SHE made her way around the party, making the necessary greetings, smiling and waving at her classmates, directing a more formal approach at their mothers. She was the face of calm and collected. She’d decided to go all out for this event, and wore her best dress. She’d styled her hair, and had even applied the touch of make-up that accentuated her eyes perfectly.
She was beautiful. And most people made sure to mention it to her.
But all she heard was the pity in their voices.
The only thing she could see was how her mother sat sadly amongst other mothers as yet another of her classmate celebrated their wedding. This was it. She was officially the last remaining girl from her batch of classmates who was yet to be married.
Her heart pounded as she greeted the one with the two year old daughter, wondering if she would ever be able to hold a squirming, screaming toddler of her own one day. She felt the pain engulf her as she noticed out of the corner of her eye, another newlywed friend who was on the phone with her new husband.
Excusing herself, she stumbled to the bathroom, locking it behind her, as she took a deep breath, and let one…two tears slide down her cheeks. Brusquely brushing them away, she leaned on the bathroom sink, and looked at her reflection.
What’s wrong with me?!
She refused to let any more tears slip past, and furiously dabbed at her eyes with a napkin.
She knew this would be painful. For both herself and her mother. They had been looking for a suitor for her for the past three years, this last year being an intense quest for The One.
She just didn’t understand why she couldn’t be married like a normal person, like the rest of her classmates. Heck, some of them hadn’t even been on the lookout for a man, and they’d landed themselves in a happy marriage! Why when everyone in her family was desperate to find a guy, she just…couldn’t…
She heard the aunties talking. She knew what strife they gave her mother, pestering her with questions, wanting to know why yet another marriage proposal hadn’t worked out. She knew how everyone looked at her as though she was an unnecessary growth on a beautiful plant that needed to be removed as soon as possible. She knew that culturally, she should be married with at least one child of her own by now. She heard the gossips, the insulation that something was wrong with her, that simply must be the reason why no boy has accepted her yet.
She was tired. Tired of this hunt. She’d assumed marriage to be a beautiful process, not one where everyone tried to get rid of her before she’d reach the oldest she can be and still be single, her expiration date.
The thought ran a shudder down her spine. Her expiration date. Set by culture, bound by community. She dreaded the thought of reaching that day where society will look at her as a spinster, a burden on her parents shoulders, the girl who wouldn’t get her own life, but instead leeches off her aging parents, unwilling to unburden them.
Taking a deep breath, she double- checked her makeup, forced a smile, unlocked the door and stepped out, her dimples lighting up her face, making her look both, a sophisticated adult in her floor-length blue dress, as well as an innocent child in the way her hair framed her doe-brown eyes, her insides churning in self-loathing, her mind making a list of reasons why she is never good enough.