Blog Archives

Speaking Of Why I Don’t Marry

A beloved uncle shared this TOI Blog by with me. (‘Whom Should I Marry?’). This was my response:

Dear uncle,

I liked where the article seemed to be going (this is how the decision/marriage model has worked so far, here’s why those references are not valid anymore) till it got preachy.

Have you heard of the term ‘friendzone’? I think it was originally coined in the popular US show ‘Friends’. It refers to a friendship between a man and a woman, where a man is expecting things to go further and feels betrayed by the woman because she does not. It has gotten quite popular even in India, among the urban connected generations. Recently the concept has been getting some flak because some women (at least the thinking ones) seem to feel that it points to a certain entitlement among men over what they can expect from a woman once they get closer to her. Here is a webcomic strip that got shared around a lot awhile ago (by me as well) that breaks this situation down well.

The second is something you know already since I often talk about it. Access to education, careers, exposure to digital media (hence international living references) and greater freedom has done a lot of things for women. It has also made the proponents of the old order much more fearful and violent (crimes against women, negative social patterns like the above mentioned friendzone etc.).

Plus, for women, we are a ‘newly liberated’ species. We don’t have the same references/mentors/leaders to look to for direction that our male counterparts do. In a lot of ways we are like explorers of a new planet. Wouldn’t it make sense for us to be extra cautious? Factor in the arguably biological instincts of women being more cautious and less testosterone/impulse driven than men and that makes for less ‘Let’s jump in!’ and more ‘Let’s wait, take stock before moving ahead’

Both of these things are factors in my decision to be exactly the kind of woman that the author writes about. I have a lot of close male friends in my life. There is nothing ‘wrong’ with any one of them. If there was, they wouldn’t be my friends. But I don’t see a romantic relationship as an upgrade over friendship. These are two different things. I do not subscribed to the adage that a good friend makes a good spouse. On the contrary, I see enough of good friendships around me destroyed after they became traditional romantic/matrimonial relationships. Jealousy is one of the big reasons that comes up often as does the inability to deal with each other’s vices. We’re never really that jealous when it comes to a good friend and we’ll put up with his incessant gaming, her endless shopping — but it would be hell to be married to someone like that.

And finally I, and a lot of other men and women (yes, both) like me are starting to think marriage is one of the many lifestyle options, not the big prize at the end of a rapid-fire selection. I think the writer may not have considered either this or the point I mentioned in my previous para. It’s a new world, our relationship references are different, that’s all.

🙂 I enjoy having these conversations with you.

Your niece.

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* If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

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I Want Love, Not Marriage

After the debacle of last year, I’ve learnt a few things. In fact, as far as lessons go, that experience has been a gift that keeps on giving. My mistakes give me better and better clarity on what it is that I really want. And perhaps life is nothing more than the unraveling of that great mystery.

It turned out that I wanted a wedding. Not marriage, I hadn’t been able to think that far. Not love, either, love had absolutely nothing to do with it. What I wanted, believed I frantically needed, was that contract to be finalized, that dotted line signed, that deal to be done. I can blame it on the regressive society I live in, my traditional environment, peer pressure and other things. But it boils down to one thing – that all my relationships and adulthood associations of this nature were (quoting from Ally McBeal) auditions for the co-starring role at a wedding. As focused and precise as that.

Last year nudged me to the fact that I didn’t accept easily and then was forced to, when it got too big to ignore, that I didn’t really want to be married. Was it just not to him or in general, not to anybody? I don’t know. I think it was probably the latter and he was if anything, the least bad path to that.

In retrospect, I can see how all my relationships began with, my getting dragged in kicking and screaming (well, at least in my head). I’ve never really had a thought for, made a place for love, in my life till now. The only reason I was in the game, playing the stakes was because I was pursuing the marriage goal.

Since the engagement ended, I’m finding it a lot easier to breathe. The pressure has eased up, socially and familially. It’s almost as if everyone has given up on my ever finding someone and has moved on to matters of greater interest. Which is a good thing since it gives me a chance to think about what it is that I really want. And I’m building the blocks slowly and articulating a fresh, albeit late thought.

I want love.

I want love, now. Not marriage. I’m not ready for that thought yet, let alone a discussion on it. A relationship? Maybe, maybe not. But that’s a discussion I want to have later. But I do want love.

