of yardsticks and conformity

There’s a very interesting discussion going on over at IHM’s about how the older people in our society need to learn to find life of their own lives instead of seeing happiness in their children’s lives.

Apparently there are many old people who feel like they would be judged if they did, indeed, find happiness in their own lives.

This discussion started, interestingly enough, when a young bride talked about how she felt oppressed as a daughter-in-law. She was tired of giving in to countless demands of gifts from her in laws, which literally amounts to demands for dowry, as pointed out by one of the ladies in the audience. She was afraid of being judged if she didn’t comply.

This is interesting, because I see literally everyone, young or old or male or female, complaining about how they are being judged. The only ones who are not complaining (such as me) are being complained about (my mom thinks I’m too modern and too selfish, last week someone told me they think my mom-in-law is too benevolent and I’m taking advantage of her).

I think that the main problem is that as a society, we want people to live for others and value ‘sacrifice’ above all else.

It’s all about expectations and conformity, you know. All our lives we carry around an image of who people should be, and we use that image as a yardstick to measure everyone around us. We turn judgmental, expecting impossible perfection in everyone, including ourselves. Anyone who does not conform is the black sheep and must be “too modern” for their own good. And because we realize that the same yardstick is also being used to judge us, we conform even though it makes us bitter as people.

Now because people keep conforming to these “standards”, that image in our heads becomes etched in stone. And there we go, round and round in a circle, expecting and judging and conforming and being resentful.

All we need to do is break out of that circle; none of us was born to fulfill other people’s expectations, and these “standards” change with time. And that is why there’s no point to all this sacrifice.

We must stop, old and young alike.

What do you think?

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Blogger. Crazy bitch. Stalkee. Weirdo magnet. Wannabe housewife. Corporate Slave. Find me at anawnimiss.wordpress.com!

25 thoughts on “of yardsticks and conformity”

  1. I’m not familiar with Indian social nroms. Let me see if i understand – the older generation expects the younger generation to give them gifts in order to show sacrifice, selflessness and honor?


    1. the older generation of the husband’s family expects the wife and her older/younger generation to give them gifts in order to show sacrifice, selflessness and honor?


    2. This is a bit hard to explain, Paul. I realize that I talked about multiple things and that may have made the situation difficult to understand. So let me try to untangle the mess I created.

      1. Dowry and Gifts
      We have a dowry system where the bride’s family gives (expensive) gifts to the groom’s party. In olden days the parents were expected to provide essentials such as bedding, utensils, clothes, etc. that their daughter would use in her husband’s home. This obviously put some sort of financial burden on the bride’s family, and the older the girl, the greater her needs (and the possibility of her losing her virginity – which is another story). Girls were mostly seen as a burden and this led to a whole lot of sex selection, which has completely messed up our sex ratio.

      Though dowry is now illegal in India, the custom lurks. Dowry is now disguised as gifts. The definitions of these ‘gifts’ have extended to cash, cars, expensive jewellery, clothes for the groom’s entire family, gadgets, etc.

      The whole ‘the groom’s side is superior’ argument also translates into small issues such as the bride’s family having to be the first to call the groom’s family and wish/greet them on festivals and other occasions. It is sickening, but a lot of families live through this

      2. The Concept of Sacrifice
      There are several unwritten rules for how people should behave, and most of these rules translate into being self-sacrificing. For a woman, her husband’s family should come first even if her own parents need her more and her instincts tell her otherwise. Women should continue to serve their husband’s family no matter how bad the situation is, etc. Again, the situation is more favorable to men and their “sides”.

      3. Rules for being the ideal ‘bahu’ (daughter in law)
      Good DILs bring lots of dowry, listen to everything their in-laws say, and put their new family’s needs above their own. If a DIL is sick and the mother-in-law is not, the DIL, by virtue of being younger should do the cooking/cleaning. Basically be a cash cow who doubles up as domestic help.

      Liked by 1 person

          1. Any idea where they came from or how they developed? Dowrys were not uncommon years ago here but all signs of them are gone now.


          2. With a country as vast and as diverse as India, it’s difficult to abolish something. So while it’s now illegal, it’s still happening.

            How it started – well it’s a long story. Earlier women did not have property inheritance rights or jobs, so parents gave dowry to ensure that she’d be able to economically sustain herself in her husband’s home.

            (Of course no economic help really reaches the bride because the money is mostly used by the groom’s family to fund their own daughters’ dowry!)


          3. Ah, of course, property laws – so brides could only bring wealth to the marriage trough dowrys. makes sense. And of course, i am sure that in India,as here and most everywhere, there used to be a family home where generations lived together, so the bride’s family would have to give to the groom’s family to support her in the groom’s family home. Got it. That actually makes sense.

