• Vedashree Khambete Sharma

The Peter Pan Complex

The other day, over whiskey and screwdrivers, my friend and fellow-lefthander, whom I shall call Dilbert, told me a basic truth about men. “We’re all commitment-phobes”, he said casually, “Unless the girl pushes us, we’d be perfectly happy not getting married the rest of our lives.”

See, I knew this as one of those things women know but pretend is not true. Like the fact that OD-ing on chocolate will lead to evil things happening in the hip region. Or that the reason we’re offered seats on buses and trains often has less to do with chivalry and more with the depth of our necklines. But still, to hear it said out loud in those many words, got me thinking.

Men, it seems are brought up to love singlehood. Batman, Robin Hood, Peter Pan – their heroes are all single men who do cool things ALONE. Without silly girls to disturb them while they do it. They hang out with the boys, make a lot of noise and there’s NOBODY calling them to ask what time they’ll come home and can they please pick up some paneer on the way?

In fact, the way I see it, men must view marriage like purchasing real estate. You’re a guy, you’ve been living in a rented house for a few years, you like it, it’s comfortable and nice. Then, one day your landlord puts the damn thing on the market and now you have to choose between buying it or letting someone else take it away from you. You can afford it, but buying it would mean you’re tied down, committed to one place for who knows how long. Is it worth it? You don’t know. And that’s ok. It’s fine that you refuse to grow up and act all mature. It’s cool that you want to go drinking every night of the week with your friends, it’s acceptable that you think it’s cool to throw up and do stupid-ass things when you’re drunk, even if you’re pushing 30. It’s all ok. Because you’re a guy – it’s what you do.

With women, it’s different. The moment we become “of marriageable age” (which, depending on your community ranges from 18 to 25), we’re expected to grow up, screw any romantic ideals we might have and somehow be okay with the concept of marriage. Even if the notion of spending a lifetime with a potentially sexist, good old-fashioned Neanderthal scares seven kinds of hell out of us. Even if we believe that domestic life is a special kind of disease created to kill its victims slowly and boringly. Even if the concept of changing, adapting, accommodating and compromising one’s life and likes to complement that of another person’s, makes us want to reach for the nearest sharp object and commit instant harakiri.

No, having two X chromosomes somehow automatically means that you’re frothing at the mouth to settle down in a marriage. And babies, let’s not forget those.

If you’re a woman, apparently, your life’s quest is to hunt for the elusive eligible bachelor. You must force the guy you’re seeing to have “a talk about us” and ask him interestingly uncomfortable (for him) questions like “Where is this going?”. You must view every man you meet as a potential husband. You must, you must, you must, get married before your shelf life is over, because after a point darling, who’s going to be interested in you really? When there are new apartments coming up every day, who’d want to buy an old one?

So I guess my question is this: If of the two people marrying each other, one has been conditioned to believe that this is the ultimate point of her entire existence and the other one has been conditioned to believe that this is the cruelest socially acceptable form of torture, are we REALLY surprised that they’re not living happily ever after?

Or have we just taken it in our stride like, you know, grown-ups?

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