So here I am, a 25-year-old woman happily working, studying and keeping occupied with various community projects and, wait for it… single! Gasp!
For those of you who don’t know this already (as if!), there’s the unspoken “use by date” for women in our community – it’s the creepy old age of 25. I sensed my parents slowly going into desperation mode as my 25th birthday loomed near. What people don’t know is that I’ve been mentally preparing myself since the age of 19.
I didn’t want to do the overseas thing, but the majority of guys who were raised here in Australia and were okay with drinking and clubbing, and had always looked down on me for being ‘uncool’ would now run to ‘the good girl’ for their first pick when it is time to “settle down”. Hmm.
I’ve done the get to know the guy through door knocking and had the meetings with the awkward silences, the meet someone at uni., the guy who seems ideal over the Internet. Everyone wants someone who’s spiritual and knows the deen, the type likely to be a religious gatherings, but almost every religious gathering has a visible or invisible barrier down the middle of the room.
Naturally, I blame Disney and Jane Austen for projecting images and creating expectations of the PERFECT proud-yet-sensitive-sharp jawline-athletic-build-but-not-too-bulky-soft-spoken-but-has-that-deep-firm-voice-that-makes-women-go-oh-em-gee. Sometimes I wish I could warp back into the 19th century in a beautiful gown and wide brimmed hat to fight for my freedom to choose marriage for love and not convenience! Guys I’ve probably lost you here. Girls, you know what I mean – the perfect Jane Austen days! But wait – Jane Austen never married herself. Pause.
The point is, at the risk of sounding promiscuous, I’ve tried it all. Maybe I am too picky. By now I’ve become the unmarried babysitter of the family who is certain she could be an awesome mother herselfself.
But getting there is the hard part. Picking up the phone now:
“OK Aunty is X from Y still available? I know he doesn’t work but I do. I can earn enough for both of us. I really should just get married.”
“I know he’s got a temper but I’m sure I can change him after we get married”.
“I know there’s no chemistry but the guy can make me a mother and I really want kids!”
“I know he cheated on his first wife, but if he marries me I can make sure he doesn’t do that”.
Errr… what? When did it get to this point of having to compromise myself? To marry for the sake of getting married? Why, for the sake of avoiding being shunned from the community for being somewhat half a woman because I haven’t completed “half my deen”?
While those questions where still swirling in my head, one day an email pops up in my inbox. “The M Word – Muslims meeting Muslims”. I thought, “Oh here we go- another segregated Muslim event.” The email continued, “Initiated by Mission of Hope”. Now hang on, I’ve been to their events – trivia night fundraisers, JAAN panel events, Ramadan iftars for refugees in Villawood… no, not segregated. OK. Keep reading. “Facilitated discussion”… interesting… “Selection Criteria overviewed by a team of psychologists and a cop who’s been dealing with the result of the breakdown of marriages” Hmm. Endorsed by local sheikhs… Ok. Convinced. Reply. Sent.
A $50 deposit and one rigorous questionnaire later I start thinking. Am I desperate for doing this? It’s like I can’t get a guy from any other method – oh wait. I can’t. What do I have to lose really?
So the day finally comes. I remember walking into the room feeling nervous and embarrassed for turning up. I hope I don’t look desperate. I remind myself that everyone here is probably feeling the exact same thing. I convinced myself that all the participants that night came with pure intentions to find the prospective spouse they could share the rest of their lives with, Insha Allah.
I am a professional who’s used to group meetings at work, and a student who’s used to group tutorial settings – this shouldn’t be that different? A repetition of my mantra, “You are confident. You are a beautiful person inside. You have flaws and it’s okay. Be yourself.” OK we’re in Zen mode. Let’s roll. Bismillah.
On my table – a lawyer, an engineer, a speech pathologist, pharmacists… Masha Allah. An impressive quality of participants not only on my table, but the rest of the room. A few light hearted icebreakers to start with and very intense discussions facilitated by professionals ensued.
Senior Constable Danny Mikati was the facilitator on my table. Having to deal with years of domestic violence and facing cases of oppressed women in marriage on a daily basis, his thought provoking questions really hit home. I soon learnt many things about men in general, real life marriage situations, and practical problem solving methods in this workshop. Tables were shuffled to allow people to meet others in the room. I had an absolutely amazing time.
Even if I don’t find someone through this initiative, I’ve been exposed to an informational in depth pre-marriage workshop. It’s no wonder pre-marriage workshops and courses such as these are compulsory in Malaysia so men and women know their rights and responsibilities before they delve into marriage. It gives people who believe true love conquers all that little reality check – A successful marriage is hard work and a lot of patience.
So here’s what I’ve taken home with me from the workshop – a lot of self reflecting and learning. I’ve decided not to give in to the pressures of society and de-value myself. I’ve studied and travelled. I’ve made mistakes and regretted them. Time may be slipping away from my fingers but I will try my best to let it slip with purpose. I LIVED and developed into a strong, confident, loving young woman just realizing that there’s no ONE place I want to be in the world or ONE thing I want to do.
And you know what? Why should I settle for the sake of settling? It turns out there are MANY mature minded, articulate, educated, honest and brave men who are emotionally stable, have a sense of humour, and will look you in the eye when talking with a huge amount of respect. Men who have thought about and are willing to learn more on becoming better men, fathers and husbands. And most importantly, men who are honest and brave enough to fill out a long questionnaire and turn up to an event such as The M Word. It just took an organization like Mission of Hope to pull them all to the one place. Kudos to the men who registered.
Looking at the high calibre of people around the room that night I knew our community had hope in raising better generations to come. And if marriage wasn’t for me, my “other half of the deen” is still filled with love for the Best of all Confidants, Who has promised to run to me with comfort when I walk towards Him. I’m still a complete woman because my ULTIMATE task here on earth is to worship Him – not to get married. I’ll keep purifying my intentions though and making du’a. Looking forward to the next event.
0 Allah if in Your knowledge, this matter be good for my faith, my livelihood and the consequences of my affairs in the world and the Hereafter, then ordain it for me and facilitate it from me and grant me blessing in it. But, if in Your knowledge this matter is bad for my faith, my livelihood and the consequences of my affairs in the world and the Hereafter, then turn it away from me and turn me away from it and ordain for me the good wherever it be, and cause me to be pleased with it. Ameen.