I find myself at the start …

After years of just coasting through a pretty awful marriage, I realised I was in it for reasons that no longer made any sense at all. Bravery and courage were things I possessed as a child, but the reality was the reliable confines of a ‘compromise’ marriage, however unhappy, were easier to deal with than the uncertainty of the alternative.

Coming from a really conservative Bangladeshi family, I always felt that my parents were trying to bring me up in the 1950s – the one they barely remembered but insisted on using as a template. Yes, England was a wonderful country – a land of opportunities for those who work hard, but integrating was far from their thoughts, and an idea they actually detested. 

I think I came to realise that we were a bit different when I was around 7 years old. We were hands on when eating our wholesome, delicious food, and had the boring stuff with cutlery. Going to school made me realise that a lot of people were only eating the boring stuff. Delicious food really was only at home (apart from the puddings of course – they were great). My mother cooked every day from scratch. School dinners were a revelation, and the curry I innocently asked for at lunch had apples and raisins in it. ‘Erm… Are you sure that’s curry?’ I quizzed the dinner lady. Well, maybe in the late 70s/early 80s to English people it was.

That was the beginning of realising no matter how much I wanted to fit in as a shy and wonky-faced child, I was never going to understand everything that went on outside my house unless I actually made some friendsfriends that weren’t related to me by blood. That didn’t really happen for me till we moved out of Hither Green. 

I guess there are lots of things that happen in life. Much of it is planned but a lot happens by mistake. These mistakes it seem to me are the things that can have interesting repercussions, unfortunately for the worse in my case. 

I remember at school, during a heated debate in a geography lesson, my friend Tracy suddenly looked at me and said, ‘You’re going to be one of those women in dungarees driving a red 2CV to camp at Greenham Common aren’t you?’ I laughed and said ‘Yes Tracy what else would I be? Either that … or Prime Minister? Someone’s got to take a stand against nuclear weapons.’

That was when I thought the world was truly mine – a marvel for me to explore and find myself. All that came crashing down the day I found out my sister was having an arranged marriage. I was 15 and terrified. It didn’t really matter what I wanted to be, what dreams I had for my future or how I wanted to live my life: my parents had very different ideas.


I would appreciate any feedback if this strikes a chord, or if it helps you to understand what your friends may have been going through. 





6. Boys come first

When Derpal and I met to open our A level results together, it was a lovely sunny day in Lesnes Abbey. We sat on the grass, and looked at each other in full knowledge that we were not going to be as happy in the moments that followed. How right we were. We were left wondering how we were going to tell our parents that we weren’t going to university that year. It wasn’t surprising  I hadn’t done as well as I’d hoped, as without the routine of school it was definitely harder to organise myself into doing enough homework, let alone wider reading. I’d lost motivation since my sister’s arranged marriage and had enjoyed sixth form because of the new friends that I’d made.

Derpal had parents who really wanted her to do well, and despite their initial response, she told me they had found a private college, which at a cost of £1000 a subject, could take you from a C or a D to an A. I thought about it, and £3000 was a lot of money. Then I thought my parents had money, afterall they had considered a private school for my brother and he was only 9. If they could consider fees of £2500 a term for him then surely they would consider this as a way to help me get into a good university. How wrong I was.

Over the next week or so there was a lot of disappointment hanging around the house. I was being talked about in dismissive terms and I felt really bad. I finally had the courage to bring up the topic, and asked my parents for money – something I was not used to doing at all. Money for sweets was easy, money for comics even easier (because they had educational value as there were words to read). This was different, I wasn’t talking 50p.

‘Derpal is going to a private tutorial college in London. The fees are £1000 per subject but you are pretty much guaranteed an A at the end of the year because they make you work really hard and give you tests every week to make sure you are learning everything you need. Can I go as well please so that I can do pharmacy?’

I waited for their response which was damp, frosty and uninterested. ‘That’s too much, can’t you find a college that’s free to resit them? It seems you kids are quite stupid and have to keep trying to do better. Look at your sister when she tried resitting. That’s all she ever did, and she didn’t get better grades.’ In my head I was thinking, ‘Hmmm, it’s not like either of you even finished school that we were going to inherit a big academic brain.’ I thought about all the books I’d read to widen my vocabulary. My parents only spoke Bengali and there was no-one to learn English words from. I had to read – and that’s why I often mispronounced words folks – because that was my only source. Funny what you think about when someone calls you stupid.

