Divorced and dressed up?
I’m part of a prayer group that gives me a lot of spiritual sustenance. We have quite a few divorced women in our group, as well as married ones and never married ones. It’s strange about the number of divorced women because divorce in India is so rare. It’s a classic case of serendipity and I’m sure I encountered them because I need the support. Like me they’re older divorced women with grown up children.
What upset me was a comment by a lovely, compassionate, married woman, a full time working mother with progressive ideas. She said, about this beautiful divorced woman whom she prays with
“She’s always so dressed up – her jewelry matches her clothes, she takes such care with her appearance, she dresses like a bride…”
Why? What’s the reason for this unnecessary hostility? I didn’t like this comment about another woman. I also felt uneasy about my own clothes and matching accessories. I felt she was making a dig at me and became quite insecure about this. Are divorced Indian women supposed to wear mismatched clothes? Or hair shirts?
I’m so delighted you raised this question. A lot of people would have suppressed their discomfort believing it’s a frivolous issue. If it bothers you it isn’t frivolous. Divorce is such a tumultuous event that it can leave one feeling very vulnerable to small insults, real and imagined. You can’t ignore them, and you don’t have to, it’s always better to work things through.
It sounds as though the commenter has picked up the cultural bias towards divorced women. Despite her education and job she’s overheard family or neighbours talking about divorced woman in derogatory terms and is echoing thoughts that she hasn’t filtered through the lens of her education and exposure to a different way of life.
‘Dressing up’ in India is seen as the prerogative of married women – women who have someone to dress up for. A husband legitimately sanctioned by society is someone you dress up for. If you’re young and single you may dress up a little, but not too much because, after all, you’re not supposed to be attracting male attention. The idea of dressing to please yourself, or as an expression of your individuality or mood is unheard of.
I’m feeling yellow today – so I’ll take out my sunniest top and wear it, just because I feel like. Isn’t a commonly felt sentiment.
Even the clothes you wear are an expression of your status, not your mood.
Once you’re a married woman you’re expected to wear all those ornate clothes that are part of your trousseau. Have you ever wondered why girls who have managed very well with their extensive pre marriage wardrobe are given an entire wedding trousseau in this day and age? Marriage sanctions the wearing of pretty clothes and much jewelry, in fact your status as a married woman demands it.
It follows that people with this mindset will wonder why a divorced woman has to dress up and will impute the most uncharitable motives to her. There is no precedent for divorced woman in a society that doesn’t acknowledge their existence. The only single older women people know of are widows. And we know what Indians do to widows. Dress them in white, shave off their hair, banish them to the boondocks as inauspicious and feed them only vegetarian fare. Widows don’t need anything more apparently because they’re no longer useful.
That comment by your ‘compassionate, progressive’ friend is an indication of a backward mindset and there’s not a compassionate bone in her body.
Don’t let it affect you. Wear whatever you want to wear. If you want to dress up, go ahead. If you want to dress down, that’s your choice. Be strong and individualistic. Remember that those who want to talk will talk about you whatever you do. So do what you want to do.
“Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.” says Dr. Seuss, and I tend to agree with him.
You may want to start a discussion called ‘talking about other people derogatively’ in your prayer group. Generate a discussion that will help open people’s eyes to the inherent prejudice and lack of fellow-feeling in such remarks. What’s the point of praying together if you’re being judgmental about anyone who is a little different from you? Good luck.
Posted on July 15, 2013, in bride, husband's name, oppressive customs, Smug married types, strength, therapy, tradition and tagged Clothing, divorce, Dr. Seuss, India, Marriage, Relationships, Wife, women. Bookmark the permalink. 26 Comments.