After the success of Part One, I received a lot of other stories from friends and acquaintances that I wanted to pass down to people, so that it is evident that others stand next to them in the same struggles.
You are not alone, let’s work on breaking these behavioral patterns so we can envision a more inclusive & accepting Pakistan.
SUMMAIYA, AGED 31, UNMARRIED: MY PARENTS ALWAYS WANTED ME TO GET MARRIED WHILE I WAS STILL ‘RIPE’ FOR MARRIAGE, THINKING I HAVE NOW CROSSED MY ‘EXPIRY DATE’
“My mother would insist that I choose the ‘medical profession’ because it would help me get ‘good rishtas’. Emotional blackmailing was always part of my upbringing, and my father cared very less about the prospects and their accomplishments, or if they’re families were toxic, because all that mattered was that I HAD to get married while I was still ‘ripe’ for marriage.
My parents were always marriage-obsessed, ever since I was a child. I got engaged at 17 years of age, when I was a minor. I had started applying to colleges and my parents wanted me to get married by the time I was 19. Fortunately, for me, there were some differences with my fiancé’s family over my ‘sect’ and supposed ‘limitless freedom’, and it didn’t work out.
I started to break away from my family because of the pressure so I moved out by the time I was 23. Lots of questions were raised by my extended family and my parents kept nagging me to get married because ‘log kia kaheingay’. They told me I was an embarrassment for them, for moving out.
There was a period in my life when I was going through severe depression and needed their support, though. That is when they decided to emotionally blackmail me into going through the rishta process. I realized that my father cares very less about the rishta prospects who came to see me, and that it didn’t matter if the toxic families would point out superficial flaws like weight and complexion in me; for him all that mattered now was for me to find ‘a home for myself.’
Instead, I decided to take the CSS exam at age 27 and succeeded in moving out and being completely independent again by age 28. From societal standards I was safe; because there were no more concerns raised about why I moved out as being part of the prestigious civil service came with a stamp of acceptability.
Now at 31, still unmarried, while there are fewer compulsions on me, my father still has a very dim view of my achievements because I have supposedly crossed my “expiry date”.
I believe that it is harder for me to settle down because my family’s standards of finding good men are money and family status whereas I give more importance to kindness and compatibility. I have no time to find out people on my own because of my busy schedule and lack of tolerance for toxic men, which is why I am happy that I have a good career and fulfilling pastimes.
However, I battle depression and anxiety every time I have to go visit my parents, because I fall into their old patterns of emotional blackmail. It is a vicious cycle I am stuck in, and it has given me enough traumas to pass on to an entire generation, should I manage to get married and have children one day.
The cycle needs to end, but our collective behavioral patterns, societal pressures, family structures, inability to keep our noses in our own business, keep perpetuating it. I wish the conscience and exposure that my generation has, helps end this cycle. I hope our daughters don’t have to carry the burdens we had to.”
SALEEM, AGE 32, UNMARRIED: PAKISTANI FAMILIES DON’T WANT A CHEF AS THEIR DAUGHTER’S HUSBAND, UNCONVENTIONAL PROFESSIONS ARE STILL LOOKED DOWN UPON
“I think there are still a few years to go till people actually start ACCEPTING different professions as sustainable ones.
People think having a differently-abled family member is a life-long dependency, which is why many people don’t want their daughter married off to me, as I take care of my differently-abled sister.
I might not even want to get married anymore, I feel content in being single if people’s demands are going to be this shallow.
A lot of people have a problem with the fact that I am a professional chef, and that I cook for a living. I love my job, and I love who I am. There were people who also had issues with my tattoos, telling me that I wouldn’t be going to ‘Jannat’ because I had something on my body that wasn’t natural.
A lot of prospects came and had an issue with the fact that my differently-abled sister was dependent on the family, and that I wouldn’t be able to give my future wife ‘the time she deserved’. How is taking care of one’s family a crime or something that robs you of time?
I have been very fortunate in not getting married to the wrong person; in a way I believe that the delay has turned out in my favor because I don’t want to be married to someone who doesn’t accept me with all my flaws and all my wonders. I still think that there is hope, but even if there isn’t, I’m quite all right with being single. It isn’t such a big deal, as Pakistanis make it to be. I want to grow professionally and spiritually in things I love to do, and I don’t think anyone should be robbed of that, no matter what they end up doing in life.”
