A teenage boy got married to his girlfriend in Pakistan. With his parents’ blessings. What’s that now? The new sex ed, chauvinism?
But people are generally happy with this news. They think this opens the door to further civilization of our culture. How really, you ask ? By preventing sex crimes and adultery, they say. In fact people are urging others to get their kids wedded off too.
So what if they have no prospects and can’t even sign their name the same way on the two pages of the marriage certificate? After all, emotional and intellectual maturity are just western concepts and would rather be applied to people who live in the slums and work at below minimum wage.
But something interesting happened. I started reminiscing when I heard the news of an 18 year old kid go to his dad and request to be married off to an 18 year old girl. I started reminiscing about the time when I had turned 18.
It wasn’t this peachy, I can tell you that. I was actually graduating intermediate college and setting my sights at one of the most prestigious medical schools in Pakistan. I was also dreading a new entrance test that was being introduced. I had no prospects of marriage, no Prince Charming galloping towards me in his shining armor and I didn’t look half as pretty as the 18 year old girl who just made a public bride to a same age groom.
My skin was breaking out from constant stress. My friends were in similar predicament. We all had high hopes for the future but the constant dread wouldn’t let us sleep.
I had had some crushes before that and after that. Some infatuations. Some causal flirting. Some serious thoughts. But it all changed as soon as it started. Many people say we don’t forget our first love. I think that’s an old wives’ tale. I had a first love. I was dying to catch one glimpse of someone. I did like spending time with one particular person when I was 18. Who was it, you ask? I don’t remember. I really don’t. Even though at the time I thought I’d marry them. All I remember is my first loves were at least twenty different guys before I tied the knot with my husband and then overnight, miraculously, I turned into a wife who had eyes for no one but her husband. I’m rolling my eyes too. Marriage isn’t magic.
The rate at which I burned through my crushes was impossible to keep up with even for me. Like any other raging hormone factory, I couldn’t keep my thoughts faithful to one guy. Movie stars became the center of my universe with the same intensity in January as the boy next door in February. I hated it and enjoyed it. I liked the feeling of being a free agent.
I was raised by people who couldn’t wed me off at 18, even if I had wanted to. Even if they could’ve given me the world at 18. They had weird ideas of “not now”, “too early”, “you have no idea what marriage is”.
So it’s surprising that people in Pakistan are seeing a teenage marriage as the new trend. That they have so much respect and praise for it. That all of a sudden, all of us who waited to grow up look like idiots.
I did get married eventually. At 24. In an arranged exchange. There’s very little to commend the arranged marriage process for. But it worked out for me. In a strange way, parts of my arranged marriage worked and continue to work.
But overall I have had some great lessons come my way through my marriage. How self-respect is my biggest strength and others’ equally big fear became known to me.
How money isn’t the answer to most conundrums in life. Actually we can solve more problems by just a good night’s sleep.
How my hormones needed to settle in a rhythm before I tried to get in sync with someone else.
How marriage isn’t the answer to sexual urges, premarital sex, infidelity and adultery. All of those happen despite marriage.
So I’m not particularly happy that two teenagers got married and their parents blessed them while they were getting married. But their parents are confused at why people are not understanding their reasoning behind wedding their kids off. They’re asking why people are being nosy. They’re asking why people care. They’re asking why it isn’t enough that the kids are happy.
I think they won’t get it. Even if people laid out the divorce statistics in Pakistan. Even if people gave them the rising rate of prostitution in Pakistan despite most adults being married . Even if people showed them the number of married sex crime offenders in Pakistan. Even if people explained to them how marriage isn’t a contract to enter because there are physical needs for a partner. They won’t get it.
They won’t get it because they don’t get how they have made a sandcastle for their kids in the name of marriage. How they’ve promised to stand guard all the time while the kids play away from the water in a drier part of the beach. How it’s not possible to stand guard all day long. Because the wave gets high and every sandcastle succumbs to the wave eventually. All parents can do for their emotional toddlers is build a sandcastle when they whine. They cannot turn the wave.
But what parents can do is may be lay the foundation of character and introspection and perspective. May be they can help with developing resilience, grit and independence. May be what they can really instill in their teenagers is self-reliance and disregard for validation in relationships as a means to personal fulfillment.
Another setback for Pakistan. Another man fell in love with a woman, went to his dad and his dad financed the wedding and the marital home. Another man, without dating or connecting or speaking with the female species, made a woman his own.
But here’s the question! Why did the parents of the girl agree? Why did they think that marriage should even happen at 18? Why did they not tell their daughter that before marriage happens, there’s a lot that needs to happen? Why did they not let her know that we are trying to prevent girls from entering potentially coercive situations? They pushed her right into one.
This happened in the 1900’s and we watched. But this shouldn’t have happened in 2020.