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Why Do Married Women Have To “Look Married?”
“You're married? You don't look like it” is a phrase I have heard way too often in the nearly two years of
being married. For the world, a married woman is supposed to look different. Her appearance is supposed
to announce her marital status. But no one has been able to answer why that is. What do these symbols
have to do with my commitment to my marriage? Has a woman wearing sindoor, a mangalsutra or a choora never cheated on her husband?
During the wedding, a bride typically wears shades of red, pink, orange and other bright colours to shout
out her status as a newly married woman. In northern India, most brides wear bright red bangles, known as
a choora, during and for some time after the wedding. Trinkets dangle off the bride's wrist, she has jewellery on her ankles, her head, her neck, her waist, and her ears. Any empty spot is taken by mehendi.
After the wedding, the bride is supposed to be heavily adorned for the first few days or months. In some cases, this situation doesn't change for years. The women who wear the choora typically keep it on for a minimum of 11 days to a maximum of a year-and-a-half. It doesn't matter if it gets in the way of showering, tears a few clothes, doesn't let the woman do her job while at work, or makes her uncomfortable. It's tradition and she must do it. The new husband, however, has no such adornment to wear. He can go right back to shorts and t-shirts as soon as the wedding is over.
I didn't wear the choora for more than two days, mostly because my arms started itching. And it was a rebellion of sorts to roam around bare-armed. Two days after my wedding, when my ears were hurting after nearly being torn apart by heavy jewellery and my body had done enough weight-lifting for a year with those outfits, I was told to decorate myself. “Kuchh toh pehno, beta” was said in a way that made me feel like I was walking around naked. Apparently, I didn't “look” like I had just gotten married. The fact that I was wearing an engagement ring and that my arms were drowning in mehendi was disregarded. The oft-repeated dialogue “aisa hi hota hai” didn't apply to my husband. Nobody beta'ed him into wearing the weight of the world in an attempt to look married.
Since I'm married into a Hindu family, many friends and acquaintances questioned me about the lack of sindoor on my forehead and the absence of amangalsutra around my neck. In the politest manner they knew, these people were questioning my intention behind not wearing all these symbols of marriage. Did I not want to look married? Was I doing this to attract other men? Did I not love my husband enough? None of that was, or is, true. All I was doing was being myself, and any such adornment did not fit my image of myself.
My wardrobe had also come into the spotlight on more occasions than one. At weddings, I was expected to be wearing the heaviest outfits from my bridal trousseau. When I didn't, the “cool” crowd told me how “cool” it was that I didn't adhere to custom, not realizing that the non-adherence was a by-product of me just being me, married or not.
Some women, including those in my extended family, face several wardrobe restrictions. From no short sleeves to no western wear, they've been relegated to wearing a lot of extra fabric on their bodies, even in the sweltering summer. Only because they're married now. How can a married woman dress as she pleases? She has to represent our family, bhai. No such restrictions exist for these women's husbands. They lead their lives dressed the same way, wear their hair however they want and have the option to not “look married.”
A woman is treated as a walking, talking platform meant to showcase her husband's wealth. You're supposed to dress a certain way because, my god, what will people think of your husband? He keeps you in rags? No one realizes that the “rags” are the woman's choice of clothes. My independence or my sole authority over my body has not diminished after marriage. I don't want to deliberately look unmarried, I just want to be comfortable. Why should I have to put a red line in the middle of my heap of curls or wear a beaded necklace while my husband has no such expectation of him? So that the world can be satisfied at the demarcation of a married woman? That this one is not to be touched, she belongs to another bro?
Are you from Western countries?
Because things will be different if you are from a western country
First let me assume that you are not-
Don't tell him and make sure he can never ever know about it at all
Non western society can be very judgy at same time you will be known as the woman who cheated on her husband, so don't tell anyone even if it's very hard. Believe me, it's not harder than the kind of pain you will go through if you tell people
If you are having an affair which means something must not be right with your husband so go to couple's therapy with him.
If that doesn't work then go for a divorce, believe me this is better than all the shit you have to go through if you stay in a unloved marriage
If everything goes smoothly in therapy then love your husband to death and make him appreciate why he married you in the first place and make sure to do this everyday because remember whatever has happened between you two, he never cheated on you, so he never deserves anything less from you.
Now if you are from Western countries-
Tell him, it's always better to have no secret between relationship, it will make your relationship stronger if it lasts at all
He will be very upset and angry with you so let him be. Don't say anything and just accept your mistakes again and again and apologize
If he decides to part ways, don't force him to do otherwise, things could get nasty there
If he is done with you then accept it and move on. This is better for you
Now if he wants to stay with you then love your husband to death and make him appreciate why he married you in the first place and make sure to do this everyday because remember whatever has happened between you two, he never cheated on you, so he never deserves anything less from you. By the way, another thing, if he wants a free pass from you, give him, he deserves it. Remember one night stand didn't change anything for you, won't do anything for him either. But if you think you aren't really attracted to each other then break off
Now after the break off, you should analyse, you obviously made some mistakes so in order to analyse it and ask yourself constantly that why do I need to cheat on my husband in the first place? What was my mistakes for not picking up the signs that this marriage wasn't going to last? Make sure to note everything and learn from it. So when you next time going to a date, you choose the best suitable partner for yourself.
By the way, are you a cheating type? Because some people are, they have these weird fetishes where they get off from cheating. Then make sure to look for partners who are interested in open marriage, swapping etc