Of Marriageable Age

So you are 30 and single!

Elizabeth Gilbert, in her well-acclaimed book, Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia writes: “A girl got married at the dinosaur age of 28, which is not frequently heard of in Indians.” Gilbert, who is well into her 30s, goes on to weigh the odds against her if she were to marry in India.

It is an apprehension with which growing numbers of Indian Americans can relate. Marrying at the “right” age, which is decidedly before 30, is still considered exceedingly important in the community and those hovering at the magic number sense the pressure.

Poorna Jyotula, 29, a software engineer from New Britain, Conn., calls the entire procedure of finding a partner and the matrimonial situation a “mess.” He had a long telephone conversation with his parents in India one Friday evening.

When he re-joined his friends at their weekly get-together, he had thrown in the towel: “It was the usual. I just said ‘yes’ once again to all their arguments about getting married. I’ve told them time and again that 30 is not the end of youth, but they don’t seem to agree.”


A few years earlier, he would argue with his parents. But increasingly he realized that it was not of much use, so he gave up.

Karan Chopra (name changed on request), a financial analyst in Stamford, Conn., says that parental anxiety that their children marry is driven from psychological considerations.

“When their child is living very far away, it is a comforting thought for them to know that once he or she is married, there is someone to take care of him. The way there are different stages in a life, parents feel that 30 is a good baseline for their son or daughter to tie the knot,” Chopra says. He tied the knot early this year just before he turned 30.

Societal pressure

The pressures for marriage can come from other quarters too. Relatives and friends (sometimes even friends of friends) get into the act as well. Darshana (last name withheld at request), a mental health professional from Poughkeepsie, N.Y., says she feels irked when relatives sometimes make her parents feel that they have failed because their daughter is almost 30 and single. “My parents don’t deserve this kind of treatment. They have raised me to be an independent person. So it is hardly fair that they are at the receiving end of such comments,” she says.

Adds Chopra, “I have noticed that parents in India face a lot more questions about their child’s marriage than they themselves maybe deliberating about. That scenario is not here in the United States.”

Ritu Singh (name changed on request), a post-doctoral student at University of Louisville in Kentucky, echoes her sentiments: “Sometimes relatives make the marriage situation more problematic for parents than it already is. They keep questioning parents about prospective grooms and more.”

Poorna Jyotula: I’ve told them time and again that 30 is not the end of youth, but they don’t seem to agree. 

Singh says marrying between 25 and 28 years of age is ideal, not for psychological or societal considerations, but rather for scientific and biological reasons. “Since motherhood is easier before a woman turns 30 (because of hormones and other factors), I would feel that 25-28 years is ideal to tie the knot,” Singh says.

Harpreet Kaur, an SAS programmer in Somerset, N.J., says she would have preferred to marry around the age of 25. “Call me old-fashioned if you want, but I feel that 24-25 is ideal to marry. That way you have enough time to know your partner before you have kids.” As she nears 30, she says, the frequency of her parents urging her to tie the knot has grown. “But I don’t feel pressured by it,” she says.

The biological considerations also weigh on men. Jyotula, who deferred marriage for years himself, says that marrying before 30 allows a couple to enjoy life together before starting a family. “Not only do my married friends also suggest marrying before 30, I too would tell others to tie the knot earlier than 30,” he says.

Friends said so…

It’s a sentiment Chopra hears frequently from her friends too: “Most of my friends told me to settle down before I turned 30. There were very few exceptions who said that although I was nearing 30, I still had time and could enjoy.”

Harpreet Kaur: My friends never fail to remind me of my days as a single person in a positive manner. They tell me to enjoy them to the fullest as I will never get them back.

Kaur, on the other hand, has received more tempered advice: “My friends never fail to remind me of my days as a single person in a positive manner. They tell me to enjoy them to the fullest as I will never get them back.”

Some friends who have been married for more than five years also advice her that marriage requires a lot of adjustments and growing up. She explains that while a 23-year-old woman may desire only five qualities in a prospective husband, one who is 30 would be seeking 10 or 12.

Darshana remains unfazed: “Since I am 30 now, I feel that I have crossed some invisible line and I am now in the ‘Oh my God, she is still not married’ land. But I try to enjoy the ride.”  

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