            So, I guess the next question is, How are single Indian women doing now in terms of ownership laws? Are they building, bringing wealth to their marriages through their own resources now? What about inheiritance – can/does property get passed down to females now? Do many new couples still move into the groom’s family home?


          4. Inheritance is now legal and divorce illegal, but the laws haven’t translated into reality, Paul.

            The expectation is that a married woman will live with her husband and his family. Women work and bring wealth to their marriages, but they also still bring dowry. And many parents I know do not give their daughters a share of their property because they spent so much at the wedding.

            Of course there are women who are able to say no, but these are a mere handful, and they are being ostracized by their own parents.

            India isn’t kind to women at all.


      1. i think that option is open for people who think the way a lot of us seem to; that the elders in our lives resist it can only mean we hammer it in until their old age causes them to medically give up at the very least.

        Ironically I see free will only damaging society, not improving it. Imagine what these dimwits would do if they had the liberty of choice. Scary. They don’t need to listen to Justin Bieber or vote for religious fascists , to lead our country into doom but they willingly make those choices. Some people would thrive on the “go to school, go on twitter, go to work, produce babies and die happily surrounded by people who have too much troubles in their own lives to give a shit about the fading memories of monotony that passes through glassy eyes” manifesto.

        Ok that was therapeutic. Thanks. Did I mention, great post!


  2. Its all a Cult, don’t you think ?! yeah, sure there are subsets and other cults with in but its still a cult. the rules, the pressure to fall in line nd the wrath one has to face for not conforming! How do you break away when you are reared to be just another brick in the wall ( yes, pink floyd kept me sane)?? If you do, how do you get out a cult and keep on living in it ? Its Complicated. Yes we most definitely must stop but are we equipped enough to do so ?


      1. Yes of course and infact i do my bit. its just that i ‘ m not very hopeful about the situation. To not conform is a constant fight nd at times it gets so exhausting nd pointless ! That whiff of disapproval in the air is tough to live with. i would like to think people like us do it because we cannot live any other way.. our honesty doesn’t always help us. I learnt to not be disgusted by people who take it all silently , who can stay perfectly happy within the frame work (makes them weak not wicked) , but i still get all riled up when i see people who are pushing/encouraging/bullying others to conform. I’m totally with you albeit a bit cynically .


        1. It took me a long time too to finally stop being mad at people who didn’t speak up. But I think I’m still in the same spot when it comes to bullies. No mercy from me there.
          And I am still optimistic. I just think our society is in a state of flux and it will take a while to get there – and maybe we won’t even be alive to see it happen, but it will happen for sure. Laws of nature prevail!

          Liked by 1 person

  3. I feel it’s a sad truth that societies always look for defining yardsticks and norms, which of course keep changing (sloooowly) over time with permanent changes in the society’s underlying structure. What we could hope for – and personally work towards, at individual levels – is for everyone to be more tolerant, more accepting and less judgmental of deviations from the yardstick of the day & age.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Changes are taking place so slowly they make living life so hard to do! That is why we must hop-skip-jump our way onto the next level where we will live in a more tolerant world. It really is up to us to drag our families with us!


  4. Dear ana,
    I agree we have to stop, old and young alike.But the old are not going to stop are they? The burden lies on the young to take baby steps as you said.
    And each baby step;OMG it is O soooo Liberating, isn’t it?


    1. Not necessarily, Aarti. I was talking to my mom last night and I see so much resistance towards simple, positive changes like not washing everyone’s clothes even at 60 years of age!
      I can try convincing her again like I did yesterday, but the onus lies on her in the end, to stop suffering for what “samaaj” wants and start doing what she loves.

      And only when she steps out of the shadows will she realizes the liberation you speak of. It’s an addiction!


  5. It is easy for our generation to tell our elders to find a happiness of their own, but having had the experience of being a bad son, I can tell you that it is not quite so for our parents (at least mine). It is still painful to talk about it, may be some day i will come out from this anonimity cloak of mine and reveal what I truly feel


    1. I hear you, Anonymous. I know it is not easy for the older generation to stop seeking happiness in their children’s life, because they are battling every single moment against people who judge, their own inner voice that tells them that they should do what the “samaaj” says.

      But at the end of the day, the onus really does lie on an individual to come out of their misery. As a child, you can only provide support.

      Also, the cloak of anonymity should help you reveal what’s in your heart without fear of judgment – and this, I say from personal experience. So feel free to share your stories and opinions here on my blog, or elsewhere, and hide behind the cloak for as long as you like. Your secret is safe with me 🙂


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