Remember Never to Think
Why are girls so obsessed with the idea of marriage? What is it that makes a girl as young as 13-years-old want to find a boy to feel “complete”? More importantly, why contemplate so much on having that perfect body structure, excellence in academia, and a respected career line only to have it reshuffled and re-arranged to please him and his entire family?
Simple. It starts with what one can call a “Cinderella-complex” and ends up with fear of being alone for the rest of their lives. Now, there is nothing wrong with wanting to love someone even in your teens and there is absolutely nothing wrong with feeling a little sad while sitting alone at home at the age of 40. The problem lies when girls in their late teens to early 20s get madly preoccupied and feel too sure about settling down. What is it that makes them hurry towards finding a man? Surely, a bunch of twenty somethings can't even overcome fidgeting over their own personality dilemmas let alone indulge into the complications of household responsibilities.
It's because other people constantly ask women of all ages, and in our society as early as 16 (and that too in the urban areas), the magical face-drainer question: “how come you're not married?" or "when are you getting married?" History has it that women by nature are people-pleasers and so ever since you are told of prince charming's arrival on your doorstep, waiting to lift you off your feet, you spend your entire life drooling over and perfecting that spick and span moment. So, the only purpose and goal becomes to get married, not only because you feel that your life is finally complete but also because you are no longer a subject of humiliation. People are now likely to accept you more in their society.
Lesson 1: A single girl is an ill-behaved girl.
Eightytwo million girls who now live in developing countries and are between the ages 10 to 17 will be married before their 18th birthday. In Bangladesh 74 percent are married before 18 (UNICEF). This is a statistic that includes the rural sector an area deprived of education, technology and of course, money. So, one can understand why a poor farmer would want his daughter married off so that he doesn't have to bear her cost and she (according to the parents) will be kept in a secure home for the rest of her life.
But what about Dhaka? What's with the young girls glittering in red and gold in all the community centres every monsoon and every winter? Notice the low number of brides-to-be in their late 20s or 30s? This is a scene that has been clicked from manual to digital cameras. Some things never really changed over the last 20 years.
The 21st century brings plurality in options and choices, so why is it that the minute a girl reaches an age-basket where she can finally start to think by herself without her family's consent, is she rushed to be caged within the consent of her in-laws? It's like the moment a girl realises she is capable of crossing the streets on her own, people fear that she might decide to walk for a change instead of being inside a protective armed vehicle.
Lesson 2: A girl who can take care of herself is one who will NEVER listen to others.
The idea of feeling accomplished only when with a man is of course nothing new. From Jane Austin to Sex And The City, from the immortal series of Bold and the Beautiful to the countless productions of Ekta Kapoor, it's all about finding a significant other, pleasing the significant other and of course sacrificing everything that makes a woman happy simply because her man's happiness is her happiness. So even though girls in Bangladesh are given more choices, nowadays, about what she can study, what jobs she can get into, and about higher education abroad, it still all comes down to studying a subject that is more feminine in nature, working in a profession that allows little gender mix and more time for the family; and of course going abroad means going with a husband more as a shielded tin-man than a romantic life partner.
It's not just the relatives the parents or the neighbours, most of the time it's everybody. Ads on television, whether they are about beauty products, cooking, talking on the phone or hunting for jobs, there is always the importance of having a chemistry between two people to sell the product. And it sells well. Both in TV shows and reality TV shows (on heartbreaks of love over money - can't decide baloney), the theme always circulates about finding a significant other no matter what the age, no matter how successful.
It's been hypnotised and hammered into the brains of young girls. There are many beautiful, talented and rich girls out there who in their hunt for man, any man, end up with the wrong ones. In the process they let go of their own hopes and dreams, most of the time claiming that it's a choice they planned to make anyway. But how can a 17 - 24 year old know what she really wants? This is probably the first time she will be allowed to experience some kind of independence in the real world anyway - whether by travelling alone to university, studying a subject that excludes home tutors or simply being involved in extra-curricular activities. Why halt her in the middle of her growth as an individual? She will not be the same person five years from now. Why not let her find her way towards maturity where, through the highs and lows, she will know how to take the right steps on her own?
Jacky Fleming, a feminist and cartoonist in her comic "Falling in Love" dedicates a chapter where she states that girls undergo a complete shift in personality, experiencing a "traumatic emotional transition" (p.12). The parents, who set the one single goal for girls, aggravate this transition. She claims that girls are "moulded and groomed" (p.20) for love and marriage until they have all the essential qualities a woman should have. Fleming also points out how girls themselves encourage each other in this. And even when parents interfere, the girl, although conscious of suffering prejudices, is powerlessly confronted with "Severely Restricted Expectations for the Future" (p.16).
Lesson 3: Remember never to think, it will lead you towards your happiness and heartbreaks to those around you.
(R) thedailystar.net 2009