Monday, February 13, 2012
In the Hmong culture, it is a taboo to marry someone with the same last name. Never did I think that would happen to me. I was embarrassed at the beginning of our marriage that we were both Xiongs. We didn’t have a wedding because of our same last name. My husband just paid the dowry and the cost of the food if we would have had a wedding. Because we didn’t have a wedding our marriage was kept quiet. Only our immediate families knew we were married. The night we got married his family wanted to pay my parents money to send me back to my family and reverse the marriage. My husband refused. My mother in law and sister in law wouldn’t even call me “nyab” (daughter/sister in law) when there were visitors. They would call me by my first name because they were embarrassed. We knew they were embarrassed so we wouldn’t attend large family gatherings just to spare them the embarrassment. They didn’t say they were going to disown us, but mentally his family disowned us; they stopped inviting us to their family gatherings, and we heard talk from outsiders, so we basically knew we were disowned. I remember his aunt and his first cousin telling my sister in laws not to call me “ nyab’ because it is the grossest thing someone could ever do. I was really hurt when one of my sister in laws, whom I was close to, told me. Every time I see his first cousin, she would never say hi to me. She would ignore me and if they were looking for my husband, she would call me “Hey!” I purposely wouldn’t answer because I was hurt they didn’t acknowledge me.
After three years of marriage and no children, we heard from our distant cousins that his family said it was because of our last names being the same. They said even if we had kids they would be deformed. Some of the people who were telling us that we were horrible were our cousins who were married to their first cousins. Is being married to someone with the same last name worse than marrying your first cousin? My mom gave me some herbs to help conceive and one month later, I became pregnant. When I first found out I was pregnant, I was worried how my baby would turn out. I gave birth 9 months later to a beautiful baby girl. I remember there was a Hmong lady who worked at the hospital who helped Hmong families with paperwork. When we were filling out the paperwork, she asked us if we were legally married since we had the same last name on the forms. We told her “No.” She said, “Then why are your last names Xiong?” We smiled and told her, “Because we are both Xiongs.” We told her our story. She asked to see our baby and for permission to hold our baby. I gave her permission and she went ahead and held our baby and undressed her. I knew she wanted to see if there was anything wrong with our baby. I wanted her to see that our baby was perfect so I allowed her to do so.
We eventually moved out of state and started going to church because we didn’t know how to “ua neeb” or call for a “txiv neeb” because we were alone. Five years after our marriage, his aunts and uncles started visiting us. More and more of his family eventually came around. They started to call us for family gatherings and invited us for holidays. They asked us to not go to church anymore and go back to “ua neeb” with them. We told them we’re happy where we are. We go to church because we love it there. We love when the priest lectures about relationships and life. It’s a great learning experience for us. My mother in law came to visit us twice and asked us to move back. Now we’re back in Minnesota with our families and we have 4 beautiful children. I don’t feel insecure about myself when I’m with his family, trying to be someone I’m not. It took a long time for his family to finally accept me.
Even though we were doing all the “wrong” things and my family was initially ashamed and hurt, they still forgave us, stood by us and supported us. They did all they could to help us start our family. I’m so thankful for my family. After 2 years of lying to outsiders about our last names I told myself: I’m not a bad person. I just fell in love with someone I can’t stop loving. Do I need to lie about my situation for the rest of my life? I couldn’t and shouldn’t. I shouldn’t worry about how people think of me. I love my family and that’s what matters most. I should just focus on my marriage and my children. I believe we should stand up for what we believe even if we’re standing alone.