Redefining the business of marriage: putting mind over matter

August 17, 2010

A friend found the “love of his life” on a matrimonial website.

After seeing hundreds of photographs and commenting on each and every one’s height, complexion, nose-shape, assumed weight, and dress sense, he finally found one that was closest to his ideal image of an Indian bride.

He has not even met her, but is engaged to be married later this year.

This was the first time I was party to such a selection process from the boy’s side.

Right out of college in India, I had been privy to portfolios that arrived at my female friends’ doorsteps.

Online matrimonial sites didn’t exist then – photos and biodatas were sent via snail mail for entire families to peruse over dinner.

My friends had rejected a couple of prospective grooms – some were too short (a husband ought to be at least 5’9!), or too fat (he’s going to become fat when I cook for him, but he needs to be athletic at the outset); or balding (I’m not marrying an uncleji).

These same friends had been “rejected” by guys for similar reasons – she wears glasses (a defective piece); or she’s too dark (why won’t she use Fair and Lovely?) or she’s too short (anyone under 5-feet is a child).

 Redefining the business of marriage: putting mind over matter

As an outsider in this matrimonial shopping mall, I couldn’t help but wonder why does one need to be tall to garner favorablesocial stature?

Why is a head full of thick hair so much more preferable in a prospective mate than a balding plate? Why do we desire a perfect set of straight, white teeth or shapely hands and fair skin?

Why do we associate positive emotions with these attributes and negative ones with the others?

Sure, there was a time when your survival depended on your physical traits — tall, muscular men could protect the well-limbed, fragile females better. Shapely women were considered more fertile.

If your physical appearance suggested you could perform your well-defined gender role better, you were obviously more desirable.

But in today’s day and age, when we’re not out in the jungles hunting our dinners, why do these physical attributes still get so much importance when looking for a life partner?

So what if he is short?

So what if she has Dracula teeth?

So what if he is balding?

So what if she has freckles?

 Redefining the business of marriage: putting mind over matter

What about character and personality?

What about intellectual curiosity?

What about a spark for life?

Are all those traits really secondary?

Aren’t these the attributes that one should seek in a bond that’s supposed to last a lifetime — a lifetime that will see a withering of symmetrical boobs, a blemishing of perfect skin tone, an increased or decreased hirsutism, and a loss of perfect eyesight, among other things.

What stays is the kindness, the goodhearted nature, the drive, the thoughtfulness, the intellectual fervor.

Yet we make judgments based on first impressions – acknowledging only the shell and being completely dismissive of the person within.

I think marriages would have a much better success rate if folks turned the whole formula upside down — and when I say success rate, I don’t just mean marriages not ending in divorce…I mean happy, meaningful relationships.

Communicate via e-mail, snail mail, phone, or IM first. Get to know each other. Then look at photos or meet in person. Relate to Redefining the business of marriage: putting mind over matter each other on an intellectual level, then judge each other on physical traits.

Love someone for who they are, not for what they look like.

What do you think?

Also posted on Desicritics.
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13 Responses to Redefining the business of marriage: putting mind over matter

  1. Dave Roy on August 18, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    Interesting questions. I guess we’re all biologically wired with our own likes and dislikes in regards to appearance and what-not. When you’re just randomly happening upon these people (whether it’s a matrimonial web site or browsing the bars or whatever), we fall back to those positions.

    It’s when you get to know somebody first, before those appearance reactions can even take place, that we can move beyond them. Or, if you actually meet and interact with a person, those first impressions can be overridden.

    That’s why I always had more luck on the Net than I did in “real” life. Because my natural charm showed through before she could get a look at me. :)

    I say that jokingly, but it *was* a confidence issue, so I’m sure I did appear more attractive when somebody got to know me before seeing me first. If we met in person first, my self-confidence failing was usually heightened, which I’m sure was a major turn-off.

    Unfortunately, I think that biological hard-wiring is very hard to get past when you’re just browsing through “applications.”

  2. MansiNo Gravatar on August 19, 2010 at 12:47 am

    I suppose you’re right.

