Whenever I call my best friend in Pakistan, her mum always prods in the background asking for “good news.” Good news, meaning I’m finally … drumroll please … getting married. As an unmarried 26-year-old Pakistani-American woman, I’m considered by many desi aunties as a bridal ship that has nearly sailed.
It may have begun when my father’s old friend said at my grandmother’s funeral: “Betaa (child), my wife loved you for our son, but unfortunately he is younger than you.” Baffled and enraged, when I sounded off to my father, he responded, “Uncle’s comment might have sounded untimely, but believe me, theirs is an amazing family and to be a part of it would have been very precious for us all.”
Or the time in a small town in California when an “aunty” whom I met about 56.2 minutes previously came to me with her ducklings trailing her: her three sons. It seemed like the scene in Mulan where they line up to get assessed as honorable brides. But let’s move on to my favorite story.
I was blessed enough (read: condemned) that my grandmother (rest her hilarious soul) had a matchmaker cousin in Pakistan. Yes, in the 21st century. Can you sense my excitement?! Keep in mind that the old dame was in her 70s, and apparently an expert at binding young men and women for life.
Let me explain: I simply do not have any interest in marriage at the moment. I can’t imagine my life fusing with another’s forever until I’ve sorted mine out. I believe holy matrimony is holier when done later in the game; we change so much in our 20s that if you get married early and can’t handle one another’s transformations—big surprise—it is likely to end in divorce. Stats and stories—we all know. Of course, there are exceptions.
At my mother’s urging and the promise that they would leave me alone after this one attempt, I caved in.
The matchmaker’s son (my mother’s second cousin), told me that he’s the reason my parents married and hopefully he would be the reason for my own marriage. I bit my tongue so hard I nearly tasted blood.
The matchmaker barely talked to me—she asked my mother where I work, my age, and some other totally irrelevant questions. She confirmed that I have a “blue passport” (American citizenship—this makes me super hot). My mother ensured that it was known that I was a vegetarian and that I was not likely to change. Immediate concern was expressed about whether I would cook meat for my husband. I politely (forcefully) smiled and desperately kept my mouth shut. But seriously, I can’t even cook vegetables for myself, let alone meat for anyone else.
Days later, a match! The matchmaker’s neighbor’s son was in town and of age! He was getting a Ph.D. in public policy in Atlanta. However, he did not have a “blue passport” and would like to stay in the United States. I was already wary: I told my mother jokingly that I’d marry him and set him free in the Land of the Free, but it’ll cost him big American bucks. She told me to shut up.
The boy and his mother planned to meet us at my uncle’s home where we were staying. I was not pleased—my uncle has a beautiful home, and they were going to want me based on my citizenship and my uncle’s wealth.
The day arrived. I rebelled in small ways and refused to dress up or wear my standard makeup for the initial meeting. I didn’t wear sleeves; they needed to know of my right to bare arms as a “modern girl.” My mum greeted them and shortly after told my cousin to “bring me.” My cousin “escorted” me into the room and there they were: a lady and her scrawny, lanky son sitting at a perfect angle so all I could see was the giant mole on his face. Two words came to mind: Austin Powers. I swear I’m not usually a terrible person, but my pessimism about this whole set up only served to spotlight everything negative.
I was forced to serve them tea and snacks. I did my best to avoid conversation, and my poor mother tried to break all the long, awkward silences. She asked about his hobbies, and His Lankiness responded with rock climbing. I stifled a guffaw. “Do you actually rock climb or use the rock wall at the gym?” I asked as politely as possible. He misunderstood me entirely and told me he works out several times a week at the gym and rock climbs sometimes. I continued to hold my tongue for the sake of my family’s honor. My mum mentioned I love ice hockey and took a class in college. Meanwhile, my cousin was blatantly nudging me about wanting “alone” time with him, and I was whispering to her that I’d kill her if she suggested it aloud. Eventually, this hellish, unnatural evening came to an end.
The matchmaker called a day later, upset that we hadn’t updated her instantly. It turned out that we had won their hearts and they wanted round two. We had to inform the matchmaker that the sentiment was not shared. Sorry folks, not every story can have a fairytale ending and matching blue passports.
The matchmaker then tried to set me up with another guy who, you guessed it, also wanted to live in Amreeka, as we call it. Annoyed, my mother said she would consider it.
Guess what the matchmaker had the nerve to say? “Look, Farah, your daughter … she’s nothing extraordinary. She’s pretty ordinary. And before she gets fat, I suggest you marry her off!” My mother, out of respect, laughed nonchalantly. I warned my mother to not let this woman come within twenty feet of me.
And that’s how the West was won.
As a decent-looking, independent, bicultural, open-minded woman, a Stanford employee, a person with an incredible and diverse circle of friends, a high sense of morality and not too many daddy issues—dare I be too bold to state that I’m a catch? It doesn’t really matter that my clock is ticking: I’m grateful to be able to focus on my own needs.
The point is, no matter where you are in life, regardless of your background, you’ll be prodded about the next step in your life. You’re in college, when will you graduate?
Graduated—when will you get a job? Job—when will you get married? Married—when will you produce a child? A child—when will you have another because, Heaven knows, that child will be lonely!
Do whatever you want, kids. Stick it to the man. Or rather, stick it to the aunty.
Originally published in the UNDERenlightened; www.theunderenlightened.com
Mak Akhtar is an UNDERenlightened contributing writer and immerses herself in service, ice hockey, eclectic music, sustainability and the eternal quest for the greatest peace of mind and piece of cake.