Monday, October 11, 2010

Waiting it out

One of the first lessons I remember from high school Russian class is about why it's traditional for Russian brides to be sad. It's because they are leaving their family to live with their husband's household. As in many traditional cultures, women had no clout outside the home and had to get all their power within the family. The matriarch ruled over daughters and daughters-in-law. A girl marrying into the family could gain rank by bearing sons. Stick it out enough generations, and eventually you become the matriarch.

Jeff comes from the kind of close-knit family you rarely see in our culture. There are so many of them, it's overpowering. At our wedding, there were eight of my relatives and thirty-four of his. The house is like a shrine, covered in photographs of ancestors. And woe betide the woman who marries in and tries to change things. When Jeff's widowed grandfather fell in love with an abrasive woman, the men in the family took it in stride and the women freaked out. Even aunts who married in years ago never make it to the inner sanctum when it comes to making decisions.

I could probably push more before I met with real resistance, but I'm terrified to try it. I don't want to be that woman they laugh at. This weekend on a family vacation I tried to negotiate for the presence of mustard at a meal. It was a disaster.

Our lease is up in a few weeks, and we've considered moving back into the family house rather than paying too much rent for our tiny apartment. We love them and they love us, but it would be nuts. At this point, I just need to remember that there's a reason I have my own household. I came to this family twenty years too late to be on even footing. In another generation or two, I'll have a chance at being a matriarch.

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