بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ
stupidity naiveté of youth!
Most of us are told many things, as sincere advice or emphatic matter-of-fact hearsay, by peers and older people when we are young.
I don’t know about others, but when I was a teenager, up to being twenty-something, I tended to follow the advice of most older people, especially the ones I cared about and admired, rather blindly and non-questioningly. I also listened keenly to the opinions of peers (of the same gender) whom I liked, admired and respected.
Marriage advice and myth. Sigh. No sooner than a girl turns 12, the advice about her future as a wife and mother starts to pour down upon her, especially in most Eastern cultures.
This advice comes first at the rate of a trickle, but as each year passes towards her 25th birthday, the gush resembles more a flood or torrent.
“Don’t sit with your legs apart. Ankles together!”
“Don’t laugh so loudly.”
“You must do something about those big eyebrows!”
“If you walk like that, no one will marry you.”
Anyhow, girls are more often the target of advice than boys, which is sad, since it is the men who go on to become the heads of families, and they are the ones who end up making most important, life-altering decisions after becoming husbands and fathers.
However, most adults (at least the patriarchal Pakistani variety) assume that advising a boy about his education, career and spending habits, is sufficient to make his future life as an adult all “set”.
Anyhow, since I was a girl, I am going to stick to discussing the advice received by young desi girls.
I’ve made a list of 8 things that I was emphatically told, or that most people around me assumed and believed about the whole marriage process, which I eventually discovered to be untrue in reality:
- Thin, fair, tall, and pretty girls marry first; bag the best men
The media, fluffy-nonsense-spewing romantic movies, cheesy romance novels, and glossy fashion magazines – all try to tempt the diva inside every young girl into believing that if she looks like the model on the front page or the poster, she will bag the best man and spend the happiest life as an adult woman.
Some of the most average-looking girls (according to prevalent fashion/media standards, not my perception) with the widest of girths, duskiest of complexions (there goes the “Fair & Lovely cream” myth down the drain!), and shortest of heights (think, 5 ft 2 in., heh!) got married first, back when I was in school and college.
And please allow me to say one more thing: some of the most ‘non-diva’ type girls bagged their future husbands from their schools or colleges, before they even hit age twenty.
As the “mean girls” at college beheld the love-struck couple, shook their heads in disdainful wonder and murmured, “What does he see in her?!”, the whole class eventually went on to receive the invitation card to the said couple’s wedding, which further salted the already sore wounds of the hissing, surly, narrow-wasted, glossy-haired, fair-skinned felines fuming about being one-upped by a supposed (as perceived by them) dark, short, and stocky girl in their midst.
I do not endorse romantic relationships before/outside marriage because Islam prohibits them, but I do know that when it comes to beauty and love, marriage is hardly EVER about what the fashion magazines and cinema posters exhort.
In real life, there are no fixed benchmarks regarding beauty and love.
- Cooking is difficult to conquer, but it conquers all
I wish, oh how I wish, that someone older had told the younger me, how terribly easy cooking is, and how trivial is it’s importance in the whole marriage realm.
Thankfully, we currently dwell in a world of YouTube tutorial videos in which innumerable people (ordinary ones, as well as qualified chefs) – both men and women – are teaching others how to cook everything – from a “crispy” fried egg (I didn’t even know eggs could be fried like that!) to Shakshuka.
And that is just the variety of egg recipes available online nowadays. The other categories are too many to be counted or even broadly listed here.
Ladies and gentlemen, cooking is very easy. Don’t lose any of your sleep over the fact that you cannot cook (yet).
And all you young, single ladies out there: the way to man’s heart is not through his stomach.
That is what most (insecure) mothers of sons exhort, because after all, a mother’s love for her son usually takes the stomach route, at least here in Pakistan.
The shortest way to his heart, for his wife, is through his ______ (cough).
- In-laws are like your new biological family
Ah, the over-rated importance of in-laws in desi cultures. Sigh. I used to get more advice about how to behave with my in-laws than about how to treat/live with my husband.
After marriage, your in-laws might be your new ‘family’, yes, but they definitely can’t compare in any way to your biological one.
Your behavior with, and your love for, your in-laws can never even come close to that which you have for your biological family. This applies whether you are a man or a woman.
Expressing your true opinions, emotions, feelings, and thoughts in front of your in-laws is a risky matter. You cannot even laugh loudly, be sarcastic, or honestly divulge your past escapades, personal flaws, or other secrets in front of an in-law without fearing future repercussions.
