VISITING A FRIEND AFTER 11 YEARS

My friend and I sat in her parents dungeon. That’s what she calls “her studio” .  She mentions that a colleague of hers posed a question which unexpectedly caused some agitation. The question was, “Did you marry to please your parents, and your traditional and cultural values?”. She realized “OMG, I totally did!” She assured, that she loves her husband, who is like her, from a conservative and traditional background. But, reflecting on her initial impulse to marry, she had to be honest and confess that she had done it to please the immediate society that surrounded her, close family and friends. At eighteen, her eldest sister, had converted to Islam, by marrying a man outside of their Hindu religion. My friend could see how this had deeply hurt their parents. They could not see the possibility of real love, due to him being Muslim. And, although she thought this was a racist and xenophobic perspective, in the end, she wanted to please her parents, and choose the route of least resistance by doing what she knew was required of her. Perplexed, she concluded that she had not done this consciously. And, it was not until her colleague had hit her with the question that she became fully awakened to the life choice she had made, it’s reasons, and perhaps its ramifications.

I found all this quite shocking. I have always believed in my independence, and marrying from choice, not relying on the fickle aspects of society, culture and tradition to dictate my life to me. I guess growing up in Denmark and New York, afforded this privilege. And, I know that I was lucky to have my parents who, had a unique position for being Tamil. They never made marriage and “settling down”  a primary goal, for me. They preferred, I work hard at my academics, pursuing a vocation that would be gratifying. Of course, you can still accomplish these goals and be married. But, they taught me well, if it doesn’t happen, keep going.

My friend, whose marriage, was actually pretty recent, never moved out of her parents two story house. The same house I spent endless days in as a teenager. This house where I ate the finest traditional Trinidadian home cooked meals. I was addicted to, obsessed with, her mothers homemade hot sauce. She made it with peppers she grew in their backyard in the summertime. As, I’m sitting here, in my high school friends basement in Queens, NY. I realize it’s been eleven years since we’ve seen each other.  And, we reminisce about being teenagers.  How, vulnerable we were. We kept reminding each other that we haven’t changed a bit. We look the same. We are the same people, only wiser, we tell each other. I look around at this basement, my friend and her husband have turned into their “studio”. And, I think to myself, this was actually, a pretty good strategy. They have saved a lot of money by living with her parents, rent free. Not only that, but they have both paid off their student loans, and will be soon using their savings to buy a new home to start their family. I on the other hand, I could not wait to get out of my parents house. And, let’s just say, it has not been exactly easy for me to pay off my student loans.

Even taking the subway to get from my sisters house, to my friends sisters birthday dinner, both in Queens was a challenge, distance wise. I felt like I was traveling to another country. Finally arriving, I walked in just as her father, happened to be telling the table an embarrassing story about me. How I had run away from my parents house to come and live in their home for a few days. Until my father rang him up furious and threatening, and “Uncle” had to send me back. We were all laughing. And after greeting and finally sitting down I realized, her whole family was there and I hadn’t seen any of them in eleven years. We were all laughing at my expense, but I didn’t mind being humbled to my seventeen year old self.

Yet, here I was in my early thirties, with all my traditional friends, who were most, by now, married and settled down. Four of my friends and two cousins, close to my age, all married. The other cousins had boyfriends or girlfriends. I remain single. And, for the most part don’t feel any real urgency to change this. Even with the struggles of being solitude at this age, I prefer the contentment of knowing my own mind, and living in my truth.

Growing up Tamil, I was raised in a community of people who, I believe have been brainwashed to mindlessly follow cultural norms. I could have been a victim to this, if it weren’t (as I mentioned earlier) for my parents and, perhaps having an innate rebellious personality. I broke away from them all. All the blind biases of tradition. It seems lately, whenever I speak to a Tamil Aunty, the big QUESTION is raised, “So when are you getting married?” I’m sure it isn’t intended to be a trick question, but I always feel we are tethering in a time warp. How should I answer? Teach them some modern feminist rhetoric, and let them know that question should not be asked. Or, should I let it be, and just say “Oh, whenever I find the right guy”. This second option is usually, the simplest and fastest way out of the conversation, so it’s the answer I rely on most. 

Don’t get me wrong, there have been plenty of times when I feel lonely, and want to have someone there to hold me and understand, and try to make it better. But, then reality kicks in, logically, I remind myself, that things will happen if or when the time is right. Until then, I choose not to dwell on it. Nor, to compulsively set myself up against time, or to compare myself to other women my age. And, I’m not a alone. I’m amongst a group of similar minded, independent women, who are introspective, and daring to truly put it on line and pursue our hearts desire, whatever art or career or service oriented dimension it might take. We know that we are not, exactly doing what is required of us. But, we are paving new pathways for the future. We don’t feel that thirty is a do or die apocalypse and we must settle down and marry or be doomed to a dark and lonely here after. Like Jay Z, (I think it was Jay Z) said “thirty is the new twenty”.

So, my friends, stay focused on your dreams, have fun, and enjoy life! If you have a partner that supports you great! If you are single, wonderful! What a perfect time to focus on yourself, and do the things you always wished and dreamed of. By the way reader, this is not only for women in their thirties. The main idea, that I want to give, is that we should be happy living OUR life. The life that pleases US on an intuitive, gut level. We know what our inner urges are (hopefully, something positive) we know what feels in balance, within. Not our friends, not our parents, not our culture, or some societal norms, not our religion for its sake alone. Happiness is everything, true self love not vanity, or narcissism, but real self love, that comes from knowing who you are. And, then sharing that you with the world. And, in the process, causing as little harm to others as possible. So, go find and share your happiness ladies and gentlemen, whether you choose to be single or married.

Cheers!

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