When a single woman finds herself at a wedding, it can be a minefield of emotions—especially if you’re seated next to some lovey-dovey couple holding hands and kissing throughout the entire night. Now being Arab and Muslim means you don’t have to worry about being seated next to such a couple because any sort of public displays of affection are an absolute no-no. Even if it were permitted, weddings usually seat the women with the women and the men to the men. What’s more depressing about this Arab Muslim seating arrangement is the fact that for the next few hours, if you’re a single woman, you will be asked the dreaded question over and over: “Why aren’t you married yet?” Knowing this, I figured the best way to get through the night would be by wearing a stellar pair of heels, and so I opted for my Silver Red Bottoms. If a stellar pair of heels could get Cinderella through a night in the same room as her evil stepmother and sisters, then hell, it could do wonders for me.
As I walked into the room, I felt confident, sexy, and tall—very tall. The heels were a good five inches, which I love. They say the higher the heel, the closer to God, right?I couldn’t immediately spot any of my friends and so I walked over to the only table that was available. It seated four girls who looked easily under eighteen, but with an attitude of an aristocratic thirty-year-old whose shit doesn’t smell. I asked if the seat was free and they said yes, and so I took a chair and from there scanned the room, hoping to spot one of my girlfriends.
“Are you related to the bride or the groom?” asked one girl who was adding lip-gloss to her full lips.
“Neither. I’m friends with the bride,” I said.
“Are you married?” asked another girl with a gold and metallic colored hijab on.
I knew that that question was one I would hear all night, but little did I know that the first person that would ask me that would be a girl young enough to be my sister.
“No! I’m not married,” I said.
“You’re not even engaged?” she added.
“Not engaged or married,” I said, forcing a smile. “Living the single life and enjoying it,” I said sincerely. I mean, what the hell is wrong with being single? Nothing! Sure, in this culture and many likeminded ones, there’s a lot to pity in a single woman, but I enjoy the freedom afforded to me by not being attached. I only intend to change that the day I meet The One. Until then, I’m not settling for just Any One.
“How sad,” she said with a sympathetic face that her friends joined in with.
Silence fell over the table and for a moment I felt like I was at a funeral. So you can only imagine how happy I was when I saw an opportunity to approach the beautiful bride, my friend who we’ll call Fatima (not her real name).
“Assalamu Alaikum. Mabrook habibti,” I said as we both embraced.
“Thank you,” she said embracing me tightly. She was so happy. Every part of her said happiness. Nobody was more deserving than a girl who put her life on the side to support her single mother for nine years. She put off on going to school, life, and love for her family and now it was her turn to be happy and she was.
“InshAllah you’ll be next,” she said.
“Please don’t be one of those people who say that to me now that you’re married,” I said.
Suddenly I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned. It was Muna, a twenty-nine-year-old Palestinian girl with a husband of eight years and four children. We embraced.
“Why are you so late?” Muna asked me, stealing me away from the now-occupied bride.
“Have you seen my hair?” I asked.
“Yeah, it looks great mashallah.”
“Well, it took two washes and blow-dries, curling, teasing, and more product than is allowed to get it this way.”
“I didn’t even wash my hair,” said Muna, adjusting her hijab. “That’s why I decided to keep my hijab on.”
Muna could have removed her hijab since it was only female guests, but she opted to keep her hair tucked in a dirty bun, rather than take the few hours to style it.
“I’m so freaking lazy,” she said laughing.
I joined in.
“Where were you sitting?” she asked.
“Next to the marriage-obsessed toddlers in the corner,” I joked.
“Oh God, those are the grooms cousins. All they’re worried about is getting married and having kids.”
“Well that explains their question and attitude,” I said as we continued walking past tables filled with women who I saw eyeing me.