I want romance. I want the sweetness, that fresh, breezy feeling inside of ‘I like this person SOOO much!’. I want the flushed cheeks, the nervous signals and tentative gestures, the catching each other’s eye by mistake and turning away instantly, the giddy shared smiles. I want that.

I want attraction. And sex that is love-making, instead of a power exchange or a release or a way to pass time. Well, it could be all that but I want it to be love-making in all.

There have been opportunities for these, bobbing up in front of me, like bubbles when I swim. But perhaps I haven’t been ready yet so they’ve brushed past me and vanished. I keep learning every now and then, of someone who felt that and even reached out their heart to me. But I was so busy, so focussed on that dotted line of the marital contract, I either never saw or just blazed past them in my frenzy.

I came so close, in recent times. Marriage got in the way twice. Once, last year. I know there was love, maybe still is. And who knows, perhaps it would have grown and been a nicer, warmer, richer love, had marriage not got in the way. And after that, another possible love that never was because the M-word turned up. I was clearer in my head about not wanting to go there and he chose the pursuit of the dotted line. So we parted.

I have no regrets about these. I know now that marriage is a complex thing, embedded in people’s fears and dreams and agendas. If there isn’t a match in attitudes, then you’re better of leaving it alone. Else love will be poisoned, destroyed and all lost. I chose to walk away from these possibilities rather than watch them rot into these sores.

The recent spate of reported gang rapes have cast a cloud on my desires, though. I’m not as sure about my right to my relationship choices. This is India after all, a culture that actively suppresses, harasses and mutilates women, for simply existing, let alone having independent opinions. I wonder now, in this country of honour killings, of forced arranged marriages, of dowry harassment, of marital rape, of abusive in-laws, do I have the right to look for love? Or is marriage the compromise I must settle for?

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*If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Making A Case For Marriage

This is a revised version of an earlier post titled ‘To Marry Or Not To Marry, That Is The Question‘.

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A lot of my friends, especially recently, say that they don’t believe in marriage. This global, centuries-old institution is losing favour because of the political dynamics natural to any family, the complication of multiple opinions, conflicting agendas and excessive rituals. The world is starting to split up into hostile factions on this point, each side tossing barbs to the other (“You’re stuck in fairytale land!” clashes with “You’re commitment-phobic!”).

First of all, let’s distinguish the wedding from the marriage. The wedding is the formalization, the ceremony that symbolizes that two people are henceforth bound together, socially and legally. Customs may vary but this is the fundamental purpose of every single wedding ceremony conducted over the world. It is a ritual and like all other rituals, it only has as much significance as the people carrying it out, attach to it. It is true that no paper or custom can ensure or create a fulfilling union between two people. That has to be built by the two people in question, bit by agonizing, confusing, wearying bit.

Now let us consider marriage itself, beyond the rituals, beyond the superficialities of sindoor and rings. It is the meeting and combining of two people’s lives. It is the merging of assets, of tangible ones like money & possessions and of intangibles like career, eating habits, lifestyle choices etc.

Take the most basic human action of eating. Everyone does it. It’s difficult enough to decide on one meal to be shared by two people (eating place, seating, cuisine, taste, spice, vegetarian/non-vegetarian etc). How much more complicated it would be to repeat this for the rest of the two people’s lives? Multiply that several thousand fold for every other aspect of life above food and we start to see just why marriage is such a complicated affair.

This alone tells us that the only sensible way to start, is to do it in an organized manner. All the supposedly meaningless rituals provide a framework for two people to undertake this arduous venture. I’d say that it is a template at best and can (and should) be customized to the couple’s requirements.

Considering what a massive undertaking this is, it’s only prudent to account for issues and breakdowns. It’s a fool’s errand to go starry-eyed into something as big as a lifelong relationship and assume blithely that everything will work out in a ‘happily ever after’ way. Marriages are not always happy. Unions are not guaranteed to work. Compatibility may not last. While a relationship should only be undertaken with the hopes of it working, the possibility that it may not should also be borne in mind.

