Sometimes, things are not exactly what they seem to be. When we were writing He Never Deserved Me, the subject came up of how I ended up marrying my husband. My best friend kept on saying that it was an arranged marriage and I would explain to her that it wasn’t. Why don’t you be the judge of that?
In my society, it was understood and never questioned by anyone that a potential husband should be from a specific social class, the same as mine or higher and of the same ethnic group as me. He also had to be older than me because that meant he was financially settled and had the capabilities to support me in the way I was accustomed to or at an even higher level.
After I turned 16, I was considered of marrying age. That meant my family and their friends were to alert any candidates that would fit all these criteria. The mothers of the single men would also be on the lookout for a young woman that fit their personal criteria. Ranging from being obedient, quiet, submissive, to being a good cook, smart enough to hold a conversation and good natured, kind and patient enough to accept her role. Gold diggers were to be avoided; the young woman would have to come from a well to do family.
If by chance, either the man or the woman were to fall in love with someone that did not fit all the criteria, there would be the threat to disownment would hang over them. After all, the parents knew better, or so they thought.
Anytime there was an event or a gathering where there were single men or women, the parents would send us with a briefing of the candidates that were going to be present with specific stories about the families we came from and with instructions to go and see if we were interested in any of them. These events were the perfect and obvious disguise for getting two people that didn’t know each other to meet. In their minds they were helping their children to find the one, but we see it very differently – a path that could lead to destruction.
What is important to understand is that at any given event, even something as big as a wedding, there were no more that five possible candidates. So the pool was quite small. How could one find real love in such a limited amount of people? But then again, love was not what we were supposed to be looking for. The best you could do was find someone that you felt comfortable with and whose company you enjoyed.
You have to understand that this was my normal; I had grown up with these ideas and nobody ever questioned them. The people that defied their parents would have to break the bond with them for a number of years. Many times the ice would break only when grandchildren were born and the parents would have to accept the relationship.
My hope is that newer generations will break free from these rules and marry someone they truly love, instead of following these skewed patterns that many generations have conformed to for centuries.