This happened 5 years back around this time. I know this for sure as it was around the time I ran my first half marathon. I remember being very angry with my Dad then for he turned off my prospective groom’s family by requesting the wedding expenses to be split equally. So turned off were they by this “atrocious” request that they made it very difficult for our family after that. So much that, we had to call off the already broken wedding.
Five years hence, I am a 30-year-old and a single woman, who is almost always met with a sympathetic gaze, an uncalled-for remark here about how one cannot be young forever, an unsolicited consolation there on how it’s “still” not too late to find someone, and always with the unstated possibility about dying alone. The uncles and aunties I grew up around (even some of my blood relatives for that matter), today, refuse to set foot in my home – the home that I lovingly built and set up with my own hard-earned money – for it’s the home of a single woman they want to do nothing with. Some of my friends always talk about how having kids can be the most accomplishing thing ever, and I am told countless number of times that I should not miss out on becoming a Mother. In the same breath, I am advised to not delay my marriage anymore. To say that they are appalled whenever I retort with the fact that having kids need not necessitate marriage is an understatement.
Anyway, the point is, right now I am happy with where I am in my life and all that I have built into it. I am sure I am happier than how I would have been had I married into the spineless greedy family that I first encountered when my profile hit the arranged marriage market. It’s an altogether different story that the astrologer had remarked that me and the prospective groom in question is supposed to be a match made in heaven, having ticked off all the requirements on paper to be a blissfully wedded couple. He did not know of one small catch, that none of that counts if requests were made to split the wedding expenses. Had my Dad known of that catch earlier, he probably would have silently borne all the demands. Poor Dad, he believed in equality and felt that’s the least we could ask for given all the hard work that went into making me into who I am. I am glad he did what he did, for he stood up for what was right and in a way demanded that my education, my career and my family be given their due respect.
When a woman is equally educated, as smart, and hence makes as much money as (if not more than) the man she is going to get married to, how can it still be OK to demand the woman’s parents to sponsor the entire wedding? Even if the woman has not achieved as much as the man in quantifiable terms, isn’t it still unfair to make her parents spend all their savings on her wedding? Isn’t she the one who must bear children, go through the pains and anxiety that follows, and shoulder willingly or unwillingly the major share in child-rearing? Yet the society just can’t stop victimizing women and her parents unnecessarily, right from the day she is born.
Dear society, just so you know, we women did not get any quota in schools, colleges, hospitals, grocery stores or at workplaces. Our families had to support us and work with us every step of the way to get us to where we are today. Not surprisingly, to raise a girl child and make her a respectable woman in the society takes a lot of hard work and innumerable sacrifices by everyone in the family – sometimes even more than it would have taken for raising a boy of equal stature. As it is nature is unfair on us by making our bodies bear so much pain all the time, at least the society could make it a tad easier with better ‘rules’ for women and her families, or be more supportive when a progressive person like my Dad speaks up. But no, that’s not how it works! Even today my Dad has to hear over and over again on how he has made a big mistake by giving me more than the “required education” and letting go of the one rare good match we found! Yeah, right!
Leaving the past aside, today I am nothing like how I was 5 years back. The travel expeditions in the last 5 years have led to me growing a lot as a person. I have met so many people from all walks of life, encountered many an eye-opening experience while not in familiar territories, watched many a kind of love and heartbreak and hence I can say with immense confidence that I am now equipped enough to differentiate authenticity from noise. Better than I used to as a naive 25-year-old at the very least. Having lost my prime years and holding on to such strong beliefs may turn off many an entitled man and his family for I may not shut up and watch injustice however small being played out in front of my eyes. With my opinions, I could even threaten their strongly held “values” in their household on how an ideal woman should and should not be. I might hence end up not getting married the traditional way because of that. You know what, I am totally okay with that and would continue to be unapologetic-ally myself, living my life my way. If this is what it takes to questioning the age-old norms that are not relevant anymore, then so be it!
I can see some of my more conservative friends, my uncles and aunties, and other well-meaning acquaintances shake their heads in disbelief seeing me voice such strong opinions in a public forum. To them and to others, please don’t get me wrong, I would love to get married AND have children someday. But when I do, I will do so in my terms with someone I love and who would lovingly want to share his rest of the life with me, accept me for who I am, and would do his best to get me accepted into his family. Until then I will continue to enjoy my travel, invest in myself, in my hobbies, take up new assignments in far-flung geographies and revel in multitude of other things that my single hood allows me to embrace.
Single women are not always old maids, nor depressed and not resigned to their fates. Being single, contrary to popular belief ain’t all that bad.
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