Thursday, August 11, 2011

Quick Thoughts on Identifying People by Relationship Status

I have written before that I don't believe in marriage: I don't see the value it brings, apart from the legal (and thereby, financial) status it conveys. But in the short term, I'd be happy if we could abolish terms that describe a person solely in terms of their current, or past, marital status.

I could live with adjectives. Saying you're single or married or in a relationship is useful information, usually (at least for the purposes of small talk). Though it seems more natural to have it come up in casual conversation ("My husband made this amazing pasta yesterday . . ." or "My girlfriend got into this MBA program . . .") than to state it as a fact, especially an introductory one.

But as nouns? A "widow" conjures up an image of a lonely woman, probably draped in white. My mother has a thriving social life and is independent mostly happy, even though her husband is dead. Calling someone a divorcee seems worse: a divorce doesn't, or shouldn't, become an identity. That someone is a woman (and it's usually a woman) who perhaps has a job, or does something interesting, and has interests, and happens to be single.

That's how I think of my mom: as a single, independent woman who is currently foster parent to her nephew. She is also a doting grandmother to a mischievous four-year-old. She is active in her housing society and has a host of friends and friendly relatives whom she often drives over to visit. She is a fond mother to me and my sister.

A widow is just a term for a woman whose husband is dead. It says nothing of what the woman herself is like . . . and yet it does, by merely defining her personhood in the absence of a husband.


mad hatter said...

hmm.. true. you put into words something that might have rested with me subconsciously. that helps because i think it's useful to verbalise - just the slow process of doing that helps unravel patterns, tells us something about what's right or not so with things we do unthinkingly.

R's Mom said...

Oh its so true..why do people have this stupid mindset that widows are unhappy..I know plenty of widows who are happy, have a wonderful lifestyle and are very positive in life...kudos to your mom :) Marriage like I have always maintained is definitely over rated!

~G said...

Wow. I missed the post where u said u'd be blogging everyday. I came here for the midweek reads and was pleasantly surprised. :)

Pallavi Sharma said...

There's gotta be a LIKE button here somewhere.

Unmana said...

Pallu: There are those tiny icons at the end of the post that let you share on your social networks. (hint, hint!)

Pallavi Sharma said...

Oh, I'm already tired of sharing everything on FB. But that's just me... some silly mental block I have against too much social networking :D I meant, Blogger should include a LIKE button for those of us who'd just to give a thumbs up, because we don't have much else to add to the discussion ;-)

Laks said...


I'm new to your blog and loved reading this post..

I was in one of those unfortunate ones who had to go through divorce at an early age an had to go through hell facing people around who used to see me as a criminal.
Instead of seeing me as an individual they used to tag me as "divorcee". This triggered me to take up onsite assignment in US and now happily settled in US with my husband..

Thanks for writing this post. Thinking of Indian society gives me shivers..

Unmana said...

Laks: Thank you for commenting. I can only imagine what you went through, and am glad you're happier now.