Do shkollë apo burrë?/ Do you want an education or a husband?
One of my biggest flaws, but yet a very good biological feature of mine is memory, as it functions when it shouldn’t and it doesn’t when it should. There are many things to remember from when I turned fifteen, such as my birthday gift, starting high school, finishing my first short story and getting tones of positive feedback for it online, but the one that pops up in my mind every time someone mentions the golden times of fifteen years old is: “Do shkollë apo burrë?/ Do you want an education or a husband?”. It is quite a stupid question, isn’t it? It is rather funny as well, but more than that it is painful, especially when asked to a fifteen years old girl.
I have come to realize that when you (are a girl who) live/s in a society where men are perceived as the creators of life, and women as the “decoration” bearers, you get asked stupid, funny, and painful questions all the time starting from the moment your panties get (for the first time) bloody, PERIOD. I have to admit though, I am a little ashamed that it took me about three years to realize I was one step too close to not being educated, and one step too far getting married. Being a natural nerd helped education stay in my life, and being naturally almost lucky helped marriage stay out of my life. The first time I realized that I had no rights in taking decisions regarding my life was in the spring 2012. I had almost finished my first year of high school.
Just turned 15 years old.
Almost had finished the first year of high school.
Feeling: Able to take over the world.
Reality: Unable to control my own life.
Realization: Nothing is as it seems.
One of my biggest flaws, but yet greatest assets is sleep, as it is hard for me to fall asleep, and even harder to wake up. It is a flaw because it makes me constantly late, but it is an asset because it allows me to use night as my muse. However, before going to college, and having tens of alarms to remind me that life is still going on, my parents would wake me up.
My mom has the sweetest way of waking someone up, which can end up being the most terrible method if you fail to appreciate her patience. At first, she will give you the morning kiss, then she will start complimenting and reminding you what a necessity you are to the world, then she will put some music on, then she decides to continue her daily chores while calling you by all of the possible nicknames she can think of, then she uses your full name, then she takes your blanket away, and if you still decline to get up she will pour water at you/ she will turn the vacuum cleaner on and direct it towards you. Most of the times, I would get up after she took my blanket away. Although this process was rather annoying, especially for a full time appreciator of the morning sleep as myself, I could not start my day without it. However, that Saturday of May 2012, started differently, and from that day on, everything would be different.
“Ina, they engaged her!”
I had a best friend who was one year younger than me, let’s call her Jane. I remember when I learned about her engagement. It was a Saturday morning, May 2012, and I was half asleep, waiting for my morning ritual, which never happened. I felt my mom sitting in the bed and I couldn’t help but smile knowing that I would get my morning kiss in a bit, but that never came. “Ina, they engaged her!-I opened my eyes confused,- Jane, she got engaged!” I got up, and almost fell from the bed. My mom’s voice was shaking, and she just hugged me. Her heart was beating so fast, as if she had been running all morning long. Her body was shaking too. I don’t quite remember for how long she hugged me, but I remember that she would hold me tighter and tighter, until I had to force myself out of that hug because I couldn’t breath. She was scared! I was shocked! I just started bumbling that I needed to see Jane. My mom took me by the hand, as if she was protecting me from a dark evil, and we went at Jane’s house. We didn’t even get in. Her mother, her little sister, and Jane herself came out.
One of my biggest flaws, but yet a very nice to have quality is calling people out. It doesn’t matter how much I try, at some point I will just make sure that you realize that what you did is unacceptable, I will make sure you realize that you hurt someone’s feelings, I will make sure you realize that you have no right on someone else’s life. At that time though, I was just at the start of developing such quality. I remember Jane’s mom being happy for having engaged her 14 year old daughter with a seven or eight years older man(boy) from a family of rather good financial income. I remember her little sister happily smiling although she did not entirely understand the seriousness of this matter. I remember Jane trying to smile and look happy, but failing to do so. I remember my mom trying to understand why Jane’s mother had allowed her daughter to get engaged that young, after all that had happened to herself. What was the most terrible thing regarding this awkward conversation was the description Jane’s mother gave regarding the engagement:
“We got a good opportunity, he is a nice young men. His family lives abroad. They have good money. My husband and I discussed, and were so glad about it. I talked to Jane, and she said no at first. I was shocked, I had asked her before “do you want an education or a husband?”, and she had said education, but she is not a good student. I don’t even have money to help her out, so this marriage will be good. When she said no, I asked her: “Why do you say no, is there someone else?” Anyway, as you see there is not, I have an honorable daughter. She will be so happy, and can see the world, her husband will take her everywhere she wants to go.
I remember my mother being outraged, saying that no one can accuse a 14 year old for not wanting to get married, especially after the terrible example she had had in her family. But Jane’s mother would continue with her appreciation of accepting the offer. She even said: “We wanted to find one for you too Ina, we actually have an offer!” My answer was fast and clear: “I want education; I am too young to get a husband.” These simple words made me feel powerful, made Jane’s mother stop bragging, made my mom very proud, but with these simple words I committed my first murder. Those words came out of my mouth into Jane’s heart as a sword of impossibility of choices. I was asked the famous question “Do shkollë apo burrë?/ Do you want an education or a husband?” for the first time, indirectly, at the age of 15, she was asked directly when she was 14. I was asked again and again afterwards, but although my “NO” to husband wasn’t taken for granted it wasn’t turned into a “YES” either, whereas hers was. Jane, had already been murdered by her parents killing her dreams, but in those few minutes I took away her right to stay alive. Her organs were functioning, but she was not breathing. Our eyes met, and hers were filled with pain, but within a couple of minutes they were filled with emptiness.
Many things were promised to Jane after her engagement, from continuing her education to traveling the world, but the only thing she was given, was a new family whose rules to follow.
To be continued…