Rocky Foundation

Build your love on stone, never be alone.  Build your love on wish, slips away like fish.  — Pyanni proverb

FFphoto-by-piya-singh-bittercharm-6

Photo © Piya Singh



Gallen followed his new wife home.  She was older than he’d hoped – almost his age – but that was common here.

“Sturdy river rock.”  Asraen slapped the wall.  “It’ll last for generations.”

“Your grandfather built it?”

“Grandmother, mostly.”  Asraen showed him food-plots and traps, repairs she’d made, furniture she’d built.

These Pyanni disrespected their womenfolk, making them do men’s work.  “You lived alone?”

“Four years now.”

Abandoned.  No brothers?  Cousins?  Gallen scowled.  He’d make this right.  She could dress like a woman, too, now that she had a husband.

She shrugged.  “It gets lonely.”

“Don’t worry, darling.  I’m here now.  I’ll take care of you.”



Inspired by this week’s Friday Fictioneers flash fiction challenge.  Thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting!  Click here to see the other stories and add your own.



 

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40 thoughts on “Rocky Foundation

    • Yep, he’s got a few things wrong, that’s for sure But that’s all too common when your partner is from another culture — each of you making assumptions you don’t even realize you’re making, because it’s just so normal to you. Thanks for commenting!

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    • True, he’s in a bad spot and hasn’t sussed the situation very well. But if she was in his culture, making all the same assumptions that would work in her own but be alien in his, she would sound just as naive! And would be just as sure that she was right, I’m sure — because don’t we all think that about our own ideas? Ah, the difficulties of cross-cultural love….

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    • Maybe after a period of adjustment — and hopefully, some honest communicating — they’ll find a system that works for both of them. But yes, it sounds hard. There’s no “standard role” for men in Pyanni culture, though. In Layoran culture (where he’s from) they have very clear delineations between men’s roles and women’s roles. But the Pyanni worship an androgynous deity and try very hard *not* to make distinctions based on gender. So to Asraen, each partner should contribute whatever he or she is best at doing, and share the crappy stuff equally. Having said that, moving into *anyone’s* place after they’ve been living there alone doing things their own way for years is going to be tricky, no matter what culture you’re from!

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    • Thanks for commenting, Mike! I think they’ve set themselves a challenge and I’m going to back away quietly and let them privately resolve it. 🙂 Always happy to hear that others think my world is interesting — there’s plenty more of it on these pages if you want to see more!

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    • I agree, she’s not what he was expecting! I try not to play favorites with my various cultures — to see each one from its own perspective, as it were — but yeah, I have to say I would personally rather live in the Pyanni culture than the Layoran one. 😉 Thanks for commenting Mandi!

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  1. I love the proverb! Very creatively done. I think that Galen is rather presumptuous. Your handling of his sexism is delicately done, as is your handling of her response:
    ‘”Your grandfather built it?”
    “Grandmother, mostly.” Asraen showed him food-plots and traps, repairs she’d made, furniture she’d built.
    These Pyanni disrespected their womenfolk, making them do men’s work. “You lived alone?”’
    You’re such an engaging and vivid writer, Joy! I love reading these vignettes!

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    • I really enjoy writing these proverbs. And I can’t bring myself to blame Gallen. He’s a product of his culture, as we all are. In his culture, leaving your daughter or sister to fend for herself would be cruel, and he is sincerely hoping to give his new wife what he thinks is valuable and good, to honor her. Of course, from the perspective of my own culture — and from Asraen’s — the gifts he wants to give her would not be appreciated! But he really does mean well.

      And of course, we are all presumptuous — we presume that our partner has the same ideals and values (because they are so obvious and normal to us, who could *not* hold them?) and we assume they recognize the same things to be rude or respectful, and then we fail to understand why and how they could possibly disagree. It is the heart of marital conflict, in cross-cultural relationships even more than others.

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      • I found myself loving you when I read this. You are totally right, and I agree with you completely. As someone who married outside her culture and race, I know that EVERYONE, but everyone holds presumptions. So much of getting to know the other is in unlocking those, discarding useless notions, cherishing wonderful ones, and generally loving the humanness of the one we love (and even those we don’t love).

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      • My heart is warmed by your reply, Vijaya! Many people (not you, of course) would respond by protesting that no, I don’t understand, they are right and their partner is *wrong*. When in reality, it is so much more complicated than that. In some ways, every relationship we have is cross-cultural — none of us hold exactly the same assumptions and views as even our nearest neighbor. At least when you come from another country, or a different religion, you have fair warning about such differences, and may catch them before they fester.

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    • Yep, definitely some friction! In Pyanni culture the wife isn’t the boss either; it’s supposed to be egalitarian. That said, she’s been living there alone and doing things her own way for a while, it’s probably going to be hard for her to adapt to having another person to work alongside of. Thanks for commenting, Ali!

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  2. This looks like an arranged marriage to me, if he didn’t even know how old she was. I wonder what brought that about. I do love the Pyanni people (and the proverb). If I lived in Eneanna, I’d ask the Pyanni to adopt me. Great writing, Joy.

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    • Thanks G! I hadn’t figured out exactly why he was in Pyann, but I had the idea that he was hoping to meet a wife at the spring market (in this era, the semi-annual markets are when people from all over the region get together to trade, party, and yes, meet potential mates from places other than their own small villages). In Layoran culture, women marry at younger ages than men and try to have babies fairly young (which is highly valued), so he was assuming the eligible women would all be younger than they really were. They must have felt some mutual connection to agree to this, although they can’t have known each other long.

      And yes, if we had a choice among the various cultures and eras in Eneana, I think you and I would be happiest in the Pyann Empire.

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  3. I’m still laughing at Gallen’s assumptions about his new bride (and the opening line was great). As you say, they are both products of their culture. I hope they learn to understand each other better and find a way to make things work. It may be more a marriage of convenience, but perhaps love will blossom as well. Really nice story, Joy.

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    • Thanks Chris! I think for a while, it might be a marriage of IN-convenience! But if they liked each other enough to decide to get married, hopefully they will learn to work through their different sets of expectations.

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    • I’m glad that part came through. In family sociology, we use the term “scarcity of gratitude” for when each partner is contributing what they think is valuable and fair, but feels like the other person doesn’t appreciate their “gifts” and doesn’t reciprocate the way they expect and want. As you can imagine, this is especially problematic if they have very different expectations about what’s valuable and fair or what men’s v. women’s roles are in a marriage.

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  4. I think it will take time for these two to adjust to each other’s cultures. Differing attitudes and expectations could give their marriage a bit of a bumpy start. Perhaps Gallen’s assumption that Asraen wants to wear women’s clothes (literally and metaphorically) is a little premature.

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    • I agree, there’s definitely going to be a period of adjustment, and more bumps ahead. For instance, when she prods him to stop wearing his silly southern clothes and adapt to the local norms. And shave that awful beard while he’s at it — what, was he raised by wolves?

      Nope, he definitely didn’t realize he signed up for that!

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