When we were planning our wedding, we decided we wanted to have two different ceremonies. The first would be a traditional, white-dress American style wedding , and the second would be a traditional, red-dress Pakistani Nikah in a mosque. At the time, it was really important to me that both ceremonies took place on the same day so that we wouldn't celebrate two different wedding anniversaries for the rest of our lives.
But this isn't about my wedding preparations. That's another story for another day. This is about a woman who helped me out. A woman who offered to do my bridal henna as well as henna for my bridesmaids. You see, because the American wedding was going to be in the late morning, and the Pakistani wedding was going to be in the evening, I decided that I didn't want my hands to be mehndi-fied in the white-wedding-dress pictures, but I DID want them mehndi-fied for the Pakistani wedding pictures. Luckily, this woman - a wife of a friend of M's - was willing to do my mehndi for me in between the wedding functions.
I knew this woman already. Probably better than any of the other women in M's extended circle of friends (not that there were very many women.) I had known her husband before they had married, and I had been invited to their very first post-nuptial dinner party and many others. In fact, the dinner party that I wrote about in an old post was at their house, too. One of my favorite memories is shopping at a Wal-mart with M, running into them, and being invited back (insistently) for improptu tea. This woman and I weren't best friends or anything, but I felt pretty comfortable around her.
Two days before my wedding, my two best friends and I drove an hour to her apartment in the middle of a weekday so that she could do henna for my friend. It took more than two hours for her to do just the hands of one of my friends, and as we sat there in her tiny living room, I realized something;
I had wasted so much time.
Here's what we talked about that afternoon: This woman and her husband had known each other in college in Pakistan. When he'd left for America for his studies, she had fought against her family to go too. Against her parents wishes, she'd come to America - alone - for graduate school. The school that admitted her was thousands of miles away from his, but she came anyway. She lived alone, attending a school with very, very few international students and almost no Pakistanis. When his parents refused to allow them to marry, she persisted. When they arranged an engagement to someone else, she and he found some way to stop it. When she lost her graduate funding, she slept on someone's couch and worked at Taco Bell. She'd even broken her arm, walked to the hospital, checked herself in, and then skipped out on the bill because she was so broke. They fought and fought with their parents - they arranged THREE engagements for him. With the last one, the guy had even flown back to Pakistan for his impending wedding date, only for things to miraculously fall through on the wedding day because of some family argument about dowry. This woman had stayed in America the whole time, knowing that the man she wanted to marry was likely marrying someone else. She found a new school and a new professor and new funding, and finished her graduate degree. When he came back, they married in secret and fought some more. His parents would finally consent to the marriage a year later.
You see, because my friends were there, the conversation had been much more basic than I'd had previously with this woman. Instead of assuming we all already knew about each other, my friends asked her all sorts of questions that opened doors to all sorts of other conversations. In truth, I thought I already knew this woman, I'd already made judgements about her, and I certainly knew that we had little, if anything, in common. I thought I knew what a "typical" Pakistani bride was like, most often brought back from Pakistan, and I hadn't really bothered to get to know this woman at all. In reality, she'd led a much more interesting life than I had.. When I had interacted with her in the past, if I had approach her with an open mind, perhaps I would have learned all this much sooner. Perhaps by wasting so much time, I foreclosed an opportunity to form a true friendship with one of the most interesting women I would ever meet. (Because sadly, we would all move very far away from each other shortly.)
Over time, I've realized that I've wasted time in many situations by not being open-minded enough to just experience the interesting situations I'm often in. Now, I try to come to things - and people - with an open mind. I've met people and done things and been places and I KNOW that I've approached these things differently since seeing the truth with my bridal mehndi artist.
I try not to waste time now, I try to remember that there's plenty I don't know and that if I drop my pre-conceived notions and truly engage in these situations, I can get so much more out of them.