A dif­fer­ent path in life

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - News - By Ms KAUR

POLA Singh’s ar­ti­cle in StarLifestyle (“Best time to find your part­ner”, Oc­ca­sional Soap­box, Jan 6) 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. Well­p­re­served 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. Have some­thing you feel strongly about? Get on your soap­box and preach to us at [email protected] thes­tar.com.my so that we can share it with the world.

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