The Wedding Issue

funny sexy african american bride & groom caketopper medHow many weddings are YOU going to this summer? And how many have that special Toronto flavour? You know, the bride and bride or groom and groom or – heck! – bride and groom are completely different shades of human. The ceremony integrates multiple traditions: the couple bows Korean-style to honour their parents underneath a Jewish chuppah, then tucks into an Italian feast at the reception as a West Indian steel band taps out a tune. Half the guests give presents wrapped in fancy paper, the other half stuff fat envelopes into the provided box, and both halves consider the other a bit strange.

This week, we’re talking Weddings on the Ethnic Aisle. From what outfit to wear, to who to invite, to what do to about all of the parents’ demands and requests, for plenty of us its all got a cultural flava.

First up, Kelli Korducki isn’t quite sure what all of the fuss is about. “There are plenty of reasons for committed, long-term partners not to marry, and they needn’t even involve questions of “right one” -ness. Many—maybe most—involve the wedding itself.”

Then, Denise Balkissoon speaks with a bunch of brides who wore two dresses at their ceremony: an outfit that spoke to their ethnic traditions, as well as the Big White Dress.

Lucas Costello reflects on his own brief but quixotic marriage–and how pissed his overseas relatives were that he told them about it via e-vite.

Bhairavi Thanki discusses why she isn’t going to have any of her family’s Indian traditions in her own wedding, no how, no way.

Jaime Woo wishes Western weddings would adopt the Chinese custom of including games during the reception (and he’s got a few ideas of what they could be).

New contributor Helen Mo on why hipsters love an ethnic wedding.

and Simon Yau on why he sort of wanted his wife to change her last name from “Cheng” to “Yau,” and why “Chau” or “Yeng” just won’t work.

Keep checking back, we’ll be adding more all week. And feel free to share your most Toronto wedding stories in the comments.

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One Bride, Two Dresses

By Denise Balkissoon (well, by all of the brides, actually)

For many, The White Dress is an essential piece of the wedding, symbolizing everything from a massive new commitment, to celebrity status for a day, to long-guarded virginal purity (ha). But for mix-and-match Torontonians, those traditions often dovetail with others, which are also marked with fancy dress. Here, some local brides talk about why they chose to wear both a white gown as well as an outfit with different cultural meaning.

Jaclyn Law, Chinese-Canadian
Married in 2001
jaclynlaw-wedding
I’d redo certain things about my wedding, if I could (like not having it in January!), but I still love my wedding dress – it’s so simple and pretty. My husband and I decided to have a traditional Chinese banquet (his idea, actually), so I went with a cheongsam, too. I changed into it after the third course. When I entered the room, everyone started applauding — I probably turned as red as the dress! I got both gowns plus matching hair decor in Scarborough. My husband, whose background is Czech, wore a rented black tux with a mandarin collar. In the pictures, we look like a couple of kids.

 

Cindy Ramkissoon-Shears, Indo-Trinidadian-Canadian
Married in 2008
cindy-wedding

I have always wanted to wear the traditional Hindu wedding sari, even though later in life I became a born again Christian.  Growing up in a Hindu home and attending many Hindu weddings, I fell in love with the designs, colours and accessories.  I remember being a small child and seeing one of my elder cousins in the traditional red sari walking down the stairs to meet her groom, having the veil of flowers hanging on her face. From that moment I knew that is what I wanted to wear at my wedding.  My spouse is not of my culture but he welcomed my ideas and so did our wedding party. I chose to wear baby yellow, as the traditional wedding colours are red or yellow.

We were married in a church and our pastor was very excited that although were we being married under Christian rites, other cultures and traditions were still being represented in our clothing.  My pastor and his spouse also wore traditional Indian outfits at our ceremony.  After the ceremony, we changed into the traditional white dress and white suit for the remaining of our pictures and for the reception.  Honestly, if I could dance in a sari, I probably would have continued to wear that throughout the night!

