I Was Young And Foolish, Part II of II
Shiva and ParvatiSo in that Indian Art class I took, the teacher spent a lot of time talking about Radha and Lord Krishna and how they had this amazing love story, but I never really got it. Krishna made Radha fall in love with him, then cheated on her with all those gopis (female cowherds) and left her with a broken heart. Um, what?
Lord Shiva and Parvati, on the other hand, always seemed more like relationship #goals (to use the parlance of our times) to me. First of all, Shiva is 100% hotter than Krishna. No disrespect, but I mean...
|Lord Krishna - meh|
|Lord Shiva - meow|
Am I right, people? And yes, that is a cobra around his neck. It means he's conquered both time and the ego, and I'm starting to think that maybe that's why I had trouble on Tinder, because it's on my list of deal-breakers. ("If you have not conquered your ego and are not currently existing outside of the bounds of time, swipe left.")
Secondly, here's Krishna and Radha in a cute photo together:
|Girl, the other chicks he's boning are literally RIGHT THERE! Run!|
|"Make sure you get both of our tridents in this one. Also her bow and arrow and her sword."|
BOOM. Power couple. They're like, "Welcome to our home in the Kailash region of the Himalayas, suckas. We were just laughing about that time Shiva came home from meditating and accidentally chopped off our son's head in a weird rage. It's okay, he fixed it by attaching an elephant head to his body, and he became the most popular god in India, so now it's just a fun story we tell at parties."
But seriously, they're a much better couple and they're goals. And Parvati is a bad-ass. So much so that I'm only going to barely tell the story, because I don't want to accidentally be too disrespectful, I genuinely like her a lot.
Basically, Lord Shiva spent his whole existence going between the two extremes of really destructive hedonism (hey-ohh!) and total ascetism (meditating in the mountains). When his first wife died by jumping into a fire (that's a whole other...thing) he retreated to the Himalayas to meditate and wouldn't do anything to protect the world from demons, who took advantage of the situation by running amok (as demons do). Enter: Parvati.
|"I got this, fam."|
Their whole story is actually pretty cute. I recommend this retelling, especially the first few paragraphs describing the groom arriving at his wedding: pretty cute for a religious story.
Here are the bullet points:
- Shiva's first wife jumped into a fire and died.
- He went into the mountains and meditated.
- Demons ran amok.
- Parvati was born as an incarnation of Shakti. Was cool.
- She had a dream that she was married to Lord Shiva.
- She found out that he was meditating in the mountains near where she lived.
- She convinced her dad to let her go tend to him.
- She was really beautiful, so a Hindu version of Cupid shot a dart at Lord Shiva, who subsequently noticed her beauty for the first time and felt tempted to put the moves on her.
- But he realized that he had been shot by a dart so he destroyed the love dart god with fire from his third eye and ran away.
- Parvati was sad and wished she wasn't so beautiful (whoa there, slow down, be reasonable).
Here's the good part. Instead of going home and crying about him forever (Are you paying attention, Radha? No? Well, I think you should.), she was like, wait a minute. I'll just go into the jungle and meditate until I achieve complete discipline and mastery over my mind, body, and spirit, and then he'll totally marry me.
So she did!
[This is where I feel I should stop and say, ladies and gentlemen, if you're going to meditate in the jungle for years, living on fruit the first year, leaves the second, and moonlight the third, just to triumph over the limitations of the physical world, do it for YOU, not to get the attention of some dude or chick. Okay? But this story took place a long time ago, when women didn't have a lot of options. Parvati couldn't decide to put herself through law school and strike out on her own. She had her dharma to fulfill. But she could have! And if this story were happening today, she would have. Just remember that.]
Okay I'm back.
