Dedicated to all young women who have had to face the pressures of marriage. This is about the phase in life when they are forced to meet eligible suitors.
The rat race of life begins and ends in Pakistan during the “Age of Matrimony” for most women. The time spent before and after is pages of an autobiography better left untouched or better yet, ignored. In fact, a woman can mingle in society almost wearing an invisible cloak unless she is living during this era. Then, the cloak is rudely lifted and passionately thrown aside, and the woman is left naked and vulnerable to the scrutinizing eyes of eager mothers and arrogant minds of men.
This “Age of Matrimony” is a strange phenomenon. It is an era that exists in the life of each woman in this strangely well knit country. It is a time some embrace with enthusiasm, butterflies fluttering in stomach’s being sucked in for prettier pictures, pictures that are to be shared with prospects that get perverse thrills at being such a coveted commodity.
These pro-active hunters join the rat race, tearing through the barriers, eager to be put on a pedestal convinced they know they will walk away with a prize. They spend hours and days, day dreaming, planning, plotting, role playing, wanting… no yearning, to be scooped off the shelf of the store comprised of untouched and untainted young women. Their attitudes slowly morph from those of sweet indifference to those of scripted coyness. Each day becomes an extended soap opera with many actors all working towards a single goal, a marriage that is executed within the given timelines
Then there are the others. They face this time with dread, nervousness and apprehension. They are not so sure as to how this battle for redemption will end. They worry they will not be considered valuable in the slew of worthy opponents. They wonder if this is all life can offer them. Why were they never given the opportunity to be a consumer and remained a commodity? They yearn to go into hibernation and yank back the cloak that protected them before. They miss the times when they could go to gatherings and come back as much a stranger to others as others were to them. They wish for those days to return when life was carefree and love was considered a pleasant surprise, not a forced bond. I will call these the defensive worriers.
These women are those that turn their wrath for society towards working harder and longer, asserting their self worth, hoping the clocked hours will scream to the world that they truly are precious. They dread the time spent alone because it will be drenched in questions and doubts, negativity hammering at a brain weary from overwork and pressure, talents seeming useless and brains an added weight which would probably be frowned upon.
Living rooms become a much dreaded place in the home. It could contain many surprises, sometimes all in one week. They mostly come in the form of a set of parents and one male suitor. Then begins the most excruciating half hour of this woman’s life. She must sit up straight, but not too straight so there is no nuance of eagerness. She shouldn’t slouch either. It might project her as a lazy and careless individual. Make up should be in between. Enough to appear natural, yet give off the air of being carefully applied. Clothes should be modest, yet modern. Shoes should be heeled but not too high in case the man in question falls short of ‘good height’ standards. You would never want to let the poor man feel somehow inferior to a mere woman. That would be a slap on our so proper and righteous society.
So she sits. Staring at the clock. Waiting to be beckoned to perform the roles of server, conversationalist, coy bride and giggly girl at will. In all these paradoxes and roles, the exit from that room leaves one feeling lost, as if in all the role playing and the see-sawing of virtues, a part of you was lost. Swallowed by a black hole, oblivious to all. Obviously missed because the interested parties were much too focused in making sure she was ‘up to mark’ for their son who is in most cases is quite away from the ‘mark.’ In fact, the mark might not even have touched him from a distance. Yet, she must fit the bill. She must be that most worthy commodity that will one day stand on that stage, the sacrificial altar that ends ones personal “Age of Matrimony” and tosses her to the dragons of the unknown into the “Era of Settlement.”
This Age of Matrimony is a phenomenon that creates issues within all households but mostly between relationships that could otherwise have flourished. Doubts and pressure are like a constant grey cloud hanging above the heads of two people, lost in an abyss of confusion, unsure about their future but being pushed to make decisions they may be unsure about. It makes you question as to what one should do when in a situation where the heart wants to do something but the head knows it needs to do something completely different.
It is when you begin to doubt the intentions of all those around you because you don’t know who is caving to pressure, who just wants to see you settled, who is looking out for your happiness and who just needs a trophy to adorn their fireplace.
Has our society become so caught up in numbers, obsessing about age that we have forgotten about the souls that possess the bodies we so eagerly scrutinize and criticize? Have we forgotten the sacred union of marriage and converted the process of finding a soul mate into a fashion show where the girl becomes a trend only to be worn in one season, not the next? Do we not realize that in our eagerness of catching that train before it leaves the platform, we may be getting on the wrong train all together? Some don’t even get the chance to pick the platform. They are just conveniently transported to it, pushed into a cabin and then left to guess which destination they will end at.
But what is the solution. That is where we all hold our heads in frustration and wonder, what is the eventual path to happiness? Should we all be left to our own devices, to figure out of destinies, wherever they may take us? Or do we all need a jolt, a push?
Without a solution but with a lot of drama. That is the phenomenon that is the “Age of Matrimony.” No end and no escape. It will for years be met by some with pleasure, by some with dread and with others by numbness. But it will prevail. In each household. In each room. Right by the dressing table, adorned with devices to beautify and accessories to shine brightly to attain attention. It will reside here because one day a girl will look at these objects and then up in the mirror at herself. And prepare. She will arrange her face and her clothes and lift her head high as her spirit trembles with nervousness. She will plaster a smile. And she will realize. The Age will exist. And it will be all encompassing. The way she faces it is entirely her call. And she opens that door and walks out, a thousand thoughts floating in her head. Today, just maybe, it’s going to be a good day.