One workmate of mine used to work in Lombok island, located in the eastern part of Indonesia. She told me since she was in college, she had set her heart on living in this exotic place. People who have visited Lombok island usually say that this island is even more beautiful than Bali, the most visited place in Indonesia nowadays by foreign tourists, because it is more serene, pristine, and “original” than Bali.
After living there for some years, she went back to Java island. I forgot why she didn’t just go on living there. If I am not mistaken she said that she felt “enough” to have experience living in that remote area and she had to go back to the most populated island in Indonesia, Java island, the “center” of everything, education, entertainment, shopping, etc.
Around three years ago she got married, not because of love, but because being married was “the must-passed step” in someone’s life to be considered “normal” and “happy” by other people. So “cheated” was she in the consensus of patriarchal society that she believed that everything would be alright after she got married. She would no longer be besieged by questions from society, “When will you get married?” She was in the middle of thirties at that time.
Before getting married, she barely had time to know her husband-to-be because they didn’t know for a long time before deciding to get married. This was the result of religious teaching that a man and a woman had better get married as soon as possible, without any time for courting to know each other better. They would have much time to do that after getting married. The main reason for this teaching was to avoid doing sinful things, such as touching, kissing, and intercourse before they became legal husband and wife.
I still remember after the first weeks she got married, she said that it was the best decision to get married soon so that both she and her husband were “legal”, they could do anything they wanted (read touching, kissing, until intercourse) without any barrier, without feeling sinful because violating religion’s teachings.
FYI, after getting married, she somewhat retreated herself from me, she was not as open as before. We still sometimes had a private talk, but she did not talk as much and as open before she got married.
A couple of weeks ago, she told me two distinct things.
First, suddenly she said that she missed her days when she lived all alone in Lombok island. “I was lonely at that time, but I enjoyed my time being alone. I sometimes feel so burdened to be a mother and a wife. Now I set my heart on spending some time again there in Lombok, all alone, leaving hubby and my two children. I deserve to get my freedom don’t I?”
As a person who still enjoys my “freedom” (I mean not involved with anybody but Angie, my daughter), I don’t want to provoke her though. LOL. Even in this situation I still miss my time when I was pursuing my study in Yogya, where I lived really all alone. I still sometimes want to live some days without Angie’s begging me to do this and that for her.
However, from what both she and I feel, I can conclude that we all sometimes need some time to be alone; one thing that is still considered weird in Indonesia, especially for women. Although men are mostly understood when they want to leave the family, women are forced to be tied closely to the family, if they want to be categorized into “good women”.
What I can do to this friend of mine is just giving her support, “Yes, despite our being social creatures, we also deserve to enjoy being alone. Just do what you think you need to do. Take a break for some time from your job, and enjoy your freedom.”
Second thing she said was, “Now I realize that the Islamic way to get married is not always good. It is even oftentimes misleading.”
“Islamic way to get married? What do you mean?” I didn’t catch what she meant.
“Well, you know in our religion we are taught that it is a big sin to be close to someone—different sex—before he legally becomes our husband, to avoid adultery. We are taught to get married as soon as we meet someone who really attracts our attention. To know him more after getting married is more beautiful because there will be no barrier between us. But what about if after getting married we find out that in fact he/she is not like what we want. We will regret very much. We can file divorce, yes, but isn’t it better that we know each other well first, then we get married, to avoid the possibility to get divorced because our spouse turns out to be not like what we want?”
I smiled to hear her say so. She obviously belongs to the type of person who doesn’t easily believe in what people say before she proves it by herself, by undergoing it in her life.
I am of opinion that religions are created by some brainy people to help other people; to help make this world run better. However then in the process, the good teachings have been messed up by selfish people; even the teachings are used to marginalize a group of people. And as we know, unfortunately, many religions are even abused by people to corner women. And some of the teachings are even abused to create a big gap among people so that they hate each other.
Going back to my friend who inspired me to write this article. :) We used to be close with one more friend, she moved to another town to follow her husband four years ago. Among three of us, she was the most innocent and child-like. Her marriage has taught her a lot about the real lesson in this life.
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