I’m at that point in my life (by which I mean my early twenties) where everyone around me (literally everyone) is either getting married or about to. Whether it’s engagements or at-home Nikah (Muslim marriage contract) signing ceremonies, I’m losing single friends faster than I imagined. I’ve got two weddings to attend this week, and three more coming up in the next six months.
Now, at this point in my culture, most girls have probably gotten one or two rishtas. These are families who approach the girl’s parents asking for her hand in marriage on behalf of (if he knows her) their son, or for (if he doesn’t know her but the family thinks they’d be a good match) their son. If you’re 25 and single, ladies, we all know there’s a few common reasons this is so:
1. You are focusing on your career and your parents are (almost/maybe/hopefully) supportive of your decision to wait to get married.
2. You have older sisters who aren’t married yet and you have to wait your turn.
3. Your boyfriend doesn’t have a job yet and so can’t respectfully ask for your hand in marriage (because what could he possibly offer you if he doesn’t have any money? *gasp*). Darling beti, focus on the doctors and the engineers.
4. There is some sort of ideological divide. He is from a different caste, or Allah maaf karay religion, or is a communist, or is from a family that for some reason or the other, your family is not happy with.
4. Nobody wants to marry you because you suck.
Unfortunately, it’s the last reason that tends to take up residence in our hearts and even if the whole world is cheering us on, it’s not uncommon for young women to become overly critical of themselves. We begin evaluating ourselves on a host of factors. Can I cook? Would I prioritise raising children full-time over my career? Do I know how to host a dinner party and keep a clean house? And most pressing in our minds: Do I look good enough?
Is my nose too big? Why isn’t my skin fairer?
A lifestyle of perpetual dieting and stomach-sucked-in selfies, body-shaming larger women (yes, it counts when you’re openly feeling sorry for her), and eyeliner-mastery is adopted. Hair is straightened for everyday, and curled for formal events, and every pushed-up, tucked-in, brightened, whitened, and mattified part of your body is dressed to the nines at weddings because beta log kya kahen ge? (Child, what will people say about you/us?)
Let’s get a few things straight ladies. Maybe dressing up makes you feel good about yourself, maybe it’s just fun, and all of that’s great, but under no circumstances should you ever feel that it’s necessary for people to like or approve of you. I know it’s so easy for me to write these things down and so hard for them to be true. It took time for them to be true for me. It took time for me to allow myself to be comfortable in my own skin. I am so many great things, and so are you.
Skills like cooking and being a great hostess can be learned, should you wish to learn them. Children may or may not be part of your future, and that’s something you can deal with when the time comes. They say motherhood gives you a different perspective (as do most major experiences) and who knows what you’ll feel like then? We are all constantly changing and evolving as people. And in any case, those possible future children could really benefit from a mom who knows how to follow her dreams.
Im not saying these are the only issues – spending your life with someone is a big decision, and comes with a myriad of variables – but these are certainly prevalent for a lot of young women (on the verge of spinster-hood (haha, I joke).
Know this: strive to be the best you can be. Cliche as that is, let yourself be open to different definitions of what’s good and what your best is. Allow yourself to do things you wouldn’t normally do simply to expose yourself to different people and ways of thinking and embracing the world. Something as life changing as marriage takes teamwork, emotional and mental maturity, strength and positivity. Be sincere. Be kind – especially to yourself.
Most importantly, cut yourself some slack. You are kind. You are important. You are talented. And you deserve to be valued. The protruding stomach and the limp hair – those are obstacles you have the power to move past.
And your knight in shining armour? He’ll show up when it’s time.