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Embarrassingly Single In India

Posted: November 2, 2013
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Why does ‘my being single’ make others recoil?

Mumbai is receptive and the easier city for Singles to live in. And they say Mumbai and Single, no matter what your age, these two words could be said in the same breadth without causing embarrassment to ANYone. Myth.

Mumbai is a mix of a lot many Indian cultures where being single is a subject of embarrassment to EVERYONE – family, friends, those who discover you are single, society watchman and you. Does not matter if you are happy with your marital status.

Instance no.1.
The doorbell rings, I answer the door to a man in formal clothing. “Madam I am here to talk about your insurance needs, is Sir around?” (Why? Even if I were married we would both use insurance. It’s not like you are selling penal implants. Why the gender bias?) Which Sir, I ask him. “Oh, sorry, what time does your mister come back from work, I can come then.”

“You may have to wait a few years”, I said.

Of course he was embarrassed about assuming that I am a homemaker and that he could/should not discuss insurance with a homemaker. He was also so embarrassed that he realized my retort very late.

Me smiling, the man recoiling.

Instance no. 2.
I happened to attend one of the functions at a social service organization where my Dad is the president. Of course most of the people there had attended my wedding. And even if they did not, it is assumed in our society that someone my age is married. So here is ‘Mrs. Well-meaning Aunty’.

“How is your husband?” “Oh Aunty, it did not work out, I am single now”. I said. “Oh, you mean you are divorced? Don’t worry it happens to everyone.”

One she conveniently replaced the word single with divorced, two she assumed I am unhappy and let’s please not use phrases loosely, ‘it happens to everyone’. No it doesn’t happen to everyone, Aunty, are you divorced? I ended the chat with “I am very happy Aunty, not worrying at all.”

Me smiling, the woman recoiling. I had caused Aunty embarrassment by breaking her worldview, ‘Divorcees are unhappy.

Instance no.3.
An enterprising chemist was trying to chat me up while I wait for my medication list to be packed. I usually buy stock for the month so it takes close to 15 minutes. Chemist, “Aaj aap kaise bhabhi, waise last time aapke mister davaiyaan le gaye the”. (Sister, how come you’ve come yourself? The last time your husband picked up the medicines.) My reply, “Nahi bhaisaahab pichli baar bhi main hi davaiyaan lekar gayi thi. Mera divorce ho gaya hai.” (No, I’d come myself the last time, I’ve had a divorce).

Me smiling, the woman recoiling.

Moral of the stories

  1. Our society must stop recoiling about someone being since or divorced and at any age.
  2. The society must be open to replacement of the word divorcee with single. After all I am not filling a visa form and for all practical purposes a divorcee is single.
  3. The society must stop assuming that single/divorced people are unhappy in THAT singles world.

All of the above can happen to men too. A salesgirl selling tampons will ask for the lady of the house, a well-meaning uncle will enquire about the other half and a chemist could have replaced the word mister with bhabhi for the polite conversation he was trying to make.

Being single in Mumbai is far less embarrassing than in any other city. Just to confirm the fact – In Gujarat the insurance agent would have smiled assuming I am joking. In Chennai, Mrs. Well-meaning Aunty would not have tried to pacify me but scorned me. And in most cities the chemist would not chat up a single woman customer anyway.

Happy to be ‘not embarrassingly single”. Because I am smiling all the way while the society does RECOIL! RECOIL! RECOIL!

Pic credit: christinielsen (Used under a CC license)

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