Broken and Blackmailed – Part 1

Throughout the earliest years of my childhood and youth I remember myself as a happy go lucky individual, but as I grew up in to my teens/youth this is what I portrayed myself to be to the rest of the outside world, zipping in my innermost emotion’s and secret’s. I was always quite shy although I loved being around people and socialising, trying something new and going new places I had never been to always excited me. In my childhood I discovered my passion for reading and always dreamt of being a writer/author one day, spending hours in the library with books, which was my safe haven where I felt like a free bird. Whilst growing up living through an abusive childhood, I learnt to cover up and put on a strong face, I was always a smiler who rarely cried, if I cried it would be behind the closed door of my bedroom. I acted as the strong one in the family, who kept the family unit together I guess in many ways, because someone had to. Being the second eldest child, I had heaps of responsibilities from the moment I hit puberty. Especially being in a Bangladeshi household, I had to take care of the household and my younger siblings. My parents always had high expectations from me and I remember myself as always being the favourite obedient child in their eyes.

The best years of my early childhood was at primary school. I was the popular child who had heaps of friends, I loved everything about school; the school trips and going to swimming lessons in a coach. Art, cooking and English was my all-time favourite subject’s. The fondest memory was during the Christmas season, having Santa Claus come in with presents followed by a party later in the classroom. To me it was a season of warmth which still sticks out vividly in my memory. Life was so easy than, I had no worries but to be happy and free. Moving on to secondary school it was the complete opposite. I became quiet and withdrawn, hated school, hated most of the kids, I was the unpopular and shortest girl in the school. I reverted to bunking off school a couple of times a week, where my parents thinking none the wiser. You see I left school with good GCSE grades, enrolled myself in to college but hated it so I dropped out of college and started trying other courses and eventually I got myself into a full time job. I was a pro at job interviews, a fresh face and I received different job offers with a potential of having a good future career, but at this point in life I didn’t have much confidence in myself, which resorted in me making indecisive decisions and never being able to stick to one job for long. I honestly did not know if I was coming or going. I would get bored, demotivated and move on to the next job without a care. The deep waver of confidence, self believe and lack of commitment in my teenage years where of course a direct impact from the traumas I suffered throughout my childhood; being sexually abused by a close relative at the same time witnessing the volatile and abusive relationship between my parents. Looking back now you could say my childhood was pretty messed up and a confusing place to be with no sense of direction.

I was 17 years old when the pressure of marriage started. My parents wanted me to settle down to a man of their choice, which was someone from back home in Bangladesh. Not many requirements were needed from the suitor, he didn’t even need to have a UK passport my parents had stated. It was as though they were trying to sell their daughter off short and cheap. ‘Why marriage at such a young age?’ Well their answer although ridiculous was firstly society and external family were telling them that I was growing up, being the eldest amongst the sisters, my parents should apparently get the ball rolling and get me married of as soon as possible. My first proposal was supposedly to man much older than me whom they wanted me to get engaged to in the neighbour’s home. This man happened to be this neighbours relative. The only thing I knew about the man this was his photograph staring right back at me. I was only allowed to find out the night before, but apparently being the obedient child my parents assumed I would not refuse them. So when I did outrageously refuse to get engaged to a complete stranger, being within my rights to do so, well my parents got the shock of their lives. ‘How did this obedient child have the audacity to refuse?’ They wondered. My mother stopped talking to me for two weeks, I guess her way of emotionally blackmailing me, and my father well I guess was the cool headed one, who didn’t seem much bothered that I had refused to marry. Later followed by the suspicion that I must have an undercover boyfriend, which was not really the case. It was hard for me to explain to my parents that I had dreams and aspirations of my own and that I was in no way ready to settle. Still being a teenager I wanted to live my life and enjoy my independence, I was still trying to find my feet as to what I wanted to do with my life.

After the shame my parents felt by me refusing the first proposal, which they openly expressed, they decided to leave me alone for about a year. This however did not last for long, shortly after I turned 18, the whole façade started all over again. I had a handful of proposals coming my way, none of which I had any interest in as I was adamant to stick to my guns and not settle down any time soon. This time round, the emotional blackmail from my parents swung in to full force. Every single day, my cousin sisters or their husband would call me, manipulating me to get my consent to give in to marriage. It felt as though they were trying to sell me a product and I had to buy it. Of course it was all a big setup by my parents, who felt embarrassed to directly come and approach me about the topic, so they would send someone else to do the job on their behalf. Having a typical South Asian upbringing by orthodox parents, well it was part of the culture and taboo to avoid speaking directly to me about certain things like marriage, puberty, sex and the list goes on.

My frustrations was evident as I was trying to fight off my parents, external family members and society. I just did not care what everyone thought, I felt so strongly about not wanting to marry. Eventually my frustration and anger made me want to rebel in many ways, my parents did not like this side of me, but I felt I needed to express my rebellious side to be heard loud and clearly. ‘So what if society thought I was getting old and apparently reaching the ripe age of marriage?’ ‘Did it not matter to my parents what I wanted and how I felt?’ I was like a caged prison animal struggling to find a way out of this dilemma. I was suffocating and my fear apparent, as I had no idea what marriage and commitment would entail.

The underlining problem was that my parents did not believe that a girl should have an education or career. As soon as they finished college it was time to get married. My parent’s mentality was almost as though they were living in the villages of Bangladesh. I hated my parent’s way of thinking and how easily they would sway to what society was telling them to do. It felt as though my parents did not have a brain of their own to think with, like they were in robotic mode.

Eventually after months of being blackmailed and brainwashed in to the idea of settling down with a complete stranger, my family finally broke me down and I caved in. Gone were the notions of wanting to go to university like the rest of my friends, as I felt passionately about wanting to pursue English Language/Literature studies. I gave in and said that I would get married but only on my terms and according to my choice, which my parents had no say but to agree to.

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