Once upon a time, not so long ago, there was a little girl who dreamed of marrying Michael J. Fox. A few years later, she dreamed of marrying Zack Morris, and a few years after that she dreamed of marrying Christian Slater. Then she realized she was just a Palestinian kid who lived in the southwest suburbs of Chicago… That is where her love story begins…
Spoiler alert! That little girl is me.
Growing up wide-eyed and full of aspirations of romance, I knew that I would find the person who “loved me for me,” and would “want me for who I am,” and all that jazz. And even if that person wasn’t a Zack Morris or a Michael J. Fox (notice how all my childhood love interests were young white men. But I’ll save the whole racial normalization conversation for someone who is more passionate about it), I knew it would be someone as gallant and morally sophisticated as the men I grew up with in my family and the ones I watched so dutifully on the silver screen.
Long story, short: I loved, I lost and now I am looking again. Now at the age of 32, I am wiser as I know that love and marriage don’t work for most people, most of the time, well at least not the way it should be working. I also know that I was many times blessed in my previous marriage to have been loved and blessed to have given love so freely and without condition. But as a Muslim, God prescribes marriage for mankind to fulfill half our faith and to protect us from so many ills of society. For this reason, I am back on the meat market and hating every minute of it.
I guess I was lucky the first time around. I didn’t have to endure horrific encounters with less than suitable suitors and “we almost got engaged but it didn’t work out,” stories. At 32, the matrimonial scene is quite different than it was in my early 20’s. And sadly, I have discovered that our community suffers from innate problems that our imams, our teachers and our elders are not addressing. And even worse, they seem to be encouraging the backwardness that seems to exist in communities around the world, communities that allow men, by virtue of being born male, to reject women based on trivial reasons. And communities that have encouraged women to settle for less than what they deserve because “they can’t possibly do any better.”
This is the world that I live in. And the following are the reasons why I am not married.
I am 32 and not 22: When I was 22, people tried to hook me up with other 22-year-old, or maybe 26-year-olds or at the most 30-year-olds. Somehow, now I am asked, without hesitation or shame to consider meeting men in their early 50’s. Wait, what? Uhm, isn’t that like my dad’s age? …Apparently no one cares about that. I have reached the proverbial hill, took a walk around it and have climbed way over it. Last year, It was suggested to me that I meet with someone who is 33. He sounded great on paper, but after I emailed him a “blurb” about myself, our mutual friend called me to tell me that he wasn’t interested because I was ONLY 2 years younger than him. And no one seems to think this is picky on his part (or pricky, but whatever). How young must his future wife be, anyway? Maybe people enjoy enabling what might be a potential pedophile. Who knows?
I am divorced: But what the rest of the world hears is that I am not a virgin… Oh no she didn’t. She did not just pull out the V-card… Yes I did. I am divorced. I am not ashamed of that. Nor does that de-value me. Oh wait, I guess it does. Apparently, “experienced” women don’t make good wives or mothers or friends… Someone else was suggested to me last year and this guy didn’t “mind” my age….gee I am so lucky… But when he found out I was divorced, he immediately said he wasn’t interested. Appalled and once again disgusted by these people, I vented to someone about it. And their response was “well, he has the right to want what he wants.” Uhm, no he doesn’t, not when there is no logic behind it and that the only reason he wants a “new” girl is because of some BS male-privilege thing that was engrained in him since birth. One Imam I interviewed for an article about marriage in the Muslim American community had said he wished more people would consider marrying someone divorced, as those people probably have more insight into relationships and what works and doesn’t work. Our Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) had no qualms about marrying widowed or divorced women, as they were just as good as “new” women. Can someone explain to me why these punks in this day and age think they are better than the Prophet (PBUH)?
I have an opinion. Yesterday, JUST yesterday, I was speaking to a man, and we had just started to get to know each other. Literally, it was only one day. And he suggested we meet for coffee. I told him that I was not comfortable with that until we got to know each other for like a minute. He said talking on the phone was a waste of time. I explained that I disagree and this is what I am comfortable with. All of a sudden he started accusing me of being “someone who likes to debate and argue a lot,” (classic male rhetoric that spits out when they feel threatened) and being a “control freak,” and wait, this is the best part… “no man is ever going to take you if you don’t change.” Apparently I am waiting to be “taken.” Hmm, that sure is news to me. So to sum up, expressing a feeling is the equivalent to being controlling and an unruly wretch that no man will ever take…. I basically told him to kiss off and that he’s just sad because he didn’t get his way… I wonder who is going to end up taking him?
I am visually impaired. This probably needs its own post because it is quite serious. Sometimes I feel like I live in the 1600’s when women “suffered from hysterics,” and witches were burned at the stake. Growing up I was ridiculed for having a disability and sadly that took a sharper twist when it was used to judge me as a potential partner. People went out of their way to say hurtful things about me to my face and behind my back, even saying things like “I don’t know about Leen for my brother. She has that weird eye thing.” Or when men found out I didn’t drive, they would make me feel like an invalid who needed bed pans changed. I was made to feel like a burden by not just the men I was meeting, but by their mothers, sisters and friends. Making me feel like their loser brothers who couldn’t manage to finish school, get a job or read a book were too good for me because I was born a certain way… Wow reliving this right now is seriously disturbing me…. But the point to be made is that if you aren’t a certain weight, skin tone, height or reach some arbitrary measure of perfection, then you are damaged goods who should just settle. I would like to know why I have yet to hear one scholar or one imam address this in their Friday sermons or at grand conventions or at least on social media… Maybe it is because they would like to perpetuate this type of male-privilege that sadly even women abide by and encourage. And if the deformed and disabled or maybe even the left-handed or the asthmatic have to lay in wait to be “taken” by someone who has pitied them, then so be it. I guess it was her fault for being born with an imperfection that will keep her from being a good wife… By the way, being “broken” rarely affects a man’s eligibility for marriage. Just sayin’ it how it is.
No one is willing to help. Back in the day, people had no problem being matchmakers. Nowadays as our society becomes more and more “me” oriented and everyone’s “gotta watch their own backs,” people have become apathetic to the struggle of their single peers. No one wants “to get involved.” No one wants to “be held responsible if things don’t work out.” In other words, people are self-absorbed and don’t want any type of accountability even if that accountability could be the difference between joy and sadness for someone that they love. I dare you to stop and look around your immediate circle, and you will notice that you do have a single friend or cousin or neighbor who could benefit from your efforts to basically hook them up. Don’t worry if it doesn’t work out, they won’t drag you to court or anything… And remember that you once benefited from someone who thought of you in this way. Every woman deserves to have the chance to bare children and to live happily ever after. And in a lifestyle where we don’t traditionally date, those chances become slimmer and slimmer as you sit idly by.