When I look around at the confused state of couples who are stuck between progressive feminist ideals and the socially conditioned "it's always been like this" comfort zone (this includes the current state of my relationship), I wish I had been more vocal about my interpretation of a marriage before tying the knot.
It has taken a lot of shocks, revelations, compromises, "unwomanly" labels and loads of friction to finally find a win-win, workable and indeed pleasant ground for our relationship. Going back to my past, here is a letter I wish from the bottom of my heart I had shared with my "to-be" family. The seven years it took to reach the point where I am at today might have been reduced a bit.
Hi, it's your future daughter-in-law. How are you?
Your son and I have decided to get married and spend the rest of our lives together. I don't know how this news is really affecting you. I know your son must have had a discussion with you about me before asking me to marry him. He says you guys love me. Apparently.
I would expect that you have raised your son to not look at parenting in terms of "babysitting."
Let's cut the bullshit and be honest here. I have no opinion about you right now. Other than the fact that you are my to-be husband's parents. You seem nice. I know you must be having a lot of apprehensions about your son getting married to me. Well join the club. Because I am very much aware what a marriage in India means. I am supposed to leave my family behind and accept you as my family. Suddenly. Overnight. Change my identity, change my name, and change myself suddenly overnight.
Well I'm really sorry to say, it's not going to happen. And let me assure you, me changing my surname is the least of my worries. You can call me Princess Consuela for all I care. That is not important to me.
What bothers me is the traditional insistence on making a girl take up a completely different identity just because she has agreed to spend her life with a guy.
I am not a morning person. Please don't expect me to get up at 6am and prepare tea and breakfast for the entire family every day. I have never done this, though I have woken up early for my job, for my college, exams everything. And I know I will stay up at night with my baby. I will do it for my baby. I will not do it for your baby. There are options available to outsource this duty wherein the both of us can enjoy a nice hot breakfast and tea with each other before starting our individual days. Of course if you or my husband prefer a "family member" cooked a meal to begin the day, then all of us can start a fun-filled bonding activity in the kitchen every morning, where everybody who is going to eat pitches in with the cooking, or takes turns. Doesn't that sound like fun?
I have my own dreams. When I see my path in life, I have certain things on my bucket list. Some are career oriented and others are personal. I do not expect your son to magically make all my dreams and wishes come true when it comes to material things. We both are in this journey together. We will dream together, and even make our dreams come true together. But be aware that I give just as much importance to my own dreams as I do my partner's. I would want my new "family" to understand and accept that. There will be times when there is a little give and take or compromises when to comes to these dreams. And I accept that with an entirely open heart. Just as my partner will for my sake.
[Y]ou will "allow" me to wear whatever I please... Thank you so much. I too am quite liberal. I "allow" you to wear whatever pleases you too.
I will be a part of your family and its customs and rituals as much as I have been a part of my own family's rituals. Unfortunately that has not been a lot at all. I do not like being a part of these customs at all. I did not do it at my place, much to the woe of my mother, and I am not sure how much I will enjoy being a part of them in your family. Getting married does not change me as a person from within.
Our house is our house. Our future kids are going to belong to both of us. Taking care of them, nurturing them, basically "parenting" is a two-person job. I would expect that you have raised your son to not look at parenting in terms of "babysitting." Trust me, kids flourish much better when both parents are equally involved in their upbringing.
My to-be husband tells me that you are quite modern and hip in your thinking. That you will "allow" me to wear whatever I please after marriage. That you have no restrictions. Thank you so much for that. Well for your peace of mind, I too am quite liberal when it comes to what people around me wear. So go ahead. I "allow" you to wear whatever pleases you too. No restrictions from my side.
I know all this may sound a little bit harsh, especially given how society has conditioned us. But I wanted to say all this before we get into the legalities of this beautiful relationship.
Please don't see me under the label of "wife" or "daughter-in-law". See me for the person who I am.
I love your son. He is kind, considerate, loving and a good soul. He has always treated me with all the respect that a fellow traveller on a life's journey deserves. Basically he has always treated me as an equal human being. And that is the reason I love him and want to spend my life with him. Our marriage is going to be a partnership. And I am ready to accept his family as much as I do my own. I have one small request to you. Please don't see me under the label of "wife" or "daughter-in-law". See me for the person who I am. I am a good person. I try to never hurt people around me. I am kind, I am independent and I enjoy good company. I am fiercely loyal about my loved ones. I have a good sense of right and wrong. I love to give and share. I don't hate easily. And it's extremely difficult to break me down. And did I mention... I love your son.
Now I ask your permission to get married to your son, and to invite each other to be a part of one big family.
Your "would-want-to-be" daughter-in-law