The personal blog of the cultural ambassador to the newly discovered planet of the Ant-people (the Myrmeiods).

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Happier News

Kahe'ni is still doing ok, except that her breathing is getting labored. She says it doesn't hurt, she just feels a bit out of breath. She says this a good sign; how she will die depends on the direction in which her tumor grows and which organ it most seriously presses against. She says the shortness of breath is a good sign, because if it grows into her lungs at least her death will be relatively quick. She said this almost cheerfully. She's not afraid at all, and I don't know what to say to her. I did volunteer to walk to the hospital and get an oxygen tank for her. The things are incredibly expensive, but half the expense is transportation, and I can help there. It will ease things for her.

So why did I title this "happier news"? Because I'm tired of thinking about cancer so I'm going to think about marriage instead. The publisher is totally interested in as many Earth-ritual manuals as I can write, and today I'm writing one on marriage.

Really, it's a great opportunity to talk about how we Earthlings do things--there's sex, love, family structure, religion, and food, all wrapped together. The really difficult part, of course, is that Myrmeoids don't marry, so how are they supposed to go through the ritual?

What I did was to draw an analogy between human marriage and Myrmeoid third-post-pupal circles. Virtually all known Myrmeoid societies are organized around families headed by partnerships among third-post-pupals, in much the same way that our cultures usually include some kind of partnership among men and women. How and when circles form, an how big they are, varies culturally, just as our marriages do. Circle members are usually deeply connected to each other, and almost always remain together until death, so they may be able to relate emotionally to married couples.

But these circles have no sexual component. Layers don't mate at all, of course, and flyers, I've noticed, treat sex as something like drinking coffee--an enjoyable thing to do with friends. Flyers may or may not mate with other members of their circle, and since no one but flyers even has sexual impulses, no one else cares who has sex with who. Also, Myrmeoids don't fall in love--they do love, they just don't generally do it suddenly, nor do they have what we call romance. Emotionally, circles are more like business partnerships. They form because people who get along fairly well have a common interest. The love develops gradually, after the fact.

Still, it's the closest analogy I can think of. Here is my rough outline for a Myrmeoid wedding ceremony. It's for a newly forming circle, not an established circle taking on a new member, which is actually quite rare. Obviously, I'm using a Protestant Christian wedding as a loose template, as it's the one I know the most about. If I get a chance I'll do several other versions, too, for other traditions.

Costumes; Myrmeoids don't wear clothes, but they do wear jewelry, body paint, or decorative strings and cloth pieces, so I'm saying layers need to wear white ribbons, plus something "old, new, borrowed, and blue." Flyers wear black or blue decorations. Layers carry a flower, flyers carry a green sprig.

Ritual; I couldn't think of any reasonable person to give away the brides, so I'm skipping that. I also decided to have the layers waiting at the alter, with the flyers processing up the aisle, because there are usually a lot more flyers than layers, and I thought that having a whole crowd waiting at the alter would look stupid.

There must be an officiant of some sort, but I couldn't have this person deliver any kind of inspirational words about what marriage is, because Myrmeoids can't talk to more than one person at a time. So instead I'll have the officiant release friendly, loving, and trusting pheremones, by way of example. Likewise, I can't do an exchange of vows, because no one else could witness it. Instead, I have vows written up ahead of time, and the circle members all sign it. Signing documents is not a Myrmoid custom, but it seemed fairly likely to translate well. Rings are a problem, for various anatomical reasons, so I had them tie gold-colored thread onto each others' left foreleg. A Myrmeoid can stand on any three legs, and needs two feet for most object manipulation, because each foot has only two fingers. So I have them stand in a circle. Each bride/groom uses the first and second foot on the right side to tie his or her neighbor's string, while presenting the left forefoot to the neighbor on the other side.

Kissing is a problem, since they don't and can't kiss. I could have them lick each other, but friends do that anyway, there's nothing especially marital about it. At the moment I'm thinking of doing something with cooperation--maybe if they all pour things into a vat to make a mixed drink? Something they can cooperate to do together quickly, something pleasurable.

The reception can have cake and presents and dancing--Myrmeoids do dance, though not in pairs. It's something like square dancing. They do it without music, since they can't hear rhythm, but they can move rhythmically. Their dancing is all about synchronized movement--not everybody moving the same way, but everybody moving in an organized way, so that you can separate and go through complex independent movements and then come back together and know each other will be there. I wish I could introduce the Virginia Reel, but I'm not sure Myrmeoids can make an arch with their forelegs big enough for others to go through.

I'm totally including the Hokey Pokey, though. Except that it's liable to be a very long dance--I mean, they have six legs, four antenae, and an abdomen to put in and out and shake all about.

I REALLY wish I could watch two dozen Myrmeoids doing the Hokey Pokey.

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