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Pia Besmonte

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Save the Date (less artsy version)

The Thought Process of a Feminist Planning Her Wedding

In two months, I’m getting married.

It scares me. The fiancé told me that I have been grinding my teeth in my sleep. I have recurring anxiety dreams. Ghosts visit me. I was pushing a grocery cart along an aisle and I heard a voice whisper my name — I was alone.

I am a feminist. I have never envisioned getting married. Yet here I am, planning my own wedding.

I have spent the past two years in silence trying to reconcile the contradictions between by former identity and the person I am becoming.

A friend suggested therapy. We plan to go through marriage counseling. I am making peace that there are some things about marriage that mystify me.

So I decided to write about it, because writing is the way I make sense of the unknown.

Here are some of the things I have been grappling with:

Marriage is an institution. I don’t want to be institutionalized.

Claude Levi-Strauss says that marriage was the institution that started the subordination of women:

”The total relationship of exchange which constitutes marriage is not established between a man and a woman . . . but between two groups of men, and the woman figures only as one of the objects in the exchange, not as one of the partners . . . This remains true even when the girl’s feelings are taken into consideration, as, moreover, is usually the case. In acquiescing to the proposed union, she precipitates or allows the exchange to take place; she cannot alter its nature.”

– Levi Strauss in Lerner, “The Creation of Patriarchy”

In history, the institution of marriage enabled the “reification” of women”: they were de-humanized (as in, traded for material goods, military alliances, etc.) and objectified.

While we can argue that the marital dynamic has vastly changed over thousands of years, there is still a lot of inequality when it comes to marriage.

Questions:

  • Who shall be the primary breadwinner?
  • Who shall stay home and take care of the kid(s)?
  • How shall the couple save up for and invest in conjugal property?

Most of the inequality comes from the economic factor, but it can also touch on career and individual insecurities. For twenty-first century women, we are pressured not only to have great careers but also to be Pinterest-perfect wives, mothers, and home-makers.

Interesting Fact:

Gerda Lerner, the pioneer of women’s history and author of “The Creation of Patriarchy”, was also a stay-at-home mom until her youngest child was 16.

Here’s her take on the contradiction between feminism and family life:

“I stayed home until my youngest child was 16 years old. I was a full-time mother. I have always felt that feminists have to understand more about that experience. Whenever you want to make any change in the community, from getting a stoplight at a school crossing to putting in a park, the people who make the change are your stay-at-home housewives all over the country, all over the world.”

(To be continued…)

Bridal Fair and Filipino Entitlement

The fiancé and I woke up early to attend the “Here Comes Thy Guide” Bridal Fair in Tagaytay. We spent the whole day wrapped in fog and rain.

Bulalo for Breakfast and the Oxymoron of Filipino Entitlement

We didn’t get a chance to have a bite of breakfast at home so we asked to drive by Leslie’s for some warm sabaw (soup). The place was empty when we got there. We ordered a bowl of bulalo (beef marrow soup) and fried tawilis (freshwater herring).

The fiancé told me that his family ate there once. There was a performer who was missing most of his front teeth taking song requests. One of the fiancé’s relatives requested Journey’s Faithfully, without much expectation. The performer killed it.

As the brunch was winding down, I received a message from Nana asking permission to get Mango some fish meat (he eats semi-solids now). We had already left cash for them (Nana and Auntie) to spend however they see fit. The fiancé asked me why Filipinos don’t assume any kind of entitlement.

I told him that it comes from being underprivileged since birth, sometimes for generations. It comes from being colonized and dispossessed. We are not raised by family, church, school, and society to demand things.

For Filipinos it has always been this: ask only for what you need. The rest is excessive and sinful. We can be so poor that we are grateful even if we only have our lives left. As long as we are alive we can rebuild.

This is why Filipinos don’t feel they have agency when it comes to politics. The average undereducated Filipino hates activists and unions — for them rallies and strikes are an “inconvenience”.

This is why poor people rely upon luck, the lottery, network marketing, get-rich-quick schemes instead of working slowly towards financial stability.

This is why the waiter who processed our bill was confused when we gave more than the amount indicated on the receipt. Tipping is not common in the Philippines.

More on this later. We were an hour late for the fair.

Bridal Fair

We went at the invitation of our wedding planner. This is Mavie, our wedding planner:

the pinayist bridal fair Mavie events

With Mavie’s help, we booked the last three suppliers for our January 2018 wedding. There are a thousand more decisions to make, but at least we already know the persons and businesses with whom we will be working.

PianDexter2018

This is our beautiful wedding website, made by the fiancé. He had to learn how to make an RSVP form for four different itineraries using Typeform. It took him three weeks.

I asked him for permission to write about him. I assured him I won’t use his name. You know what he said?

“Use it! So everybody knows it is me marrying Pia Besmonte!”

His name is Dexter.

Newly discovered, been around for a while

After we left the fair, we asked our driver for the day some recommendations for a decent full body massage place. He said something to the effect of say no more fam, and took us to Nurture Wellness Village.

the pinayist nurture wellness village

We got a package called Mangsing-Irog Massage (Lovers’ Massage). They led us to the massage room (named Gayuma, or love potion) which was quite a long but leisurely walk inside the compound. The place was beautifully landscaped. Trees and plants everywhere.

The massage was glorious. My therapist Rissa was skillful, and she worked on my back pain like a CHED scholar during finals.

Apparently they’ve been around for 16 years. We vowed to come back, maybe even stay at their BnB next time.

