This whole Scary Cat Lady reference is very un-Indian. In India, the worry is never about not getting married. We attach such a freakish importance to marital status that our young people usually have to put up a fight to stay single just a little bit longer. So this idea that there are ageing spinsters tucked away in every other apartment complex – knitting and talking to cats, too afraid to step out of the house because children would throw little stones at them – is totally foreign to us.
I mean, if you’re a thirty-plus single woman in India who is still waiting for The One – you should be more afraid of turning into Scary Landlady. You know? That fat, angry married woman with a moustache who tells you things like “no bringing baais (boys for the uninitiated) into the house, wokay?”, “no drinking alcohol, playing loud English songs and all that dirty business” and my favourite “cook only vegetarian food” (so random!) before renting out her apartment to you. The reason I say this is because The Scary Landlady unlike the Cat Lady, is married and still frustrated – probably because she settled for some man who was available but not right for her because she was too afraid of being alone and didn’t have age on her side. And now she deals with her frustration by growing a moustache and torturing young single women because she secretly wants their life.
That’s why it’s kind of amazing (and scary) that I’m still looking for The One though I have all the odds stacked up against me – I’m thirty and I’m a single parent and there is aforementioned Landlady situation that keeps popping up in my head every time my eyes wander off after a Mister Why-not. But see, when you’ve crossed thirty, you have to make your peace with the fact that your days of waiting for Mister Right are long gone. They are taken by twenty-somethings and that’s that. But the problem is, they’re even fresh out of Mister Maybes – he’s not perfect, but you can live with that. Except, now it looks like he can do better than you. Who’d have thought.
So that’s how you end up with Mister Why-not. You know? He’s kind of cute from a certain angle, kind of funny after a few drinks, kind of smart if you can talk about World War II and bullets for the rest of your life? He’s a bit of an acquired taste but hey, you’re thirty plus and gravity is catching up with you. Compromise is the way to go. On the flip side, you could settle for this guy and realise that he bores the hell out of you, kills your fire and makes you complacent about facial hair. Eeps.This is still better than the options available for a thirty-year old single parent like me. You see, in India, if you’re divorced, you’re like a second-hand phone. No, make that second-hand Nokia phone. People think twice about investing in you and the chances of finding a single guy – even if he’s a Mister Why-not – are pretty darn slim. In fact, you have well-meaning aunties often telling you things like "if you look really hard you might find a good divorced man willing to marry you." Oh. It’s like I’m at the bottom of the single-and-looking food chain and my perennial fear is that very soon even the Mister Why-nots will be in demand and I’ll be stuck with a Mister How-come. He gets his name from the first reaction you get from people upon introducing him as your beau – ‘Umm, he seems nice, just you know, not your type. So, umm, how come?’
What do you tell them? These are people who know you and know he’s not your type. And you know they’re only buffering it with the ‘he seems nice’ remark – because the truth is, Mister How-come is just Mister Wrong without the alpha- maleness. This is even worse than what The Landlady got! At least when you were with Mister Wrong, people pitied you in a very he’s-going-to-break-her-heart kind of way. Now, they’re going to look at you like the poor girl who settled because she couldn’t do any better. Horrors.
I did not see this coming and I’m totally unprepared for this future. My idea of the future always involved The One. But what if I’m stuck with Mister How-come and end up unhappy and bitter? I don’t even have an apartment to let out.
Judy Balan is the best-selling author of Two Fates – The Story Of My Divorce
From HT Brunch, March 11
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