Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Valentine's Day...yeah

Valentine's Day is upon us…again. Every year we have the opportunity to do something special for that someone special, or society kicks us for being single.

In Iraq, things are even more complicated. Last tour, back in '04, KBR decorated the mess hall for Valentine's Day. I walked in and there were hearts, rose petals and candles everywhere. Special cakes, soft music, Cupid, you name it. Here's the icky part, nothing but dudes in that mess hall. Seriously, all the Soldiers were dudes. We did out best to eat our meal quickly and without eye contact. The Indian (dot, not feathers) cooks slow dancing in the corner just was too much.

I'll do my best to call the female parental unit amid the misery that is the internet room. Now, I'm single, but I feel sorry for the married fellows. They have to call Household Six and whisper sweet nothings while a whole room of strangers over hears every word: "Baby, when I get home we're going to…um. You remember that time in Vegas where we...No, not the horse ride. The place with where we saw the jousting. Yeah, I'll use the-Hey buddy you mind? Baby I'll turn on that CD you-Ten more minutes!"

For the Iraqis, love is a little different. We work in a more rural area, where things like dating haven't caught on. Marriages are still arranged. From what I understand, once an Iraqi man has enough money, he tells his mother or female relatives that he wants to get married, and the women go to work. They ask around, and see who in the tribe has a daughter (12 is the youngest a girl can get married, I'm not kidding) ready for a life of field work and child rearing. Once they interview the possibilities, they tell the suitor his wife is ready, and they get married on a Thursday. Meet first? Date? Like each other? Irrelevant! Mom approves, start making grandkids!

Now, there's a twist to all this. The men almost always marry within the tribe, often to cousins. This keeps the dowry in the family. Can't have someone from the Kraplackastani tribe get a Durka Durka tribe dowry! Naturally, this leads to a shallow gene pool, which explains a great deal about this country.

Iraqi marriage can get a bit dicey if certain rules aren't followed. On certain occasions, a man will kill his uncle over a marriage. If a suitor wants to marry a girl, he must first ask not her, not her father, not his father, but the girl's oldest male cousin. Confused yet? The oldest male cousin has 'dibs' on the girl, and he must abdicate to the suitor. If the suitor skips the cousin and marries the girl, the cousin is honor bound to kill the girl's father for the insult. And I thought the bar scene was bad! Oh, Iraqis can have four wives.

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