As told to by Anonymous.
I’m 26, run a $3-million fashion company, and I don’t date the way most Americans do: I want an arranged marriage.
I was born in the United States to a very traditional Indian family. I started my own company because I wanted to be my own person. In my family, women are highly educated, but they either stay at home or work part-time. I think that in this country a woman can do anything.
But it’s been hard for me to find a boy who is open to the sort of marriage where a woman can work outside of the house. Most of the boys who are open to arranged marriage don’t want Western-minded women who are independent or ambitious in any way.
All of the dates I’ve been on in my life have been ‘meets,’ or Indian arranged-marriage meet-and-greets. The meets are supervised; my family comes with me, and we go to the boy’s house and have a conversation about my future goals and the future goals of my prospective mother-in-law.
For each meet, I have to prepare dossiers of the types of foods I’m able to cook, a full curriculum vitae complete with transcripts, and I'm evaluated in much the same way a college admission's committee evaluates prospective students. So far, the meets I’ve been on have been hard because — while a lot of the boys are impressed with my cooking skills (I was top of my class in cooking school) and my virtue (I’m still a virgin) — my ambition is a disadvantage.
Most of the boys who are open to arranged marriage don’t want Western-minded women who are independent or ambitious in any way.
It’s hard to have a relationship when the boys my parents introduce me to want me to be accomplished and smart — but not more so than they are. The boys I’ve met are looking for a girl who has the things I offer, but who also wants to be a full-time stay-at-home mom. They really have a problem with the fact that I intend to work and am furthering my education beyond my Masters. (I’m a trained scientist and fashion designer, and I'm about to get a PhD.) They have this antiquated view that women should be educated but just stay at home.
And it’s not just the boys; my parents don’t approve of my ambition, either. They support my education but would be much happier if I finished my schooling, got married, gave them grandchildren, and stayed at home. But I want to be an independent woman — I don’t want to go from my parents’ control to my husband’s control.
I love my parents, and I honor them, but I think they had this idea that I would work and study until marriage, and then after marriage I would assist my husband with whatever he’s doing professionally, in lieu of my own professional interests and goals. But I would prefer to be my own person with my own career path. While I understand my place, I think it’s possible to be a supportive spouse and do my duties but also have a career of my own.
It’s a huge disadvantage being a woman with ambitions in my traditional upper-caste, Indian family, and I’ve learned this from the times I’ve tried to talk about them. Once at a meet, a boy’s mom told me it wasn’t appropriate for a woman to work outside the home. At another meet, my dad said: “Tell them more about how much you like to make soufflés.” I wanted to talk about my passion for social justice, but it was very discouraged. Instead, I was seen as this walking, talking Betty Crocker.
I’m very proud of my heritage and I don’t want to be the first person in the whole family to break with tradition.
I was 13 at my first meet, and had my second one at 18. Now I’m 26, and the pressure is definitely on. In my entire family tree, there has never been an inter-caste marriage or a love marriage. Everyone in my family, on both maternal and paternal sides, has chosen arranged or semi-arranged marriage.
I don’t really see marriage as anything other than a goal-oriented relationship where both parties help each other achieve professional and personal goals, because I think you have to balance expectations with your own happiness. I want to be the obedient daughter who marries the perfect suitable boy and gets admiration from everyone in my family, but I am just not impressed with the boys my mom thinks are perfect for me.
As of the last few months, I have begun avoiding Indian weddings and feigning the flu to get out of Indian parties because my mom just parades me around to other moms. I always fear I am seen as just some sort of vehicle to give people pure-blooded grandchildren instead of a person with hopes and dreams of my own. Nobody has ever asked me what my Myers Briggs Type Indicator is, what I am passionate about, what artists inspire me, what music I like to dance to, or what I like to read.
I’m very proud of my heritage, and I don’t want to be the first person in the whole family to break with tradition. I would prefer to marry a boy that my parents approve of. But recently, I have started thinking about the possibility of getting a love marriage. I have grown up on Hollywood films and Victorian romance novels, but I don’t actually know what love marriages look like in person.
I have grown up on Hollywood films and Victorian romance novels, but I don’t actually know what love marriages look like in person.
My vision of the perfect boy is someone idealistic, adventurous, nice, funny, and supportive of my career. Ideally, he would like to work alongside me in helping me grow my business so there is no division between my work and personal life, and also occasionally give me freedom and space to pursue my somewhat solitary hobbies in the visual arts. I think it’s hard to find boys in arranged marriage meets who are remotely supportive of a woman working in any activity other than the PTA or non-profit work.
I do a lot of volunteer work, and I run a non-profit on the side, but I enjoy business a lot. I feel like you have to pursue your passion in life, and for me that is making a difference in the lives of women and children through my work.
But I have no idea how a love marriage would work; I don’t even know how to talk to boys I find attractive, so I’m not sure how I could find a boy who would love me. If I could somehow get a love marriage with a boy who has the same values, history, and culture — that would be great.
With arranged marriage, there is a very clear procedure and a road map that everyone follows: Girls have the ultimate veto power.
My dream is to have an arranged marriage where I fall in love with my spouse over time. I guess failing that, it is still preferable to settle for some mediocre arranged marriage because I don’t understand how I would find a love marriage. With arranged marriage, there is a very clear procedure and a road map that everyone follows: Girls have the ultimate veto power. My parents do all the investigations and family meets before I’m even introduced, so there’s a lot of comfort. When the boy meets me, I know he’s been approved by my dad to talk to me and has the same core values as me, so I feel more comfortable.
Ultimately, though I'm proud of my heritage, the Western way of people accepting others as they are is amazing to me. For now, I’m trying to live on the verge of two very different cultures, and I wish I was somehow able to combine the two.
This interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity and readability.