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Muslim woman tries to avoid the life of a spinsterhttp://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/life/main/6341804.html
Sarah Ali is a single Muslim woman who is opening a business called The Transformational Studio in Sugar Land.
Sarah Ali worries that she’s on a speed train to spinsterhood.
For the past five years, she’s e-mailed and phoned. She’s downed countless cups of coffee, listened to living rooms full of “aunties,” employed professional matchmakers and written an online profile that is pure poetry.
But with many of her friends in wedded bliss, and niece No. 2 on the way, the pull of love and the push from her parents has left her nervous about finding Mr. Right.
“One part of me is very optimistic and hopeful, cheerful, bubbly and goofy,” Ali said. “Other times, I’m not.”
You see, Ali is 30 years old. And for a first-generation American with family and faith roots in Pakistan and Islam, 30 is not the new 20 when it comes to matters of marriage.
“In our culture women are expected to be married by their mid-20s,” said Mona Baig, Ali’s childhood friend — her married childhood friend.
“In American culture, being single at 30 is no big deal, so by those standards she’s on the right track,” Baig added.
Ali’s tracks to marriage have gotten a bit crossed. Like many young first-generation South Asian-Americans, Ali is committed to marrying within the traditions of Islam. But it’s a tradition twisted for the life of a bright, witty, supersocial Sugar Land resident with her own business.
So it gets complicated.
For example, Ali doesn’t date. She doesn’t get gussied up for sexy evenings of dinner and dancing to meet potential mates.
But Ali’s parents also won’t choose her husband. She expects to find him herself, with the knowledge and blessings of the two families, of course.
The setup is more an “assisted” than an “arranged” marriage, Ali said.
Until the right level of assistance meets Mr. Right, Ali must be courted.
She knows what she wants and is not afraid to be upfront about it.
Hanging out is fine; getting physical is not. She is clear from the get-go that the goal is marriage.
“It’s kind of old-fashioned, where suitors used to come to people’s homes and take the women for a walk in the garden,” she said.
It’s not that Ali has been sitting around waiting for her romantic dreams to come true.
She’s on the market, all right. But so far the aunties, the professional matchmakers, fix-ups by friends and that stellar profile on Web sites that cater to South Asians, such as Shaadi.com and Naseeb.com, have delivered nearly 100 Mr. Wrongs. (At present, she is talking with three men she met through the sites, but she hasn’t gone on a date with any of them.)
Ali doesn’t bear the battle scars of dating American-style. There are no drunken first dates or bad breakups and certainly no walk of shame — heading home the morning after a night of heaven knows what dressed in the previous night’s outfit.
Like any woman who survived her 20s and is looking to settle down in her 30s, Ali has stories to tell.
There’s the guy who dismissed her via e-mail because he disapproved of her jelly-bean habit and her humming on the phone.
Ali’s tale of heartbreak concerns a love who caved when his parents demanded he call it off so he could marry a woman from their hometown in Pakistan.
Her dream guy is worldly and educated, he appreciates different cultures, and he possesses wit and humor to rival hers.
“I’m looking for a best friend, someone I can click with, I can hang out with all the time,” Ali said.
Of course, there are a few superficial standards.
Bald, overweight smokers and cheapskates need not apply.
“I just want five good years with hair on the head,” she joked.
Some family friends think she’s too picky, but Ali maintains she’s not asking for too much.
“Sarah’s not doing anything wrong,” Baig said. “She just hasn’t met the right person.”
Her father, Mohammed Ali, considers it a matter of supply and demand.
There aren’t that many eligible bachelors for women of Ali’s background, education and lifestyle, he said. Some American-raised Muslims with Ali’s credentials marry outside their faith, he said.
More conservative men would frown upon Ali’s way of life. She doesn’t wear a head covering, she has a master’s degree in counseling psychology, and she dances to pop music.
These men prefer to marry a woman from the “Old Country,” Mohammed Ali said.
Ali is definitely not Old Country. She is more a new-fashioned “It Girl.” She has a reputation for hosting popular mixers for single Muslims in cities across the country. And like a South Asian Emma from Jane Austen’s novel, she has a hand in making matches among her friends.
Unlike Emma, she’s successful. Last summer, Ali attended the wedding of a man and woman she introduced.
Mohammed Ali thinks it’s time for his daughter to consider a “local guy,” code for someone who is not Pakistani.
“I personally think that she is a sincere and outgoing person,” he said. “I don’t understand why she is having to wait.”
Ali’s response is that of many women: She’s getting on with her life.
This month in Sugar Land she opened the Transformation Studio, which offers spa services and self-esteem counseling for women and men.
“If right now I’m not finding a guy, it doesn’t mean I’m going to put my career on hold,” Ali said. “My life is not going to revolve around the idea of getting married.”
That’ll happen, she added, but ultimately, she said, “you have to be happy with yourself.”