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The 20s And The Big M: Why Is Marriage Supposed To Be The Zenith Of A Girls Existence?

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By Kasturi Saikia:

You are studying in a college, working hard for your undergraduate degree. Your days are full with assignments, tests, friends and more assignments. You have big plans for the future, and even bigger dreams — spending the summer at pristine beaches with your friends, enjoying a cup of coffee sitting in a small cafe in busy Manhattan, shopping in the streets of Milan and Paris, and the occasional trip to the Louvre or Madam Tussaud’s. The list is endless and so are your dreams.

Picture Credits: Khadija Dawn Carryl
Picture Credits: Khadija Dawn Carryl

The day comes when you finally receive your degree and the world is just waiting for you to start exploring it, when an aunt pops the question “So, what now? Further studies or wedding bells?” and Voila! There you are! Rudely jolted back to reality.

While you have been stealing away into your fantasy world enjoying your delicious dreams, somewhere in reality, your future was being discussed in a less appetizing way.

I wonder — is getting married the zenith of a girl’s entire existence? Why is it that when a boy turns 21, he is free to do what he likes, free to chase his dreams? And in the case of a girl, why is it that turning 21 sets off the alarm bells in the minds of everyone remotely connected to her? You go to a wedding with your Mom and Dad (believe me, it’s even worse if you’re attending a relative’s marriage) and all the old ladies at the wedding would either give you a weird look or walk up to you, smile at you and tell you “You’re next in line, beta”.

Seriously?!

There was a time when girls were expected to get married the moment they turned 21. Waiting for another few years would just accelerate the anxiety attacks of her parents. Although the scenario is not as bad as it was back then, there still exist traces of that belief in some spheres of the society. A few days back, a distant cousin of mine made the mistake of getting engaged to her fiance when she was still pursuing her post graduation degree. It was an arranged marriage. She never wanted to commit so soon, but relatives from both the sides cajoled her into agreeing for an engagement, giving her assurances like “It’s just an engagement. You can get married a few years later, whenever you decide to”. It’s worth mentioning here that the guy was a few years older than her and he already had finished his studies, and was working in a reputed company. The poor girl didn’t get time to process what had just hit her. Within an year, she got married and is now safely packaged on the way to foreign shores.

This is just one of the tactics that is employed to achieve the desired results. First, it’s just an engagement. Then slowly, the pressure of tying the knot builds up. And the next thing you know – you are married. And hey! That’s not all. Because just when you stop to assess everything around you and try to adjust yourself to your new surroundings, a voice pipes out “When do we get the good news?”! 

Even if you are lucky enough to have supportive parents who have given you the consent to “go out there, and have it all”, the society will still haunt you until you get yourself a supportive pillar in the form of a husband. A boy of thirty-five is considered to be a “Very Eligible Bachelor”. If he is a doctor or an engineer, or has an equivalent successful career to flaunt, he is flocked with offers of marriage. In contradiction, if a girl is thirty five and equally successful, people look at her like she is some kind of a freak. The general agreement is that something must be terribly wrong with her or else she would not have stayed unmarried for so long.

Why do such prejudices exist? A girl of thirty-five is independent, she earns her own living and is capable of contributing towards the welfare of the family as much as the boy is, perhaps even more. But even such perks are not enough for her to be able to find a suitable boy to marry. The only people who would deign to show some interest are the divorcees or the widowers. Why is it that girls are made to wear an expiry date, which when crossed, the girl ceases to be human and becomes an object, to be judged and ridiculed?

Every girl dreams of getting married. It’s beautiful, and the feeling of sharing your life with someone is unique. Getting married is a once-in-a-lifetime moment and it is a big deal! But like every event in our lives, right from growing up, learning to walk and finally completing the transition from a child to an adult, there is a time especially reserved for getting ready to take the plunge into matrimony. Being forced or forcing oneself into this life altering phenomena is not at all easy and hence, we deserve to have all the time in the world to arrive at such big a decision.

What if you just don’t want to get hooked? To be able to live for yourself, to be free from the usual responsibilities of a married life, to be just by yourself and enjoy? Yes, sometimes it seems scary to face the big, bad world on our own, but then again, isn’t it better to face it alone rather than having an unwanted person telling you what to do?

Here’s to hoping that somewhere down the line, in the very near future, society changes the way it perceives the “20s and Marriage” and allows women to be just as capable of deciding when to get married and who to get married to, just as it has been allowing the other sex, for many a decades.

“Stop worrying about your messy hair, your eyeliner and your curvy body. One day you’ll find a guy who won’t care about it !”

