Love isn’t a topic that is encouraged or even discussed in most Tamil households. As a Tamil girl, you have a number of unwritten rules you need to follow to maintain cultural norms. It gets even more confusing when you have zero experience.
For two years, I have been hearing, "You know that you have to get married by the age of 23? Otherwise you will never get married." When you have people – mostly parents – repeating this to you quite insistently, you start to believe it. You become consumed with this thought. The problem isn't that you are getting married young, but believing that you can only get married when you are young.
As the 19 year old me began having stronger desires to get married as a result of being bombarded with this message, I modified my behaviour to fulfill that one wish - with negative consequences. I became socially awkward. I started analyzing every single thing I did to assure myself that I wasn’t sending the wrong signals. Whenever I felt someone getting close to me, I would overthink the situation. I would daydream about my future with that person – even if the closest we got was strong eye contact.
Let's address the “family arranging your future life” situation. In the Tamil community, being young is the equivalent of being "fresh" and gives you more perceived value in the marriage market. When your parents implant the idea of getting married by 23, you try to find a fast solution.
As a result, two worlds collide. One is where your parents are trying to find you someone because you are old enough to get married. The other is where you want to fall in love your own way while staying focused on other aspects of your life like career, hobbies and friendships.
So you decide to look for love before your parents try to find someone “culturally appropriate” to the norms of our community. Thus, “love” becomes the solution to cultural pressure. And it’s sad to think that many of us get sucked into this phenomenon of needing love in our lives simply to avoid an arranged marriage.
Now let's go back to my first question - what is love? The honest answer is that I don't know. I've never gone out with someone, even for coffee. I wasn't allowed to go out. I preferred to stay in my comfort zone at home.
I’m conscious that not everyone is like me. Many Tamil girls get to enjoy life by hanging out socially with friends, meeting people and going on dates with no repercussions. I'm happy for them, but it's something I can't relate to.
So to those who have zero experience yet have this big desire to fall in love – do you want to fall in love because your family is insisting on it? Or do you want to fall in love because you want to genuinely share your life? It’s also possible that you’re in between these two options. Nevertheless, put some real thought into your perception of love.
In all sincerity, I want to fall in love, to engage with someone and to enjoy their company. However, I don't want to start that process prematurely because I have four years left before my parents start looking for “the perfect one”.
I get increasingly agitated when I come to the realization that I may succumb to the cultural trap of arranged marriage. I also understand that anything can happen in four years and I may meet someone who is a perfect fit for my family and me. However, I may also begrudgingly agree to marry a man that my family presents to me. Or I may decide to become an independent woman and move out.
Just remember that your life will always be yours.