I was sitting minding my own business in a family dinner gathering, and an older family relative took it upon herself to tell me what was what. Now, if it was about a gaping lack in my decorum or manners, I would put my hands up and accept her mission to slay me, but this wasn’t about that. She had an opinion about everything that I happened to be doing wrong in my life, according to her view of what my life should be like. She went on to express it loudly, repeatedly and persistently in front of the twenty people gathered there. She did come up with snide, humorous one liners which were quite innovative, to give the devil it’s due.
In Pakistan, there is an unsaid rule of compliance to our elders, especially if you’re female. It comes in the package of being a well brought up lady. Since, we live in a culture that teaches the young to obey the old blindly and replying back is like a sin, I humbly kept my mouth shut. By the end of the evening, I was dashing out to the parapet to wail into the lonely night.
Now, some people may say that having acquired a number of years under her belt like medals in a war, she had the right to bring her unsolicited wisdom to the table. I should have taken it in my stead. After all, as women we do have to go through life dealing with all sorts of unpleasant things, like period cramps. But this got me so down that I succumbed to one of those anonymous posts on a Facebook group. I laid out my sorrow for unknown ladies to buck me up and it worked, as I was too embarrassed to share it with my family. The problem is as nice girls we have been taught to never be associated with a tongue and a strong opinion. You don’t like something, go cry in the shower or the online equivalent of it – an anonymous post.
As I didn’t fall pregnant after two seconds of being married to my husband, I am not sure how many times I was asked quite gruffly when I would have a baby by random older women qualifying as ‘aunties’ as they were known in some vague capacity to the family. In weddings, on the street, in parties, in a cinema and a roller coaster ride (true story). This never failed to make me miserable and I would hide the mist in my eyes behind an over bright smile, hoping my kajal remains intact.
Now really, it is time to stand up to the attack of the ‘taunties’ *(not my term) i.e. aunties who taunt, in your life. You don’t like something they say, tell them right then, albeit politely. Seems like an obvious thing to do, but sadly for many Pakistani girls it remains an uphill struggle to obtain a voice and express their feelings. Respect is a return gift, irrespective of age. For those mothers lucky to have baby girls, teach them to speak their mind before telling them to shut up. Being outspoken is not equal to being rude. Mic drop.