#FeministMondays | On Looking Married

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During early 2012, I developed a hormone problem and started putting on weight. I then got married in March 2013. I was at my heaviest while I got married, but every person who met me after I'd got married attributed my weight gain to marriage. I even got sly remarks like "Oh, now you look married" to "Looks like your husband is keeping you very happy". While I just replied with an eye roll, I wanted to respond saying that my then boyfriend was keeping me very happy back then too, but since it is a statement that could be easily misconstrued I let it be. Of late when people find out that I'm married, they look shocked. Not that I look like a young, flawless, unwrinkled diva, but because I show no signs of being married.

While most women these days seem to change their surnames on Facebook right from their wedding venue, I am someone who has never given this a thought. The thought of taking my husband's name did not occur to me at all. When it did, it did not seem like a big deal, so I let it be. It is my name. I've had this name for 26 years, why would I change it? This doesn't make me love my husband any less. And he doesn't give two hoots about what my surname is. When people address me as Mrs. Prasad, I point out saying that Mrs. Prasad is actually my mother and not me. That is more often than not followed by a billion questions and I choose to walk away instead.

Initially after I got married, I used to wear the vermilion on my forehead, the taali around my neck as well as toe rings. Honestly, I was fascinated by it initially, but then the fad died down. I realized that this was not me. Still, since I was living with my in-laws and did not want them to create a scene or point fingers at me or my husband, I played along. But once we moved out, I stopped these practises. While I love to wear toe rings even today purely as a sense of fashion, also, because it makes my ugly, clumsy feet look better, I cannot do it often. I more often than not wear closed shoes to work, so wearing toe rings clump my toes together and it hurts. But when people find out that I'm married, the first thing they do is look at my forehead or my toes. Many, many women have given me speeches on how important it is for a woman to do all these things and look married. I just find it silly.

Do people expect such things from men? Aren't married men supposed to look married? Shouldn't they wear something as a mark of being married too? A marriage involves two people after all. Such societal norms where a woman is supposed to wear and flaunt all signs of marriage on herself and on all vital documents needs to be stopped. If she wants to do it, then she can go ahead. No women should be forced to do it or be shamed for not doing it. It is the choice of the woman alone.

When you do not follow these meaningless practises, people (mostly women) make their own awesome assumptions. While one told me that I can do this because I had a love marriage, another told me that I choose not to look married so that I appear "available" to other men. But the best I've got till date is this, "You must not love your husband enough for not following this." All these have come to me from women. Honestly, very rarely have men pointed this out to me. Most women cover themselves in red bangles and stuff their forehead with vermilion after marriage. Fine, it is their choice. But, why should they judge when other women do not choose to do the same things? Most women who follow this think that the other woman is not of good character or that she is too "free" in life. I'm not making this shit up, I've seen and heard women discussing this.

While I know that there are many men out there who expect their wives to cover their faces with a veil and wear heavy jewelry to appear married, I haven't met many who would point a finger at me. The ones who do, have always been women. Always. Once, a lady at work asked me if I stay in a PG. I said no and that I stay with my husband. Her jaw almost dropped to the ground. Then she automatically assumed that I am newly married. When I said that I've been married for more than four years, she said that I have maintained myself very well. I thought it was a compliment until she came back to me the next day and asked if my husband was okay with me wearing pants to work. She also said that I should probably not dress this was since I was married. I asked her what her problem was with the way I dressed. She gave a long speech and I did too. In very different tones. Needless to say, we don't talk today.

Another women asked me if I was "really married" when she saw my well groomed nails. According to her, a married woman would not have time to dress up well or take care of herself. So either I was not married, or I was a bad wife. Why do women define such things for other women? Why can't they just let others be and not think so much about if they look married or not? Why are some women so hell bent upon judging other women and making life tough or them? Being married doesn't mean that you should reek of your marital status. Being married doesn't mean you stop wearing what you did before and "cover" yourself up. Being married doesn't mean you look branded with your husbands name from head to toe. It is just a change in the relationship status, nothing else.

Women, married or not, please note. Do what you want, wear what you want, say what you want. Period.


This post is a part of the powerful series #FeministMondays on Naba's blog and you can be a part of it too. On the second Monday of every month, write an impactful post with the hashtag #FeministMondays and link it back to Naba's blog.

18 comments:

  1. I was nodding throughout your post as I have heard most of these things myself. I get the same "you don't look married but" in different tones. Although no one ever pointed out to me if I am a good wife or love my husband, I did get quite a lot of speeches on wearing bindis, toe rings and sindoor. I do like to doll up with these once in a while when I go to family weddings but I can never wear it daily or to work as I don't feel myself. I keep up the appearance when I go to my in-laws but it is now a well known fact that no one can make me do those when I am at my own and after 3 years they have finally stopped asking me if my bindi fell off :p. To my benefit my husband too isn't very fond of the sanskari bahu avatar and doesn't care about it!

