My life is rich and full, even without marriage

Published: June 4, 2015

My eternal single-hood is not an unfortunate circumstance thrust upon me but a choice; perhaps one of the most vital and honest one I’ve ever made.

Tiny love story,

“And what do you do?” so many have asked.

“I tell stories,” the girl said.

One by one they’ve walked away, not understanding the language she speaks.

Until one day…

“I tell stories,” said she.

“Then you are brave,” said he, “and you should keep telling them. I want to hear them all.”

The end.

Like a conjurer, I have dozens of stories like this up my sleeve. They come to me at inopportune moments, waking me up at three in the morning or badgering me in the middle of a work meeting. Stories need telling, need escape, as do the characters within them, hurtling towards existence.

Over time, I’ve curated characters. They live in various journals and scraps of paper, in closets (both literally and figuratively) and under my bed. Many of them are men: caricatures cross-bred between memories of men I’ve known, the imaginings of men who do not exist and the potential of men who could not love me.

For five years now, I’ve challenged my friends and family on the idea that I need a life partner in order to be truly happy. My arguments is that it’s unnecessary; I’ve always been comfortable with solitude – I have never feared loneliness; and marriage – to me – has always been a bonus rather than a given. I am equal parts too practical to marry only for love and too passionate to marry only for practicality – both sides of my heart exist in a stalemate in this tug of war. Moreover, I have not yet found anyone to tip the scales in either direction.

In these conversations, I’ve met with friends and family who understand and accept it – my mother, surprisingly, and friends who put little stock in the institution of marriage or who encounter similar disbelief at their choice to be childless.

I have friends who fret:

“But won’t you be lonely? Who’ll take care of you if you’re sick? What if you need someone to help you with a zipper or something?”

I have friends who outright laugh at me:

“Yeah right, have you met yourself? You’re an incurable romantic hiding under a tough exterior with an undeniable maternal instinct.”

And those who lovably condescend in their disbelief.

In their own ways, they are all right – both in their acceptance and in their incredulity. We all try to rig the system, playing mental games with ourselves to lower expectations in an attempt to avoid disappointment. We hope somehow that one corner of our vast and untapped consciousness will belie the truth in another. Every year, I give myself deadlines: I’ll give myself till New Year’s or till I turn 30 or till the end of the summer and then I’ll be done. I meet men for coffee, lunch, dinner, through family, friends, and online. I hate dating, but I try until the deadline is met.

The truth of the matter is this: the men in my mind – the ones between the pages I read and the pages I write, the ones who reside in my imagination – will always surpass the men I meet in real life. I’ve fought this truth for so long, just as I have ignored other truths: that I’m not built to form a meaningful connection with a guy I start out dating first; that friendship which builds into a deep and mutual appreciation has always been the path my heart takes to love (and science proves it’s the right one); that while marriage requires negotiation, compromise, and work, settling for someone, just because, is no longer reason enough to marry.

In an age when 51% of American women are the primary breadwinners and make up more than half of the workforce, men still win the ‘sexual economics’ of choice in the dating pool. With the increase of online dating options, the infamous ‘paradox of choice’ means that a culture of near constant disappointment exists in the arena of love. Love has been altered into something different, something more neurotic by dint of the modern interchange ability of partners and by the gnawing fear that you’re missing out on the next option.

You cannot truly love me if you believe there are others out there like me.

When marriage is no longer a necessity for financial security, when it no longer quells a fear of being alone, and when the men I meet always fall short in an era when the only real reason for marriage is companionship, why would I settle?

As I grow older, my tolerance for settling is low. The things I want practically – such as Muslim, spiritual and educated – along with the things I want emotionally – intellectually challenging, curious, engaged and creative – are immovable. I’m not being picky or difficult; I am embracing my truths for the first time. No longer am I willing to make allowances for deficiencies in character or lifestyle that a younger, more eager-to-please me would have made.

The society doesn’t quite know what to do with single women. However, I refuse the notion that I am somehow ‘less’ for this decision. My life is rich and full and I love living it. I am not ‘waiting it out’ till the day a guy steps out of the pages of countless journals and stands, fully formed, before me.

My eternal single-hood is not an unfortunate circumstance thrust upon me but a choice; perhaps one of the most vital and honest one I’ve ever made.

The pieces originally appeared here.

