Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Chicken and the In-law

Yes, interesting title. But the chicken saved the day.

Let me clue you in. As a son-in-law, for our Ugandan and African culture, I am a big man. An important person. Never mind that I am gay.

So, when the in-law comes to visit, the traditional gift to me is a cock. Not a chicken, not a hen (that would be an insult) but a chicken. So, when I heard the cock crow in the living room where my mother-in-law was, I assumed that it was my chicken.

I went to greet my mom. In true traditional fashion, mine, not hers. No kneeling, I am a man. I sat in the chair, as is customary. What is not customary is that she also sat in one. Maybe different cultures; in mine she would have sat on the floor. A long greeting, asking about everything at home; the chickens, the goats, the cows, the father-in-law (apparently they have conspired not to tell him that well, we are an item).

The chicken was taken to the kitchen.

I was disturbed. It should have been properly introduced to me as the man of the house, I felt. The gift from home. But the son took it to the kitchen, and later went on to dress it for the meal.

You know how I felt? Like though accepted, I am not truly accepted. Half accepted. I will not be recognised traditionally, because I am a man, who has taken their son. Yeah, I know, a lot has been lost in translation, but enough is similar in both our cultures.

I became defiant. That is what always happens to me. I become defiant, when challenged.

While he was in the kitchen, I sat in the living room, alone with my in-law. She was doing something with wool and long needles. Crocheting, knitting, or darning? Dunno the difference. But those long needles I watched apprehensively. Resolutely, I sat and worked on my laptop. A thick silence. Great conversationalist that I am.

When dinner came, I claimed my seat next to the son. He served. We ate. My lack of religion was noted, and commented on. I smiled, and went on eating.

He initiated the active show of defiance. He leant against me, rubbing his chin on my shoulder. At first I was a bit embarrassed, and then I remembered the chicken, and became bold. I leaned on into him.

We have a tradition, modified for these gay times. The gizzard in a chicken is the special piece. It belongs in the plate of the man of the house.

The son offered it to his mom. I glared, and he missed that. She was embarrassed and declined it. He then put it on my plate, as was, ahem, normal. I smiled, grimly.

Usually, I take a bite, and then offer him one. No problem, we can use the mouths. Great to kiss with food in the mouth; good sharing, spit, kiss and all. (to hell with your sensibilities, 27th). So, I took a bite, and offered him the other, on my fork. He glanced at her, declined to be fed. But he took the fork, and we had shared the gizzard. I know she noted it, stopped myself from glancing across. The son did that for both!

Independence Day was spent in hospitals. Doing the usual- waiting on benches. Great, I think all hospitals have a specialisation in the waiting of patients. Even on public holidays. I bonded with my mama-in-law. If you can’t beat them, join them. And this was my turf, so, we bonded. I discovered that I am less tongue tied when angry, or defiant, or, well, when I am no longer worried about mis-steps.

A great day actually. We laughed, and talked. Hesitant, yes, but well, expected. I discovered that my tribe, or culture norms are the ones which are more stringent. For example, I would never dare to sit on the floor with my legs stretched out if she had been from my tribe. A calculated and deadly insult, from a son-in-law. I asked, and it was no big deal with my lover’s tribe.

I cheered, internally. And proceeded to relax and enjoy myself.

We cannot talk much. 3 languages between 3 people, you see. Not very comfortable. But we can communicate, adequately.

Yeah, I am sure I will survive this week now.



gayuganda said...

I cannot believe what I am seeing. So, for posterity's sake, I am noting it down now.

My lover is seated in an armchair. Crocheting, his mothers things in his hands. He has been calmer than usual. He realy loves his mom, he is settled and relaxed and cheerful, despite a number of things which usually make him grumpy.

The mum in law is sleeping in the setee. And my lover's favourite sister is talking with my lover. she has a 4 month old baby with her, our niece.

Gosh, the bliss of domestic felicity!

I am seated on my computer, very quiet, as usual, but the beauty of the scene gets to me. I think my friend is just happy that the people he loves are in the room. He is calm, settled. A revelation, this. He is just a new person.

I never knew that it could be this beautiful. Family life, that is!

Jay said...

I have to say, I am so amazed by the differences in culture between different people, although you're in the same country. How to greet, how to sit, how to eat, what to eat, when to eat it...
For me, those things seem so difficult... Although my husband and I are from different continents (I am a European and he's a "Latino") we have more or less the same kind of way to greet people, to eat, drink or to socialise.

:) Therefore it is soo interesting to read about your mother-in-law's visit :) I also have to say, I recognise the cleaning up, the nervousness, the change in the significant other's behaviour :) Those things seem to be universal.

Big hug from the cold (really cold) north :)

The 27th Comrade said...

@Globetrotter: Well, we have a wild thing called diversity down here. It boggles Europeans. Most don't even get to believe we can be so diverse in such a small place. But that's what happens in the tropics. So much can happen here. The people who live at the North Pole, from one end to the other, have a similar culture, because the lives are generally the same. Over here, your neighbour is in a different world. In a microcosm, if you will. :o)

@GUG: A bit reviled, but generally shocked about the whole thing. Picture would be orders prettier if it had been a girl instead of a guy, of course. But hey.

gayuganda said...

Hi Globetrotter,

welcome. I must say that it has been a shock to me too. How much we differ. I thought we were more or less the same, and here I find that he thinks it funny when I ask him to enter the room where his mom is to get a book I need!!!!!! And of course I had not even considered the fact that he seemed to have no problem shaking my mother's hand, though that was, I thought, because he was supposed to be 'hiding'!

27th, nothing like a good shock in the morning. Diversity, that is sometimes a realy shocking thing. But well, we are different, not only in sexuality!!!!!

And imagine, here I was thinking that since I am 'married' to a man, I would not experience all this. But (sigh) it is so much easier when the customs are not so complicated. My tribes would have been pretty tough to confirm with. Forgeting the fact that we are gay.

How do you straights deal with all this?

Anonymous said...

it seems things are all working out, good for you.

Anonymous said...

Hilarious description of the dinner. Would have liked to have had spy-cam.

You know that you have mentally scared your mum-in-law for life.... years and years of therapy to follow LOL.

Hope your mum-in-law gets well soon.

WhozHe said...

Simply fascinating. Living in the US makes me feel like we have no culture at all. Thanks you for sharing the story, it was both touching and humorous.

gayuganda said...

Hi Cindy,

yeah, things have worked out well. Greatly in fact!

Atin, it was necessary. She had requested to come to visit. She did not honor me as i thought she should. I had to establish the fact that, though a gay household, we still are basically Africans! And of course establish my mark of ownership on the son. Uh!!!!!

Hi Whozhe;

downside to that, ever think that we have too much 'culture'? Has been constantly on my mind!

And of course I have just been happy that, my tribe has more of it than my lovers tribe. It would have been a disaster, if we were of my tribe, the both of us. that would have meant that I would have been judged according to my tribe's stricter customers.

Thanks to whoever, for small mercies!

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