The desi woman with the courage to get a divorce has a really big pair of balls. I mean, so big it takes 45 minutes just to tuck them in every morning. No wonder she’s late to work every day.
It takes guts to fight for the life you want, especially if you’re a woman from a conservative cultural, religious and patriarchal background. We are raised to value marriage and children first and career only as it fits into our husband and children’s needs, if at all. Our hopes and dreams are often ignored and we are the first ones expected to sacrifice because a man’s needs, hopes and dreams always come first.
If she asks for a divorce, she knows she’s disappointing a lot of foundational people: friends who may not agree with her life choices and family who may not forgive her. A lot of women who grew up in such a suffocating environment can’t handle that. They don’t have enough confidence in themselves, what they believe they deserve or the future they dream of to do this. They most certainly won’t have the support, so it means going through the entire process from start to finish alone.
Asking for a divorce means you have some place to go if your husband gets violent, an all too common problem for victims of domestic violence. Their greatest risk is when they try to leave, a big reason why they don’t. It’s so unfortunate. My heart goes out to all the women who can’t leave because they have nowhere to go or lack the financial means to do so.
I imagine the hardest would be ending your marriage if you have children, to believe that they would be better off with their parents apart and for that to actually be true. I don’t know if my balls would have been big enough to do that and I’m grateful I won’t have to find out.
I don’t want to talk about the “why” behind my decision to end my marriage but I can thank my gut for how I knew. Good Ol’ Gut. It’s never failed me, ever. Indeed, the only times I’ve regretted my choices in life are when I didn’t listen to it. I have enough of those regrets to know better than to ignore it ever again.
I wonder how many desi women have felt their guts pull them in a direction they were too scared to take. The number may be staggering. When I think of all the obstacles they would have to face, of all the obstacles I’m facing, I don’t blame them.
That’s what I thought about at my nephew’s baptism two weekends ago. Well, mostly I wondered how many people knew and how long I could keep pretending to them that this wasn’t happening.
But here’s what I also saw in some people’s faces: either admiration or fear at how strong Priya could actually be. These were from women whose lives I’ve seen deteriorated because of the men they stayed married to.
It was uncomfortably hard to be home that weekend, around people who subscribe to incredibly self-limiting and suffocating ideas that I don’t buy into. It was the price I had to pay to spend quality time with my nephew and I’d do it again if I had to. To be asked a thousand times, “Where’s Dan?” and answer with a smoothly crafted lie. No one wants honesty here. They don’t want to hear that I’m getting a divorce because I’ve chosen to exercise a healthy level of selfishness. Or that my husband was at that moment on a date with someone else, as he was on my birthday and that entire weekend, really.
They don’t want to hear that. They don’t want to hear that someone can be so in love with me but still try to hurt me and fail. Because after catching him with his wedding ring off and overhearing phone conversations he was stupid enough to have in the house about how much he wanted to kiss the girl he’s seeing, I only got angry because I was being denied the same privileges.
Which is the truth. I did not make the decision to get a divorce lightly. I know that doing so means giving him the freedom to love someone else. I just thought he’d wait until the divorce was finalized. But he can do whatever the hell he wants because he’s convinced himself that I’m seeing someone at work and that it’s one of my colleagues. None of that is true but he needs to vilify me to cope with a divorce that he did not ask for. Taking the high road with this has not been easy.
The hurdle I dreaded the most was telling my dad. I was only able to tell him by focusing on why I was doing this and the life I want for myself. He initially took it well and was more hurt than angry. He was in denial. For two months. He blew up our phones with texts about how much he loves us, plans for Dan and me to move into a house and taking a summer trip with him and mom.
He entered the anger stage very quickly once I told him that Dan had moved out and started dating, spewing venom through our iPhones. Dad made it clear that my marriage was about him and that I’ve “made a fool of [him]” and “the family [has] become laughing stocks of people.” Along with “fake marriage,” forecasting that anger and hatred will be my downfall and that I’m destined for a life of misery.
Here’s what’s amazing, though: I saw the matrix. If this was ten years ago, his words would have stressed the fuck out of me. I would be in a corner curled up in a puddle of tears and on the phone for hours with friends who would try and fail to comfort me out of disappointing my dad. Now? It didn’t even faze me. I was so detached from his overreaction that I could just calmly put my hand up and stop his hurtful word-bullets from killing me.
And I have to smile because, shit, look how much I’ve grown!
That’s the most remarkable thing I’ve learned from the divorce process so far; how strong I am. I will not allow culture, religion or patriarchy to hold me down. I no longer fear the disapproval from family and friends because, honestly? All those people are fucking miserable. I wonder what their regrets will be when they are lying on their death beds but they will not be mine.
I was terrified to follow through with this but I did it anyway. That’s called being brave. Every hurdle that made me tremble but I chose to jump anyway has made me free. And that makes me feel powerful.
I do need to say this: I probably would not have been able to take this step if I didn’t have my current job. For the first time in my life, I can stand on my own two feet financially. I don’t need to depend on any man to get by. I can take care of myself and fight for my hopes and dreams and there’s really nothing to stop me. I am incredibly grateful.
This process is not over and I have more hurdles ahead but I’m going to be okay. Because I am a strong, brave, free and powerful woman. The window of my life no longer faces a brick wall. It’s a beautiful, blue sky now and I just want to keep inhaling until I pass out.