    I find it really strange that a majority of the people base their life-decision on something as shallow as physical appearance. Aren’t we more evolved than that? Then again, how many people even view marriage as a lifelong thing anymore?

  3. SshaeemaahyderNo Gravatar on August 19, 2010 at 1:35 am

    I totally agree!

    Sorry for having missed out on the last few of your posts. Was away on a holiday that was far too busy and hectic to actually be called one, but oh well… thus was the reason for my lag on the blogs; reading writing and otherwise!

    Hope alls been well with you and yours…

    Thanx for sharing, as always :)

  4. MansiNo Gravatar on August 18, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    Good to have you back!! Hope you were able to steal some time to relax…

  5. Dave Roy on August 19, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    That is true.

    And I agree, it’s hard to imagine basing lifelong commitments on that type of thing. Which is why I could never do dating sites and the like. Not only would I wonder what I might be missing out on (because you are spending the time doing it, it’s hard to look at somebody you’re not really that attracted to and say “I’ll pick her because when we meet and talk it she *might* be interesting”) but I would think the women were doing the same to me. :)

  6. MansiNo Gravatar on August 20, 2010 at 12:26 am

    I am sure they were. We like to say it’s human nature because it oh-so-convenient. Truth of the matter is, we (including the ladies) don’t care much for that deeper connection where the body is only a conduit for the soul.

  7. Anon1No Gravatar on August 20, 2010 at 12:47 am

    “Intellectual curiosity” as a parameter for marrying someone is as arbitrary as marrying someone for “Sharp nose”.

    I think I know as many intelligent jerks as I know good looking ones ;)

    It’s about connection, and the reality of the situation is, maybe as a side effect of our ‘culture’, often men/women don’t get to interact freely before they are forced to tie-the-knot. The need for companionship is very very real… the means to achieve it, aren’t always easy or straightforward.

    And marriage is as much about making-it-work as it is about finding-the-right-person.

    So many people I know married “the love-of-their-life”.. because “it just clicked” coz “he/she is the most wonderful person in the world..” only for it to go pffffft in 5 years.

    So if your friend was ready for some companionship.. and so was a girl on the other end.. and they found each other online.. and their ‘situation’ didn’t permit/warrant it necessary for them to communicate.. , I’d still say give em a break !
    Likely they’ll be happier with each other, than without !

    Deep connections take time… once they get married, they’ll have all the time in the world ;)


  8. MansiNo Gravatar on August 20, 2010 at 2:20 am

    Agreed. Agreed. And agreed.
    But, don’t you think one ought to give some time for deep connections to form prior to wedlock not after the fact? Of course, that is to assume that one was marrying with the underlying notion it’s something that’ll last a lifetime…

  9. Keerthana AkNo Gravatar on August 21, 2010 at 5:24 am

    What can you say? A wedding is a bollywood script here, No one cares 'bout the 2 after the process ends

  10. MansiNo Gravatar on August 24, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    Except the two people involved…it's amazing how everyone in the arranged marriage scenario tends to conveniently forget or ignore the impact such arrangements have on two people's lives.

  11. Anon1No Gravatar on August 25, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    You had me at.. "Agreed . Agreed. And agreed." :p

  12. VikNo Gravatar on August 26, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    I agree on knowing the person etc but do you realise the girl on the other side is also taking a similar decision…so committment to make it work would be so high from both the sides, which is a factor that would make it work…the idea is to understand sacrifices would be made and just make sure its not the same person making the sacrifice everytime…
    Not to say i am not in knowing the person camp or support judging the person by looks - your friend probably should have talked to the person more but when you are put in a situation of limited time with constraints of this has to materialise into a longer term committment, I think you are bound to be judgemental.

  13. MansiNo Gravatar on August 27, 2010 at 12:33 am

    I can understand where you’re coming from Vik, but I ask: What’s the urgency? Why is this time so limited and why do we ascribe to these constraints? Society and social norms won’t change by themselves … it’s we who have to question in order for change to occur.


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