I wanted to be a ‘woman’. Yes, I did. Everyone advised me to be one. I should have changed myself by now; after all, I was married with kids, and moreover I am a woman.
“You’re not fit for marriage, your decision to marry was absolutely wrong,” said my best friend the other day when I told him about the differences that had surfaced in my marriage.
What could he have meant? Did he mean I was heartless and didn’t have the ability to love someone? Or did he mean I was not compassionate enough to take care of my husband? But he could never mean these, he had known me for years and always loved me for the sensible person that I am.
Guess he meant the same thing that everyone else did – I should behave like a ‘woman’.
But to be one, I needed to know what ‘being a woman’ means. And who was going to teach me that? The examples they cited didn’t entice me, and I didn’t see any reason to exchange my own beliefs for them. The prerequisites never varied: “A woman should be a caring wife, a loving mother and a great chef; she should also know how to keep her house clean and should be religious.”
Why didn’t my parents teach me all these? Why did they always ask me to be a good human being and never teach me the special attributes of a woman? They strongly believed that an independent woman is what a family and the world needs and hence this was instilled in me from childhood.
I grew up to be an independent woman. I had my own values and ethics. I had always been very dutiful, loving, patient and passionate. Then what had gone wrong? Why was I expected to be something or someone I never resonated with? Why would the entire world, even a few of my closest friends want me to follow the crowd? Why didn’t I have the right to be true to myself and still be accepted?
Marriage to me was an institution where two friends would spend their lives together, stand by each other whenever needed and be each other’s support system. I hadn’t been told, ever, that as a ‘woman’ I had to be different, I was expected to sacrifice more and do things that might even contradict my principles and beliefs.
I believed that everything was shared by two persons and everything remained between us, but now I realise how wrong I was. A woman never marries one person, but his entire family. And every time I put a foot forward for myself, I was condemned for not having the basic etiquette of a ‘woman’. And I could never fathom why I had to be like them when I could be different and much better. But nobody ever understood what I meant. I didn’t want to silence my inner voice, gambling with my identity as a woman, and the only way I could maintain the equilibrium was by changing myself, completely.
I was suffering because the man I loved wasn’t willing to stand by me. For him, his family, friends and societal norms mattered more. He was told by a few that his wife was too busy to take care of his family and he trusted them more than believing in me and my goals. My time of tribulation had just begun; I was standing on the threshold; if I crossed it, I would lose the love of my life and if I didn’t, I would lose myself.
For once in life, I wanted to be a ‘real woman’, one who readily sacrifices her desires and moulds herself to the expectations of others. But I couldn’t, I wasn’t conditioned that way, and I couldn’t bring myself to sacrifice my dreams for a person who was not ready to accept me the way I am.
It took me ages to realise that my love for him was the biggest impediment stopping me from living the life of my dreams. And I was born to be myself, not someone else. So here I am, strong, confident and determined, ready to take the world by my stride and happy to be a ‘man’ (if that’s the term used for the women who don’t follow the expected protocols) in a woman’s body.
(As told to Vedaprana Purkayastha for bonobology.com)