A discussion about marriage, especially one that attempts to be objective & rational, is incomplete without talking about divorce. What happens to the two lives that were joint together, if things don’t work out? The division of those aforementioned assets is a complicated exercise, one that often consumes the people involved, completely and leaves everyone dissatisfied. There’s no easy way to unite or to end emotional involvement; that bit is always going to be bloody. It seems wise to at least sort out the relatively easier things like possessions and even that’s not easy. A formal ritual is a process that can be closed most cleanly. If at this juncture, the law must be brought in as an impartial third party, it is only fair to have it be a party to the union right at the start, which is the legal wedding ritual.

Then there is the question of children. You may have the temerity to go against society and the strength to survive a messy breakdown, outside the structure of marriage. However, can you guarantee the same for your children? It doesn’t feel fair to thrust one’s life’s choices and their consequences onto one’s children, even before they choose it for themselves. Society still isn’t easy on the children of a single parent, especially an unmarried one, never mind an unmarried mother. Whether a couple ever has children or not is immaterial. This is far too important to overlook what might be even a remote possibility.

You should not have to run around desperately in search of a partner. You shouldn’t need to sucker someone into the grand party of a wedding. Singledom works for a lot of people as do non-conventional relationship structures. However, if you do decide to make a lifelong commitment to another human being, marriage is a clean, convenient way to do it.

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A version of this is posted to Love Beckons.

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*If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Reverb11.2 – Home Is A Wonderland

Reverb 11.2: Whimsy

Recall a fairy tale-esque moment from 2011. An epic kiss? A triumphant victory? A Wonderland-esque adventure? How did this momentous or fanciful happening affect your outlook?

Years ago, a close friend told me about the early days of her relationship. She’d married to a man who’d lived in the US for years and moved overseas for the first time in her life. Before that, she’d lived with her parents, under her grandmother’s guardianship and later, shared a room with another girl.

She said the first year of her marriage was all conflict, fighting all the time. Being fiercely independent, she hated the fact that she had no life outside of him. Her only friends were his friends. All of that changed in their second year, when they moved houses. It turned out, that he had shifted to a bigger place just before getting married and furnished it as he thought a couple would like. But they were all his ideas and how well did he know her then, after all? Their second house was one that they found, furnished & decorated together. She said a lot of their problems settled after that. It sounded incredulous to me.

The boy moved within a couple of months of our dating, to a bigger house that was closer to where I was. It was already furnished and his sparse bachelor possessions (gaming console, microwave & single bed) fit in somehow. I didn’t like the house. The wall-sized poster of a garden, right out of a bad 80s Bollywood movie was just the start. Then there was the clunky furniture chosen by the elderly couple that owned the flat, which they didn’t have space for anymore but couldn’t bear to get rid of, either. There was the construction site right next door, which made it impossible to open the curtains. There was the musty smell hanging about the entire house, the cheesy stuffed toys displayed everywhere and the garish chandelier right in the center of the hall.

I didn’t think that much of it back then, since I thought it wasn’t my house. But we did spend a lot of time in that house. I’d be over on most weekends, holidays and even some weekdays. I soon had a key of my own. I’ve spent time there alone a few times, when I was in the area and had to wait for my next appointment. It was an odd place that I spent a lot of time in, but had nothing of me and never felt like home to me.

Earlier this year, following all the problems of the house, including skyrocketing rents, water supply issues, horrible neighbors, tyrannical landlords and infrastructural problems, we moved. I say we, because it is a shared space. It took us a year to realize it but home is a space you share with the people who spend a lot of time in it.

Our new place is in a different area, a far less posh & upmarket one. It is smaller. But you know something? I love it. Few places have felt like home, like this one does. I remember the exact moment when I pulled out a set of colourful prayer flags, a memento from a friend’s visit to Ladakh. These used to hang outside my bedroom window and cheer me up with their sight, the first thing after I opened my eyes. They are now strung across the large window in the hall. The belief is that when they wave in the breeze, all the good wishes and prayers printed on them, come true. They’ve certainly brought more than just colour into this new house. They’ve brought joy, peace and a sense of peace that the earlier houses didn’t have.

Other little touches have been added. A Wolverine poster on the door, that was a gift from his friend. A seed in a pot, that I grew into a happy, green leafy plant. A stack of books on the window sill, his and mine. My movie DVDs mixed in with his XBox collection. The beanbag that used to sit in my room, next to his computer table, that now holds the TV.