In front of your parents and siblings, however, you can afford to speak before thinking, even if it means putting your (big) foot in your mouth time and again. You can rant, whine, cry, sulk, scowl, or complain. You can even yell, without fearing anything bad happening to you as a result. Negative behavior in front of your biological family never affects your relationship with them in the long run, but with your in-laws, it does.
No matter how wonderful your in-laws are, how fond you are of them, and how well you get along with them – the above rule still applies for most marriages. Exceptions are just that – exceptions – not the norm.
Take it from me. Never compare an old T-shirt that you’ve been wearing for years and that you go to sleep in every night, to a formal new outfit that can get ripped or crinkled as soon as you make a jerky movement without thinking.
They are just not the same. So do not compare them.
The wife always has to make more sacrifices than the husband
Hailing from and being raised in an Eastern, patriarchal, and largely misogynist culture, I often heard this advice: girls have to give in more in a marriage; they have to sacrifice more, suffer more hardship, and remain more patient after marriage.
I was emphatically told time and again that it is the girl/woman who makes or breaks the home. It’s a man’s world, and a man can do whatever he wants, including divorcing his wife at will and remarrying another, without suffering much hardship or pain. Men have it easy. Women have to bear most of the burdens.
That’s what I was told, and made to believe.
Well, my life experience has proved all the above statements to be largely prejudiced myths harbored and propagated mostly by weak-willed, insecure, oppressed, and servile older women, who allow themselves to be mistreated and undermined by the men in their families, even those subordinate to them, such as their younger brothers and sons.
Men suffer a lot after marriage too. They also get mistreated by their in-laws. They also get dumped by their wives, who go on to marry someone else. They also endure enormous pain and heartbreak after a divorce. Some of these dumped husbands never get over their ex-wives (who happened to be the “loves of their lives”), so they never remarry, and go on to live a life of misery and loneliness.
Men also have to suffer loneliness if and when they relocate to another city or country in pursuit of a new job, away from their families, leaving their wives and children behind too. They consequently spend months or years missing their families terribly, but the burden of having to work to provide for them keeps them away from their loved ones.
Also, the dual responsibility of taking care of both, their parents, as well as their wives and children, can make some married men crumble under the combined pressure. They sometimes end up angering and neglecting one party if they support the other too much. It is a case of constantly juggling multiple balls in the air, especially for those men who are solitary sons as well as husbands/fathers.
It might be a man’s world apparently, yes, but they definitely do not have it much easier than women.
So quit watching the drivel churned out by trashy Pakistani dramas; with their incessantly sobbing, tearful female protagonists lamenting their “naseeb” as the chocolate hero playing their husband on-screen lustfully runs off after yet another tarty mistress, and take a careful look around you to observe the truths of real life!
- It is better to have all your children close together; to raise them in one go
I cannot tell you how often I have heard this one! Sigh.
Not everyone of us is cut out for having 2, 3, 4 or 5 children one after another, within the first decade of marriage.
Pregnancy, child rearing, and parenting is different for each one of us.
Some of us are dealt a tougher hand in life than others, so even if a man or woman has 6 children, parenting those 6 might be easier for them than someone else who has “only” 2, because the latter might have been tested more severely in his/her parenting journey.
So we should not assume that a man or woman who has fewer children has it easier than the one who has a higher number. Only Allah knows what trials each one of us is going through.
Yes, having a child later, after a longer gap, does mean that the parents have to do all the baby-parenting duties all over again, but some parents enjoy raising such a child more, because he or she is born after a considerable gap, and they also find it easier on their bodily/mental health and financial well-being to raise this child, after being done with their older children.
Besides, some married couples are destined to have only one child, and others, none at all. You never know, perhaps the parents with ‘only’ one 7-year-old, whom you are sincerely advising to ‘have all their children together, in one go’, are already struggling with fertility issues and trying desperately to conceive since the past many years.
So stop telling younger couples to rush to have another child (or two) so that they can raise them all together.
Leave them be.
- Marrying rich is always better
Rich families suffer from so many major issues and problems, which Allah has kept comparatively lesser-off families free from, that it’s not even funny.
I always heard girls at school, college, and those in my neighborhood, gush with envy whenever they mentioned a girl who was marrying into a “filthy rich” family. This myth was also what all the cheesy Indian and English films corroborated: that we should desire to have the palatial mansion-like homes, the fancy and expensive clothes, the flashy jewelry, and the glossy cars. The age-old ‘fairy tale’.
Alhamdulillah that at age 36, after knowing what kind of trials and challenges only rich families go through, I am glad to claim that this particular myth got busted so soon in my life, before I could let my own children aspire to limit their goals in life to just the mere acquisition of material wealth and luxuries.
