If you are a female between the ages of 24 and… well, any number above that, it’s not long before you start getting asked the question “are you married yet?”
Now it’s been a good few years since I first got asked that question, and the conversation always adhered to this kind of a format…
“Ok so you have a good job now, have you found someone?”
(Um, I’m trying not to get fired, finding someone to marry me isn’t on my priority)
“No Uncle/Aunty jee, not yet”
“Ok, you should. You know your cousin is married, she is younger than you”
(Yeah she also doesn’t have a job)…. “Jee, Uncle/Aunty, I know, Inshallah”
“Are you not looking? Don’t you want to get married?”
(Not really. I can’t even commit to dinner plans.) “Umm.. yeah, Inshallah”
“You know, you’re getting old, it’s time now, in a couple more years no one will marry you”
(I’m still in my twenties so didn’t realise I was eligible for my pension fund already)
“Jee Uncle/Aunty, yes, Inshallah”
This same conversation has been had many a time with various older members of my family, predominantly my uncles for some unvested reason. I once opened my WhatsApp to find a barrage of photos of random Pakistani men with captions such as “34, Goldman Sachs, good” or “MBA, London” but sometimes there is no caption at all – that’s rude!
I would sit at my desk at work, looking down at my phone at these anonymous faces thinking, huh, seriously? Whilst obviously screen shotting them all to send to my sisters and friends for some lols. But once the lols subsided, I began to wonder, why am I being pressured to have to ‘find someone’ and not just anyone by the way, someone who I actually have to spend the rest of my life with? I struggle deciding what to wear or what nude lipstick I should wear on a daily basis, and I have to decide who I want to spend my life with by looking at a bad angled, selfie? I think not!
I know I am not the only person who has these struggles, there are hundreds of thousands of other Asian women who are subjected to the same pressures. South Asian culture is dominated by patriarchy and double standards are societal norms. Men can be 45 years old and still considered to be ‘jawan’ or bachelors, but if a woman hits 30, apparently she is no longer desirable and immediately diagnosed as barren according to the nonsensical science propagated by these men. (FYI Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce, Amal, all had children in their forties, not only are they considered the world’s most successful women, but they certainly weren’t barren either!)
Why are women in our culture subjugated to such intense pressures? Not only do we have to be well educated, but thin, beautiful, well dressed, well behaved, worldly, obedient, family orientated, subservient, polite, not too modern, not too backward, well versed in religious scriptures, posses great culinary skills, I mean the list goes on and on. And let’s say we do tick all of these boxes, and if we are still single, then the next question, you guessed it, “what’s wrong with you?”
There is no short answer as to why us women are constantly judged, critiqued and questioned on our personal choices. In fact, it’s deep rooted in the twisted psyche of our patriarchal society. Parents feel the pressure to marry off their daughters as their duty, failure to do so, welcomes more critique from extended family and society.
It’s a never ending battle and it’s a mindset that we need to change. Us women have just as much as right as men to decide WHEN we want to get married and WHO we want to get married to.
Marriage is no small feat, spending the rest of your life with someone should be a decision us women get to make, and not pressured to do so to comply with familial obligations. The deafening echoes of “laug kya kenhgne?”- what would people say should no longer be a justifiable reason for deciding the fate of our lives.
We never look at a single, successful man and think “huh, why aren’t you married? What’s wrong with you?” so why do we subject our women to the same humiliating taunts. It’s time to change our mindset. Today we are seeing more and more single and successful women, we should be embracing and encouraging each other. Marriage is a choice we get to make, whether you want to get married or not, focus on your career or focus on how many kids you want, just remember it’s your choice- whatever suits you best!