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If I had a Pound, (Euro or Dollar) for every time someone asked me ‘Why Aren’t You Married’, I would have a hefty retirement fund!
It has reached a point where, I wonder if this is all people have to worry about?! I meet people for the first time and naturally they’ll ask if you have a significant other, but they shouldn’t feel the need to lecture me on ‘Why I Should, Have One’. Even some of the doctors I’ve had consultations with seem to be more concerned about my marital status than my ailments. I appreciate the fact that close friends and some family members want to see me settled down and happy. What I don’t like is those whom I hardly know appoint themselves to play match maker with determination. (What do they get out of it? Is there some jackpot or prize you get if your match is a good one?)
Let me clarify, once and for all to those who are adamant to find me a significant other (based on THEIR wrong criteria to find me a ‘PERFECT’ match) and to those who can not get their head around the idea of me flying solo. I have great respect for marriage and all that is stands for. I do think it is a beautiful thing to be able to live ones life with another and share the burdens and happiness that come their way together as a team and to justify their union and love by having children, so their family tree can continue to blossom and grow. HOWEVER, I DO NOT believe that I should marry for the sake of being married. Just so that I can have a wedding band placed upon my ring finger along with a nice big sparkly one, have a big party and not be alone! If I want to wear a ring, I’ll go buy one. If I want a party, by GEORGE I shall throw one! If I’m lonely, I can go out to social events mingle with people, invite people over or go visit family or friends.
Marriage is a commitment that I would take seriously and I would want it to be forever, (not to use as an escape to move out of my parent’s home. Which doesn’t apply to me because I don’t live with them anyway). I do not want to marry the first person that comes knocking at my parent’s door asking for my hand, especially if he knows nothing about me, my family or upbringing.
In the past I have had mothers of sons and men see me walk into a store or driving my car and find out who I am through 6 degrees of separation, get my parent’s home number and call my father up and ask for my hand in marriage without ever having spoken a word to me! The last time someone did that my father took great pleasure in telling the caller that I had recently just been released from a mental institution, (NOT TRUE OF COURSE) and that he was a garbage collector. I found it extremely funny, while the person on the other end of the line was not as amused!
I want to marry someone who understands how my mind works (well, to some degree), who appreciates and understand my mixed ethnicity/cultural heritage (and doesn’t want me to change who I am or make me choose one culture over another), has similar characteristic traits, shares some of my dreams/interests, is a bit adventurous, likes to play sports and can deal with my loony family and relatives! He must speak ENGLISH quite well, (if he can speak more languages, excellent! but he has to be able to communicate with the Irish Clan), likes to hold intellectual conversations, reads, well-traveled, has a playful side, very good sense of humor and doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty, because I won’t be the only one doing all the hard labor around the house and changing dirty diapers. Oh an most importantly is financially independent from his family.
Marriage to me is a partnership, where two people promise to look after one another and share everything. I am not the type to marry and be told to stay home, not work, cook/clean all day long, have children and raise them alone. While hubbiness goes to work, comes home, eats, naps, showers, changes and goes out and socialize with his friends. (If that’s what I wanted, I would go for Don Draker, from MAD MEN). That is a recipe for my misery and driving me to the brink of insanity ! So, those kind of guys need to be taken off your must introduce her to him lists! That is if you really do have my happiness and best interest at heart.
If you’re miserable in your life and want company… then please don’t set me up with anyone.
If a guy comes from a well-known, respectable, rich family it DOES NOT automatically make him a nice guy and my dream man! Money is great to have, but it isn’t a recipe for a successful marriage. The person’s personality, ethics, morals, values, mentality are things that I find more important than the wrist watch he wears, car he drives, his home address and the size of his PARENT’S bank account.
‘Friends’ of mine, (who have now been demoted to mere acquaintances) wanted to introduce me to a guy who was VERY wealthy and was quite liberal. Now, I am not one to judge a book by its cover, but why would anyone want to introduce a 20 something year old girl (my age at the time), to a guy in his mid 40s who is extremely over weight, has lost half of his teeth, from lack of dental hygiene (due to excessive smoking and drinking) and has little social etiquette? Clearly these people didn’t take the time to know me or to choose wisely either.
