I don’t know where else to turn, so I will rely on the anonymity of the internet and the chance of gaining an online support group of readers who will help me soldier through this really weird period of my life. You don’t really need to know me – only that I’m 23 and about to make the craziest decision of my life.
No, I’m not about to quit my job and backpack through Europe or streak around the block…twice.
What I’m doing is probably much crazier. I’m about to accept an arranged marriage. I’m about to marry Jay, the man my parents picked out for me, and I’m about to convince myself that somehow, we will find love at the end of all of this.
Arranged marriage is a weird concept and very scary as a girl who was born and raised in the United States. As somebody who went to a very liberal university in New York City, I still cannot believe that I am going to allow my parents to make the biggest decision in my life thus far rather than try to blunder about until I find my man by myself.
Part of me is excited by the challenge of an arranged marriage, and part of me is revolted that I am feeling this excitement at all.
Mostly, I am just trying to reason through why I am saying yes, and explain myself to my friends and family. I don’t want to become bitter and resentful before I even give marriage a chance, although I admit that I feel as though I am giving up on love by saying yes to Jay.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with him – that’s not the problem. The problem is just that we don’t love each other, and I don’t know if marrying a man I don’t love will ever work out.
I wish that I could live out our possible futures in a dream and then pick the best possible path to happiness. I think Sabrina was lucky enough to have that chance in one episode of Sabrina The Teenage Witch. I think I am rambling.
The first time I met Jay was sufficiently awkward enough to convince me that I was right in despising arranged marriage. I think I was skeptical because I have kept so much of my life hidden from my parents that I don’t expect them to know what kind of man I can see myself with. They’re sheltered, you see, and what they don’t know won’t really hurt them. I don’t kiss and tell. (Except on this blog, and I’m going to enjoy the anonymity and blog away)
I’m going to try to remember as much of our first conversation as I can.
“Hey, it’s nice to meet you,” I said to the guy as he slid into the seat across from me. We were at a Starbucks in the city located geographically in between my office and his.
“Yeah, I know. Hi, what’s up?”
I could already tell it would be awkward. We’d spoken on the phone once before when setting up this meeting and then texted earlier today already to make sure we were going to the right Starbucks. Clearly, he was Jay.
“Trust me, this is weird for me too,” I said to him.
“Oh. Yeah, I don’t often meet prospective wives either. Talk about pressure”
“So you mean you’ve met other prospectives before? Should I be flattered I’m getting a chance?”
He smiled a little and then the silence stretched on uncomfortably.
“So what do you want to drink?”
“I’ll take an iced coffee. Love the smell, can’t stand the taste. Of hot coffee, I mean”
“I’m basically addicted to coffee so as long as you don’t mind the smell, we’re cool.”
Then we settled into another silence as we contemplated what it could possibly mean that our first conversation was about whether we liked the smell of coffee or not.
A minute later, he got up to go order our coffees and I sat there mentally running through my checklist. The fact that he didn’t have an Indian accent was the most relieving part of my day.
“I’m sorry, this is really weird for me,” he says to me when he returns with our coffees. I made a face and shrugged. It was a weird situation, period. We just had to make the most of it.
“So pretend that this is our first date then. We met at a party last week and exchanged numbers. And now here we are.”
That’s what broke the ice – it was something we could both relate to because we’d both grown up here and it was a more comfortable introduction than a contrived meeting to discuss if we were compatible for marriage.
I won’t bore you with all of the details, but I think the beginning of that conversation was worth blogging about. Something to look back on and laugh at? Maybe despair over. Not sure yet.
So yeah, coffee. He loves drinking it, and I love smelling it. So far, so good.
I have this list of questions I wrote in High School when my parents threatened to marry me off to a guy from India if I didn’t get into a good college. It had been a joke, but I wanted to be prepared.
