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I thought I knew what I was getting myself into. Hearing my friends talk about arranged marriage, I had an idea of what it would consist of. The marriage broker would create a “biodata” of me, take a copy of my natal chart and picture. My friends have told me some horror stories about what they’ve heard—from a friend of a friend, of course, that people received/made shallow comments from just looking at pictures. I was prepared for that kind of criticism I could be receiving. However, I had to also prepare for another type of criticism: the fact that I’m divorced.
My aging parents had me later in their years and are now stuck with an unmarried daughter in her late 20s. Truth is I just haven’t met the person for me or maybe haven’t been open to it as much as I should be. Eventually, my father started making remarks regarding meeting someone through a marriage broker. He explained that the longer I put it off, the more difficult it would be and I finally succumbed to his plea—I mean, it’s going to take me over two years with that process, right? So here we are waiting at the marriage broker’s office.
The broker had me fill out a questionnaire as if I’m at the doctor’s office. I was asked why I was divorced and how long I was married for. I responded that it was just bad timing mixed with compatibility issues and lasted only a few months. The broker looked at me disappointedly due to my lack of details. –am I expected to open up to this stranger and get down to the nitty-gritty?
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They explained to us that because I’m a divorcee, my options are limited. Okay, that’s a #fact with this process. They continued to explain that within those limited options, not everyone will want to proceed with me… given my situation. Ouch. Okay got it. #facts
“Alright so tell me, are you westernized or cultured?” they asked. I looked at my parents unsure. Assuming they’re asking how open-minded I am, I responded that I’m cultured but maybe a bit more westernized since I was born and raised in Canada. “If you’re westernized, then you’ll be paired with westernized boys and those boys like to party, go clubbing, drink, they don’t save, spend recklessly—they’re the kinds that go to Cuba and places during the holidays”. Jeez, well I sometimes go to parties too and Cuba or not, I’d definitely like to go somewhere during the holidays too though, I thought but couldn’t dare say that. I’m now labelled a divorcee with limited options sitting between my parents; no way can I say that I attend parties, break it down on the dancefloor and travel too—can’t be a “westernized” divorcee #facts. The broker looked at me while I thought carefully before answering that question again. Before I could re-answer, they said “alright, so I’ll put you’re cultured and westernized 50/50”. But I didn’t say—okay sure. 50/50 works. I am pretty 50/50 still.
They asked me what my age preference was and I said minimum same age, maximum five years apart from me—that’s reasonable right? Few minutes later, the broker tells us a story about a girl who’s a doctor and had no age preference (—and you know, I’m no doctor just a divorcee so gotta look at #facts here) and married a guy they introduced that was 8 years older and they’re happy. The broker further threw in that increasing the age difference would benefit me because the older men have already been looking for some time now and are probably impatient, hence “my problem” wouldn’t be a problem to them at this point #anotherone. I was quiet because I knew what I was expected to say and sitting between my parents looking at me with anticipation I said, “any age is fine”.
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The broker told us success stories of other divorced girls they set up. How they got matched with other divorcees—okay that’s fair and some “even with single men” who were awaiting permanent residency in Canada. Okay, sure. Who am I to judge? I thought. They also mentioned that they could look at “single-unmarried” men for me who aren’t waiting for their permanent residency, but if they are fine with my problem then something must be wrong on their end as well –#facts. I listened quietly.
“Do you have pictures of yourself” they asked. I scrolled through my phone and tried to look for a solo picture where I wasn’t being a goofball with my friends. I found one with a sweater and jeans. I showed it to them and they asked if I had any picture with ethnic wear. Oh right, cultured. I found one with a lengha and showed it to them. “No, this is too westernized, show me another one”—#facts.
Lastly, out of the 800 profiles they narrowed it down to five potentials after taking our natal charts into consideration, their likelihood to accept my “problem” because of how long they’ve been looking and now may be desperate to marry. Within the five, the broker and my parents narrowed it down to three potentials. “So, which is your first preference? Who should I call first? They’re all single-unmarried so no guarantee”. At this point, I felt appalled and a bit degraded by the experience. “It doesn’t matter to me,” I replied. “Great! You’re very easy going and not hard to work with—this is how you should be,” they said—#facts. The broker then went onto say that they will try and “convince” the families to consider me. —so, if any of these families agree… Should I be feeling indebted and grateful? “Also,” they added, “you have a few grey hairs you need to take care of, try not to use all sorts of shampoos”—alright can’t lie #facts.
I walked out of there and took a big, deep breath of cold, fresh air. I turned to my parents to say I didn’t feel comfortable in there, to which my parents simply replied “but they just spoke the truth.” My father went to the extent of proudly adding “did you see how happy the broker got when you said you had no preference? That’s good”—yes, having no preference and standards makes me a great candidate #facts. Thanks, pops.
I’m not here to preach about self-love and quote my boy, Warren Buffet, and say “invest in yourself,” (he’s right though) but what I will say is this: I’m a good daughter, an annoying sister, a caring friend, the coolest (so I’d like to think) aunt to my nieces and nephews and a lot more. I’m career driven, smart and hella funny. I have interests, hobbies and issue/matters that I’m passionate about. How does a marriage broker, who knows nothing about me other than my educational background and employment details, drop their “#facts” on me and make me feel like there’s nothing more to me? That none of these things about me matter and only the fact that I’m a divorcee does. I understand that arranged marriage involves a traditional method of match-making. I know successful marriages that have sprouted from this process. I also understand that my options are perhaps limited with this process but I’m not limited as a person #facts.
-Your Tamil Girl Next Door