Dating against a timeline

Watching season 2 of Indian Matchmaking on Netflix got me thinking about some of the issues that we face while dating in our twenties, but also the fact that particularly in Asian culture there is this constant pressure to be married once you’ve graduated university and have a job.

And when I look back on my twenties, I can see now that this was actually a huge issue for me that I wasn’t cognisant of. And ultimately it resulted in me feeling this deep and tragic sense of desperation for finding my future husband.

It’s almost as if there’s this unspoken shared goal in our twenties, of settling down before the age of 30. Because somehow 30 is quietly understood to be a milestone age that marks the start of truly getting old. And now that I’m 30 (soon) I laugh at this.

Like if you think about this concept it’s just so silly. You go through life being measured against things. You’re born and then as you grow, you are measured against a chart of milestones in order to determine whether you are developing normally or not. And somehow this chart of developmental milestones extends into our twenties in ours and our parents and our grandparents collective psyche without us being aware of it. But at the same time we are hyperaware of needing to tick certain life boxes.

The boxes being: graduate from university, find a job, find a spouse, buy a house, have a baby. But not always in this particular order.

And the reason why this is so laughable is because the timeline just doesn’t make sense. Most people graduate between the age of 21 and 24… and yet the pre-frontal cortex- the part of your brain which is responsible for decision-making, planning, comprehending the consequences of one’s actions, controlling impulsivity and much more- doesn’t fully mature until the age of 25.

Like how can you seriously even consider finding your life partner when your brain hasn’t even fully matured! And yet this is the expectation it seems… and we don’t even think twice about it! (and for those of you who found your life partner early that is amazing but not the norm).

Instead of every aunty and her third cousin asking me the dreaded old question of “when are you going to get married?” and commenting on my perpetual single-ness when I graduated, I wish someone could have told me that the most important thing about my twenties is that I work on myself. That I really consider what kind of person I want to be. That I reflect on unresolved issues and insecurities that I have so that I can be free and not prisoner to past hurts. That feeling lonely and wanting a companion is a completely normal thing to experience as a human being, but not a good reason to settle. That even beyond my twenties I will constantly be working on myself, but I need to start early so that I have a strong sense of self-worth and know how I deserve to be treated. That even though I have a biological clock, I can freeze my eggs rather than have a baby out of fear of not being able to conceive later. That being single in my 30’s is better than being in a relationship where I feel alone and unsupported.

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