Wealth combined with taqwa (consciousness of Allah) is nothing but “khair“. However, even then, wealthy people tend to have more problems and worries than poor do, because they are burdened with handling a large load of wealth, and with spending it according to Allah’s pleasure; a burden that Allah has kept the middle and lower social classes free from.
Be careful what you wish for, they say, because you just might get it!
Girls who marry into wealthy families have their own extra set of struggles and hardships, even if you always see them with 3 personal maids and adorned in designer fashion all the time. I won’t go into factual details here.
Suffice to say, their practical life is definitely not a fairy tale.
- Living as a nuclear family is always better
I don’t think anyone would choose to live with their in-laws after marriage, if they were given the free choice by Allah beforehand, and if they had the free will and means to live separately.
Well, let me tell you one thing: living as a nuclear family is not always as easy as it seems to be on the outside, even though it is definitely the better option for anyone who values their privacy and autonomy as a husband or wife.
Living with joint families carries a much lighter load of responsibilities and risks. Living separately increases a couple’s cost of living and lowers their standard of living one notch, because meeting higher living costs obligates the relinquishment of luxuries.
Nuclear living also places the entire load of parenting and raising children on a couple’s own shoulders, with no free babysitters (relatives/family servants) around to share/ease this responsibility.
That being said, by now I have come to love embracing the challenges of living nuclearly, and wouldn’t have it any other way.
But it definitely wasn’t easy.
- Women never enjoy sexual intimacy, only men do
Last, but definitely not the least. 🙂
Well, for starters, I would like to remind those of my readers who did not know me before the age of 21: I come from a very “liberal” background. Meaning, before I started hijab, I was educated and socially active in a very liberal-minded circle of people. They all dropped me from their social life, of course, once my face got covered with my beloved niqab, except a handful few (but who’s complaining?!).
Anyhow, keeping that background in mind, you’d be surprised at the kind of false information I heard from girlfriends about sexual intimacy during my teenage years.
Remember that our generation was raised without Google, YouTube, and Wikipedia, with trashy Mills & Boon novels, and secretly-hustled issues of Cosmopolitan magazine being the only sources of our taboo knowledge regarding this genre of life.
To sum up: most girls assumed that sexual intercourse was an extremely painful and un-pleasurable experience for a young woman. And not just the first time.
Of course, the over-dramatic rape scenes that occurred in almost all Indian movies (cheap, rented Indian films on VHS cassettes were a VCR staple in most urban Pakistani homes during the 80’s and 90’s) didn’t help nip that myth in the bud. I’d hear the sordid details of these misogynist scenes, all mouth agape and wide-eyed with horror, at school, from those of my female friends who were allowed to watch this nonsense at home.
Anyhow, forget my teenage coming-of-age years. I laugh at those memories, now after being married for 11 years, alhamdulillah, so I won’t lie to you, ladies. You heard it from me, right here on this blog:
All those ladies or other people who claim that women do not and cannot enjoy sex, are not telling you the truth.
Either they are lying (especially if they are virgins), or sadly (if they are married), they are saying this because they have never enjoyed sex themselves. The latter case is extremely sad, actually, and my heart really does go out to those married women who have never enjoyed it, not even once. Seriously.
There are actually two ways via which Allah has favored women over men, as far as sexual pleasure is concerned:
(i) Sex doesn’t tire a woman out as it does a man, who usually does most of the physical “work” during sex, nor does it drain her of her bodily strength.
This, however, is not true for a man. Sex tires a man out, whereas it refreshes and revitalizes a woman. And she doesn’t need to eat or sleep immediately afterwards to regain her strength, the way a man does.
Hah! There you have it. Which gender excels the other now?
(ii) A woman can reach greater heights of sexual pleasure (i.e. she can climax through multiple orgasms) through not one, but two avenues. Whereas men just have one.
I won’t go into more details than that. You have Google for that. Heh.
I just wanted to set the record straight, especially for the younger, single female readers of this blog who might have believed the lies about women not being “made to enjoy sex”.
Yeah, right. What nonsense!
So there you have it. I didn’t want to grow too old to be able to recall all the myths regarding marriage that I heard during the first 2 decades of my life, which got debunked by my life experience, before letting the world know through this blog how they were proved wrong/false for me.
Perhaps some, or all, of them might have been proved true for you. So be it.
However, since this is “Sadaf’s Space”, I deem it my responsibility to convey to the world (especially to my younger female readers) the things I was told as a youngster about marriage that didn’t turn out to be true.
Marriage, like life, is not a bed of roses. But that doesn’t mean that we should assume that others will have it as bad as some.
Some do have it better.
And all praises to Allah for that!