Marriage sounds wonderful; the companionship, a person to watch Indian Matchmaking and feel bad for other people with, a person who is your in-group to judge, bully or exclude someone else. Ah! Just the option! But I don’t want to get married.
Getting married for women, TO ME, seems like entering an enterprise that is designed to benefit men. Imagine going to a party as a +1 to your friend and meeting a group of strangers (who know each other since they wore diapers). Now imagine playing a game that they invented in college based on their personalities and internal jokes. You are an outsider, by the virtue of not having seen them in puberty, by default, no matter how hard they try to include you, no matter how much of a people’s person you are. Women are the ‘+1’s going to the husband’s friend’s party in an Indian marriage.
After 30 years, I still see my mother and kaki being seen as ‘outsiders’ in a family get-together. As a psychologist, I understand that people who have not as much in common as the majority are out-group. The stories from their precious childhood do not include her. The traditions which one mold oneself around, hardly change to accommodate her. Inclusion, real inclusion, is unrealistic.
Luckily, and hopefully, you and your partner are playing on the same team. Which makes it better, and still, only as attractive as the prospect of being a religious minority shifting to Modi’s India. You will have to protest a lot to live your best life. And spend an inordinate amount of time behind bars.
Imagine how my life will changes. I will “visit” my parents, “too often” “too long”. An innocent act of continuing my Diwali traditions of 29 years will be an anomaly, an act worthy of defending, a “feminist protest”. The surname, the motifs I am to carry as a married woman, the politics of what I wear, I shall not get into. None of this will change for my partner. We entered this game as equals, but that has changed now. I cannot trust myself to not become resentful of my partner for having the advantages that are denied me.
In subtler, day-to-day unavoidable power struggles between me and my in-laws (similar to the ones between me and my family), my partner will become a moderator. To moderate issues between ‘a woman who is an out-group in HIS family’ against a person who has raised him for double the amount of time he has known me. This is an unfair position to put him in. But for my partner to take himself out of the equation will mean being left alone in an unknown territory, 1 vs. all, on the opposing team’s homeground, of all places! You wouldn’t let your team play that way!
Any change in the man’s behavior, any defense provided me to beat the structural disadvantage, will be viewed in a bad light: joru ka ghulam, henpecked. And because the man changed after marrying me, by the 2nd law of thermodynamics, the beloved son, the chirag of the family changed for the worse because of me. I don’t want those sorts of charges on my criminal records. I pride myself on being a pragmatist, on managing non-destructive conflict resolution. But imagine the complications of doing this as the ‘outsider with vested interested’. How will this not affect my relationship with my partner? A tender love, relied on and nurtured, suddenly in the Hunger Games arena.
I am aware of all the positive sides too. I promise I see it. If I didn’t Bollywood would gauge my eyes out and make them see it. But I need people to know this side too. To men, who may not see this from their place of privilege, notice it. And for women, in these positions, you are not alone. It has taken me 27 years and ALL of my money and energy to get here, in a place of relative peace. I’ll understand if I try to protect it.