Meet me – a single 30+ woman living in India. And no, I’m not the only single woman my age in India; there are many others, including those in their 40s and older. We are a new category of human beings who are threatening to break society’s norms because we don’t see marriage as a priority or even a need in our independent, fulfilling lives.
Of course family gatherings can be nightmares, with older relatives – especially the women folk – pestering you about not being ‘settled’, as they put it. One of my single female friends who’s in her 40s reassures me, “Everyone will leave you alone once you hit 40.” Yeah, that’s when we women stop being of marriageable age I guess.
The truth is, it’s 2017 and India has made progress in multiple realms, so it’s high time that the choice of relationship status remains with us as individuals.
You’re growing older…
I’ve been told that I’m pretty but I won’t be pretty for too long, as I’m getting older. You know all the concerns about women looking their best only till they are about 30 or something like that. And also, everybody and their mother are so ‘worried’ about your fertility as you get older and stay single. Well, at the risk of the judgemental ones judging me a bit more, here goes: I did not grow up dreaming of a big Indian wedding with hundreds of guests and loads of golden jewellery and rituals. Instead, I grew up believing in compassion and love. In short, I believe in love and that’s all I need.
Related reading: How to be single and why
While neither I nor any other single woman is obligated to explain our choice of not doing what society and tradition expects us to do, the last few years I’ve been shocked the most when I’ve been cornered by other women who have pretty much wanted to make me feel like I’m doing something terribly wrong by not getting married and having a child or two ‘yet’. Outspoken when it comes to people barging in on my privacy, I tell them that I consider myself settled, thank you.
From wedding parties to lunch get-togethers, to text message conversations, women out there believe that it’s their job to make you see how incomplete you are without a legal partner in your life. “But Sudesna, one day you will be old and sick. Who will take care of you?” I can hire a nurse, don’t worry. Then they try to scare me with “Your parents won’t live forever.” Yes, I am single – not stupid. Sigh.
Shouldn’t you settle down?
I remember a Facebook status update I once wrote, after a friend’s wedding celebrations where a group of her friends who hardly knew me were demanding to know when I would ‘settle down’. I wrote: I never ask people why they get married, so why do they think it is alright to ask me why I am not married?
Ew, that term about settling down really annoys the hell out of me.
Do these intelligent women with so much exposure and great professional titles really think that there is only one way to be satisfied?
In fact, some point after I hit 30, I suffered from a phase of severe anxiety and a lot of it was triggered by such comments and questions. Hitting a new decade has its own stress, but suddenly, I found myself wondering if I’d made a mistake not trying to fulfil the goal of matrimony. Suddenly, I was wondering if I needed a husband to feel happy and to lead the life that tradition and society has prescribed for us women. It was a tough period in my life. Thanks to intense introspection and a stint of therapy, I realised that I was letting others project their goals onto me when I already had anxiety issues about other aspects of my life. Imagine a strong woman breaking down because she feels inadequate as a woman. That was me.
Related reading: Why are so many eligible people single nowadays?
Times have changed and I wish women would give other women the respect that we all deserve and demand from the world, regardless of our marital status.