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There are days when I wake up and I think, wouldn’t it be nice to not be single, find a guy, fall in love, marry, and settle down (or as will probably happen in the arranged marriage scenario…marry, fall in love, and settle down)?
Yet most days, I wake up and think that a world where I didn’t have to deal with the Y chromosome in that way isn’t an entirely bad alternative either. Unfortunately that’s not an option.
Every year, Valentine’s Day isn’t so much a dagger to my heart as it is a splinter in my side. Valentine’s Day…bah humbug. Here’s how I see it (at least from my albeit biased perspective).
I wasn’t really raised to look forward to Valentine’s Day. I guess that’s the price of living in a family that is geared towards arranged marriage. So I never found the holiday particularly exciting for a long time. Valentine’s Day, for the longest time, was something I celebrated in elementary school, where we would exchange cards because the teacher told us to do so. It was probably when I got to college that I started to take notice of the holiday.
Yet seeing the stores now with all the pink and red, the streamers, the heart-shaped boxes of chocolate, and the sappy cards makes me want to retch a little. Everyone who has a significant other is just dripping with diabetes-inducing, sugary sweetness in every syllable of conversation and every action, especially those in the early stages of a relationship. Even those who have been dating or married for years will take that day, if not that whole week, and inject it with as much romance (perceived or valid) that they can muster. For those who are single, there is always a sense of gloom that descends during Valentine’s Day, and the days leading up to it.
Valentine’s Day, like Christmas, Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the Fourth of July, is another holiday gone rogue and commercialized. Everyone, in their celebration of the holiday, tries to live up to the idea of Valentine’s Day, not so much the idea of their own, unique romance with their significant other.
That being said, allow me one sappy, possibly cliché moment when I say that everyday should be Valentine’s Day for couples. If two people in a relationship need a holiday to remind them to be loving and romantic…I’m not sure what to say to them.
I will (grudgingly) admit that this could be partly a case of sour grapes. I have been single for every Valentine’s Day for my whole life. However, I will also admit that the holiday itself has gotten so incredibly commercialized to the point of tears. Do we really need to buy special Valentine’s Day, brand-name things to feel some sense of purpose? I don’t think so. Do we absolutely need to buy the other person something expensive or take them out to the best restaurants or romantic spots to celebrate? It would be nice, but I’d be just as happy at home. There seems to be so much pressure on both people in a relationship to do something amazing on Valentine’s Day, it doesn’t need to be that way.
But this year (as in recent years) I won’t be sad during Valentine’s Day. I will be celebrating Singles Awareness Day (S.A.D.). Sure I want a relationship, but being single is much more fun. Really, I swear it’s true. Keep in mind, being single for me means (for the most part) keeping the marriage proposals away, at least for the time being. Can’t exactly dive into a dating scene that is still ambiguous, vague, and sometimes a little taboo by Indian standards.
Being in a relationship, at least in the early stages, means having to be with that person all the time. I don’t mean that you’re forced into spending every waking moment with them, it just ends up that way. Blame a combination of neurotransmitters and hormones that produce good, old-fashioned infatuation. In some (slightly unhealthy) scenarios, relationships can overwhelm your life and supplant other things like studying, other relationships (family and friends), and work in terms of importance.
Yet being single means keeping your options wide open, being unfettered, and being able to keep all your other relationships intact. What this translates to is a) having a license to be flirty (to be used as much or as little as needed), b) having more time to bitch about how it sucks to be single to all your friends while not-so-secretly enjoying your independence. You don’t have to include your significant other in all of your activities, or cloister yourself away with only him or her. You can just do what you need to do, see who you need to see, and not answer to anyone.
Sometimes when someone is in a relationship, they forget how to exist on their own two feet. As a couple, you become a unit. Person A becomes inextricably linked with person B, to the point that sometimes they’re treated as one and the same. Independence is important, and sometimes it’s something that you have to relearn when you are single. You can’t form healthy relationships without some sense of self apart from your significant other. We do crave relationships and forming bonds with other people, but ultimately we have to know how to live and think independently.
Being single, most importantly, also means having time to do soul-searching, to figure out what exactly you want out of a relationship. I think that a lot of people (myself included) shortchange ourselves this little luxury while we, instead, moan about how we’re single. If we don’t really know what we want out of a relationship, can we ever have a successful one?
