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I am 40 and single. Thank you for asking

Sanchari Bhattacharya writes: I am 40 and single. It is a mere fact of existence for me, but a source of unending horror, pity, frustration, amusement and puerile queries from my family, relatives, not-so-close friends, neighbours and domestic help.

Sanchari Bhattacharya writes: The marital status, or lack thereof, isn’t a deliberate choice. It is a combination of events and factors. (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

Recently, during a phone call, my mother brought up the topic of an acquaintance who is going through a second divorce. “Oh poor thing…,” I said. “Well, at least she managed to get married… twice! You have not even been married once,” was my mother’s cutting response.

This conversational detour — from turning someone’s acrimonious separation into a referendum about me — didn’t surprise me in the least. For, there is no story, family gossip or global catastrophe that my mother cannot attribute to the butterfly effect of me staying unmarried at such a ‘ripe’ age.

Climate change, war in Ukraine, Sri Lankan economy crashing… my family will manage to find a circuitous path between these disasters and my (apparently equally disastrous) decision to stay unmarried.

I am 40 and single. It is a mere fact of existence for me, but a source of unending horror, pity, frustration, amusement and puerile queries from my family, relatives, not-so-close friends, neighbours and domestic help.

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The marital status, or lack thereof, isn’t a deliberate choice. It is a combination of events and factors. Poor relationship choices, unrequited love, personality traits and personal failings, but most importantly, a resolute inability to settle. But I definitely did not account for the amount of energy I would spend fielding comments, suggestions or questions about my childless and husband-less life.

“So, if you don’t have a family, what do you do on your off days?”

“Aren’t you worried about growing old? Who will look after you?”

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“You should get married because even if you hate your husband, there will be another warm body in the house.” (Seriously, what?)

“Why do you put career above personal life?” (Ha, the joke’s on you! I neither have a personal life nor much of a career.)

Every time I face a comment that seeks to reinforce the notion that my life is incomplete or inadequate in some way, I want to say, respectfully, I disagree. This isn’t the life I would have chosen or even wanted for myself at 25 or 30. But it is the life I have now, and it is a good one. A life I have built for myself and one I am proud of.

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Frankly, after living with a large family, then hostels and flatmates for 30-plus years, I revel in the solitude of my existence.

I like coming back to an empty house, even though Hollywood rom-coms tell me that should not be the case. I like walking around in Old Delhi on my own, or going for a Marvel movie, or simply doing groceries or cooking, by myself. I don’t have “Oh shucks, I wish someone would carry my groceries or hold my hand when (spoiler alert) Iron Man dies” moments.

It is, of course, not all sleeping-in, sunsets, long walks and marinating in blissful unattachments. There are significant bouts of craving companionship. Who doesn’t want to find true love or to be loved unconditionally?

On bad days, I wish there was someone to vent to. On a crudely pragmatic level, I wish I didn’t have to carry massive financial responsibilities alone.

And I am worried about old age. Who will look after me when I am ageing and infirm? But what’s the point of worrying about something that may or may not happen two or three decades later? I will cross that particular old age home when I hobble to it.

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Overall, though, hand on my heart, I love my life.

I am often told that I don’t know what I am missing out on, and that I will bitterly regret my life choices soon. Maybe I will, who knows? But as I see so many friends’ marriages implode, as quite a few exceptional (women) friends settle for ‘bearable’ options for spouses because being single after a certain age is apparently worse than the plague, and as several (male) friends pursue extramarital liaisons, I feel like asking them: “Do you know what you are missing out on?’

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I don’t ask that. Instead, I brace myself for the next smorgasbord of questions about my heretic status. As always, I will try to explain, “I don’t think my life is less than anyone else’s. Thank you for asking though.”

Now, if only I could find a way to convince my mother.

First published on: 17-07-2022 at 04:00:59 am
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