Resilience was not a word I thought about a lot until a few days ago. Waves upon waves of bad news have been storming our homes for months now and my conservative South- Asian upbringing didn't include swimming lessons of any kind. But the more I think about this word, and let it roll over my tongue, the more I realize that I'm quite familiar with it. In fact, it's been growing wild in my warm apartment kitchen. About a year ago, on a sunny Monday morning, I married a wonderful man. Typical arranged marriage situation, except of course, for the very atypical global pandemic we are in. We first met at a generic coffee shop, taking off our face masks hesitantly for an awkward hello. We met many times after, always swapping stories over a meal and spent about three months getting to know each other before the date of our actual ceremony. Given the pandemic conditions, the usual jokes every bride hears about learning to cook before her wedding were passed over for repetitive concerns on sanitization and social distancing. I'm certain we discussed food preferences, but the early romantic fog must have kept me from clearly seeing just how important food and its preparation would prove to be once I moved out of my parents' home and into my own! I'm telling you this because I found myself thoroughly perplexed a few weeks later. Cooking, as it turns out, was more at the heart of a marriage than I had considered. I've seen TV dramas where the kitchen shelves are neatly stacked and all the appliances are in the right locations, but even the scenes that depict people actually cooking don't fully capture the emotion of what goes on in a home kitchen on a daily basis. I didn't know that I didn't know how to cook. I certainly didn't know how to cook a full meal for two people in the forty minutes between when I sleepily entered the kitchen each morning and when I ran out the front door screaming about being late for work again. The opportunities to make mistakes were so many – dicing the right number of vegetables, pouring an exact amount of oil, mixing in the perfect amount of spice and so on. At first, I found this daily task sitting restlessly on top of the heaviness I rolled around all day- the fear of a virus. I was determined to make excuses for my inadequacies. This pandemic, I can say with relief, is not something I'm responsible for. But my cooking is. And the more I began to view it as a therapeutic pushback against the devouring thing that lived across the floor from me, as a tiny act that expressed my love for my partner, the more it became an activity I could rely on rather than resist. So maybe I know a few things about resilience. It has been thriving since I've learned to ask “What would you like to eat today?”
A good friend of mine has a very warped and funny sense of humor. One of his favorite comments is: “Opinions are like a@@holes. Everyone has one.” Every time he says this, while I do agree with him, I also laugh with him. Keeping that in mind, here is one of my opinions. While many will agree with me, I also realize there will be just many who won't. As my friend says, you're entitled to yours. I don't often read magazines; I just don't take the time. I do, however, read books to relax, write stories, and dabble around with photography. Truthfully, I only read two magazines. One of them I do enjoy is The Week; I like this magazine because it contains a bit of news from every state, there is a science section, important national news and so much more. It is just about the most interesting magazines on the market. I probably should have written this article years ago, but at the time, I was angry and put the magazine away, as I kept thinking, “How dare he?” Then through the years, I'd forgotten about it. Now, looking back to that issue of March 27, 2015, one of their columns was about clothes designing company called Dolce & Gabbana. It was that article that angered me beyond words. One of the owners, Domenico Dolce was quoted during an interview as saying, “We oppose gay adoptions. The only family is the traditional one.” He went on to describe children born through IVF as “children of chemistry, synthetic children. Rented uterus, semen chosen from a catalogue.” Apparently, Mr. Dolce does not believe in adoption or in in-vitro fertilization. Actually, according to his statement, he doesn't even believe in gay marriages. It's a shame when you think about it. There are so many wonderful, intelligent, gay people who have made their mark on the world and became pillars of society. I have met and made friends with many people who are gay but rather than go into all of them, I prefer to tell you the response to Mr. Dolce's comment made by Elton John. Elton John has two children with his husband, David Furnish. Each child had a surrogate mother who conceived them by in-vitro fertilization. Mr. John's response was: “How dare you refer to my beautiful children as pathetic. Your archaic thinking an out of step with the times, just like your fashions. I shall never wear Dolce & Gabbana ever again.” Ironically these Italian designers who happened to make this atrocious comment are gay, but they consider themselves traditional believing that while they should and can live together, they should not marry nor have children. That's something I just don't understand. If you have a partner with whom you are in love, why shouldn't you get married? Why shouldn't you have children, whether it's by in-vitro or adoption. And let's for a moment jump off the Rainbow train. Whether gay or not, what happens to couples (men and women) who desperately want a child to increase their family but for whatever reason, can't conceive? You mean to say they shouldn't be allowed alternative methods of having children? Since that article, Mr. Dolce has apologized to the gay community. Yet, I can't help but wonder why? Did he apologize out of sincerity? Or did he apologize because his sales were in decline? Hmm. Makes you wonder. Sorry, even if I could afford the items Dolce & Gabbana sell, I surely would never purchase any of them. I'll stick to Walmart and Target!