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  1. Pawan

    I think you are right with most of your article, but not the premise. Marriage is not the zenith of a girl’s existence, but rather of her parents’.

    The moment fathers and mothers stop believing that getting their kids married off is the ultimate achievement in life, we wont have this problem.

  2. Ashutosh Kumar

    The situation is sure as you said. But, we can change it. By giving freedom to the next generation and protecting them from the society’s prejudices. This way, the life of the generations to come will be easy and they will not feel forced to take a big step in their life hastily.

  3. Babar

    The average age for a girls marriage today is in the late twenties, not twenty-one, a number which the author has invented to wrap her bizarre theories around. And the author paints vivid dreams in paragraph one to belittle marriage, dreams which will remain unfulfilled even if girls do not marry past the age of twenty-one.

  4. Prashant Kaushik

    1) Simple Maths :- Girls@18 and Boys@21. That’s the minimum marriageable age . The difference in pressure created for marriage is bound to be late by 3-4 years in case of Men. It’s pretty simple.

    2) Don’t create an illusion as if No one asks men to marry at all while society persecutes a girl if she stays single at 21.
    If some xyz person will push a girl @ 21 for marriage, he wud definitely not remain mute on a 35 year old bachelor.

    3) I Agree that girls face more pressure for marriage. But the difference is not as much as you have fictionalized in this article.

    And what is so wrong if old ladies ask about our marriage plans. Do you want the society to boycott and have no discussion on you at all. Why you want to be so individualistic and stay separate from society?
    And what else do you expect the old ladies to discuss – the difference between your existing CGPA and the minimum CGPA required to select your favorite Electives/Optional in next semester ?

    I don’t know which hypothetical world you live in and why you have to dislike them so much ! Old Ladies are so cute, and remember they don’t remain mute on a bachelor boy as well. It is upto us whether to pay heed to them or not. I remember relatives saying I was the next, as early as when I was 22 or 24 year old, the day my sister got married And I never held them contempt for just talking like that, as I am not so insecure about my abilities or independence.

    And Big M for marriage isn’t the only thing for which society push you. When you were 3 year old kid there must have been a Big S for School, and later a Big C for College as well. Had you delayed attending them in time, there would have been rumors then as well.

    Today’s parents are far more supportive. Your article is tight slap on all those ‘Papas’ who hold their daughters in high regards. So please Stop acting as if you are handcuffed in chains and dragged to marriage mundaps the moment you end your college.

    1. Mehul Gala

      Well said !!

    2. Inder

      Perhaps you need to wear a woman’s shoes and walk across the streets of a tier 2 or tier 3 city to experience and understand what kind of pressure the girls go through during their 20s regarding marriage and post marriage decisions.. Is it really a girl’s decision when she wants to have the kid.. I am sorry to say but even most of the so called educated women dont have the right to say no to an unwated sex during marriage.. A bit deeper thinking and a sensitive approach is required here

  5. Rabeeha

    Reading the whole thing made me feel like someone read my life and rewrote it with subtle humour. Or maybe this is exactly what every girl would feel once they read the article. Let us hope things change and People grow brains.

  6. Babar

    Unmarried girls today who have passed the age of thirty, who pinned their hopes on imaginary dreams (as shown in paragraph one) now live in perpetual misery, willing to exchange the life they lived as an independent woman with an early marriage, which would have brought them pleasant life experiences. And the description of dreams you have painted in paragraph one is more likely to be fulfilled by a married woman.

    1. hyatt

      “Unmarried girls today who have passed the age of thirty, who pinned their hopes on imaginary dreams (as shown in paragraph one) now live in perpetual misery, willing to exchange the life they lived as an independent woman with an early marriage, which would have brought them pleasant life experiences.”
      Would you care to give a reference to the survey link? or is it your perception?

    2. Fem

      I am an unmarried girl past my 30. Had those dreams;…. not imaginary anymore. Do not live in perpetual misery. Not willing to exchange the life I lived as an independent woman with an early marriage. I have plenty of pleasant experiences in life without being married. Not sure if marriage would have guaranteed that. The description of dreams painted in paragraph one has been fulfilled a number of times despite not being a married woman.

      And there are plenty more like me.

      There! All your theories debunked!

  7. hyatt

    well written! I being a guy at 28 am facing this problem always. I wish I can say “you are next” to all those old ladies I meet at a funeral who say “you are next” to me at a marriage. But I think 21 is not the age at which girl`s parents start pressurizing her. It may be 26.
    Some comments here describe marriage as indispensable. I think it is the pan after a meal rather than the meal.

