Sunday, November 27, 2005

Karaoke Wedding

The longer I'm married to Jethro, the more I realize that I will never even begin to understand Asian culture. Sure, some superficial things have become slightly less baffling - such as why they would keep the coffee on the same shelf as the jelly in the grocery store - but the culture itself largely remains enigmatic despite my having been married to him for more over 6 years.

Jethro, the girls and I went to one of his many, many cousin's weddings last night. It was a karaoke wedding. They had a karaoke machine and whoever wanted to sing could go up there and belt one out.

I know this inspires thoughts of being serenaded by Yoko Ono, or some little tiny Asian man trying to sing "Stayin' Arive," but it wasn't that bad. The only person to sing in English didn't have an accent and he wasn't any worse than the soloist in church (which actually isn't saying much).

But when the bride and groom cut the cake, some lady went up there and sang something in what I think was French and Vietnamese and apparently a little Latin, because right in the middle of these incomprehensible words and techno tune, came an "Ave Maria." Let me just say that you have no idea of the quality of how bad someone is singing unless you understand the words. Ladies and gentlemen, she was no Roseanne Barr.

But this reminded me of last year at Jethro's parents' house. They were watching a Vietnamese holiday extravaganza on video and it was the weirdest thing I'd ever seen. It was a variety show and had everything from swordplay in traditional costumes, to incomprehensible skits that I don't even think Jethro's parents understood, and weirdest of all they all gathered at the end in skimpy little outfits to shake their booties and sing "By the Waters of Babylon" in English. That was the grand finale.

"By the Waters of Babylon" is a bible verse in Isaiah, I think. It says, "By the waters of Babylon, we lay down and wept for thee Zion. We remember thee Zion."

Don Maclean sings a mournful version and it doesn't exactly put you in the holiday mood. But here was a group of smiling Asians singing it with gusto while they shook their moneymakers to a disco beat. Honestly, it was then that I decided that everyone should marry outside their race because when there is nothing left to talk about, there is always that.

The enthusiasm with which Asians adopt American culture is nothing if not infectious, even if it does result from a huge cultural misunderstanding. Watching Asians assimilate really puts all the flaws of American culture under a microscope. But it also shows just how much fun it is. I sincerely hope Asians are as amused by us when we visit their countries.