How about an Arab spring for marriage?
You’re at a wedding standing as far away possible from the horde of happy-wedding-goers, hands in your pockets, avoiding all eye contact in the hope that people will sense the invisible ‘do not disturb’ sign floating above your head.
And while looking at endless nothings, you hear the first of many “3o2 baal farahak ya habibi” (to the non-Arabs, a drawn out blessing for your own wedding). To which you so casually reply, “No way! I’m happy the way I am! I’m not ready for that kind of commitment!” Playin’ it cool. (Breathe)
Then, as your aunt stands before you, a quizzical expression on her face, you look for the exit and run.
You see, deflection has and always will be a long-standing tradition for men. It’s our attempt at self-preservation; an endless reassurance that neither our personalities nor physical appearance carry the defects of a typical hotted-up car. We find refuge in upholding a constant state of denial, believing that we can avoid the standard awkwardness that accompanies the courting process. However, we cannot accept full responsibility for our delusions.
Parents, especially ‘imported’ parents, aren’t very open with the issues that are attached to marriage. I still remember awkward conversations with my father about the importance of finding a suitable partner one day. And while his eyes never left me, I could only scratch my neck and look at the floor – or, every so often, to my mother – for some sort of comfort.
The biggest issue for me was that my father never openly discussed what marriage actually entailed. He did, however, constantly refer to it when he lectured me about coming home late and how that’s something my (non-existent) wife will not tolerate.
This is the essence of the problem. There is a lack of discussion about marriage. About what happens after the wedding, the personality clashes, how different your partner will be once you live under the same roof, why she cooked your eggs sunny-side-up when you like them scrambled, why your shirts weren’t ironed, why she says ‘shoi’, not ‘shay’ when talking about tea (God forbid she’s a coffee drinker!), or why she wants to visit her parents and not yours.
As trivial as these things may seem, it’s crucial for both parties to understand their differences and establish some common ground. Only then can they adjust their lifestyles – and sometimes their personalities – to be able to live a healthy and successful life together. Naturally, these are things they will learn about each other as they grow together, but some preparation on these matters can only benefit – and if that isn’t what people mean by ‘preparing for marriage’ then I’m still very confused.
When I was younger, I thought it was normal not to discuss marriage. My family made me feel as though it is something to shy away from, and that we just let life take its course. As much as I’d like to, I am by no means shifting the blame onto my father because it’s most certainly something that he experienced as well. I’d like to think that this isn’t a vicious life cycle that dates back centuries, but this notion is so deeply rooted within us it definitely would have taken some time to form.
Sometimes, I find myself wanting a love like an extract from Romeo and Juliet, minus the Montague – Capulet family feuds – or from The Notebook, without Allie forgetting who I was (but definitely including us dying in each other’s arms). But to speak of such ill thoughts would bring nothing but shame, because for men marriage is taboo. We have a (permanent) self-imposed resistance to this topic, which is very surprising given that almost all the men I know find no problem associating with the opposite sex, be it at university, work or, most convenient of all, on Facebook.
So today I am hoping for change; hoping that one day (InshaAllah) my offspring will be able to discuss these issues with me and ask me about what happens on the wedding night, or why she calls tea shoi, or why his clothes aren’t ironed for work, or why she insists on going to her parents’ house, when (God forbid) her mother is over every second of every day. I’d like to think that at some point in my children’s lives I will become their friend and not their father, because only on that level will we be able to foster this notion of openness, in hopes of encouraging them to ask questions regarding their future married life.
But this issue does go beyond our parents. Marriage has never been something that most ‘boys’ talk about, as if there exists some sort of unspoken agreement within each circle of friends. The above notion does not apply to all ‘boys’; there are a few who have no problem discussing and even arranging marriages. And although I am not yet married, I find no problem in talking or sometimes even dreaming about my future partner and how it will all go down – I’m still trying to figure out if it’ll be done on one bended knee, or rescuing my damsel in distress (who said chivalry is dead?).
It isn’t the case that men simply don’t want to get married. It’s more that we are afraid of the possibility of outright rejection, and in all honesty, that does scare us. Having every family member try the whole ‘ArabMatchmaker.com’ on me in hopes that they will liberate me from the allegedly cursed bachelor life I live doesn’t help either; but that is another issue for another time.
It is no coincidence that while writing this, Om Kalthoum’s words of love, loss and heartache echo around me. And while it leaves me feeling quite melancholy, I am definitely not crying because that would mean I’m emotionally unstable and would probably be one of the (many) reason(s) why I am still single.
Oh how fickle is the heart! But I have faith.
The truth is that every man dreams of kissing his Snow White, taking his Cinderella to the ball, or spending an eternity with Rapunzel in a Castle guarded by a dragon.
And they say a boy can dream, right?
Live in Sydney, Australia and want to get married?
The “M” Word is a Mission of Hope initiative that provides an avenue to address this difficulty of finding the right marriage partner.
The “M” Word facilitates the meeting of Muslim brothers and sisters in a safe, halal, and supervised environment for the purposes of marriage. This is a unique concept and the first of it’s kind to be introduced to the Australian Muslim community.
Registrations are now open for the first workshop! Deadline is 9 September 2012.
For more info, go to https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-M-Word-Muslims-Meeting-Muslims