Though I am not a hopeless romantic, I have been blessed with the most romantic boyfriend on the planet. Valentine’s Day was a surprise as we went downtown to see Dirty Dancing, the musical. Let me just say that I had the “time of my life”. More than the play, we ended up dining at Aroma Fine Indian Cuisine which was a quiet and nice little romantic Indian restaurant very close to the theatre. It was such a perfect evening, and the chicken there was to die for! Although I believe that Valentine’s Day is a corporate shill of a holiday, it really is the special little moments in each relationship that make everything worth it in the end. It wasn’t the outrageous romantic gestures or the candlelit dinner that made that day incredibly special though, it was the chance to reconnect in a different setting that truly set the day apart. Sometimes, your actual physical surroundings can really make such a difference in your mentality. My suburban town outside of Toronto is an example of the monotony of everyday life. There are only franchises and movie theatres, but nothing that truly screams originality anywhere. I know it’s a cliché to categorize suburbia in this way, but the excitement of a place that has no spark the way a city does, does nothing to ignite the imagination. Toronto was a saviour not because it has overtly romantic facets the way Paris does, but because it is lively and such a change of pace from the suburban lifestyle experience. I honestly believe in places giving people energy, and Toronto gave me the energy and the realization that igniting the creativity in my own relationship through my own means is the only way to keep myself happy. I know relationships are a two person team, but if one person isn’t happy, it affects both people’s outlook, and making yourself happy is the first step in keeping the relationship alive.
I have been plagued by a case of worrying. Not that I worry about everything incessantly, but that I have specific nagging fears that envelop my thoughts throughout the day. Lately, they have been worries about my future. The troubled economy, my apathy towards school and most recently, my Indian mother giving me longwinded speeches about the importance of marriage in my future. These all contribute to the silent messages that seem to take up more and more brain space.
My mother, being from a society where marriage defined you as a woman, has been insisting that I find a husband or I will end up alone. Ending up alone wasn’t really on my list of things to do, but the option of diving into a permanent relationship just to not end up alone is a scary thought. Despite the high ratings of approval arranged marriages get, the data does not speak the everywoman’s language. The divorce rates in arranged marriages are lower, but that is due in part to the pressure put on couples to not get divorced. If love does not bloom between a couple, then living with the unhappiness is the duty of the woman and the man. Infidelity on part of the man in the relationship is also not frowned upon as highly as it is from the woman’s side. The ideals that are promoted in the rigid patriarchical society from India are brought to Canada as well, complicating the social structure that exists here. Although my mother means well, she has no idea that these issues will not and have not been addressed in the Indian community, and nor in any other immigrant community stretching from the Middle Eastern to various South Asian communities. It is because these ideals are so transfixed into the minds of those children who grow up in Canada that it sometimes takes generations to break away from them.
Nonetheless, I digress. Being from this mentality of thinking it is hard to know where you stand as a woman in between Canadian society and Indian communal culture. On the one hand, the family pressure to find someone to get married to is extremely tense. It makes it more problematic that I find myself committed to someone already, and therefore, the meetings with these individuals can get rather uncomfortable. As I am a true believer in emotional fidelity, it is hard when a stranger is asking you personal questions and you cannot find it in your heart to answer them. Is it emotional cheating if I give away so much of myself to a stranger, who technically wants to get into my pants later in life? And does having the family pressure make this ok? The situation can get incredibly murky, especially due to the fact that my parents do not know about my relationship. I always feel guilty when I am forced into these situations, and I feel queasy when my partner is forced into similar situations.
On a brighter note, having someone who goes though the same experiences as you, and still remains committed to your relationship can bring you closer together as well. There is nothing like a shared experience of humiliation and awkwardness to strengthen your bond. However, the flip side to this could be that you meet someone you really like, who is already pre-approved by your parents and it causes you to rethink the relationship that is kept in the dark from your parents. There is also an element of unfairness to those others involved, who do not know that you are in a relationship and may feel truly bad that they are breaking up a union just for the sake of their parent’s happiness.
In my books, when it comes to arranged marriage, no is the better answer. There is no reason why a couple who is in love should have to break a union just to please their parents. If pleasing the parents is the number one thing on your partners mind, then it may be time to rethink the relationship altogether. In a marriage of any kind, it is you that’s supposed to come first for your partner, and not the parents. If it is obvious that they are not respectful of this key ingredient of a successful marriage, then it is better to withdraw before you get in too deep. Commitment is hard to find, but finding the right person who will be respectful to you because of who you are, and not because their parents like you, is a gem worth keeping!
As for my worrying sessions, they’ll cool down until I graduate and the pressure is on to either find a job or run away from it all