The freedom to choose (or not choose) a spouse

by anonymous

The story starts some 130 years ago in Istanbul, during the last golden days of The Ottoman Empire. It’s my great great grandmother’s wedding day. She is hidden behind a veil of colourful embroidered cloth. She is yet to see the husband she has married. He was chosen for his wealth and social standing, whilst she was selected for her youth, appearance and family name. They go on to have a son and a daughter but later she flees her homeland as a widow escaping the first genocide of the 20th century. She settles with other Armenians in Beirut.

Her daughter, my great grandmother, chooses her own husband and later, after giving birth to twin daughters, chooses to divorce him for his many affairs, even though divorce is a scandal in Lebanon in the 1920s, and adultery accepted as a man’s right to do as he so pleases. The family lives a life of poverty and hardship because of this choice.

Some 18 years later my grandmother has a wealthy husband chosen for her. Allowed to meet and spend time with him before the wedding, she decides she can’t stand the sight of him. She goes to a church, lights a candle and prays for a sign from God to be brave. One arrives: A peasant woman with a sick baby whom she takes to hospital and whose life is saved as a result of her effort and sacrifice (even life saving health care must be paid for). Deciding her own life is also precious, she finds the courage to back out of the wedding, only to find herself a prisoner in her own home. The man she rejects spends his days stalking her every move and threatening to kidnap and rape her, knowing that if a woman is taken against her will she has little choice but to marry her attacker.

She is sent for her own safety to visit a cousin once removed in nearby Cyprus. She chooses one of the three suitors (all second cousins) presented to her on her arrival and marries my grandfather whom she acknowledges as ‘not so bad’.They have two sons together and later flee the civil war in Cyprus, settling in London in the 1970s.

My father goes to university, gets a job, and aged 23 meets and falls in love with a totally unsuitable woman. 10 years older, recently divorced (her first marriage her own escape from a difficult father and her divorce an escape from a difficult husband). To make matters worse she is not Armenian, and worse still, she is a Jew.

They marry anyway, against everybody’s wishes and in spite of many threats and coercion. No one attends the wedding except my Uncle and my mother’s only friend in London, having arrived only a year and a half ago to study English. Their marriage is extremely happy and they have two daughters together. Some thirty odd years later my sister is happily married to the man of her dreams and I am happily unmarried, and will stay that way unless I meet the man of mine.I am thankful for the freedom to choose or not choose a spouse.

Leave a Reply

2017@Paprika Productions

Get it while it’s hot!

Sign up to our newsletter for all our freshest jokes and content. Straight to your inbox.