What will the neighbours say?

I screamed yesterday at our ‘thief’ friend. We had been trying to locate him for a few weeks as he was looking after a beautiful writing desk of mine and we wanted to begin efforts to get it back. Unfortunately he sold it. To finance his lifestyle and he was not in the slightest bit sorry.

I was on the balcony when I realised he was on the phone justifying his actions. I literally screamed “you thief” and ran inside and took the phone and said “you thief, you disgust me”.

Today my actions are being reviewed.

The big concern seems to be what will the neighbours think and say about my actions.

No matter what I do, think, feel or say, the only issue ever that must be a priority is not being judged by the neighbours.

I kind of have had three years to get to know the rules, and still I find it hard to adapt.

If you are molested by my drunken friend, you must say nothing. If my friend steals money from us, you must say nothing. And ultimately, if a friend of ours, steals our furniture and sells it for a profit, and refuses to give us the money, you may not speak out. You may not be outraged or offended.

You as a woman, must not embarrass society, and clearly speak out when a person needs to actually hear the truth. You may not scold, or reprimand a thief.

Men can drink, dance and be Merry till dawn. Women may not express utmost fury or upset. It is all about agreements.

The woman must agree to let her man be. I can see that in many stale relationships, agreements are made over time. A woman may start to avoid having sex with her husband after twenty years and she may make excuses and retreat to the world of her children. The darling I have a headache, becomes a rejection that the man has to concede to. The many Gentle man that has been thwarted in this way, finds his solace in the world of ambition, work, money and a few pegs at night before he rests his tired head on the pillow. He has stopped reaching his hand out for a loving connection, and he has long stopped hoping for a tender touch of his wife’s hand.

These agreements have been made in the silence of the night. She prefers to not have sex, and she is at peace to let him be and have his few hard won pegs of whiskey each night. She no longer has to pretend and kiss his stale breath. It becomes a win-win, despite the slightly tragic lose-lose at the heart of it.

Personally, I have not yet made these agreements, nor did I ever imagine I would have to. We met later in life, and it was a blessed, holy-temple town prasad, truly a gift from the gods. We came in peace, to create something new, something of our own determination. A love marriage by definition breaks the rules of the past, and gives way to creating a way of life built without the rule book handed down by the ancestors, the elders, or indeed the neighbours.

We have a friend in Jaipur that I basically now see as the proverbial nosy parker neighbour. He is a well respected man, with a lot of self-given leadership qualities and rights, and he has repeatedly stated from his unchallenged pulpit of power, that I, the Western woman am an unsuitable match. That my problem is my defiance of ancient cultural entitlements. He has often declared that I refuse repeatedly to show understanding. That I do not grasp that a succesful marriage is based on these silent understandings.

That my refusal to live with relational understanding is the problem. If only I showed some real understanding, as a woman must, I would understand, and deeply respect that my man requires my approval and acceptance of his tendencies. I must understand, and not question his desires. If he wants to enjoy and participate in online porn, that is his frustration and I must show tenderness. That he does not wish to have sex with me, and that he feels no desire for me, I am supposed to simply show humility and understand that in spite of this, he is still a good, kind and gentle man and that I must find understanding within myself that my desire or expectation to have a private sexual life, is simply a wrong, faulty expectation.

It is a little joke with a couple of our friends that Sir has to be correct no matter what.

I am starting to see that whilst I may not agree, he is the ultimate over-reaching neighbour. I will find him wherever we run to. We can pack up and move to a different town, and start again, but the Moral Policeman archetype will soon come knocking on our door in another guise. He is the conscience that speaks to many. That says, What will the neighbours say. Do not try to make a life based on modernity, and do not try to make a life based on new ideals and hopes. Here, I am the life sucker of your dreams. I am real, and I have a lot more power than you will ever be able to reconcile.

I knew this archetype well in my earlier life. I knew the dream-buster well. The strict father figure, that we could project all our own small failings onto. If something lacked the strength and guts to see to fruition, there was always the imagined dream buster that could be blamed for the thwarted efforts. It was mean Daddy/Mummy that could hold in their steadfast hands the basket of blame. Thankfully, there comes a time, where those parent figures are seen for what they really are; our caretakers, who become old and frail, and simply offered love. They did not stop us, and we are gifted that true recognition, a grace, that the only person or thing that has ever stood in our way, is ourselves.

I know that when my bags are packed and it is time to move on, Mr Pulpit will rejoice and say, “See I was right, she was incapable of understanding”. He will see it as a personal victory, and be triumphant that another foreigner was reduced to the ultimate indignation of being exiled and discarded as just another bit of white trash.

I find myself asking again and again, at which point do I have to concede that this society, will continue to highlight that this man cannot choose me.

Whose life is this?

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