Sunday, June 15, 2014

Repentant Populars

Highlight of the weekend was last night, getting dolled up for a wedding.  At the hairdresser I met my friend, and then in comes Mr. Right's ex, and her boyfriend in tow.  We were all four of us sitting in a row getting pampered for the same wedding party, it was funny.  My beautiful friend complained about how she spends far too much money on hairdressing because everybody is getting married all the time.  She said that she swore she was going to skip going to the hairdresser this time but then heard that her boyfriend's ex was going to come, so damn it, she had no choice but to move her ass to the hairdresser.  As she said this I studied Mr. Right's ex, getting her lovely tresses of wavy hair tossed to a silken fold.   I realized I like being around competitive young women.

The wedding was nice and plush at the five star four seasoned hotel. The carpet was softly thick and unnoticed by the many self-aware guests that arrived in pairs and drones.  The food beckoned stronger than the bride and groom, steaming fragrantly, proactively approaching noses with scents of peking duck, wagyu steak, and salmon en croute.   The bride and groom were perched high atop a stage at the far end of the room, before a backdrop of drooping red flowers and glittery gold sequins.  There they will stay for 3-4 hours, to be congratulated by thousands of familiar and unfamiliar faces. We mingle from 7 pm and towards 10 pm when the crowd had thinned, we were tired and thirsty.  No wine is to be found, alas, because it is not our culture.  The music is becoming upbeat but the most that anybody is doing is nodding their head, raising a shoulder, one half-hearted hand in the air.  Because it is not our culture to dance at a Javanese wedding.  Eventually the bride and groom dance to a little tune, a cute moment to be remembered privately, to be photographed, but not shared by their guests.

I don't mean to make conclusions about culture's blame on the character of a nation, but it should be quite obvious at least that free-style dancing makes one less strung up.  This country is a mystery to me, a familiar mystery that feels like home.  The people are so casual, so laid back, and so beholden of their social norms.  We don't particularly concern ourselves with what other people do, we don't go into confrontations every time someone upsets us, but we do notice when someone seems different than the rest.  We are friendly and judgmental, sociable and racist.

Last night we met an attractive young couple not yet in their thirties, who were recently married. Our friends describe them as "gaul tobat", or for lack of better translation, "repentant populars".  I asked them what that meant.  They explained that the couple, especially the girl, was once upon a time quite the party people, frequently seen in clubs with pretty friends.  But a year in advance of their wedding, the girl stopped clubbing and wanted no parties, not even a bachelorette. The bride had "repented" from being "popular" in preparation for marriage life. Her groom, he tagged along.

I did not quite understand this.  There had to be some better explanation.  When a person "repents", it is usually from a perceived sin, but I fail to see the sin in this case.

I am a result of some kind of oppression, with liberal philosophies tinged with anger at other people's choice of self-oppression.  It bothers me when it shouldn't, it bothers me while others are perfectly happy and peaceful with their choices.  But it should bother me if they whisper, like so many do, of other people who have not "repented".  If they whisper about those poor souls who have not received the kind of enlightenment and closeness to God that they have found to be ideal for themselves. If they judge me in any way, then I will judge them as stuffy idiots.

Of course it's none of my business, but I guess I can't help being a little disappointed that a person who has experienced the freedom of dancing chooses to go back and become the silent observer in the traditional wedding.

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