‘She didn’t go to a private tutorial college. This is quite intense because they set a lot of work…’ I could feel that they weren’t really interested and I wasn’t sure why they were not being a little supportive at least, well until the next thing that they said.

‘We want your brother to go to private school, and not have to compete for a place. We won’t be able to afford his fees and yours.’

‘But he’s 9, I’m talking about A levels to get into university.’

‘Yes, but there’s no guarantee you’ll do any better next year. He needs to go to a good school.

‘He’s 9, he could still go next year when he’s 10 and he would still get in before most other boys who start at 11. It’s a private school, they let virtually everyone in if you can pay the fees.’

‘He’ll still have to do a test and the competition for places will get worse every year.’

‘What about if he starts mid year? The first term’s fees would pay for my course. Hardly anyone starts a private school when they’re 9, if you kept him at his normal school, then I could go to the tutorial college, then he could start next year.’ But they weren’t at all interested in a way I hadn’t seen before. The conversation was being shut down. Then it dawned on me slowly, he was a boy. He had to go to a private school because he was a boy and I might be only a year off from university, but their son needed a private education to guarantee his place at university. To guarantee his place among the privately educated sons in our community, unlike his three sisters who were sent to the worst comprehensive girls school for miles. (I say that as their ambitions for their pupils was a secretarial course. I had to beg to do three sciences, and was the only girl in the school who did them.) I was really shocked, and then upset and angry. I realised what little worth I had to my parents. I wasn’t worth investing in, and certainly not at the expense of their precious son. My dad was obsessed with it. A man to carry on the name and honour of the family, and of course, most likely to marry a girl they picked who would look after them in their old age.

I kept thinking I had never asked them for money before. And I realised at that moment I would never ask them for money again. And I didn’t.

5. Met any Smarties?

My early years were spent in Hither Green which much like it is now, was a multicultural melting pot. My neighbours on one side were English and on the other side were West Indian. Most of the other children on our street were English, but at school it was very mixed.

I didn’t make friends easily and my shyness was definitely a barrier as well as my low self confidence. My best friend for a number of years was the playground lady whose hand I’d hold while watching other children playing. My sister had lots of friends and would try to get other children to play with me by offering sweets. Sometimes it worked – sometimes they just took the sweets.

One day over breakfast my older sister asked me ‘How many coloured people have you got in your class?’ I said none, and she gave me a double take. ‘What?!! Are you sure?’ She didn’t believe me.

‘Yes, I’m sure, why have you got any coloured people in your class?’ I asked expecting to hear her say no. Instead she replied, ‘Loads, virtually everyone.’

‘You’re soooooo lucky! You lucky thing! Have you got any orange people?’ My mind was full of a class of real life Smarties. How on earth had I missed them in the playground? Maybe they would like me?

‘No you idiot! Not coloured people like that. Coloured as in black.’ I was really disappointed that I wasn’t going to meet any orange or green people after all. I thought about my class and for the first time thought about them as different colours instead of just being children. ‘I have got people in my class who are Jamaican, and Indian, yes.’ But it was too late, she was laughing her head off. But I still think it was nice that I had never looked at any of my classmates like that.

4. Dodging bullets

One thing I remember really clearly from my twenties is the very unsubtle way my parents went about getting suitors to meet me.

I had asked my dad about why parents never told their daughters they were being set up and my dad’s response was, ‘It might hurt her feelings if she’s rejected.’  In my head I thought, ‘That’s not f****** likely’. I am pretty sure most girls would survive being rejected by a man sporting a side parting and polyester flares. The 70s afterall had been and gone. Like two decades ago.

I came home from university one night, tired and fed up. My mum said to be ready in the morning for guests. I totally ignored her thinking she meant someone from the aunty brigade was coming to see her, and she wanted me to serve tea and samosas and be the dutiful daughter now that I was the oldest child at home.

However, the next day I had not really made much of an effort and was slobbing about in skinny jeans and a jumper. Now, ‘not much of an effort’ for me at age 20, was nowhere near as bad as me at age 11. No-one was going to mistake me for a boy. I had a bit of make up on and my hair looked pretty nice, but nothing special. A knock on the door around 4pm got my parents really buzzing, in a way I hadn’t expected. I was told to go upstairs and change, and as I made my way up to the landing I caught sight of an elegant looking woman in a sophisticated sari followed by a well dressed man, who judging by his face, was her son. I didn’t recognise either of them.

