I had hoped to write this in May; because in May, I would visit the Colombo District Courts for the first time in my life to pen my signature on a line that I didn’t even vaguely dream of seeing five months ago. This signature would legally sever the connection between my husband (separated, now) and I. There, I said it. I hope you know how much courage it took.
I live in a fairly conservative society. I say fairly, because I see this gradually changing with our generation and the generations after us – and I truly hope it does. Being conservative is not bad at all, but as with everything, there is always a fine line.
In the society I live in,
Short skirts? No. Bare shoulders? No. Holding hands? No. A peck in public? Hell no. Any kind of affection shown in public? No. Divorce? No. Rape? No? Yes? Now I’m not sure. Physical harm or abuse? No, but Divorce is also a no, so harm or abuse should be tolerated?
What triggered me to write this before May, was the sudden explosion of conversation, opinion and anger on my Twitter feed following this post on The Sunday Leader. It says,
“Minister of Child Development and Women’s Affairs…has proposed new laws to crackdown on the number of rape cases. As part of the proposal, the Minister has suggested that rapists be bound by law to marry a victim if she gives her consent to court. …Under the proposed law, a rapist will be forced to wait until an underage victim reaches the legal age limit to marry and will then need to marry her.”
Of course it exploded, right? Conversations wavered; does this mean rape is encouraged? Is rape legal now? Who would want to marry the rapist? Would you marry someone who was raped / physically abused?
And no, all this is still not a part of the point I’m trying to make. All these questions gradually brought out experiences endured and enjoyed by others. This got me wondering; we all have stories behind our smiles. We are all carrying so much baggage from our past; some have found happiness with it, and others are hoping they will and this goes out to every one of those people.
Seven weeks post-wedding, I experienced something of a similar nature – harm. Harm from the one person that I trusted my entire life with. The one person to whom I took my heart and body and handed it over on a silver platter. I had two choices; one, to endure it – the other, to let it go.
Read those last three words carefully; I never said I’m not strong. I didn’t say I gave up. I didn’t say I was scared. Letting go doesn’t mean any of that; it means, what it means. But in this society, it is difficult to fight for yourself.
Some of the questions I was asked:
How long had you known him for? (Trust me the stories I’ve heard? This doesn’t make a difference)
Didn’t you know this before? (If I had known, would I have married him?)
Why did you want to get married so young? (Oh I’m sorry, I guess I missed the memo. How old is “old enough”? This question, I HATE. Just because things didn’t work out, doesn’t mean it needs to be defined.)
And then there were the questions in my head because I felt like I was the only person in this world who is going through this. I felt like no one else would understand what I am feeling.
Would anyone want me again?
Would I ever have the family I wanted?
Do people love people who are divorced?
And you think, well hell. If someone doesn’t love you because of your “social status” then that is not the kind of man that deserves you.
So, I had two choices and I chose the latter. Why? Well, do I give myself another chance to be harmed or hurt? It wasn’t the easiest decision to make, but it was the right one. “Sometimes you need to do what is right, not what is easy.” It would have been easy for me to endure it, to live through it, smile at the rest of the world and bear the pain of mind at home. That’s what we’re all used to isn’t it? Just getting by.
That moment when you need to decide, that moment is painful. You’re torn between letting go of the dreams you just built and knowing you deserve much better. You’re torn between settling for something and fighting for something more. You’re torn between wanting to hold on to what you have and daring to let go and trusting someone else again to soothe the hurt for you.
And in the society I live in, it is mostly being torn between letting skewed social perception play on your family and being strong enough to guard your own mind against what people have to say.
And again, I chose the latter. Just minute ounces of dignity and self-respect overpowers the weaker part of the mind. People, will talk. They always do. Just like you and I talk about someone’s sense of style, or someone else’s boyfriend – people will always have a lot to say about things that they know jack about. You need to be better than that, and bigger than that.
I learned to take responsibility for my decisions. I learned how to answer these ignorant and insensitive questions that were thrown at me. I have learned how to smile when someone asks me how married life is, and politely say I’m not without making them feel bad for asking. I’ve learned to endure the sympathetic looks that people give me. I’ve learned to enjoy the strength, support and the pats on my back.
The walls will be as high as they can get. The strands of hope and faith in relationships and people will slowly tend to diminish. I not only needed to be strong, I also needed not to be stupid. Generalizing everyone else by just one person’s actions, is stupid. I learned to be cautious, and yet to have hope.
So laugh, as hard as you can and have people around you who will make you. Cry, pour out your tears as many times as it takes to get it out of your system. Smile, when it’s quiet and enjoy time alone. Vent, when you need the release; if you’re as lucky as I am you might even have a friend or two who are willing to be your punching bag. Ignore, when people talk, give opinions and when you feel like they’re destroying your status quo for they are ignorant too. Let go, of what you can’t change – new laws, perceptions and arrogance. Be strong, because you can be and for it will take you a long way. Focus, and work hard because that is one thing no one can take away from you. Learn, from it all and it will make you grow. Be patient, because time does certainly heal.
And love, for heaven’s sake. Love and love again for you deserve it.