Thursday, August 4, 2016

Sri Lanka and the Single Woman

 Published in the 'LMD Living' in February 2016-

Ah, now there’s a topic of conversation that has mothers and aunties nationwide foaming in the mouth…

There are two guaranteed moments in any family function; one being when old Uncle Simon has a little too much arrack and reveals his innermost thoughts on his new secretary, in front of his wife. The other is when the entire room freezes in pin drop silence when any female over 18 claims that she is still unmarried. If the brave woman chooses to take a further brazen step and say she also lives alone, you’re bound to witness a few seizures and coronaries around you. Only drunken Uncle Simon will smile in delight.  If being single in your 20’s isn’t a sure sign of wantonness, imagine the perception of someone who is close to middle-aged and unmarried. (cue a hurried sign of the cross)   
One can never be sure what the greater phenomenon is– Sri Lankan girls remaining voluntarily single past the legal age of consent, or society’s adamant refusal to accept the fact that it IS actually normal. It is quite possible that “So when are you going to get married?” is leading in the list of common local phrases, next to “Time for a baby, no?” on the National None-Of-Your-Beeswax Index. 

To most relatives, a woman’s disinterest in marriage is the next worst thing to joining a satanic cult. You’d be treated as less of a pariah if you murdered your mother. Actually… come to think of it, you just might as well be murdering your mother when you announce that you don’t want a husband. Excuses for your preference to remain single do not compute. It is considered a fatal condition that must be exorcised with speed at the hands of concerned Aunties who will visit, armed with marriage proposals and printed prayers for God's intervention on your sorry state. According to the local classifieds, Sri Lanka is teeming with eligible sons; all tall, fair, handsome and wealthy teetotallers (excuse me while I pause to snigger), looking for their slim, pretty bride. So why on earth are you not pouncing with glee at this opportunity?  Surely, you must be possessed by a demon.

Forget trying to explain to the world that you might want to enjoy some independence, focus on a career or, God forbid, find yourself without having to agonize over why the toilet seat was left up again. Your personal needs are not anyone’s concern. Marriage is your national duty. The aunties must be appeased.

It’s not just the relatives, either. Even the mere act of consulting a gynaecologist is asking for trouble, especially if the doctor is female- the more judgemental of the species. Once your age is noted, the first thing that will be politely whined is “Married”? On stating that you are not, you can then sit back and enjoy the wrinkling nose and long stare you are given before being asked ‘why not?’, followed almost immediately by “are you sexually active?” in a slightly accusatory tone. Then, in a manner that is creepily similar to your mother’s, she will chirp ‘better get married soon, no? You don’t have much time.’  At this point, if you wish the consultation to proceed with an unbiased diagnosis, the only acceptable thing to do would be to hang your head in shame for not having a husband, and bite back the indignant retort that is dancing on your tongue. If you’re not wearing a wimple or a wedding ring, then surely, you MUST be one of ‘those’ sorts, else why on earth would you be checking up on your ladyparts? Hm? HMM?? Harlot.

Speaking of 'those sorts'... why IS it that a single woman becomes instant game for every randy perv out there? What is this blessed notion amongst our local men that if you're not committed to a man, then by default it means you must be a nymphomaniac waiting to have a go with every bloke who crosses your path? Why can't a woman found alone at a coffee shop/party/restaurant/supermarket, simply be a woman who is perfectly comfortable not being escorted around like a fluffy little miss by her virile protector- A Man? Must she be picking up customers, thereby the only valid reason she would venture out alone? Quick... let's glower in her direction like the respectable men we are and secretly entertain sordid thoughts while stroking ourselves under the table, hoping she'll see and accept the invitation.

I could puke.

Many a feminist will demand that you stand up for your single rights and defend your position unto the death; an impressive stance, albeit one that invites a one way ticket to the mental health clinic, given the rate at which you will have to continuously take it. This writer prefers the easier solution: the next time someone asks you why you’re not wed, just tell them you have genital herpes from your last gay encounter, and would they please pass you the salt? That’ll shut them up forever.

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