Woe Is Me! “How Do I Convince My Conventional Parents I Don’t Want to Get Married?”
Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.
“How do I convince my parents that I don’t want to get married? They have a conventional mindset in which they believe marriage is necessary. I know a lot of women in India face this problem too. What do I do?”
— Solo Rider
LG: Dear Solo Rider, Lean closer — ssshhh — and I’ll share a secret recipe. It’s time-consuming and tortuous, but it is a tried and true method handed down through generations of strong women. First, buy a year’s supply of fake facial tattoos. Fake-tattoo your face with zest every day for a year. Add them slowly, one by one, over a few weeks to really let the flavor steep. Be sure to visit your parents as much as possible during this time so they can fully appreciate what you’re cooking; bonus points if you’re living with them. When they ask what the hell you’re doing to yourself and with your life (this is where the gig economy really does benefit women; you might have to find a job that’s workable from home during this time) start talking about how you’re thinking about “reviving Wild, Wild Country — but you know, with an edge. There really could’ve been more kinky sex stuff.” Point out that red, orange and purple are passe; your followers will wear neon green polka dots. (Start dressing solely in neon green polka dots yourself.) Ask your parents if they know how much an island off the coast of Ecuador would cost, and if they’re looking to invest in real estate.
During this time, become a performance artist; bonus if you manage to have zero gigs but still introduce yourself as a performance artist to their friends. Double bonus if you invite all of their friends to an exhibition at a major gallery wherein you make-out with a Post-It note. (Don’t forget: the cuts on your tongue represent how society judges your love for snow leopards.) After about six months, take the pot off the stove and let cool to room temperature. In other words, start tapering off toward resuming your normal life. At that point, your parents will be so relieved, your not wanting to get married will seem downright traditional to them. If they bring it up again, brandish a Post-It and talk about your dream of a private island full of snow leopards dressed in neon green.
TL;DR – You don’t have to convince them, you just have to not agree with them and not get married. That’s no easy feat either but stick to your guns. Marriage can be great, but only if both people want it and aren’t bullied into it. Good luck!
ADT: Dear Solo Rider, you have to bully them into accepting you will never make for a good wife. Move out as soon as you can; be loud, belligerent, irritable, a bad example, a dunce at cooking, a disaster at cleaning (all performatively, of course — please learn to cook and clean to survive). You have to mess up multiple times and stretch your parents’ expectations so thin that they’re just happy with the very bare minimum. Perhaps then, they’ll leave you alone. But hey, take my advice with a pinch of salt — my mid-twenties are a solid few years away and nobody’s pushed me to get married yet. Thankfully. Or hey, worst case if this doesn’t work out, shimmy down the window using your bridal saree as a rope and live your best runaway bride life.
SM: Dear Solo Rider, make both your parents watch Marriage Story today. Just to make them cry. Or make them watch Mujhse Shaadi Karogee. Just to make them cry. Now, coming to your problem itself, I suggest you follow a two-pronged approach of counter-attack and pre-emptive strike. So, whenever your parents bring up this issue and threaten to attack your legal singleness, you counter-attack by attacking the institution of marriage. The one good thing we have going for us is the abundance of bad marriages around. So keep throwing those examples at them. Ensure it’s a variety of different kinds of dark and dreary. If your parents’ marriage also has dark and dreary elements (as it must), then indirectly weave those into other ‘examples.’
And then, of course, there’s the pre-emptive strike. You pre-empt occasions where they’re likely to bring up marriage and start shitting on the institution before they can even say “dulha.” SHARMA JI KI LADKI is a battle cry. I repeat — SHARMA JI KI LADKI is a battle cry. I low-key do these things all the time. But my parents haven’t ever seriously pressurized me.
On a more serious note, I’m guessing you’ve already tried to sit your parents down and explain to them why marriage isn’t for you. As I’ve seen with most of my friends and family, that rarely works. Emotional blackmail and straight-up harassment get involved, because they’d rather see you be unhappily married than happily unmarried. In case things ever reach this point, I suggest you do what a friend did — temporarily cut them off. Tell them that you genuinely don’t want this for yourself and that their prolonged persistence is beginning to feel burdensome. For being able to do this, you should ensure that you’re financially independent and have a strong support system of friends and/or other family members. It worked out for my friend, as her parents eventually came around to her not wanting to marry. Hopefully, things don’t get this bad though and your parents understand or at least make peace with what you want through your undeterred attacks on the institution.
