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Are you a catch 28? Or a catch 30?

Not too long ago, a close friend’s daughter hit a dual milestone – a corner office in a high-brow consultancy, and the elusive 28th birthday.

I think you know where I’m going with this, but I’ll go there anyway. If you can, do bear with me.

So, this dear friend’s daughter (let’s call her B) happens to also be my godchild. And B is just the godchild I could’ve asked for – fierce, fiery, and full of life. Her mother is a doctor and a feminist. All resemblances are purely coincidental. I hosted a lavish dinner to celebrate B’s out-of-turn promotion; surrounded by sullen and highly pedigreed faces on the wrong side of 30. B happens to be the youngest person in her organization to have been given the distinguished title of Vice-President. Needless to say, many eyebrows were raised, many eyeballs rolled, and many jaws dropped. But B is B – too glam to give a damn. Most times, she’s a star and sometimes, she’s a superstar. So she did what she does best – gaily ignored the face contortions and gleamed with pride as she cosied into her new office.

So yes, dinner was had, toasts were raised, and we all left feeling pleasantly light in our heads and our hearts.

Three days hence, B had a meltdown. In hindsight, I guess I should’ve seen it coming.

B was in the ‘marriage market’ – and any single (or married) woman out there knows how brutal those can be. One after another eligible single man asked her different versions of the same questions; some brash, some carefully camouflaged, but all equally worrisome to her: “What time do you get back from work?”, “Would that change post marriage?”, “Would you still choose to work after having kids? And the innocuous sounding, but most dangerous of them all, “Are you an ambitious person?”

Never one to shy away from a tough question, this time B found herself in a precarious position. To marry, or not to marry? Corporate wife or homely mother? The underlined, tacit assumption was her eventual exit from the corporate ladder. B was stumped. And I? I was distressed. After all, B was not only my godchild, but also my protégé. While she had been encouraged throughout her life to assume that she could have it all, obviously the men around her had had a far more blinkered upbringing – that women could either be good wives or good colleagues but most certainly not both!

And heaven help the man who chose a working wife – He was doomed to a lifetime of cold sandwiches for dinner or a competitive , emasculating companion at home!

The sad truth is most men (yes even today) don’t want a wife, but a mother at home. Having been brought up in an environment where their mothers have stayed at home and taken care of every need of their “raja betas”, they obviously expect the same from their wives.

The tide will only turn when increasingly we see more and more sons of working mothers in the marriage market. Sons who have been brought up perforce to be independent and respectful of women’s equality! Yet another reason for all of us to continue working, don’t you think so ?

As for my B? She lifted her perfectly manicured middle finger to the bevy of eligible, regressive men, and shooed them away with her signature, easy charm. At work, she continues to kick their butts. But I know her, and I know it hasn’t been easy. My hope is, that someday, it will be.