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Perhaps the most vital life decision we make is hitching our hopes, dreams and happiness to another human being -- inviting someone to the passenger seat for the unpredictable journey that is life. While such a decision should never be taken lightly or without due consideration, there exist certain social pressures that muddy the waters, so to speak. The tendency to fixate on the subject of marriage, especially when it comes to single people in their mid-20s, is not one that will have gone unnoticed in our society.
Thankfully, modern times have seen the once-coercive nature of such persuasion transform into generally light-hearted coaxing, but the tendency is as widespread as before.
What better time then, than Valentine's Day to delve into the attitudes of these often-cornered 20-something singletons. Some, especially among the fairer sex, feel weighed down by the pressure to get married by a certain age, fearing that they may have passed their 'sell-by dates', while others can successfully ignore wedding sirens and contentedly enjoy what is a rare and wonderful phase of life. The Centrefold article samples all these different attitudes, but if there is a common thread running through them, it is that no pressure should outweigh the importance of living a life worth leading.
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
More than a friend
But by the time she embarks upon her teens, the bond that you two shared seems to be falling apart. The new friends in her life have proven themselves to be great substitutes for the support and care that you once bestowed upon her. You see her change but you cannot grasp the reasons why. You try to protect her from all the evils that you fear might come her way, only to get pushed away further and develop a feeling of enmity.
As time passes by, you see her grow, you see her mature into this lady that you have dreamt her to be. You see her winning the world, and taking on responsibilities you never thought she could handle.
She not only focuses on her own well being, but also tries to take care of your needs at your feeble age. You start seeing yourself in her and become fearful that now she will leave your bounds just as once you left yours. You try to hold her back once again, in ways more than one.
But that is the way just until about you are thirteen, when the world around you becomes saliently colourful and you start feeling like as if you have wings. The once so remarkable person all of a sudden becomes the most ignorant, benighted and out-of-touch individual who always fails to understand your emotions and the ups and downs of your highly happening life.
It seems as if she tries to hold you back from all that makes you happy and derives some form of sadistic pleasure form it. You just cannot get far enough away from her and occasionally end up creating war wrenching situations with her, and that is how you carry on for at least the next six years.
Then somewhere between your twenties and thirties you realise how naïve you were at that tender age and laugh it off. The added pressure of building your own home enables you to look at your mother from a completely different perspective, and you somewhat start grasping the magnanimity of all that she has done for you to make you what you are. But though you have come a long way and are completely capable of taking all the responsibilities on your own shoulders, you somehow find yourself tied back once again by the same person who is too afraid to let you go, who is too troubled to see the butterfly finally draw its wings, ready to hit the wilderness.
And the cycle keeps on repeating itself.
No relationship is quite as primal as the one between a mother and her daughter, one that is sentimentalised and honoured. The chemistry in this relationship is a wonder, driven completely by the strings of heart while the brain has little or no significance at all.
Haseen Cherry, mother of a 4-year-old, describes her relationship with her mother by saying, “She still never fails to project her opinion in all the aspects of my life, be it the way I treat my daughter or the way I handle my career. But I also understand that most of what she says are things that she has learned from her own life experiences which I believe has strong basis, and hence I try to incorporate them in my life, discarding the ones that I find hard to follow.”
“I have nurtured my daughter to give her an ambitious outlook, to make her feel that she can reach her goals and I can very well see her pursuing and fulfilling her dreams. But I am also increasingly concerned about her safety and security issues, and I am sure a lot of the parents would share the same apprehension.
"So I understand why she gets distressed when I stand against her path to freedom, and free ways that will help her achieve what she wants. But that is something I have to do despite the negativity. But I always try to make sure that I am not irrational while imposing decisions on her and try to reason my side of the explanation so that she understands me,” puts Hosne Ara Chowdhury, mother of a university going girl.
When the whole world shuns you, it is only a mother who will accept you with her arms wide open. She can understand the most buried needs of yours and tell that you are lying just by looking at your eyes. So no matter how big the communication gap, there is this innate umbilical tie that never goes away, no matter how old you are or how far away she is.
By Afrida Mahbub
INTERPRETER OF MALADIES
The oddity of being single
Dr. Nighat Ara,
Some degree of societal pressure to get married by twenty-five might seem like an ambiguous message and it could be difficult for some to comprehend the logic behind it. Coercing someone to get married by a particular age is almost in violation of basic human rights and that is not part of this discussion.
Mild to moderate social pressure tends to be truer for orthodox middle-class families. Across all cultures, inadvertently it is the middle-class people who tend to be the flag bearers of these social norms and rules. The higher- or lower-class people are mostly beyond reach and have the freedom to set their own norms. Whether we admit it or not, the existence of a class system is acutely present and painfully noticeable in every aspect of our society.
Social expectation to live life in a particular fashion has its roots in the history of human evolution, age-old traditions and collective wisdom. Some of these societal rules are based on facts while others are based on myths.
Well-recognised developmental milestones such as learning to walk or talk by a particular age indicate healthy growth of a child. Similarly, achieving or failing to achieve the psycho-social growth pillars (e.g. the concept of object permanence, reciprocating emotional response, etc.) by a particular age are also indicative of health or illness.
