Written by Arshiya Hussain
I’ve met and spoken to a lot of guys: the eccentric, the recluse, the serial dater, the nonchalant, the overzealous, the Mama’s boy, the condescending, the preacher and, oh so many more. Yes, it’s been quite the journey, during which I have learned a lot about myself and the opposite sex. I won’t ever claim to have it all figured out. However, I can confidently say arranged marriages have a long, long way to go if our generation has any hope of finding “the one.”
So, if you are going through this particular ailment, I offer my sympathies. If you are on your way there, where your parents are telling those annoying jokes and you haven’t found someone for yourself, run! Seriously run – make haste! Date like a Kardashian goes through clothes! (I don’t mean date like a Kardashian though… date seriously.) Go out and talk to people. Ask your friends to set you up with guys who want to settle down. Ask the important questions and try to really give the person a real chance.
Why am I metaphorically grabbing you by your shoulders and shaking you, asking you to wake up? Well, I am a veteran in this circus that is “the arranged marriage,” so trust me when I say it’s time to get a move on things.
We all come from communities that have our own versions of what age is “the right age,” what is the “isn’t it getting late for you?” age and what is the “poor dear… now she won’t find anyone” age. Also, the patterns and sighs of pity are pretty much generic across communities and socio-economic backgrounds.
Yes, it’s been a fun and intriguing life, but all the varieties of religions and communities have a common denominator: the typical scene of parents looking at you with either stress or excitement at the prospect of finding you a man to marry.
In my personal research through experience, I have found there to be five stages of the arranged marriage process:
In the beginning, you are relaxed. You’re thinking, “it’s fine I can push this.” (This is denial.) You say to yourself, “I will focus on my studies/career, I will make my parents understand.” Chances are your parents will leave you alone for a short time. And then some relative with a very long nose and an equally annoying personality will make your parents feel as if you are an aspiring engineering student who hasn’t studied anything for their exam – which is in a week!
So then comes the bargaining. You ask for time. You try to negotiate the terms. This would include factors like his height, the amount of hair he has (or doesn’t have), which cities you would or would not consider a guy from (cold weather is out of the question), the type of family he comes from (does he come from a small one, extended large one…from hell?), and, let’s not forget about his educational background. Of course he has to have an MBA at least.
3) Acceptance (depending on the duration of time taken to find Mr. Right.)
This part starts to fade once your parents either sit you down to say, “This isn’t how it works.” Or they let you say no to a few awful men before explaining to you that you are being too critical, too picky, too selective, too choosy. Because what is a decision that will affect your entire life, right?
Now, this is crucial, and this phase might happen before or after acceptance. This is the part where you have said no to a few men. During this time your parents believe the imaginary clock of your youth is running out. The shelf where all the men are stacked is diminishing and if you don’t act fast, you will have to pick the dusty knock-off piece without the warranty. Or worse, you’ll have no one to pick at all.
Yes, it’s harrowing. I use this particular word because it means “acutely distressing.” You are acutely made aware of the “backwardness” of society – how it takes perfectly sane and kind parents and turns them into people you can’t recognize. I won’t sugar coat it, it is awful. If you are lucky you will sit your parents down and explain what you are looking for in a man–how their choice isn’t necessarily bad, but the guy they have chosen isn’t the kind of person you will be happy with. I pray everyone has parents who will hear them out.
These conversations may take many attempts of happening, but when they listen and understand you will be in the presence and understanding of people who truly care about you, even if they are sometimes blinded by the pressures of society.
This battle can go on for months or even years, and the emotional stress can make you wish you could escape it all. I write this to first and foremost say, I understand, and I know it sucks, but we have to keep going. We all need to keep living our lives, working, studying, learning new things, and growing as individuals. In case you haven’t been made aware, here is the most important truth – no matter what happens, you are your only person. You are in charge of loving yourself. You are in charge of molding yourself every day and growing into someone you can be proud of. Marriage, kids, a family, all these things will work themselves out, but only if you are happy with yourself.
Take the time you have when you’re single as a gift. Learn. Explore. Grow. It’s hard and sometimes lonely, but it will get better.
Do not for a second believe that someone will come and swoop you away to a wonderful life. Honey, that isn’t marriage. Marriage is two people helping each other become better human beings. And yes, Disney and Hollywood have deceived us gravely.
So the million dollar question, how do you find someone you want to marry? Look.
5) Joy (which comes with much optimism upon finding “the one.”)
Yes, as silly as it sounds, search and look and be open-minded. Go on the sites, on the apps, ask your friends to set you up, whatever it takes. Focus on talking and getting to know someone, to understand if your core values are similar, if you have fun together, if you can converse without the fear of being judged. If you find someone who values you and your passions, your dreams and makes you laugh, then it’ll be alright.
No, I’m not that naive to write this and believe I can guarantee you a lifetime of happiness. Let’s face it – marriage is hard. But the first step is finding someone great who makes you want to take that big scary step. Be sure – be absolutely sure of your choice. Do not allow parents, society, relatives, or anyone to force you into compromising – into saying yes to someone you aren’t sure about.
I can attest that this has become the battle of my life. Blood, sweat and tears have become part of this journey. (Okay, don’t get freaked out. No blood has been involved.)
As much as it sounds daunting and awful, I will again tell you to be strong. We can get through this. Someday you’ll be sitting on the balcony with your husband, and he will help you forget all about this harrowing experience.
For good measure make him feel bad now and then for taking so long to get to you.