Armenian women buck tradition, embrace solo life

By Lusine Voskanyan


Photos by Avetis Avetisyan 

When journalist Angela Poghosyan (25) decided to rent an apartment in capital Yerevan, her hometown, she expected some challenges: rent, bad neighbors, a guilt trip from her
relatives.

She did not expect, however, “morality” questions from her landlord.


Poghosyan knew even as a child that she wanted to live alone. She started looking for an apartment right after she graduated from university.


“When I'm looking for a home, I find 10-20 ads a day and call them. I have to answer to all the owners. ‘Why do I live alone? Where are my parents from? How do I earn money? Whom am I going to bring home?’” she says.

“Once I told them that my parents are abroad to avoid all these questions. It didn’t work, because they started to ask why they left and if they sent me money.”

At one apartment, the landlord called to find out why Poghosyan was not home at midnight. She immediately started looking for a new place.


She has had to overcome many adventures during her quest for a room of her own, including a collapsed roof and overly inquisitive landlords.

“When I try to generalize everyone's attitude, I feel that women are not perceived as an individual in our society. They look at you as if you are a helpless child,” notes Poghosyan.

She has had to overcome many adventures during her quest for a room of her own, including a collapsed roof and overly inquisitive landlords.

“When I try to generalize everyone's attitude, I feel that women are not perceived as an individual in our society. They look at you as if you are a helpless child,” notes Poghosyan.


While there are no official statistics on the number of Armenian women living on their own, the trend is relatively new. Traditionally, Armenians live with their parents until they marry and, in some cases, even after they marry. A  2016 study of 1200 Armenian youth across the country found that the majority,  72 percent, had lived with their parents in the last year. Only 2.2 percent lived alone.

In addition, the study found that only 15.8 percent of youth want to live alone if the opportunity arises. But slowly, traditions are changing.

Anecdotal evidence shows that  an increased number of young women are moving out of their parents houses. But they face serious challenges, both at home and in society, to find a room of their own.

Aida Marukyan, an expert from the Women's Resource Center in Yerevan, agreed that young Armenian women “have changed their attitude toward their lives.”

“The number of women who make their own decisions about their lives is growing. They choose freedom, and by freedom I mean the right to be in charge of their lives. We have a generation of teenage girls who are more confident, who do not accept others making decisions for them,” she says. 

Marukyan underscores, however, that these changes are happening in the younger generations, girls who are coming of age now. The cultural shift has not moved to older generations yet. 

 “The decision to move out and have an independent life means going against generally accepted norms. Often landlords are reluctant to rent apartments to girls who are not students moving from a province to Yerevan after entering a university,” she says.

Poghosyan ran into that challenge, as did Tatev Vardapetyan, 27, a marketing specialist in Yerevan.


"Unless you get married, you are doomed to be the baby of the family forever. And I didn't want that role for me," Vardapetyan says.


Vardapetyan recalls that after she found an apartment she liked, she was afraid that the landlords would not rent it to her because she knew there was a general perception that if a girl wants to live alone, it means that she humiliated her family and had to leave.

Eventually, however, they decided to allow her to rent the apartment.


Vardapetyan says she realized she wanted to "have her own key." "To open and close the door whenever I want to. Just to have the opportunity to choose. I realized that it was high time to leave," she says.


“When I try to generalize everyone's attitude, I feel that women are not perceived as an individual in our society. They look at you as if you are a helpless child,” notes Poghosyan.

“You feel it when you have to interact with a landlord, a plumber, a gas inspector. Either there must be a man beside you or your parents: you do not exist. Where is the one who is supposed to stand by you? They always ask me this question and I am always shocked by it because it doesn’t match my perception of myself.”


Vardapetyan notes that after leading an independent life for several months, her relationship with her family has become more friendly.


Gender expert Marukyan notes that “due to the cultural characteristics of the region, it is very difficult for a girl to be accepted as an individual by society.”

“A woman is viewed as somebody’s daughter, wife, mother.”

But living with family as an adult can stunt personal growth,  Vardapetyan found. At some point, she realized that she had become two different people. At work, she was an adult, solving problems and managing conflicts. At her parents’ house, though, she was still a kid.

“Unless you get married, you are doomed to be the baby of the family forever. And I didn't want that role for me,” she says.

''A person has the right and the need to have their own space, and at some age, they should be away from their parents. I was ashamed that at the age of 27 I was not self-sufficient in terms of running a household.”

After she realized she was stuck in a childhood role, Vardapetyan says she decided it was time to move out. Despite their initial worries, her parents are proud of the fact that she was able to rent an apartment on her own and can afford to live alone.

“Living alone provides endless opportunities. I started to get to know myself better. I have discovered traits in myself that I had no idea existed. My wings are wide open, it's such a wonderful feeling,” she says.


Simonyan believes that if a person wants to live and know herself, she should start to live alone.


Poet Hasmik Simonyan believes women need to experience life on their own to understand their gender and learn how to face problems.


“Landlords try to find out if there is anyone in my life. If there is, they prefer to discuss the details of the contract with him," Simonyan says.


Simonyan,32, has been living on her own in Yerevan for many years. She recalls landladies in the past—usually divorced or the spouse of a long-departed migrant worker—giving her heartfelt advice on creating a family.

But the poet says that only by living alone can a woman realize that she is the only one responsible for her dreams and have the courage to move forward.


Simonyan recalls that one landlady told her to get rid of her cat because it was bad luck. In response, Simonyan got another cat.


“You will take care of your body, you will not feel sorry for yourself because you will become strong—you will not even need to complain in your diary. You will learn to love all your problems, but slowly, as a poem is written slowly. "

edition

Protest

DONATION

top