Tag Archives: marriage

why he won’t marry her

It is hard to let go of judgment—I can rarely, barely do it, and only in bits and pieces. Americans judge a woman by her marital status too, never mind that single women are happier and healthier than their married sisters. It’s otherwise for men. Odd, as we’re meant to believe it’s the about face.

A magazine cover in a subway kiosk caught my eye today. It slammed: “Why he won’t marry her” over the foreheads of two happy people I recognized only as famous types—glossy, pearly, faintly wax. Well of course she wants to marry the chap and of course he won’t marry her because she isn’t 100% virginal or motherly, not perfectly poured into one of the two molds acceptable for women in 2004, though she’s tried her damnedest. She slipped up somewhere and is not woman enough for him to quit screwing about and settle down. We will read about her imperfections and her punishment: HE WON’T MARRY HER. Such a shame.

It’s just conjecture. I didn’t read the article. I’m just pointing out that we aren’t so much farther along, as some of you thoughtfully suggested.

Yesterday someone I’d just met commented (consoled?) that it’s good I’m single now and can explore myself, because I won’t always have that space, won’t always be single. Can you imagine the reaction if I said to someone, “It’s good you are married now and can explore intimacy, because you won’t always have that.” Good word, it does sound like something I might say. Gracious. Anyway, you get my point, I hope.

Yet Central Asian women need men in a way Americans do not. They need men for status, a poignant status required for survival. An unprotected woman is prey of sorts. An American woman’s status is raised by marriage, but it’s a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses status, something we can intelligently recognize as inauthentic and disposable, and in doing so, marry out of love, respect and friendship instead of insecurity and fear.

because you don’t have kids

One night Ulugbek asked me how many people I’d slept with. I laughed at him and replied, “I’m not telling you that. You’d judge me.”

“I wouldn’t judge you for that. I judge you because you don’t have kids, but not for that.” he informed.

“You what?” I laughed, “What?”

“Yes, I think that you are selfish with your freedom and travels and that you are really just afraid that you can’t afford to pay someone to take care of your kids.”

I am long used to the ubiquitous questions “Are you married? Do you have children?” In Central Asia, women are wives and mothers. Even if they work outside the home, motherhood is how they achieve status and respect. This marriage question is no different from our ubiquitous: “And tell us what you do.” We hear the occupation, and we label accordingly.

Yet we understand the marriage question because this is the case in most of the world. It wasn’t so long ago that our world was like this. Our own parents and grandparents probably still harbor this sentiment in some form or another.

Yet we urbanites tend to look down on this. Some think it’s selfish to have children, generally when we judge the parents as unfit or unready. Like everyone else, we assume our way is better and assume that at the very least we will be understood when we properly explain. I always explained to the shopkeeper, the taxi driver, the housemother, the rug seller, that I wasn’t married, I was too young, and I wanted my freedom. I saw that some women understood, and understood deeply. What I didn’t thoroughly understand was that other women, and most of the men, judged me harshly and most likely labeled me as the wanton hussy they’d seen so frequently and unabashedly in American films and TV. The equivalent in their culture is a prostitute.

Too young? I was a decade past nubile in their eyes. Freedom? My call for freedom isn’t something Central Asians have a working grasp of, especially not the women. Tradition is almost the only thing they have that provides a sense of order in their lives, and that tradition is all about family. My American-bred need for independence is still contradictory to the human instinct for survival in this part of the world and I would slowly begin to understand that, and Ulug’s judgment of me, this trip around.

“Ah, okay, Ulug.” I answered, his youth the only thing keeping me from offense.

more to come.