How to survive as a strong, independent, single woman in India
This is not a blog to discourage or to encourage people from making unique choices in life. It’s just my take on the challenges I have faced in life (and still face) for being who I am. Again this is not looking down upon people who choose more conventional paths. Full respect and more power to you. However, this is solely meant to support people like me, help them deal. I am sure newly married people and new moms have numerous support systems already in place.
Reasons for choosing to remain single in life
There is always something to be said about a path less tread upon. It requires some amount of courage and conviction. Choosing to not define your life in terms of a spouse or child is definitely a path not often tread upon. However, being unmarried or “single” as they say, needn’t necessarily be the most courageous of decisions. It could be influenced by several reasons. Like:
a. Scars from past relationships
b. Disillusionment towards relationships as a whole
c. Commitment phobia
d. Pure selfishness
e. Knowing you can never make another person happy because you are just not that kind of a person
There could be other reasons as well. Question is does it really matter? No one gives any reason when they choose to get married do they? Do they get asked whether they are doing it from a place of courage or just blindly because that’s the norm.
The Courage inside you
The courage is really required once you have made that choice. For starters, sticking to that decision requires some serious balls. Let us get it straight, the pressure (parental, societal, peer pressure and what not!) is incredible and overwhelming. You have to get through the marriageable age holding onto your conviction and being clear about what you want in life. You will get questioned, lectured by every Tom, Dick and Harry. How I avoid that is by not confessing my decision to every Tom, Dick and Harry. If they are rude enough to pry into my life well I would just say “Not yet” and give them a cold bitchy stare. That should shut them up, hopefully.
Peer and Family pressures
However, the people who really matter in your life, how do you deal with them? Convincing them is not very easy and sometimes never completely possible. We can’t really blame them. They are concerned for you, want the best for you. They dread what the future holds for you. First of all, they don’t truly believe you will stick to your guns about the decision. They are concerned whether by the time you change your decision (Not IF you change rather WHEN you do), it would be too late and you would be stuck being a pitiable single old man or woman with no joy in life. There is no other solution to this rather than living your life with conviction and positivity. We have to be kind of like a horse with blinders on, moving ahead to our destination with strength and vitality.
As far as I am concerned, I have a really cool (read mad!) versatile family (more on that later). I have some really cool friends trying their hardest not to judge my decisions. They really put an effort to support me and even bite their tongues on several occasions. It’s pretty apparent and funny even, that even when they disagree completely, they still stand by me. I am the lucky one I guess. However, there are times when glimmers of dissent come out. Things like “Oh never say never!”, “We don’t know what the future holds” and so on. They actually don’t get it. Again they can’t be blamed. I don’t get it to a T when they talk about their marital issues or new mom issues. I try to get it, I work hard at it and often come up with the right thing to say. However, I am sure I would be failing at times. Hence, after a point you start to feel a slight disconnect with even your closest of friends. You still love them, but the commonalities disappear and this is a tough phase too. Accepting that disconnect and moving ahead in your life is the key.
Achievements of Single women
Another thing you can possibly go through would be that no matter whatever you achieve or do, you would still not be as appreciated as a married woman would be. Men don’t have this issue by the way. If I dare to generalize (well that’s what I have been doing this whole time), I would go so far as to say that most married men would be damn envious of their single male friends. However, the various achievements of a single or childless woman would always be weighed against the woman who has gone through the pain of delivering a child or to put it simply a mother. If a married woman/ a new mother were to achieve same thing as you, there would be an exponentially greater appreciation for her than you would ever have. Maybe rightfully so! Whatever we do, it would be tainted with, “oh but you have so much time in your hands, oh she is filling her emptiness with all these things! Poor thing!” For a mother, the thoughts would be “Oh look at her! How much she has achieved? She inspires me.” This should again be accepted with a smile on your face. The key is to achieve whatever you want to achieve for yourself and be happy in that.
Is love a possibility?
Being single needn’t necessarily mean that you won’t fall in love. It just means you might choose not to translate that love into a permanent relationship for various reasons. Again it doesn’t mean that you would not choose at some point to actually get married. It doesn’t really matter. Right now you are single by choice and you are happy with it. Life can take several directions. What is wonderful about choosing to be single and not being answerable to anyone is that you can take your life into any direction you want to. You would be guided by your own ethical and moral principles. Your life is in your control or at least it will seem like life is in your control. As it is with life, lot of things can be not under your control ever. However, we are definitely more in control of our time, money, our thoughts, our life choices.
Oh! The Loneliness
If you choose this life, ensure you are capable of being alone, that you understand the difference between loneliness and being alone, capable of being self-reliant. We have less of a support system than people who follow the conventional path. We can compare it to how love marriages were treated in the past in India. Arranged marriages however, screwed up, it is always backed up by society and family. You can crib, rant and rave if things don’t go your way. It helps a little. Understand that we as a community are severely judged, closely evaluated even by the open minded new age generation, treated with less sympathy in case of any screw-ups. You can never tell anyone that you are lonely. The minute you do they say or think (the more civilized ones) who asked you to choose this life. Suck it up! This kind of apathy does not exist for married people. Any problem they face they have a group who will say “yea we have been there!”
Practical issues for Indian single women
Apart from all of the above so called problems (nothing is really a problem) we have many practical limitations. India is not prepared for single people. It’s harder to keep ourselves financially stable compared to a two income family. We have problems when it comes to getting rented apartments. “Single woman?” I have heard the note of disdain in many a home owner’s voice. As your friends get married you lose your room mates and somehow mixing with a generation far younger than you seems lame. Another problem area, especially if you don’t have close family members like parents, would be if you get sick. A spouse is obligated at least by their wedding vows to take care of you. Lots of times they too end up being alone without anyone to support. However, we have lesser choices when it comes to being tended when we are sick. The key is to be financially stable. Money can buy you the required palliative care (it would be nowhere close to the care of a loved one but way better than rotting to death). As for renting issues, again money is the key. Being financially successful would help in leading a good single life. It’s definitely not mandatory though.
Life of dignity and strength
I feel the best way to lead your life as a single person would be to be very strong, very clear about the life you want; being clear to a point where you can sometimes be accused of being headstrong or arrogant. I feel that’s okay. Be introspective, but don’t be self-doubting. Questions as to whether I can do it, what will happen if I fall ill when I am old? – these thoughts should be handled much before we make the choice. Of course we are all humans and we have our weak moments when these questions will for sure crop up. We need to have clear specific answers when they do crop up. They have to be strong and filled with conviction. It should be clear enough to convince JUST you, not others.
Do you know what is the greatest gift we have, once we have made this decision? TIME! Time to do whatever our heart desires. We can travel, pursue the weirdest of hobbies we want, work towards bettering ourselves or the world as a whole. We can dedicate time to things that are not limited within the narrow walls for family. One mantra I feel we all should follow as a community would be to not waste away our time. It’s precious. This way of life is not easy and the only thing that can help us through this would be passion. Passion in everything we undertake, towards every interest of ours. Only self-assured, passionate people can lead such a life. Another thing we need to embody is kindness. A softness and gentleness should grow within us because being alone, with lesser human interactions could cause us to become harder inside. Being conscious of every change within us is important. Of course, it would be easy to introspect because we do have the time to do the same.
Let me conclude by saying that no matter what the hardships, whatever the trials and challenges, always remember that no choice made in life is ever easy. Life is never easy. I don’t think it was meant to be. So stick to your convictions and be brave. No one but you, can really know what you want in your life. Surround yourself with people who love you and whom you love but always be self-sufficient. Be your very own anchor and support.