My grandmother didn’t do it. My mother certainly didn’t. And me? Well, I’m still deciding.
What I’m talking about here is, in my opinion, the most controversial of taboos in Indian families. We have (almost) done it all: come out as gay, had interracial relationships – hell, we’re now noticing and declaring transgender as the third sex. However, why is it that I still don’t know a single brown woman who has had a baby born out of wedlock?
When I first told a few family members that I was seeing my current partner, there were only two concerns – get married soon (I’m in my thirties) and do not, under any circumstances, get pregnant before marriage.
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As I’ve shared in my previous articles, I grew up in a vaguely conservative household. This meant that I wasn’t strictly disallowed to have open romantic relationships. My parents just didn’t want to hear about any of it until a relationship felt serious.
When it finally did feel serious, it didn’t really cross my mind to fall pregnant before marriage. It wasn’t until my partner mentioned it many moons ago that I finally asked myself, “How badly do I want a child right now?”
When I’ve openly spoken about my qualms, most often people think that the reason I’m even questioning whether to have children out of wedlock is that I’m afraid of disappointing my family – that having a baby now would surely give my parents a heart attack. Undoubtedly, yes, having a baby out of wedlock would be the final nail in the coffin in a long line of rebellious actions, but no, this is not about my parents.
This line of questioning is wholly about me and my desires. The deeper I dig within myself to find the answer, the more I learn about myself. I’ve realized that, despite it all, I might not be as open-minded as I would like.
If we throw family back into the mix, I do wonder why this is still such a social stigma in our brown communities. We have failed relationships, we get divorced and we’re open to finding new love. Then, what’s so offensive about having a baby without a ring? Is it because it still ridiculously cries “wanton woman?”
We, brown women, are still seen in a disadvantaged light when it comes to relationships: our sexualities, unfortunately, are still not to be heralded, but instead, they are whisked away from the spotlight to be guarded and tamed. A baby – even within a secure, non-legally binding relationship – screams open sex and becoming too western.
The stark irony is, in terms of population, we infinitely outnumber any western country. Brown babies pop out like it’s going out of fashion, yet no one wants to talk about how they’re made.
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Marriage, it seems, is the only way such conversations can openly thrive. Marriage is seen as the key that unlocks the door to a world of possibilities, and flaunting your sexual prowess in the form of a baby just happens to be one of the many perks. One does not simply have a child.
What if you don’t want a child or can’t have one? These are still very tight-lipped conversations only facilitated within the confines of confidantes and open-minded family members. I know many married couples who inwardly scream with fury every time someone asks them when they will be “with child.”
Of course, such personal questions should never be asked, but the cherry on the cake is that, in brown communities, these questions are only reserved for married couples. I’ve been with my partner for five odd years, and not one of my close family members (the few who were even allowed to know of such a “sinful” relationship) has asked me about babies.
I’m not here to point fingers and shame such behavior. I’m just curious as to why this behavior exists and continues. I know not all families are alike, but there is an undeniable pattern. Yes, stability, feasibility and commitment are at the very crux of these conversations, but by only allowing married couples the blessing of a child, there is a whole population of couples and singles who are completely overlooked and neglected.
Women can raise children alone. Men can do the same. At the end of the day, a loving, supportive home is what a child needs.
Honestly, I don’t think anything will change anytime soon. Sure, Mindy Kaling’s highly publicized secret pregnancy may have sparked a conversation or two, but sadly not a revolution.
Attitudes need to change before acceptance is widespread. This applies to me as well. This unjustified ultimate fear of potentially raising a child alone needs to be dispelled because it has zero grounds in this day and age. My hope for the future is that when someone expresses a desire to be a parent, we ask ourselves if he or she is capable – rather than whether the person is married.