  8. Devant

    Well, i can see in comments here that the article is being seen as an escape from marriage, but i think the focus sought here was equivocating the right to pursue their dreams.. and as i find the article speaks of “..leave it to themselves to decide when and how and to whom they would like to get married.”

  9. Insiya

    Dear Kasturi,

    This is a very nice article and I mostly do agree with you. However, there were a few words that stirred me (negatively).

    “The only people who would deign to show some interest are the divorcees or the widowers..”

    I do not understand why marrying a divorced/widowed person is such an issue. As a matter of fact, they are the survivors of failed relationships and probably have learnt a lot of things which are going to make their future relationships more mature.

    I agree that a lot of girls are forced to get married at 21. I come from a very small town in Rajasthan and in my hometown, girls are married off at 18… there have been several cases of girls getting married below 18. They are not well-educated, have been brought up thinking marriage and bringing up well-behaved children is their ultimate life goal. Career for them is a joke and “its ONLY for men” kinda stuff is what we get to hear. Anyway, I am not here complaining about the traditions in my society but all what I want to say is…

    These things are all mentality-based. For the people who accept getting married at 18, its absurd to wait until 30. All what we can do is be proud of the various cultural beliefs we have. It is at the end of the day, the choice of the girl and as long as she is ok, we should be ok. Different people with different visions, values and traditions – this is the beauty of our country. And I believe that instead of looking down to it, we can be proud of the various cultures we feed.

    Best wishes,
    Insiya
    A 20-something living in the Gulf since introduced to the world.

    1. hina

      I don’t agree with you. Girl of age 18 or around doesn’t have much intelligence to choose between cqreer or marriage. Also, she is made to think of marriage only in her early teenage years. Plus what if guy is bad , but would the girl do . If a girl is educated then he can choose her better husband.
      Secondly , your remark what is wrong in marrying a widow or divorcee. I agree there isn’t anything wrong. but according to author 35 year old bachelor never considere himself to marry a widow or divorcee then why a girl is made to marry.

  10. prakhar

    Ma’am,
    I read ur article. I believe u are under estimating the power of a woman.
    I know people force a girl into marriage in her 20s but there is a scientific and emotional reason behind it- the babies of girls born after 30 yrs of age have 300 times more chance of being abnormal in their development. And as only the female has the ability to redo God’s work of giving a new life she has to go through this emotional stress. This is not so in case of a male as males have only 10% chance of such an issue.
    I wish to insist that u, keeping this fact in mind try to inculcate it in ur next blog.
    Regards

    1. prakhar

      Problems in females if they stay unmarried after 30 yrs.-
      1. 20% Increased chance of Breast cancer
      2. 40% chance of ovarian cancer
      3. Early menopause

      Problems of having babies after 30yrs-
      1. Difficult labour
      2. Increased chance of cesarean section
      3. Difficulty in having 2nd child
      4. Increased incidence of downs syndrome, turners syndrome, klinefelter syndrome in babies
      5. Increases chance of pituitary infarct in mothers.

    2. prakhar

      Such problems do not exist in males. So I believe what families think is for the better health of their girl.

    3. TheSeeker

      I don’t understand how getting married after 30 years causes problems for a woman. You should just have a child before 30, right? How does late marriage cause cancer and early menopause?

    4. prakhar singh

      @the seeker
      we live in india, and we have a society that does not accept kids without marriage. so

    5. Supriya

      Thank you for clearing this out that women are meant to get married solely because they have to reproduce “healthy heirs” and this reason alone should be suffice for women to get married. Love? Whats that? Partnership? Pfft…whaat? Kids? Hell yeah!

      PS: I really hope the sarcasm is well read here.

  11. findingffeminism

    I really loved your article except for the line ‘every girl wishes to be married’ .. Does that mean you hav gone all around world asking if every girl loves and dreams of marriage ? It is surprising that even the people who don’t believe that ‘marriage is the whole and sole reason of life ‘ quote this. And have you noticed it says only girl wants to marry.. There are many women who do not want to marry as you have said in the later paragraphs.. But please don’t put ‘every girl’ with wants to marry if you believe it should be her choice to marry or not to marry!!
    Love the line ‘, isn’t it better to face it alone rather than having an unwanted person telling you what to do?’ 🙂

  12. Voice of reason

    another ridiculous article on how girls are treated badly and so on and so forth, you know what is more painful, being a guy in India in your late 20s

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