According to Erikson's psycho-social developmental chart, Young Adulthood (20yrs -- 35yrs) is the time when people have to resolve this conflict between intimacy and isolation. If this intra-psychic conflict resolution fails to happen in a timely manner, it could manifest as a problem at a later stage of life.
In the present social context, two-income families have become the standard. Women prefer to get the highest level of education and want to be fully prepared to join the workforce before getting married. Men are expected to be financially capable and responsible enough to be an eligible bachelor. Taking all these into consideration, the mid-twenties seem to be a reasonable age to get married for both genders.
Staying stuck at one level for too long can bring a sense of stagnation and thereby slow down the prospect of living life fully. Marriage gives a platform to grow in all dimensions of life following the ground rules of society.
Early marriage works for a lot of women who are fully devoted to raising families. However the foundation of teen marriages is often very weak and ends up in a higher rate of divorce or unhappiness. Late marriages are quite common among highly ambitious career-minded people. Delayed marriage might also mean denying, suppressing or sublimating basic sexual drive. Once someone gets comfortable in diverting these impulses, the need to get married may evaporate sooner or later. Nonetheless, some young adults have to postpone or sacrifice their personal dreams for an altruistic reason and they make such decisions because that is who they are.
In a cross-cultural context, children are expected to leave home and start living an independent life by the mid-twenties at the latest. Some children grow early and leave home in their teens. Some of them tend to go back and forth before they are ready to finally move out! In our society, marriage is the only safe way to exit from the family of origin as far as women are concerned. Independent single living is not yet a realistic choice for most middle-class women. Transcending from parent-child relationship to adult-adult relationship may prove to be quite challenging while living under the same roof.
This perceived social pressure to get married by twenty-five is also a privilege for young adults. They are after all in control of the market place and can take full advantage of it. On the other hand, males and females beyond that age group have to go against the tide and fight with many obstacles to get married. Particularly, if someone falls off the wagon in their forties or fifties and goes back to a dry dating market, society is usually not as kind to them as it is to young adults.
In conclusion, I would like to say that there is no clear-cut right or wrong age to get married. It has to be an individually tailored decision depending on life situations. Society can only set a standard but it has to be flexible enough to accommodate diverse needs of people living in that society.
With love from the uncles and aunts
When you are young you must have heard your parents say a number of times “You will understand once you have your own children!” This seems to be their logic behind every irrational thing they throw at you, every bit of over protectiveness and misplaced worrying. Parents!
But then you grow older. You come to an age when you are still free of the responsibilities of an adult and also free of the restraints of a child. You are in your early twenties. If you are lucky you will get a taste of real life right at this age if you have young nephews and nieces. Nephews and nieces are the perfect way to experience the unconditional love one feels only for the offspring of one's own kin minus the responsibilities of raising a human being.
“When my sister was pregnant I did not visit her often,” says Anam Turjo, a first time uncle to little Aarav. “I wasn't waiting expectantly for his birth or being an excited uncle till the day he was born” Anam reminiscences.
“Honestly speaking I was just doing my brotherly duty being at the hospital but when Aarav was passed onto my arms I felt a life changing bolt go through me. Today after three years since that fateful night my lifestyle has completely changed. I no longer look forward to the adda sessions with friends after work but rather a play date with that sole source of joy in my life.”
Being an uncle or aunt is far more entertaining than being a parent. The first reason is of course the 'coolness'. In the eyes of a nephew or niece the uncle who can throw her up into the air or dangle him by his legs and an aunt who will patiently play dress up with her or dance with him is coolness defined. The uncle and aunt do not ask them to eat or to sleep on time but rather help them hide the food and play beyond bed time.
The second is the aunt or uncle being an adult. They can take the kids out, bring them chocolates and toys when they come back home and have gadgets with games in them.
“Falak is crazy for my phone,” says Syeda Faiza, Falak's mother's sister. “She loves it because of the colourful themes, the glitters and the sparkles. I love how she is such a girly girl; we can spend hours applying and reapplying makeup and nail polish or wearing saris with my dupatta.” Faiza's face lit up at this point, “The days I know she is home are the days I can't wait to rush back. She's my little darling and it feels unreal that even two years back she didn't even exist.”
It is indeed unreal how someone so new can alter another life so drastically in such a short while. Nephews and nieces sneak into your life with their cute little faces and slowly take hold of your heart. They teach you to love like a parent; that unconditional love that comes straight from the core of one's heart with no strings attached to logic or rationale.
“I have three nephews and nieces in total,” declares Farhan Hossain, a university senior. “I spent very less quality time with them and sometimes even lock myself in my room to escape from the chaos when they are all here together, but then at the most random moments little memories of their most recent escapades cross my mind and I find myself smiling. A rush of warmth which I guess is that unconditional love all my siblings keep prattling about, engulf me.”
So much love being expressed for nephews and nieces remind me of my own, who are the inspiration for this article and hence deserves a few words.
Airah, Manal and Abyaz are the three energy balls whom I rarely get but thoroughly enjoy. From our makeup sessions to girls versus boys fights to crazy acrobatics (that's me throwing them onto the bed) every minute spent with them is a precious memory.
Truly nephews and nieces in your early twenties give you a taste of parenthood. They teach you to care for another human being to an extent where you would not remove your aching arm from under their sleeping head. So to all you young cherubs who are the darlings of so many aunts and uncles, thank you for making us feel the unconditional love.
By Raisaa Tashnova
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