The Ugly Truth...Marriage Scares The Heck Out Of Me
From My Blog: www.AllAmericanIndianGirl.com
Okay, so here’s the ugly truth: Marriage sorta scares the crap out of me. Maybe not as much as the possibility of early-onset menopause, and certainly not as much as the idea of Donald Trump in the White House. But still. I may not be some fist-pumping party-girl overwhelmed with the business of continually sewing my oats, or an inherently-unsatisfied-type who is always looking for the bigger, better deal in a man, but in fact when it comes to marriage I’m something worse: I’m a thirty-something first-generation Indian. So I’ve always made the most of my freedom, even while carrying centuries’ worth of ancestral-relationship-baggage on my back. And every once in a while, I am reminded of what that has done to my psyche…
Take this weekend for example. I spent it in the country at a gorgeous mountain retreat, bearing witness to the nuptials of a friend from graduate school. I tossed on a new cocktail dress, teared up when I saw the beautiful bride, and jumped around to the tune of eight-six-seven-five-three-oh-niyiyieen. But I also woke up the next morning thinking that I’m staring down the barrel of 34, and I’m in healthy relationship, but I also happen to be Indian…which kind of skews things. Because following yet another life-stage-marker-type-event, after the toasts were made, the champagne drained, and the dances officially done…I managed to find a moment to think myself into a panic attack. Some part of me believes that while weddings are a ton of fun, marriage is just plain scary.
No disrespect intended to anyone else, but Indians take marriage seriously. ‘Till death do us part’ has nothing on the Hindu belief that couples are married for SEVEN lifetimes. In our traditions, it isn’t just the man and woman who marry; it is the entire families. But for all of the grand gestures of the average Indian wedding, the average Indian marriage of my parents’ generation was built entirely upon the everyday gesture. On continuity. Commitment. Stability. I grew up in a home where family and duty trumped everything. There were no proclamations of romantic love in our home, but there were also no threats of divorce. My mother never preened or begged for the compliments that many of my American friends’ mothers seemed to crave from their husbands. Later I understood that this was partly because she was confident, and partly because she operated in a tradition where divorce wouldn’t be seen as a judgment on her ability to continually entice her husband; it would be seen as a failure on the part of both parties to do what was best for their families.
But while I was observing all of this, I was growing up in New York. I was being been dated and pursued and whisked and twirled and wooed romantically, the way I had seen it in the movies. Now I should note that my parents happen to love each other, but the truth is that they wouldn’t have left each other if they didn’t. And a lot of my Indian friends’ parents fell unfortunately into that category. The result is a generation of Indian-Americans who see marriage as the pinnacle of commitment…but also as the possible end of something they’ve known all their lives — the promise and excitement of romantic love. Because all we have ever known is that marriage was for better or worse. For seven lifetimes. No matter what. And of course we want to give our children what was given to us. But it’s not as easily done as is it said for my generation. Our parents didn’t expect as much as we do, because they married younger, so they hadn’t seen as much, and most of them had precious little to compare marriage to.
Is it any wonder that after so many years of dating, I would be happy with things the way they are? I’ve yet to make any promises that I can’t take back. I’ve yet to just take the big, running leap off of that cliff. It’s not just the idea of never just picking up and taking off on my own, or of never again seeing myself through the eyes of a handsome stranger to whom I am the embodiment of possibility. Although there is that. The scary thing about marriage is that…to a person who thrives on possibility, marriage just seems like a great big goodbye to something. No matter how wonderful the man.
So…maybe I prize my solitude more than most women, because I actually enjoy my own company. Or maybe my freedom has always meant just a little bit more, in the context of the generations before me who never had any choices. Or maybe I really am my parents’ daughter, so much so that I truly believe when I marry, it will be forever. No matter what. And that’s a very big promise to make for a woman who has never even committed to an address for more than two years.
There is no grand conclusion to this blog. I happen to know that my recently married friends are actually happy. And they’re not all that unlike me. But I wonder at how hard it must be to persevere through the bumps and falls of taking two completely-formed lives and jamming them together into one. I don’t think it works unless both ‘me’s are willing to become a ‘we.’ And sometimes I envy my parents both their naiveté and their early start when they got married…because there was less actual structure in place to cram into one. All I know for sure is that marriage doesn’t look to me the way that it did to them. And that’s something worth thinking about.