Ladies (And Gents?!) Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!
I knowwww; it’s been forever! In the last couple of months that I’ve been MIA I have: moved apartments; been job-searching; planning our vacay to Europe and trying to lose all of that post-dawat weight (be warned brides, be warned!)
But, I’m back! This blog has – and still is – finding its groove as far as what I write about. While I’m still going to write posts about falling into the cultural abyss of planning my wedding (e.g. like my wedding cake, HOW have I not talked about CAKE yet?!), I also like to go into the ins and outs of that cultural process. Which happens to include starting out single. I get questions on my blog all the time, not just from brides, but from those who are looking to get married and trying to navigate that oh-so-complicated desi-marriage terrain. So to all my single ladies, this one is for you!!
Weddings vs. Marriage
I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but this is an important thing to emphasize. Yes, weddings are wonderful. In fact, they are often seen as the pinnacle of desi life (ugh, don’t get me started on this) and while they can indeed be a lot of fun, and maybe even everything you ever dreamed of, they are definitely not the be all end all. Because yes: you have to spend the rest of your life with the guy, or girl, that you sat next to at said wedding. Repeat: the rest of your life! So choose wisely, because it’s the marriage you’ll have to live with, way after the wedding pictures have collected dust.
How do you find ‘the One’? Grow Up (Even Just a Little Bit).
I’m sorry I don’t have a better answer than: hah God only knows! Seriously, there are a million articles on the web out there on this one, so I can barely scratch the surface. But what I would offer is this: before I even wanted to find ‘the one’, I knew it was really important to be confident in my own self. In other words, grow up a little bit. Before you even start looking for your honaywaala/honaywaali, sort your life out. The adage that goes “you must love yourself before you love anyone else,” well, it’s true. If you’re not secure in who you are and what you want, it’s going to be very difficult to bring anything to the table that is your marriage. Our parents struggle with this one because they often grew up together, figuring out how to be adults while they figured out how to be spouses. But women’s roles were a world apart back then, we have a lot more opportunities for personal and professional growth now and frankly we have only to gain by maximizing those. For me, it was a top priority to be financially independent and stand on my own two feet before I got married (read: debt paid off; RRSP started; and savings on automatic deposit). Female empowerment starts with economic empowerment, and before you even think about wedding appointments, I would advise you to make an appointment with a good financial advisor (trust me, this will come in very handy later on when you are planning your wedding and you realize wedding costs are exorbitant and require good budgeting skills!). And when it comes to actually finding that special person, all I knew was that I wanted someone who, of course, I was physically attracted to, but even more importantly ,that I was attracted to because he was ambitious, intelligent; cultured; made me laugh; and shared my values. For me personally, I always knew I wanted someone that was of the same religion and culture because those were things that were important to me and I wanted to share with someone. All this talk about qualities though should be tempered with: no one is perfect (shocking, right!? lol) and it’s an agreement to cooperate and compromise to accept and work with someone’s imperfections in exchange for their efforts towards yours. Other qualities like ‘kindness’, ‘respects me’, well, those are just pre-requisites for any person you want in your life, now aren’t they? Ultimately, you gotta figure out what qualities are important to you in a partner – the operative word being ‘partner’ – because that’s exactly what marriage is: a partnership.
You are not alone
Sure, your friends are all getting married and having babies. But believe me, you are far from the only one left standing. Frankly, it’s not a ‘club’ you join before the door closes, it’s your life! So it may be easier said than done, but throwing out that timeline of societal expectations and redefining the timeline on your own terms could prove to be very refreshing! (And while you’re at it, go travel and see the world, it will help that grow up part a lot!) Someone once said to me: “Everyone wants to settle down. But no one wants to settle.” Don’t settle.
In my zamaana we didn’t have such things as Tinder, Pinder (mandatory Pakistani noun rhyming) haha. Seriously though, the game has changed, hell even SM and I were introduced online. By a friend. Who happened to not even be desi (who knew the “you’re brown; he’s brown” tactic would actually work, lol). Granted there was Facebook and Skype and Facetime and Viber to help facilitate our long distance relationship, but if that’s wasn’t the start of a new-age arranged marriage I don’t know what is! So being set up (and if it leads to marriage, then great!) is not such a bad thing. Neither is meeting people online. Neither is a library, or grocery store, or through a friend or relative. The key is knowing who you are and what you want, the domain on where you meet will likely follow that. Granted, I’m writing this having been blessed with a very understanding mother who trusted me enough to make my own decisions (no rishta trolly pressure for me!) If your parents aren’t there yet, maybe just trying being candid with them? I know it’s a novel, revolutionary, and hella scary thing in desi culture, but it’s 2014, and if we are the agents of change who will be? Either way, stay in your comfort zone, wiggle out of it a bit, and see how you feel.
For all those ladies who are feeling at a loss when it comes to navigating this whole cultural marriage pressure cooker, I have no magical conclusions or moral to this story except that: just breath. Try and take the pressure off, even if that only means you’re taking off the pressure that you’re self imposing and getting better at disregarding everyone else’s. It’s only a matter of time. If you’re willing to stick it out and allow yourself to grow, the wait is entirely worth it.
P.S. Credit alert! Parts of this were written with my own partner-in-crime: SM!