I have met, socialized and been out with several guys who fall into this category. I have to say a small minority of them have been raised to be gentlemen of great integrity and are very decent men. While others have been toads dressed like princes.
Players and Cheaters… What can I say? I have been played and burned by both. Not the most pleasant of experiences and I have learned from my mistakes and have grown wiser and stronger because of it. These two are like trying to domesticate a tiger!! Woman can not ‘change’ or ‘reform’ them. They have to sincerely want to and they have to be the ones to take the steps. If/when they are ready, I’ll gladly give them consideration, until then, I’ll Pass, Thanks.
Just because a guy lives abroad and holds a foreign passport like I do, doesn’t mean it’s a match made in heaven! The same goes if he’s of mixed ethnicity too.
So, to sum it all up. I would much rather be single and continue to work on improving upon myself and experience what life has to offer than jump into a marriage with someone who is not compatible with me (and vice versa). I don’t want to be put in a situation where I marry someone and find out 2 kids later, that I can’t stand being around him and be forced to make a decision to either stay in the marriage to keep the family together while I am secretly miserable and hide my pain behind my smiles as a sacrifice for their happiness or break up a family and watch the children go through pain I could have had a hand in preventing.
So, That is WHY, I am not rushing to the altar to get married. Let me live and let live!
If you find someone who meets MOST of the criteria I am looking for then we can talk. If not, DON’T even think about it!
The day I decide to tie the knot and take the plunge and say; I DO. I’ll let you know. Until then, no one should lose any sleep over me being happily single!
BE WARNED, THIS IS A LONG POST.
I have seen the “Marriages from around the World” segment on OPRAH twice now. I have to say that I am happy that Egypt was represented but I think that one of the Egyptian representatives, Heba, an interior designer in Cairo, didn’t paint a clear picture of what life is really like here in Egypt, While Inji the journalist was more realistic.
There were a few things that really ruffled my feathers when I watched the show the first time and the rerun. I took notes when I watched the show the second time around so that I could remember the points that I wanted to refer to. (I can be such a nerd at times!)
I- Safety for Women
When Nana, the Danish representative asked Heba if Egypt is a safe place and she answered, ‘Yes, it is very safe” I couldn’t help but cackle in disbelief.
If I was to compare Egypt to Iraq, Afghanistan or Harlem, then I would whole heartedly agree, but if I was to compare it from where Nana is from, the answer would be ‘NO’!
I don’t know the women in that interview but from the way they held themselves and the way that they spoke I think it is safe to guess that they aren’t considered ‘common folk’; they are higher up the ladder than most of the population of Egypt. I am also willing to wager that most of them rarely walk the streets of Cairo and commute 96% of the time in their privately owned cars.
I walk both in Cairo and in Alexandria and I can tell you that it is a man’s country. If a woman is or isn’t veiled but looks nice, 99 times out of 100, you will either hear a crude comment or be harassed in some shape or form.
Let me give you an example of a well know incident that happened in Cairo about three years ago. It was during Eid El Fitr, (the celebration after the holy month of Ramadan, where Muslims fast) and in down town Cairo a mob of men had been to see one of the newly released Egyptian movies and they were wired! They were so tightly strung that they attacked innocent women who just happened to be passing by the cinema at that time. How bad the attack was, the news papers didn’t report. A taxi driver tried to save one of the women by pulling her in to his cab and driving away but the mob jumped the car and proceeded to attack them both. Not long after the incident and the story came to light, Imam’s in mosques didn’t condemn the mobs behavior, but they blamed the women who were innocently minding their own business!
A more recent story was published in The Community Times magazine about two girls who almost got harassed after one of the matches played by Egypt and Algeria. They had to seek refuge in a shop until the group of men gave up waiting.
These two examples are extreme cases of what may happen here in Egypt. It is more likely to happen to natives than it would be a tourist or a foreigner living here because they know that the police and the embassies would get involved.
