Friday, August 1, 2008

Two Cultures, One Marriage

Husband and I grew up in two different countries with vastly different cultures. English is his second language (out of three) while I don't speak anything else. He grew up in Iran in a Muslim household, I grew up in a secular household here in the States. He left home for a new life on the other side of the planet when he was only 16. I have lived in the same state since I was 5 years old and as an adult was always within a 25 minute drive of both my parents until two years ago when my Dad & Stepmonster moved to Vegas. Husband's father was an entrepreneur and his mother was a housewife while my parents have always worked as employees of large-ish companies. He grew up poor in a third-world country while I was middle-class in the richest country in the world. All these differences plus the fact that he is 13 years older than me and we married when I was only 19 meant a lot of obstacles to overcome for us to have a successful marriage.

My Mom says now that I was always a good judge of character, others tell me that it was pure dumb luck that our marriage has been so successful. I think it's more a combination of the two along with lots of patience and hard work on both of our parts. The toughest part has been reconciling our two very different cultures into one household.

We both decided long ago that organized religion makes people (mostly) crazy so the whole religion thing is totally not an issue in our relationship. Neither of us practice any formal religion at all. In case you were wondering. Which you were. Cause of the Islam thing. Just letting you know there's no crazies here.

Our kids all have Persian names. I never considered anything else because they are American kids even though they are half Iranian. Their names are the one part of them that reminds them of their other, more hidden, heritage. They know a little bit of Farsi thanks to their Grandmother's four and a half month visit last year and their father's occasional use of the more, um, colorful bits of the language. (We can all swear fluently in Farsi!) We celebrate all the holidays I grew up with like Christmas and the 4th of July along with Norooz and Shab-e-Yalda, two holidays husband grew up celebrating. I cook mainly Persian food, simply because I couldn't cook when we got married and husband taught me to cook many Persian dishes because that's what he knew how to cook. We also order pizza for dinner often enough to be as unhealthy as any other all-American household.

It was husband's suggestion for my grandmother to live with us. In Iran, this is simply The Way Things Are Done. (The fact that my Grandmother is a rockin' 92 year old sarcastic smartass doesn't hurt either - husband loves her!) Our multi-generational household is much more typically Iranian than American and has many benefits for us, our children and my Grandmother.

Husband is a risk taker when it comes to things like starting businesses and buying real estate. He has a true entrepreneur's heart and worked 24/7 when I met him. For Iranians, this is also The Way Things Are Done. If you want to get ahead - or simply survive - in Iran, you work hard at often 2 or 3 jobs and if you aren't willing to take a risk like start a business or buy real estate then you will have nothing to retire with. Not nothing except Social Security but NOTHING nothing.

I was used to a family where parents went to work from 8-4 Monday thru Friday and were home on Saturday & Sunday. They had paid vacations, health insurance, got a paycheck on Fridays and a free turkey for Thanksgiving and Christmas. My parents could indulge in some of their hobbies and had free time everyday when they could sit down to read a book, watch a television show or play Uno with my brother and I. We weren't rich by American standards and the 80's were not a decade of prosperity for our family but compared to husband's family growing up, we were fabulously wealthy.

We have finally settled on, and are both happy with, a 6 day work-week for for husband about 85% of the time. That isn't carved in stone however - we are after all, self-employed - so sometimes he's swamped and works 7 days a week but other times it's slow and he's home by 2pm every day for a week or 2. Luckily the slow times usually fall in the winter. I don't ski or snowboard, so he'll take whichever of our offspring are interested up to the pass to freeze their asses off in the snow. (They say it's fun but I don't believe them.) Plus he's usually available for Christmas shopping while I am freaking out about my final exams.

We have made our own traditions and celebrations. It's a pretty bizarre smorgasboard of what we both grew up with sprinkled with our adult viewpoints and opinions but we're happy and have reached a balance between what is his and mine - now it is ours.

Our 15th anniversary is on December 31, 2008 and I love him more now than I did the day we married. We have made it work against all odds and have created a partnership that is the backbone of our family. And we laugh every day. I'm one lucky-ass woman.


Shelly... said...

Yes, you are a lucky woman. He is a great guy and one thing I am most thankful for is Abdi teaching you how to cook Persian food! :) I LOVE that food. Maybe when you have your next family party when certain members of your family are going to be in town Persian food could be on the menu???? (drooling here)!

Shelly... said...

P.S. where were you guys in that picture??

Katy said...

Of course we will have Persian food - and Maman will be here too so it will be "authentic"! Let me know if you have any special requests.

The pic was taken in Puerta Vallarta when we were there in March.

uncle al said...

Beautifully put Katy, you and Abdi have made a very good life for yourselves and your family (although I wonder how my mother feels about being characterized as a "rockin, 92 year old sarcastic smartass") The smartest thing Abdi has ever done is not take my advice and run when he had the chance, he stuck it out and I am glad he did.

Jason said...

Very interesting. I know from personal experience that having a relationship with two different cultures being involved is tricky at best, but you guys look like you've got it down!

C said...

That is really amazing! I too married pretty young (I had just turned 22) and my husband & I were together since we were seniors in HS (we've been married 14 years now.)

Although I don't generally recommend getting married younger than 30, I have been incredibly lucky that my husband & I have matured and grown in similar directions. We've also worked really hard to make our marriage a good one. And we're not perfect--we have our issues, but we're pretty solid & I am grateful for the life we've created. Rock on for making a family that your kids can be proud of--our differences are what makes the world go 'round, right?

BTW--Shelly is your stepmom? Did I miss something?

Katy said...

Thanks Jason. BTW, congrats on the WEDDING! Way cool!!

Yup Christy, Shelly is my stepmonster. And I mean that in the NICEST possible way! I love her to pieces! I hear you about not thinking getting married young is always the way to go (my poor poor parents) but it has worked out for us - and you too sounds like!

EmBee said...

This was fascinating... Thanks for sharing info about yourself, I'm enjoying getting to know you.

I too married young, just after I turned 19. Though my husband is American, born in Virginia... Our lives were so different, he might as well have been from another country. He's 6 1/2 yrs. older than me and sometimes that leaves me feeling somewhat ignorant and immature but we've always been able to work out any differences we've had. We'll be celebrating 25 yrs. of marriage in November... Ack! I can't believe it's been that long!

Perhaps you can post some Persian recipes sometime?