Tag Archives: family

The marriage trend… has it skipped a generation?

I’ve been quiet for a while, so apologies for that. But recently I’ve noticed a lot more marriage announcements happening amongst my family and relatives. The majority of these people happen to be much younger than me, which isn’t that surprising seeing as I’m now technically in my late 20’s. Whereas these young’uns are in their early to mid 20’s.

But it got me thinking; has the marriage trend, or the need to get married, skipped a generation? I took a moment to step back and analyse my peers; people who I grew up with in the Muslim/Bangladeshi community. We are the generation who seemed to be the first ones in our families to actively pursue education and a career. Some of us are even the first to go to university out of all of our family and relatives. A lot of us have also steadily and somewhat successfully climbed the career ladder. Although a fair few of the people my age I’m referring to happen to be guys, I’ve noticed that a lot of them in this age bracket are still unmarried. I know guys tend to get married a little later than girls, but it doesn’t seem to make much difference in this case.

I still don’t understand how I’m so different from my siblings. My younger siblings are now ‘of age’ according to my mother, so the pressure is on, more than ever. And after many deep and intense conversations I’ve had with my siblings, I still can’t quite believe how ready and open they are to the prospect of getting married fairly soon. At their age, I was fighting for my right to pursue a career and live an independent life. I was seriously pushing back because I felt like I had so much more to achieve before I got married. But these kids, they seem to lack any serious ambition.

I’ve spent many nights discussing their aims and goals in life, and have been stumped when I discovered they don’t really have any. What has drastically changed for them to be like this? Or am I the abnormal one, being selfish for wanting to lead my life with a purpose different from those set by my parents and society?

I’ve noticed another trend; people my age are being ‘skipped’ and their younger siblings are getting married before them. This makes me feel pretty uncomfortable. I feel like I’m stuck in the middle; on one hand, I’m open to marriage but don’t feel like I’m ready just yet. On the other hand, I feel like time is running out and that my parents will just ‘skip’ past me and get my younger siblings married off before me. The reason why this makes me feel uneasy is because there is a stigma attached to this. If you’re older and unmarried, then surely there must be something wrong with you, otherwise why wouldn’t you get married first? It’s different for guys, if they have younger siblings, especially sisters, it’s fairly normal and acceptable for them to get married off first. But for girls, they have to accept that people will be talking about them behind their back and speculating.

The final trend I want to mention is the rise of the love marriage. A lot of these young couples seem to have been in relationships for quite a few years, which is now converting into marriage. This could be for many reasons, two of which I believe are temptation and fear. Temptation being that they’re ready to take their relationship to the next level and get serious about life. Fear being the fact that they might ‘get caught’ (or already have) so needing to nip it in the bud before it gets out and causes drama in their community.

The thing that astounds me about this whole situation is the number of love marriages happening in the first place. Or maybe I’ve been blind or just naive to the fact that muslims are dating from a much younger age now. Again, as far as I can remember, people in my generation were brought up so differently, and somewhat more strictly, than this younger generation. I know I’m making myself sound like an old granny, but the truth of the matter is, even just being a few years older, I feel like I’ve had a whole different upbringing. One of which instilled the fear of my parents wrath if I were to do anything to tarnish their name and reputation.

A thing my mother instilled in me from a young age, and I hope it’s the same for my siblings, is the understanding of what’s important in life. She said how money comes and goes, but respect takes a lifetime to earn, and just a second to lose. I grew up with those values close to my heart, and everything I’ve done up until now, I’ve made sure to never do anything that could harm this. I always want my parents to be able to hold their head up high when it comes to this daughter of theirs; even if they’re stressed and embarrassed about the fact that they have an unmarried daughter in her late 20’s, living away from home and showing no sign or interest in getting married any time soon!

