29 April 2012

Ethiopia: Secluded Weddings


Streets of our fair city have started to shoulder the blips and shouts of wedding escorts. Honking their horns so loudly, the escorts seem to have the deep desire to disturb the peace of the city. It is as if they want to see all of the people on the streets focus only on them. They overlook the fact that the common man has a lot of other things to think about, from skyrocketing prices to dilapidating public services in the city.

There are many things that baffle me whenever I face such a crowd. Topping the list of puzzles is the difference between the emotions and acts of the crowd. I always see a deeply seeded difference between how individuals in the crowd act and their real emotional states. More often than not, the difference signifies emotional incongruence.

Part of the problem lies in our closed culture. Being opinionated is not appreciated much, for many cultural presumptions are built on hierarchies and collective norms. Individuals are given little chance to forward what they feel.

Only a few weddings can pull the critical mass of social consensus. Even close relatives are given no chance to deliberate on the process. Surprisingly, they need to actively partake in it. Therein lies the incongruence.

Many of them take part in the process with their own reservations. More often than not, they do not like the cost they pay. They do not even believe in the processes involved. They, rather, do it to please others, hence the difference between physical actions and emotional experiences.

Pretension is prevalent amongst wedding escorts. Most members of the escorts do whatever they do with loads of complaints. They seem to want to have their day to be given back to them by some supernatural force. Had it not been for some external factor, like the favour they received before or their kinship with one of the brides, they would have preferred to be in some other place, spending their time, in their own way.

Yet, culture has forced them to be in the ceremony. What amazes me the most in this whole scenario is that most people forget this trouble when it comes to their own wedding. It all happens as if there is a unique hormone excreted by Abyssinians to delete previous experiences.

Another puzzling phenomenon of most weddings is nudity. Women seem to crave for such occasions to showcase their curves and internals. They choose to wear tight, see-through skirts. Most of their back goes naked. They seem to have opted for the costs of discomfort rather than the benefits of consolation.

Imagine a crowd of women with tight skirts trying to dance and dazzle to the tunes of the cultural music typical of weddings. It all seems like the last moments of Titanic. Chaos reigns.

After all, that is what weddings are all about in our fair city. It entails making sense out of chaos. Order has no place in weddings, as the heights of happiness are expressed through emotional actions rather than individual integrity.

Hidden agendas also diffuse in weddings. Most escorts use the occasion to find their sweethearts. Other participants use them to display their soft power. There is also a latent competition between families of brides over wealth, education, fashion, and culinary and social acceptability.

Such forces of competition, however, do not display themselves upfront. Instead, they materialise latently. Yet, they significantly affect the success of most weddings.

Adding to the conundrum is the recent trend of shying away from being the best man or bridesmaid. Being one is indeed getting costlier with each day. As the cost of living increases, more and more people refuse to assume the status. There is little being done by brides in the city to reduce the costs for their best people, though.

Most weddings of the city are celebrated under all of these puzzles. Although the brides might think that they are there with people who are actually enjoying one of their best days of their life, it is not often the case. They are rather there isolated, at least emotionally. Most of the people they see around them are there with their own burdens of thoughts and problems.

That may be why escorts shout out loud at every opportunity. They would like to vent out their internal complaints. They would like the city to share their confusion about the specific wedding that they are part of.

Honking horns, singing out loud, and acting weird are all just recipes of the discomfort they feel internally. It all represents the disagreements that they have on the decisions of the brides to get married at that specified time, in that specific way. By and large, they go back to their homes with tonnes of resentment about the wedding.

If thank you cards were replaced with complaint cards, there would be opportunities for all of these resentments to fly. Had it been the case, our fair city would have learnt a lot from it, and our society would have evolved to be more resilient than it is.

With our weddings being events of emotional isolation, however, we still live under the chaos of pretension.

Getachew T. Alemu is the Op-ed Editor for Fortune. He can be contacted at getachew@addisfortune.com.

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