‘Oh, so now we begin. I wondered how long it was going to be.’  I was fuming with anger that my parents had set me up without telling me, in case my feelings were hurt… my arse. Well the man who had come in looked like a ‘square’. Totally not my type, boring as hell, not revolting but certainly someone I wouldn’t notice unless he had an invite to my house and I had to sit in front of him and he had a sign on his head that read, ‘Look at me’. Judging from the fact he’d actually arrived with his mother to meet me just made it worse. ‘So let me see…’, I thought.

Taking out the oldest, most crumpled up and badly cut kameez I owned, a reject from Bangladesh stuffed in the back of a drawer, I thought, ‘Aaaaah, I knew this would come in handy one day’, and I set about getting ready.

I took off all trace of make up and replaced it with a thin film of Vaseline all over my face, except my lips, and then put a comb through all the hairspray and gel so my hair fell flat and looked a tad greasy, as my fingers still had Vaseline on them, never mind. I then gave myself a middle parting, clipped my fringe with kirby grips and braided two very ugly plaits which hung in front of me like bits of old rope. My master finishing touch was using those bobble hairbands you love when you’re about six years old because they look like pink gobstoppers. I took off my nail varnish and clipped my fingernails really short.

Looking at my reflection, I couldn’t help but wince at the memory of the Monkey-faced girl who seemed to flash in front of me for a moment.

The man had looked quite tall, towering behind his mother, which for a Bangladeshi is a big plus. So I opted for the flattest shoes I had in my room, just in case I seemed a reasonable height in heels, and went downstairs.

‘Hello,’ I smiled with an expression of dull stupidity, long enough to clock the aghast expressions on my parents’ faces as they exchanged astonished looks. Contorted, my mum asked me to make some tea.

I’m pretty sure the man had been told I was quite pretty, and he searched for any signs of that, poor thing. Strike one.

I went to the kitchen where my mum had already prepared all sorts of delightful snacks. Clearly she had hoped I would serve our guests, like I was in a Bollywood film, and let them assume I had made everything myself. So I called from the kitchen to ask if I should bring the things she had made on the counter. Strike two.

After bringing the food and tea in on a tray, I left the dining room and sat at the kitchen table. The man asked me to come back in and I said I was fine where I was, busy doing things in the kitchen, you know, wiping the table. He took this correctly to mean I was not vaguely interested in him, and soon after awkward smalltalk, they both left. Strike three.

‘Why did you wear that?’ my mum hissed at me. ‘I don’t know, you said to change and I couldn’t find anything.’ Her eyes narrowed, ‘And what did you do to your hair?’ I smiled, ‘Don’t you like it?’. My brother and sister saw the joke but didn’t say anything. It was all unspoken. I went back upstairs to my room and took out the plaits. And laughed. For ages.

3. And the Bounty Bar Kid is born

The loss of my sister to an arranged marriage left a massive hole in my life. It was like a bereavement. I was still sleeping in the room we shared from childhood and I would lie awake looking at her empty bed and weep. How was she coping with grown up life when we hadn’t even been allowed to go out to a single party with our friends in the evening? Music was my only solace. Post-punk suited my sadness and feeling confused and unwanted.

The effect on my education was detrimental, as I couldn’t see the point. I had worked hard at school to please my parents, particularly my dad, and now it all seemed so pointless. He used to talk about losing his father at thirteen and how hard his life had been growing up. Despite having seven older siblings, he felt neglected and dropped out of school. Our education was really important to him because he had suffered so much, and therein is where the build up of him sacrificing so much to give us a decent life began. We owed him, big time.

At sixteen I barely revised for my exams and passed with unimpressive grades. This was a shock to my parents who had assumed I’d be getting nine As. They didn’t connect the two events – my sister’s arranged marriage and me being terrified it was going to happen to me – as they really didn’t consider me to have any humanity, to be capable of feeling my own pain. They just held onto the view with a dogged determination that their children were their possessions and must do as they were told.

My dad would get so furious about the phrase ‘it’s my life’ that I would be too scared to ever use it. His friend’s daughter had refused to do as her father had ordered and had replied with ‘but it’s my life’ and he had been told the story. He berated her and condemned her for disobeying her father. He pointed out clearly that she would have had no life at all without her father, and that he hadn’t got a British passport to raise such an insolent girl. Now I realise that what he meant is that she didn’t have the right to decide anything for herself. None of us did.