Husbands, has your wife ever asked you something like: “Do you think I'm the most beautiful woman in the world?” [Hint: to any literal communicator's analyzing the logical response to your wife's bid for love] She is not asking you to crown her as the next Mrs. America— she's asking if you have crowned her as your Queen to be the most beautiful girl in the only world that matters to her—yours. At first glance some may assert a wife who asks such questions to her husband is simply insecure and it's on her to deal with those insecurities. When have matters of the heart, love and marriage ever been simple? Hopefully, if you're still reading (HA!) you are open to a more in-depth look at the Psychology and Spirituality woven into the essence of women, by our Creator, that rightly motivates a wife to desire such validation, admiration and belonging. For those of you who are husbands stumbling across this in a voluntary pursuit to better understand your wife— STOP— take a moment and receive the Holy Spirit's ‘high-five' for walking out 1 Peter 3:7 (May your dedication to your marriage be recognized and admired!): “In the same way, you husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way [with great gentleness and tact, and with an intelligent regard for the marriage relationship], as with someone physically weaker, since she is a woman. Show her honor and respect as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered or ineffective.” [1 Peter 3:7 AMP] In statistics a ‘raw score' is simply a number that represents the correctly answered questions (i.e. 60) but a raw score does not convey any meaning until some standard is applied with which to interpret the raw score. A wife can hear her husband say “You look nice, sweetie” or “Sure, I think you're beautiful”. These are a collection of correct answers that make up the sum total of a raw score. Now imagine you're leaving church together and a fashionable, tall, fit, attractive woman stops and talks with the both of you. You exchange pleasantries and continue about your day. Gentlemen, I introduce to you the standard your wife is now using to make meaning of and interpret the raw score. You're input greatly informs how the raw score is interpreted. The wife is thinking: “There is no doubt in my mind that woman at church is beautiful. She had it all: perfectly styled hair, flawless make-up, tanned legs for days, straight/white teeth that would land her a job as the new poster woman for the American Dental Association… My husband's told me before that he thinks I'm beautiful— just this morning he said I looked 'nice'… but next to her does he see me as ‘that kind' of beautiful… am I the most beautiful women in the world— to him?” Later that night she reluctantly discloses she's been wondering if you thought she was more beautiful than the woman at church. Just as God needs for us to tell him we adore him more than anyone or anything in the world your wife needs to hear you say she is the most beautiful woman in the world to you— after all, we are each made in God's image. Insecurity is not the primary motivation to her question, rather it's her desire to be chosen above all other women (as Christ desires for us to choose Him). If, as her husband, you find you're hesitant or flat out unable to see your wife as the most beautiful woman in the world to you… in that moment lean on the Holy Spirit to speak these affirming words to your wife through you and take note of your disbelief. To speak these words is to provide her with emotional safety and security that symbolizes clean air for her to thrive and breath life into the marriage, children, and the home. It's okay to lean into the Holy Spirit to be your provider and intercede on your behalf— to allow His words to flow through your mouth. This is not a lie or deceitfulness. This is the living, loving, active marriage covenant at work, circling around your strengths, weaknesses, past hurts and ensuring the future vision of you and your wife's marriage/family/ministry is fed and protected. It's crucial for you to: 1) Intentionally go to God, your men's group, and/or seek counseling to discover what's driving your hesitation/disbelief. 2) Take steps toward being able to truthfully see her as the Holy Spirit see's her. 3) Place the crown upon her head as your Queen. “I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown” (Revelations 3:11 NKJV) 4) Experience the rewards of watching your marriage THRIVE and your wife step into the woman God created her to be.