This is our Wonderland, one that we made together.

The Economics Of Modern Relationships

There’s a wealth of information available on how to engineer a romance. There’s more than enough paraphernalia on spicing up, sorting out, energizing, smoothing, creating and sustaining sex lives. But how about that one major thing that apparently a lot of couples struggle over? Money, money, money is the big elephant in every relationship room.

We know human behavior and societal attitudes take time to change. As it were, we’re caught in that transitory place, between ‘woman’s-place-in-kitchen’ structures and equal opportunity thinking. The impact of this on us as individuals, as familial units and as couples, is for another debate. But money is here and now. The strain of unresolved issues, of conflicting value systems and of confused roles is being borne by us every minute.

Let’s start with the most obvious. In a modern-day, equally independent dating scenario, who should pay? There seems to be an awkward, uneasy impasse with some women offering to share, unsure of whether this will be interpreted as ungraciousness or its opposite. Even men who’re otherwise liberal-minded stop at saying they like it when a woman offers but eventually they feel they need to pay. It is expected. And no minus points when the woman doesn’t even offer.

Zoom out a bit to look at the other logistics of a date. At the end of the date, the return journey home prioritizes the woman. Sure, the streets are slightly safer for a man going about alone than a woman. But how about the start, that usually happens earlier in the evening or day? How many dates see a woman picking a man up from his place or a select destination? Isn’t it almost always the man coming to pick her up? If you think that’s got nothing to do with money, consider the fact that the man may be traveling right across the city (and twice, counting the return). That’s his money and time (which equates to money, right?)

Gift-giving, that’s another thing. I love giving gifts to people I like. Not birthday gifts or wedding anniversary ones but the I-thought-of-you-when-I-saw-this variety. Most men I’ve given gifts to, have received them with pleasure. But this is often followed by an uneasy, feet-shuffling sense that they need to reciprocate. This in itself, is the nature of gift giving between human beings. But in a man-woman situation, it seems like the man feels compelled to reciprocate with gifts of at least equal value, if not more. When money comes into the picture is when the spirit of gifting goes well and truly out of the window.

And finally, once you’re in a relationship, what then? There are now two wallets at the table but it is almost always the man who signs the credit card slip. That is an odd sort of hat-tip to an archaic notion of the man always paying. I think I’m more acutely aware of this because of how I grew up. My mother balances the books and manages the family accounts. Thus, on outings, almost always, she’s the one who hands out the payment. She’s also the one who lists out the table order. In all these years though, I’ve never once seen hand the bill to anybody by my father. This same system follows me uncannily when I go out with the boy. Despite the fact that I’m the only audible voice at the table, perusing the menu, advising on dishes and placing the order, the bill is never given to me!

There seem to be an alarming number of what I call Farcical Modern Couples. I know of one where the wife is older and runs an unconventional but successful business. Her husband has a regular, if not nondescript job with a multinational company. Post marriage, the business continues to run with one difference. She works hard at it, he runs the accounts with a tight fist. She needs his permission to buy even the smallest trinket for herself. They live in one of the poshest parts of the city and speak the ‘cool’ lingo. It just gets disturbing to see that the branded purse that the lady carries, is monitored by her husband.

Then there was another couple on a cross-Europe tour that included an 8-hour flight layover. One of the foreign banks offered the services of a luxury lobby for their customers. Despite this couple being in possession of an account, they sat it out in the main waiting room. All because the name on the credit card was the wife’s and not the husband’s. In many respects, they are a high-flying couple that has an expansive enough lifestyle to warrant preferred bank relationships, international flights and luxury lobbies. But in thought (only glimpsed in this action), they’re no different from their counterparts of about a 100 years ago.

These misnomers aside, most modern couples must figure out some system of expense division. One couple I know, splits all their outgoing down in half and pays back dues at the end of the month. Another couple has allocated different expenses to each person and pays them off accordingly. Nobody actually talks about these things. I have a feeling that even couples who practice some sort of fair-expense-division, feel like they’re imposing an artificial, over-logical construct on something that should be above such petty matters. Personally, I don’t understand the embarrassment over talking money in a relationship. Isn’t it a universal truth that you can’t live on love & thin air alone? How about we contemporize that to ‘You can’t live on romcom dates & self-help conversations alone.’ If you’re sharing a meal, you gotta split the bill too.

