When I was about 24 or 25 years old, my best friend and I were discussing about “the wedding-panic benchmark”. It is when someone becomes the benchmark for others to start panicking about, “when am I going to get married?”.
My best friend, at that time, confessed that I was her wedding-panic benchmark. And so were our other group of friends.
Perhaps my friends thought that I am Wonder Woman, who vowed to only get married if only evil and injustices vanish from the earth.
I’m 31 now and among my group of friends I am actually indeed one of the few single individuals left. Let me first say, “you’re welcome”. I am glad to be of service for your ease of minds considering that you decided to settle down before I did.
But, I think some of my younger or other single friends are still worried about when will it be their turn for their wedding.
Indonesian traditional social norms pressures you into getting married early, have a child, die happy. It is as if people had linear timelines and they all participated in “The Game of Life” board game. They did not tell you that marriage is a lot of work and rearing a child requires even more work and responsibilities. I saw this image going viral on my social media timeline and had a major face-palm moment.
I also believe Disney is responsible for being the cause of depressed people worldwide for making us believe that marriage is a ‘happily-ever-after’. Disney and porn, perhaps, for creating inflated expectations.
You see, I was fine becoming ‘the benchmark’ when I realised that perhaps I had a benchmark myself: my younger brother. Fate has it, he decided to get married a few weeks ago
I expected the usual “when-is-your-turn” questions, and I must say I have prepared witty remarks such as:
Distant uncle: So, where is your “calon”? (my soon to be partner)
Me: Oh, he’s not here yet.
Distant uncle: Really?
Me: Yes. He will be coming from the future.
However, I mostly answered those “kapan-kawin” questions from relatives whose names I do not even know with a faint smile.
A week after my brother’s wedding, my grandmother passed away.
I was out of town and was not able to attend the funeral, so my father sent me a message. “Eyang has always been proud of you and your achievements. But she said she always wanted to see you get married”.
Eyang, it’s not like I didn’t try.
The problem is, I am a hopeless romantic who believes that you need to be madly, deeply in love with the person you are married with. I could settle for an arranged marriage*), but, no. I don’t trust my mother to make fashion choices for me, let alone choosing my spouse.
I had my fair share of debates with my mother about marriage as well.
I remember when I was in my mid-20s, I said to my mother, “What if you don’t have to get married? What if you found a calling and that becomes your lifetime devotion?”. My mother raised her voice and asked, “Like what?”. To which I replied, “Well, like Mother Teresa, for instance”. My mother snapped and started to recite a verse from the Koran, something about how God has created a match for everyone. The debate didn’t end well. I am well aware that I am not Mother Teresa material and I know now to not start a topic like that when you’re driving in the car alone with your mother.
When I was in my early 20s, my mother said, “I hope you settle down with a kind, smart, Sundanese Moslem man”. When I turned 25 she said, “I hope you settle down with a kind Moslem man”. Then, when I turned 30 she said, “I hope you settle down”.
I am happy that now my mother has realistic expectations of me.
For a while, I thought that I have a fear of commitment. I envied people who are able to make a commitment to fall in love over and over again with the same person over the years. This is coming from someone whose longest commitment so far is with a gym membership. And it’s only been a year or so things have ‘worked out’ between us after four years of status.
Some would also say, “Oh, you’re too picky”. To which I always answer, “How can I be too picky if I have no one to pick?”.
Truth to be told, I have had my share of heartbreaks as well in the quest for love and being with “the one”. Over the course of my failed relationships I realised I wanted love so bad that in the end I did not love or take care of myself. I yearned for the other person’s affection yet neglected what is needed for my soul, and what is needed for me to grow.
It is dangerous when you change yourself to be accepted by the subject of your interest. It may start from something simple. You start listening to the same music (you said you are open to metal but you know you’re more into jazz, really), you start going out to the same place (you hated dance clubs and prefer coffee shops but – oh, there’s this rave party invitation thing that they asked you to come to), and without you realising, over the course of time you start to stop becoming you. You got lost.
Sadly, I have witnessed friends or relatives who got married, found themselves as individuals, had different priorities, grew apart, and divorced.
Those distant family members will then start making small talks in the next Halalbihalal, asking “Where is your spouse?” — even though they knew the separation was recent — in lieu of “when-is-your-turn-to-get-married” questions.
Loving — and eventually marrying yourself is important. At first, I find the story behind “self-marriage” quite bizarre, whether it was Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City or Sue Sylvester from Glee. Essentially, committing to yourself does not necessarily mean you are being selfish, but more of making a vow, “I will never leave me”.
Leaving or being left by someone who is important to you is hurtful, no matter the circumstances. People who have their heart broken usually recover by doing the things that they enjoy or love the most. However, finding your true self after your core have been heavily influenced by another individual is usually the hardest.
When you have promised yourself that you will not leave you, you find peace from within and do the things you enjoy or love the most, and eventually get rid of society’s unnecessary pressure for you to be married with someone.
There is really no need to panic for a wedding date. Find yourself from within and be content with who you are. If you found someone to move in the same direction as you are, in the right timing, that’s just a bonus.
*)Note: Special shoutout to my Indian friends who taught me there’s a thing called a ‘love marriage’. “Aren’t all marriage supposed to be based on love?” In which my friend answered, “Fika, obviously you have not met an Indian family. Most of us go through an arranged one”.