When I was 17, I had to write a matrimonial advert for myself as coursework for one of my classes – Individuals and Families in Diverse Societies (part of my Ontario Secondary School Diploma). And while I do not remember the exact wording for the advert, it went something like ‘Muslim Moor parents seek groom for their fair, educated daughter … ‘
Fast forward a couple of years later, at the marriageable age (or passed my sell by date?) of 25 my USPs still remains the same. However, unlike my 17 year old self I have begun to question the factors that make me good marriage material. My skin colour does not tell if I will be a good wife or mother, it is no indication of what I am like around my friends, when I am hungry, when I am angry. Does being educated mean I am well read or street smart – does it mean I am good in mathematics or that English is my strong point? Apparently, it does not matter; the only thing that does matter is that I am university educated.
At a recent wedding I visited, one of those hawk eyed aunties spotted me two tables away and once she had given me the Aunty Once-Over (Worse than the Manhattan Once-Over where eyes scan you to make sure you’re appropriately attired in expensive clothes and of course a piece of jewelry or two!) and on being satisfied was quick to introduce me to potential Mother-In- Law as ‘X’s daughter’. Once pleasantries were exchanged and I had made sure to sit far away as possible from their table, Potential Mom In Law and Well-Meaning Aunty put their heads together to discuss whatever they had heard about me and my family over the years and thus began the process.
If they haven’t discovered the skeletons in my closet, the next part of the process is sharing information of the Son/Potential Groom who is made to seem like God’s gift to earth. Usually the details are shared via email in the form of a CV. These contain the usual age, height, education qualifications, professional experience, no. of siblings and in some cases the addresses of siblings (I mean those Colombo 7 addresses need to be highlighted right?). If a guy is settled in the West in UK, Australia or the States, he is prized property and if he is in the Middle East, remember his pockets are lined with oil money. If God’s gift to earth is based in Sri Lanka, make sure to insert MNC/MAS/Brandix in place of work to yield better results.
If all of the above is hunky dory, this is followed by the most awkward set up of getting the guy and girl to meet where you are expected to make small talk for a few minutes in close proximity to the family either in the next room or in the case of a café a nearby table. These minutes of chatter can range from anything like your hobbies to your future plans and in many cases for me football.
And just like that you make a decision on whether to spend a lifetime with a person.
Over time, the romantic notions I had of marriage (Blame Cinderella and her happily ever after!) have long fallen apart to give rise to a perception of love that is built on trust, commitment and respect. As much as I respect that our parents and elders have our best interests at heart, it is difficult to believe that this saga can actually lead to the kind of marriage I want for myself – you know the kind where someone just accepts your neurotic self, encourages you to just be a better version of yourself and most importantly challenges me on an intellectual level and is mentally stimulating.
Till I find a system that works, I am just going to sit as far away as possible from the Aunties and dig into the biriyani and wattalapam.