To marry or not to marry is a choice that all people deserve to have. However, in a society where individual agency is often overruled by parental sentiments, social pressure and outdated stigmas, it is a luxury to have a say in the matter of matrimony, even today, for many Indian women. And if you are the kind who is still single, voluntarily or involuntarily, beyond the so-called ideal age to get married, you are answerable on a lot of fronts. As a result of this heckling women end up putting a lot of emotional labour into their single status. Does our society realise how draining it must be for single women to answer the unending volley of questions that comes their way? To have to endure taunts, warnings, blackmailing and criticism for just being unmarried?
- Being single is considered an ill-fate for a woman in our society.
- Single women have to deal with tons of concern, taunts, worry and advise for not being married.
- As a result of which they have to bear emotional stress to no fault of their own.
- Why are we so intimidated by the idea of an independent unmarried woman?
If you are above a certain age and still unmarried, you are looked down on or scrutinised.
Now there are many reasons why a woman may be single. Perhaps she hasn’t found the right partner, maybe she is not ready to settle down yet. Did anyone ask her if she wants to get married at all? In many cases, when the girl opts for an arranged alliance, factors like horoscope compatibility, stigmas around beauty, skin colour, skills as a homemaker etc, become impediments in the process. We still live in a world where prospective grooms and in-laws seek fair-and pious bahus who’ll dress, sit, work or even breath as per their liking. However, our society doesn’t see these factors as it focuses on a single thing – your marital status. If you are above a certain age and still unmarried, you are looked down on or scrutinised.
Being single isn’t bad, what makes it unbearable is the resulting social pressure. If given a choice most women and even men would rather not marry until they feel absolutely sure. But especially for women, being voluntarily single is a luxury that comes with a hefty price, emotionally. You have to pacify your parents who have developed anxiety and a mania of sorts to marry you off as soon as possible. You have to dodge relatives, neighbours and friends who line up rishtas after rishtas for you. And then there are your well-wishers who’ll lecture you on the biological clock and thinning of prospects once you cross over to the other side of the acceptable age.
A single woman who is above thirty, especially voluntarily is like every Indian aunty and uncle’s worst nightmare. She is a bad influence, and thus she should either be coaxed into getting married or one must steer their daughter away from her. This attitude does take a toll on a woman’s mindset. Even if she doesn’t mind being single, even when she is happy being unmarried, she has to carry this emotional baggage of living a life that is a taboo for women in the country.
While we must celebrate single women, let us also try to erase the social stigma around being a single woman, so they do not end up making tragic choices.
A phase which could otherwise be fun-filled and a chance for a woman to discover herself as an independent adult turns into a nightmare. I have seen the look of resentment and desperation in the eyes of girls who give in to the societal pressure but are unable to get a suitable match. With the proverbial clock ticking above their heads a girl in such a position may end up opting for an ill-match that spells long-term unhappiness. Why would parents confer such a fate on their own child, one asks? But their is a equally bad pressure on them and as a result a daughter transforms just into a liability.
It is easy to ask girls to enjoy singlehood and to advocate that they have the choice to say when they want to marry and to whom. But unless social outlook towards single women changes, they will not be free from this emotional baggage that may push them to mental health issues and keep them from enjoying their single status. So while we must celebrate single women, let us also try to erase the social stigma around being a single woman, so they do not end up making tragic choices or have to feel like lesser beings for simply not being married.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.