The Way To Fix Your Tainted Reputation Is To Get You Married… But Is It?

They pass snide remarks. “Too ambitious. Too fussy. Too single.” You are the poster child of a life gone wrong.

2021, Valentine’s

The Universe seems to be bent on reminding you to celebrate the day of love. There is a hitch though; you are among the few that don’t have anyone to celebrate it with. Amazon floods you with discounts on chocolates and flowers, and social media is full of lovey-dovey pictures, reminding you of the one thing you don’t have.

Love is in the air, everywhere. Except for you. You are suffocating.

When you have already exhausted your work emails and your boss demands you to sign off, you decide to learn a new language. You listen to Chinese tapes and learn a new word. Sheng nu. A term for single women past their mid-twenties that translates to leftovers. The last orange in the basket.

You are thirty-six, the last orange, in a very empty basket.

***

You had a plan; it was all sorted out in your head. You would do your master’s, get a job, be financially independent, and buy a home of your own. You wanted to find your life partner, someone kind and understanding. Someone you would fall in love with.

Truly. Madly. Deeply. 

Things went according to plan, at least initially. Did that make you feel invincible?

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You were the pride of your family, the first to secure admission into an elite business school. You topped the class and got recruited by a prestigious firm. You were in your twenties and thought you had ample time. Building a career was your primary focus, and the years sped by.

Soon, the conversations at family lunches change. It is no longer about your latest promotion or work.

“Have you met someone?” your mother inquires eagerly.

You explain that you aren’t ready, but your mother shakes her head and cautions you to ‘get ready’ before it’s too late.

Is marriage some sort of race? Is there a deadline?

In your early thirties, you meet someone through your friends’ circle. You forge an instant connection. He shares your interests, loves traveling, and has a sense of humour. He asks you out on a date and one leads to many. You have a steady boyfriend, at last!

Valentine’s day is glorious, you prepare for it for weeks to surprise him. Red roses, teddy bears, chocolates, champagne; the works. It’s perfect. He must be your soulmate, the one you waited for, all this while.

You muster the courage to tell your parents about Rahul. They are over the moon, and they want to meet him. The first meeting goes great; your parents are floored. They already refer to him as ‘son-in-law’ much to your embarrassment. They start looking for marriage halls since there is a one-year-long waitlist. You beg them not to get excited; you want to take things slow.

Your mother retorts that at your age she already had had two children.

You are not your mother. You love her to bits, but the life she chose for herself is not the life you want.

Rahul insists that he is ready for the next step. No, it’s not marriage. He wants a live-in. You wonder what your orthodox parents will say, but you decide to move in with him, anyway. You gradually realize that dating a person and living with them are two different things.

Rahul seems to snap at you over the smallest of things. You have your doubts, but you refuse to listen to them. This is it. He is the one. Relationships are about adjustment, aren’t they?

You banish the voice in your head that questions if you are sticking around because you are too scared to start afresh.

Your parents find out about your living arrangement, and all hell breaks loose. They insist that the relationship must be legitimized at once. You are in your mid-thirties and want to have children before you turn forty, which means that now is the time to get married. When you initiate the conversation with Rahul, he develops cold feet. He tells you that it’s not working out. Just like that, he breaks up with you.

Your parents are devastated. They even offer to talk to Rahul, but you plead with them to preserve the little shred of dignity you have left. You move into a new flat, one that is as empty as you feel. Valentine’s 2021 is a damp squib.

***

Your family feels that the only way to fix your tarnished reputation is to get you married off at the soonest. A big fat wedding will erase all bad memories. They plead to consider an arranged marriage. When you protest, your mother bursts into tears.

You reluctantly give in, and the process begins. Your profile is uploaded onto matrimony sites extolling virtues you didn’t know you possessed. Hours are spent in combing through profiles and shortlisting prospects.

You chat with a few of these men. You are attractive, well-educated, and have a well-paying job. You are a prize catch, but sadly no one wants to fish for you. They don’t say it, but you hear it, anyway.

Too educated. Too career-minded. Too opinionated.

The first person who appears half-decent wants to meet up. Your mother decides to observe a fast to appease whichever divine entity is responsible for matchmaking. For her sake, you hope things go well. Sadly, the prospect turns out to be a nightmare; he has no qualms about dissecting your previous relationship and asks pointed questions about your virginity. You excuse yourself and head to the ladies to retch.

A friend tells you that Rahul has gotten married to a younger woman. It shatters you, but you move on, brushing the memories under the carpet. Everyone seems to want to set you up with someone. Prospects number two, three, and four, follow suit. You get used to the drill.  Some chats progress more than the others, and you allow yourself hope. Ultimately, they all fall flat. You shed salty tears, drenching your pillow. Perhaps, you are destined to be alone for the rest of your life. Perhaps, you are incapable of being loved.

Your cousin’s wedding is a nightmare because everyone wants to know if yours is next. They look at you with pity, as though you’re afflicted with terminal disease. And then, they pass snide remarks.

