First Comes Marriage, Then Comes Love?
Summer has come and that means all of my favorite shows have aired their season finales, leaving me with little to nothing to watch on television. Sure, I have my Hulu and my Netflix, but how many times can a person watch reruns of The Mindy Project? A LOT, I TELL YOU! (Mindy Kaling is my bestfriend…in my head). Besides, I already binged on the fourth season of Orange is the New Black. There was really nothing left for me.
Well, my Friday nights usually consist of me watching Real Time with Bill Muhar and eating Chinese food. I’ve always been a big fan of panel political shows and for some reason, my eleven-month-old is rather attentive when it comes on (future politician? I hope not). On the show, Bill had writer-at-large for the New York Magazine, Rebecca Traister, opinionist of The New York Times, Joshua Barro, former chief investigative reporter of the WWTG, Emily J. Miller, former chief of staff to Colin Powell, Lawrence B. Wilkerson, and American actor, Ravi Patel. I have seen Mr. Patel before on shows like Grandfathered and Master of None—which is freaking hilarious– however, I also recognized his face when scrolling down movies on my Netflix. Patel and Muhar discuss his documentary that he wrote and narrated with his sister, Geeta about the Indian tradition of arranged marriages and the process of finding a spouse in his culture. It all seemed rather fascinating and I could kick myself for not looking at it before.
A few days later, I decided to check it out. The documentary was a very funny comedy that explored the high expectations surrounding the first-generation of an Indian immigrant family in American society. Ravi nor his sister are married (welcome to the club!). This is rather upsetting for his parents who themselves had an arranged marriage around the same age, and like many parents, want to marry their children off so they could have grandchildren to spoil rotten. Nothing wrong with that.
The story goes that Ravi’s father, Vasant’s village raised money to send him to America (while my family won’t even raise up enough money to get me a birthday card). Vasant obtains his education, working and living in an apartment with six other people. All of sudden, Vasant receives a call from his father that it was time to get married. That simple. Vasant flies back to India where there is a slew of potential partners. Apparently, the twelfth time was the charm because after meeting, Champa for only ten minutes, they were married and have been ever since. Both of Ravi’s parents do indeed seem like a happy married couple. I find his father to be adorable and his mother to be very witty and beautiful. It is easy to see that they were in fact made for each other. Ravi brags about how his parents are the happiest married couple he has ever seen, having been married for nearly forty years. Let me be the first to say, “Bravo, Patels”. Seriously! That is amazing. I knew couples that took a year to really get to know the other person, only for the marriage to end before the five-year mark. What is the Patel’s secret and where can I buy it?
Back to the documentary, Ravi narrates how he never really had a girlfriend, being that girls were prohibited from calling his house growing up. His first real relationship was with a red-head American named, Audrey, with whom he dated for two years without his parents’ knowledge. Unfortunately, Ravi broke up with Audrey before the family trip to India during wedding season. His parents appear to be very adamant with finding him a wife because to him, he has never had a partner before and he was nearing thirty (that really makes me feel crappy). I never knew that process of Indian matchmaking was so complicated. I always thought it was a process where two families have babies of the opposite sex and they come to an agreement that when they come of age, they marry each other, and BOOM! Not the case. Apparently, if you are a Patel, they want you to marry a Patel. It is not like some deep south incest type thing. It deals with the circulation of biodata sheets that are registered with websites dealing with Indian marriages and narrowing down potential mates using evaluations, conventions, ceremonies, and extended family relations. Talk about overwhelming.
Ravi continues to express his feelings and experiences about the entire dating thing; flying from city to city under his parents’ expense to go on these dates. Some seemed like nice girls, yet they never really went to second date status. Ravi couldn’t understand why he was sucking at this. Then his sister said that she has been over two hundred dates since the age of twenty and none resulted in a second date (well…damn). After watching him rip and run in this journey for orchestrated love, I became exhausted. His parents felt as though he was not taking this entire process seriously. Deep down, I don’t think he was either. I felt like he still had some feelings for his ex; however, he could not tell his parents.
When his sister left the house to go somewhere, Ravi finally gained the courage to tell his parents that he hid a relationship from them with a non-Indian woman for two years. Of course, the parents were disappointed. I think his mother took it the hardest. His father seemed to come around to the idea, stating that his son’s happiness was his happiness (talk about the feels). Ravi’s mother was not so ready to give up her traditions and cultures so easily. It was clear from the expression on her face and the way she was clanging the dishes as she was washing them that she was pissed. But the problem—that Ravi realized—was not that Audrey was non-Indian, more that his mother was disappointed that he lied to her for so long. That’s understandable. His parents eventually come around to it, relaxing their expectations and accept their son’s wishes (awesome). Ravi realizes that his love was always with Audrey. They get back together and she wins the affections of his parents and becomes accustomed in the Indian tradition. Great ending, right? It would be if he didn’t say with Bill Muhar that they ended up breaking up again. Seriously, dude? I was rooting for you two. ROOTING, I SAY!
