On a beautiful Chicago afternoon, three Muslim girls sat on an empty bench at Navy Pier eating popcorn and feeding the birds. I was very happy to see Lama and Sumiah since Ramadan had made our almost-daily meetings quite scattered.
“Where the hell is Asma?” I asked, feeling like the group was no longer whole without her. “I mean after she married, it seems we come second-string.”
“I fuckin’ hate second-string,” said Sumiah.
“Oh come on, guys. That’s what happens when people marry,” said Lama.
“Well, we’re not just people, we’re best friends. What happen to putting friends before a man?”
“Well, marriage changes everything,” said Lama.
“It seems like everyone’s getting married,” said Sumiah.
“That’s true!” I agreed, knowing that I had already heard about six engagements in the last week.
“Every time I hear about a fuckin’ engagement, I wanna scream,” said Sumiah.
“Here here, sister!” I said, throwing more popcorn at the birds.
“Oh, come on! This is coming from someone who talks about finding Mr. Right almost every day!”
“I’m not denying wanting to find Mr. Right, but I can’t help but be a little bitter when I hear about everyone else getting engaged and married and walking around showing off their stupid engagement rings…” suddenly a voice interrupted my conversation with a loud, “Oh my Gawd–Salam!” We all turned–it was Reema AbdulNasr, a Palestinian snob who believed in two things in life: getting married and having babies while wearing designer everything.
“Reema,” we all said, feigning excitement. Anytime we’ve ever met the girl, she’s bored us with talk about all the men who are madly in love with her, how much dowry they were all willing to give up to marry her, whose baby came out with blonde hair and blue eyes (and, if so, who the girl actually slept with to get a light baby like that) and, finally, how shocked she is that we’ve actually worn the same outfit more than once.
“It’s so nice to see you,” she said with that nagging voice of hers. “Oh my God Faiza, I think I saw you wearing those same exact heels the last time I saw you,” she said.
“It’s great to see you Reema,” I lied, putting on my best poker face.
“What?” I asked, not really giving a shit what she had to say.
“Look!” she flashed her bronze colored hand in my face, exposing a beautiful diamond ring that glittered in the sunlight. “I’m getting married!”
“Oh, another wedding,” I said under my breath to Sumiah who laughed.
“Mabrook,” we all said.
“It’s going to be the wedding of the year,” she said.
“Oh really? Cause I heard that Jennifer Aniston’s is going to be the wedding of the year,” I joked.
“No way! Mine is!” she said to me, obviously not getting my sarcasm. “I’m gonna have camels and like horses and then I want like a giant tent, like we’re in the dessert, like very Arabian nights and all. I mean, I want fireworks and balloons and clowns.”
“Sounds like a carnival,” I said.
“Oh, it’s gonna be way better,” she said.
“Sounds like a party,” said Lama with a smile.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” she said, admiring her ring and hoping we would do the same. “Sometimes I just can’t believe it’s happening. Not that I thought it wouldn’t because I’m destined for marriage. You know there’s people who are destined to marry and other girls who just never will.”
Somehow I felt she was hinting that I was in category B, the one who’s destined to never marry. Everyone who knew me, and the many who didn’t but joined in on the gossip about my failed engagement to Nidal, said this everywhere: “That girl is just not meant to be married. She’s going to die all alone!” At the time it didn’t bother me because I actually hoped they were right. After what had happen between Nidal and me, the last thing I wanted to think about was marriage. Being single was my main objective. Now that I’m expired and reaching a point where I’ll be labeled ‘An Old Grazing Cow,’ I can’t help but wonder if that will be my fate. Perhaps Reema is right. Maybe there are two grown-up categories: those that are destined to marry and those that aren’t. If so, which do I fall in?
That night, I found myself skimming through my phone book. Yes, I don’t depend solely on my cellphone. I like the old fashion leather address book where you skim through contacts that are handwritten and mostly sloppy. To kids in today’s day and age, you might as well be talking about driving a Flinstone’s rock car. I reviewed each name and realized that out of fifty women, everyone had a pen marking of a surname I had added after they had gotten married. Most of my girlfriends were married and the single list was becoming ever so small. One name stuck out most to me: the fourth person of our group who had become M.I.A. after marrying herself–Asma. I thought I’d give her a call.
“Hello,” she said.
“Faiza, you’ve had the same number since I’ve known you,” she said. We both laughed.
“How are you? Where are you? We don’t see you anymore.”
“Things are good, just hectic. I thought I was pregnant yesterday. I was freaking out. You know how I always said about wanting to get pregnant after about two years of being married.”
“Yeah, I remember.”
“So, what’s up? It’s been months. I feel like I only keep up with you guys on Facebook.”
“Well, we invite you out every time, but you’re usually busy.”
“Yeah, I didn’t think being married would be this much work.”
“Well, we need to grab dinner like old times.”
“Asma, I’m serious. We’ve been apart so long. This Friday you better get your butt downtown and have dinner with us.”
“OK!” she said.
I didn’t believe her. But to my happy surprise, our quartet sat having dinner Friday night all decked out from head to toe in fabulousness.
“The most shocking thing about marriage has to be the sex,” said Asma.
“Waiter, we need four virgin margaritas please,” said Sumiah. “Please continue,” she added.
“No, I’m serious, he’s always wanting to have sex. It’s like sometimes we need to take a break.”
“Oh honey, he’s a keeper,” said Sumiah.
“Because he wants to have sex every day?” asked Lama.
“Yes! A guy that wants to have sex with you every day means he’s very into you. What do you want? A guy who’s only interested in sleeping with you once a month?”
“Yeah!” said Asma, seeming bothered by the whole topic.
