A couple of weeks ago, I was in the supermarket. There was baby stuff event and the merchandising sat next to various bits and pieces for Valentine’s day. I chuckled, there was a wonderfully funny link between the two. The Feast of Saint Valentine, the annual celebration, of all things hearts and flowers; you can’t miss it. There is merchandising as soon as Christmas is over.
There is an immense power in this run up. It can make you feel overjoyed, positively ecstatic if you are well and truly in love. There is the sadness, pain and feelings of being something of a social pariah if you aren’t. There is also being apathetic about it, not having any opinion on it. All of these perfectly valid.
However, there is an onus pick a camp and stay in it.
For years, I have had a dislike of February; a dislike of the fourteenth day, that is slap bang in the middle of month and unavoidable. It has taken me a long time to understand why I have felt like this, how I might change that way of feeling and also accept how I really feel about what is effectively a massive great big marketing campaign entrenched in socially constructed gender politics.
This may well come across as a rant, and I guess in part it is. It is not, a woe is me, what is wrong with me, sort of diatribe. The latter, is the complete anti-thesis of my perspective.
I’ve grown up with the ideology and cultural values that by the time you’ve gone to school, you graduate, get a job and get married. Getting married, happens to everyone, you then produce kids. The notions of love, romance and relationships are manipulated and there is an expectation of everyone following a very linear, very much pre-determined path. This does mean, that by 25 and 30, you’ve been to a lot of bollywood weddings, heard in the following year that the bride is not expecting and then had eyes made at you, signalling that you are next.
But what if you’re not?
I’ve had those eyes made at me, and it is soul destroying. I’ve even been asked why I can’t find someone, what could possibly be wrong with me? Trust me, I raged for days, took it to therapy and wrestled with introjects that ares so deep-rooted within cultural norms and values, I decided enough was enough.
I’m doing my best to buck a massive trend. I should in theory, be married, have two and half kids, and be settled. I’m not trying to avoid the linear strand of expectations; no, I’m just re-arranging the tracks a little. I’m trying to do what makes me happy, allows me to nurture my own actualising tendency, and consider my own valuing process.
Valentine is an introject, it has become an normalised part of that linear experience. That’s part of why I’ve found it all uncomfortable.
Just because everyone else is loved up, it’s okay if I’m not. I’m okay with it. I don’t need someone else to complete me, to be my better half. I don’t see why I have to dangle off someone else’s arm, or have someone else dangle off mine, to be perfectly honest. I’ve got to some level of acceptance; I’m okay with being single-don’t assume I’m alone, that’s different-the world will recognise that when it is ready.
Single woman are stigmatised for not being part of a duo; our value diminishes and is only increased when in the company of others. Our individuality, assertiveness and autonomy is considered to be defiance, to be disrespectful and contrary to the norm. As though we need a counter-weight and counterfoil to validate who we are. A single woman is a threat to the status-quo and that just won’t do.
I am enough. I have a lot about me-she types, oh so modestly-in my own right, to help me feel content. No one other person, should be needed an auxiliary or an accessory to contribute to my self concept, self image and self worth.
Yet, apparently, I need a boyfriend/husband to do what I do, to go wherever I go.
Above, you will see two images. The first, is me having a laugh; a plastic sword and an out-sized lid for a pan. One of my colleagues reckons I look a lot like a shield-maiden in that image. Second. I am in Amsterdam, on something of an adventure and wondering where to adventure next. The two images, in my mind at least, sum up how I feel right now.
There has been a lot reflection to get that far.
The number of times I have heard the following, or words to this effect:
- You’re here by yourself?
- Where is your husband/boyfriend?
- Who you going with, you’re not going by yourself are you?
- You really should take someone with you.
- Oh, I’d never go by myself
- You should get your parents to put on your matrimonial list (This was interesting-the time of my birth, my height, my qualifications. whether I was a meat-eater, all factored in, and before I so much as got in touch with the candidate..I mean, suitor. The best response ever….We were looking for a doctor, not a teacher.)
- Have you tried online? (Oh, please, that’s weird window shopping and then some…swipe, swipe, swipe….)
I have also be told :
- It’ll happen when it is supposed to.
- Yeah, but being married/in a relationship, isn’t all it is cracked up to be.
- You’re still young!
- Oh, I didn’t get married until I was X, Y, Z years old
I used the word perspective above. I do feel that this is important, given my how I’ve been raised, how I have experience the world and what I am continually learning about myself. Bend it like Beckham, East is East have a lot to flaming well answer for.
The next time, that a relative asks me, why aren’t you married, what is wrong with me, I’m not sure what I might say. I would like to have to the audacity, the bravery, to ask what this means for them, why is my relationship status so important to them? I know, that it is important for them. That in their world, we are all neatly paired up, there are babies and all is well. For now, I will remain stoic -‘It will happen when it happens; when I find someone, what will be, will be.’ Any other response, would most likely get me labelled and ‘told off.’
The key is, knowing what I want, and how this is different. I can recognise and respect the difference. It is not up to them, how I do things, when and with whomever I might find. I might even cite Priyanka Chopra or Deepika Padukone. Two Bollywood starlets who dared to defy convention.
I do think my animosity towards the feast of Saint Valentines has reduced somewhat. It’s cute, glittery; there are roses everywhere. I can grow my own roses, proper special ones at that, so I will shake my head at the air miles, as how they might not last more than a few days. Mine, last up to weeks, and the joy they elicits lasts longer too.
Thursday will come. I will go to work, come home, do what I do any other day of the week. The love, will be the love I have myself; a love centred on acceptance of me being me.
Whatever you do, where ever you are and with whomever, have a good one.