Every single woman can completely understand the plight of menstrual cramps, looking for a dress that fits just right, finding jeans that don’t make our asses look flat or in some cases, balloon-like, and of course, –oh, the shame!- being single; at least to many of us who used to be single. You see, there seems to be a trend going around with married women: they suddenly have infiltrated my inner circle of singles, something that didn’t seem to be the case until now. I realized this when I had lunch with my girlfriends, two of which have been married for over two years now.
“I’m so happy Ramadan is over,” said Sumiah. “Is that bad to say?” she added while adjusting her cream-colored floral hijab.
“Very,” said Neima a twenty-seven year old woman who was about as proud of her marital status as she was about her ability to roll one hundred grape leaves in under an hour.
“I mean I love Ramadan, but it’s just nice to have my house back to ourselves. I don’t mind entertaining people, but it was too much at times.
“Well it’s part of being married. Not that you guys are,” said Neima sounding a little judgmental.
After placing our orders and I finished squeezing my fourth lemon into my ice water, Sumiah asked what we had been up to lately. Neima answered and when my turn came around, I was suddenly interrupted midsentence by Neima, who asked, “What’s up with your wedding?”
“I’m sorry? Am I engaged and I didn’t know it.” I said making Sumiah laugh.
“Meaning what’s up with you? When are you getting married?”
“You know we’re both single, right?” I asked laughing out loud, referring to Sumiah who just giggled.
“Actually I’m not single,” corrected Sumiah glowing.
“Oh right I forgot,” I said with a smile remembering that she was in fact off the market and happy with a man her family introduced her to.
“No prospect on the horizon, I just haven’t met anyone yet. That’s all,” I said.
“We’ve all introduced you to someone and you don’t like any of the guys,” said Neima. “I mean I think you’re just being picky at this point. It can’t be that every guy isn’t likeable,” she said mockingly. “You have to stop being picky Faiza, or you’re going to be single for the rest of your life. Just settle down with someone. Anyone! Before it’s too late!”
“Too late?” I said. “What is this a Terminator film?”
“That’s bullshit,” said Sumiah. “Don’t settle!”
“I agree,” I said. “ I don’t believe in settling! If I wanted to settle, I would have been married by now. I don’t want to settle, I want to find love.”
“Fairy tales! Get real Faiza. If you keep looking for love, you will eventually have to settle with someone and by doing so, you won’t give your family the opportunity to see you married. That’s not fair to them!” said Neima rather frustrated with me.
“Did you just settle?” I asked.
“Me?” she said rather shocked. “No! I loved my husband. We fell in love the moment we met at his cousin’s house. I knew I didn’t want to be with anybody else but him and hamdulillah till today I feel the same way.”
I was taken aback. Neima had in fact fallen in love with her husband and was obviously still very much in love with him and yet a few days earlier, she was insisting that I settle down with any man, even if that man happen to be the Russian Yeti, just for the sake of being married.
“I’m confused,” I said “You’re saying that I should settle down and yet you found love. Why wouldn’t you want the same for me?”
“We got married a lot younger Fai, I’m just saying that I think if you want to be married like you always say you ‘wanna’ be, then you have to stop being so picky and lower your standards.”
“Neima, I love you. You’re someone I’ve known for years but what you’re basically saying is that you could find love because you were young when you found it, and yet because I’m twenty eight, I’m not allowed to find love because I’m an old ass… according to Arabs. You use to understand what it was like to be single, to struggle to find that special guy. I know that because we use to sit around and talk about it for hours with a bag of popcorn and packs of Ferreo Roche. I can’t believe you’ve forgotten what it was like being single all because you already said ‘I do!’ I have every right in this world to find love at any age… regardless if I’m labeled old, a grazing cow, a spinster, or an old maid. I’m not lucky like you, Samira, and all of the other married girls we know, to have found love yet, but to say that I should put my standards aside and just settle because if I don’t I’ll be alone forever, is insane. I would rather be single and happy, than married and miserable.”
“OK,” she said, a hint of judgment still in her voice.
“Don’t settle,” added Sumiah sternly. “That’s the stupid Araby approach to marriage. Just get married khalas! Fuck that! If I don’t love you, I’m not marrying you.” If I did what my parents wanted me to do–the same thing you’re asking Fai to do–” said Sumiah to Neima sipping her water, “…then I would have been married, yeah, but nothing else. No love, no romance, and never mind the fact that I wouldn’t have met Adam,” she said telling us the name of her mystery man for the first time.
Sumiah had been very private about the man who seemed to have swept her off her feet. A man her father introduced her to, although, contrary to her belief that he would never come up with a likely candidate for her.
“We both remember what it was like to be single,” Sumiah said looking right at Neima. “So let’s not forget that love comes to people in different ways, at different times in their life. You can’t force or pressure it. You just kind of have to let it happen when it happens.”
I had never heard Sumiah talk this way before and it was obviously not only a shock to me, but to Neima. We had always known Sumiah to be a rather pessimistic woman who not only hated the idea of marriage, but pitied any woman who went from single to wedded as unromantically as a business deal. But Sumiah was absolutely right. Being single is hard. It’s so freaking hard. And to all of those married women out there, who have seemingly forgotten how difficult the single struggle is, I say to you, that although you may think finding love is easy, IT’S NOT because we all have standards that we need to meet. No, that doesn’t mean that we’re all searching for prince charming, with chiseled features and a muscular body, although those things would be freaking great, but rather what we ladies are really searching for is the character of a man; someone who is smart, articulate, kind, loyal, honest, someone who values the vows of marriage. Until that day, when we find The One, only then will we be ready to settle down and raise a family and it will be in a loving household. Until that day comes, we will not settle or lower our standards because society, culture, our families, or our married girlfriends say that we should. A true friend married or not, will want you to have the best, like Sumiah, even if you are twenty eight.