Every girls dream is to have a good life and be successful. Successful can be defined in many ways. I came through a lady who was my co-worker and I asked her, what she knows success as. She told me, is having a good husband who loves, respect her and take good care of her. This was her mind-set and I respected it. I had no objection on it because we all don't think alike. To her that's what being successful meant. What this lady told me made me think a lot when I was alone. The next day I went to ask her what she meant. She told me her story I couldn't believe my ears. Everything seemed as if it was a dream but no it was reality. She lost her mother when she was nine years old. Her father had to marry another wife to take care of him and his children. Her step mother used to treat her so badly, she made her do all the house chores. She never felt bad or hated her stepmom. She loved studying a lot but this was cut of on one occasion. Everything changed when she experienced her first monthly period. It was on a holiday when her stepmother took her to their hometown. She thought that she was going to visit her close relatives. Little did she know what was in stored for her? Her step mother has planned an arranged marriage for this young girl. What about her education? All her dreams was shuttered into pieces. What she could see ahead of her only darkness. She had no other choice but to accept the marriage. She got married to her close cousin whom she has never met. The wedding happened so quickly and she was taken to husband. They stayed together for three years only, she was later on divorced. God blessed them with two kids a girl and a boy. The girl was left heartbroken. The foundation of their marriage was not strong that's why it didn't last long. In every relationship you need to have a strong foundation or else it won't last long. She went back to her father's house with her children. The ex-husband wanted to take the children away from her. She refused because they were young and she wanted to raise her children herself. She didn't want her children to go through what she went through. At her father's house things didn't go well because he wasn't able to provide for her and her children. She went everywhere to look for a job so as to provide for her family. Looking for a job was not easy at all because she had no certificate. Everywhere she went the first thing they would ask her was her education. This made her feel so bad. She later on got a job as a cook. She was paid $3 daily, it wasn't enough but she was happy that she could provide for her children. She used to cook for builders who were building houses. The work was temporary as soon as the building complete there is no work. She later on got a job as a housekeeper. She worked well, her employer praised her a lot. She was a very hardworking lady. One evening as she was heading home. She got a call from someone and she was told that she was hired as a cook in a five star restaurant. Her main work is to cook for employees. Her basic salary was $150 dollars per month. She was so excited and thanked god for this blessing. When she reached home she gave this news to her family. Everyone was happy to hear this. ‘Hard work pays'
The man and the woman, a union ordained for bliss Bliss ethereal yet tangible, like the honeyed taste of a kiss But this bliss is sent to hell, when the man says he is a beast Of course not with his mouth, but when his pride becomes his fist. Iya Bisi said "For my children I will stay". "I need to be around to get the daily bread in place". Really, she had hidden fears about what people would say If she fled for her safety, away from Baba Bisi the Great Should we wait until her eyes are swollen and black? Before we see that our vision is blurry and dark Mandela's hands in the air spoke of a freedom age Why do the hands of our brothers speak of bondage? Zainab swore she would go to the university But Hassan came with naira for his bride Thus scissors went into her private princess parts Another child has become wife. Bolanle's oranges were neither ripe nor exposed And her thighs were warmed by a baggy pair of clothes She was three days in as the latest teenager on the street Then three rounds of rape sent her hanging on a rope. The pandemic strolled into our world Then quarantine drove us into our homes But Ogechi's home was a prison, and she was a detainee She lived in a ring with a stronger opponent and no referee In fact if their common name was Floyd, He would be Mayweather and she would be George. She was one woman with one thousand responsibilities. Everyday came with reasons to stretch her abilities. But even elastic strings have their limits Maybe hers would be the day her heartbeat is quiet. This message to our society must go viral. We must wake up to cherish our women. We are blessed to have these living, breathing temples Who are we to desecrate deity?!
