Yes, this is about marriagePosted: June 20, 2013
Tell us we’re being picky. Tell us there is no perfect man. Tell us our standards are impossible. Tell us to compromise.
Say what you want. The truth is: you don’t understand.
Our entire lives, we are taught to be driven and motivated, to set high goals, that women are just as capable as men, that societies are built on the backs of strong women, that we should never give up our dreams because we face obstacles.
Then we grow up. We are told that good girls don’t go away for school. Good girls live with their parents until they marry. Most of us comply, many reluctantly so, but we comply. We convince ourselves that it’s not the school or its rank that define our success, it’s how we use the knowledge we gain. We excel. We outshine everyone in our classes, we are our professors’ favorites, we rack up more grants, scholarships, honors, awards, recognitions, and leadership experience than all of our brothers and our friends’ brothers combined. We are scholastic superstars. We are the immigrant success story, the smiling face on the cover of diversity brochures advertising our universities, we are the ambassadors of our foreign religion and culture, we are the articulate tan face that always has a question or a comment or a caveat to add.
We are blessed. Our parents encourage us, our communities support us, our universities celebrate us. Then we graduate and the facade crumbles.
“Why aren’t you married? Why are your priorities so out of whack? You’re getting old and all of your friends are married! Hurry up, time is running out!”
“It’s ok,” they comfort us, “at least you’re doing something to pass the time… Maybe you’ll meet him at work or in grad school.” And just like that, we are permitted to advance another rung on the ladder to career success, I mean permitted to begin a new hobby as we “pass the time.”
We are aware that we are single. We are aware that he has not come. Some have come, but he hasn’t. “Kul shee ismeh wa naseeb,” they remind us. “Don’t worry, you’re a good girl: smart, pretty, religious, educated, from a good family, nice, and any guy would be lucky to have you.” You know most of them don’t see it that way. You’re too tall or short, not curvy enough or too chubby, too argumentative or too hard to read, too ambitious, too assertive, too strong-willed. And old.
All of a sudden, the things you’d been conditioned your entire life to embody are your greatest faults. Making your community proud, representing them in a positive light, your student activism for causes everyone in the community silently supports, and your densely packed resume make you undesirable.
You wonder, why would they raise me to be this way if they despise it so much? Then you realize. These values they instilled in you were not intended to be applied to your own life. No, you are taught these values so that you can be a quality mother, the kind of mother that teaches her kids to be successful and ambitious, so that one day her sons can make the community proud and her daughters can marry young and raise boys like their fathers. You realize that your entire life, you were being groomed not to be a doctor, lawyer, academic, journalist, or professional. Rather, you were being groomed to be a mother who raises sons who assume these important societal roles and professions.
Now, all of a sudden, you find yourself single, over 24, and on track for a great career. You have attainable goals, a multitude of contacts, and perfect and relavent experience in your field. You really are headed places. You are making real plans and the career of your dreams is within your reach.
Instead of wasting your time obsessing over something beyond your control, like marriage (everything is naseeb after all, right?), you dedicated yourself fully to benefitting your family and community with whatever contribution you can make. You know where you want to live, what institution you want to work for, and the kind of hours and work environment you seek.
Then someone knocks on the door. He’s ok, not perfect, but neither are you. He lives in Siberia though, or Nairobi, or Mongolia. These places are all great and you’d love to visit them one day, but you have a plan. All of your contacts and your experiences are somewhere else. You have worked too hard. They can’t expect you to throw it all away for him because they can’t see anything wrong with him, right?
Now you’re “immature and shallow.” “It’s because he’s not very handsome, or because he isn’t very wealthy, or because his hairline is receding. Your priorities are warped and ridiculous. Good–well, decent–men don’t come by often and, if you refuse him, you don’t know if/when another will come. Your career can come later.”
“It’s ok if you aren’t excited to see him or talk to him, it’s just because you’re still nervous around each other. It’s ok if you always get a headache when you think about him and despise discussing him with your family and friends, you’re just shy and this is still new. Crying and nausea are normal for soon-to-be brides. You’d be crazy not to agree to his proposal, another one may not come along!”
I am stubborn, but I am willing to make sacrifices and concessions when they seem worth it. I will give up aspects of the career of my dreams for a man I think can keep me happy and treat me well. But I don’t think this is him. Just because he doesn’t have a glaring fault, doesn’t mean I am not entitled to refuse him. This MY future we are gambling, and I’m not comfortable with this wager. I will be half of the composition of this marriage, don’t my preferences on where we live, work, and raise our family matter? No, apparently, they don’t.
“If he whose character and deen (practice of religion) pleases you, approaches you in marriage, then marry him, for if you don’t, there will be fitna in the land and vast corruption.” (Tirmidhi) You have been defeated. Submit. Don’t fight. You lose. It’s over.
All of your upbringing was a lie; you are not a valuable person whose critical thoughts and challenging opinions have worth. No, you are a wife. A wife with a good resume, but only a wife nonetheless. Do not expect more and do not aim to change norms. Submit. Don’t fight. You lose. It’s over.
Maryam I. is a Palestinian-American Muslimah raised in Texas. She studies law and hopes to soon return to Palestine and put her degree to use. She is deeply committed to her faith and her family, but struggles to reconcile her ambition with the future her parents envision for her. Follow her on twitter: @48refugee
This piece was originally posted on her blog.