Marrying a Khmer Woman
Lexus or Hovel?
It’s important to understand that you are marrying into a family. If they are poor, they will not only smell bad, but bring such matters as ‘buffalo die’ to your attention. Your house will soon fill with relatives you never knew you had, and wish you didn’t. You will share your bed with a severed pigs head because apparently it is lucky and just generally sink to the level of uneducated third world peasant.
Not that I am snob or anything.
If they have a black Landcruiser, their own tennis court, the men of the family all seem a little bit like gangsters in John Woo films, the women like tarts, and they have heavy CPP connections, just remember that uncle so and so smashed baby’s skulls against trees in his KR days and more recently almost got Rainsy with a grenade.
A Camry Family, however, has modest wealth and may understand that not all white people are rich. Not all Camrys are the same. Some are old and severely damaged. They park in houses near Shit River, just down from the Leprosy Center – convenient for the genocide museum and little else. Others are immaculate and new. They park in the garages (not in the living room!) of houses fit for A UN Country Director, on streets where people get shot in the face on a regular basis.
Regardless of your choice of Camry Girl you have to believe (or offer US citizenship for cash) in the marriage however messed up the premise. Your new mother in law will want a big wedding and will not be impressed if you can’t fund this. Credit facilities may be arranged.
‘Bad Girl’ or ‘Good Girl’ ?
According to Khmer cultural norms, sex before marriage is very, very bad. Women are told it will bring shame and them and their family, and about the relative who bled so much when she lost her virginity, she had to go to hospital. Honest! It was just like that bit in Alien where John Hurts chest explodes and then she got AIDS and died in shame.
To counter such inhibitions, you can point out that according to western cultural mores, women are not only expected to have sex before marriage, they have to wear a gas mask and agree to be filmed. Use selected examples from Dutch cinema to support your argument. She is marrying into your culture too, and if she cant make this one sacrifice, is marriage such a good idea? However, the moto is a stupid man with a Daelem? sorry, the motto is you try, you buy.
Jop Bpeep is a compulsory mini wedding. Your parents, her parents, family and friends are supposed to witness an exchange of rings and fruit. There maybe a procession through the street, there will be lots of photographs and lunch. This ritual is more about parents. The foreigner will acquire fake parents who follow some script along the lines of ”How much for the daughter?”.
When they have reached an agreement the prospective bride and groom are wheeled out and told to crawl around the floor and grovel while her family looks on with barely suppressed horror. Finally the parents exchange some fruit. Someone will tell you what to do at every step to help you look like a twat, but not such a twat as the crusty I saw giving Khoa San Road 7/11 clerk a respectful wai. If you are very lucky, the family will arrange for the event to be filmed so you can re-live the experience with a Karaoke style DVD.
You should wear a suit for this event and be mildly tranquilized: Blue, black or grey; Valium, tranxene or xanax. Her family pay for this event and everyone will be very pissed if you back out. However, the balance in your relationship now shifts as your fiance is now committed. Now is the time to start arguing. Topics include: Sex, children, where you will live, how much you don’t want to pay for a wedding, how many of the wedding rituals you intend to avoid, how many of the ridiculous costumes you refuse to wear, which of her relatives you despise the most, and the role of an androgynous latex clad gimp in a normal adult relationship.
The first requirement is an Affidavit of Marriage and Certificate of No Impedance, available for $136 from the British Embassy. You must swear that you are not married and they will leave a form on the wall for 3 weeks after which they are happy you are not a bigamist. (You can just get a photocopy if you are)
Cambodian paperwork is more elaborate. The embassy has a guide to the procedure, but her family will handle this. Opening bids are in the $600 range, but it drops to $400 and no doubt less if you know who to talk to; or her family doesn’t despise you. When dealing with Cambodian officials, I am told modest deposits may help reinforce the concept of performance related pay.
You will both need a medical from Calemette. Be sure to avoid looking at the blood stained floor as it may upset you. Don’t worry about the blood test; they only use the finest needles from Boeng Kak Lake, freshly plucked from the veins of dead junkies. All your favorite panel items will be there, from HIV to syphilis. Merl Cheem is a special day you will share. Be sure to dress up for it and don’t whine when you get charged $70, but she pays $20? It’s like the boat tickets, man. It’s just soooo unfair.
The Wedding Planner
A fortune teller will no doubt guide your fiancee’s mother towards some mutually convenient wedding date. Attend a wedding or two. Note the two cashiers recording the contents of your invitation envelope, how greasy the food is, how weird it is being the only white person in a huge parking lot full of Sino Khmers eating this awful slop. And then there’s the stage. And karaoke. And five other identical Khmer wedding productions running in parallel in Wedding Land.
If invited, say hello, hand over the money and make an excuse about having another wedding to attend. As bride and groom bailing early wont be an option, you will greet all the guests. You will perform a western style wedding ritual – a kiss, a dance, a cake etc, but by this time you will be tired because at 6AM you were walking round town, dressed like a Disney pirate carrying half a dead pig because it is lucky or something.
Twelve hours later you completed some of the most ridiculous and bizarre wedding rituals of any culture – my favorite is the ceremonial family haircut.. maybe because the one I saw was in a hairdressers and at this point I went to sleep and had to be taken home. You will need three tame ushers to share this joyous occasion and something involving monks happens the evening before.