Mom was only fifteen when she met my dad – to be more specific, when she first saw him. He was doubled over gasping for air, lying in the street when she saw a crowd huddled over something. She walked over to see what the fuss was about and saw what she described as the handsomest boy she'd ever seen. Dad's hair was dark-blond, and his eyes were milk chocolate brown. Her heart melted as she watched him struggle to catch his breath. He had been playing hockey with his friends and his stick hit a slightly raised manhole cover, got stuck, and as he tried to skate by, jammed him in the stomach, knocking the wind out of him causing him to curl into a ball and lie on the ground. Mom cried out, “Don't let him lie in the street. He'll get hit by a car. Carry him to the sidewalk.” Dad's friends first looked at mom like she'd lost her mind but then realized she made her point. The carried dad the few feet to safety. She wouldn't leave his side as his breath began to normalize. Mom held his hand and talked almost non-stop to help him relax. It worked. His breath steadied and soon, he asked, “What's your name and where do you live?” Mom smiled. “Mary and actually, just around the corner.” Dad walked her home and asked if she'd like to hang out with him and his friends later that night. “We're only going to the candy store for some soda; it's nothing special.” To mom, it was more than special. He didn't have to ask her twice. As I said, mom was 15. Dad was 14 but neither cared. They were inseparable as the years passed. Dad eventually joined the Navy and when home on leave, married mom. To say they were happy is a mild statement. Dad was mom's world and dad idolized mom. Their love was obvious to anyone who saw them look at each other. One day, tragedy struck. A few days before dad's 65th birthday, he had a stroke which paralyzed his left side. With therapy, he gained the use of his legs, but his left arm remained useless. That didn't stop them from enjoying their lives together. With a modified steering wheel, he was once again able to drive and took mom on many vacations which included Montauk NY, Virginia Beach VA, and Baltimore MD. When dad turned 71, he stumbled and fell. It was determined that he experienced a TIA – mini stroke. While dad lay in the hospital, an astute nurse noticed something with dad that wasn't quite right. She prompted the doctor to order a few tests. The diagnosis was stage 4 colon cancer. The doctor told mom that dad had about 8 months to live. We were horrified. Trying to extend dad's life, we agreed to an ileostomy but when it was performed, it proved fruitless. Dad died six weeks after that procedure. Mom was devastated. Not too many years later, I noticed mom began forgetting things. It was subtle but the signs were there. She repeated herself a little too often; she'd forget where she put her purse; she'd call me two or three times a day but never remembered why, etc. Eventually, mom moved in with me. Her dementia was much worse but still tolerable. She could hold small conversations and create full sentences. One day as mom and I reminisced, I asked her to tell me something about dad. She looked horrified as she asked, “I was married?” How could she have forgotten dad? Did she know me? I asked her who I was and answered correctly. That was a relief, so I backtracked to help her remember dad. “Mom, do you remember that handsome young sailor from years ago?” Within seconds, her eyes glowed with love and remembrance. “Oh, yes, my Frankie!” “Mom, he was your husband.” She sat there for a few silent minutes then in a soft voice said, “That's right. I married my Frankie. My sailor. How I cried when he got sick and died.” That was the last full sentence mom said. The dementia took hold in a big way. Mom died not long after. I was reminded of an old Buck Owens song, “Together Again”. Thank you, Buck Owens for writing and performing a song that has become so very dear to me as I think of my parents holding hands and walking forever side by side. For my mom's funeral, I printed a photo of my parents the last time they were together and modified Owens' song to read: Together again her tears have stopped falling; Her long lonely nights are now at an end. The key to her heart he held in his hands And nothing else matters they're together again Together again her gray skies are gone; She's back in his arms now where she belongs. The love that they knew is living again, And nothing else matters they're together again.
