Breaking a Stalemate
My sincere request to the Muslim American community, namely eligible men and their mothers, matrimonial sites and event organizers, and rishta aunties everywhere: ‘Please stop ignoring me, and many others like me. I am part of a growing population of single women over 35 in our community, and we are not going away.’
We’ve reached a stalemate on marriage (probably several years ago) and have been on opposite sides of the table for too long. Can we be allies, not enemies? No one’s right. No one’s wrong. Can we call a truce and move on?
Though not widely discussed beyond the living rooms of Muslim American families, we all know marriage is a high priority (to be clear ‘wajib’ not ‘fardh’). Being unmarried and over 35, I know searching for a suitable mate also includes a lot of soul searching (example: “Why is this happening Allah, what have I/we done wrong?’ accompanied by muffled sobs and tears, and of course chest beating).
Growing up on romance novels and romantic movies, we (women) are not averse to marriage. Before you say ‘tauba’ too many times many of the ‘romantic movies’ are Bollywood movies our parents ‘wished we would watch’ so that we would stay ‘connected with our culture’. Culture is a double-edged sword I guess.
I believe we all need help. We need to take this discussion out of our living rooms to Muslim social scientists, our prominent imams and our community leaders. We need to do research, ask for their expertise and assistance. You think I’m joking. I’m not. This situation is not something we can address effectively without deep Islamic knowledge and strong data.
I honestly do not believe I am ‘incapable’ of finding a ‘suitable match’, or that I am too old to have children, too picky, too ambitious, can’t cook or placing too much focus on my career. Yet this is what I have heard for the better part of 10 years.
Let’s move beyond these circular discussions. I truly appreciate any and all efforts, but I am not big on ‘cookie cutter’ solutions where the focus is on culture, not religion. Why are we re-enforcing failed cultural paradigms and not creating a religious paradigm for our community?
I have pep-talked my single friends out of some rough times (I’ve been there too), and know that ‘I’m younger today than I will be tomorrow’, I am ‘Allah’s creation and Allah’s creations are all beautiful’. More importantly, the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) married women that were older/younger, thinner/fatter, darker/lighter, taller/shorter, stronger/weaker, etc. Except for Bibi Khadija, none of his wives had children, and yet they were the ‘best of women’.
Marriage is a fortress, it is a protection for men and women, and is not only for procreation. Also, wealth and children are gifts from Allah, we cannot guarantee either of them. We forget these things when we get wrapped up so tightly in our social and cultural norms.
I am ‘unlucky in love’ at least partly because I am working against a system, a mindset, with little to no support outside of a tight network of family and friends. Meeting and speaking with qualified, eligible men in informal and varied settings without going bankrupt and losing all my pride is a tough, if not impossible, proposition. You shake your head, but I speak the truth.
Informal and Varied Settings
Ask any relatively normal and well-adjusted person who does not stick out like a sore thumb in any other aspect of life except their ‘unmarried’ state and you will know that matrimonial events and sites focus on age, height, income and location. Not always to be discriminatory, but more because they are the ‘easiest ways’ to pre-screen and categorize.
These settings are awkward and uncomfortable at best, especially for outliers (women over 35) and most men. Women over 35 are often asked to sit in corners of the room or are ‘screened out’ of internet searches. We often convince other women to keep us company, but convincing men (our friends or people ‘like us) is tough, if not impossible.
Informal professional networking events and sites in ‘halal’ settings are a better option, but they don’t target (or want to target) only marriage-minded singles. Their goal isn’t (and shouldn’t be) marriage.
We were always taught to be prudent, but internet site subscriptions add up ($20-30 each per month on Shaadi, Shadi, Match, eHarmony, etc) as do matrimonial events ~$100 each excluding clothes, make-up, hair and travel.
After paying dearly for these, I have stopped both. With the former, it was the numerous photo-less two-line bios (example: ‘Were r u luv of my life? I am waitin my hole life for u. I bad with writting about myself. If u want to know me more please call or txt to me.’) and communicating with ‘lonelyinluv’s, ‘lookinforu’s, receiving email marriage proposels from ‘juscantwait’s and jpgs of roses from ‘luvofmylife’s. I decided, country song titles were not my thing. With the latter, no men, but I have made enough wonderful girlfriends to last me a lifetime.
Rishta aunties, well, they do pass on my cell phone number to people (without informing me). I recently got a call from a man who had been sent by one. I spoke to him, but after responding to my query ‘so you’re divorced, do you have children’ with ‘kind of, do you like men who have children or not?’ I politely got off the phone and did du’a not to receive such calls anymore. Some pre-screening please!
We spend freely because absent other options, the rationale is ‘OK these efforts are expensive, but —- true love: priceless!’. I am half-kidding, but in all seriousness, if there was more promise in any of these options, I would gladly keep paying, despite the economic crisis.
Need I say more? Suffice it to say, this search for the ever elusive ‘suitable match’ has been a humbling experience
I have said my peace, and really do want to crack this egg, if not for me, for others – now and in the future. We can change this situation, InshAllah, but not without honest discussion. Life is too short to waste in a stalemate. http://goatmilk.wordpress.com/2009/03/12/contemporary-muslim-woman-series-over-30-and-unmarried-breaking-a-stalemate/