago and yes, he is still considered the "quiet one", rightly or not, in our family!! Congratulations on your engagement!

Anonymous said...

Very cute thank you for sharing! I can't think of ONE story about marrying a desi girl that doesn't involve LOTS of food! Hahahaha.

Kylie said...

wow this definitely takes me back. it's amazing how you go from obsessing over wedding details...to obsessing over your house...to obsessing over your pregnancy...to obsessing over your kids! And your marriage I suppose!

anyway, trip down memory lane fo sho!

Anonymous said...

This has been such a fun series to read! Really covering the whole gamut from dating desi to parenting! Good luck to you kids and hope all the crap this week hasn't scared you off from being parents! Hahahahahaha.

Anonymous said...

"I’m engaged to the one girl it scares me to think I might not have met, but did, and now can’t imagine living without."

AW. I can actually remember thinking this about my husband! Thanks for reminding me.

Anonymous said...

This is sweet. You guys are lucky to have found each other and it sounds like P.'s parents are open and accepting, which is a great platform to start with. Best of luck!

S.J.P. said...

And you always will! And we all need to use sunscreen by the way! Haha.

Concur very sweet piece, almost ashamed to read it in light of all the commentary this week about how much of ogres men are!

Good luck to you guys!

Nimisha said...

Four years to get a "beta" is rapid fire compared to what my fiance endured! Haha! Congratulations!

H.L. said...

your kids will make fun of you whether or not you look like a lobster but yes now you are an easy target! enjoy your engagement, you seem like a happy couple! congrats on adding a "super cool" brother in law to the family Deepa!

Anonymous said...

Very heartfelt piece!

Sandy said...

Nice post Jeff, P. is a lucky girl! Were there any cultural issues the other way? Bringing a desi home to your folks?

Swap said...

Jeff! Great post...just remember that after the wedding there are a lot of people to stilll meet:)

Can't wait for your wedding and don't worry, P gets sunburned too! All of us do, we just won't admit it...

SM, DC said...

I sent my then boyfriend-now husband to meet my folks all by himself. I had something I just had to do that weekend. Anyways, the brave man went, and conquered. Versions differ, with my mom's version being that my hubby's hand trembled as he accepted the orange juice, thus making her feel sympathetic and more maternal. Anyways, cut to five+ years later, baby on the way, and my entire extended family thinks upon him as an extension of their Indian selves. It's been a great ride, and I'm sure you'll enjoy your journey!!!!

Veena said...

This is so sweet and made me cry. I sent it to my white boyfriend and demanded that he feel the exact same way :). Congratulations on finding peace with your Indian in-laws -- it really can be a blessing if you let it be.

Sushil said...

Hi Jeff: We are one of the X hundred uncles+aunties you will see at your wedding. We were wondering about the wedding style and "format" - your blog is the place we found what we were looking for. I didn't wear a Sherwani or Kurta at my wedding either - didn't have the time to get all that - I'd still call yours, traditional enough. Talking of tradition, when you marry a traditional Indian woman, it doesn't take long to turn into MD.

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