“Bargained Away”

I had a dream last night that I was a young South Asian girl — about 9 years old. I was one of the younger ones among a large family. I had at least two older sisters and some brothers. In this dream, the man who was my father told me that he had made the arrangements for me to be married. I had been in and out of the room earlier when my father had been speaking to another man, bargaining back and forth. I thought they were arguing over a cow or some livestock. Now I knew they had been talking about me.

My father informed me that we were to be married the following Saturday — so I was getting less than a week’s notice. I felt like the room was closing in on me as the news burgeoned into full understanding, and the ceiling seemed to squish down upon me as this boy, my future husband, suddenly appeared at the door, waiting for me. We were having our first meeting right then.

I went to the nearby playground with the boy (it was really just a vacant lot which kids, through constant use, had made claims on it to be their own) and very quickly found him to be really self-centered, vindictive, egotistic, and mean. He spoke to me with an air of condescension, his eyes gazing tauntingly at me with all the immaturity of an 8 year old boy. I couldn’t believe that he was the one I was going to have to marry. From just those few minutes of interaction, I knew it would be a lifetime’s ingratiating servitude to an unmerciful patriarch (though, as a 9 year old in the dream, I wouldn’t have put it quite in those terms).

And if that wasn’t bad enough, toward the end of our initial meeting, he mentioned (almost boastfully) that I was to be his second wife, actually. His father had gotten him another wife, whom he was also marrying on Saturday. This last piece of news left me devastated. Not only had I not been given a choice, not only had my life been bargained away like I was property, not only would I be married to a selfish chauvinist, but I wouldn’t even have the honor and value of his fidelity or devotion. I felt like I was suffocating.

As soon as I got home, I told my father, “Did you know I am to be his second wife? He already has another wife!” I thought there might be a chance that he hadn’t known and that the new piece of knowledge would rescue me from this ill-fate.

My father’s face revealed that he hadn’t known. He had gotten such a great bargain for me that it had somehow successfully distracted him from the fact that his business arrangements would result in a reality that would be my life. I’m sure he really believed that he was giving me the better life by doing all this. But my heartbroken cries snapped him out of his daze. “Well, he hadn’t been clear about that but…I suppose he alluded…” Looking into my sorrowful eyes, he muttered, “I will talk to him about it.”

I sat on the chair despondently as my father disappeared into the other room. I knew that even if he talked to the man, even if the man had not told him the whole truth, none of these things would change the ending of my story. The deal had already been struck. My fate was already sealed. My elder sisters, who were shuffling about in the kitchen, looked down and looked away and said nothing. My father was sending my sisters to school. They had not been married off, so I had thought I would be saved from the fate that was the lot of every other girl in our neighborhood. So why was this happening to me? I didn’t know. I was stuck under this hierarchical system, and there was nothing I could do about it.

This is when I woke up from my dream… and realized that though I could wake up, there are many young and old women who can never wake up and escape from this nightmarish reality.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Karen Walling on May 31, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    Thank you for sharing your dream (nightmare). So much for world religions, which would tolerate marriages of children, whether they are consumated soon or even not until later. Then there are the countries, where females undergo circumcision (whether legal or illegal), with a piece of broken glass or metal, often causing infection. Goal to prevent females from sex out of marriage, as why do what is not only risky and not enjoyable, but also painful. If either sex had to be prevented from promiscuity, statistically speaking, females are not the right ones.
    I was once asked to chaperone a religious, scarved, Iranian Muslim friend as she met a potential marriage partner, flying in from another American city. She eventually turned down marriage to him, because “he is a liar”. I spoke to him alone briefly, telling him that I read that 1 of Mohammed’s wives was a girl (elementary school age), and that if that was consumated in the U.S., he would have gone to jail for rape and sexual child abuse. Unlike earlier, his laugh in response, was very lewd sounding. My friend rejected him, because they had agreed that they would both apply to each other’s universities. The one that would admit them both would decide which city they would live in. However, her college accepted him, but his would not accept her. He still wanted her to move there. Angry! Since then she finished her education and became a Psychiatric Pharmacist, married someone else and has 2 young daughters. I will say that when her kind Dad had learned she might marry the 1st man, he (math prof.) & his wife (English prof.) rushed from Iran to the U.S. to talk her out of it, not knowing she would come to that conclusion on her own.


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