Ugh. I used to hate going to desi dinner parties.
First, I hate the preparation. What should I wear? In the beginning I really felt like people were expecting me to show up in desi clothes, but then I feel like I'm being stared at. But then if I don't wear desi clothes, I'm afraid I look like "just another American girl" who doesn't know anything about desi culture - or doesn't like any of it, maybe.
For a while I had a pretty firm stance that I would NOT wear desi clothes to desi functions. That turned out even worse because then people would ask me about it. "You don't like desi clothes?" and I'd have to drag out my stance, tell them about feeling gawked at. And then listen to them tell me I was wrong. I wouldn't get stared at. (Yeah, right. I've lived it, honey!)
So, anyway. I'm dressed, I'm on the doorstep. We knock. We're invited in. How do I greet them? Are we going with the hello, how are you? Are we doing the weird faux-Euro cheek kissing? Are we hugging? Why is it that whenever I'm hugging desis, they seem to go to the other side than I'm used to? I always end up lingering in a foyer holding a stranger's hand for an uncomfortably long time.
Then the we sit. Where should I sit? Are we doing the gender segregation thing? That's right, folks - sometimes Desi parties end up with all the women in one room and all the men in another room. On purpose. I've been to weddings where ushers would separate families at the door and you didn't see each other again until the end. So much for family celebrations.
And then the food. A lot of desis I know don't seem to drink with a meal. It's somehow unconnected with eating. Something you do after you're done, not continually throughout the meal. I, on the other hand, like to sip throughout. But if I do that then people are going to go on and On and ON about the spice level of the food. "Is it too spicy? I always put in too many green chilis! I meant to make it less spicy for you. Can I get you some plain rice? Oh it's no bother. Let me go get some. Don't be ridiculous."
And then sometimes it IS really spicy. I've been trying to train my mouth for years now, and I can take some kind of heat, let me tell you! But my husband - and other desis I know - eat tiny fiery green chilis RAW, as if it were garnish. There's no competing with that. My nose runs, my eyes water. My cheeks - which have always betrayed any exertion or embarrassment or other cause to blush - turn bright red. Then I'm caught. I'm the white girl who can't handle her spices. And sometimes it's the opposite. There's little of no spice at all and now I know that all the dinner guests are eating bland food (to them, anyway) and thinking about how this white girl always has to ruin the dinner parties. Greeeaaaat. Much better, thanks.
Let's not get started on the conversation. Sometimes, there is literally none. No one will talk to me. The older aunties even try to avoid my gaze entirely. Sometimes someone will talk to me, but it will be those prying, obtrusive questions. Did I convert to Islam. Did I change my name. When am I going to have children? Do I know how to cook Pakistani food?
To sum: desi dinner parties are difficult for me. I dread them. Well, I did dread them in the beginning. I'm getting more comfortable, I'm meeting more people, things are getting easier. The one thing that made it MUCH easier very quickly was having kids. Now there's always something to talk about! Look at my cute kid! Why yes, he does speak Urdu! He has been to Pakistan! More recently that even YOU HAVE! Ha!