There is something tragic in the eyes of society about an unmarried woman in her late twenties. Everyone speaks of this, and everyone makes jokes about it, but you are never quite aware of its intensity until it becomes your reality.
Until people you passed on the street when you were thirteen start bringing you marriage proposals, and your married cousins begin to taunt you, well pleased with the fact that it is now your turn to endure all that they have gone through; the problem with this predicament does not become tangible.
All of a sudden, uncles and aunts, relatives and family friends, acquaintances and strangers – everyone starts looking at you and sifting through the database in their heads; going through the list of eligible suitors. This is no easy task, when you have to cross-reference it with occupation, caste, religion, social status, parents’ preferences and so on and so forth.
But truly, the institution of marriage is so deeply flawed that, for me, it has become purely terrifying. Let me elaborate how.
Growing up in a household where the father, the ‘head’ of the family made the decisions and the mother concurred, I fear that the same would be expected of me.
I also know for certain that it would be impossible for me to be the submissive, dutiful wife who raises neither her voice nor her questions, whose temper remains mild-mannered even when the said head behaves like an infuriating three-year-old, who cannot remember where he left his keys, socks or wallet.
I wasn’t so petrified that this could happen in my generation, which is the self-proclaimed “woke” lot, until one day, when a married friend of mine ended a phone call stating that she had to go feed her baby and her husband.
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. What worried me more was how unironically she stated the whole affair, as though she had grown immune to its ridiculousness. To say that you need to feed your life partner who is supposed to be sharing your chores in the same breath as feeding an infant is beyond exasperating.
Yet, even that exasperation is driven out of our souls by the excess of expectations that it becomes easier to quietly submit.
I take issue with how easily a woman’s labour, both outside and inside her home is dismissed. Sure, she might work the same hours as you, but who is the person who also cares for your infant, soothes their tantrums, feeds them, bathes them, changes their dirty diapers, and puts them to sleep?
I just love how people decimate a woman’s knowledge and awareness of her child after spending a couple of hours in the child’s company when they are in a good mood. So many of the new-gen “cool” fathers wouldn’t last two hours with a screaming, thrashing, stubborn toddler without picking up arms.
I know that if I were to be partnered with someone who buys diapers only when I remind him to, without taking the initiative to check if we had enough, thereby making it my fault when we run out, I would invariably lodge the next dirty diaper at him. If I was the only one concerned with keeping the baby from breaking out screaming, I would resent him to the moon and back and then some more.
I cannot and do not want to be the only one concerned with household tasks, be it cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, or grocery shopping. Honestly, it cannot be that he does exactly what he is told without any knowledge of what is needed or even trying to find out what is required, behaving exactly like a toddler, following instructions without any mental labour.
Lastly, I hate how women’s emotions are often unnecessarily rebuked. A woman raising her voice in anger is construed as being out of line, whereas a man throwing his plates on the ground is acceptable. If my emotions are kept in check in the space where someone else’s is applauded, not only would I cease to love them, but my own resentment would also consume me.
These are all reasonable expectations, as far as I can see. But we have grown up so used to the idea of a male-centric household, the indoctrination beginning right from schools, where we are taught that the father is the head of the family, that such ideas on gender equality are seen as radical.
For many men who have been raised without having to lift a finger, who only need to scream “Ammaaaa… water!” from the living room to be delivered with a tumbler by a doting mother, being asked to take equal responsibility could appear a Herculean task.
In such a scenario, for girls who raised themselves on feminism, from conservative families where the word divorce is still very much taboo and reconciliation is the last and only resort, wouldn’t it be better to hold off on marriage till we’re absolutely certain? And, wouldn’t it be better for society to leave us alone till it has something better to offer?
Featured image source: Ritika Banerjee/Feminism In India