We had dinner with family friends tonight.Their daughter is in 9th grade, 14 years old, and we connect well enough to enjoy ourselves during these gatherings.
I told her a funny story that happened today:
One of the kids I tutor is a six year old girl. When they’re at that age, you learn very quickly not to take anything they say personally, especially if it’s about age or marriage. I said something about my kids, by whom I mean my students, and then clarified who I meant by saying, “I mean my students, I don’t have kids.” At which point she goes into complete shock:
“You don’t have kids?!”
“Are you married?”
“Do you want to be married?”
Me: Do you want me to be married?
“Uh huh, yes.”
Me: Okay, well, since you want me to I’ll get married.
“Okay, but you have to make sure that he doesn’t have tattoos on him, and that he doesn’t have a mohawk.”
Me: (laughing) okay, when I get married, I’ll make sure the guy I’m marrying has no tattoos and no mohawk.
Funny, right? A silly anecdote that tells you something about kids.
So I tell my 14 year old friend this, and she laughs. End of story. Time goes by, we move on to other topics, and then she asks me if I’m still tutoring.
Me: Yup. I just told you that story right, about my kid who asked me if I want to get married.
Her: “Oh yeah. So do you want to get married?”
Now, coming from almost anyone else, this would be a normal question. But we’re brown, questions like that just aren’t asked in our culture. So I’m completely taken aback and I kind of stutter my way through an answer. And she says: “I’m just asking because, it’s not that I care, it’s just that, you’re in your 20s right?”
“Yeah, so the grown-ups you know, they talk and stuff.”
I’m used to slams now. I get them so much that I know they’re always around the corner, although you never can get used to how they make you feel. It’s constant, and it’s almost always when you think a social gathering went really well. Then you’re mom will come up to you and say, “So and so said this,” and you’ll avoid social gatherings for the next 5 months until you feel it’s safe enough to venture out again. It also always happens when you’re particularly vulnerable, although I think that’s a moot point because I’m always vulnerable now.
I think our society really, really needs to sit down and study the way we make our unmarried girls feel. I’m going through it, I’ve been going through it for so long, and it’s so horrendous that I don’t even talk about it. I kind of deal with it, take each blow as it comes, and shrink farther down into my depressed/failure-ridden state each time it happens.
Here’s the thing: it’s one thing to care about someone, to genuinely care about them, like mamma and baba say they do with me, and push their life in the right direction. It’s a completely different thing to make them feel like shit while you’re doing it. I know they care, but I also feel like it’s a very selfish caring. The refrain I hear literally (I’m seriously not exaggerating. I mean literally, every single time) every time I’m around my mom (usually two or three times a day), is that she, and by extension “them”, my mom and my dad, are miserable solely because of my brother and me. All she wants is for her “responsibilities” to be over and then my dad and her can go off and live in peace.
Multiply the anger, frustration, and, yes, hatred, you see in those lines by 57, and you have my life in a nutshell. It’s a constant barrage, a never ending vitriol of hate directed at me so that all I hear every day is that I suck. I’m ruining my parents’ lives.
Like the rejection letters I’ve gotten so used to receiving from graduate schools, these don’t stop. Combine the letters, the anger from my parents, and the not-so-subtle talk from everyone who lives in this city, and you have a person who’s made to fail at everything she does. It’s psychological war, and my parents think they’re doing it for my own good. Go figure.
We seriously need to sit down as a society and think about what we’re doing.
Here’s why I feel as if it’s a selfish caring: What about me? Yes, I understand that you have your responsibilities and that no one will even want to talk to me the second I turn 26 (Yes, I’m 25. So old right?), but when was the last time you thought about what I needed? These family friends went back to Saudi recently, and the dad went to Umrah. My dad came home the other day and told us that he’d dua’d specifically for my brother and me during his Umrah.
I’m touched, I really am. But I know without needing to ask what those dua’s were about. They were about my brother getting back on his feet, and about me getting married. That’s all anybody ever thinks about, as if I have zero needs of my own. There are duas I want you to do for me, so many duas. But when did you ask me about what I want? When was the last time you sat me down and said, “Hey, so tell me what you want from life.” Never, that’s when. And when my parents did it, the only time they’ve ever done it, it wasn’t “Hey, so tell me what you want from life,” it was, “Hey, so tell us what we can expect to see in the next couple of years, this stress is driving us to our graves.”
It’s never been about what I want. Even if you forget about what I want, it’s never even been about what I need. I’m so incredibly fragile right now, and I want to talk to my family about it but I can’t. They’ve never given me a way to, they’ve never been there to ask me what I need.
So brown people: stop treating your unmarried daughters like crap. Just stop.