By Ms Kaur
Pola Singh’s article in StarLifestyle (“Uni is the best time and place to find your life partner”, Occasional Soapbox) got my attention. I respect his right to have an opinion, but the optics of the situation are complex and his perspective came across as oversimplified. This is my response to it.
I am a 40something Sikh woman. Single. Professional. Financially sound. Well-preserved physically. Emotionally and psychologically on firm ground. Mentally alert. From a traditional Sikh background. This is not a matrimonial ad. I’m giving you my background so you can get your bearings.
When my parents sent me to university to study, they gave me simple advice: study hard, abstain from bad habits, be wary of strangers, stay in touch with home. If I happened to meet a decent Sikh boy at uni who liked me as well, I was allowed to get to know him better provided I told my parents about him too.
That was liberal advice coming from traditional Sikh parents from a small town.
Why did my parents only want me to consider a Sikh boy? They believed (and I agreed) that the fewer cultural and religious differences a couple had, the fewer the chances of conflict or complications, since marriages always require significant adjustments even with the most culturally identical couples.
Sikhs are a minority anywhere. Initially, I kept an open mind about my uni mates. The few young men I met were not what I had expected. They smoked, drank excessive alcohol, some smoked marijuana while others did worse.
There were those who refused to talk to another Sikh girl for reasons I didn’t know. Some only wanted to date non-Sikh girls. Others who might have wanted to date Sikh girls expected sex in the back seat of their cars or in cheap hotels. My academic achievements were further deterrents to them. I could have dumbed down to seem more approachable but I chose not to do myself a disservice.
In summary, I did not meet a decent boy in my age group at university. So, what did I do in university, you may ask? I did what my parents sent me to do – study. I didn’t go all out in search of a spouse since I had not signed up for a bachelor’s degree in Husband Hunting.
Upon graduation, securing a job and working my way up in ranks, my luck in meeting suitable men did not improve. Striking a balance between the traits my family wanted in a man (rightfully so) and my wish to meet a person who liked me as much as I liked him turned out to be an elusive combination.
But like many women, I wanted a family of my own and to experience motherhood, and I was willing to put my career on hold to raise a family. I believed my true value was in the children I would raise, not the post I held.
I had hoped to meet a man who treated himself with the same respect and standards I accorded to myself. No smoking, no excessive alcohol consumption, etc, a university education, a steady job with a stable income. Someone with whom I felt I could comfortably share my thoughts with (“click”).
For me to complement their deficiencies in a way that they could complement mine. An equal partnership and a healthy compromise.
It didn’t help that society put pressure on me and labelled me (a term the writer used as well) “choosy” for having these expectations. It did not make sense to me – if I expected a man to set standards for himself that I had set for myself, wasn’t that called a level playing field? Being fair and being choosy are not the same thing.
The pressure of society that was quick to judge my “failings” (read: being “choosy”) eventually got the better of me. In my mid 30s, I married a Sikh man. Smoker. Less educated, much less financially able due to limited drive to improve himself. The “clicking”? I wasn’t too sure about that either.
To be blunt, I had become desperate. At that time, I believed society might be right about my “choosy” nature after all. No one was obligated to hold themselves to the same standards that I held myself to, were they? I needed to compromise, even if it meant I had to compromise far more than the other person.
Plus, the biological clock was ticking. Society NEVER lets a woman forget that. (Society often forgets to point out that sperm quality also declines with age. Interestingly, men are never thought to be desperate regardless of whatever age they decide to marry.)
My husband turned abusive very fast. A lot of it stemmed from his own insecurities. The marriage failed despite my best efforts. I, the educated, financially-independent woman, brought up in a stable and loving home, put up with his abuse because society drummed it into me that I would be alone for the rest of my life if I was “choosy”, but if I were to compromise, I would have a family and never feel alone. Some choice.
There is nothing choosy in wanting a man to hold the same values a woman does. If a man is unable to obtain those standards, it is not the woman’s fault for expecting him to be the best version of himself.
In fact, the deficiency lies in his inability to attain his true potential on his own. Contrary to popular belief, many women with a clear perspective are not in search of Mr Perfect, they are looking for Mr Right-For-Me.
I suppose I was never meant to be a mother despite my conviction that I would have been a good parent. But I am meant to be a daughter, and although I am not perfect, I try my best to be a good daughter.
I am not married but I am also not alone. I have a supportive family, a wonderful network of friends, and no dearth of activities to keep me busy and productive.
What advice would I give to those who have been blessed with children? Raise your sons as you would raise your daughters – as equals who are held to the same standards. Demand that every ounce of respect that they invest in someone is returned in equal measure.
And if your daughter does not find herself a man in university or get married and have her own family, it does not make her a disappointment. She is simply destined to take a different path in life.