MOMINA: AGED 34, UNMARRIED, BELIEVES AGE IS JUST A NUMBER; RECEIVED A ‘BACKLASH’ FOR BEING ‘TOO FREEDOM-ORIENTED’
“I grew up in a conservative household, and had to fight my way into a lot of things I wanted. Once I was granted the permission to travel alone for my love of historical buildings and different cultures, I felt that society looked down upon me and questioned my freedom, even though I’ve never let my family down and have always been very cautious when I travel.
It is really sad, though, when I feel the same kind of pressure from my married friends, and when they look at me as if there’s something wrong with my ideology.
I have this perception that men in Pakistan want a wife, but not a life partner. I think there’s a huge difference in both. Also, men of other ethnicities don’t care if girls love to travel alone or what age they are, but in Pakistan, independent women are often judged.
I think that Pakistani men don’t want to talk about marriage, they don’t want to think about settling down because they are still ‘trying to enjoy their freedom’ because they were suppressed as kids and didn’t get the required freedom at an earlier age. I think women are still babies in their twenties, and it is okay to be in your thirties and feel ready to settle down.
We have been programmed to think that we NEED to get married to feel content, we don’t. I think I would have been a really bad mother at 25 (chuckles).”
SANA: 30, UNMARRIED, A NARCISSIST DESTROYED HER IDEA OF LOVE AND TRUST
“I am happily single at the moment, but I am not against the idea of getting married. I feel like if I’m independent enough to move out of my own house, I will, at some point. Sometimes, people in my family make me feel like I’m a burden, and I don’t feel comfortable in such an environment.
With the loss of my father, people quickly took it upon themselves to pressurize me into marriage, but my mother became my support.
Sometimes, I do crave human intimacy, but other times, I feel like I am a confused person and I’m the one who’s unsure about what I want in my relationships.
I was in a relationship with a narcissist for a good 5 years, and after he completely destroyed me, I now have a hard time trusting people. I feel like my heart is in other places when I’m in relationships. Also, age has got nothing to do with finding the right person, but people in Pakistan think that a woman is over age if she enters her ‘golden years’ [30s] and that reproduction is the only purpose of her life. For me, my purpose is to be powerfully independent, and I will make sure I achieve my goals.”
ABBAS: AGE 30, UNMARRIED, BELIEVES THAT HIS MOTHER WON’T BE ABLE TO ADJUST WITH A WIFE OF HIS CHOICE, AND VICE VERSA
“I have grown up listening to my family say ‘you will get married when you are stable and earning’ and it was in my mind since an early age. However, when I reached the age of 26, I started realizing that things aren’t that simple anymore. I am more choosy about what partner I want to spend my life with, and more cautious about finding the right one.
I believe that once you reach your thirties, you are not living in fantasy land anymore: shit has gotten real. People think you’re only complete once you’re married, but I beg to differ. You are complete when you are content with who you are, and what you want in life. For me, that’s settling down with a good financial backing and finding the person who understands you with all the good and bad you have.
Some of my friends don’t even invite me to their gatherings anymore because I’m single and they all have wives. To them, it seems awkward because the lifestyle and goals/choices, even the basic conversations have changed.
I believe you have to face a lot of discrimination in this society related to age and marital status. The first question people ask you at weddings is ‘Are you married yet?’ and I think it needs to stop. Abroad, people don’t ask you personal questions if you don’t want to answer them.
My mother wants a girl of her choice to come into our house, and I know for sure that the reason why she wants it is because she will never get along with someone of my choice. She is looking for other things in a woman; I am looking for completely different things.
I am trying to get a separate place for myself and then get married, so that I can keep the woman and my parents happy.
Another problem is that I want a woman who is okay with the fact that I don’t want a lavish wedding; I want to save up all that money and travel. In Pakistan, people want to have huge weddings so that they can show people that they put in a lot of money into the food and the décor, but that doesn’t give me a sense of accomplishment in any way. That’s all temporary happiness; I believe that if your partner is good to you, happiness will always be permanent. I am looking for such support in my life, and I am still hopeful of what the future holds.”
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the individuals.