Sweetie, don’t you think it’s high time you got married? – Random Aunty, here, there, everywhere
Mrs X, I think you should not have too many criteria for your daughter getting married. So what if most of the good ones are from the USA or Middle East? Women should not be so career-minded as to let that affect their marriage prospects -- Random Aunty 2 to mom/dad/both
Do you realise your parents are growing old? And that your dad retires next year? High time you got married, na! – Random ‘family friend’
Leave your feminism behind and think marriage (!) – Random people, including people in academia
These are only snippets of the free advice that is given to a single woman or to her parents who have nothing to do with her decision of not wanting to marry only because people think she should! We talk about women’s liberation and how today’s upwardly-mobile young woman is ‘free as a bird’. Really? Who are we kidding when we make these clichéd statements? Yes, there is a sea change in how a woman perceives herself and stands up for herself. Yes, most women today will/will not marry unless they feel like it. But are we ever going to have a ‘society’ that will let her be? Are we ever going to have a world that will not bother her parents for a decision she has/has not taken? Are we ever going to stop talking about the biological clock ticking and how that should be the reason you marry? Change the world you can’t. Change yourself; change how you respond/don’t respond, you certainly can.
Marriage is a beautiful thing. The die-hard romantic in me believes that marriage is for keeps (*conditions apply*). Candlelight, home-cooked dinner accompanied by a Chardonnay and a Kahlua chocolate soufflé can be the perfect way for a couple to wind up a long day. Sitting by the sea with the boyfriend/husband, not a word said – just the gentle sea breeze kissing your hair, the sound of the waves against big, black rocks, the fragrance of the wet earth – can be the perfect date too. Babies are the best thing to happen to a couple, when they want babies to happen. A lovely family comprising both sets of parents, siblings, extended family, is a fairytale situation. All of this, when you are not forced into these things simply because you are expected to follow the way of the world.
For all the women (and some lovely men I know) who will marry only when they feel it’s the right person and the right time, and for the samaj that is ‘worried sick’ about you and that worries you sick in return,
- The only people we are answerable to are the parents…and the odd aunt we are closest to.
- We are single and it is a choice we have made. We stand by it. The day we find the right guy/woman and feel the time is right, we WILL marry and make the best of it.
- If we want to be with someone bad enough, we will make sure the worst of times become the best and will make it work.
- No time is high time. I have seen couples happily marry and make it work as late as their 50s. I have also seen couples marry when they are barely out of college because their ‘horrorscopes’ said they must, and later file for a divorce before they reach their first wedding anniversary. Some others still squirming in painful marriages because of a child that was made in that last attempt to save the marriage. On the brighter side, I have seen couples who have been married to childhood sweethearts, have practically grown up together and are now raising happy, secure families. Not to mention the fact that I have been witness to some lovely arranged marriages too...
- You decide whom you want to spend the rest of your life with – seeing a wet towel on your crisp, new bedspread; dirty socks welcoming you into your room; sharing a room, space, books, bathroom, bed and most importantly, yourself.
- Would your parents’ old age be any happier if you ended up marrying some random guy just for the heck of it?
- God forbid, if any of your loved ones aren’t around anymore by the time you marry, it is not your fault! I was told by a very insensitive relative, the day my grandpa passed away, that he’d have been so happy to see me married while he was around. My grandpa was my hero, one of the people I loved the most. My immediate reaction – guilt and pain. Once I was back to my senses, I knew my grandpa would rather see me happily teaching and doing my PhD and being happy with my life than marrying only because I was expected to. It is not for nothing that he used to say even when he could barely speak towards his last days, ”My child will marry only when she wants to marry.”
- If you are a feminist, if you can’t bear to see injustice, you are not a criminal. Feminism is about celebrating the differences in being men and women and not about hating men. I love my men, I cannot do without them and I have no qualms admitting that. That does not stop me from screening a film on domestic violence/eve-teasing for my students and feeling happy about their engaging in a heated debate on whether or not such things even exist.
- All the people who pull your leg about your unbreakable bond with your best friend who happens to be a woman, all the people who pull your leg about how you should get married to that best friend, they can go take a walk. Revel in the fact that you are blessed with the ability to express love in a way that a lot of people cannot/do not. Celebrate the fact that walking up to someone, smiling at them and hugging them is not a task for you, rejoice in the fact that loving comes naturally to you.
- If you have never regretted being single, there is nothing wrong with you. If on a Valentine’s Day or a birthday, you have secretly ended up wishing for a surprise bouquet of blood-red Dutch roses or a Body Shop gift hamper, there is still nothing wrong with you!
- If you have a boyfriend and want to tell the world only when you feel like it, want to marry only when both of you feel like it, it is okay. If both of you are happy being boyfriend-girlfriend it’s okay. At least you are sure of what you want. You'd rather be happy together as boyfriend-girlfriend than mess up something beautiful just because you weren't ready.
- If you believe in any of the above, it does not mean you are self-centred :) Celebrate being single, and hang in there!
(Sharija Menon is a lecturer at HL Institute of Commerce in Ahmedabad and is associated with Open Space activities in that city. She writes on gender and sexuality)