One can imagine the proud glow on the face of the person who first made up marriage, a legal and religious document binding two people. Now the kids were accounted for – everyone knew who was their father or at least thought they did – a house was constructed around them and they were called a family. The thrill lasted a long time, even as it threw up a shadow world of affairs, illicit offspring and, now, sexting, rampant sexting. Divorce was the only way out. And many hesitated to make a big song and dance about their marital disappointment and depression. They just went with the flow – with such bitterness that their children swore against precisely such a prison.
Socio-economic reasons too are crumbling – more women are working, growing financially independent. Women are moving past the tradition of ‘marrying well’; that way lies quicksand. Wives have seen through ‘protective’ husbands, husbands who mollycoddle them, treat them with the mock-tenderness of ‘baby, you don’t need to know anything as long as I take care of things’. Ugh, say women, stay away from us. It is no longer feminine to not know, to be excluded from economic decisions, to be a secondary citizen in own home.Adding to this growing discomfort with the holy state of matrimony are some new hair-raising statistics: seven out of ten women are apparently unfaithful to their spouses in India, says Gleeden, an extra-marital dating app.
The survey ‘Why do women commit adultery?’ cited monotony and shirking of domestic chores by better halves as the main reasons for this mass exodus. The app, which entered the country in 2017, is doing brisk business with the womenfolk of urban India. An obvious footnote is a growing disenchantment with nuptial knots.
Gaslighting, a term brought into our midst by Patrick Hamilton’s play in 1938, is a global phenomenon in man-woman ties. Women are brainwashed or tricked into thinking themselves inferior to men. Psychologically women are trained to want marriage, to yearn for children, to simply die for matching cushions. Men, on the other hand, get on with the real business of life, which includes the small matter of keeping the little woman happy. But his real job – keeping the little woman little – became more challenging in recent times.
With #MeToo all artificial links between men and women began to snap. Women are in a raw, elemental, no-bullshit mood. Also, they read ‘Cat Person’, a short story by Kristen Roupenian, which said: ‘It was a terrible kiss, shockingly bad; Margot had trouble believing that a grown man could possibly be so bad at kissing.’ The Margot in female readers came alive.
Cheating is no longer a male domain. Actually, it never was, since cheating men cheated with cheating women. But female participation was hush-hush, low-key and couched in terms of ‘love’. It was understood that men cheated because of animal urge, but women only for sentimental or emotional reasons. All kinds of logic bent backwards to explain away male reasons for sowing wild oats, while women were presumed to be creatures of low libido and great moral fibre.
Once the equality of lusts is established, marriage may just fall by the wayside. Why marry when it only makes the divorce lawyers happy?
Shinie Antony is a writer and editor based in Bangalore. Her books include The Girl Who Couldn't Love, Barefoot and Pregnant, Planet Polygamous, and the anthologies Why We Don’t Talk, An Unsuitable Woman, Boo. Winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Asia Prize for her story A Dog’s Death in 2003, she is co-founder of the Bangalore Literature Festival and director of the Bengaluru Poetry Festival.