But the reason why I’m mentioning respect and reputation is because I have always been told to stay away from boys. Not to be seen with them in situations that can be misunderstood to mean something else. So in a sense, I had quite a strict upbringing. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always had guy friends, which my parents certainly knew about – I made sure of it to ensure they knew that I’m not up to no good. But this also meant that I actively avoided pursuing relationships. Not that there were many offers anyway, ha! But the truth is, relationships were just a big no. And here we are, hearing of these young couples about to get hitched, who happen to have known each other for several years (read: been in a relationship secretly for 5+ years).

All of a sudden, this is a much preferable situation to my mother, than my situation, where I’ve actually been a good, respectful daughter and avoided scandal. She has the audacity of turning around and saying ‘well at least they’re actively doing something about it and sorting it out themselves!’ I mean, can you actually believe this? I cannot fathom how this is a much better outcome and how I’m now the ‘bad’ one in this situation. Just because I haven’t had a secret boyfriend all these years? What is this nonsense!?

I will never know. But all I can say is, it’s making me feel on edge. And as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, this feels like the calm before the storm. Am I alone in feeling like this?

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Keeping secrets from parents

I’m not sure if this will come as a shock to many people or if I’m not actually alone in this, but keeping things from my parents has become a norm in my life. Now, before you jump to conclusions and start thinking I’m one of ‘those girls’ who goes off behind her parents back and gets up to all sorts of mischief, let me set the record straight – I certainly don’t.

What I’m referring to are the little white lies you have to tell your parents or things you leave out on purpose in order to live an easier life. I’ve been doing this ever since I was a teenager and have always felt a pang of guilt whenever the topic came up. It’s only recently when a friend and I were talking about it, that I realised how much I actively avoid telling my parents things.

I always find it strange and a little bit baffling, how much a few of my friends share with their parents, the ins and outs of their lives. I mean, I actually admire having that type of relationship to a certain extent. But then I imagine myself having those open conversations with my parents and it completely weirds me out.

When I was younger, I was constantly frustrated by the made up rules and regulations they thrusted on us which made no sense at all. I always questioned things and pushed boundaries (as mentioned in my previous ‘never good enough’ posts part 1 and part 2). But I would always get resistance from them and this just ended in me getting ultimatums and stern looks. So naturally as a teenager when you’re put in these situations and wanted something so badly, you will look for every possible way to make this happen. I wasn’t even that ambitious with what I wanted, which is the sad thing about all of this. All I really wanted was to do all the little things all the other kids got to do. Like go round to each others’ houses, go into town on the weekends, attend (supervised) birthday parties, etc. Was that really too much to ask for?

I discussed this at length with all my little friends at the time and hatched a plan to get their parents involved. So on this particular occasion, my friend’s aunt (who was her legal guardian) called my parents to ask if it was okay for me to go round on the weekend to work on a project together which required us to go to the big library in our town centre and do some research. She even offered to pick me up and drop me off, so my parents reluctantly agreed and I was over the moon. I could not have been happier if I tried – it was the best day of my life! Haha, now thinking back and writing about it seems silly, but the reason why I’m telling you this story is because this was a huge triumph for me, because the other thing is, none of my friends were bengali. So naturally my parents didn’t really care much about them and didn’t take any of my friendships seriously.

So yes, I did go round and do a little bit of homework with a trip to the library, but the rest of the time, we went to the shops, bought all the sweets our money could buy, stuffed our faces and I even had dinner round my friend’s house, where I felt like an alien. It involved sitting at the dinner table with her family, napkins, knives and forks and polite conversations, where people actually took interest in their kids’ lives – school, projects, friends, hobbies. What was this new and different world that I clearly wasn’t living in?

I don’t think bengali kids these days truly appreciate how good they’ve got it. Their parents are somewhat younger and much more educated than my parents, who genuinely want their children to do well in school and life and will be there to support them. I didn’t have that growing up, and that is how my relationship with my parents ended up like this. Me keeping secrets from them.

