Marriage sounds wonderful; the companionship, a person to watch Indian Matchmaking and feel bad for other people with, a person who
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). Now imagine playing a game that they invented in college based on their personalities and internal jokes. You are an outsider no matter how hard they try to include you. The shaadi system is not a magic traveling pant that fits all.
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.
Imagine my life 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.
After 30 years, I still see my mother, my kaki being seen as ‘outsiders’ in a family get-together. As a psychologist, I understand that a person who has not as much in common as the others is 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.
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. Moderate issues between ‘a woman who is an out-group in HIS family’ and ‘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 me, my partner to take himself out of the equation will mean being left alone in an unknown terriroty, which is also the home-base of the opposing team.
Any change in the man’s behavior, any defense provided me to beat the structural disadvantage, will be viewed in bad light; because the man changed after getting married. And 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 sort 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 is all this not to affect my relationship with my partner? A tender love relied on and nurtured will be put to complicated mind games. I cannot trust myself to not become resentful of my partner for having the advantages that are denied me.
I am aware of all the positive sides too. I promise I see it, possibly you see it too. 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 am right to protect it.