We had another reminder today that we are living amongst a very different culture. It has probably been a few centuries since the term "marry for love" has been much a part of daily conversation in America, but it is still a hot topic here in Western China, where some marriages are still arranged or at least "helped along" by family members (particularly among Uyghurs). Every college-age girl here seems to dream of one day "marrying for love," yet the pressure from family to marry before one gets "too old" can be incredibly strong. A good friend of ours mentioned today that she will soon be married, perhaps within a month. Never hearing of her boyfriend, we were a bit shocked and wanted to know who the lucky guy was. She told us she had not chosen him yet. Her mother, father, sisters and brother have all come here to the city to visit her and help her find a man. Almost thirty years old and not married in Uyghur culture is cause for family intervention. She told us today with bit of a tired disgust, "Ah, I am too old now to marry for love." They seem to have arranged with her five marriage prospects with whom she is to spend a little bit of time (a date or two) and then decide whom to spend the rest of her life with. She is no country girl either, with a Masters degree and a University teacher. Still, the pressure to marry is so strong that she is left a bit unsure of what to do. The embarrassment and even shame of not being married has driven many people here (mostly women) into some very bad marriages. It certainly reveals something about the different values people hold to out here. We love our friend and are encouraging her to keep her standards high and that she is indeed, not too old to "marry for love."
p.s. this picture is not of our friend, but of a Uyghur woman in her wedding attire.