So, I have to say that Nana’s intuition was spot on.
She probably felt even more insecure because she’s fair skinned and a blond.
What happens abroad happens here to, but it is kept very quiet.
If anyone wants to dispute this then, I am willing to provide examples from my own personal experience as well as examples that have happened to people I know.
A word to the wise;
The best way to avoid situations like these is to dress modestly, not to walk in dodgy streets alone, it is best to have a couple of male friends with you when you are out walking, try your best not to be out walking on your own late at night and never sit next to a taxi driver.
II – Conservativeness and the veil.
I loved Nana’s observation of how some of the veiled women were dressed ‘women who are covered and walking around in tight clothing and make up, it makes it very contradicting”
I personally think Nana hit the nail on the head. There are lots of contradictions in our expectations of behavior and society and for an outsider to notice it should ring some alarm bells.
I can’t tell you how many times I have been absolutely gob smacked by the double standards that exist here.
I have seen veiled women at night clubs, drinking Stella (local beer), dating men and holding hands and some times going further than second base (if they are religious and conservative this is a big NO! NO!), go into a changing room and come out wearing a bikini in front of men in public! Who are they fooling might I ask?
Granted, some girls have been forced by their families to wear a scarf on their head, so I can understand them rebelling behind their parents backs, (I’m not saying I agree with it, I’m just stating I understand it), but what excuse do grown women who made the choice have?
I have the utmost respect for the women who chose to wear the veil as a devotion to their religion and their beliefs. It is admirable when I see women who are doing it for the RIGHT reasons. It takes a lot of will power and devotion to be able to wear it.
III- Tension between veiled and non veiled women
If memory serves me correctly Oprah asked if there was tension between the veiled and non veiled women. Nana who hadn’t been here very long said she did sense it.
Again, I would have to agree.
When I first moved to Egypt in the early 90s the ratio of veiled to non veiled women was below par. There were hardly any menaqaabeen (completely veiled with only their eyes showing). It’s with in the past decade that more and more women are veiling. Some of it has to do with many Egyptians returning from the Gulf States and bringing their new-found religious beliefs that they picked up from there, back to Egypt. The second is it is the fashion, “everyone is doing it so, I better do it too so people don’t think any less of me”. The third has to do with the economic situation in the country, when the poor get poorer and the middle class is heading towards extinction many people turn to religion for solace and comfort.
My sister and I are unveiled and we have experienced quite a few things in recent years.
We would step out of our apartment building and some times a men who would happen to be walking past our building door would swerve away, turning his head in the opposite direction, whilst uttering ‘Astaghfar Allah’ which is a term said when asking God for forgiveness’ and all because our hair is showing!
(for further translation of the phrase go to the following link, http://shiastrength.blogspot.com/2010/04/shiastrength-superiority-of-astaghfar.html)
My Mum would get the same reaction too when she used to take a taxi home from work. The cab driver would utter it under his breath when she got in and out of the car.
I remember a second incident that I found quite amusing. We were at a beach resort just outside of Alexandria. The place I’m referring to is Agami, it’s a well-known place where many people go to vacation by the beach for the summer months and people walk around in their shorts, t-shirts, swim wear and summer attire. Anyway my sister and were heading home after picking up some groceries for our Mum when this woman who was very conservatively dressed comes rushing up to my sister and I and tells us that we should be ashamed of ourselves and that we should cover up and veil. She made us feel like we were walking around naked, when we were in our mid-thigh shorts and T-shirt at a beach resort.
Some times at traffic lights there will be people handing out fliers or pamphlets that promote veiling ‘Naam lil Hijab’ which means ‘Yes, to veiling’.
My sister and I usually don’t wear any religious jewelry so people automatically assume that because we are not veiled then we must be Christian.
So, the answer is Yes, There is more pressure for women to veil today than 20 years ago.
IV- Marriages and Divorces
I wrote a post not too long ago about middle and upper class marriages in Egypt and I was recently contacted by a male reader who was able to identify himself with what I had written. Most middle and upper class marriages are based on business arrangements, (please note that I said, most and NOT all).
