They met on a cruise of the South Pacific and immediately hit it off. Back at home in the U.S., they dated and found themselves all the more drawn to each other. In an era when most people their age married right out of high school or college, they were both in their 30s and still single. But they came to realize that this was what they had each been waiting for.
It culminated one evening in a perfect setting: a candlelit dinner at a fancy restaurant. After the meal, he took the diamond ring from his pocket and held it out to her.
“Well?” he said.
Dylan and I sat in the well-worn cushions of the black pleather love seat in our counselor’s office, the three of us wondering how I’d respond to Dylan’s marriage proposal.
“Well?” Dylan asked, his gray-green eyes locked on my face.
“Yes! Oh my god, yes,” I said, but my up intonations gave away my uncertainty. “Of course! It’s what we’ve been talking about! Of course I want to get ma-mar—engaged!”
I winced at the shrill sound of my own voice. The pleather groaned as I shifted and sunk into my seat.
The rest of the session I was Woody Allen in “Annie Hall.”
I started this column a few months ago with a reflection on a failed shot at romance. That post told you everything you need to know about my life in the last few years: new convert unable to stop dating or shake off commitment issues, barely repentant scumbag, honest to a fault and confused about what Romance While Muslim may mean.
Since then, I’ve explored these issues in more depth, wandering through my psyche without a clue of where I was heading. And yet, suddenly I’m here, and it seems my destination was inevitable all along.
I met someone.
In my last column, Welcome to Heartbreak, I wrote about my dilemma in seeing a woman who I know likes me more than I like her.
This situation is not new for me, and was only worth writing about in this case because the woman in question is brand new to the dating game. Otherwise, the story is relatively unremarkable in my experience. I’ve been involved in similar situations many times before, with more experienced women, and my response is to make sure I never patronize them. If they tell me they can handle being with me without me being fully with them, I believe them. Until they tell me they can’t.
The genuinely noteworthy aspect of my last column then is the block I briefly described that prevents me from actually committing to these women.
I was an avid reader growing up. I read everything, even books that weren’t meant for children. Mama by Terry Mcmillan was one of my first novels. I recall reading a novel entitled Hand-me-down Heartache by Tajuana TJ Butler. It was about a woman named Nina who is in a relationship with an attractive, unfaithful basketball player and her unwillingness to leave the relationship. Having witnessed her father’s unfaithfulness to her mother growing up, she has come to accept his behavior, though it’s painful.
There’s a scene where Nina stakes out in front of her boyfriend’s home, bangs on his door, distraught and angry, while he’s inside with another woman. As a young girl, I read this with fresh eyes for the denial and hysteria that Nina was experiencing. The scene was vivid, and so keenly observed that I felt Nina’s embarrassment, especially when he emerges from his home and tells her to leave him alone. I wanted to scream through the page to Nina, and tell her to forget him, but something in me felt for her. I entered the scene fully, imagining the quick beat of Nina’s heart, her wet, mascara-streaked eyes, and the neighbors outside watching as she fell apart.
How do we get there? From young women, reading about love and feeling it in our imaginations, to fighting for it, and refusing to accept that it was never there?
“I hear he walks around high school with his shirt unbuttoned, gold chains around his neck, and a girl on each arm,” my friend Shireen said.
“No way!” I replied, feigning disdain. I hoped she didn’t catch the flicker of intrigue that crossed my face whenever she talked about the local bad boy, Faisal.
Shireen and I were on the rishta track. We were marriageable Pakistani-Canadian girls: young, pretty and oh-so-housewifey. At sixteen, we were only two years away from the flurry of wedding proposals that were sure to come our way.
There was nothing we wanted more in life than to get married, so we did what we could to ensure it would happen: wearing the most fashionable shalwar kameez at weddings, and helping aunties wash dishes after dinner parties. Most importantly, we made it our mission to find out everything there was to know about all the eligible bachelors in and around Toronto.
And that included the activities of the not-so-eligible bachelors too.