One thing my parents hadn’t actually considered was how much they would miss my sister. This is something they now experience with me. They don’t think things through. Instead when they have a ‘problem’ that they are so obssessed with, they hatch a treacherous plan and justify their actions to each other. Then once they succeed, they regret it at length but can never admit it was a mistake. So after three years of despairing that my sister was so dark and stupid they would never get her married off, they now realised it was quite nice having her around. Particularly as she was much more domesticated than I was. She would take them breakfast in bed so they could lie in till noon on Saturdays and she’d start on the housework unasked, and they missed that because I certainly wasn’t doing that without being nagged. Instead of thinking about why they felt so sad, they went out and bought a video cassette recorder and about fifty bootleg video tapes of Bangladeshi tear-jerkers from the 1960s and binged on these together during the late evenings when their children had gone to bed. This coping mechanism – watching other people’s misery – seemed to help them over their own loss of a perfectly lovely child who was now wearing saris and cooking dinner for a husband she hardly knew on the other side of the world.

I felt very lonely, particularly starting sixth form college because I couldn’t talk to anyone about it. No-one would understand and I was in truth embarrassed about what kind of family new friends would think I was from. I started ‘A’ levels in sciences, because that was what I was expected to do. One of the best things that happened there was meeting Derpal. She was second generation Sikh and had the same taste in music as me, which was not mainstream so really unusual. We bonded instantly over our mutual love of David Bowie, and were able to talk to each other about all the invisible pressures that were on us. Her parents were pretty strict too, so we found a lot of comfort in each other. But what was really great was that we had been accepted into the fold of the really cool kids. That was pretty unexpected!

My parents could sense a change in me. I had started to dress in more and more black and came home one day with my ideal haircut. Cut very close at the sides, gelled up spikey on top and long at the back. This was a far cry from the regular haircuts I had at school. They didn’t like it one bit! That with the multiple buckled boots, my new ear piercings all the way up to the top and heavy black eyeliner sort of reflected my dark mood. I would sit in my room listening to David Bowie, the Cure and the Smiths and hardly converse with them. This is of course quite normal teenage behaviour but they were not accustomed to it as my sister had been so passive. One day when I was late for college, my dad offered me a lift. He didn’t like what I was wearing and we got into a tense conversation. As he dropped me off he looked at me and said something to shake me up. ‘You can pretend all you want to be white. But know this, you will always be a black bastard to them. You think you have all these new friends, but that’s what they really think of you. You will never be one of them, you’re not white – you will always be a black bastard’.

I felt confused because I realised growing up almost every friend I had was white. Maybe I had forgotten that I wasn’t too? I got out of the car, my eyes stinging, and thought to myself, ‘My friends don’t think I’m a black bastard. They would never think that – they like me for who I am, they don’t see any colour’. But it was enough to upset me and remind me that I was different and maybe he was right and I would never fit in anywhere because I was brown on the outside but felt white on the inside, and there wasn’t much I could do about it.

Looking back over the past forty years or so, the only person to ever call me a black bastard was my dad.


To my lovely readers: If this is painful to read I recommend looking at short Chapter 4. Dodging bullets to put a smile on your face again.




2. Braces and bridegrooms

Something most of my friends don’t know about me is that when I was growing up, I had a wonky face. Well not that wonky. I had an overbite, so my lower jaw protruded and until I realised I couldn’t bite an apple with my front teeth like my sister, I hadn’t really noticed. I only started feeling bad about it when I’d walk into the endless discussions my parents had in the kitchen about being burdened with daughters. These were not quiet chats to protect our feelings, but rather animated ones which voiced their frustration and impatience at having three daughters. I wasn’t the only worry they had as my older sister would have problems being married off too because according to them she was the wrong shade of brown and not very clever.

There was a set formula to life for a Bangladeshi girl. Girls had to be pretty, light-skinned, obedient and educated. My parents were worried because my older sister didn’t look like she would succeed academically, and was what Bengali people described literally as ‘dirty’ as she was dark-skinned. She was self conscious of being dark all her life as relatives loved to point it out in case my parents had missed it, but she concentrated on the being obedient to perfection.

