The Singles’ Anxiety: An Invisible Pandemic (Part 1)

The South Asians are freaking out. The Lankans are freaking out. The Americans are freaking out. Okay fine, maybe I’m just exaggerating, a bit. Or maybe I’m not. Let me ramble.
The girls have it bad. Bad-der, correction. The brown girls have it worse, or what I mean here is everyone from the brown lands (even the fair ones) have it worse, I think at least. The Western ones over here have it, but they’ve made a deal with Time that cuts them some slack, well a little more at least. But if you think about it – time is perceived though, even though culture, personality, expectations and family won’t lighten the grip on it. The sad truth is that I’ve heard there’s even a “golden” window: 23 to 25 for the special ones from the brown lands. Ripe for the plucking.

I’ve heard stories of pressure delivered relentlessly, passive-aggressively, and outright explicitly, from parents bearing down on their charges to find someone and settle down, as if it were their fault. Daughters end up seeking without a hindsight of love (not that love is the end-all or be-all) or self worth. And sons start worrying if they should be as well. And then I’ve seen love stories unfold between people who weren’t even looking but ended up finding – they are the lucky ones we think. Then we’ve seen those who’ve been searching who find, and those who’ve been searching hit again and again against nothing. On the other side, the ones who’ve had everything seem to keep getting, and the ones who’ve never had anything also end up finally getting or continue with nothing. The mix of outcomes you observe are endless. The fact of the matter is that life is not a fairytale meant to bend to your fantasy. As grim as it sounds, this lethal dose of truth is something we often never wish to swallow. Maybe that’s a good thing since it gives hope, or maybe it’s an evil because it feeds that very hope that is the cause of the hopelessness that suffocates.

A refreshing take would be to think that we are all in this together and that we need to look out for one another. Couples helping singles and singles helping couples. Older generations helping the younger and the younger looking out for both their younger counterparts and their oldies. Western looking out for Eastern and vice-versa. You’d think I talk about a utopian existence but the grass always seems greener on the other side and we might not even realize our capacity. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves and others about this. I remember this story of an Imaam during a sermon who said, his white friend would come up to him and say:
“Man, you guys are so lucky!”
“Why?” asked the Imaam.
“You have so much help behind you and a search party looking for your significant other, I have no one man. No one cares about whether I find someone or not, I’m all on my own. I wish I had that.”
Put that against the browns who complain on the daily about the “bloody pressure” that comes down upon them.
The narrative of the settled happy ending has been written out for us with such bold font it would make a blind man see again. But I would argue that that narrative is flawed. Its enforcement of timelines is archaic. Its marketing of secure endings, unrealistic. Its lavish dishing of expectations: debilitating. It fails to account for the individuality of each of our stories, and that’s what we miss. We assume that like ducks in a row we are meant to follow the trail, not realizing that the trail doesn’t accommodate all ducks that wish to follow, and that some ducklings wish to be still or venture elsewhere.
Coming from a South Asian background, I hear the need to write this narrative all the time from the older generations but less visible is that you’ll even notice your own generation unknowingly (or maybe knowingly) also regurgitate the same narrative expectations. I draw frowns from aunties and uncles every time I argue for sparing someone the pressure or let them figure their lives out, or garner standoffish silences from my own generation Y because I’ve argued on group chats to back-off pressuring someone else about their life and imposing standards and timelines, that they’ll figure it out. A wise person once told me, “don’t tell her she’s fat, she knows” when I had asked for advice on if I should bring it up with a friend because I was concerned for that person’s health and well-being. On that similar note, people know the elephant in the room – but it doesn’t really need to be an elephant in the first place. If you stop seeing it as one, that awful culprit called “society” will also stop seeing it as one.

The answer is not in finding someone. It’s in finding the conditions that make you be at peace in life, first with yourself. That could come in the form of security for your insecurities, in religion, in spirituality, nature, in another person, in a mix of those, all of those, or maybe even none of those.

Easier said than done, I know. But still, doable. Have faith. Your story is yours, no one knows or should be able to tell you how it goes or should unfold. If you feel the anxiety, believe in yourself. As Beyoncé once said, you are flawless. As Priyanka Chopra also added, you might not have woken up like that, but still, you can love yourself, knowing you are worth it. If you are looking for someone, don’t settle, know your worth, be humble and trust in the path. Having Faith always helps, but if you are not the spiritual or religious type there are other ways to arrive at self-actualization. Also remember, just because you arrive doesn’t mean you can’t slip – that is part of this $%^&-ed up journey we call Life.

This is a big topic I’m chewing on. A tangential topic is loneliness which I couldn’t cover in this for the fear of length and boring you. Will try to catch that in another part of what I think could be a series. Let me know what you think. Adieu. 

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