This morning I received a text from one of my closest friends from undergrad. We have been out of touch for almost two years now and every time we’ve tried to meet up it’s always failed at the last minute. Well, I guess it should come as no surprise that her text told me that she would be getting married in a month’s time.
Yes, that strange enigma known as marriage. If you are Asian or a Desi girl like my fine self, then you will understand the huge weight that hangs off this double syllabic noun. Most especially if you’re a Desi girl about to hit her twenty’s, then someone, somewhere along the line will only be too kind enough to remind you that you have less than ten years left to find the ‘man of your dreams’. I kid, it’s actually five.
Yes, indeed. 25 is the cut off point. And I cannot recollect to you now the number of people I have come across, whether they be friends, family, or close acquaintances, who have drilled this extraordinary fact of life into their own psyche and infected all those around them.
What’s more extraordinary is that this supposed belief has genuinely seeped into the minds of young graduate girls about to embark onto the career ladder. I’m ashamed to admit that it has almost become a constant topic at my own friends socials, and it seems that all of us, whether we are willing to reveal it or not, lives with the same fear inside of us. That is, that we won’t find anyone in time.
I know it sounds desperate, but I have noticed that all girls suffer from the same kind of universal pressure that they will inevitably live and die old and alone. For many, myself included, there is the fear that you will end up with someone who does not constitute in any shape or form, the man of your dreams. I mean, you meet many people as you progress through life. Not all of them share the same ideals and future ambitions as you. Even less of these amount to ‘marriage material’, and with the added time limit on top, you can begin to understand why women feel as though they simply have no control over their own lives.
But this article isn’t about female empowerment. It’s more about cultural perceptions which many people from the South Asian continent suffer day in and day out. This need to arise and uphold the traditions of their ancestors, simply because basically they have a supposed duty to do so. We’re all mere pawns in this game, compelled to sacrifice or grossly compromise our own self worth and our own happiness to ensure that the great institution of marriage lives on.
I wasn’t really shocked by my friend’s text. She’s always been very certain of what she wants out of life. She even had a list while we were still young freshers, of what she would accomplish after she finished uni: postgrad, career, marriage. And, from what I gather, she is right on track.
But I have always been different. I’ve never had set goals or ambitions, rather I like to see where life will take me next. I’ve always been happier doing that. But then I guess I have never had to grow up with expectations of what I would become and what I would achieve. Even the subject of marriage has always been a grey area. Perhaps, being the youngest of my own family, marriage has never really affected me in the same way that it has affected other girls. I was always far too young and I honestly didn’t give it much thought. Instead, my only worry was my career, as I was at a complete crossroads after uni, and had no idea which path to take.
It was only after my masters had finished and I had moved back home that my mother sat me down and gave me the ‘big talk’. For white parents it’s about sex. For Desi parents, however, it is invariably marriage. I was the tender age of 22. I’m 23 now and feelings of increased pressure to find someone to settle down with are beginning to solidify.
You know, it’s funny. Before, my mother used to laugh off any marriage proposals that came my way through friends of friends. Asians typically like to arrange the marriages of their sons and daughters by keeping a strong look out for any potentials at social functions or weddings, even word of mouth if you’re a bit of a catch. But that was then. Now my mother has realised that my older brothers are now pushing thirty and they still haven’t settled down. Of course this whole ’25, cut off point’ doesn’t apply to guys in general. They have literally all the time in the world. But I guess the 30 mark makes everyone a little bit queasy, my mother most especially.
I don’t know if she’s given up on them already, or whether she’s planning some kind of family intervention with them. But I have to say, she’s now turned her thoughts to me and it’s become almost a daily topic with us. So much for the lack of pressure, eh? It seems I am Asian after all!
She actually nags to me that if I had kept my own lookout while at uni I would have been happily married by now. And, grudgingly, it’s hard not to agree with her. Most of my friends who are married now met while at uni and they’ve never looked back. There are only one or two, like my friend from this morning, who have found a husband outside of uni.
But I don’t know. For me, guys at uni are completely different to what they are outside of uni. For undergrads, it’s all about the fun and games that freedom away from parents gives you. It’s hard not to completely rule out the entire campus male population in this case. I’ve always thought that girls should aim for someone older than them, where maturity levels are more likely to match.
I think all girls, whether they reveal it or not have the pressure of finding a husband when they get to uni. It’s definitely not the same case for guys. And trust me on this, as the youngest of three older brothers, I feel as though I’m more adept to the male way of thinking. Not only that, but I also feel that I have been greatly influenced by them too. For that reason, marriage has never seemed important to me. I mean, don’t get me wrong, all girls dream of Prince Charming coming to sweep them off their feet and live happily ever after. But then again, fairy tales and real life don’t tend to mix too much. So this whole marriage idea really doesn’t sit well with my whole persona, and it’s extremely difficult not to run a mile in the opposite direction every time my mother mentions it.
But over the past few years I have come to realise what my crux actually is. It’s not so much the whole institution of marriage, rather it is the trust issues that come along with it. I have heard so many horror stories of marriages breaking up and couples falling out of love, and it honestly scares the hell out of me.
So, it’s be pretty scary to be faced with a deadline to find the one who won’t break your heart and ruin your life. Marriage is of course all about compromise, but being a girl it’s funny how it falls to us to make most of the sacrifices. Ultimately, we are compelled to adjust into the family and lifestyle of our husbands, and that is a huge thing for me to give up, especially when I feel as though my life has only just begun.
In the end, it all comes down to sheer luck I guess. You have to have blind faith and hope for the best. The best being that the guy I choose to marry is Prince Charming in disguise.