So I'm trying to figure out how I feel about the fact that there seems to be an arranged marriage taking place within my family.
My uncle and his wife are hardcore Bible-belt Christians, by which I mean they believe in such concepts as "The man is the head of the household and it's the wife's duty to submit to his leadership." And that they order their entire lives around what they believe God wants for them (and consult him often on exactly what that is), rather than simply claiming Christianity based on a weekly or monthly trip to church. They have three biological kids and have adopted NINE more, going on ten — five of them from Russia, the rest each from different countries. They've adopted kids considered too old to be adopted; they've adopted deeply troubled children, they've adopted "reject" kids who were adopted, then kicked out, by other families who didn't realize what a commitment they were making. They've basically made their lives into a ministry, and they've done wonderful things with these unwanted kids. They currently live in Alabama, though they're originally from Oklahoma.
I found out over the weekend from my mother that my aunt's been corresponding with a similar family in Michigan — a couple that's taken in more than a dozen special-needs children, and currently have 15 kids in their care, though some of those are their biological children. My aunt and this family's matriarch have been corresponding online about the difficulties of raising such a large family of adoptees, and they get along really well. Somewhere along the line, they decided that the Michigan family's oldest boy, "James," and my aunt's oldest adopted girl, a 19-year-old Russian I'll call "Ellen," would be perfect for each other. So the families arranged a meeting. James liked Ellen; Ellen is painfully shy and reportedly barely spoke to James and was never alone with him. But they later corresponded online, and he decided she was perfect for him, so the mothers have set a wedding date in January.
Now, I accept that I'm getting a very limited and skewed third-hand view of the whole thing, as the story came through my grandmother to my mother, and thence to me. I accept that my mother is full of phenomenal amounts of exaggeration and distortion. And I accept that I (like most of the family) have steadily questioned my aunt and uncle's sanity when it comes to all the adoptions, and I thought every one after #5 was a terrible idea, but it's all worked out fine so far, and the whole family seems happy.
Still, there are times when their house strikes me as an indoctrination camp, and thefirethorn (who is also related to the whole passel) and I are deeply curious what all these kids will remember about their childhoods when they grow up, and how they'll relate to religion. ’Thorn and I were raised with similar Bible-belt values, and we've both gone through heavy backlash; we can't help but wonder whether the kids of that household will go through something similar en masse once they get away from home. And now I'm wondering how Ellen in particular is going to react as she leaves the nest to marry a guy she barely knows, based on an agreement largely made by other people. I mean, even the family seems to be referring to it as an arranged marriage.
Of course, my most basic reaction is "It's none of my business, there's nothing I can do, and what I think or how I feel about it is entirely moot." Still, I remain creeped out.
When I was in 16 I had a friend who worked at the grocery store with me who was 21. She had been born in Korea, and adopted by a SERIOUSLY fundimentalist family in Guthrie, OK. There were 5 of them, and 4 were adopted. This particular family, I thought, treated teh adopted ones like servants. They all had to get jobs, live at home until married, and give all the money to their folks. They were not allowed to date, the parents would arrange marriages for them all within the church. I can't recall if this was Church of Christ or Church of God, whichever it is, they women had to wear dresses and wer not allowed to cut their hair. My friend moved over here when she was 6 months old, so she'd been raised in american culture which looks down on arranged marriages. I seriously pitied her fate. She almost escaped... she thought about it, but she just couldn't face being disowned and never allowed to talk to anyone in the family or community again, including her twin. Eventually she did marry some guy she was allowed to meet once first, in front of chaperones, not to get within 3 feet of etc. I never heard how it turned out, because she had to move to TX where he lived.
I don't think that arranged marriages are necessarily bad, if you live in a culture where everyone expects and accepts it, and if your parents truly know and care about you and try to make a match you'll actually be happy with. That said, in this country at this time and place, I don't think it is exactly a recipe for joy. I wish them luck anyway.
Because it sounds kinda creepy and familiar? At least my family doesn't treat the adopted children any different, so far as I can tell — they're all given plenty of love, support, discipline, education, and responsibility, and they seem to be thriving. Of course, they're way down in Alabama, so if there were problems, it's not like I'd have much insight into them.