The Unholy State Of Matrimony

* Image via Wikipedia

Getting married, let’s talk about that, shall we? Not the relationship itself or the state of being of its practitioners. That’s right, practitioners. Just because everyone does it, doesn’t detract from the fact that marriage is indeed, an artificial human construct, a social order and a belief system. Because it is all these things simultaneously, we find ourselves at the complex crossroads of ‘What am I supposed to do?’ and ‘What can I live with?’. I am talking about the WEDDING.

The fact is that human beings have evolved, and with them, the societal constructs. Why, then, are we stuck with the same template for matrimony that our ancestors seven generations prior, used? Let’s consider some of the better known rituals.

Dowry has now gained the status of a social taboo. Its premise of bartering human beings has been rejected as unethical and demeaning. Why are we then still holding onto ‘kanyadaan’ (which literally translates to ‘donating the girl’)? Doesn’t that jar on the ears just as much as a certain other word that has to do with a man who peddles women?

Then there’s jewelery, without which no self-respecting Indian wedding would be complete, the larger, blingier and more expensive, the better. Traditionally, gold was investment, supposedly the wealth given to a woman to assure her financial security. Now, first of all, gold is not an investment anymore. Jewellery that is bought, essentially becomes a sunk cost since the emotional upheaval associated with having to sell it is an impenetrable exit barrier. Associating too much status value & sentimental attachment with gold has thus devalued it as an investment commodity.

Secondly, it is not the only source of financial security available anymore. Wouldn’t property or bonds or even money in a bank account be wiser than a physical piece of gold that can easily be stolen, damaged or mislaid?

Thirdly, (and need I even say this?) the origins of this archaic practice of covering a woman with gold stem from the same root as concessions made to the ‘weaker sex’. Admittedly, there are any number of women willing to be waited on hand-to-foot so they don’t need to do any work. Propagating regressive attitudes isn’t solely a male thing. Add to this, the massive marketing machinery, that ironically enough, contorts jewelery into a symbol of women’s empowerment rather than its exact opposite. Being a woman (and a vain one, at that) myself, I’m adequately appointed with enough baubles & trinkets to look shamefaced about it. I live with myself with the (albeit weak) stand to limit these to non-precious ‘artificial’ jewelery. I also baulk at the idea of expensive jewelery as a gift. (I mean, would you expect me to be grateful if I were gifted a ball-and-chain?).

Finally, let’s talk about the elaborate rituals that vary by caste, community and geography. Who even knows what they mean anymore? Even among those who believe and insist on their practice – typically senior family members – how many actually understand what is being recited, the significance of a ceremonial fire, the value of that thread or the meaning of the rice-throwing, the turmeric/vermillion application? My bet is that this question will be met by one of the following:

  • Stony silence
  • Declarations of solidarity with faith, religion or country (mystifying, this last one)
  • Accusations of being ‘too logical’ (mysteriously a character flaw at such a moment)
  • Tears, angry words, threats or insults
  • All of the above

And yet, none of them answers the question. Why are so many of us willing to embark on what might be the most poignant adventure of our lives, with practices that we do not know, understand, identify with or believe in? What bodes it for the future of a relationship that begins by buckling under pressure to appease a third party altogether? What does it say about a couple who make the commitment of a lifetime by pandering to other people, regardless of their own beliefs?

A ritual without meaning is just a farce. And out of context, it borders on hilarious. I’ve never seen a bridegroom on a white horse that didn’t look horribly uncomfortable and somewhat sheepish. Every single married friend I have testifies to the wedding album creation as an ardous, unpleasant process of photographers barking orders and plastic smiles pasted on for hour. Nothing strikes me as more artificial than the queue of people lining up for a couple of minutes on a stage to hand over a gift, shake hands with the couple (standing in front of the ubiquitous gilt chairs with red upholstery), pose for a photograph and then make a beeline for the food. Most ironical of all, food, that one surefire indicator of the ‘success’ of a wedding usually ends up being something that the bridal couple itself ends up having no time for.

What’s with the ‘success’ tag of a wedding anyhow? Since when did beginning a personal relationship get associated with providing mass-level entertainment, social pandering and budget overflows? I don’t see anything holy about this state of matrimony.