Marriages can also be formed as an escape from living with their parents and wanting freedom from all of their rules and expectations. Which is another myth, because their life won’t be about going out all the time and having fun, it’s about responsibilities, working and taking after the home. It can often be leaving regarded as leaving one dictating house hold for another, (demanding and controlling husband/wife).
Marriages solely to cure sexual frustration are another popular reason for getting married.
The fairy tale that has been repeated over and over again from one generation to the next about how marriage is a wonderful thing and that the girl will be the lady of her own home and can do as she likes is a sugar-coated illusion of what reality is. These girls by their late teens (17 on wards) are keeping their eyes open like a hawk for an eligible bachelor. When the wedding and honeymoon is over reality sinks in and the fights begin.
There are arranged marriages, where someone would suggest that perhaps two people would make a good union. So, a meeting with the two individuals is set, either at a neutral party’s home, where the individuals can meet under the watchful eye of their parents. A few meetings may follow so that they can get to know one another better, if a match is made then an engagement will ensue and wedding plans begin. One on one dating will not be prohibited there will be a chaperone with the couple when ever they meet or go out. This happens with more conservative and religious families.
Then there are marriages based on all the right things, finding a partner to be with because they are happy with them for who they are.
When the marriages are based on all the wrong reasons, how can you not expect the divorce rate not to be high here? During my Grandmother’s era it was almost on heard of and for a couple to divorce was a rare occurrence. Now it’s has become the norm.
I have a lot more to say about the topics mentioned in the segment but if I don’t stop my ramblings now, I would go on and on forever!
I will right more about at a later date in time.
* I have debated for days wether to post this or not and I finally decided… If I’m going to take writing seriously, I should be open to both positive and negative feed back.
(This is all based on what I have personally seen and experienced, no formal study has been conducted)
Where do I begin?
I was out last week with a High School friend catching up and having dinner, when out of the blue he started venting about how he doesn’t think he could ever marry a spoilt Egyptian girl. Once the flood gates were opened there was no stopping him. I was amused and relieved that someone else shared my opinion and I actually agree with everything he had to say.
*N.B* Please keep in mind that I am not generalizing, there are many who are not like the people we are referring to. As always there are many exceptions to the rules.
Let me try and paint you a picture of the kind of people he was referring to;
First the Egyptian Woman,
The majority of Middle Class and rich Egyptian girls (with exceptions of course) who are pampered and spoilt. They have never had to wash a glass, make themselves something to eat, wash laundry, fill a dish washer, go grocery shopping, wipe a counter, make their bed or vacuum their bedroom floor. They have everything done for them and handed to them on a silver platter. They wake up when most of us have been up for a few hours and are already at work. They spend most of the day on the phone and worrying about their physical appearance and if their clothes are in fashion. Their sole purpose in life seems to be finding a husband and the richer the better. Once that has been accomplished their next job is to produce a son and heir to the fortune. To make sure her husband isn’t going to be snatched away from her, she hires nannies and maids to look after the children and the house while she is hooked on to her husband’s arm all the time looking like a glamorous Barbie doll.
The Egyptian Man;
The men of most of the wealthy families are just as bad. They work for Daddy’s company, they are late arriving to work and early to leave. They drive around in a full option expensive car bought for them after graduating from University, wear the latest Rolex, talk on the most expensive phone on the market and can only be seen in designer clothing. After a couple of hours of showing his face at the office he either goes home for lunch and a nap or heads to the gym to work out and fraternize with people from his social circle and frame of thought, (That’s what he gets paid to do) .Then later goes out clubbing or to an ‘ehwa’ (cafe). They spoil their girlfriends with gifts and expensive dinners and outings and control them from whom they speak to, where they go and what they can wear.
Why do most of these people get married in Egypt? Well there are a few reasons why.
