All the recent #layoffs reminded me of the anxious years I spent as a #H4bride. It was a different time, but the vulnerability to abrupt dismissal was the same.

TLDR: Aerogramme nostalgia

Do you remember these precious communications from family back home? Before there was email, Zoom, Skype, Facebook, Insta, Snap, & Whatsapp, this was how we got news from home.

I remember the familiar writing on the cover addressed to a new uneasy identity, in the care of someone else, impatience with family making you feel like a kid again even as you desperately missed being a kid. Carefully opening that letter & then crying over it? Reading & re reading it, trying to guess what was really going on (because of course the news was always heavily edited so as not to alarm, a tactic that always caused me to imagine the worst every single time!!!!). Mom giving practical household advice, Dad reminding me to give my passport to my husband (because I was qualified to perform surgery but not to take care of important documents). Conjuring up the images of Dad, Mom, sister & friends, missing them so much!!!

Even more, missing my own identity! These letters would remind me I was no longer who I had been even to my own family. Instead I was irrevocably converted to a possession, to be subsumed under another person’s identity. It wasn’t anything like the feeling we would get when we had nursed crushes on that cute boy back in high school, as we romantically doodled married names on our notebooks during class.

Now it just seemed like a reminder that despite years of education, fiercely preserved independence in college, & relative autonomy over income, suddenly we were totally dependent on someone else. Legally we were unable to earn our way on H4 visas, & thus couldn’t expect an independent and autonomous identity. It was a truly humbling experience to have to ask for money once again, infantilized by a ceremony & name change that was supposed to mark coming of age.

Moreover, we had to ask for money from a relative stranger, new husbands who were themselves inexperienced with being part of a couple. Looking back, I now realize it must have been a harrowing experience for them as well, to have someone in their tiny apartments all the time (comparing their lifestyle to the settled & well funded childhood family) even as they tried to figure out adulthood themselves.

This was something we were supposed to find acceptable, this was how things were done. Even if we had outgrown the habit of asking for money from our parents, we had accepted this change which basically made us dependent on a relative stranger in a foreign country with extremely limited communication & uncertain legal status.

1990s H4 Bride: Letters From Home
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