AM: Hey, I understand that it’s not easy to be in the middle of all of this. It’s not easy to rebel or to move out, especially if you’re in a city like Mumbai. And chances are, moving out may not help at all. Just ask them one question every time they bring this up — is it your happiness that matters to them the most or what would make them and the society happy? Tell them about how the happiness that they’re associating with a wedding is only going to last three to four days, as long as the functions are going on, and then it’s going to be the two of you in it, against your will. And that’s not going to make anyone happy, in fact, it’s just going to end up spoiling more lives.
This said, I get where your parents are coming from too. So, you also have to be logical and give them reasons for not agreeing to marry — just an “I don’t don’t want to get married,” is going to make them think you’re like everyone before they have to get married and eventually you’ll get used to it. Sit by yourself, jot down reasons you want to tell them and explain each one of them properly. You can’t be throwing a fit every time they bring it up. If you’re expecting them to be understanding, you have to give them enough reasons to agree with you.
PP: It’s not easy to change someone’s mindset, especially if they’re older, especially when it comes to what women should do with their lives — and especially in India. The first step is to really know that before going into this endeavor to convince them. You have to accept that there is a good chance you’ll fail. So step one: make the hardest decision first. If you fail, and they still insist you get married, are you ready to get married or are you ready to walk out, worst-case scenario?
Then: try and get a job if you can. In my experience and from what I’ve seen around me, parents start treating you differently when you earn your own money or at least some of it — when you’re no longer a dependant. If you get a job, you can also start saving for a little fund in case this convincing-mission goes awry. Sit them down, and explain to them why you don’t want to get married, point to the current state of marriages, list all the things you want to do before/instead of settling down and what that even means to you and most importantly, explain to them how you will arrange for all the benefits they conventionally believe a marriage gives you without getting married (which is totally possible, I’m with you): companionship, societal acceptance, financial security, and babies.
I suppose the trick here is to not lose patience because it is a big thing you’re asking them to unlearn, but at the same time not tolerating any toxic behavior like blackmail and threats or overstepping of boundaries like forced meeting with potential grooms. Walk away if it gets too ugly and if you’re not willing to settle down with some man against your wishes, but make sure you have a safety net in place: money, friends, relatives and a place to stay. And keep reminding yourself: parents are just people.
RD: Look, there’s a very real chance you put in all sorts of effort to convince your parents of your position and they don’t budge an inch. You’re a grown woman who knows what she wants. Don’t let anyone, not even your parents, make you feel you need to justify yourself or get permission from them to live your life the way you envisage it. I agree with PP — get a job if you don’t already have one; get your own apartment, if you don’t already have one. If your parents love you, they will miss you and want to be in your life no matter how you have chosen to live it — eventually. Maybe. If they don’t, then, well — good riddance?
AJ: Your parents: Get married!
You: Are you in the correct headspace right now to receive information that might potentially hurt you?
Memes, aside. Hello, you! I completely understand where you’re coming from and I agree with others in the team — move out. Out of sight, out of mind! Okay, not really. Your parents won’t let you forget your reproductive responsibilities in society, and people around them — their friends and family — won’t let them forget them either. I get where they’re coming from. It gets annoying for parents, too, when all people want to talk about is when their daughter is going to marry. So, as a reaction, their default is to bug you. Now, moving on to convincing them — the only way is to tell them why. Tell them you’re not mentally prepared to get married. That’s not saying no to marriage completely or disregarding its significance. Just not now, when you potentially have so many things going on in life.
They (hopefully) can’t force you into it. The best way is to talk them into thinking ‘it’ll happen when it happens.’ There’s no point jumping in on it and getting married for the sake of getting married — that is just terrifying. Tell them how awful it would be if you ended up with the wrong person. Scare the shit out of them! You take your time, woman. Parents are always going to bug you; mine do too. They feel it is their duty to keep telling you to get married and so they do. Ignore? That’s what I do. Nod your head and do what you want to do anyway. Haven’t we always done this? XO