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Irish Pride

By Lucas Costello

The first time my dad died, I was five. He was standing at the top of the staircase, proclaiming “the Chinaman kept giving me tequilas.” Then he fell flat on his face. The rest is haze: me in a room reading a Walt Disney activity book with “Kiki”, my Filipina nanny, while my Filipina mother, bawling, called the ambulance, and tall men in uniforms with stripes down their pant legs showed up to save the day.

My father didn’t actually die that night. In the end it was cancer, not directly alcohol-related, that brought him into the black. The years in-between are spotted with memories: him fighting with my mother on a night that she dumped out all of his expensive scotch; me, still a child, waking up to find out that he had driven our TransAm into a ditch. Our big alcoholic-and-son bonding moment was a night in Mexico. My mom took off after Dad refused to not drink x amounts of tequila. He ended up unable to walk, so I helped him back to the hotel room. It was Angela’s Ashes meets Wall Street, with Lionel Richie as the soundtrack. Luckily for all of us, Dad was a gentle drunk; our family didn’t have to deal with the trauma of physical abuse that so often haunts families with alcoholic parents.

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Racism, Future: Sci-Fi Authors Riff

By Jef Catapang

Poster design by Simon Yau. It would be a cool movie, right?

If you read a fair share of sci-fi (written by someone other than Octavia E. Butler), you might be prone to feeling like all this flesh-wringing about race will be looked upon as nothing more than a quaint marker of our times. A lot of sci-fi teaches us that race just won’t be an issue in the future. Besides, if there is still such thing as racism in the future it will be directed at robots, so who cares? Not us. It doesn’t matter how sexy you are, robots. We’re not buying it.

To get a deeper sense of how science fiction has dealt with the possibilities of human interaction and diversity, we called up some of Canada’s most intelligent and most out-there imaginations to talk sci-fi, race and the future of us.

Derwin Mak

The Shrine of the Siren Stone (in which an otaku anime-nerd falls in love with a Japanese girl dressed as a French maid who turns out to be an android)

On why scientific developments won’t change racism:

The concept of race is rather hard to define to begin with. Even though all the scientific research shows that people have the same DNA, that we have the same ancestors, there will always be some differences. I’m not saying those differences are good or bad, they’re just there and people will notice them.

On why ‘first contact’ won’t bring about world peace:

Often science fiction authors will say that we’ll all suddenly become one unified human race as we realize that we’re not alone. I’m going to take the opposite approach and say that the arrival of aliens will not make us see ourselves any more unified than we already were.

A good example is when the Europeans came to North America. That did not end the squabbling or the warfare amongst the Native American or Canadian First Nations tribes. They still fought against each other, and indeed, they even sought out alliances between the English, French and the Spanish against each other. So I don’t think that the arrival of aliens will make human ethnic groups feel like they have any more or less in common than they do now. Unless, of course, we end up being common prey.

Suzette Mayr

Moon Honey (in which an 18-year-old white waitress suddenly turns Black)

On everyone being beige in the future:

When I go to Toronto, I’m always struck by all these mixed-race couples, children, and people that I see. That it’s actually in ads now, which to me suggests some sort of acceptance in the mainstream of this as being normal—in quotation marks. You don’t see it as much in Calgary. You see it on the street but you don’t necessarily see it reflected in the media. And I remember someone telling me statistics about Japanese-Canadians, about how they’re gradually kind of disappearing as they’re inter-marrying with other races. My feeling is that perhaps what will happen is we’ll have this blending as we go. On the other hand, there’s tons of Islamophobia. I think about the Tea Party, and all the kind of stuff that’s happening in the United States, which suggests a return to segregation rather than an inter-mixing.

On our increasing capability to control what our bodies look like:

Weirder and weirder things are happening for beauty. People are altering their faces and looking more and more like cats. I wonder—there’s a certain kind of aesthetic that goes with bi-racial Asian people that seems to be fetishized and seen as beautiful. And what about these lips that people are getting, these kind of big lips? I don’t know. Are people wanting lips like Black people?

