Written by Nievana Judisthir
"Yuh twenty-tree now, yuh need fah start tinking 'bout yuh futuah!"
Nani always made it clear that she wants me to settle down as soon as I finish my degree. So much so, she made it her duty to start scouting the most eligible men in our Canadian-based Indo-Guyanese community when I turned eighteen. And thus, kept a notebook filled with profiles, pictures, and phone numbers. Which she is now flipping through.
"I'm still in school, Nani. I have more important things to worry about." And that's the truth, but who told me to say that?
"Yuh can always finish yuh Master's laytah. Yuh nah guh be dis young and dis pretty forevah!" she exclaims, throwing her arms up in the air. She shuts her notebook and pauses for a second before putting her hands on her hips - as all older-aged Guyanese women do. "I just wan see yuh settle dung before meh dead."
Trust Nani to always be this dramatic. "You will. You just need to be patient with me."
Nani kisses her teeth, sets the notebook down on my dresser, and walks out of my bedroom. She hates not being in control - like a true West Indian woman. I almost feel bad for being the reason for her frustration.
But at the same time, she's being a little unfair. It's not the sixties anymore; women aren't getting married when they're eighteen the way they used to. It feels overwhelming to be pressured into such a big commitment when you are still so young and ill-prepared for it.
Romance and marriage have been the least of my concerns over the years. Lucky for me, my parents share the same belief as I do: young women of my generation should be proud of a flashy career, not a flashy husband. All the years of my life have been education and
career-focused. Don't get me wrong, Nani is very supportive of my successes. But she also thinks I can have all this success with a husband by my side. No thanks, Nani. Now isn't the right time.
I hear a knock on my door. It doesn't seem that I'm getting any assignments done today. "Come in."
Mom enters, a small smile dancing on her lips. "Meh hear you and Nani get'am out again."
I sigh. "She's on my case again about getting married."
"She's only looking out for you," Mom comes in and sits at the end of my bed. "She worried you doh wan get married at all."
"You and I both know that isn't true," I straighten up in defence. "I want to fall in love with a good man. I want him to get down on one knee and ask me to spend the rest of my life with him. I want us to plan a big wedding that our guests will have to take a whole week off to attend. I want us to get married, have kids, and live happily ever after. But I also want to be the best version of myself before all of that happens."
Mom nods her head. She's silent for a few moments and I start to think maybe I've lost her. But then she speaks. "Dad and I understand. Nani is going to need some time. She old, yuh know. She still tinks girls should get married young and start a family early. She got married at eighteen. She leff she family at ah young age and had to play housewife her whole life 'til Nana dead. She had me at nineteen too, remembah dat. And she get meh married at twenty-one, expecting me to do the same as she. Imagine how she felt when I had you at thirty."
I nodded. I knew all of this. "I get that, but no one does that anymore, Mom."
"Meh know. This nah Guyana, and Guyana nah the Guyana we leff am as either. Back den, girls does get married early and start families right away. Women nah had to wuk. So, dis ah wha dem had to do. Marry, meh pickney, clean, cook. Nah de life you know. Dad and I nah raise yuh like dat. We know Canada is different. We know there's opportunity for girls here. That's why I work. That's why I took so long to have you. And we want you to have every opportunity possible."
I listen to her speak and I feel heard. But I also feel sorrow. "Did Nani ever complain about her marriage?"
"She didn't. She was quiet when me been small. She only talkative now because Nana dead. Dah wan next problem: woman nah had much freedom. It always been like dah since Indians meet ah Guyana. Maybe before dah."
"So," I pause for a moment. "Even marriage carries generational trauma."
Mom smiles softly. "It can. Nani and Nana were a match wedding. Dad and I were not. And as much as Nani wants you to have a match wedding to keep dah tradition goin', Dad and I doh wan dat." She then gets up, picks up the notebook Nani left on my dresser, and laughs. "She had a Match Playbook fuh me and yuh mousies too."
"A Match Playbook. Dah we used fuh call am. Each young man in de notebooks was sorted by a different pen colah. Red were the worst options, black were the middle grounds, and blue were the best options. Nani does only call back dah families of de boys written in blue ink."
She handed me the notebook and I started flipping through it. This was my first time seeing it. I was surprised to find that 1) it was a two-hundred-fifty-page notebook, 2) it was almost full, and 3) most of the pages, if not all, had red ink written on them. Most of these men were deemed inadequate for me, according to Nani.
And that's when it hits me. "Nani is worried about me not getting married because she doesn't think anyone is good enough for me. She thinks my options are limited."
Mom's smile gets bigger. "Meh tell yuh she's looking out for you. Nani wants you to be happy and for you to be treated like a Queen."
I smile a little. That's Nani's for you, huh? I scroll through it some more until I land on a particularly interesting, blue-inked page: Devin Lall. 25. Recent MDEI graduate from Waterloo, BBA in Management and Marketing from UofT. Works as a Marketing Specialist. 5'11''. Pisces. Hindu. Lives in Brampton, family from Rosignol. Loves kids (has none). Loves to read. Cooks. Travels. Healthy.
Wow. That's it. Wow. He's...pretty impressive. And maybe Nani thinks so too because she starred this page multiple times.
The only problem? There's no picture. But…
"Mom?" She looks up. "Can you call Nani back up?"
She smiles. "Curious?"
I laugh. There's never a right time for romance, you just need to take a leap of faith. And who says I can’t have both a career and love? That’s what empowerment is, isn’t it? Why not give it a try? After all, I have a playbook in my possession.
"More like enlightened."