Many years ago when I was given the ultimatum of going to a university close to home, which meant commuting everyday or getting a full-time job, I chose to go to the uni of their choice. This meant I didn’t really get the true university experience, which I’m still trying to figure out if it was for the best. But meeting these new people who were experiencing new found freedom of their own, I was invited to many cool and exciting things. Obviously, I hardly ever took part in social activities because, firstly my parents wouldn’t approve and secondly, I always had to answer to them whenever I came back ‘late’. By late I don’t even mean midnight, I just mean later than my normal class times. But even then, I was a good kid at heart, so didn’t even want to get involved in the clubbing/drinking/smoking scene. But I made some genuinely lovely friends and we liked to treat ourselves to nice lunches and dinners now and again, so I told my parents I was studying in the library – the classic.

My relationship with my parents has somewhat improved over the years because of me living away from home. But I will only share nuggets of information with them because as soon as they get too much insight into my life, they find a way to use it against me at another opportunity. Or they give me a lecture there and then about how I am careless with money and only think about myself and how I value having fun with my friends more than spending time with family, apparently. It always comes down to two things – money and marriage. The two evil ‘M’s in my life. For example, if I book a holiday, I’m ‘wasting’ money and therefore not saving for my imaginary wedding. If I tell them about an amazing meal I had at a nice restaurant, I’m washing money down the drain. You get the picture.

So now to current day, a quite big change has happened in my life recently which, as you may have gathered, I haven’t told my parents about yet. I feel bad for keeping it from them, but I know that ultimately, it will only mean that they will worry or tell me to move back home (their default answer to everything), which is not happening, ever. So for them, it’s business as usual.

I don’t know if this even changes your opinion of me or if you think this thing that I do is right or wrong, but I would be really interested to know how you feel about it.

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Family Dynamics

I’m going through a bit of a rough time at the moment. It’s nothing new or serious, it’s just an issue that crops up now and again. This is about the relationship I have with my family and the dynamics.

My mum is all around loving and caring at the best of times, but then something comes over her and she will be on at me about my life, my priorities, marriage, etc. It get’s tiring and I wish she’d stop. But at the same time, I know she means well because she just wants what all parents want – for their children to settle down. This is because they think that as soon as that’s done and dusted, I will be happy and they will have fulfilled their duties. However, what I can’t seem to get through to them is that, I am actually happy. Like super happy. I love my life in London and sure, I do sometimes feel like there is something missing in my life, but for the most part, I’m more than content with how my life has planned out thus far.

The reason behind this blog post is to talk about my siblings for a change. I have always thought that I had a good relationship with them. We have a whatsapp group that I basically started a few years back as a way to moan about mum and dad, haha. Now we send each other all sorts of stuff, just like everyone does. However, the more time passes, the more I realise how different we all are.

I’m the second child out of four, and you may call this second child syndrome, but I could not be more different from them if I tried.

My eldest sibling is the golden child – did everything the way my parents wanted. Never really lived a little. Has fulfilled my parents wishes of getting married, having a home and child. Myself on the other hand, I’m the ‘rebel’ apparently. I always pushed the boundaries, always questioned ‘why’, I moved away from home before marriage, I’m ‘wasting’ my money on holidays (therefore not saving for my imaginary wedding)… The list is endless. The younger two on the other hand get away with everything because I’ve basically paved the way for them.

But the fundamental difference between us is that I have a goal and drive to achieve something in my life, that they don’t really seem to have. Their goals are very materialistic. They want the latest trends, fashion, beauty, gadgets, etc. I want to focus on my career and work in an industry that I love, so may not take the most conventional route. They’re happy to settle with whatever job they can get in the town where we grew up. I want to travel and see the world. They want to spend all their money on possessions.

I know that having these differences isn’t a big deal – everyone is different. However, it’s when I realise how different our morals are too, that’s when it really affects me. For example, the way they view other people and cultures is so different to me.

I find it difficult to understand why I’m so different from them despite us having the same upbringing. We were brought up by the same parents, in the same home and town, in the same education system. Yet, I stand out like a sore thumb.

Going home to visit my family feels like a chore now. I really enjoy the first day because I miss them. I miss my parents and their petty arguments, I miss the jokes and banter we all have together, I miss my mums exceptional cooking. But as soon as day 2 comes around, I’m counting down the minutes until I can go back to London. That’s because that fun and jokey side soon fades and their true colours start to show. Don’t get me wrong, my family are generally nice and normal people. I think it’s just me, I’m like the odd one out.

