When things are going a bit too smoothly with my parents, I am always anxious rather than happy. It’s really sad, but it’s the truth. I always go on about the calm before the storm, and the storm has well and truly arrived.
During this lockdown period in the UK, I hadn’t been able to see my family. I’ve lived a fairly independent life since moving to London many years ago, so I wasn’t too bothered about it. And besides, I spoke to them on the phone or video called them all the time anyway. But as uncertainty grew around the world, it really did bring people together. All of a sudden my weekly calls home turned into pretty much daily calls, which is completely unheard of from me. I slowly started to get closer to my mum and we’d have long conversations on the phone, discussing the local situation and also what we’re cooking and eating from the only food available in our local supermarkets. It sound’s odd, but I started to tell her more about my day-to-day life, even about boring and useless stuff.
You may not know this but I’ve never been close to my parents. They only know the absolute basic things about me and I never embellish on details. Then I got a bit lax, forgetting that we weren’t in ‘normal’ times and not realising that it will come back to bite me in the arse one day.
Fast forward to a few days after Eid, I’m feeling good and happy because life was slowly going back to some level of lockdown normality now that Ramadan was over. But then all of a sudden, I get a call from my mum in the middle of the day. This never happens as we only speak in the evenings, so I was worried something was wrong. I pick up feeling apprehensive, and oh boy was I right to be feeling that way.
I was verbally attacked and it came out of nowhere. It started with asking how I am and what I’m doing, and I innocently boasted about my lie-in that morning (the first one in months after some restless nights) and how I was making lunch when she called. And all of a sudden she turned on me.
She threw questions at me like ‘what are you doing with your life? When are you going to get married? Do you not care about your future – look at how old you are! Don’t you know how stressed we are because of you?’
I was silent. How do you even respond to that? You have to know when to pick and choose your battles in life. I was taken aback and upset, and could have easily responded aggressively, but I chose to stay quiet, which only encouraged her to keep going on. She emphasised my faults and flaws, and told me that she will happily get my younger siblings married off before me. For those who aren’t familiar with the Bengali culture, although it can be different for guys and girls, in general people tend to get married in age order.
This wasn’t a completely new ‘conversation’ for me though. Sadly I’ve heard this all before, but this time it stung me a little harder for some reason. Maybe because I knew she had a point… what was I doing with my life? I’m not even against marriage – I do want to get married. But if you read my previous post, you’ll see I hadn’t been in a good place until recently. Maybe that’s why it hurt – she threw the things I’d told her over the last few months in my face and used it against me to point out that I’m living a selfish life, i.e. just living a normal life like everyone else except for the fact I’m not married yet.
The icing on the cake, and the cherry on top too, was the point where she threatened me. ‘Either find someone soon or we will find someone and you have to marry that person no matter what – you have no choice’.
Ummm… okay mum, whatever you say.
At that moment I was ready to hang up the phone. But being the respectful Bangladeshi daughter I’ve been brought up to be, of course I couldn’t do that. I just grit my teeth and said nothing. I felt a different level of sadness and disappointment, rather than anger. It’s taken many years to build respect and an understanding with my mum. I’d say 10+ years of trying to be treated like an adult, an equal. Also broaden her mind and change her old school way of thinking and that backwards mentality towards the role of woman in society. And we really had made some incredible progress. But it just took two seconds for her to wipe it all away and revert back to being that small minded person she once was.
I don’t know what I was expecting to be honest with you. I knew it was all too good to be true. The calmness, no drama, feeling happy and content with the state of our relationship. I felt stupid for letting my guard down. Why did I voluntarily invite her into my day-to-day life? Just so she could compile a list and throw it back in my face someday?
I know it might seem like I’m overreacting, but only I am to blame for getting carried away with wanting to build a nice, healthy relationship with my parents. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t have a bad one, just not a close one. Over the lockdown period, whilst everyone went home to be with family and shared more about their life online, it made me realise how different my life and relationship is with my family. I always say we’re a tight knit family… but are we really?
In all honesty, I do get where my mum is coming from. It’s a place of frustration, but also fear. I know she’s thinking about me and my future, but she just doesn’t know how to express it in a non-offensive and not so hurtful way. Of course I understand the stress they must feel to have an unmarried daughter in her 30’s showing no signs of moving onto the ‘next stage’ of her life. I’m sure it’s even more frustrating for them because they aren’t in control of my life. I moved out of home in my early 20’s, and nearly 9 years on, I’m still not married. But the thing is, I have made progress in my life, a lot of it actually. I’ve gained a huge amount of experience and built a career. I’ve travelled the world and learnt so much from all the people I’ve met along the way; I’ve grown as a person. But sadly, this isn’t enough in the Bangladeshi society. Unless you follow that typical path set by others, you’re not seen to be on the right course in life.