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*If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

The Myth Of Monogamy & The Promise Of Polyamory

Image Source: James Callan on Flickr (via Zemanta)

The Single Married Man says:

Yes, I am back.

So what do we talk about today?

How about the reasons why men cheat? But I am sure there are tonnes of articles and justifications that you can find on the internet (Google informs me there are 4.7 million results when you type that phrase in)

So I thought I’d merely point you to a couple of very interesting articles someone shared online.

One was this review of Stephanie Coontz’s book “Marriage a History” which says:

“Marriage was a way of turning strangers into relatives, of making peace, of making permanent trading connections,” Coontz says. “There are many different languages that call wives the Anglo-Saxon equivalent of the word ‘peace-weaver’.”

The other was a blog post written by Dave Pollard who writes:

Anthropologists have concluded that such settling is unnatural, and that is why the chemistry of love binds us to a single partner only for a brief period sufficient to produce offspring and ensure they are sufficiently provided for until they are weaned.

Personally speaking, I am attracted to people all the time, and I don’t mean it in a sexual way all the time. Today’s generation calls it by new names like “Friends with Benefits” and the needless need to label relationships.

Happiness comes not by defining and putting boundaries around a certain thing, but by expanding it.

In my decade of being married I can count the moments of true happiness and the hours of feeling burdened with expectations and pain and hurt.

Yes marriage is hard work. And while people crib openly about going to work on Mondays and celebrate by saying “Thank God it’s Friday” – no one (at least publicly) says they are sick of marriage.

Commitment. That’s a big word. A word that gets interpreted by different people even if its the same context. Add infidelity to that list.

Women say commitment has to be not just physical but emotional as well. However, every married man doesn’t share everything with his wife. How about bitching about his wife’s habits to the boys? Is that a break of commitment? How about sharing that with female colleagues? Suddenly the lines blur, depending on who the audience is.

“But its the intent” Do I hear you say?

Unfortunately, intent is never visible – no matter how much intuition you go by. What matters is behavior. In offices men and women often end up having “office spouses” – a usually platonic relationship. Would their “real spouses” call that “emotional infidelity”

In the overall analysis, every man and woman has different emotional, intellectual, sexual needs. So why not have different “loves” for each need. And such needs change with time too. People grow apart.

Our parents’ generation did not marry for love – hence they stayed together. If we marry for love at least we should be committed to love itself.

How To Deal With The Single Married Man

Ideasmith says,

Please join me in welcoming XX Factor‘s first guest-contributor. He’s a friend who often has an interesting male perspective to offer on the posts. Meet The Single Married Man and here’s his first post:

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Why does a relationship fall apart?’

I still don’t know the answer to that question, though I suspect its got to do with expectations.

We don’t talk of expectations or values when we are flush with the glow of infatuation. However expectations are what make/ruin a relationship – and they have to be communicated in advance.

A lot of the expectations can be “value” or “condition” based – things like “I want a husband who keeps a steady job and buys a house for me by the time we are 30” – if you can’t meet that, buddy, you’re doomed.

I have been married for 11 years – and I am going through a divorce now…Have seen my behavior – scrutinized it – so here are the top tips for dealing with a married man going through divorce

1. He will hit on anything in skirts/salwar kameez/jeans – As someone who’s been married the guy will try to see if he’s still “got his game” – so he’ll try out all the old lines on all the single/separated women

2. If you’re a married woman don’t tell him about your bad marriage – Divorcing guys hone into married women going through a bad patch. He’ll think you are “fair game” without the baggage

3. What had attracted her to you is the bone of contention – Remember what she found adorable about you – your forgetfulness – your laid back attitude , she will hate you for it. And other women would like you for it. Don’t fall for it.

4. He’ll be teary eyed and emotional – We saw Sanjeev Kumar in “Pati Patni aur Woh” – learn the lesson

5. If you’re single – and are attracted to grey hair – deep voice , stay away

In time the married guy will go through a divorce and be single again. Until that happens, legally – give him a wide berth.

– The Single Married Man

To Marry Or Not To Marry, That Is The Question

Recently a friend explained why he doesn’t believe in the institution of marriage. He can’t stand the political dynamics that are natural to any family, the complication of multiple opinions and agendas and the excessive rituals. I can’t say I agree. I know there is a common notion (further popularized by pop culture) that women are programmed to love the idea of marriage, due to the paraphernalia of weddings. But those aren’t my reasons for believing in marriage.

