I’d forgotten that the psychic said he was going to come to me in the spring, with a briefcase in hand. I was so heavy with grief that the thought that I’d ever be able to feel love in my heart again felt like fiction. There was room for nothing but sadness and survival. How could I ever fall in love again? Instead, I fixated on the things that she said that mattered in that moment, only seven weeks after Mom died.
It was an accidental reading – or had I subconsciously summoned her? – by a friend, over casual dinner and conversation. Things I had been yearning to hear started tumbling towards me. She said Mom was standing behind me and how that meant that she literally had my back; that I had Mom’s cheek; that Mom wanted me to have her saris, especially the blue ones, because she knew my favorite color was blue; that she wanted us to go down to the water, the beach, her favorite, and to say a farewell ritual of some sort; and, most importantly, that she was happy, or more precisely, that she finally felt free. The psychic didn’t need to tell me that. I just knew.
It wasn’t until I had moved back to my parents house, nine months after Mom had passed and one month into falling head over heels in love, that I remembered what the psychic had said. That she pictured him well-dressed, maybe in a suit, with a briefcase in his hand. (“A briefcase?” I thought. “Who carries a briefcase these days? Only gangsters or Wall Street guys – neither good options.”) That he was secure and stable. He was responsible. He’d be good for me. She didn’t see him being ‘the one’, but I would love him all the same. And, more importantly, that I’d be in love.
Women have had a profound impact on my life. My mother was not given the privilege of a college education. The culture she grew up in didn’t allow it. Women finished high school, and then got married. While she was raising my sister and me, she decided that that wasn’t going to happen to us. She urged us to become as educated as we wanted to be prior to marriage.
My 31-year-old sister is pursuing a Ph. D., and has completed a J.D., M.A. as well. As I write this post, I’m finishing up my last year of law school, and have already completed an M.A. I’m grateful that my sister and I were not restricted to having to marry young in order to sate an arbitrary cultural appetite. I’m even more grateful to have grown up with two empowered women. Having these two amazing women in my life has made me highly appreciative of other empowered women. A real man is thankful for an empowered woman, not afraid of one.
Last week’s guest post How I Met My Son’s Mother is emblematic of larger struggles within the ummah: those of sexism, ageism and racism. These are all issues Islam was supposed to cure, but that cultural Muslims recreate. These issues become extremely pronounced during the marriage process. People’s insecurities become amplified, because they want to fit into cultural/societal expectations. Alhamdolillah, through the responses to the article, it’s clear that some people are questioning those expectations.
As a Muslim man and lifelong social justice activist, I took issue with the author’s lack of realization of his own male privilege, and also his inability to challenge or reflect upon that privilege.
I’m responding in a loving way to my brother Mezba who is married (congratulations!) and has offspring (wonderful!) but is nevertheless about to enjoy the benefit of my sincere, unsolicited advice. I imagined what I would say if a young man came to me with this attitude intending to become the father of my grandchildren, whether it’s my son or someone who would like to become my son-in-law.
It’s especially easy to respond to this article because Mezba is so honest, so naive, and so unapologetic with his outrageous generalizations. Mezba, bro veteran, tell it like it is!
“There were no good girls in Canada.” I’ve never been to Canada, but there are many good girls in America! Either Canada is some kind of country-wide brothel with a small oasis of righteousness, or you weren’t looking hard enough, Mezba! Besides, what is a “good” girl?
The setup is all too familiar. Some odd years of rishta searching have clued me in to the familiar tone in my mom’s voice: “Aunty was telling me about this boy…”
Here we go again.
Many failed setups have me well-attuned to what to expect, so I usually brace myself as I listen quietly to the details I’m given – professional and personal, in addition to the usual qualifiers:
“Apparently they’re only looking for a hijabi.”
“The girl has to be willing to move to so and so city.”
“They want a professional girl, but they’re looking for a quick marriage so there can’t be any career tie-downs.”
“They want a girl who’s tall and fair and slim and smart and can cook biryani with her eyes closed.”
Alright, so maybe that last bit is a slight exaggeration. Maybe.
Update 11/26/13: Congratulations to writer Aisha Saeed on this post being chosen by the editors of WordPress for Freshly Pressed, highlighting the best posts on WordPress. In an email to LoveinshAllah.com, WordPress said: “Aisha Saeed’s response to your guest post about arranged marriages was a really powerful and articulate call for fairness and equality. She delivers her points with a great balance of passion and reason, which makes this piece engaging even for those who aren’t intimate with the debate surrounding marriage in south Asian communities. It’s a great post that deserves a wider audience.”
There’s a befuddling conundrum afoot in the desi (South Asian) community. You must first understand a few things:
a) For whatever reason desis typically marry other desis; and
b) While the numbers may be dwindling, many desis (or their parents, on their behalf) wish to find spouses through the culturally traditional arranged marriage process. (If you are unfamiliar with this please read about it here first.)
I’m not saying this is how it should be, I’m just explaining a reality prevalent within many of our insular communities where Jane Austen novels are played out in a different tongue on a daily basis.
But back to the befuddling phenomenon affecting the desi community: there appear to be more marriageable females than males. How can it be? The numbers must be somewhat equal. Why is this not the case? While there are most certainly exceptions to the rule, the issues most cited anecdotally are: