They said I was a paedophile, a prostitute, sick in the head, all because I loved a younger man
I was in the 10th grade when a friend of mine told us that she was in love with this guy who was a trainee pilot and was six years older than her. Quite frankly, it did not strike me as anything unusual since my own parents have an age gap of around eight years between them. And if anything, such age differences are deemed desirable by our society at large.
I was also fully aware that my friend was mature and knew what she was doing. At no point in that conversation were the intentions of the guy doubted. In fact, he was constantly praised for the kind of affection and care he showed towards her.
Fast forward seven years and I am faced with a similar situation. Except that unfortunately for me, I am the older one this time.
I am sure that quite a few among you have already reserved judgments about me, some of which I will share myself in due time. I have a very strong desire to start defending myself from this point onward, just like I have been doing for the past one year. It has become almost reflexive now. If I gave in to that temptation, you would be reading “let me explain myself” or “please don’t get me wrong” after every single line that will follow. But I have decided to exercise immense self-control this time around.
I wasn’t the one to pursue him. In fact, I have never in my life pursued a guy. Not because they don’t interest me. But because the interest is very superficial. The more I get to know a guy, the less attracted I feel towards him. But this guy, six years younger than me, took it upon himself to become my friend. Soon after, we became the closest of friends, which surprises me to this day.
He struck me as a rarity, and the notion that men can just not grow up or become as mature as women disappeared from my life. He turned out to be not just more mature than men my age, but way more mature than any guy I knew. His approach was one of kindness, care and selflessness. His ideas those of renowned reformists and philosophers and his writing that of seasoned poets. I will not dwell more on why I grew too fond of him because I am certain that I will unknowingly start justifying myself.
Let’s not forget the heavy criticism our talented actress Yasra Rizvi had to face when she decided to marry a man 10 years younger than her. In no time, people forgot about her exemplary acting skills and her contribution to the industry. All they did was engage in ridicule and mock the couple for being such a ‘mismatch’.
More recently, our desi community decided to hone its match-making skills by ridiculing Priyanka Chopra for dating Nick Jonas. Calling him her ‘son’ and cracking the most terrible jokes about the duo became a norm. Person after person presented his or her unwanted opinions about how they make an incompatible team, without even once thinking that ‘hey, maybe they are happy’!
Marriage and relationships do not come with a manual or a checklist. How difficult is it for people to understand that when two people click, they just click? Especially in such socially ‘unacceptable’ matches, there has to be something much greater than what is perceived by the eye to make the two people go ahead with it. There has to be something way beyond the usual attraction to convince two mature individuals to reach such a decision, being fully aware of the myriad of hurdles that will come their way.
Long story short, our duo was met with extreme disapproval. From a prostitute to a paedophile, I have been called everything. Not only have my intentions been questioned but also my sanity. Time and again, I have been accused of trying to take advantage of a ‘child’. Almost everyone believes that it’s his money that I’m drawn to, which is ironic since I have a very promising career ahead outside of this country.
There were moments when I went online and tried to diagnose myself with mental illnesses or perversions in order to justify why I felt attracted to a guy six years younger than me. I have doubted my own ethics, upbringing and mental state. People keep telling me that the only way I should see him as is a younger brother, a child. Essentially pointing out that I am nothing but a sick person.
I pride myself on being a progressive, open-minded and courageous woman, and yet I fear for my family in this situation. Each time I get a message request on Facebook, a chill runs down my spine in case it’s another hate message. Each time my phone rings and shows an unknown number, I get palpitations that it might be some threat. Every single time that I see my parents whispering to each other or looking perplexed, my mind tells me it’s another message or call from his family begging my parents to stop their ‘awaara’ daughter from ruining his life. Funny how even though I am the less persistent of the two, I am the one who has to deal with all the hate. I am the one whose intentions are seen as evil and materialistic. And it’s my parents who feel targeted.
In this exhausting journey and my frantic attempts to reason with myself and with others, I somehow forgot the main reason why I have to suffer so much despite having well intentions. It is simple. Because I am a woman. Cherry on top, I’m a woman who doesn’t believe in the ridiculous principles our society stands on and is ever ready to speak up against them. So basically, old or young, the sons in our society will always be seen as innocent kittens who are under constant threat from ‘vicious’ women who want to exploit the poor little things.
What else could I have expected from a society in which a woman who does nothing and merely exists is hated for countless reasons. I, on the other hand, challenged some of its most deep-seated and unquestioned standards, and gave it a solid reason to crush me.
In a country that ranks poorly on almost all health and education indices, it’s really alarming to know how a lot of educated and well-to-do people would still be more interested in preserving their outdated traditions than getting up and improving the living conditions of those around them.
I do not know where fate will take the two of us. I also do not know how long it will be before I succumb to the needs of my family and society. I just hope that one day we as a society become accepting of our differences and spend our energies on things that really matter.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.