“Far too many of my friends seem to be getting hitched,” says your unmarried friend.
“I know the feeling,” you say. “Everyone in my batch is already gone by now.”
Together, the two of you contemplate how long you have before the stern and vaguely cow-like gaze of Society starts looking at you and asking “When are YOU getting married, eh?”
This is a question often battled by feminists*, but if you live anywhere in South East Asia, it’s probably universal. Regardless of what sex you are, chances are quite high that you’ve had some version of this conversation fairly recently (probably more so if you’re a girl anywhere past her twenties). You’ve probably done the math and figured out that supporting another human being is really, really expensive, and that’s not counting the horrendously expensive wedding or the even more expensive photography shoot. Not to mention the house, the kids, the food, the clothes, the car, the twenty years of educating a kid, inflation, rising costs of everything . . .
And yet, all around are couples making the leap like lemmings off a cliff. This is depressing, and not just because it contributes to unsustainable population growth. It’s depressing because half the time you can see exactly where that marriage will end: arguments, alcohol, jealousy, cheating, and boredom. (I’m not sure which one is worse). Some of these marriages are arranged – perhaps not as openly as the ‘marry her off’ impulse 30 years ago, but arranged nonetheless, with people being bound by economic or social circumstances beyond their control.
This is just stupid.
Our society is one that basically keeps us in school for 20 years, trudging from eight to five to school in a vague simulacrum of office life. Society, financial independence, careers – all of that stuff is expected to come later, hopefully when you’re 24 and done with your degree and ready to face the world. You’re then allowed – sometimes within parental jurisdiction – to make decisions that might affect your life for the next two years (like getting a job at Virtusa, or packing your bags and leaving for uni in Chennai, or jumping off a cliff). Now, finally, you’re at that time of your life when you want to get out and explore the world and do enough things to have some tales to terrify your grandkids with.
Just when you’re ready to do that, society clamps you down, ties you to someone else, expects you to sit at home (if you’re female) or work your ass off (if you’re male) and buy that house. That’s a nice car. And how’s the baby coming?
It’s like cutting off a bird’s wings, throwing it out of the nest and asking it to file its tax returns on the way down. Some people actually do this voluntarily, which I find horrifying – in the same way that self-mutilation is horrifying.
Formal education doesn’t really give you an idea of the skills you need to be a functioning adult. You’re not taught to control expenditure, you’re not taught how to pay your taxes, and you’re certainly not taught what your basic human rights are. All you know is that you’ve basically spent half your life memorizing stuff that anyone with a calculator, Internet access and common sense would know.**
You’re also not taught how to bring up a child (which is surprising, given that the majority of humans end up doing it anyway: you’d think it’d be as important as quadratic equations or the biology of carrots).
Needless to say, you will change. Sometimes very rapidly. You will do new things. You will re-do old things***. The person you are now will not be the same as the person you are next year. The person you were at 18 is not the person you are now (what a relief). That girlfriend turns out to be a jealous b*tch a year or so into your relationship.
Why on earth would you want to sign a contract that basically turns you and someone else into a baby-producing tag-team factory? (Remember that if you’re a guy, you’re literally expected to earn enough to pay for the entire family and then some, and you’re not making anything out of it either – no-one’s going to give you a promotion for ‘doing your duty’ as Society monotonously dubs it.)
Why bother? Don’t you have enough on your plate already? Why not just wait a bit and live a little?
Unfortunately, Society does a really good job of brainwashing us. Marriage is the ultimate objective, the start of the mythical happily ever after. Forget overpopulation. Or trekking across the world. Let’s all have kids instead. What better way to enjoy life than give up your 20s in exchange for years of noise, poop, noise, poop, teenage angst and exam fees?
The net result is honestly terrifying: a system where everyone gets married a few years after school, rolls out the first baby a year later, and, being relatively immature parents, spends the next 20 years of their life bringing up children who’ll do the exact same thing. All those childhood dreams – pop. Ultimately, everyone dies bitter, lonely and wondering what went wrong down the line.
“MOM, I WANT TO BE an ASTRONAUT!”
“NOT NOW, SWEETY, YOU’VE GOT TO FINISH SCHOOL FIRST. AND GET YOUR DEGREE. AND AFTER THAT YOU’VE GOT TO MAKE BABIES.”
*And rightly so.
** That certainly summed up half my education, anyway; the other half was English Lit. and that was beautiful.
*** Some of them painful and involving motorcycles.