In India, you can have socially acceptable sex only if you are married. Yes, even in 2009.
Ergo, this getting married is still a national pastime beating even cricket. And marriages, between a strange boy who looks at the photograph of some girl and deigns to accept her after his family has carefully matched and pronounced fit both horoscopes, are arranged.
But after all this, will they just let you get married and send you off on a honeymoon and let you settle in your cozy two-people-only apartment fighting about which spouse does what chore?
If you are a girl, you have to learn how to please your husband in bed and outside without being too demanding or knowledgeable yourself; give good lip-service to your husband's siblings and their families if he has any; constantly massage your in-laws both physically and otherwise.
Now let's talk about me.
Old classmates, friends, family, a few colleagues and lovers will all vouch for the fact that I am not shy when it comes to talking about sex. In fact, I'm rather brazen. Sometimes embarrasingly so. There is no innuendo that escapes my attention nor any X-Rated joke (classy, of course) that doesn't get a chuckle out of me.
And if you've done it, you'd know there's little to dislike about sex. And like any other person I've also idly wondered how it would be to be part of an orgy. But to get to participate in a life-long/divorce-long family gang-bang is something even my liberal mind shudders at.
The only way marriage makes sense to me is if you are doing it because you want to, because you love your lover enough to put up with, laugh at, and indulge each other's demonic families. You can experiment with societal roles/rules only if you are having fun doing it.
Now that I'm 28, parents and relatives are desperate that I marry. And since "love marriage" is so clearly not working, everyone wants me to try the arranged route.
Now I do know friends who tried matrimonial websites and found themselves arrangements that make them wonderfully happy. So finally, in despair and a vague hope, I registered as well. For a while I thought I could even try it. Till it reached the photo/horoscope/family meeting stage.
And as the pain in my body increased, I came to the conclusion that this search to arrange me a husband was only adding to all the stress I was already under. I de-registered from the sites. But my relatives and parents continued the search through other means. Even saying wait till I get better at least, did not quell them in their quest.
Until I finally told my mom, "Marry me off if it's so important, but with all this illness I have absolutely no sex drive. Just tell me how to sleep with the man as well."
A shocked silence later, my mom finally understood. Now the search has effectively stopped.
It's sad. I've never been one to say no to the carefully picked lovers when they proposed wild times. I never used sex as a weapon. Though men I know swear I don't put out unless they manage to make me fall in love with them, it's just that I like to make a sensible and sensitive choice. A girl can only be so careful even if she thinks it's not so much 'put out' as it is 'take in'.
And yet here I am, (thanks to a short-sighted man, who incidentally claims that I forced him to have sex with him and that's how it happened between us all those times) feeling almost asexual and certain to die a recycled virgin.
As I was telling my friends a few nights back, I can now use the age-old excuse with my own variation to deny sex to any wannabe lover.
"Not tonight, darling, I'm arthritic."