“Well, he’s got to get tired after awhile,” I said.
“That’s what I’m afraid of,” she said.
“I’m confused,” said Sumiah.
Asma was about to begin when our margaritas arrived. She waited until after we placed our orders to actually go into detail.
“I’m afraid that he’s into me right now and I turn him on right now, but what happens down the line when this all dies out and he’s not into me anymore? What if I stop turning him on? What if he starts getting bored and decides to start looking somewhere else?”
“I don’t think that’s gonna happen,” said Lama supportively.
“What about you, Faiza? You’re a writer. Aren’t you supposed to know about these things?”
“Have you read my work? I am not exactly the go-to girl for advice. My life as it pertains to men is one big epic fail.”
“Well, you’re a writer. You’re supposed to understand things more than the average person, right? I saw it in that movie Anonymous!”
“Asma, I love you for comparing me to Earl of Oxford, but I’m not that smart!”
“Oh, come on! What do you think I should do?”
“Isn’t there some rule against giving married women advice on their husbands?”
“Faiza?!” begged Asma.
“Alright, alright, alright! I’m not an expert on the subject, so don’t take my word for it, OK? But, one day I tried this $2 chocolate cake that I found at Walgreens and it was so good. I must have bought it everyday for about a week because I just really liked it. After about a month of constantly making that cake my dessert, I got tired of it.
I looked at it and was just turned off. I had it so much that it just lost its appeal. I wanted to indulge in something else, something different. Now had I gone ahead and indulged in that cake maybe two times a week instead of everyday, I wouldn’t pass by it everytime at Walgreens and want to hurl. So, in my opinion, sex is no different than that cake. If you have it every day, it can potentially ruin your appetite. Sex is about rejuvenation. You know, stopping for a little while, then starting up again. What’s exciting or alluring about something you indulge in everyday? Nothing!”
“So, basically he’s gonna leave me for another woman?” asked Asma worriedly.
“See, this is where that rule comes in!” I said.
“Asma if you’re so unhappy about having sex everyday, why don’t you just tell him you’re not in the mood?” asked Sumiah.
“Yeah, a guy is supposed to understand that, right?” I asked.
“He should!” said Lama.
“He doesn’t!” she said. “When he wants to do it, he wants to do it!”
“And what if you don’t?” I asked wonderingly.
“I never say that I don’t. I act like I want to so that he doesn’t get mad!”
“Asma, you can’t do that!” said Sumiah. “If you’re not interested, then you should just tell him.”
“Of?” we all asked at the same time.
“Well, part of marriage is sex,” she said.
“Exactly. Part, not all!” I interjected.
“Well, what kind of wife am I if I don’t please him in that way, you know?”
“I don’t, but I understand where you’re coming from,” I said. “But, listen sweetie. Marriage is a two way street. Except in Reema’s case, that poor guy’s not gonna know what hit him, but you need to be open with him. I know Nabeel, he’s the nicest guy. He’ll understand.”
“And you’ll make the sex that much more interesting because he’ll have to work for it,” said Sumiah raising a sexy brow.
“You’re right! I’ll talk with him. Now, what’s this about Reema getting married?”
“Yup! It’s happening finally,” I said.
“Boy, that’s gonna be the wedding of the year,” said Asma.
“Really Asma?! You’ve been away from us for too long,” I said. “Do you know what she said?”
“What?” asked Asma, getting that glint in her eye that I missed.
“She said that there are some girls in this world who are meant to marry and others who are destined to stay single.”
“Well, I’m sure she’s right,” said Asma just as our food arrived.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Some girls do end their lives alone. Girls who never marry. Those do exist, Fai.”
“I know, but somewhere I felt like she was meaning that I was one of them.”
“I have to admit that I thought she was talking about you too,” said Sumiah, taking a bite out of her steak.
“That’s sweet, Sumiah. Thanks!”
“I don’t think you’ll be single forever Fai,” said Lama.
“Thank you Lama.”
“No! Every girl has a guy out there for her somewhere,” said Asma.
“Well, mine better come soon because I’m tired of looking and my family is already recruiting douche bags for me to meet.”
“Maybe you should give those douche bags a chance,” said Asma. “Who knows. I found love in the most unexpected place. Nabeel and I didn’t like each other in the beginning. We grew to like each other. Now, I can’t imagine my life without him.”
“No matter how sex-crazed he is?” asked Sumiah with a smile.
“Yes Su, no matter how sex-crazed he is. I love him!”
“What if, let’s just throw this out there, what if, I’m meant to be single for the rest of my life? What if this is my life? Writing about unsuccessful meetings with guys that I refuse to call dates because I feel like I’m going to hell if I do. Being introduced to half the guys in Illinois. Hoping my ex-fiancé breaks up with his wife and figures that he’s madly in love with the woman he cheated on? What if this is it?”
“It can’t be!” said Lama. “Love’s gonna come our way Fai, you’ll see. It’s gonna be in the most unexpected place at the most unexpected time with maybe the most unexpected person. Because it’s part of our deen to marry and Allah is just testing you by bringing all the wrong guys so that when you meet the right one, you’ll know it!”
Somewhere I felt that Lama’s words were true. That God is bringing all the wrong guys my way in order to test my patience in finding Mr. Right. I wasn’t, however, happy about how long the test might go or how many pricks I’d have to meet along the way.
The night played out as it had so many times before Asma decided to ditch the group and get hitched. Many laughs, some tears, remembering old times, trying to forget some newer ones. Talking about men, marriage, love, and (yes) our relationship status. But, what I realized that night is that although my relationship status on Facebook may say ‘Single,’ I was actually in a relationship with my girlfriends. Because a girl is never really alone as long as she has her girlfriends by her side.