I wrote a few years ago that people started asking the "when" questions after I graduated from college, despite my exceptionally young age. It turns out that the number of questions multiplied after I have had my master's degree. "What else are you looking for?", some asked. "You have everything now. Why aren't you married yet?"
I never took the "when" questions personally. Most of the times, I truly believe that people ask because they care about me, or they were just curious about my plan.
Sometimes, though, the question was asked in a more judgmental tone.
"You need to start thinking about getting married. A girl's biggest achievement is her family. A dad's greatest success is also to witness her daughter getting hitched. That's why it's important to know that life needs to be balanced between career, education, and marriage," lectured a condescending uncle and aunt of mine just a few weeks ago, although ironically, they also have a single daughter who is older than me.
I was quite annoyed, but then relieved. I was grateful when I realized that I have understanding parents who would never pressure me that way. Who understands perfectly that just because I am a high-achiever and very determined to catch my dreams, doesn't mean that I don't ever want to get married.
While studying abroad, I met plenty of independent Indonesian women who have left the age of 25, the so-called "yellow-light" period for a single woman in Indonesia. I know from their story that unlike the typical alpha-women in the movie, they don't plan to stay single forever. Heck, most of them don't even choose to be single, and it's not like they're unattractive or bizarre in any way. They just haven't met the right person yet, and they won't stop catching their dreams only to ensure that they won't make men feel intimidated.
Some of the Indonesian girls I met in the UK even decided to go abroad to run away from their infuriating family who keep lecturing that the clock is ticking, as if they didn't know about it already! Pressuring someone to do something they actually want to do won't do them any good, that I can assure.
By contrast, I know a girl who decided to get married because she didn't like studying in college and didn't want to work afterward. It's pretty sad to know that nowadays, there are still girls who still think that way. Marriage is not something you choose because you don't know what else to do with your life. Marriage is something you choose when you are ready to be someone's wife and mom. And it's just as hard as work, as it is, work.
Of course, I also have some friends who got married because they have found someone they truly love and supportive of their dreams, and I couldn't be happier for them. Marrying young is a bold decision and I'm proud of my friends who are not afraid (of the worldly reasons) to get married. But not everyone is lucky enough to have that experience, I believe. Allah knows what's best for us, and sometimes He wants to give us more time to explore the world and to find ourselves.
So the next time someone lectures me about getting married, I would just nod and smile (hopefully not contemptuously). I would tell them that getting married is not as easy as buying a new pair of shoes, and that I obviously want to have a family of my own when I have found the right man to spend the rest of my life with. Next time someone tells me that I make men feel inferior (although seriously, I'm not even sure how), I'm going to tell them that I'm quite sure there is someone out there who is not afraid to stand beside me -- to be better together. And the next time someone told me to not even thinking about getting another postgraduate degree, I would tell them that everything I do is to prepare me to be a better wife and mother in the future. Because it takes a clever woman to raise clever children! And because I want to inspire my children; I want them to be motivated because if their mother can do it, they can do so much more.
And next time someone mentions that my parents will not be proud and happy until I got married, I would tell them that a dad's greatest success is not when seeing his daughter marry someone, but seeing her grow and bloom to be an intelligent, independent, happy woman. A mom's greatest success is when seeing her daughter becoming a woman who lives a fulfilling and contented life, who can contribute and be useful to the society, and who can also be a great mother when she had become one.
And in the meantime, I'll meet as many inspiring people as I can, and listen to their story. Then I'll be even more certain that each of us has different goals and timeline. That worrying about the future is unnecessary, because everything has been written down and will work out just fine; as long as we always put the best effort and leave the rest to Allah. That Allah is the best planner, and that He always knows what's best for us.
To all the bright women out there who haven't found the right person, just keep going and remember: Allah has promised that good women are destined to be with good men. The right time will come. And in the meantime, enjoy your life and make the most of it.