1- The women think that if they get married they will be free of their parents control and can run their households they way they want. Plus their mother’s have painted a fairytale image of what married life is like. They fail to mention that being married takes hard work and it’s a partnership. All they focus on is the wedding day party not what comes after it. To shatter their dreams even more, they dont’ work, so their parents give them an allowance, so financially they are still under their control.
2- The Gents like most look for a Stepford looking wife, who will be nice to parade around on their arm. Another reason why they chose to get married is because as my friend so aptly put it, they are ‘horny’.
3- Most of the time, it’s a business arrangement between to families to increase their wealth and form a partnership. It’s very reminiscent of the royals and forming alliances through matrimony.
THE ENGAGEMENT & WEDDING
When a couple decides to get engaged this is no simple affair, both families become involved. The grooms family have to formally go to the brides house and ask for her hand in marriage. If the father of the bride agrees then the business talks begin. These discussions revolve around ; how simple or big of an engagement party there will be, the price range or how many carats the shabka they expect the daughter to have (3 rings, wedding band, diamond solitaire and diamond eternity ring), the size and location of the apartment or villa, Mahr is how much the grooms family is willing to pay to decorate the home along with all the electronics, how much the bride’s family need to pay to furnish the house, when and where the wedding will be and how big the wedding party will be and finally the wedding dress (the groom has to pay for that too). If everything is settled then they read the FATIHA a soura, (verse) from the Quraan (the holy book in Islam) that indictates they are promised to one another. From there is ‘TELBEES EL DIBEL’, the wearing of the rings or bands to indicate they are officially engaged. Then there is the KATB EL KITAB, (literal translation is signing of the book) which is signing of the mariage certificate where the couple become legally husband and wife, but are not allowed to live with one another until after the wedding celebration.
A lot of these marriages from what my friend and I have seen don’t end blissfully. Many get divorced a couple of months after their honeymoon. Why ? because the men want a modern-day thinking wife but who will behave like the traditional woman, stay home, cook clean and look after their children. While the princesses don’t know how to do that and he women expect to be waited on hand and foot and cajoled and adored all the time.
The marriages that don’t end in divorce; the wife either accompanies her husband on all his business trips and social outings to ensure that her man is steered clear from temptation or she leads a life of high society socializing, while the children are left at home and raised by the Philippino Nannies and chauffeured around by their drivers. Their children are starved for their parents quality time, discipline and affection but instead of getting that time they are compensated with ‘things’. Hence the Breeding of more spoilt brats!
These children grow very dependent on the help and have everything done for them! They don’t even get up to go to the kitchen to get their own glass of water, they holler for the hired help to come, take their order and then bring it to them. They aren’t taught how to tie their own shoe laces, pack their own school bags, tidy up their rooms and to put their dirty clothes in a hamper. To teach these children to be responsible falls on the shoulders of their teachers.
It’s a vicious cycle and it needs to be corrected before the damage is irreversible.
‘Do you know what I have a big problem with? Having to get the girl diamond rings with my father’s money, that is so wrong, it should be what I am able to afford’ my friend complained.
Another friend of mine was in the midst of getting engaged and told the brides family that he would be able to purchase 1.5 carat pure diamond ring with a certificate. Her family didn’t approve they wanted a 3 carat ring so that she wouldn’t have a ring of less value than her sisters. When he said he couldn’t they said if it wasn’t a pure ring and if it had some faults in it that would be ok, just as long as it was a 3 karat ring. He said he wouldn’t be able to marry her.
(here are two guys who think the same way)
My friend that I had dinner with also expressed that he doesn’t want to be married or live with someone who can’t look herself. He would like to have someone to share the house hold responsibilities with and not have a live in maid who will do everything! ‘ I don’t mind someone coming to help 2-3 days a week, that is fine but not have someone at your beck and call 24 hours a day.’
Another thing that he can’t stand are the girls getting all dressed up and parading around in heels with a face full of make up just to go to the mall, cinema and the sporting club. ‘What’s wrong with flats and dressing casually?’