Zainab Chaudary

Zainab Chaudary

The author works in PR and advocacy communications by day, and is a writer and geek by night. Her blog, The Memorist, ruminates upon travel, religion, science, relationships, and the past, present, and future experiences that make up a life. She tweets @TheMemorist

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • anon0912

    “The reason you haven’t felt it is because it doesn’t exist. What you
    call love was invented by guys like me, to sell nylons. You’re born
    alone and you die alone and this world just drops a bunch of rules on
    top of you to make you forget those facts. But I never forget.” Don Draper.Recommend

  • fdf

    yea right *smirk*Recommend

  • Ilyas

    There is no alternative to be happily married and have children. It is worth trying. It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved.Recommend

  • strawberryfields

    I am only 26 but i can relate to what you wrote. (The truth of the matter is this: the men in my mind – the ones between the pages I read and the pages I write, the ones who reside in my imagination – will always surpass the men I meet in real life.) I am so confused and I have a feeling that i will end up unmarried. The fact of the matter is I have never wanted a husband, ‘husband’. But I want a friend for husband which is not possible at least in the community I live in. The whole ‘subservient’ relationship between husband and wife really disgusts me.Recommend

  • Jagmohan Trivedi

    Zainab…….a good piece of writing,your tapestry of imagination is commendably
    rich and the topic chosen is eternal.It would be harsh even to guess that your
    simmering pursuit for an ideal guy is on personal account.Yet it is not uncommon
    in this new world,when liberty of making personal choices is boundless and the
    call for women’s emancipation is at deafening levels.The situation you have portrayed
    is not inconceivable,but too much and too long search may or may not result
    in ideal discovery of the match.And even if one is lucky to get it,no guarantee
    it will lost long.So the adage goes marriages are settled in the heaven.However
    lots of thanks to you, mind soothing write up.Please keep on.Recommend

  • Omer

    The fact that you have felt the need to write about and discuss is an agreement that you do feel the need to get rid of your self imposed barriers..the barriers that prevent you from seeing the obvious
    Recommend

  • nedian

    Zainab, This is not a perfect world, nor there exist perfect men/women.. and marriage is the 2nd name of understanding & acceptance..
    I wish you come out of your imaginative world soon and accept the realities of life and don’t miss the train of marriage for good…
    My sincere best wishes for your life ahead (not to mention wishes for the love of some lovely kids as well)..Recommend

  • Hitesh Sachdev

    For five years now, I’ve challenged my friends and family on the idea that I need a life partner in order to be truly happy. My arguments is that it’s unnecessary; I’ve always been comfortable with solitude – I have never feared loneliness; and marriage – to me – has always been a bonus rather than a given. I am equal parts too practical to marry only for love and too passionate to marry only for practicality – both sides of my heart exist in a stalemate in this tug of war. Moreover, I have not yet found anyone to tip the scales in either direction.

    This has been my story for quite some time now, though being a man, its slightly easy for me. Yet i do understand what you go through for my sisters and female friends are going through the same.

    Kudos to you. Be brave and single till you meet a man/woman out of your pages.Recommend

  • Baba Ji

    Well yes … if one can keep a boy toy !!!Recommend

  • Madiha Syedain

    You need to come out of your dreams!Recommend

  • Gullu Guddu and Gomnath

    Agree with you 100%
    She should try dating sites, or Muslim meeting sites.Recommend

  • Faeza

    Marriage is pakistan is when a guy’s mother gets tired of taking care of him and imposes him on another woman .. literally men marry “be taken care of ” and women are treated like baby machines and personal maids nothing more – absolutely disgustingRecommend

  • Sara

    I am a 28 year old single financially independent working woman and I agree 100%. I can afford a more than comfortable life for myself and do not require financial support either from my family or husband to be. I enjoy living on my own, have an active social life, travel the world frequently and so am content with my life overall. Marriage should be a step towards something better than what I have at the moment otherwise why bring a huge change in my life it not for the better. Why would I in my right mind move a step back by lowering my standards and expectations of a life partner and settle down with someone who I do not fully appreciate just for the sake of getting married or because I am moving beyond marriageable age according to archaic societal norms. The only reason why I would like to get married is to have a partner in the truest sense of the word. And it is my prerogative to look for someone with any number of characteristics I find desirable. There is no one ideal in the world. My ideal will differ from what others think as ideal, so the argument people give that you are living in utopia and will not find Mr. Ideal is irrelevant. If I find my Mr. Right then great if I don’t then that’s ok too. I refuse to ruin not only my life but another persons life by giving into irrational and outdated social norms that have no relevance or bearing on my life in the 21st century.Recommend

  • Sana Hameed Baba

    That was a well written piece.Recommend

  • Sane

    What Muslim Meeting sites are?Recommend

  • Adnan

    I think she is just telling the one side of the story. I do not feel the urge to get married with any girl but still I want attention of girls. Before going to bed I think about girls. Marriage is for satisfaction of both body and mind. We can satisfy our mind with books,etc but what about our bodies. I do not want to be vulgar here but I still feel for satisfaction of our body we must need another partner whether he/she satisfies our minds or not.Recommend