I was sitting with my wife at breakfast this bright summer morning, enjoying a meal of softly poached eggs atop homemade bread and a small bowl of watermelon chunks. The eggs and toast were delicious and we both ate in silence, relishing the tasty yoke juice intermingled with the golden-crunchy bread. We made lip smacking noises as we ate and didn't talk much, as was our usual morning meal ritual. I saved my watermelon chunks for last, imagining the light, nectar sweetness of the blushing red melon meat. After a couple bites I broke our morning silence and remarked, “This is seedless watermelon, isn't it?” My lovely wife nodded her head in ascent. I forked another chunk and removed it from the tines with my teeth. The fruit wasn't as sweet as I had imagined. “You know, if you take a moment to wonder, if there are no seeds, then how do they grow more seedless melon?” My wife refrained from answering, having been raised not to talk with her mouthful. A brash robin twittered outside. “I mean think about it hon, somebody came up with a way to make seedless watermelon. Why?” I paused to ponder my own question. “How many people actually complained about the seeds anyway? In some parts of the country don't they hold summer watermelon seed spitting contests? Or I seem to remember that in China or someplace, they toast the seeds and eat them. Seeds are very nutritious, probably even medicinal.” One of our dogs scratched at the door to go outside, I got up and let her out. My wife didn't offer any confirmations to my morning speculation. “I'll bet, somebody thought it'd be more convenient not to have to deal with seeds, spitting them out in an unmannered fashion or being forced to clean them up. Another somebody thought seedless watermelon would make a great ‘new and improved' marketing idea to sell more melon and make more profits.” I sat back down at our table and stabbed another red chunk of watermelon. My wife had started eating her bowl of fruit as well. “You know,” I started and my wife looked up at me from her bowl, “one might think the biologists and botanists would have more important things to do than to alter the natural process of vegetation, I mean like just for the heck of it. Seeds are very important. Why get rid of the seeds?” Another of our pets pulled herself from the floor, and wandered over to the door wanting to be released. I again got up and let her go. My wife was slurping spoonfuls of red juice from her bowl. I sat down and looked at my bowl. I shuffled a couple chunks around then pierced another bite and chewed on it. It had less taste than the last bite. It didn't seem to melt in my mouth anymore, but instead, needed to be masticated at length. “This kind of thing just leads people, especially the younger generations to think produce magically appears on the racks in grocery stores.” I was just about done with my bowl of morning fruit as my wife took her plate, bowl and utensils to the sink. “I guess this falls under the old adage, ‘just because you can, doesn't mean you should.' I don't know why we humans have to continually complicated things.” My wife brushed by me on my way to the sink and casually mentioned over her shoulder as she walked to the room we call our library, “It's your turn to do the dishes, isn't it hon?” I love my wife, she's so uncomplicated.