“Don’t let them bother you,” she said, catching the looks and occasional whispers. “They’re just jealous that you’re single and free to do what you want. Take your time, trust me. I should have,” Muna said before quickly changing the subject by taking me over to WAYM looking table. A WAYM table is one filled with women who will ask you, “Why Aren’t You Married?” These women are normally over forty, still have a heavy Arab accent (although they think they speak perfect English), and their job is to dance with a handkerchief around the bride while trying to eye single women to play matchmaker with. Their perfect victim was about to approach the table.
After greeting each other with an ‘Assalamu Alaikum,’ and kisses on both cheeks, the WAYM group looked me up and down and asked the question I already suspected, “Why aren’t you married?”
I’ll be honest when I say that a part of me wanted to say, “Why the bloody hell is it any of your business?” I love English accents and always wanted to use the word bloody in something, so in my mind this is how I would have answered, but I knew that I couldn’t unless I wanted them to contact some member of my family and talk about my not only being single, but disrespectful.
“I just haven’t found my naseeb yet,” I answered in the most cliché fashion possible.
The comments rolled in:
- “You know I know a boy that is recently divorced.”
- “I have two sons who I think you would really like.”
- “There’s a guy who owns that Araby cellphone store on Harlem who is looking for a wife.
- “You still have time to get married. Don’t worry. We’ll help you. Don’t worry.”
I didn’t understand the need for them to repeat, “don’t worry,” over a dozen
times as if I were standing there like an emotional wreck sobbing with Nutella in one hand and a giant spoon in the other.
“I’m not worried. It will happen when He has it planned to happen,” I said, trying my best to look graceful although I was annoyed with their persistence.
“Bathroom break,” Muna whispered.
I nodded and we both rushed off into the bathroom where we both touched up our makeup and Muna tried to comfort me about all the annoying single girl questions.
“You’re getting more attention than the bride,” Muna said taking a break from powdering her nose.
Arabs attend weddings for three reasons: to eat, dance, and look for a husband/wife. However, I attend weddings for these reasons: the bride, the celebration, and the cake—I love cake. Considering that it’s the bride’s day and that it should be about her, it’s unfortunate that the culture makes it more about the unmarried women more than the one actually getting married. Single guests are there looking for a husband/wife. Their families are there to look for a husband/wife for their son/daughter niece/nephew, cousin, uncle, aunt, or friend. The bride is no longer of any interest to them, besides the obvious celebratory aspect, because she’s no longer on the market. It’s sad, but unfortunately true.
The wedding went on with all the usual happenings: dancing, eating, dancing, more single girl questions, dancing, and then pushing the single girls in front of the lady shooting the wedding video so that when they show their family the wedding overseas, single men can see her and see if they’re interested. My favorite part of any wedding, is the dabkeh. I didn’t care that my hair went from Fab to Flat at the end of the night because I danced my single girl ass off. It was really the only way to avoid the questions, although an occasional woman would belly dance over to me and say, “You’re next!” God I wanted to just have a glass of water to throw in their face. I mean, if you’re such a psychic and can predict relationship status futures, then why don’t you tell me where you see my writing career going in the next year. That would be a hell of a lot more interesting to me than hearing about whether or not I’m going to get married.
Mind you, I want to find The One and get married. I do, but it’s not an obsession of mine. Yes I’m looking, yes I’m frustrated, and yes I eat at least a pound of chocolate every time I watch The Notebook, but I mean I’m not desperate. Far from it.
The night had come to an end and as I walked towards the door with a few of my friends and their friends who I did not become acquainted with, I felt relieved that the night was over and the questions with it. I approached my car and said my goodbyes to the girls I knew and those that I didn’t. As I leaned in to say goodbye to one girl I didn’t really know, she decided to add, “Why aren’t you married?” with a very confused look on her face. “I mean you’re beautiful mashAllah and all of us were just like you should have someone.”
I wanted to get upset at the repetitive question I thought I had escaped upon exiting the building, but instead I smiled and said, “I’m already married,” I said.
“To who?” several girls asked.
“To these,” I said, lifting a heel from the pavement like an actress lifts her foot back in those romantic movies.
We all laughed and went off into the night single, married and all.