Wow. I'm really glad my mother was only joking when she said I had an arranged marriage to a friend from my old church. Our mothers were pregnant at the same time and we grew up together, having been born within a month of each other.
I see this arranged marriage failing after they've gotten enough independance to really want complete freedom. I imagine it will cause much drama and gnashing of teeth and all that.
I kept expecting the cousins from the Freaky UltraCatholic Kansas Farm Family to begin rebelling once they hit young adulthood, but none of them really have. The oldest girl got married without her parents' permission, but to another staunch Catholic and they've since been rehabilitated. One of her younger sisters went so far as to demand and education(!), but I think she may have stopped after her associate's degree in order to settle down and pop out children. Maybe my sister knows more.
There's just no predicting. If everyone raised in such homes rejected their background, then the Bible Belt would cease to exist after a single generation, wouldn't it? The more you invest into some extremely demanding lifestyle, like hard-core Christianity or corporate litigation--the more loath you are to give it up and start over, no matter how miserable it's making you.
I didn't mention it because I think they're actually getting a much better education than they would in a public school, especially considering all their language barriers. Intellectually, I think they'll do fine in college. Socially? Hoo-boy. They're in for some culture shock. At least, the ones that go to college — it's going to be hard, given the no money whatsoever.
But I'm glad college is at least on the table as a possibility these days. As of only a few years ago, your sister and I were contemplating offering T. sanctuary when she hit 18, because her dad told Grandma that she wouldn't be going to college, because there was nothing they could teach her there that she needed to know to become the proper housewife and mother she was going to be. Grandma was sad when she heard that… I was livid.
Yeah; see, *that* is just too much. Every time I think I'm swinging libertarian, and that what happens in one's home is one's business exclusively, someone sez something like that ... and I want social services to take the kids away. Orphans should be adopted, and should be loved, and given opportunities to grow ... but that kind of bullshit indoctrination is as damaging as losing your parents, in my mind. You set examples for children, you don't tell 'em what to do! Argh!
So yeah, arranged marriage also very, very wrong. The freedom to screw up is a basic human right, in my book, and parents have to let their children fail as well as succeed.
Having met them (back when they only had 8 children in all), I really didn't know what to think... I still don't. I was in shock and awe listening to them talk about religion and raising children (which seemed to be one in the same topic). Jay and I had many a long speculative talk about what the heck they were doing and why and how are they going to pay for college?
I am currently watching family of 15 kids (all theres though) who has stopped going to church because the women at the church have "started dressing inapropriately" (a woman started wearing inapropriately bright colors of all the racy things). The father built a chapel on the back of the house so they go to church there. They are ofcourse all home schooled, and get to be around "regular folks" when they go to UCO to take there music lessons from the professors. I think it's cool that they all play instruments and their parents consider it an important part of a good education. All the kids are very smart and well above the curve achedemically than their public school peers... But my friend Bobby and I sit and wonder everytime we see them who they are going to marry, because they can't socialize and find someone. They don't even go to church. I suppose that they will all have arranged type marriages as well.
At anyrate... The two oldest of this crew (the twins) who are both 18 and violinists. Dr. Zhu had been talking to them about coming to UCO because there are quite a few people from the Menanite community and the conservative non-hair cutting mormon community at UCO (more people than average) and they are never ostrisized or fored to do things they don't feel comfortable with (ie: paper topics etc). And they would be close to home... The answer they gave him was that they had prayed long and hard about it and decided college was not for them. So, I guess the idea that they would go to college and go through the full sumbersion baptism into the "real world" isn't going to happen. I wouldn't be shocked if most of the children in your aunt's family came to that conculsion or something simular.
See, part of me thinks that's really sad, and pities everyone involved. The rest of me says I'm just imposing my values on other people's lives, and I should back off. And then all the leftover bits continue to say it's entirely irrelevant what I think anyway, so whatever.
Thing is, I don't KNOW her at all. I'd just be this total stranger interfering in her life. We've only met a few times, and I've gotten no clear impression of her — which makes sense, if she's exceedingly shy and avoids being alone with people.