My Deadline DilemmaPosted: September 6, 2012
My life is all about deadlines. As an up-and-coming journalist, I can’t function without a “due date” marked on virtually everything work-related. This sooner or later expanded to include my personal life.
Some time ago, I decided on a personal deadline: I would meet the man I am to marry by the age of 25. I would not be married by then—too young, too stereotypical—but I thought I could at least meet the guy by that age.
My desire to meet said “Dream Arab Man” began when I was 19. I moved away for college and made a group of Arab friends who understood the pressures of keeping a sound reputation.
After I turned 19, a slew of my new friends began asking around about caterers, dress stores and photographers. Soon enough, most weekends would be booked with an engagement, a bridal shower, a henna or a wedding. It was fun, until it became exhausting, especially when every mother of the bride asked, “When is it going to be your turn?”
One woman stopped me mid-dabke step at a wedding to scream over Fares Karam’s voice: “DO YOU WANT TO GET MARRIED?!” I said no, and she gave me dirty looks the rest of the night. Other mothers would utter the dreaded “Okbalik!” (may you be next);I tried to avoid grinding my teeth in response.
After months and months of being submerged in the admittedly fun world of weddings and parties, my resolve to put off marriage began to wane.
I began to wonder . . . what if I did get married? I’d get a party and I could wear a pretty dress and get a big expensive ring. People would talk about how lovely I looked and say Masha’Allah after every sentence lest the evil eye cause the chandelier from the ballroom to fall on our heads while we danced. I was too young to understand what marriage meant, and I was clearly considering it for the wrong reasons.
I was sold on the idea of marriage, Arab style, not realizing that my inexperience in the world of dating and set ups—partially because of my Muslim upbringing, and partially because I lived in the middle of nowhere—would be a major roadblock for my eventual marital aspirations.
I allowed myself to be set up. I called this strategy “Dating with the Option to Marry if Things Went Well,” and didn’t work out.
One set up refused to drive the one-hour from Orlando to Tampa to meet for dinner. Another never showed up, saying he was at the Roxy instead. I didn’t know there was a Roxy that survived past the ‘90s. One, when told of the sizable age gap between my siblings and I, asked if my parent’s contraception failed. That dinner ended early.
“What am I doing wrong?” I wondered. My attempts at meeting my future husband by my deadline were failing miserably.
In 2008, I went to another wedding and was pulled aside by a meticulously dressed woman. She was wearing a very chic cream pantsuit with a matching hijab and an expectant smile.
“I saw you dancing and thought, you are too beautiful!” she exclaimed.
My friends were giggling behind me at the scene unfolding. The woman’s hands gripped mine tightly.
“Listen,” she continued. “I have a son. He is a doctor, very handsome and intelligent. Let me have your number.”
Before I responded, she pulled up her pant leg, reached into her camel-colored knee-highs, and whipped out a sheet of paper take my number. She forgot a pen and dragged me to the concierge desk, by the 30 Arab girls posing for a picture. They all knew what was happening. She never called.
After these comedic series of events, I decided to put those ill-thought-out marital ambitions on the back burner. I threw myself into career preparation, interning with local radio stations and flying through my media courses. I graduated as one of the only single girls remaining in our group, and I was fine with it, deadline be damned.
I moved to New York and began graduate school, which was stressful enough to make me forget about my marital status. It was lovely being extracted from a community where you were an anomaly if you weren’t married by 22. After finishing my master’s, I moved to Egypt, where at least professionally, I was incredibly satisfied.
I’ll be 25 soon. I don’t exactly have a red “X” marked on my birthday, but mentally that deadline still exists. At some point, though, I recognized that this was one deadline that would not derail anyone’s plans but my own. There would be no editor breathing down my neck, no gaping hole in a newspaper or dead air on the radio. There would just be me.
So, I’ll ring in my quarter of a century single but certainly not alone. And if that means waiting a little bit longer for the man who will be by my side during my future quarter century celebrations and every moment in between, I’m willing to do that—deadline and all.
Carmel Delshad is a writer and journalist, currently working on a collaborative documentary on the Egyptian revolution. She spends her time between the USA and Egypt. She loves all things Austen, devours non-fiction books on Muslims and Arabs, and drinks mint tea on her balcony.