You should get married to be accepted by society. You should be married to get seen as a responsible person. You should get married to have economic and emotional support. You cannot possibly spend your life alone. How will you adjust to society and face other challenges if you cannot even compromise for your marriage? This is a glimpse from yet another debate on marriage versus singlehood that my parents have recently had with me.
Like any other Indian middle-class family, my parents have been slipping the question of groom hunting and marriage in almost every conversation. They have been giving dozens of suggestions and arguments on how I should change myself and learn to compromise to have a ‘successful’ marriage. But why should I change myself if I like the way I am? What does marriage have to do with how I should behave? Why can’t being single and in my own skin be a valid choice that I can make?
The patriarchal society that we live in still believes that meaningful and happy adulthood is synonymous with marriage. And singlehood is always seen as defiance of cultural norms. The archetypical image of singlehood is either of a failed and depressed loner or a hedonist moving in and out of bars. It is often seen as a person's failure and inadequacy to deal with ‘real-life problems’. Either he or she doesn’t look good enough to have a partner, is selfish, or is afraid of responsibilities. But why don’t we consider the alternative that a person can be happy and satisfied even without being married?
Especially for women, marriage is deemed as the best way to be safe and secure by our patriarchal society. But rather than being an argument in support of marriage, it only implies the need to empower women. Rather than indoctrinating girls to be dependent on men to protect them, they should be educated, trained to be self-dependant. And why must a woman marry for the sake of being safe from prying eyes of lechers and predators? Why not condition men and boys to respect women and their consent instead? Furthermore, a marriage that is grounded on the material needs of money and protection pressurises the male counterpart and undermines the abilities of a woman to sustain on her own. Financial stability or security cannot be the only valid reasons for a woman to get married, in this day and age.
Singlehood is also seen as immoral because of the sexual freedom it implies. In our society marriage legitimizes a sexual relation and pregnancy even when it is non-consensual. To prove its point, patriarchy polices and shames single women as 'slut’, ‘promiscuous’ if they openly exercise their sexual agency. On the other hand a single man has to fiend questions on his masculinity.
Rather than questioning the abilities of a person to sustain alone, do we not need to cross-check the double standards that demean single people in a gender-specific way? More than the question of morality or immorality, what we need to discuss is how our society doesn't give women and men neither the absolute freedom to choose nor to defy, even today. To marry or not should be a personal choice, not a social obligation.
But this doesn’t mean that singlehood can only be seen as freedom from the obligations of marriage. For me, singlehood means prioritising my career and the pursuit of unending dreams on my own. Perhaps, I can’t deny the need for a companion in life but I am just not ready yet. I am not afraid of or against marriage (but certainly against the one that is wrapped in patriarchal beliefs). I just think that singlehood will bring the best out of me as a person who is not only happy with herself but with the society she is a part of.
We all have our own definitions of personal space. Why should I be labelled a coward, irresponsible or selfish if I prefer to sleep, cry, or be happy by myself? And everyone should have the freedom to choose their own battles. Why should I be forced to adjust in a marriage if I can live a healthy, complete and happy life on my own?
Picture Credit: Youtube screenshot
The views expressed are the author's own.