At a certain point, I started to take it a little personally that my usual normal self, apparently wasn’t good or impressive enough for the ever changing standards for being “good wife material”. Of course, once the train starts off, the crippling insecurities held at bay, are sure to follow through in full force. When I’d failed my Step 1 exam, the first tie-in to marriage came quick- “Who will want to marry a girl without a degree?”. Once I got my degree, that was quickly substituted by the need to have a job/career. Once I got a job, then a second Master’s/ PhD became the new thing I simply must have, to get a guy. Of course, it didn’t take very long for me to realize, no one had any clue what the actual “requirements” were (mostly because there aren’t any- love comes in a thousand different forms). Everyone’s just grasping at straws and offering the best advice they can think of, on the most subjective experience ever. This became even more painfully obvious when, 6 months after I got a job (and even now on occasion), someone suggested I quit and go to India to “really focus on finding a guy” now that I could claim I was capable of getting a job (insert eye breaking eye-roll here). In addition, when your uncles tell your mom “Just send her to India for one month, and we’ll make sure she comes back married”, it doesn’t so much inspire confidence, as much as terror to ever go back home to visit them again.
I won’t lie, the line between funny and hurtful is razor blade thin and, just as painful. When your dad asks your mom what he could possibly boast about, when his daughter doesn’t have a degree or a job – it breaks your heart in an unbelievable way. When you tell your mom you want someone whom you will love as he is, and someone who appreciates your interests and her reply is that will never happen- it’s like a punch in the heart space. It makes you ask things like, “Is it ok for me to want to marry someone I like? Someone I can talk to without looking at my watch 20 times? Someone I’m attracted to? Someone that makes me feel safe to be myself?”. Other times, the repeated criticism from every other adult of your parent’s generation, can cause you to begin believing that no one would want you the way you are right now. We all need someone in our lives who will stop in their tracks at that comment and, stare in disbelief and feel the heartbreak so deeply, they begin to cry with you.
Perhaps the worst part is that the people you once thought were sane parents, who loved you to bits, become an unknown being that spends hours into the early mornings on matrimonial profiles, and state things like “You can always change him after marriage- that really depends on how capable you are as a wife” or, “we aren’t worthy of such a good, rich family- it’s a miracle they said yes to us” or, “this guy said yes- let’s make this work before you turn another year older”.
While you still love them, it hurts. Not only do you resent them for completely giving up on their own dignity and inherent value, you hate others for doing this to them. And perhaps the most frustrating thing is that people seem to smell the fear and vulnerability. While almost no uncles or aunties ask me prying questions about marriage and most often just try to get my number to set me up; they seem to flock to my parents to say things like “It’s a pity she isn’t married yet…and here we thought she was so perfect, she’d be the first to get married!” or “There isn’t a novena/prayer we haven’t said- it will surely happen before the end of this year” or “Let me talk to her- I will make her understand that if she keeps saying no, she will never get married”. There’s also, more recently, anonymous callers to the house at night, asking if “She’s willing to take on a second marriage proposal”. They refuse to give their names and, you take a guess what that leaves my conservative parents feeling and thinking, for the rest of the week. Do manners have to be explained to people, these days? If you’re going to offer advice or comment, be helpful instead of hurtful. Be kind as a general rule, with anyone you meet. Because, there is a special place in hell for people who break the heart of already hurting parents- I just know it.
Now yes, it all depends. Sometimes you can immediately see the funny side of things and, sometimes the funny doesn’t hit you until you have mental-breakdown-cry and find yourself in the middle of a drink and 2 hour therapy session with a friend. But for those of you in the same situation as me, humor will be your life saver. If you wallow in the serious without laughing, the serious will kill you. And I don’t want you to die! You’re pretty awesome and I’d hate for that awesome to die under the suffocating weight of other people who don’t see it.
If there’s anything I believe with all my heart, it’s that life is precious enough to spend well and with purpose. I want to spend mine well, not settle for the easiest path. And I want someone who understands that and, can show up to the fight, with gusto and passion and more affection than I know how to show myself. It’s often the most frustrating piece of advice but, I ask people constantly how they knew they had met the one and they always say, “I don’t know how to explain it, but I just knew”. I want to feel that feeling- to know that the person you love is someone you like, and can bear waking up next to forever and have the biggest crush on. And I’m willing to wait for it and, live my life well in the meantime. In what world could that be a bad thing? Oh right, this one. Well, stay strong ladies, it’ll be worth it in the end because you’re absolutely worth it. I’ll see you guys on the other side!