Who determines what’s acceptable?

“I like her but you’re the one who’s going to live with her. My opinion shouldn’t matter.” That’s what my mother said to my elder brother when he lightheartedly asked for her opinion about his fiancée. To me, it was such a simple and yet profound statement.

It was profound because we live in a society that is arrogant and unaccepting. It makes identical boxes and tries to shove people of different shapes and sizes into them.

And what’s society’s definition of a good wife, one that no man should compromise on? A woman who is submissive and unquestioning. Creatively skilled in culinary arts so she can keep her husband fed, motherly so she can wait on her adult partner.

But what if, like my brother, a man doesn’t want a quiet and unassuming wife? What if he is egalitarian and so he loves his fiancée for the very fact that she is outspoken and strong-headed? What if he wants an equal partner, one who doesn’t want to shrink her own dreams just so that she can wait on him?

Well then, that’s unacceptable, isn’t it? He can’t possibly be happy. Not in the long run. Or as one woman concluded after visiting her married son and watching him prepare breakfast while his wife slept in: he must be bewitched. ‘Concerned’ relatives will tell him that he needs to find a better woman.

If he does decide to find a ‘better’ woman by way of cheating, then his wife shouldn’t leave because “all men cheat.” Right?

I don’t know. What I would really like to know is: who came up with these rules that everyone, no matter their tribe, age, religion and personality, is supposed to follow? Who determines what’s acceptable?

Who determines what women from all walks of life should look out for in a marriage partner? Because apparently there is a margin. And if your expectations exceed it, your married friends will sit you down and give you unsolicited advice. They will tell you that you won’t find a husband because your standards are too high.

Who provides the yardstick for happiness and contentment? Who decides what should or shouldn’t be done in order for a relationship to work?

I think every human being is exclusively flawed. So our opinions, priorities and boundaries are equally exclusive. So who has the authority to determine what another person should or should not withstand?

Life would be much easier if everyone just stayed in their lane. So you want a tall dark and handsome man? By all means be with someone like that. But don’t tell your friend that her boyfriend isn’t attractive enough for her.

But even as I say this, I know that society will remain relentlessly arrogant and confining. And those who are adamant, those who refuse to conform will continue to be subjected to mockery, condemnation and my personal favorite, unsolicited advice.

Because of this, most people are afraid of being different. So they spend their adult lives either shrinking themselves or over-sizing in order to fit in, never really knowing contentment and happiness.