There once was a princess, in a land far away Who wasn't the youngest, she'd started going grey Her name was beautiful, though the rest of her less so Aurelia wasn't married- had never had a beau Her features weren't aweful, it was just her attitude Her face had grown sour, from being arrogant and rude Like other royal ladies, she had to wait for a prince Unfortunately, seeing her, made handsome princes wince The old king spent years trying to convince Posh princes such as John and Vince That his daughter was lovely and smelled of mints Petrified princes galloped off, yet the king took no hints The king couldn't wait to see Aurelia hitched In every town he visited, he made sure she was pitched As any young man's dreamy wife With whom they'd have a fabulous life He needed her to marry off well So he could live in luxury and dwell His old days in the castle, swimming in dough Thus he needed Aurelia to score a rich beau She was shown many a pretty polaroid Though no one seemed to fill the void The princess felt deep inside her heart Scrap that, in her every body part Despite the king's best efforts, nothing really paid off To every prince she met, she said “Do YOU know what I love? Horrible words, like ‘blast!', ‘poo', and ‘bum'” The princes ran and cried, “That's not why I've come I want a fair lady!” They stamped their feet and screamed That this mean princess Aurelia was not one they deemed A lady they'd take for tea along with their precious Mums “She looks as though she lives in the dirty slums,” One disgruntled prince yelled Want to know how Aurelia felt? Smiling, she shook her hair out over the balustrade And demanded the king arrange a date With the bum who lived out in the street She said, “That bum doesn't mind my smelly feet He doesn't care about wrinkles or grey strands He doesn't need Prim and Proper, or manicured hands This man likes me for who I am inside, Unlike those arrogant princes, for whom I have to hide My flaws and the profanities I daily use One broken fingernail and those princes would pop a fuse!” And so Aurelia married, the homeless guy next door The king was forced to move into their shack, all poor For there was a strict rule in their land A princess who doesn't accept a prince's hand From the castle, the royal family is banned A rule is a rule, no point taking a stand But for the very first time in his life He saw a smile on the bum's wife He'd never seen his daughter not look grim The light in her eyes was no longer dim! She was happy; she'd come alive Even though they now drank - not from crystal -in a dive They all lived happily ever after On tins of beans and laughter
Our national mythos may center on reinvention, but our collective consciousness cannot be wished away by obliterating our scars. We have to wear the markings with pride and celebrate their existence. My second husband does not understand the concept. “I want you to look like you never had children.” Frowning, he points to the excess skin and stretch marks on my abdomen. “I don't find you attractive otherwise.” I sigh with frustration. This man, who recently entered my life, desires nothing more than to erase the forty-seven years that came before him. Through plastic surgery, he wants to cut away the excess skin around my abdomen from carrying children and pull tight the remaining stretch marks until they disappear. If I choose to wear the scars where they landed, I will lose my second husband. “I don't find you attractive,” he says, which explains why we no longer make love. At first, under the blush of newness and the dimness of bedroom lighting, he ravished my body with the urgency of someone who had come to the table dying of thirst. Now, he pushes away from the table, refusing to sip from the same cup he married. How absurd, I think. Over the next two years, we argue and argue. The wedge between us widens until the dog sleeps between us, a physical reminder of our sexual abstinence. Eventually, in the third year, he threatens to file for divorce. “I don't understand why you won't have the surgery done.” He tosses up his arms in exasperation. “I'm paying for the expense. I'll hire a nurse to take care of you. I'll hire a chef and a housekeeper, so you can stay bedridden for the full three to six months of recovery.” I place my hands on my hips and broaden my stance. Narrowing my eyes, I counter. “My body is my history. It's the only thing I have left from the divorce.” Lifting his gaze toward the ceiling, he raises his arms. “That's exactly why you should want this mommy makeover as much as I do.” Shaking my head, I sigh. He doesn't understand. “Keep your money. I don't want the surgery.” He shook his fist. “I'll file for divorce.” Lifting my chin, I stare into his eyes. “Is that what you really want?” I step closer, wrapping my arms around his waist, pulling him tight against me. His pulse gallops against my chest. “No.” He slumps forward, his face falling into my hair. “Not really.” For a moment, we call a truce. I don't know how long it will last. I wish my husband understood I am comfortable in my skin. My body is the only thing I have. My scars are the only reminders of the children I bore, the same children my husband does not want to acknowledge. To keep the skin and scars is essentially saying, “Here is my history. Here is my legacy. Here is all I am, and all I am offering you.” When my husband refuses to see the beauty in my scarred body, I seek validation elsewhere. After stripping for another man, I sit naked on the side of his bed. He kneels before me like a disciple before a goddess. Tenderly, he kisses my breasts, my stomach, and my thighs. He gazes with adoration and declares, “You are beautiful.” The softness in his brown eyes mirrors the gentleness in his deep voice. I am beautiful, just as I am, no plastic surgery needed. When I refuse to alter my body for my husband, what I am really saying is, “Please, do not erase me.” I want to be seen with the eyes of the artist lover who called me beautiful. I want to be with a man who does not want to change me. I want to be with someone who allows me the freedom to be me just as I allow him the freedom to be whoever he is. We should not want to wipe away a difficult history and start fresh. W should embrace our past and reconcile our future. Will my husband ever get right with my body—the excess skin, the stretch marks, the cellulite, the age marks? Or will he seek someone else with a less difficult history? Only time will tell. For whether we want to or not, time changes us. All we have is our history.