So, long story short, Lord Shiva showed up and was all, "Whoa, nice mind, still wanna get married?" And she was like, "Sure, but can we stop for food on the way? I literally haven't eaten in a year." So they did.
|"Your cousin is staring at the river flowing out of the top of my head again." "I know, I'm sorry, I'll ask him to stop."|
And now they're the best couple because they are equals. Which is a pretty huge deal if you know anything about the typical role of women in Hindu myths. She helped bring him back to the world and is devoted to him and kind of grounds his "out there" energy, and he is a good husband who doesn't run around on her.
They're SO equal, in fact, that they're often depicted as one. In fact, they say that if you truly worship Shiva then you're also worshipping Parvati at the same time, because they're that intrinsically linked.
|So cute, right? Look they got matching cobras! Aww!|
|"I thought you said we were going for ice cream!" "Just let me get one decent family picture for the Diwali cards, now stop squirming and smile into the camera!" "Kids, listen to your mother or nobody's getting ice cream."|
My parents are not deities, as far as I know, but they do have a really good relationship, and they have a cute story, too. My mom is a strong woman, and my dad likes hanging out in mountains. He was hired as a Secret Service agent because he said he was pretty sure he could ski while holding a machine gun (best interview question ever), and he was climbing a mountain in Bavaria on the day I was born. To be fair, I was three weeks early.
|Watzmann, near Berchtesgaden, Germany.|
My parents met on an airplane going from America to Iceland. My mom was going home after visiting her aunt in DC, and my dad was on his way to Europe for a vacation. She and another young woman were seated on one side of the aisle, and my dad and another guy were on the other side. My dad noticed my mom and took out a deck of cards and started shuffling it fancy and showing off until she looked over.
Then they all started chatting, and my dad wanted this grumpy old man sitting next to my mom to switch seats with him so he could sit by her. The old guy refused, and my dad said, "Oh no? Okay, fine," and leaned all the way over the guy until he was practically laying in his lap and kept on talking to my mom. The guy was visibly annoyed but refused to move, so that's how my dad spent the bulk of his flight. (Good on ya, dad.)
He found out her name and the town where she lived, and a few little facts about her family in the process of chatting with her, and then the plane landed and they parted ways.
Time passed. My mom was living her life, and my dad had moved to Paris for his job and had just ended a previous long-term relationship with a woman from his home town. He always says about my mom, "But I never forgot about her." So when my dad found himself in Iceland on a business trip (something about a president visiting there) one year later, he decided to look her up.
The problem was, my mom didn't have a phone, and he couldn't remember her last name either. So he went to the American Embassy, and asked a woman working there if she happened to know my mom. He had her first name, the town where she lived, that she worked at a bank, that her mother worked at the post office and her father was a fisherman. That was it. The woman he talked to wasn't even supposed to be at work that day, but she was, and she happened to be from the same town as my mom and she knew my grandparents. She gave him their number.
So he talked to my grandmother, and she said that she'd have my mom come over after work, so could he call back at around seven? Then she called my mom at work and told her that some American was looking for her and would call her back that night.
My dad may be a secret weapon of the government or whatever, but he was still nervous to call the girl he liked. My mom maintains that he was a little "tipsy" when he called her.
"Hi, uhhh, do you remember me? I met you on an airplane last year? I'm a Secret Service agent?"
"Yeah, I remember you."
"Oh! Great! Well, I was wondering if you and your husband would like to join me for dinner tomorrow night."
"I'm not married."
"Oh you're not! Well... your... boyfriend? Perhaps?"
"I don't have a boyfriend."
"Oh really! No boyfriend! Oh, wow, okay. Well, would you like to go out for dinner?"
"Keflavík doesn't have any restaurants. Just come over to my apartment, I'll make lamb."
So she did, and that was it. Badabing, badaboom. They dated long distance for a while, and eventually I was born, and when I was three months old we moved to Paris to be with my dad.
Sometimes when she tells the story, my sister and I say that if we had been her friends we would have told her she was crazy. First of all, they barely knew each other. And they just had a kid and moved right in together, after having spent so little time together. And yeah, that is kind of nuts, honestly. But dad took a leap of faith and found that girl who was still on his mind. It could have not worked out, but they went for it anyway, and now 38 years later they're still together and they're happy.
