Culturally I can understand the complete absence of sensitivity and infringement of any sense of personal space that lurks in that question. In a society where every social gathering is structured around a family, it is incomprehensible to make a choice to stay single. Colleagues my age cannot wrap their minds around the facts; that a so “obviously eligible”, “sweet” person who “is naturally gifted to be a nurturer” should not don that traditional role.
Years of sidestepping the question have made me rather adept as I flirtatiously throw a “Find me someone and I’ll be hitched”. The lightness of the moment is nevertheless killed by “well-meaning” extended matrons who will continue to charge at you and say “Well, what’s the real problem…Come on, you can tell me!”
And as you are enveloped in that loving embrace of a well-meaning “aunt/uncle”, you decide to bare your soul and say, “It just never happened! I really don’t know why? My parents applied faithfully in all the matrimonial sites and the place where I grew up had more girls than boys…. (note to self…two cheers to my community for nurturing females) but it just didn’t happen Aunty”, you say introspectively.
In a society where every social gathering is structured around a family, it is incomprehensible to make a choice to stay single.
I was the friend whom the boys would come up to and say, “Hey, can you introduce me to your pretty friend. I am going to marry her someday, (oh brother!) and if she says no, you are next in line” (Oh yippee, lucky me!) (mock shudder) Before the reader thinks I must be ugly. Let me disabuse you of the notion on two grounds: First, beauty lies in the eye of the beholder and secondly, I think I must pass some crude rule of what is considered pretty considering all the admiring glances I get!
It slowly grows on you, being the third wheel in a conversation, an over protective wife shooting daggers at you for talking to her husband for that one minute longer. You get used to not being invited to kitty parties that discuss children, no matter that you practically raise your niece your comments are not valid. You get used to not staying out late because in India thanks to all the Bhaiyyas you will be raped if you don’t have a male chaperone with suitable marriage certificate in tow…….you get used to it….although it does take some time getting used to.
So what does this mean? I honestly don’t know! I must have missed the ingrained “How-to- find-and marry-a- guy-memo” which comes wired in every female, or plainly if marriages are ordered in heaven, God forgot to make a mate for me. Wait a minute, let’s talk about this one….. Maybe he chose to not make a mate for me, because I wasn’t designed for that, or worse, the desire to study further, not fall in love with the wrong kind of guy all worked to isolate me from a season of life where I should have sought love.
But before I distribute the blame between God and me, let me share some of it with the mothers of possible grooms. Perhaps it had to do with the mother who told her son, I will pick your mate, and you daren’t fall in love! Or maybe seeing the haphazardness that marriage is, I was afraid of taking the leap…whatever the reason, I am here!
Singlehood: Opportunities and Challenges
We as a society often decide norms for stages of life and expect everyone to conform to that. We are not very kind to those who choose to deviate from our norms – whether it be about gender, caste, class or marital status. So once a young person crosses the early twenties or even earlier, the family and society get paranoid about their singlehood and make it their duty to get the person hitched. Of course the young person’s desires or suitability is not considered primary before embarking on this search; or should I say manhunt? This puts undue pressure on both singles and the married. The singles are told they are not ok until married and the married are told that once they have tied the knot they should live happily ever after. Both of which put undue stress on both sides of the marital divide.
The Compare and Compete Craze
We the human race also love to compare and compete and prove my way is better than yours: Take for instance our education system, our sports arena, media TRPs or nationalism; it is almost always based on proving we are better than you. We carry the same into our relationships-; as is evident in Twitter, FB posts and profile pics, which make it look like everyone has perfect parents, marriages, friends and lives. But each of us know it isn’t true.
Relationships are work in progress, even the best ones, with highs and lows and shades of grey. Each one unique, not like any other, always with a scope to grow. Our craze for comparison also carries itself to marital status. We are expected to have a ‘happening’ singlehood or perfect marriage. Anything less or different is deemed as a failure in popular narrative. The societal conditioning and pressure is so much that once singles cross their early twenties they are made to feel their only goal has to be to find a partner and life is just a long wait for prince/ss charming.
The prince(ss) charming myth
For those who are still holding on to the prince charming dream — in reality you will find the prince, the dragon, the beast all exist in the same person and come out at various times. It’s just a matter of time before you meet them all. Sorry to be a spoilsport but the truth has to be told! And you too have the capacity to be all three.
Singlehood is a journey into yourself not toward marriage or commitment. If we find a beautiful relationship on this journey and decide to make a long term commitment then more power to us to do that. But finding that relationship is not the sole goal of singlehood.
Enjoy the singlehood journey
No matter where in the age line you are 20s, 30s, 40s or 70s you can enjoy your singlehood journey. ‘Seize the moment my friend!’ Take time to see what is it you want in life, what are your dreams and aspirations and start living life today.
Learn a new skill. Travel, have fun, make and keep friends, stay healthy. Do not make money or time an excuse to stop you from living. If you are scarce on either find creative alternatives. Eating 20 rupees worth of pani puri can be more fun than a grand candle light dinner with yourself (if you can, go for the latter too) and cycling to a village on the outskirts can be as enriching as a trip to Disneyland or Switzerland. It all depends on your attitude and creativity. Go alone, go with friends or family, … just go. Please do not wait in the wings hoping to be rescued. Don’t wait for your honeymoon to travel and see places. Every season in life there are things you can do, opportunities to explore and grow with a new sense of confidence and contentment. Go for it! Yes there are challenges and pressures. That is the reality of life. But those don’t have to mean an end to your dreams or a postponement of it.
Marry for the right reasons when you find the right one. Don’t marry to please others, because of increasing age or even as a solution to loneliness. Marriage is not a solution to life’s problems; it adds another dimension to your existing complexities. How that dimension adds avour and spice to your life depends on how you both handle your marriage. Know what you want from a committed relationship – what are your non-negotiables and wish list. Do not compromise on your non-negotiables. If for me equality in marriage is a nonnegotiable and I married a patriarchal man, our marriage would not have gotten far or well. It is not singlehood vs. marriage. It is about you and living your life today in whatever stage of life you are. As a person who has spent a decade each of my adult life as single and married, I would say it is not about which is better. I have enjoyed both immensely and had challenges in both phases. It is about how you handle whichever phase you are in. It is your life and you have the power over it – not your parents, spouse, children or society.
You certainly cannot control people and situations but you can choose your response. Stand up for yourself, stand for what is right and take responsibility too. Your life will go the way you steer it. Whether single or married stay happy, stay blessed!