I dunno if Annette is going to make a post about the wedding on this blog, but I figure I'll leave all the really touristy, holy-shit-I'm-really-doing-this stuff to her, because as anybody who has seen her Facebook page over the last couple weeks can attest, she is really into doing that right now. And who can blame her, really? She's been an Indian-American dude, but only really did stuff that emphasized the "Indian" part of that a few times, plus it's all so foreign to everyone she knows in her "real" life that they more or less demand every second be documented, and she has happily complied.
We planned it so that our flights arrived in Mumbai at about the same time, and then Kareena was there to pick us up. There was a lot of hugging before Kareena told us that we weren't just attending, but would be part of the bridal party. "Mummydaddy didn't want that at first, since it's usually just family and closest friends, but I didn't think it was right that either of you should be off in the back, since me and Jor -- that is, Benny -- wouldn't be together without you two, I insisted." She looked panicked for a second. "It's that too much? Maybe you wanted to be anonymous--"
Annette, at least, was down for it. "Hell, no, just be warned - I am going to be the worst gawking American with her phone out all the time! How 'bout you, Jordo?"
I have to admit, I had kind of figured it would be like René at my graduation, there but kind of just out of curiosity, but I also know I wasn't going to watch my own wedding without Annette there for moral support, so what the hell else could I do but say yes? Which meant a quick drive into the city, where Kareena had some pretty specific ideas for what we needed in terms of outfits.
Also, that our plans to fight jet lag and be really fresh for the second days ceremonies were kind of dashed, because now we had to be at the ganesh pooja, and while it was a nice ceremony, it was kind of uncomfortable. Benny was there, so they weren't conducting it entirely in Hindi, but I think that they would have otherwise just to spite us. Kareena had been necessity vague about how we fit into her going from a not-quite-arranged marriage to what they see as rushing into things with Ravi's old roommate, so they think maybe one of us slept with him or was rejected and faked evidence of him being gay or something like that. Since some of have probably been putting some way to get Kareena and Ravi back together for the last couple years, we're not exactly welcome guests to them.
The atmosphere was a little different the next morning as we all got our hands and feet painted at the mehndi ceremony; that was almost all Kareena's girlfriends and they just saw it as romantic, wanting details of how everything went down. We kept to the story about how "Jordan" used to be a big gamer and "Yuan-wei" was one of the folks he regularly played with, that I met Annette at some college-night thing, we took a trip to New York, and one or the other of us noticed some sort of chemistry between him and Kareena, especially once he started getting into shape. It's a cover story that sounds like one when Annette and I hear it, but I guess it sounds reasonable to everyone else.
It takes a while and I feel genuinely weird looking at my skin afterward. The henna patterns look like tattoos and I don't know that I really like that. I never got one back in my original life, didn't even consider my body my own as Deirdre, and just never saw how injecting ink into my skin was going to make me better-looking since becoming Yuan-wei, especially since I could still remember Mom & Dad saying that there could come a time when I didn't want one, and figured that went double for chicks. I put on makeup and jewelry and sometimes do prosthetics for movies and Halloween and shit, but seeing my body as an artistic medium was weird, even if I'm probably more used to it as malleable than most.
The sangeet was that night, and I nearly had a heart attack when I saw Mom, Dad, Max, and Bingbing arrive and sit down away from me, with Benny. When I didn't see them, I could kind of put the fact that the Inn cut me off from my family out of mind, but this hit me a lot fucking harder than expected, them traveling to the other side of the world for Benny. It also removed me that I hadn't just come here out of obligation, and that Benny hadn't agreed to the big Indian wedding to make Kareena happy. We were trying to get them into a state of mind where we could tell them the truth.
Annette grabbed my hand and was an awesome friend through this, but I didn't get much sleep after, and the next morning, as we all helped Kareena get ready, I really wondered about some stuff for the first time. She looked so damn beautiful and happy, and I thought about how is always just fucking dismissed her back when she was sort of Ravi's girlfriend, I guess because of the whole arrangement that seemed to drop her in his lap, but I couldn't help going down the what-if path, like, if I'd been in shape, would she have been attracted to me the same way she was to Benny? Then maybe I never go to the Inn, or I wind up taking Max or something, and, nope, just gross. And maybe Annette has nobody who can help her out and gets in a real mess as Yuan-wei, or Benny steals Kareena from me...
It'll drive you nuts if you go down that rabbit hole, so I dug out and just got through the wedding. I haven't really been to a lot, but, man, these Indian ones are colorful and festive compared to Western ones with churches and bland suits - there was horses drums, and fire! It lasted a while, but it was good for gawking, and then there was the reception with food, music, and so much dancing.
I was a bit creeps out when the first Chinese guy asked me to dance, but he was like a second cousin, and even if we were still blood relations, well, that's not that close, and he was respectful enough when I removed his hand from my ass. That I hadn't seen any of them for fifteen years made a lot of difference, as did the fact that, by and large, they were kind of a nice break between Kareena's male relatives and friends and neighbors and all. Don't get me wrong, the Indian dudes are all cool and fun, and I've got no fucking problem with guys seeing me as hot in part because I'm different, but the confidence and directness was a bit much, especially the ones who pushed the conversation to marriage awful quick and then boasted about the size of their parents' house.