I only realised education was important for reasons other than learning when my sister’s marriage was arranged when she was 19 years old. She had struggled through school and was resitting her ‘A’ levels because she had failed the first time and hadn’t gained a place at university. Dad was so sharp – he ensured that her wedding date was set before any university course started, giving the illusion she had applied and simply opted to get married rather than start her degree course. She was then shipped off to an Arab state to start a life with a husband she only knew through letter writing. The sad thing was she really wanted to go to university, but the lack of support (and I don’t mean financial, because those were the days of student grants and no tuition fees) meant that was a dream never to be fulfilled.

I on the other hand was light-skinned, fairly academic, disobedient, but had a much more pressing problem which couldn’t be fixed by beating. By all accounts I was positively deformed. My dad would tell me how people called me ‘Monkeyface’ behind my back because of my jaw. It felt terrible, I was only 9 years old and of course I believed him. I felt that I had let him down somehow, because my sisters were ‘normal’. He would proudly boast to relatives how my sisters looked like him and then pause and say I didn’t look like either of my parents really. That made me really sad, like I didn’t belong, and that compounded the feeling of not belonging as I had different ideas of what I wanted to do which made me feel different already. He used to joke he found me at the hospital, apparently a nurse had sold me for a few pence because my mother had left me. Hilarious. Of course now I wish it was true, I’d be out there looking for her.

I was 10 years old when my dentist said there was a new brace being developed at Guy’s Hospital which would negate the need for surgery on my jaw, and my parents were thrilled. At last a cure to fix their ugly monkey-faced daughter. I accepted it pretty easily as I had no idea I was going to have an operation in the first place. Although I was about to start secondary school with a mouthful of plastic and wires, the friends I made never mentioned my brace, and probably for the first time I experienced real compassion. I was accepted for who I was, not what I looked like or what they could gain from me. They were just happy to be friends and to know me.

When you grow up thinking you’re ugly (and with a mother who never told me once that I was pretty when I was growing up) you really don’t expect to ever change. Luckily for me my brace worked, and after five long years, I was left with a somewhat dazzling smile, if I say so myself  🙂

Unfortunately this success was clouded with the news that the man who came to visit recently was the bridegroom my parents had chosen for my sister. He was an engineer, a graduate from Imperial, and had a job abroad – he was literally gold dust, especially as he wanted to get married soon and a completed degree didn’t matter to him. Hmmm, I wonder why – could it have been that a young, obedient daughter would make an equally young, obedient wife in a new country where she had no friends or family?

I was devastated because at the time I shared a room with my sister, and I knew all her hopes and dreams. He was in no way someone she would think was attractive, because to me all I could see was a short, fat man with a balding head and a ‘Magnum-style moustache’. I was stunned, and I knew my sister was deeply unhappy that my parents had been talking of marrying her off since she was 16 years old, when all she wanted was a chance to study. She wasn’t ready for marriage. And now this bombshell. An arranged marriage in my own home, not Loughborough. The reasonable security I had felt growing up suddenly fell apart, and I realised with dread that it was going to happen to me one day.

I was afraid to talk to my mother, but for my sister’s sake I cautiously went to her bedroom, and mustering all the courage I had, confronted her for the first time, ‘You cant do this, he’s so old, and unattractive. He lives abroad and I’ll never see her again.’ My mum looked at me coldly, and said something I’ll never forget. ‘This is none of your business. Don’t you ever talk about things that don’t concern you.’

None of my business? My sister was my best friend and confidante. We spent hours together every day. Suddenly she wasn’t my business. Panic took over my heart. My exams were coming up and I felt betrayed. What was the point of studying if the result was a future that you had virtually no say in? Suddenly all my years of working hard at school seemed ridiculous. It was as if we were being groomed to be sold to the man with the best credentials. It didn’t matter what sort of person he was. It didn’t matter what he looked like – it seemed a cruel irony that the women I knew in my family were all so beautiful, and their husbands were very much the complete opposite. Arranged marriages really worked in favour of the men, because none of them would have been able to attract such beautiful women if they had had to find a wife themselves. So of course men, particularly those with no charm or wit or good looks, support a system that guarantees a beautiful girl to have sex with without even having to try to win her over.

