A successful marriage can turn out to be the best partnership in one’s life.
However, before you decide to find the right partner, you should first work on recognizing yourself. Take time and go through life and its experiences to know yourself better and figure out what you value. That journey of self-discovery, however, takes time and patience.
Unfortunately, the middle-class Indian society that I was raised in does not believe in such a journey. Instead, it enforces a culture where women are expected to be married by the age of 25, if not earlier.
The society I come from places significantly less value on self-growth, career and the development of emotional intelligence in the ladder of a woman’s life. Matrimony and motherhood are often considered the most important milestones in a woman’s twenties.
Hence, there is endless pressure on getting married starting early on.
I am a single woman in my late twenties who, for the last five years, has been fighting this rigid culture of age-bound matrimonial rules.
Despite my exceptional academic and professional growth, I am constantly faced with intrusive questions regarding my personal life from “well-wishers. “This list includes but does not end with older relatives, cousins, neighbors and family friends. Many times, there have been questions that simply hit a raw nerve and get too difficult to handle.
After several attempts of tackling them, I have devised the perfect quick comebacks to unwelcome remarks.
1. “A career is good, but when do you plan to get settled?”
Uh. Whenever you stop asking me that question.
Time and again, I have had friends, relatives, neighbors, and even acquaintances ask me and my parents this question. What society chooses to ignore is that marriage is not the end-all, be-all of anyone’s life. Every woman should become financially and emotionally independent before deciding to get married.
2. “If you don’t get married now, all the good boys will be taken.”
Thank god. I thought your list was never-ending!
Thank you so much, aunty, for your unsolicited advice, but I’d rather decide on my own the difference between “good” guys and “bad” guys. Despite living in the 21st century, these patriarchal prejudices continue to plague social behavior among the Indian society I grew up on.
The good boy argument constitutes someone who earns a huge salary, belongs to a privileged upper-class family and is of the same caste and religion as the girl’s family.
These three prerequisites are thus presented as time-bound since most of such ‘good men’ choose to marry younger women.
3. “The earlier you get married, the sooner you’ll relieve the burden off your parents’ shoulders.”
The only burden on my parents is your uncalled-for interest in my life.
One of the most manipulative things that I have repeatedly been told is that, after the age of 25, women become a liability on their parents.
Sexist gender roles subscribe men to be the breadwinners of a household, while women are only supposed to be homemakers. While this statement dips in misogyny, it is also gaslights young women into feeling responsible for their parents’ happiness, thereby pushing them into matrimony.
4. “How bad would you feel if your younger sister gets married before you do?”
Not as bad as you would for not being invited to her wedding.
If my sister is happy with her partner and decides to get married to him, I would be the happiest person on this planet. Indian culture often dictates the eldest sibling get married first, but each one of us lives by different expectations and beliefs.
Why time-stamp every journey with similar rigid milestones?
5. “Your biological clock is ticking.”
And I do not remember asking you to set the alarm.
Motherhood is considered to be one of the first conventional outcomes of a marriage. Patriarchal cultures thus force women into early matrimony so as to bear offspring early in their lives.
But what about women who do not want to become young mothers? Or simply do not want to have children? What if someone prefers to adopt?
No, these are not options.
While comebacks like these can help you tackle the many intrusive questions, this constant fight can also lead to burnout.
Through my own personal experience, I can attest that as hard as you try, you will never match society’s expectations. Because other people will never be satisfied with anything. Marriage will be followed by expectations of parenthood which will then be followed by raising the children “right” according to others’ belief.
A prejudiced society can thus place you on an unending trial of life.
At some point, you have to learn to trust yourself and follow a path that only you are responsible for. A path that places the reins of happiness in your own hands and not those of others.
When you find peace within yourself, no amount of outside noise can deter you from doing what you wish to do with your life… whether that involves marrying young, marrying late or not marrying at all.