The Setup

Before I could propose to [D] I’d have to get her mother’s permission and blessing. She made it clear to me this was a required part of the process and I was happy to oblige. My brother-in-law had done the same with my Dad; although my father felt a bit awkward when he was given a bouquet of flowers, he was appreciative of the gesture. It was definitely a good precedent for future relations.

Both our situations were slightly atypical since there was only one parent to meet with. For my brother-in-law it was because my parents were divorced and he knew my mom had no need for such formalities. For me it’s because my girlfriend’s father had passed away several years prior.

Traditionally, I guess the father is supposed to grill the potential suitor and make sure he is deserving while the mother waits for her cue to tear up and gush over her future son-in-law. At least that’s what I feel like we’ve been told in movies and TV shows. In situations where there’s only one parent I suppose that person has to play both roles.

When her mother and I set up the evening to meet (surreptitiously by email so [D] wouldn’t find out) I’m sure she knew what was coming. I contemplated taking a swig of whiskey in the parking lot of her building complex but I didn’t want to risk smelling like alcohol. Plus, it seemed important that I should be able to do this sober.

Her mother welcomed me into the house. I gave her flowers which she promptly put in a vase, and she offered me some vegetarian lasagna that she had picked up from the supermarket on her way home from work. The sentiment wasn’t lost on me but I couldn’t feign an appetite. She offered me some tea and we sat on opposite ends of the couch facing each other.

I told her that I loved her daughter and would like her blessing and permission to marry her. She smiled and became quiet. She got a far away look for a few moments and then returned to our conversation. I didn’t see joy or tears on her face – just quiet contemplation.

She asked me what it is that I like about her daughter and how I know that she is the one. These were fair questions, I thought, and although I appreciated the opportunity to talk about our relationship I wasn’t expecting such a calm, measured reaction. I was anticipating more of a TV-crew-at-your-door-you-just-won-a-car-or-the-publishers-clearinghouse-sweepstakes type reaction. You know – lots of screaming, crying, hugging, jumping up and down. Instead we were sitting calmly and talking on the couch.

If her husband was still here I suppose he could have been the reserved, skeptical one while her mother could afford to lose herself in the moment. Instead she had to imagine how her husband might have reacted and channel a bit of that temperament.

I answered her questions – pretty well for the most part – and then she went right into discussing wedding plans.

“We’ll have to have a wedding here in the States … and then another one in India …” her voice trailed off as she got that look again. Did I miss the part where she said, “Yes, you have my permission and my blessing”? We’re already into the logistics? And why was an India wedding such a given?

I had much to learn over the next two years. The journey from engagement to marriage included an ashirbad, a civil ceremony, multiple bridal showers, a 400 person wedding in the States, and multiple receptions in Bangladesh and India before we were finally and completely married almost exactly two years after this meeting.

Maybe that’s why her mother was so contemplative – she knew better than I did what was coming next.