I have been to a plenty of places in my country, Vietnam. The impression that strikes my mind strongly is girls' marital status. 80% of the places I visit, I meet girls under 18 years old who experience two or more years of motherhood. The prospect becomes a little brighter in more developed provinces as girls in their twenties get married without having a job. I feel so bizarre that girls become mothers even before they are turning to women. I can never expect this early marriage practice would obsess me so much that I spend days finding an answer to my question: Early marriage, why? I was shocked to find out that in a study published by UNESCO: ” Early Marriage: an harmful traditional practice”, it is reported that 12% of Vietnamese women get married at exactly 18 years old. More alarmingly, nearly 5% of Vietnamese girls aged 15 to 18 are currently in marital union. Travelling to the west of Nghe An province, it is not hard to catch sight of young girls singing lullaby, cuddling their babies. At first glance one may mistake they are raising their siblings. However, that sad rhythm is for their own children who are at most 14 years their mothers' junior. If one end of the scale involves child marriage, the other is women in their early twenties marriage. While teenage mothers are stripped off of their rightful decision making capability, the young girls passing the 18+ threshold should have been oriented to make judicious choice. I have witnessed a dozens of my cousins and distant relatives who secure a bachelor degree in a university or college just to get married without seeking a job. Young girls under 18 years old with low autonomy in decision making , there are three main primary reasons. Among the ethnic minority located in mountainous area of Vietnam, a depraved custom called “ wife stealing” still exists. It is so rife that this practice becomes a cultural niche rather than a crime. In these far-flung community, puberty and menarche are considered as time of transition to adulthood. Girls reaching this biological threshold means becoming eligible for marriage, regardless of age. Once a girl is abducted by a man, she indisputably becomes his wife whether she likes it or not. In this case, young girls' parents can do nothing but let everything take it course. It is an ironic fact when a girl's future is in a stranger's hand. The second cause for low autonomy in decision making is socio-economic condition. A vast majority of girls are advised or forced to drop out of school because of family's insufficient financial capability. Marriage is an outlet for family burden as financially speaking, parents are no longer responsible for their daughter ‘s material life. The third root of the problem is herd mentality. The fact that dozens of generations get married before 18 years old is considered as a legacy in ethnic minority. Young girls tie the knot as their grandmothers, mothers and peers do so at an early age. This harmful practice fuels an unchangeable social norm to such an extent that a girl is alienating herself from the community if she refuses to get married early. Girls' psychology is tremendously affected by harmful social ideology which brainwashes their marriage propensity. At the other end of the scale standing women whose have high autonomy in decision making, still prefer early marriage propensity even without a job. All my sister-in-law relatives become manual worker, butcher, housewife or online salesman after their marriage. Their monthly income is not stable and sometimes not enough to make both ends meet. I asked them why they don't spend more time improving their skills and prepare themselves for a permanent job before getting married or taking care of their own parents who has raised them all their life just to see them off too early. I asked them why they don't study more because life is so beautiful and there are tons of things to discover. I wish once in their life time they are empowered to stand on their feet, to be hunger for knowledge, to long for discovering this beautiful world instead of getting snowed under with house chores, breastfeeding, sleepless night, unemployment nightmare. I desperately wish they read more books, beautify their souls with music and poem instead of marital burden. I cannot stand the feeling when I see girls in my ages raising their children without being well-prepared mentally and physiologically. I wish they realize they are beautiful, smart and valuable, and they can color their life much more vibrantly if they don't give up self-schooling too soon. I cannot breath when I read news reporting maternal mortality among girls because of unintended pregnancy, abortion, preterm labor. I feel speechless when seeing young girl coping with two children in their arms, if I were them, I could not handle this. If they had better education, if they were treated equally, if their human right was prioritized, their life would be different.
