Sunday, 18 May 2014

Culture clash

I don't know if this is an appropriate title for this post but I'm gonna roll with it anyway. I'd like to state quickly that no, I'm not bashing foreign cultures, and no, I do not hate Sri Lankan people, so please don't think that I'm a horrible racist or anything. What this is about, though, is how I think that Sri Lankan marriage culture is affecting my friend. You know what, I'm not even sure that this is a nationwide approach to marriage and match making over there, or if this is just her family or something, but bear with.

My friend is twenty two years old, and let's call her Abby. I work at McDonald's with her; she's full time, working every day except Tuesday when she goes to college to study accounting. You can sort of tell straight away that she's led quite a sheltered life. I met her in October last year and she told me that she was due to marry someone her parents had picked out for her. Not an forced marriage, but an arranged marriage. She was going to move to Southampton with him after the wedding but, a few weeks later, she told me that it had been called off. She also said she had never liked him anyway. She wasn't even saying that to save face - she genuinely didn't like him. I asked her why she would have married him anyway, and she said it was to keep her parents happy.

A few months after that, back in March of this year, she told me her parents had picked out another potential husband for her. And it was through her parents - and also through his parents - that he asked her to marry him. I repeat, a fourth party (forget third parties!) was used to propose to her and she hadn't even met him yet. Sorry for sounding like an unaccepting bitch, but um, I don't like the idea of that.

The first time she met him - at this point, he was already her fiance - he gave her a keyring which said "Best Girlfriend" and she gave him a small teddy bear with a heart on it. What? She came back and told me she was "in love". This is the same girl who doesn't understand the difference between my saying I find a guy at work cute, and that I fancy said guy. She can't distinguish the two. To her, appreciating someone's good looks is the same as fancying them, and fancying them for more than, like, a week means that you've fallen in love. It kind of makes me angry.

Maybe I shouldn't be getting so invested in this and maybe I shouldn't care so much but it really riles me up. She wants to get a tattoo of his name (after having only known him for a month) but she let slip to me today that he gets really angry very quickly. She has to spend the rest of her life with him. A couple of weeks ago, she asked me about "her friend" (yeah right, we all know it's about Abby herself) whose boyfriend was quite controlling and would say she wasn't allowed to do things, but then go and do them himself. She implied that he forbade her from talking to other men, while he was allowed to go and talk to other girls. I took advantage of the fact that she lied and told me it was about her "friend" and said that in that situation, you need to get the fuck out. No one is allowed to treat you like that and you shouldn't have to settle for someone who treats you like shit. I probably couldn't have told her that if she'd said it was about her.

He never answers her calls. She was trying to show me something on her phone today and accidentally flicked onto her text conversation with him. 90% of the messages between the two of them are from her, and the ones from him that I could see simply said "No" or "I think so". She writes him essays. She's started to worry about her body because he told her she looks like a little girl and needs more curves. She used to get small fries and a small water on her break at work, but she now gets large fries and full fat Coke.

And the worst part? They're getting married in twelve days' time. Twelve days. They met one month ago and, from what she's told me, he treats her like shit. And she thinks she's happy. I know how this sounds: I'm a British girl who doesn't understand her culture and this is how it all goes down over there, and I should leave her alone, she's happy enough, bla bla. No. I'm sad that she thinks it's normal to have your fiance tell you to change your body because he doesn't like it. That she obeys this man she's known for four weeks and now won't talk to other guys without his say so. That she has to spend the rest of her life with him. One month in and she's stressing out about her body and cries when he doesn't return her calls. What's another sixty years going to do to her?

I'm so so saddened by it all. Writing this has made me see the reality of the situation: she's managed to kid herself into believing she's happy and that she's found true love with a guy who doesn't care about her and is so blase about their "relationship" (or I suppose you could say engagement now). I'm going to their wedding but I think I'm going to be so angry watching it happen. She's throwing her life away and it makes me so sad.

I hope this doesn't sound too horrible (although it probably does) and, once again, I'm not deliberately trying to be a bitch about it. I also haven't proofread this so apologies for any typos. Feel free to let me know what you think; I'd be quite interested to hear.

Pls no h8.

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