Reflections of a “good” girlPosted: November 23, 2013
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.
Inevitably, I will agree to consider these potential suitors, but only after mustering up the courage to face the probability of another rejection. In the past, after biodatas and niceties are exchanged, nothing has come to fruition. And this “good” girl, as the recent author of “How I Met My Son’s Mother” would call me, is left wondering all over again how she must have fallen short. Did they not like my picture? Is my career viewed as a problem? Should I have left out the name of my undergraduate institution? But, I’ve been leaving out the most important question of all – how come I never got a chance to ask any of my questions?
The double standards in our society prevent me from ever getting any answers and only serve to perpetuate the absurd expectations proposed by recent LoveinshAllah.com guest columnist, Mezba Mahtab. Women are expected to be perfect. Hard-working enough to excel in school, while also glamorous enough to wow the world with their beauty. Modern enough to aim for a career, but domestic enough to be willing to drop that career at a moment’s notice. Conservative enough to never have so much as looked at another man, but liberal enough to know how to flirt with a guy when the time calls for it. Young enough to be pliable for future life partners, but old enough to be able to manage a household without hesitation.
The word unfair doesn’t even begin to skim the surface of how intolerable all of these requirements are.
While many young men may foster the same belief as Mezba – “An arranged marriage is where a guy gets a girl he would never have a shot with in real life” – I have naively believed that arranged marriages are an avenue through which one might be able to find a compatible life partner. But it seems like interpersonal compatibility, similar goals, shared passions, and mutual respect have flown out of the window as critical values upon which to build a successful relationship.
Every person is entitled to desiring certain attributes in their future spouse, and few people can be as honest as Mezba in regards to what they feel they are entitled to in their future life partner. But we have to accept that if a man has stringent requirements, then the woman in question is entitled to her own set of preferences too.
For every son whose mother thinks they are God’s gift to earth, there is a daughter whose mother thinks she is the cream of the crop. Likewise, for every man with a desire for a wife who is willing to compromise her personal ambition for the sake of family life, there is a woman who longs for a husband who is willing to work with her to help her achieve both her professional and personal goals in life.
We need to stop expecting women to make the majority of the compromises in life, marriage, and work. Until we stop, we will never be able to take steps forward and away from these long-held cultural and societal prejudices.
Farah Khan is a medicine resident at Emory University. After graduating from college in Boston, Farah returned to her hometown in Alabama for medical school where she was reunited with the mix of Southern hospitality and South Asian flair that had shaped her childhood. Follow her on Twitter or read some of her thoughts on her blog.