1. How many kids do you want?
2. Do you smoke?
3. What’s your opinion on women who drink?
4. Are you a virgin? (Probably NOT a good idea to ask this one at our first meeting unless I really want to scare him away)
5. Do you like to dance?
6. Are you a morning person!?
7. Favorite food? Cuisine?
8. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
9. Do you like to travel? (He had better answer yes to this one)
11. Have you ever had a girlfriend?
12. Ass or titties? (Okay this one was mostly just for fun. Maybe a good test of his sense of humor?)
13. How religious are you
14. Do you like long drives?
15. How athletic or into sports are you?
When I was younger, I thought that list was a good rundown of the basics. The simple questions that I didn’t want to come later as a surprise, and the small things that I know I wanted in the perfect life partner that I fantasized about.
It’s strange because I made this list right after I went with my cousin to meet a girl our parents had picked out for him. “She comes from a good family, beta,” they told us both over and over. I was skeptical and I’m sure it showed on my face when I first met her. They had exchanged pictures before and were meeting in person for the first time today. With the whole family in tow.
I am so thankful that my first time meeting Jay wasn’t my first time meeting his whole family as well. I’d have blown it for sure.
See, I write things like that and wonder why I am trying to please them all. My parents, his parents, and him. Why should I care? Why didn’t part of me choose to rebel and dress in really repellant clothing and eat a lot of garlic before meeting him?
“I’m American,” I tell myself over and over. Growing up, that is how I have justified all of my unique thoughts. So now, when I could have easily worked myself out of an arranged marriage, why am I even contemplating marrying this man?
I have thought some more about what I wrote earlier and tried to figure out why I am okay with arranged marriage.
I think it is time to introduce my readers to Dan. Dan is the ex-boyfriend. The first serious relationship I had with a man.
We broke up when I realized I loved him.
In a word, Dan was perfect. How can I go from loving perfection to loving anything else? He is my first everything, and no matter what happens, I cannot imagine a plane of existence where I will not be powerfully attracted to him.
But we broke up because he’s not Indian, and I realized that as fun and amazing and spectacular as our relationship was, I could never let it deepen into anything more because my parents didn’t even know he existed.
If you are wondering how one can possibly hide a five year relationship, just ask a brown girl.
There is no Hindi word for “boyfriend” or “girlfriend.” For too long, Indian society has gone on pretending that it’s still alright for the community to play matchmaker, and honestly, I am sick of it.
I used to wonder what reasons there could possibly exist that would allow an educated Indian girl in today’s society to accept that age-old destiny and enter an arranged marriage.
Whenever Dan and I spoke about it, I would tell him I would never be one of those dumb girls without any ambition or desires of their own.
I still don’t think I am one of those girls, but I have found a reason nonetheless. That’s why I’m here in this predicament, blogging about how I might possibly be marrying a guy I don’t know. Clearly.
The reason is family. It’s an extremely unfair reason, but if I had to show you how compelling it was, I’d say envision all of the emotional blackmail, peer pressure, guilt, persuasive arguments, and bribes you have ever seen, and add them all up. Then throw in a really cute puppy for good measure.
My family is something that I have grown into and am inseparable from. I have a large family with many cousins, nieces, nephews, uncles, aunts, and elders. They have been there to give me life, love, advice, friendship, gifts, and wisdom.
If marrying an Indian man is the only way to sustain that family, then that is a small sacrifice to pay. Who am I to be so picky and declare that I won’t marry an Indian man.
I think that when I began dating Dan, it was to rebel against them and try to declare my independence in some contrived way. My own personal secret. But our relationship didn’t just end in a few months, and now trying to imagine a life without him is really, really hard too.
The problem is that I can’t just forget him. He didn’t cheat on me, and we didn’t have a really big argument that brought out any irreconcilable differences.
I am the problem. My ethnicity and the family that raised me is the problem. I love them, and that’s a problem.
Because the way I see it, I can never tell them about him. I can’t keep my love at the expense of breaking all of their hearts. So I broke off my relationship with him before we would get hurt anymore and now I will weep and grieve and mend in time.