Too ambitious. Too fussy. Too single.

You are the poster child of a life gone wrong.

2022, Valentine’s

This year you are thirty-seven, and none of your life plans have fructified.

It’s February already; the so-called month of love, the month you dread. On an impulse, you get yourself a rose plant, two weeks prior to V-day. It sits on your windowsill, resplendent and red. But then, the petals start shedding, one by one, and soon it stands bereft of flowers, a sickly grey.

It’s Valentine’s Day, and you are alone, with a plant that symbolizes your existence.

You collapse on the kitchen floor and wail your heart out. It hurts. The judgment, the pity, the interfering; all of it. You glance at your graduation photo sitting on the mantlepiece. Your eyes were filled with life; there was a twinkle in them. Why did that twinkle disappear?

Dull. Dreary. Inadequate.

That’s how you feel, most days. You need help. That realization hurts, but you know it’s now or never.

You’ve been a fighter; you will get through this. You decide to go for therapy and book an appointment. You don’t tell your parents; they don’t think mental health is a real issue.

On the day, you almost cancel the appointment, but your conscience pushes you to go, and you show up. The therapist is a middle-aged lady with a pleasant face. You hope she’ll give you answers, but instead, she makes you do most of the talking. You open up about your joyless pursuit of love. And how frustrating it is, and how you have lost all zeal for life. You don’t realize when the sixty minutes are up, and it’s time to leave.

You haven’t felt this light in a while.

You start looking forward to these sessions. Somehow, it feels nice to be heard, even though you are paying for it.

During yet another visit, the therapist asks you what your hobbies are, and you pause. In the past years, your primary hobby has been reviewing profiles, dating, and wallowing. You are assigned homework; to pick up something you find interesting. You select baking and start experimenting with cupcakes. You also start making changes to your flat, adding more colour. You set up a plant garden in your balcony, carefully selecting the flowers. You join a plant lovers group, to gain tips on ‘how not to kill your plants.’

One day, your therapist startles you with a question.

Do you love yourself?

How absurd! You stutter and stammer. You haw and hem. Of course, you do. Who doesn’t? And then it hits you, you have been in and out of relationships so often, that you’ve forgotten about the most important person in your life; YOU. You have been so busy trying to dance to someone else’s tune, that you have forgotten the rhythm of your heart.

Something in you changes that day. Almost like a homecoming.

Your colleagues notice the difference and enquire if you have found someone special.

“My therapist!” Your answer stumps them, and they giggle nervously.

You start appreciating mundane things like sunrises and sunsets. You work out more, you savour moments more. The positive affirmations on your fridge remind you that you are beautiful, and you are loved.

Being single doesn’t matter; being happy does.

The rose plant you had given up on, has sprouted tiny green leaves, a symbol of new life and new beginnings. Your family begs you to try meeting new people. You tell them you can’t; you are taking a sabbatical of a year from work; to focus on yourself. You have neglected yourself for too long, and you want to fix it.

“Your biological clock is ticking. How will you have children?” your mother despairs.

You explain that to be a good mother, you need to be happy; and you are working on that. Besides, options are available- like freezing eggs, or adoption.

This is the equivalent of dropping a nuclear bomb on your family, but they will come to terms with it. They love you, but they need to respect your choices too.

***

Your sabbatical gets approved. A year to heal; a year to fall in love again…. with yourself.

You book flight tickets; you go backpacking across Asia- you visit monasteries and meditate, bathe in waterfalls, trek along gurgling creeks, and walk carefree in the sun and the rain. You breathe. You feel unencumbered and are filled with a renewed joie de vivre.

You aren’t a left-over orange in a basket; you are a Faberge egg, unique and exquisite.

2023, February 14th

While travel was fun, it’s nice to be back home. The terrace garden is flowering; there are luscious red roses, a lot like your life.

Full and blooming. 

You put up a quote on your wall, something that you purchased at a souvenir shop.

“How you love yourself is how you teach others to love you.” Rupi Kaur.

The cupcakes are baking nicely, filling the kitchen with a lovely aroma. You get ready to celebrate the day of love, with the love of your life. YOU.

Life isn’t a diary with finite timelines- you can’t plan it all. You may be single, but guess what? You are OK with it. The doors to love haven’t closed and you are open to possibilities but are no longer in a hurry to settle for anyone, just to settle down.

You are enough. 

It took you a long time to get here, and you are proud of yourself.

You take out a fresh batch of red velvet cupcakes from the oven. As you prepare the frosting, you lick it, and smile.

You whisper to yourself, “Happy Solentine’s! “

Editor’s Note: It’s the season of love, and especially romantic love. But what if you are not in a romantic relationship right now? We asked our readers to send in their #HappySolentine stories.

Image source: shutterstock

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About the Author

Lalitha Ramanathan

Lalitha is a blogger and a dreamer. Her career is in finance, but writing is her way to unwind! Her little one is the center of her Universe. read more...

54 Posts | 74,489 Views

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