When her ‘A’ level results arrived, two weeks before the set wedding date, she sighed sadly, ‘I wouldn’t have got in to university, Dad was right. I am okay with this you know.’ I looked at her and she had tears in her eyes, and I said, ‘If you’re so okay with it then how come you haven’t told any of your friends, not a single one, that you’re getting married?’

Two weeks later, sure enough, aged 20, dressed in a red sari and wearing more make up then either of us had ever seen, she had a wedding in a community centre and then disappeared three weeks later like she never mattered in the first place.

To my lovely readers: If this is painful to read I recommend looking at short Chapter 4. Dodging bullets to put a smile on your face again.

1. ‘What’s it like having an arranged marriage?’

‘What’s it like having an arranged marriage? How would I know, I’m 12?’ The question caused a considerable amount of discomfort though and being one of only two Asian girls in the class, and being the sane one of the two, it was even harder as no-one was going to ask Gita. Gita was crazy mad, and in a girls school was always looking for trouble. She was also the funniest girl in our class. I think this had resulted because she was what could happen to a middle child when the older sister is effortlessly academic. I, on the other hand, am what happens when the older sister is traditionally quiet and always follows the rules. You couldn’t really get two more different types of Asian girl in a class, so solidarity wasn’t even an option. We just never talked about anything deep. Maybe because it was a scary truth that crossed between religions. Gita was a Punjabi Sikh, and I was a Bangladeshi Muslim, we belonged to two religions that famously didn’t get on. In the same way Sharks and Jets didn’t get on, not in the crazy way that’s happening now.

I suppose I had this dreaded idea of arranged marriages, and had witnessed plenty as a young child. My extended family was huge and weddings seemed to happen frequently every summer. Lugburra was a place in England that was steeped in these rich traditions of weeping brides in too much make up. (I later found out that this exotic place I wrote about in my summer diary was actually Loughborough, and was simply mispronounced by a generation of Bengalis). Brides there always looked really young, helpless and crying their hearts out. I asked my mum why they were so upset and she gave me a cursory look as if to say, ‘We are not going to talk about this now’. In fact what that look meant was ‘We are never going to speak about this again.’

I didn’t actually realise that these poor girls were actually getting married under duress, emotional blackmail, guilt, who knows what you can call it – perhaps ‘forced’ is the actual word. A harsh word for a harsh truth. A lot of this crying and weeping had nothing to do with leaving your beloved parents, which was the explanation given by my older cousins, but the fear that you were about to start a life with a complete stranger and no one had even explained anything to you about sex, but you knew that it be happening later that day.

When I was about 7 years old, I asked my sister about these weddings, and she said it was a tradition to marry someone you don’t know, something that happened and it was just a fact of life. I said ‘I wish we had a brother, I could have married him’. She laughed at me and said ‘You couldn’t marry your brother even if we had one. It has to be someone your parents choose.’

That really didn’t sit well with me, even at 7 years old I knew there was something really off about it. As I grew up I realised my parents didn’t really know me. The thing about being one of three sisters is that you get labelled pretty quickly. I think my parents were scared that I was the one who wasn’t fitting in with their 1950’s ideals. Sure I was bright, hence labelled the ‘brainy’ one, but I was equally naughty and no amount of beating seemed to get me to stop wanting to do things I wasn’t meant to do. I found that being a Tomboy was a pretty good option for me. My dad, who’s approval I craved, was desperate for a son. I felt bad that I was a disappointment as my parents had lost another daughter before me to birth complications. I felt sorry I couldn’t make him happy by being me, so I tried to be someone else. All that did really was make me realise how easy boys have it in our culture. They could ride their bikes all day and no one minds. They don’t have to clean up or tidy their rooms, and those were certainly things I wanted to avoid. Domestic chores seemed so boring, because they are! I think they tolerated the bike riding until I was 11, and my general disregard for my appearance which continued way after that, because I would come home and spend hours playing with my Pippa and Sindy dolls as if they were my children. That, I suppose, made me less of a Tomboy. I never told my friends I loved dolls because it seemed so out of character. What it was I guess is the realisation of male privilege and just wanting to be able to have some of that.

It takes a long time to process what happens when you’re a child, especially being brought up in a framework that does not allow for any real individuality. The fear being you might grow up and make your own choices one day. That really was the problem, but as a 12 year old you don’t quite see it that way. You just assume that your parents are trying to protect you and have your best interests at heart. No-one explains what ulterior motives are, and how decisions are made to groom you into a perfect bride.