Phallic Pastas

There’s something irresistible about gourmet menus. The fiancé craved for Italian so we had dinner at Taza in Taal Vista Hotel. They always need to make food sound more sophisticated than they really are.

For instance:

Pizza

Salsa Verde with Pancetta

When it arrived it was thin-crust pesto and bacon pizza. Not to mention drowning in olive oil. It was good.

Because we never get to go on non-parent, couple dates anymore, I decided to get the most pricey pasta: the Lobster Fettuccine. It turned out like this:

the pinayist Taza lobster fettuccine

It was delicious. And sexually suggestive.

A Note to Car Rentals

We arrived home at 10pm, after a short altercation with the car rental. It was supposed to be a complimentary trip because they booked us for two days in excess of our previous itinerary. The fiancé booked from 7 am to 9pm for a day trip to Tagaytay, never mind the second day. Instead they wanted us to pay for the hours in excess of one day.

Car rental companies need to streamline the process from booking to contracts to billing. It is such an inconvenience to argue with your drivers for things that we have agreed upon in the contracts.

The concept of car rentals is supposed to be good because

not buying a car – carbon footprint = not contributing to climate change

Let’s not make it so complicated.

Growing up alone

Maturity is when you start doing the right thing. Naïveté is expecting that everyone is going to start doing the right thing because you first made the choice.

Today I learned

that human beings may be assigned to grow old together as siblings, but growing up takes solitude.

The simple story

For weeks now I’ve been trying to confirm whether or not my older brother is coming to my wedding. He not so subtly said that he’s not coming without his plus-one. The reason I didn’t invite said plus-one is personal, and has to do with my being a mother to a boy. The complexity of my brother’s relationships is his story to tell. The bottom line, for me, is that he refuses to send his sister away on her most important day.

The complex story

In the last two years that I have been away from blogging and social media, I have been working on myself.

After my mother passed away and my surgery, I grew distant from my family. I made a mess of my life and career prospects straight out of college. I became severely depressed. I hit rock bottom. I felt alone.

When I decided to pivot, I met my fiancé. He was the first and only person I allowed to see me at my most vulnerable. He saw me with tears and snot dripping freely from my face as I tell the stories that haunted me to silence. He simply listened.

I finally found the person who — unlike my family — didn’t criticize without empathy, who didn’t tell me what to do but encouraged me to rebuild my life with my own bare hands.

When I was ready, my fiancé invited my family to my book launch.

Reconciliation

The day I launched my first book was the beginning of my reconciliation with my family. They listened to my lecture and they witnessed what I do, which is write, teach, and perform poetry.

From then on and throughout my pregnancy, I got my family more and more involved with my new life. When I gave birth, I called my sisters. They came over our place for lunch on some weekends. They were all present on my birthday party in July.

As I plan my wedding, I make provisions for my family’s comfort and happiness as they come to our destination wedding in Tagaytay.

Alas, I can’t have it all. And I guess this is the challenging part of family, that you can never have perfect harmony with everybody all at once. And now that I think I’m a little more mature, I’m going to have to live with that.

 

Surrender: A Day in the Life

The Situation

Last night, I had a fitting with my stylist for the prenup shoot this Friday. I went home happy, and remembered to confirm with the venue the time we were going to start on Friday — 6am.

The Problem

Imagine my surprise when (a) the venue didn’t receive any message confirming our booking, and (b) they booked the venue to another client.

Here’s the math:

(Pia + wedding anxiety)^caffeine = crisis

Here’s the image:

MIKA gif

So at 11pm I woke people up. I posted a semi-desperate but carefully worded Facebook post (the formatting of which suddenly said, “looking for recommendations” — Facebook knows), looking for a new venue for an event happening in two days.

Shax.

The fiancé was gracious. Maybe it was a mistake. Maybe we weren’t supposed to shoot there. Maybe there’s a reason why there’s blood spatter on the ceiling when we went for an ocular visit.

We dared not ask.

I had a few hours of troubled sleep, and I woke up sleepy. I decided to get up and push through the day. I trudged through several prenup shoot-related errands. I even went shopping today (context: I only go to the mall and partake in consumerist culture when absolutely necessary; a photo shoot is something to which I don’t want to go just as myself).

Good fortune takes preparation. – fortune cookie

Landmark wasn’t so crowded. Four hours later, I got a pair of dark silver peep toe shoes, a flesh-colored inner wear for a translucent lace gown I have to wear at the shoot, and four accessories. Together they cost PhP3,000 (USD60). Shopping, I hate. Good finds, they’re okay.

I never go to the mall not knowing what I need. Knowing the items you need eliminates your choices to the details: color, texture, comfort. Roaming aimlessly around a mall is asking to have your money separated from you. See also: buyer’s remorse.

The Outcome

By the time I got home, the problem solves itself. Eighteen fantastic venue recommendations later, with the help of my wedding coordinator and stylist, I booked a venue. The photos were promising, the design is from another time.

The Insight

Wedding planning is never easy. You have to prepare more than a year in advance, make thousands of tiny decisions that lead to a big future event. If you are like me, who live in the moment and have no capacity for building things with longevity in mind, it’s almost incomprehensible. Borobudur, man. I’ll tell you about Borobudur in another post.

So I rely upon the kindness of the people around me, the friends who still stick around, the wedding vendors who advocate for my client satisfaction and well-being, and the act of total surrender in the face of experiences I have yet the language for.

That’s a skill that took a quarter of a century to learn.