On The Alleged Flaw That Is My IndependencePosted: December 19, 2013
On a recent flight out to San Francisco, I comfortably nestled into my emergency row window seat that I had swapped for my beloved aisle seat just so that my fellow passenger could sit across the aisle from his wife. As the flight took off, we struck up a conversation and he told me about how he and his wife have been traveling the world ever since they both retired. Next on their docket is a tour of South Asia, and I jumped at the chance to encourage him to visit India.
We discussed my trips to India, and I happily told him all about my solo research trips. I even told him about how I one day hope to see even more than the handful of cities in India that I’ve been fortunate enough to visit thus far. After this brief conversation, he capped off our travel talk with this gem: “Well, you sure are gonna have a hard time finding a mate.”
Given how completely out of place this comment seemed, I assumed he was kidding and congenially replied with “oh yeah, sure is tough these days, you should talk to my mom!” But apparently my attempt to laugh off a joke caught him off-guard, and he was quick to explain further:
“No, no, I’m not kidding – you’re so independent, and you seem like you know what you want in life, so it’s gonna be real hard for you to find a life partner who is okay with all that.”
Suddenly, I felt like I had been slapped in the face. Annoyed, and frankly, hurt, by this man’s snap judgment, I found my headphones and used my iTunes collection to avoid any further conversation with this man for the remainder of our 5+ hour flight to the West Coast.
But if I could, I would return to the scene of the crime and speak up for myself – because what he did, and what society does on a daily basis, is not even remotely tolerable.
“Which part of India is your family from?”
“What’s the favorite place you’ve visited in India so far?”
“When do you think you’ll get to go to India next?”
“Don’t you hate that we only get cheap pretzels on these long flights?!”
Farah Khan is a medicine resident at Emory University. After graduating from college in Boston, Farah returned to her hometown in Alabama for medical school where she was reunited with the mix of Southern hospitality and South Asian flair that had shaped her childhood. Follow her on Twitter or read some of her thoughts on her blog.