  • Adnan

    The main question is how to handle the desperation of our bodies? Sometimes I feel that desperation of body unbalances the mind as well. It is fine that we do not want to adjust with anyone but then what about the uncontrollable urges we have in the dark of night? We keep our standard so high that no one just meets up the standard but for how much long we can have that standard? And in the end the desperation of the body dominates the desperation of the mind. The standard just vanishes away then we have the sign board “no standard” and anyone can come in please or anyone is welcome here with open arms.Recommend

  • S.Sajid

    Absolutely agreed with you. I am young (below 20) but I have never felt love of that kind you know. I love being alone, it teaches you much about life. It gives you the chance to observe other people deeply and reflecting what you have or not. There is so much to do in this short life, I think if one doesn’t find the right person then he/she should remain alone rather than forcefully settling with the wrong person. It will only make life worse.Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    bravo sister good for u. if only more pakistani women took destiny in their own hands, divorce their abusive husbands and stop being victims of backwardness.Recommend

  • Sacred

    Not everybody wants to or needs to get married.Recommend

  • Rabi Amir

    First of all its Sunnah, point missed by all and secondly instead of finding the ideal person , make one ideal for you.Recommend

  • Malveros

    Looks like me and you are in the same boat (From a Male).Recommend

  • Jayman

    The first anniversary of a marriage marks the end of happiness. It’s a choice between a year of joy and a lifetime of unhappiness.Recommend

  • Gullu Guddu and Gomnath

    Great comment. Do not look for an IDEAL husband. There is no such thing.Recommend

  • ZAMY XCOUP

    A generalised impersonate statement or shall we say, Stereotyping the men and women in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Jehanzeb Mahar

    Funny SMSRecommend

  • Jehanzeb Mahar
  • Malik

    There are many misconceptions regarding “getting married”. Independent women might have less liking to get married, as they do not want to be influenced by others, not subject to others authority.
    It’s true that you have to give up some of your independent stuff after getting married. It’s important to learn to compromise if you want to move forward. A person learns to compromise the day he/she is born. Baby cries,resists when you try to put on clothes, very first lesson to compromise.
    For any and every relationship you have to compromise, so its better you learn to compromise. I suggest you to prepare list of your priorities (things you can not compromise on) and then try to find Mr. Right.Recommend

  • Audrey Hona

    All married couples should learn the art of battle as they should learn the art of making love. Good battle is objective and honest – never vicious or cruel. Good battle is healthy and constructive, and brings to a marriage the principles of equal partnership. http://www.savemarriagecentral.orgRecommend

  • Ro

    wow that is a raw and honest answer and i absolutely agree with you. Well the only solution for that is involving yourself in so much work, stress,family matters and other issues that atleast in the day light you don’t feel that desperation. As for the night, just read about it or imagine it and then try to sleep and think that i am doing wrong and God is watching me. And then spend the rest of your 25-30 years in just thinking (the age is even lesser if u are a girl) then your libido will start going down and hormones will start lowering and then that animal like physical desires which u felt many years will vanish away.
    And yes, always remember, u are not the only one who feels this way! happy singlehood!Recommend

  • Brar

    The women will surely listen to your advice but there is only one apprehension i.e. what the people will say because we are more worried about people around us than our own lives.Recommend

  • Nizam Uddin Raiyan

    I have been in Islamabad and was fortunate in meeting youth from all over Pakistan during one session. The question every one asked from me was wither i am single or married? I repeatedly replied to every one that still single.Recommend

  • Amer Nadeem Adv

    difficult to disassociate myth with realities, anyhow a human’s life has various spells like water-tight compartments. Each spell has lts own romance. Childhood, teenage, college-uni life, practical / field era, bachelor. married, having kids, middle & then old age; every bean has its own taste.Recommend

  • hobi razi

    completely agreed! if one is getting married its like adopting an overly grown male child..Recommend

  • Jayman

    I tip my make-believe hat to you. Just what I might have said if I were half as coherent as you are. I am happily single with not a care in the world and plan on staying that way.Recommend

  • Jayman

    Never gonna happen. Men like ‘owning’ things. That is the nature of the beast. I know. I am one.Recommend

  • Jayman

    Are you referring to State websites?Recommend

  • Custard_Pie_In_Your_Face

    “The truth of the matter is this: the men in my mind – the ones between
    the pages I read and the pages I write, the ones who reside in my
    imagination – will always surpass the men I meet in real life.”

    You don’t say?Recommend

  • http://tayyebafridi.blogspot.com/ Tayyeb

    Let her breath! this is very typical in our society if someone says something that is unusual then the society start giving out prayers, advices and tips but what they didn’t know is that state of mind can’t be changed by advices until the subject realises itself through experiences and observations. so Let her breath…. and Let everyone breath…. as we all are blessed with different souls.Recommend