Woe Is Me! “My Misogynistic Family Is Stifling My Dreams. Do I Run Away, or Stay and Fight?”
Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.
My fight with my parents started early in my life, they’re just way too “desi” and I’m a rebel kid. Recently, I have been trying to get into a good college in Mumbai and I’m from Kolkata. But my parents obviously don’t want me to — they want me to stay here and study here and marry here and die here. Even though I’ve worked on an international level, my parents still don’t support me; plus, [there’s] my misogynistic brother. If I start to write the hurtful things they’ve told me, this mail would burst. I’m 20 and going through a lot, plus my parents. It gets difficult every day, but that’s okay. I guess I’ll run away if I have to, but won’t sit here and do whatever shit they ask me to.
— Rebel With a Cause
KB: You’re probably not going to like this advice, but I think your best bet is to grin and bear it for another few years. Here’s why: if you go with your natural instinct to fight them at every turn, you are going to expend every ounce of emotional energy on this, and most likely, you are going to change no one’s mind. Patriarchal mindsets are not dismantled overnight, especially where one’s daughters are concerned. Now, that doesn’t mean I believe you have to spend your whole life doing exactly what they say. But you need to spend the next few years laying a solid foundation (in terms of your education and work capabilities) so that you earn your way into independence. Once you can stand on your own two feet (financially, first and foremost), your family can disapprove of your choices all they want, but it will have very little practical impact because you don’t have to heed any of their demands. For now, expend your energy on achieving that goal, and convincing them (with some cajoling and manipulation, perhaps, but NOT with fighting) to let you study far from home so you can get a bit of a break from this oppressive household.
RN: Since you’re 20, you officially have the legal agency to move out somewhere, anywhere, which is a good place to start. I think college would be your safest bet — if your parents refuse to support your fees, consider crowdsourcing as an option? This is an extremely tough situation and I’m really sorry you’re going through this. But before deciding on anything drastic, see if there is still any way to reason with them, just as a last attempt? Since these fights started early on, they could be festering wounds that aren’t allowing any of you to have a mature conversation. If you think you can shift your perspective and try to meet them halfway and with a fresh approach, it might be worth trying. You can be a rebel by taking your agency into your own hands, and this might be one way to work towards that. Of course, as with anything involving family it can be long, tedious, and tiresome. If nothing else works out, see if you can leverage your international work experience towards a steady source of income, however small, and move in with a friend or a trusted relative. But whatever you do, try to be patient and not do anything impulsive — this is a delicate situation that requires careful thought and planning beforehand. If you’re planning on moving out, do it only once you’re confident that you will be able to support yourself, because otherwise, things may end up getting worse.
DR: Well, it seems to me like you have made your decision. And, as an adult, you’re allowed to. I’m not going to tell you to stick to your biological family — no matter what — just because they’re your biological family. When your immediate family treats you the way you’ve described being treated, it can take a severe toll on your emotional well-being too. I understand that sometimes escaping seems like — and probably even is — the only solution. However, before you take that step, I’d urge you to ensure two things: one, that you absolutely cannot convince your parents to stop making your decisions for you; two, that you’re not running away on impulse and have not only thought the decision through, but also have a safe, feasible haven to get to. Other than that, good luck!
AS: Hey there, rebel. You sound really charged up and angry, and I think that’s a great thing, because it gives you the guts to stand for what you believe in. At the same time, it’s also important to keep your head, because there are some practical factors to consider. If you do run away, where would you go? What would you live off of? Do you have all that figured out? I know you’re considering it only as a last resort, but it would be best to sort all of this out, before you make any drastic moves. I think going away to college will be a great step for you to get some space from your family, and do things your own way. Maybe there are more clever ways to go about it? Why don’t you apply to a bunch of colleges in Mumbai (or any city that is not Kolkata) and work hard to get yourself a scholarship if possible? Or maybe you could start some freelance work online, and find a way to fund your education yourself, however much you can. When the time comes to pick between colleges, this will give you leverage, and help you demonstrate that you’re a capable adult, who can make their own decisions. Hang in there!
SK: I want to be an idealist here, and say you should stay and fight and try and change their mindset. But, hey, it’s okay to know when to give up and realize you’re fighting a losing battle. And more often than not, that’s the case with desi families. Instead of fighting, though, I do think you need to take a step back and think about the logistics of all this. As irksome as that might sound, running away or just cutties ties won’t magically solve your problems. You said you’re trying to get into a college in Bombay, maybe direct your energy there in prepping for your admissions/entrance, or applying for scholarships. Use your will and energy in making sure you choose a future that works for you, and is not influenced by your feelings for your family. As much as you want to get away from them, think about where you want to go next. To truly be free, and to truly chase your dreams, having a game plan might help. Good luck, you brave rebel!