My mom said to me the other day, "Well, it wasn't all perfect."
I said, "Oh, like what do you mean?"
"Well... his eating noises."
"Well he chews really loudly."
"You're a lucky woman, mamma."
So yeah, the moral of the story is definitely don't listen to your heart because you never know who's going to chew too loudly, the end.
No, not really.
I guess I've been thinking about them because of all the people I've run into recently who have told me to just stay married and have an open marriage (we don't want to do that), and all the cynical messages about love. But I can't do that because I know that those people are wrong. Love isn't guaranteed to die. My parents have a great marriage and they set a good example. Maybe I'm naive, I guess I am, but I honestly don't think so. There's got to still be magic in the world. It can't all be gone, where's the fun in that? My friend shared this wild story on social media the other day, and it's from the friggin' Huffington Post, not like, infowars, so love must still be around, somewhere, right?
My dad is kind of larger than life, he's like John Wayne from The Searchers and Clint Eastwood from In the Line of Fire rolled into one, with a little Jack Nicholson sprinkled on top. (Fun aside: When he came to Oklahoma to bring me home from college after I graduated, he reenacted a scene from The Searchers by scooping me up in his arms and saying, "Let's go home, Debbie." Neither of us can watch that movie without openly weeping at the end. Same thing goes for Pride of the Yankees.)
He's great with kids and funny, and willingly changed diapers and gave us our bottles, and helps out around the house, and the only thing he ever says about it is, as a joke, "To think that a MAN LIKE ME, who has CLIMBED THE MATTERHORN and DODGED BULLETS, having seen THE THINGS I'VE SEEN, is taking out the garbage. If you people ONLY KNEW!" and my mom's like, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, here's the recycling while you're at it."
They have fun and they crack each other up.
And he always talks about her in glowing terms to other people, even when she's not there. Once he took me and a friend out to dinner, she hadn't met my mom yet so he described how beautiful she is. My friend got this mushy look on her face, then later told her boyfriend that she hoped she'd marry someone who would talk about her like that. The other day I was on the phone with my mom and we were talking about how gross we felt like we looked when we were pregnant, and my mom said, "I was swollen and disgusting the whole time," and then my dad shouted from the background, "No you weren't, you were beautiful!"
How sweet is that? You don't really think about your parents like that, but once you get older you start to notice their relationship more.
They're #goals too.
And it's not because they met on an app (they didn't have those back then), or went speed dating or went around desperately looking for their next relationship (not that there's anything wrong with any of those things). They just saw each other across the aisle of an airplane.
When you know, you know, the old folks say.
Once my dad and I were watching the cheesiest movie of all time, called Somewhere In Time, starring the late Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. It's a super sappy love story from 1980 that involves time travel. There's a scene in there where the two of them have been hanging out a little, and Jane Seymour, whose character is an actress, has to get her photo taken, and she and Christopher Reeve have this *moment* from across the room. And it's like, everyone else in the room disappears and you get it that they just *know.*
|Do not do a deep dive into this movie's fandom because they're kind of insane|
I was fifteen at the time, in 10th grade, and we were watching it because I had just bought my dress for the Homecoming dance. I found it at a thrift store with my friend and her mom, it was from the 1940s. It was brown lace and strapless with a matching little jacket, and it flared out at the bottom. It was crazy because I was but a wee wisp of a lass back then, and it fit me like a glove. Unheard of. When my friend's mom saw me in it she said, "This must have been your dress in a past life! You look like you're in Somewhere In Time!" I hadn't seen it but my dad had, so we rented it from the video store. (I don't have time to explain video stores, just know that they were glorious and we need to bring them back.)
When I saw that scene, I cringed and said, "Oh come on, it doesn't happen like that."
My dad immediately said, "Oh yes it does!" I just rolled my eyes, grabbed some more popcorn, and waited for the scene to end. I didn't believe him.
But I was young and foolish.