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WHY ARE YOU STILL SINGLE?
By Anjana Vaswani
I like libraries and bookshops. They’re some of the few places that don’t present a hostile environment for single women. Social gatherings are the worst, with birthdays ranking on the top of that list, especially when you’re gifted books like Raechel Greenwald’s Find A Husband After 35: Using What I Learned At Harvard Business School or Patty Stanger’s Become Your Own Matchmaker: 8 Easy Steps For Attracting Your Perfect Mate.
Singlehood after all is also an abnormality. So am I being treated for my condition? A wellmeaning married friend who never fails to remind me that I am not a spring chicken anymore has, so far, introduced me to a host of strange men with shrunken personalities or IQs or both. She gets angry when I complain because, as she often highlights, “When you’re a 37-year-old divorcee, you can’t afford to be picky.” You’re expected to settle, even be grateful that someone has actually taken an interest in you.
Where are the good men?
A single friend I spoke to believes there are higher chances of her bumping into Bradley Cooper on the road than of finding the man of her dreams. With a law degree and no previous marriages to ‘tarnish’ herresume, Neha Mehta is 36, attractive and still single. Neha lives with her parents, has no siblings and stands to inherit a fair fortune from her father. She has received numerous proposals and has even dated a few men, but there isn’t a ring in sight. “Some men I’ve met were blessed with healthy bank balances, but they also had serious attitude problems to go with these,” she explains. “And men I’ve met who’ve been perfectly amiable and charming wouldn’t be able to support my lifestyle. It’s hard to find the right balance.”
Now Neha insists she’s not being picky, and would like to marry at some point, but “there just isn’t anyone even halfway decent out there”. Mumbai-based psychotherapist Dr Nivedita Rawal understands exactly what Neha is talking about. “Today’s urban girls are far more independent and assertive,” Dr Rawal explains. “They don’t necessarily feel marriage is the final destination. Having experimented more with relationships, with sexuality, they’re bolder and, hence, they don’t look at marriage as merely some societal prerequisite they must fulfil.” Psychologist Seema Hingorrany says the problemruns deeper. “While it’s not a bad thing for women to seek partners they’re compatible with, on the flip side, should marriage be put off too long, these women may find themselves very lonely.¨
Do we put work first?
Psychotherapist and psychiatrist Dr Shefali Batra considers the societal shift and explains, “The man’s role and status in Indian society hasn’t changed. He was always the breadwinner, never the nurturer. But now, women are more educated, more focused on their careers and they prioritise work over marriage. Intellectual, well-read women, after all, now realise that marriage is not a fairy tale. So, they don’t mind pushing off marriage to a later date.” Dr Batra also feels the knowledge that so many marriages fail these days also encourages women to retain their work identities. “They’re reluctant to let go of the security their jobs provide,” she says.“Now women have back-up plans — they have their own bank accounts. The balance of power has changed. But Indian men are still exactly where they were decades ago. High-powered women with well-paying jobs would have a hard time adjusting to infl ated egos.”
Sameera Sheikh, 31, faces this dilemma. “Marriage involves making too many adjustments,” says the Gujarat-based chartered accountant whose mother, she tells me, has been begging her to settle down for the last decade. Though she has successfully fended off the pressure, Sameera admits she does hope to settle down soon. “I want to get married and have a family,” she says, lightheartedly adding, “I don’t want to turn into that crotchety crazy old woman that the neighbourhood kids run away from.” So what’s keeping Sameera single? Sameera stands at almost 5’10”. “Though I don’t see why my height should be a problem, I have met several short guys who’ve been intimidated by it. So my choices are limited,” she explains.
Are we too picky?
Careers and education, it might seem, are the root of the problem. Remember your grandmother warned you about these ‘evils’? But that’s not true. American author Emily Gould recently presented statistics compiled by The Pew Research Centre to establish that women college graduates are more likely to be married than their less-educated sisters. Emily theorises that the institution of marriage is itself losing signifi cance. And citing cases of her friends, “A woman who spent five years with a man who BlackBerried his way through her mother’s funeral and another whose live-in boyfriend gave away their dog without warning,” Emily asserts that women, in fact, “are not picky enough.”
I remember thinking the same thing when a woman I was introduced to recently led me through her date experiences. Despite holding an impressive position at an ad agency, at 28, Amrita Singh seemed a nervous wreck when I met her at a dinner at a friend’s home. She fidgeted, checking her look in the mirror every few minutes. The problem soon became apparent. With her younger sister engaged, Amrita was now under a lot of pressure to find a husband. It would be tantamount to writing Amrita off as a confirmed spinster forever, her parents felt. Amrita had agreed to meet boys her parents felt were eligible. Consequently, Amrita had dined with one man who had yelled at her for placing her food order without consulting him and she had met another guy who casually confessed that he had a steady girlfriend but that he planned to end that relationship when he got married. Even more shocking was the fact that Amrita was considering these proposals. Picky, we’re not!
Dr Rawal agrees that there’s a fine line between being picky and just being smart. “This isn’t a bad thing,” she says. “Women today seem to realise how complicated and demanding marriages and relationships can be and they understand the need to make sensible, informed choices.” She doesn’t need to sell the point to me. Though I always thought Elizabeth Taylor was beautiful, I’d rather be Oprah.