So yes, I do want to have my Valentine’s Day one day. I want it to be thoughtful and I want it to be romantic, but I don’t want it limited to one frigid day in February. Until I can find someone who can be like that every day of the year, I will fill my days with my other relationships with my family and my friends. I will allow myself to grow and mature as a person. I will be single, and I will be happy.
Happy S.A.D.! :p
Let me set the stage for you:
The girl is a graduate student on her way to applying to medical school next year. She is not in a relationship at this point, and there seems to be no one that has expressed any real interest that would keep mom and dad placated…i.e. Malayalee and Nair. Therefore, the aforementioned parents want to put an ad up for the girl to be married within the next two years, something a la Shaadi.com. The general connotation of Shaadi.com and matrimonial ads of the sort is that of ridicule and considered a “last ditch attempt” by most. Others, however, have found great people (her parents included) through these methods. What is the girl to do?
Arranged marriage has tried to evolve to meet the times, no doubt. Back in the day, couples would be arranged perhaps within the village, but at least within a certain area. Marriages were alliances of families, not just the bonding of two people. It was about preserving one’s identity across generations. In Kerala, for example, cultural and religious practices even differed across the state. Those closer to Tamil Nadu have a culture that melded Malayalee with Tamil rituals. Those closer to the Malabar coast have their own. This is clearly evidenced with my parents, one of whom is from Palakkad, one of whom is from Ernakulam. That union was viewed as almost radical, I mean, a girl from Ernakulam marrying a boy from Palakkad? Insane! That too, they met through an advertisement.
Now it’s my turn.
Being born and raised in the United States my whole life brings about its own set of challenges. I am cynical, which may or may not be a function of my being raised here. I tend to be suspicious of people at first before warming up to them as I get to know them. It seems like my parents were much more open to ads than I am and many of my peers. I tend to think (not entirely erroneously) that half the ads on sites such as Shaadi.com are not made by the person who is being advertised (I’m not including sites like eHarmony and Chemistry because they’re a bit different). “Shaadi” for my non-Indian readers, means “marriage” in Hindi. A quick browse through some of the profiles seems like most were written by their parents, rather than the guys themselves, and that strikes me as duplicitous. Maybe the guys asked for their parents to put the ad in, but if they can’t even invest that much in finding a spouse, I’m not sure I’d want to even deal with them. Part of me still wants to see if I can find someone on my own, who my parents would like as well. Shaadi.com seems like a last resort, if I look at it that way.
Yet there are definitely benefits to this system. At least on Indian matrimonial sites, if you’re so inclined, you can search by region, religion, and caste, which theoretically makes life easier. The same can be said for newspaper matrimonial ads. While my parents are probably more vested in my ending up with a Malayalee, Nair guy, it can’t hurt to have that option available if I want to search for one myself. Like other dating sites (I think) there are the options of looking for profiles with photos and without photos (and praying the photos that are up are not heavily Photoshopped). What’s convenient about Indian matrimonial sites is that you can indicate whether you are vegetarian or nonvegetarian, drink or not, smoke or not, and other things. Me, I’m a pescatarian…yes it’s a word, and you’d be surprised at how things like diet can shape a relationship (there was a New York Times article on it a few months back). I myself am pretty lenient, but I’m just saying…it’s a factor to consider.
Nonetheless, it’s important to get to meet and know the person, regardless of how one found the other. Sometimes that’s a bit harder when the person you met on Shaadi.com lives in India and you live in the States. Even if you both live in the States, getting from New York to say Texas, is easier said than done. Yet the argument can be made that, if there is a legitimate connection between two people, distance shouldn’t matter, right? Still, for me, face-to-face contact is the best way for me to judge a person’s character. Denying me that makes things very difficult. Also (on a slightly lighter note) having my brother play “that brother-in-law to-be” a la Nick Portokalos in “My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding” would be very difficult if the guy’s not around too often before the wedding. It’s an inevitable, right of passage.
So for me at least, the jury is still out on the possibility of me utilizing a site like Shaadi.com, or just plain old matrimonial ads. I’m hoping I won’t have to, that I’ll find someone the “old-fashioned way” but I guess there could be someone special that may be found through an ad. I just hope his picture isn’t John Abraham’s when he actually looks like Mohanlal.