‘My kids will be disciplined and taught to tidy up their rooms, make their beds and put their clothes away. When they are old enough they will have weekend and summer jobs so that they know the value of hard-earned money. I don’t want lazy ass kids’
I text him to tell him he had inspired me to write this, in his response he laughed and said he has more venting to do.
I would like to be with or marry a man who can take care of himself and who can stand on his own two feet without hanging on to his parent’s coat tails. I would hate to be under the dictatorship of his or my family for being dependent on them financially. I admire and respect men who work hard, earns their own money and is ambitious ESPECIALLY if he is from a wealthy family. To see him work hard at his trade like he needs the money, when he actually doesn’t gives me a strange sense of peace. If a man can cook, do laundry and clean occasionally without running back home to mummy, that would be an added bonus that I would be VERY grateful for. Alas, I have had no luck thus far and still remain an independent bachelorette. A 32-year-old female who is single in the Middle East means that she has past her expiry date.
Plus being an independent career driven, free thinking female doesn’t go down very well with most of the men here. Why you ask? Well, It’s because they know that I am not a puppet and if they try to pull my strings and force me to do their bidding, they know damn well that I will not put up with it.
I will remain a spinster until I find someone worthy of my time, companionship and my affections.
My mother suffers greatly from a hip problem and her sacroiliac. While I was in Alexandria I went with her one evening to her physio therapist. When our turn came for her to have a check up with her doctor, he looked at her scans and was being professional and serious as he asked and answered her questions very mater of factually. Once the prognosis had been made from looking at scans and x-rays he then turned to my mother and said. ‘May I ask you a question?’ Ofcourse said my mother in all innocence not seeing or expecting that the conversation could branch away from the matter at hand. “Tell me, is your daughter married?”. The moment the questions was released from this mans lips, I dropped my head and shook it in disbelief. I can’t believe that even in a doctor’s office when giving a consultation, in a place where professionalism is supposed to be a priority that it is impossible to escape THE question.
My father was beside himself with laughter, i’m not sure it was because he found the situation funny or because he was worried what the next question would be. My mother who was laughing from the shock said…’No, she’s not married, I didn’t think you were paying attention to me, you were interested in my daughter…I can’t take you any where!”
‘How old is she?’ the doctor persisted with his questions. Not knowing what to say, my mother turned to me and said ‘uh…32’. ‘PERFECT’ exclaimed the orthopedic, ‘My younger brother is 39 and he is an ophthalmologist!’
I looked the doctor and said “Why aren’t you directing the questions to me? I am the one you should be asking not her. Just for your information, I don’t want to get married.”
“Excuse me, this is between your mother and I.” the doctor answered back.
“Mrs. El Abdin, your back and your hip are my responsibility, my younger brother is your responsibility. If you and your husband come alone next time, I won’t see you. perhaps my brother will and they can meet each other.”
I tell you, I couldn’t get out of that office fast enough! ‘The next time we go out, I’m putting a paper bag over your head!’ my mother said as we got in the car.
This is normal here, believe it or not. Everyone is a match maker, it reminds me of that song from the movie ‘Fiddler On The Roof’, ‘Match Maker, Match Maker, Make Me A Match, Find Me A Find, Catch Me A Catch!’
Thinking I was safe in the car, my dad comes back and says…’The doctor just asked for my mobile phone number. ‘
That means that we should expect either the doctor to call on his brother’s behalf or his brother will call himself and ask if he can meet me in the presence of both my parent’s ‘ofcourse’. (If this sounds like a scene from a ‘period’ novel or movie…It Is, very much like that! That is how the majority of the older generation here were introduced to their significant others, it still happens a lot, but no where near as much as before)
So, my mother and I coached my Dad on what to say if he does call. “I’m sorry, but I chose my wife and I can not choose a wife for my daughter. She is free to choose whom ever she wants to marry and presently she is NOT interested or thinking about marriage, (a slight exaggeration).
I do want to eventually get married, but it has to be someone who understands and accepts that I am of mixed ethnicity and have a western mind-set and that I am NOT going to change once the wedding ceremony has taken place. I Am Who I Am and I Am What I Am, and I won’t change!