Watching this, I was so intrigued about the idea of arranged marriages. Sure, to the western world, it seems like something that is demeaning to women as though we are nothing but mere property to be pawned off to the highest bidder, but I don’t think that was the case with the Patels, or in majority of these types of marriages. They really take this marriage thing seriously. I mean, biodata? It doesn’t get more serious than that. My question is, why don’t Americans take this much effort in finding a mate? No, I’m not talking about all Americans, but in a country where half of marriages end in divorce and majority of these marriages today do not last past ten years, a person like myself has to wonder. What are we doing wrong?
Sure, I know marriage is more than biodata evaluations, but how can a marriage with the people not even meeting more than half an hour last longer than people who take three years before deciding to tie the knot? I remember when either Ravi or Bill himself, stated that the problem is how we here romanticize marriage like something we see in the movies. We must initially feel butterflies and must fall madly in love, being that way for the rest of our lives (dun, dun, DUN!). We must patiently take our time and get to know one another to figure out if this person is the “one”. Then there is more time during the engagement, and blah, blah, blah. Time, time, time! Am I impatient? You bet your sweet a** and half a breast I am. Yes, I know that patience is a virtue, but it is also a frustrating son of a b****. The Patels appear to have the right idea.
All of this had me thinking about dating and the search for a “soulmate”. To be honest, my parents are not nearly invested in finding me a mate as Vasant and Champa are with their children. Majority of the guys I dated I never mentioned to them because honestly…they weren’t worth mentioning. There aren’t any evaluations or conventions. I started thinking about what would be considered the somewhat equivalent to the process the Patels took to find their son a wife. For me, there is just a string of profiles on dating apps where I like to state that I am an aspiring ninja assassin. Ah, yes. Online dating has replaced randomly meeting someone at a grocery store or at the bar. It is a way for people can meet someone in the comfort of their own home while wearing your sweats and a facial mask. “What are your favorite movies?” Mafia and horror. “What are your hobbies?” Throwing ninja stars.
It is all tedious really. You post a few pictures, and then you have guys in your inbox asking you for more. ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED? You state that you are seeking a relationship, and all of a sudden, your inbox is full of guys only looking for a hookup. Like, really? I’m pushing thirty; therefore, a hookup is no interest to me. I’m not some young twenty-something looking to experience life. Those years are behind me. I’m looking for someone to anchor down this vessel (Did I compare myself to a boat? You’re damn right I did). Then there is the part where you actually connect with someone, but in the back of your mind, you are questioning if you’re being catfished. Not to mention wondering if this guy could be a possible serial killer. If he is a serial killer who kills only serial killers, then I can somewhat deal with it (the lesser of two evils? No?). It is all daunting…and draining. I’m simple—beards and tattoos. It feels like a bad Disney cartoon movie where you’re some lonely princess looking for love, but your luck only has you kissing a lot frogs and even some disgusting toads. Where is my prince, dammit?
When I think of a convention, I think of businessmen and women in the dining halls of a La Quinta Inn, or something dealing with comic books or a followed Sci-Fi series. Never could I imagine that it could be used for marital purposes. Staying in a hotel, buffets, and potential mates? What will they think of next? I wondered if there were conventions designed for pushing thirty single mothers who get excited over book giveaways at local bookstores. If there is one, sign me up. But the thing that comes to mind when I think of these conventions is speed dating.
Ah, yes. Speed dating; defined as a formalized matchmaking process of dating system whose purpose is to encourage people to meet a large number of new people. Fun, right? The process is men and women rotating in a series of “short dates” that last no more than eight minutes or so, where then, a signal—a bell ring; a whistle. A shriek of torture? — and you’re off to the next date. Apparently, if two people match after the initial meeting, contact information is exchanged. But let’s be serious, shall we? In this culture we have, is it possible to find a match under eight minutes? I mean, I understand. Who would want to be stuck in a boorish conversation with a boring match for what could feel like eternity? Ring that bell and set me free, damn you! But what makes them a match? Is it merely superficial? “Damn, he has a nice smile.” “I love her eyes.” I guess you know when you know; a feeling in the pit of your stomach. It might be gas, but who knows.
However, it does kind of beat the strains of online dating. You have the face-to-face interaction where you can actually see the person and how the person says something rather than what they actually say. Body language, people. It also takes away the nervousness of meeting for the first time after chatting for a while. It really eliminates the middle man. Instead of wondering if the guy is a serial killer or not, I can actually sit and stare into the eyes of one for four to five minutes before the ringing of a bell releases me from his murderous glare (HOOYAH, awkwardness). For me, when I think of speed dating, what comes to mind is that scene from the 40-Year-Old Virgin, where they go to a speed dating event in order for Andy (Steve Carell) to lose his virginity. “She was a h*… for sho”.
And yea, there are Meetup groups where you can meet people with similar interest as you. Yoga? Nothing says true love than meeting your partner while doing a downward facing dog. Poetry? Find a partner that can eloquently write and recite their love for you. Then, if you two eventually break up, and the poems become dark and a little concerning, that would be around the time you find a new Meetup group.
