“Baba, we are going to start looking for a husband for you.”
My face goes slack. My eyes start nervously shifting, searching for a way out of this awkward conversation. My throat begins to tighten and I scramble to find appropriate words…
“What the…uh” (Luckily the filter from thoughts to spoken word was operating at that particular moment).
A little bit of context?
I am a 24 year old Bangladeshi-American girl, born and raised in the States. While the concept of having your parents attempting to matchmake you starting as early as right after high school is not foreign to most Desi girls, I was raised by parents cut from a slightly different mold. While my friends filled me in on things like biodata (a resume for potential suitors) and would complain to me of chance run ins their parents would orchestrate with a suitable match, I felt relieved at my parents seemingly laissez-faire attitude on my love-life.
My mother often tells me to wait as long as I can, travel as much as I can and be financially stable before marrying. Makes sense, right? However, it seems ingrained cultural norms can put up a good fight in even the most rational of Desis. In Desi culture, it is an unfortunate double-standard that men can stay bachelors well into their 30s and sometimes 40s without being considered pathetic or hopeless, of course they can always go back to the motherland and have their pick of young women. However, once a girl hits her mid-20s with no viable prospects in sight, people start voicing their comments, questions, and concerns about your eventual spinsterhood.
It can be the meddling aunty at a party, taking you aside to tell you, “I know a very good boy you will like beta, very tall, 5’8, and in Dental School…you would make such a handsome couple.”
“Thanks aunty, I just want a samosa for now…”
It can be your little sister’s friend, “How old are you? That’s old! Do you have a boyfriend? Are you getting married soon?”
“Nunya…you nosey brat”
I generally shrug these comments off after feeling momentarily miffed, but the place I was least expecting it was from was my mother, a woman who I very much admire, who is vocal about her feminist views, and her distaste of the hypocrisies present in our culture.
After seeing my initial expression, my mother emphasized that it is no longer how it was in the old days. Of course they would not arrange my marriage, just look for options for down the road. In theory I have nothing against this, this type of matchmaking transcends cultural boundaries, and American women face this same type of single-hood scrutiny (although it does not begin quite as early for them as their Desi sisters.)
That conversation ended in a mutual armistice, and the topic has been tabled for now. I understand my parents have nothing but unbounded love for their daughters, and my mother spoke from a practical perspective about getting married and starting a family before my ovaries wither and fall out, but as for now I choose to be left to my own unorthodox devices, and leave the matchmaking up to fate, destiny, kismet, you know, all of that hopeless romantic stuff I absolutely buy into!
And of course, updates aplenty if this current status changes.