I have seen countless episodes where children would fantasize about their weddings. We’ve all seen Annie’s massive wedding planner in Community or Monica’s wedding planner in Friends. A wedding is meant to be a celebration of love, a moment where you confess your feelings to your significant other. It’s meant to be a day of romance and happiness, a start to a great marriage. Unfortunately, that’s not what I’ve experienced. In fact, I’m slightly afraid of marriage.
I’m from a small Indian Muslim community – this means that our weddings are, more often than not, arranged by our parents. I’ve heard weddings being described as a ‘union of two families’. The weddings I’ve attended aren’t joyous for the couple (they barely know each other), but for the families at large. I know that my family definitely looks forward to having a lavish, fancy wedding, a time for everyone to get together and actually meet the other half’s family.
It means that the wedding isn’t fun, but formal and ceremonial. In a tight-knit community, a wedding isn’t about being with who you love, but about making your family happy. That means being with someone that fits with communal values, one that adheres to what’s important for the community. This includes being part of the same religion, having a ‘respectable’ job, and fulfilling any number of arbitrary conditions that are placed down.
In fact, I was given a marriage proposal when I turned 18. My grandmother suggested the idea, and I blew up – it was the first time I argued with her. I’ve had to constantly fight for my independence from most adults in my community. It’s taken a while for my parents to understand what I want from life. Even now, my mom tries to change my mind, saying, “don’t you want to grow old with a partner?” Mom, I’m 23. I want to grow, to understand myself, and learn about who I am before I spend the rest of my life with a stranger because he’s a Muslim who graduated from med school.
I’ve heard people say that marrying young is good because when you’re young, you’re willing to change habits and get accustomed to the other person, but when you’re older, you’re set in your ways. It’s the shittiest argument I’ve ever heard because they say that it’s bad for you to assert your own preferences. You are meant to bow down and obey, and when you’re young, it’s easier to manipulate you into doing so.
I’ve questioned young marriages before, and my mom rebuts me, saying, “this is what they wanted. If you’re a feminist, that means accepting all choices. Why can’t you accept this one?” and it’s hard to argue that. Is this what they truly wanted? Can you actually make such a monumental decision at 20? We’re asked to make life-changing decisions in our early 20s all the time, but this one is different somehow. It’s because families get involved, feelings can get hurt, and it can cause irreparable damage to two families.
The worst part? I’ve seen some ‘love’ marriages in my family – the struggles the couple had to go through to be accepted, the hoops they’ve had to jump through. I’m genuinely afraid of bringing someone back home because I know they’ll be rejected for not being the same type of Muslim that I am (kicker is, I’m not even religious). What’s annoying is that in such a large family, there will be a few cases where love marriages go wrong – these are then touted as examples, to prove that ‘parents know what’s best for you’.
Do I dream of a happy marriage? Sometimes, but it’s vague, like I dream of happiness, but not a happy marriage. Heck, I fantasize about the party, more than the actual marriage itself. Do I want a small wedding? Absolutely. More importantly, I want to choose when I get married, and who I want to spend my life with. For me, it’s an intensely personal decision, one that I don’t want to be influenced into doing. As of now, I’m happily single, and ready to build my own future, instead of relying on a partner.
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