First of all, I distinguish the wedding from the marriage. The wedding is the formalization, the ceremony that symbolizes that two people are henceforth bound together, socially and legally. Customs may vary but this is the fundamental purpose of every single wedding ceremony conducted over the world. It is a ritual and like all other rituals, it only has as much significance as the people carrying it out, attach to it. It is true that no paper or custom can ensure or create a fulfilling union between two people. That has to be built by the two people in question, bit by agonizing, confusing, wearying bit.

Let’s look at marriage itself, beyond the rituals, beyond the superficialities of sindoor and rings. It is the meeting and combining of two people’s lives. It is the merging of assets, of tangible ones like money & possessions and of intangibles like career, eating habits, lifestyle choices etc.

Take the most basic human action of eating. Everyone does it. It’s difficult enough to decide on one meal to be shared by two people (eating place, seating, cuisine, taste, spice, vegetarian/non-vegetarian etc). How much more complicated it would be to repeat this for the rest of the two people’s lives? Multiply that several thousandfold for every other aspect of life above food.

This alone tells me that the only sensible way to start is to do it in an organized manner. Marriage signifies just that, with several of the supposedly meaningless rituals providing a framework for two people to undertake this arduous venture. I’d say that’s a template at best and can (and should) be customized to the couple’s requirements.

Considering what a massive undertaking this is, it’s only prudent to account for issues and breakdowns. I think it’s a fool’s errand to go starry-eyed into something as big as a lifelong relationship and assume blithely that everything will work out in a ‘happily ever after’ way. Marriages are not always happy. Unions are not guaranteed to work. Compatibility may not last. While a relationship should only be undertaken with the hopes of it working, the possibility that it may not should also be borne in mind.

What then of two lives that were joint together (or at least attempted to)? The division of those aforementioned assets is yet another complicated exercise, one that often consumes the people involved, completely and leaves everyone dissatisfied. There’s no easy way to unite or to end emotional involvement; that bit is always going to be bloody. It seems wise to at least sort of the relatively easier things like possessions and even that’s not easy. A formal ritual strikes me as the process that can be closed most cleanly. If at this juncture, the law must be brought in as an impartial third party, it is only fair to have it be a party to the union right at the start, which is the legal wedding ritual.

Personally, I may have the temerity to go against society and the strength to survive a messy breakdown, outside the structure of marriage. However, I cannot guarantee the same for my children. It doesn’t feel fair for me to thrust my life’s choices and their consequences onto my children, even before they choose it for themselves. Society still isn’t easy on the children of a single parent, especially an unmarried one, never mind an unmarried mother. Whether I ever have children or not is immaterial. This is far too important for me to overlook what might be even a remote possibility.

I won’t (and haven’t) run around desperately in search of a partner to sucker him into the grand party of a wedding. I’ve lived a reasonably happy single life for many years. However, if I decide to build a lifelong relationship with a man, marriage is the only way I’d consider going about it.

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A version of this article is posted at Yahoo! Real Beauty.

XXFactored!: October 2010

Did you know that The XX Factor was on Facebook? In addition to the posts that come up here, I also frequently link to articles of interest that I find all over the blogosphere. Style, dating, relationships, humour and everything else XX Factor outside the blog find their place in my links. Facebook makes it really easy for me to share what I read with my interested readers. But I realized some of my readers are not on Facebook and I don’t want them to miss out on the entertainment! So here’s what The XX Factor was reading this month:

  • How do you know when a relationship is exclusive? (via Lemondrop)
  • Bharatmatrimony’s witty insight on marriage. (via Twitter)
  • 5 tired boy moves we’d like to see laid to rest. (via Lemondrop)
  • 5 romantic gestures that will turn her off! (via Modern Man) Yes, you’re welcome, men!
  • What is your dating style? (via Facebook)
  • A schematic mapping a woman by her behaviour into every single media stereotype ever. (via Overthinking it)
  • Do you have all the 8 types of friendships you need to grow as a person? (via The Frisky)
  • Where are you on the Hipster Fashion Cycle? (via Republic of Chic)
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