Why is the pursuit for a spouse so darn hard? When did this journey to marriage become so complicated? I think it should be simple like when we would pass notes in school to the person we liked. “Will you marry me? Check yes or no.” Could it be that we here in the United States do not take marriage as seriously as other countries? Possibly. It could be that our views on this union just differ. Parents here want nothing more for their children to find someone who loves them and for them to get married so that they can have grandchildren; be happy. However, they usually leave it up to their kids to take that journey. Unlike the traditions of Indians, I don’t think American parents are that heavily invested (my opinion, people). Not to say that they want their children marrying whomever—or whatever—it is just they take a backseat to the matchmaking game and allow them to make their own decisions, while putting in their “two cents” every now and then. Heck, you still have men who ask the father for their girlfriend’s hand in marriage. Some traditions never die, I guess.
Seeing this movie was indeed perfect timing. Lately, it seems as though everyone I know is getting engaged, and I’m pretty sure they didn’t jump through all the hoops like Ravi did in order to get there (or did they?) But seriously, this proposing has become somewhat of an epidemic. Tis the season, I suppose. It got me thinking about my own “marital” clock and if the thing is still ticking or just died. My friend, Chaniqua met her guy on an online dating site and BOOM! Seven months later, she is engaged. Scrolling down my timeline on Facebook is nothing but pregnancy and engagements. Well, my birthing days are behind me, so fiancée…WHERE YOU AT?
Here I am, single (boo hoo), and yes I know that it doesn’t mean the end of the world, but damn! Can a girl get some companionship? Back then, I would have been married off by my eighteenth birthday. Now, I have to hope that I can find at least a reliable “somewhat” of a boyfriend by my forties. Would I like to get married someday? Yes. Does an arranged marriage sound appealing? Depends. It is not like I am some single woman without much to think about. As I have said before, I have kids. That means I am not going to let just any Tom, Dick, or Harry into my life. My number one concern is their safety. With all these crazies and pedophiles running around trying to entice children with sub sandwiches, a mother—like myself—has to be cautious. Meeting a guy for only ten minutes is not enough time for me to determine if he is safe to bring around my offspring. There has to be background checks and extensive information pried in order to see if he is safe to bring around them, and how they will react to him. This cannot be taken lightly.
If my mom was right here, she would tell me that my time would come. However, it seems like all of my peers are moving up in this madness called adulthood with their marriages and families, and I’m here trying to figure out if I could even manage to like someone enough to tell them my real name (I like to use, Ari. Sounds adorable). Yea, I know. Not everyone wants to get married or see it as a goal, but what about the ones who want to take that step? LIKE ME! Not saying that a marriage is the only and ultimate goal in this thing we call life, but how great would it be to spend the rest of your life with someone you love; waking up to them every morning? A girl can dream. Can’t I? Love is a complicated thing. One day you’re in it and the next, you’re not. Life happens. I guess, my thoughts on arranged marriages were that you could just bypass all the bulls***, not wasting a year or two with someone only to find out that it was all a façade; that you were welcome because you played yourself. Yea, I know that not all arranged marriages are freaking bliss, but there are some. Like I said before, fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce, so the way we have done it doesn’t seem to work either.
What I noticed in the documentary was that most of the difficulties that Ravi faced was probably due to the fact they he was dating in a new generation unlike his parents. Nowadays, it seems like people are just looking for their next boyfriend/girlfriend without any means of moving it the next level. All these games people play. Is “Nintendo” written on my forehead? There is this clear fear of commitment, and that marriage seems constricting as though in some ways taking someone’s freedom (Okay, Amistad). One could also peg it as our generation having the “bigger, better” syndrome. Even if things seem all right with our partner, there is always that feeling in the back of our minds that there is someone who is better for us.
Sure, arranged marriages can have you bound to someone you have nothing in common with and eventually can’t stand. It can also lead you to your soulmate. Who knows? I guess it is just the roll of the dice. Either way, the quest for love is an endless one. The documentary real allowed me to really evaluate myself and realize that there is more to it than the “idea” of marriage. That is what I was stuck on; an idea. Marriage is not some romantic comedy or a Nicholas Sparks movie. Marriage is freaking work. It is not some toy that you can just toss aside when it gets a little crack in it. Fix that s***! (Excuse my French). I’m sure the Patels’ marriage wasn’t just 100 percent happiness all day; all the time. If they did have their problems, I commend them for sticking around and loving each other through the ups and downs. That is my idea of marriage—dealing with a person’s flaws and loving them anyway. Did they just get lucky? One can say that, but I will take that luck any day of the week. One day, I hope I can have something like that. Maybe one day the big man in the sky will send someone just for me, who will be everything I ever wanted (fingers crossed for Trevor Noah). I guess what works for some doesn’t work for others, and I just need to find my niche…
… and if it doesn’t happen by the time I’m thirty-two, I will have to get Champa’s number.