MAYA ROSE FERNANDES
I was recently at a gathering of friends where the conversation turned towards milestones and someone asked, “What happens if you don’t want to get married or have children? Do your only celebrated life milestones become taking-your-first-step and graduation?”
The conversation then veered quickly into, “Why can’t the money our family put aside for a potential wedding be spent on celebrating another milestone instead?”
Let’s face it. Marriage has evolved, and most people haven’t noticed yet. In the past, marriage was for survival, security and to meet one’s basic needs.
Today, in a world where women are becoming financially independent and don’t need men as much as before to provide them with financial security, and where men have (hopefully) learnt how to cook and clean a household, people want actual partnership.
They want someone who’s emotionally engaged and supportive, not someone that they have to parent.
They want someone who knows how to show up, how to listen and someone with the maturity to solve problems, together.
Some spouses wake up and realize they’re doing everything alone. They live with someone, but that person is not a partner on the same team. Instead, that person feels more like a parent, a therapist, a care-taker or a service-provider.
When the scales are tipped way too much in one direction for too long a point in time, then a change may be called for.
Divorce becomes the option when it’s clear the person has no interest in evolution, communication or healing whatever the root of the issue is.
As marriage evolves, potential partners have started looking for an emotional connection that people didn’t require in the past.
The reality is that this is as hard to find as ever before.
As a result, fewer people might be getting married (or staying married) or having children. So, in that case, if not marriage, or childbirth, what are the great, big, juicy milestones we can celebrate in our modern day lives?
Enter stage left, the new milestones of our generation.
When a friend of mine ended her marriage with an acrimonious divorce from an abusive, narcissistic, alcoholic Goan man, she spoke about the huge amount of relief and safety she felt after the divorce.
She’d been the primary bread-winner as well as child-carer, while working full-time for many years. The way she spoke about the end of her marriage, I told her that she should throw a divorce party to celebrate this huge milestone in her life.
Though she loved the idea, she was too afraid to go against the societal expectation that one should venerate marriage, but not its dissolution, no matter how happy the latter event.
At a recent party, a friend was talking about how she’d had to prepare for a sangeet with others to celebrate her friend’s PhD graduation party. The friend in question had struggled through many years of studying engineering, a largely male-dominated industry.
She then struggled to get a job in that same industry, until she finally set up her own company.
She had no plans to get married, so decided that she would celebrate the award of her hard-won PhD degree with the same level of elation and attention than she would her own wedding – it was a milestone of equivalence, after all.
The party was a lavish affair that was celebrated as if it was a destination wedding in Goa.
Many partners are actively choosing to not add to the burgeoning strain on the earth’s resources in a climate-change impacted world, by remaining childless.
Why should their milestone celebrations be defined by old world values? The traditionally celebrated milestones of weddings, birthdays, house-warmings and christenings need to create space for our ever-evolving new world where the only certainty is change.
How about adding on celebrations for educational achievements, downsizing to travel the world, bringing a new pet into your home or signing your divorce papers?
Why let old world expectations regulate what our emotional state should be? Why feel only grief and loss when going through a divorce? Why not make space for elation and relief after years of struggle? Why not celebrate ambition resulting in gaining something you’ve always dreamed of for yourself?
The next time you’re filled with elation about a milestone you’ve achieved, however small the world may think it is, consider throwing the party of your life to celebrate and commemorate that moment forever.
Life is too short, and uncertain, to do otherwise.