On why racism is here to stay:

There will always be an underclass and there will always be racial undertones associated with that. Think about the historical movement towards the prairie, where the desirables and the so-called whites were English people or Scottish people, and then the Irish came and they were black. And once they were integrated, well, the Italians were black. Then the Ukranians and now it’s the visible minorities. I think that’s just the way we’re genetically engineered: to be mean to somebody, to find justification to exploit somebody else or treat somebody else poorly.

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Racism, Future: Let’s Mix it Up

By Denise Balkissoon

Officially, Toronto is way multicultural. In my experience, it’s increasingly segregated. Aside from the subway at rush hour, I see deepening cliques and enclaves. Some of them don’t bother me as much as others—the white crowd at a Neko Case show is no biggie, the white crowd at the National Magazine Awards very frustrating—but the overall effect isn’t the city where I want to live.

We’ve long known that Toronto is split geographically by income, and that the growing low-income areas tend to be majority non-white. Poverty is definitely racialized in this city and it’s impossible to talk about racism without noting that all of the ways that people can be marginalized are infuriatingly linked. Remember, ethnic segregation in Toronto isn’t just about poverty—middle-class and affluent people often live in ethnic enclaves long after they’ve earned enough to have wider housing choices.

Now, I like that I can get three different Jamaican dishes from three different restaurants on Eglinton West. I’m currently soliciting invitations to go dancing at one of the Ethiopian nightspots on Danforth. But rigid enclaves can encourage an Us and Them attitude, especially since, in hyper-diverse 2012 Toronto, “racism” doesn’t just mean Anglos versus everyone else. Plenty of ethnic groups are ok with white people, but continue to throw shade at other ethnicities. Old country beef fought out in the new land keeps dominant groups dominant—grudges and in-fighting allows the historical cream to stay on top. Lack of interaction gives suspicion an incubator in which to flourish.

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8 Simple Rules for Marrying a Chinese Woman

By John Michael McGrath

Though my title cleverly references a TV show and the luckiest number in Asian numerology, I can’t deliver on its promise. Lord Almighty, it turns out there’s no one Chinese Girl TM out there to date and marry. They’re all different! My wife Vicki is even totally different from her sisters! It’s weird. The internet did not prepare me for this.

I also blame the internet, nerve centre of all fetishes, for the super-awkward first meeting with Vicki’s closest friends. Immediately upon sitting down for coffee one afternoon in 2000, they asked if I’d ever dated a Chinese girl before. Answer: No. Next question: have I dated any other Asian women before? (No.) Third question: Are you sure? (Um, yes.) My answers didn’t actually seem to convince anyone. I’m pretty sure I was considered a rice king until proven innocent. Almost 12 years later, I’m relatively certain I’ve put them at ease.

I’d actually recommend this experience to other people of a paler persuasion. Not specifically accusations of Yellow Fever, but I think more white people could use some baseless assumptions about their skin colour making them really uncomfortable at least once or twice a year. At the very least, it would make that score look a bit less like the Harlem Globetrotters vs. the Washington Generals.

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You Can’t Make Me: The Grinch Who Endures Christmas

By Denise Balkissoon

Last year about this time, I went to visit a friend with a new baby. It was a visit that has scarred me for life. First, I called the baby by the wrong name. Then, I said what I was getting my partner for Christmas in that voice that means “and what are you getting your partner for Christmas?” My friend told me what she got him for Hanukkah because, like, they’re Jewish. After years—nay, decades—of resisting Christmas assimilation, I had fallen prey to its insidious tentacles. I was mortified.

I wish I wasn’t so tortured by Christmas, but I am. My family has always played fast and loose with the holiday. Meet Raggedy Anne, who I got when I was four. My dad’s job had taken my family to Saudi Arabia, which is not a place known for sales of Christmas wrapping paper; I found Anne behind the curtains in the living room. Back in Canada, most of my 20 aunts and 19 uncles (crazy, right?) gave out presents, but I had 50 or so first cousins (totally crazy, right?) who also needed something to unwrap. My haul was big, but fairly budget.

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