Saturday, January 9, 2010

Marriages; Arranged or Love....Are they Really That Different?

"All the Worlds a Stage and all the Men and Women are merely Players"
-William Shakespeare

I was recently asked to write an article on the virtues of Arranged Marriage Vs. Love Marriages. This is what I came up.

1. Arranged Marriages: Long gone are the days where the family merely informed you of your own wedding via shaadi card, with strict instruction on what to wear and what time to be there. No one gets married anymore to satisfy their family, unless you are gay, and then you don't really care who you marry as long as you get to keep your extra large closet to yourself.

However, some key elements still remain. Your family does the match making, you have a partial decision (though usually if either party respectfully declines, its all good unless the parents are bosom buddies and in that case your completely screwed, 'how dare he not want to marry my perfect daughter/son, does he think he's too good for us"). At this point it may not be a good time to note that their 'perfect daughter' is about as intelligent as a tub of face cream (Think Brain Mush), as sweet tempered as Attila the Hun (refer to your history books) and has as much in common with you as Tom Green (see 'Freddy got Fingered' for Details). Rejection from either side hurt, so you try to humor parents by sitting through pointless dinners till you can find a reason for reject the match (In terms of being matched with a brown girl, saying that you heard she is crazy, ought to do it, but don't be specific, leaving it vague allows for imaginations to run wild; particularly as your actually right, and all brown women are born a little off their rockers.)

2. Love Marriages: Its your own choice...but how independent is it? Your lifestyle circumstances, friends, work place, college choice do the match making (fate), the decision is mostly up to you (very rarely do I see marriages where the parents disapprove of a choice (religious grounds excluded)) but that said, it depends on how the relationship dynamic works. There is exceedingly popular the 'I just want to be friends, even though you don't angle' (both persons are usually aware of this, if not then respective IQ levels ought to be examined), though the "hey we're dating" piece becomes more prevalent, as our cultural values shift. But the main relationship development is stress free as the couple develop an understanding based on their mutual desire for a shared future (for men, the tenure of that future is likely to be shorter). But once they are "ready to go public"/tell the parents, good luck and if your a guy, you had better pray that the girl meets all/most of the family requirements (in Pakistan, parents are more particular on who their sons marry as the daughters usually move in). As long as they fit most of the basic requirements, parents are usually willing to go along with it all (though expect vicious back ground checks).

Perhaps parents have realized that its their kids lives, and they should be allowed to make their own choices (highly unlikely). I personally think it has something to do with wanting grand kids and lacking good reasons for rejection (saying she's not perfect enough doesn't work anymore). Though God help you if you decide to break it off....Seriously. That news spreads like wild fire and you know your officially cut off from main stream society when Aunties forget who you are, and when they eventually remember they start their "tsk tsks" and start jabbering in excited voices about why the marriage was called off (the contents of which are unintelligible jabber...secret code language for the Auntie Fellowship). Pariah's Anonymous meeting invitations will ensue.

3. Arranged Love Marriage: This devious form of marriage set up stems from family and extended relatives quietly acting from behind the scenes and setting up casual encounters for a potential couple to meet; Ever wonder why you keep running into girls with their mothers at Coffee Shops, now you know why (Aunties don't even bloody drink Coffee you fools, In Pakistan they fuel up on Tea!). The result of these casual encounters may be to ascertain the level of attraction, but more likely they figure that the more time they spend together, the more likely they are to shack up (life sentence pre-requisite).

It could entail dancing at 6 different mehndi and mysteriously being partnered up with the same partner for all 36 dances....coincidence? (Only a guy might think so or derive some logical explanation that would sound like 'we dance well together', 'she thinks I'm hot', 'She's creeped out by the other guys', 'I promised my Mom I'd look after her'). It's probably the kind that makes the most sense, until you figure out that your a pawn. But at least it seemed spontaneous and bloody good luck that you met such a fine compatible partner (your probably evaluating the odds of how rarely that happens).

After taking time out for contemplation/my nap was over, I came to several streams of thought. Why would anyone put themselves through being set up by their family, friends, etc? Its the same reason people are drawn to Internet dating. No one wants to be alone, we all have a human desire to be loved and cherished. Now in Pakistani society, the best way to navigate the behemoth of cultural carcass and expectations, is by being willing to be a functionary of the system. Let others provide 'suggestions' on whats best with you (the force of the suggestion can be directly correlated to the size and weight of the bag the Auntie is carrying).

In order to find a suitable partner, one is told to look for certain things that would make their parents (and various mega bag wielding Aunties) happy. This could be religion, social class, education, family back ground, looks, cooking ability etc. Now doing this on ones own, is a pretty momentous task (particularly if you have a job/life/responsibilities).

After all, In the Love Marriage set up, you don't ask these questions until you get to know the person (by which time your hormones have already decided for you). However, in the Arranged Marriages & Arranged Love Marriage frame work, one is already interacting with approved candidates. So if you like them, then it's already a pre-approved match. Everything to gain if you will.

Think of it in terms of credit cards, if your pre-approved for a really good advantageous rewards card, then that's a great thing; Good rates, excellent advantages and benefits/cool stuff, but you don't want to be the one trolling for crappy cards with hidden fees etc; Does "Special introductory rate of 0% (for 3 months, after which rate will be 215.76% per anum)" sound familiar? 

We all want the best possible card, but we are all wary of the final costs, the fine print and how our lives will be changed because of it. Sometimes we appreciate the general prodding in the right direction, other times we prefer to DIY (Do it yourself). 

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