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    1. Same with my husband. He finds it weird when I'm in a typical wife avatar! I have stopped doing it altogether! I find it weird as it is not me at all.

      Lets live the way we want to Maith, hell with the world.

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  2. Sigh! How many times we have been through this and we still face the same. Initially I was doing things to keep up appearances until my husband called it out to me and told me to do something only if I want to, be it when I am alone or when I am with his people. I realized how right he was and from then on, I do what I want. Dealing with it is their problem. I wear my thaali and toe rings because I like them and want to. I wear sindoor once in a while when I feel like it. Jeez, I guess we are never gonna tire of this topic as long as people come up with such crap. I am loving the #FeministMondays series.

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    1. Good for you, Kay! Thanks you, do come back for more.

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  3. I’ve never worn toe rings or bindi or mangalsutra or any other adornment of a married woman. But I’ve been lucky that no one has ever questioned me on why I don’t wear any of these things! So I was a bit surprised to hear that people still pass judgement over something as trivial as this! You’d think these things would be more a matter of choice in today’s day and age!

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    1. The sad part is such things still matter to a lot of women.

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  4. What do I say, except give you a standing ovation, my dear Zoe! I think your last line sums it up best - each to their own, but don't diss the others who don't want to do it.

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  5. Oh god this is so banal and needless but so very prevalent in every strata on one's social network. Even well meaning friends fall under this category of trying to instill the "married woman" notion in you by pointing out to you that you shoud be well marked now!
    Loved your post for its honest opinions - more power to you Soumya

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    1. That's the sad part. Many independent like minded women fall into this trap all in the name of tradition.

      Thank you Shalz.

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  6. This is exactly like my life after marriage. I didn't get my surname changed after marriage and nobody in my family (including my in-laws) bothered about it too since I was working and also it would have meant too many hassles and paper work. Over the last 12 years, I have been addressed as Mrs. Agnihotri numerous times. While I used to correct it initially, later on I decided to take care of my peace and let it pass. I live independently away from my relatives which allows me to live as I want to, giving up what I want to. I live happily.

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    1. More power to you, Anamika.

      How I wish that I could live in a place far away from my relatives who love to nit-pick.

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  7. Oh gosh! Those were some comments that you had to listen to. And I am slightly shocked. You have got lectures in Bangalore? Thinking on the topic I wear a mangalsutra and a ring. Both because VT bought those two things of my choice and with his only savings. So even though the mangalsutra isn't a traditional thing in my caste or his, that's love. Vermilion and toe right - nope. Like you, got fascinated initially and gave up very soon. VT wears a ring and keep telling him that the ring is his married sign ;) So, yes with you with the fact that why the men aren't asked such questions and just the women?

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    1. Seriously! In Bangalore, yes! Some women still belong to the 14th Century.

      I wear my engagement ring too, because I love it. Honestly, that's the only piece of jewelry I wear. So does Cal.

      But do anyone ask men what they do to look married? Even their rings will be considered a sign of fashion or something.

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  8. Eggjactly!!!! :))) Wish more people just left us the way we are. I dont wear a thali( except in the first month of marriage, when I would feel guilty to remove it), no toe ring no vermilion. Often people would tell me " Oh you dont look married!!!" .. My most common thought was, " why should i look married"?????

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    1. Exactly! Why should one look married? For what?

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  9. When I was a newly wed, I loved wearing the mangalsutra, the red bangles and the bindi though I didn't really like sindoor, I just put a dot, for the novelty of it. It wore off very quickly. Also because I wear western wear regularly, I didn't like to pair ethnic stuff with it. Luckily, I lived in the US in the initial years of marriage and no one gave a shit. Even the Indians there were quite warm and not bitchy. I did officially change my surname as that seemed like a normal thing to do back then. Perhaps if I had stayed back in India, I wouldn't have bothered. I don't mind it either way. I have so many friends who have retained their maiden name and no one even raises an eyebrow. The only time I dress up traditionally is for family weddings. One, because I love saris. And bindi and jewelry goes well with it. Second because everyone in the house loves it when I go all out when I dress up in saris and hence I enjoy it. :) But on daily basis, I hardly wear any 'symbols' of marriage. The toe rings I took out on the first night itself. They were so uncomfortable along with the payal. Over the years, I have stopped judging women. Perhaps they really love dressing up the way they do. Maybe, they place a lot of faith in wearing their mangalsutra. And that's perfectly fine. Women with plaits and oil in their hair, always in ethnic clothes used to get my ridicule when I was a college kids way back in Bombay very careful about how I dressed but no more. Because we are so much more than what we wear. The women who make those silly statements to you are best ignored solely because their exposure is very low and their thinking prowess low. They can't understand that people are different and live differently.

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    1. To each her own yes, but it is sad that some women are so quick to judge the others! Someday with time, hopefully things will change.

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