Monday, February 12, 2018

What Does Self-Esteem, Arranged Marriage, and Ramen Have in Common?

mmm, serious ramen

This will be a phenomenally busy week with doctor visits, writing, and preparations for a symposium. Then punctuated by a presentation at BYU just when things get really crazy in the middle of the week. I’ve been asked to talk about publishing e-books, and I’ll be joined with my editor. I did this class two years ago, but unlike last time, I’ve been preparing. We have some ideas we think will be fun, including putting together a very quick & dirty ePub. I also spent the weekend finishing projects like the paperback edition of my Pokémon book, and writing articles that I plan to submit here and there. But I don’t want to talk about any of that. I can’t stop thinking about a recent arranged marriage proposal I received.

I dropped by a local Vietnamese grocery store on Saturday. My family and I have shopped at this store for over 10 years. When I want to get import ramen and all the fixings, this is where I go. The shop carries a wide variety of products from all over Asia. There is ramen from Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, Korea, and manga-flavored ramen from Malaysia. Most of the ramen is flavored, of course, but brave souls can purchase blank ramen for homemade broth. There is a Japanese grocery store in downtown Salt Lake I could visit, but the Vietnamese store is much closer and gets all my business. Consequently, we are on a friendly basis with the owner (although it just occurred to me that I have never learned her name). Over the years since my divorce, she has been asking me if I was dating yet. Each time, the answer is “No”. The store owner is usually incredulous that I haven’t begun yet, but I’ve been taking my time.

Saturday, I thought I would be clever. As I was stuffing import Japanese mochi into my shopping cart, I answered her question before she asked, telling her that no, I haven’t started dating yet, but I’m thinking that I’ll be starting soon. Not missing a beat, she replied that she had a friend who has a daughter who’s looking for a husband. Would I like her to introduce me?

I stood frozen. At first, I thought she was kidding. After all, I was kidding. I smiled and waited for the punchline, but then my smile froze on my face as I saw she was waiting for my response. She was very, very serious. Suddenly, I had no idea what to do. All coherent thought took flight out my ears and left me empty as a birdbath in winter. She assured me that the girl, who is Vietnamese, was very pretty. When I didn’t jumpstart my mouth into motion, she then began to let me know that I was a very nice guy—as if I deserved this meeting.

It was the most singularly peculiar event I’ve ever had happen to me. It was so far outside my cultural experience. Soon, the birds of my mind returned to roost, and I began to think many things at once. How old was this girl? Does she speak English well? I need somebody who can keep pace with my conversations. Is she LDS? Having religion in common is important to me. But I had no idea how or even IF I could ask such questions in that circumstance. Instead, I began to blush, then managed to say I wasn’t ready for that yet, but I thanked her for her kindness.

Over the weekend I spent a lot of time thinking about this event. What I decided was that, although the things I initially worried about were legitimate, the truth is that I couldn’t believe somebody thought I was worthy to be offered as a potential mate. I didn’t feel impressive enough yet. I had more more books to write, more money to make, more possessions to acquire!

It’s true that I’m so used to ADHD and being subpar compared to peers that I’m used to failure and other people’s disappointment. Yet this moment was the complete opposite. This dear lady thought I was good enough for formal courtship, and the experience terrified me.

This past weekend showed me that I have forgotten some of the lessons I taught myself over the years to love myself and not get down on myself. I was looking through the glass darkly, seeing only the negative. In fact, I was so convinced that I was unworthy for marriage, I couldn’t believe what was happening was truly happening.

This has both bemused and disappointed me. How many people get an actual arranged marriage proposal? Yet there I was worried only about how many unfinished projects I had! As I move through this week representing myself, I will make special effort to quiet the negative critic who resides within my head. Success is built upon realistic assessments of our skills and a positive belief in our potential, not on negative opinions based on fear.