I’ve thought about this long and hard over the last few years and I’ve finally started to realise what it is… I care too much.

I care about my siblings and their future and so I try to make sure they take advantage of all the good opportunities in life. I care about sharing and celebrating all the little successes. I like to communicate and tell them about all the cool and lovely things that are happening in my life. I like to give thoughtful gifts and make a fuss over people to make them feel loved and special.

A few years back, I realised they didn’t care about these things as much as I did. In fact, I was made to feel bad for getting upset or annoyed about this. Like, why was I making this into a big deal?

In the past, I’ve spoken to a few of my close friends about this and they’ve felt sorry for me. That’s because they know what kind of person I am and how much this all means to me. Their conclusion was to not let this get to me and not take it to heart. If only it were that easy. How can someone train themselves to care less?

I don’t even know what to put this down to. Is it culture? Or is it that I’ve adopted the more western way of thinking, of being more supportive and encouraging? Is that such a bad thing? I really don’t know, you tell me.

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Where do I belong?

So a lot has been happening in my life over the past few weeks. So much change. I’m yet to figure out if it’s a good or bad thing. But I realised I feel like I’m at some kind of loss. Maybe a crossroad in my life?

I’m at the turning point in my career… looking for the next suitable opportunity. I’m a single, Bangladeshi, muslim girl on the wrong side of 25. I don’t have any significant debt. I don’t have a partner. I’m mortgage free and not trapped in a contract in my London flat. I have nothing tying me down… except this invisible pressure.

Pressure that I’ve put on myself to prove that I can achieve anything I put my mind to. Pressure to show people that I’m doing extremely well. Pressure from my parents to save money for my imaginary wedding, find a husband and settle down. Pressure to get serious about religion and become a better muslim. Does this list ever end?

But all I can think about these days is how I want to escape. Don’t get me wrong, I love my life in London. It wasn’t where I was born or grew up, but it’s always felt like home. It’s where I’ve always felt like I belonged. It’s where I’m most comfortable, it’s where I can breathe this fresh (but somewhat polluted) air of freedom.

Yet, I feel like I need a break. For a very long time now, I’ve wanted to have the opportunity to live and work abroad. It’s my dream, it’s all I want in life right now. But I know that’s unrealistic, and it makes me feel sad. I mean, you just have to read my list of pressures above to figure out why.

My parents would go mental and summon me to move back home. They will demand I sort my life out and get married in the next few months. They will treat me like I’m incapable of making my own life decisions. I will regress back to being that angsty teenager, fighting for my rights. In the end, I will be the one losing out, and risk having the freedom I have in London yanked away from me.

It’s so hard to explain this to people outside of the culture. These people will tell me that I shouldn’t be listening to my parents and should do what makes me happy. And that my parents can’t tell me what I can or cannot do. I really wish it was that simple. There will always be consequences and the possibility of them disowning me (if I really pushed it that far). And I know this may sound absurd, but it’s not easy to not care about what your parents think. There’s always this feeling of wanting their approval of the choices you make in life. It’s a losing battle in my case.

I spoke about it with my siblings today, about how I feel like it’s the right time in my life to give living and working abroad a shot… and they just laughed in my face. Like ‘oh here we go again…’, which actually hurt my feelings. They think I’m ridiculous because I work too much and am nowhere near close to finding someone, let alone get married. They think I’m silly for having these hopes and dreams and that I should focus on settling down. I really felt let down; I feel alone.

So why is it, that despite being in a good, commitment free life, I feel like I’m at a loss? Why is the good always overshadowed by this pressure hanging over my head? Why do I care this much about what others think? Why did I ever think that the people who are meant to be my nearest and dearest, would actually care about my feelings?

There’s nothing stopping me from taking a leap, yet I can’t move. I have all of these questions that I can’t seem to find answers to.

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