I received news this morning that a good friend of mine in the Home Country got married. One day she was engaged, the next day she met the guy and that evening they were married. All within the space of three days.
As someone who grew up in that culture, this should not surprise me. Indeed, it didn't for a very long time. My own personal theory had been that if I didn't find someone by 25 I'd let my parents arrange my marriage. This was way before I knew what love was. Since I found love, I can't imagine anything worse than an arranged marriage. I can't imagine marrying someone I don't know who is just in it out of a sense of duty, who doesn't love me or know me.
Love is an overrated concept in my culture, almost embarrassing, somewhere dropped into the same box of other embarrassing things like sex and mini skirt wearing. It's a silly luxury that most people think will ruin your life. They say in my part of the world that a bride cries on her wedding day not because she is getting married and has to leave her home, but because she is mourning the secret love that can now never come to anything.
My culture is littered with love stories that come to nothing. Every single one of our folk legends circles around female protagonists who fell in love, earned the scorn of society and thus perished in some way or, more cruelly, had to live on after her lover was killed. They serve almost as a warning to future generations: loving of your own free will comes to nothing. Best listen to your parents. My type of relationship, where you chose your partner, is called a Love Marriage and is considered selfish and ridiculous.
I know for sure that me and my older sister who chose our own husbands are gossiped endlessly about back home. I know this because back in the day we did it too, despite our own parents choosing each other. That's how strong the mindset is.
I'm not saying arranged marriages are a terrible system. In my life at this moment I am surrounded by miserable couples who chose each other of their own free will. It's just that I feel like a life lived without love is such a waste, such a pity.
But then it's easy to walk down one path when you don't even know that the other one exists. Had I never discovered what it felt like to love someone enough to fight everything to be together, most probably I too would be walking down the other path. I had no idea I had such a great capacity to love another person, it took me totally by surprise. But it also meant that I was left astonished by how narrowly I escaped a life lived without such love. I had no expectations - I was happy to save my love for any children I might have.
This is the culture I grew up. This was how it was. We didn't question. And now I can't imagine anything more terrible.
I know what most girls in the Home Country are like, I was one of them. We carry around a lot of guilt and fear of intimacy. When I reflect on how many problems me and Mr Zeus had because of my mental restrictions, that too despite the fact that we loved each other and he worked so hard to help me, it makes me wonder and feel incredibly sad: how do you make love when there was no love that brought you together, not even lust, because us good Home Country girls aren't supposed to feel that either?
But then again I guess it comes down to not knowing any better.
I hope it all works out for my friend. The problem is that if it doesn't, as is often the case nowadays, you aren't paying the price for your mistake. You are paying the price for someone else's mistake.
I wanted so much for my girlfriends back home to fall in love and get married, like I did. But what are the chances when a society is so heavily stacked against you. It was only after falling in love that I realised I was surrounded by art, music, poetry, paintings, all dedicated to love, a thousand times more than all the other themes put together. I began to wonder if the meaning of life is love itself.
To not love and be loved back. What an incredible pity, be that an arranged marriage in Asia, a marriage of convenience in London or a shotgun marriage in Greece.