"Don't be cynical. Don't be critical." - Betty Wright with The Roots, You and Me, Leroy
"You look like king," said the Diplomat as he slapped me on the back. He turned to his brother-in-law, the father of the bride, and they spoke quietly in Bahasa Indonesian before turning back to me and nodding.
Apparently, I cleaned up well.
Weddings are extremely important ceremonies in Indonesian culture, particularly for the Sundanese (folks from West Java), and so, that Tiffany and I would be the only members of the family in attendance for her cousin, who was to marry an Indonesian woman, was a big deal. We became the elders of his family, representing his mother and father in the ceremony which included us wearing traditional Sundanese ceremonial attire.
For me, this meant a sarong of batik cloth, a white shirt with gold colored buttons, a black jacket reminiscent of Michael Jackson's more understated military attire, a cap, and a kris (ceremonial sword).
Coolest. Shit. Ever.
Immediately, I felt the magnitude of the day's events. I could feel the import of the role I was to play. I immediately felt more serious. Even as the family joked a bit with me, I could sense this was not a time for snark or to downplay the significance. I was on the other side of the world, standing up for a man I had only met six months prior, and I was dressed for the part.
So, I stood a little more straight. I tried to offer some fatherly, or at least, brotherly advice to a man ten years my senior and I set about making the best impression humanly possible to people who, generally, didn't speak english,and all of whom I was just meeting.
So I paid attention. I learned the proper way to greet people (palms together, fingers touching) and a little bit of bahasa ('terima kasih' means 'thank you'). I joked with the father of the bride. I was open to everything. Every piece of food put in front of me. Every direction for how to proceed. Every word I didn't understand. Every aspect of this culture I knew so little about.
By the end of the day, I had greeted well over 200 people. I had watched a wedding ceremony unlike anything I'd seen before featuring a well defined contract of marriage responsibilities and terms of divorce, the breaking of an egg, a traditional dance, and prayer. Lots and lots of prayer.
"You look like a king," said the Diplomat.
I felt like one, too.