So here I am, sitting here at 3 AM during exam week, thinking about my life. And it all comes rushing back. Swinging on the monkey bars on hot blistering days alone, to sitting in a corner with my dolls, listening to the most terrifying screaming. Things I have endeavored to ignore and forget because it only brings pain ― an unproductive, useless kind of emotion that I don't believe I need to feel now that it is mostly of the past. But I'll try to remember anyways. Because the insecurity, distrust, and anxiety I now harbour despite having a pretty decent life came from somewhere, and I have a strong suspicion that it isn't solely based on nature (though I admit, there is some family resemblance going on here), but also nurture. My mornings with my parents were quiet at some point in my life, I'm sure. But screaming and shouting had became my alarm clock by the time I was 4 years old. Daily. Loud. And as I grew up, I began to take part in it, for so many reasons that kept on changing as I aged. My mother, goading me to argue on her behalf with my father. My father, telling me how mentally retarded my mother and I are. Me, trying to keep up, favouring one side then favouring the other. Then favouring none. I remember it all becoming too much. When I was 8, I shut myself in my mother's small, dark closet to escape. For one of the first times (and definitely not the last), I wondered why people bothered to live. It's hard for a 8 year old to grasp life and death, so I wouldn't call myself suicidal per se ― more genuine curiosity and slight desperation. Craving for an answer, I asked my parents. Neither answered my question, nor comforted me. My father was outraged. My mother scolded me for even thinking such a thing. Just more incessant, hurtful noise. While watching them, I suddenly realized that I had parents who didn't understand each other, nor did they understand me. Afterwards, I stopped confiding in them. When my younger sister was born, and she joined the familial argument too. At the very least, I can say that she seemed to cope a little better than I did. Whenever it was too much, she'd come to my room, and we'd spend time together ― just the two of us. We'd talk to each other about what we couldn't talk about to our parents. It was healthy. It felt safe. It also felt like the yelling outside of my room would never end, and we accepted that. Looking back, the sound of glass shattering on the cold marble floor was the turning point. Today I'm here. Same, but a little broken inside, just as everyone affected by the toxic relationship is. “You used to smile a lot more, you know?” My mother told me, a few days ago. It wasn't the first time she told me this, and I doubt it will be the last. “You were so happy as a child. You laughed all the time.” I can hear it as clear as day. The silent “What happened?” I find it odd she doesn't know. I could tell her everything I think and feel. But she doesn't deserve it. She tried her best as a parent, and in the end I turned out quite fine. She doesn't need an blame pushed onto her shoulders about a childhood of memories she didn't, and doesn't know how to fix. Nor can she. My father doesn't deserve it either. He has his quirks, sure. But no one can fault him for only wanting the best. And even if I faulted him for expressing his opinions inappropriately, at this point it hardly matters. I've grown up. With his old age, he has gotten softer. There's no point. No point to pointing fingers, or pushing burdens onto others. People don't need to know, because I don't want to change the way they see me. This pain is something I'll carry myself. But this pain didn't have to exist. I'm writing this for my younger sister, who went through most of what I went through as I stood by helplessly. I'm writing this for anyone who's having familial troubles, which includes most of my friends and classmates. I'm writing this for any of you who can't really empathize what I'm talking about. In order for a relationship to work, there has to be communication and tolerance. I wholeheartedly believe this. Don't choose a partner for their looks, their money, or their smarts. Get to know them. Live with them for a while. Meet their family, their friends, discover their interests and preferences. Analyze the things that you two argue or agree about. If you don't see communication and tolerance happening, then I highly suggest you reconsider where your relationship is at before you take the next step ― whether that be marriage, or a child. Because it is a lot easier to start something, than to take it back it afterwards. So there's some food for the thought on who you choose as a partner, and how you might want to parent if the time ever comes.