Still, I had a lot more fun than I'd ever had at one of these as a guy, to the point that I was still going strong when Annette tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to my parents, who were winding down and making their way to tell Benny and Kareena they were done for the night. I made my way back to my seat to collect the shoes I had taken off earlier (we were well into the barefoot dancing stage of things) and Annette went to find Max. We all meet up in the hallway and told them that we had something important to tell them, although Annette and Bingbing stayed behind in the hall when we got to Mom's and Dad's guest room.
Dad asked what this was about, and Benny looked at me. "Should you start, or should I...?"
"Oh God, they're in some sort of weird poly thing."
I think we all looked a little shocked to hear my mom say that, but Kareena recovered first. "No! But, honey, I think you have to start."
Benny nodded, and turned to my parents. "Okay. Well, them, here goes. I'm, uh, I'm not your son. She is."
I looked at him. "Oh, that's fucking eloquent. Real sense of the moment you've got there."
My Dad looked at Benny, then me, then back to Benny. "I'm afraid I don't get the joke, son, or why you'd do this tonight of all nights."
"It's not a joke, Da-- Mister Chang. There's this cursed beach house in Maine, and it turns people into the last person to stay there. I stayed there after Jordan, like, four years ago, and we were going to all change back, but that's how I met Kareena, so we didn't."
"Think back, Dad - didn't we think it was weird that Jordan suddenly started to become easy to get along with and care about his health when he came back from that trip to Maine with Ravi?"
I gave him a look. "You know, you could have mentioned suddenly no longer speaking Chinese and changing jobs...
"Stop it!" Mom looked at us. "This isn't funny, and Kareena, I would not think you would be a part of the boys doing this."
"I wouldn't if it was a joke, Mama Chang, but we kind of have to. Jordan, the new Jordan, he tried to tell me five times - he hates keeping anything from me - but the curse protects itself even beyond it being hard to believe. I always thought it was just a metaphor for him trying to change his life until the night he proposed, and I realized he wouldn't risk that moment unless he really meant it. That's the only time the truth can get into your mind, when your life is already changing. We were just hoping this was going to be a big change for you, and not just us."
"That's--" She looked at me. "Tell me something only my Jordan would know."
Mom gave Dad a look, then turned back to me. "Come on, make me believe this."
So I did, and if I made sure to do it in Cantonese so that Benny and Kareena didn't understand, I'm sure as fuck not putting it on the Internet for anyone to read.
They didn't quite seem to believe us, but Dad was getting angry anyway. "This doesn't make sense! You say you could turn back but didn't, and how do you know if this is supposed to be protected?" He looked hard at Max, who stammered that was a while other story.
"It's part of mine. There are some bad people out there that use the Inn, and Max got caught up."
"So you say. But even if this is true, why tell us? Why make us feel like fools?"
"Don't you want to know, Mom? I mean, okay, things are going to be weird, but the weird things have explanations now!"
"Do they? Even if this is all true, you said you could have changed back, but you didn't, even after someone else hit the gym for you! Why didn't you?"
"Benny and Kareena--"
"Bullshit!" Dad moved his gaze between me and Benny. "I love my son, but that's not like you. You could be so selfish!"
That fucking hurt. "Do you have any idea what it's like to see someone take your life and improve it? To just watch someone make your body and then make friends and get a great girl and even find a job he doesn't hate and just absolutely know that you're going to fuck it up? It's goddamn terrifying, and I thought I was going to get into a very different situation instead of this!"
This time Mom was the one looking between us, not sure exactly what she should believe our who she should address. "I... I hope you don't think we loved you more just because--"
She started to well up, and I grabbed her hands. "No! And even if you did, that would have just meant that you were proud of me. You couldn't have known!"
Our faces were close, enough for her to see my makeup, or my cleavage if she looked down a little. "You do understand that is hard to look at you and see my son."
"It's been four years, Mom. More than enough time to figure out bras and heels and lipstick."
"But I saw you on the dance floor, and you seemed so... enthusiastic. Does that mean that before, you were--"
"Trans? I don't think so - I'm hardly the first guy to visit the Inn and eventually be okay with the change to female, like it makes the new you the real you somehow. But I dunno. I'm into my appearance more, but I don't know if that means this is more 'right' or I've learned some sort of lesson or I just still like looking at hot chicks and that includes the mirror in the morning. But the important stuff hadn't changed. I still love Halloween and Hong Kong movies and the Mets. I'm good with computers and still like to draw, and now I get to use them together."
I think that's when Mom really started to believe, although Dad needed a little more convincing. We went through a lot of the last four years, although we didn't fill them in on all the details - I don't know enough about Bingbing's deal to spill and Max won't, and we left out the part about Max getting fucked by Annette.
I guess it's good that they wanted to know a lot about Jacky and Ernesto - if they still thought I was just some random girl, they wouldn't really care about my (ex) (not really) boyfriends. Or maybe they would. On the other hand, they didn't say I should be paying off the student loans that Benny inherited, which I kind of expected.
So, I don't know if I'll be invited to Thanksgiving, or if Benny will be, or what. But, man, is it a fucking load off.