I’m twenty two years old. In Muslim years, this means I’m getting on a bit. I’m no longer the sparkly young debutante I was at 18, when volunteering at events was like totally the coolest thing everrrr. I’m getting to be in what’s known as ‘the marriage danger zone’ i.e. you’d better get married soon or the pickings are going to get slim (disclaimer: I’m just using myself as an example here, don’t get any ideas). But it’s not all gloom and doom. It could be much worse: I could be twenty five.
What’s so damning about the age twenty five, you ask? Well, when discussing this matter with friends we’ve generally agreed that it’s the age at which a woman starts to face some serious difficulties getting married. Twenty five, being a fairly solid figure, seems to indicate a level of maturity that twenty four and three quarters does not. Twenty five suggests a few rungs up the career ladder, solo overseas jaunts and a robust bank balance. (These might sound great to recruiters, but not so great to aunties looking for wives for their precious sons.) It seems to scream, ‘I’ve passed through all these years of awkward lounge room encounters AND attended countless community events, and yet here I am, ring-finger naked as ever!’ To potential suitors and their families, this seems to suggest either:
a.) The girl is picky. Maybe she’s too ‘into her career’ (tsk tsk, you feminazi), or just too hard to please.
b.) There must be something ‘wrong’ with her, or she would’ve been snapped up sooner.
Let me state clearly: I do not agree with these conclusions. There could be any number of reasons why a woman is unmarried, and it’s horribly unfair to assume that it’s due to some fault or defect as if she were a car lingering for months on carsales.com.au. I also feel it’s somewhat unfair that this rule only applies to women; men continue to be eligible well into their late twenties and beyond. But I acknowledge that there are reasons for the latter disparity. Muslim men are generally discouraged from getting married before they have a stable source of income, and for many this isn’t feasible before at least the age I’m at now. As men, it is their responsibility to support their wives financially, while females are under no obligation to contribute to household finances when they work. That is why you tend to see many girls getting married while still studying at university or even earlier.
In this competitive marriage market, youthfulness is definitely seen as an asset. In fact, I’ve heard many stories of Muslim men being warned against marrying someone of their own age, or God forbid, an older woman. They’re told that these women will be ‘too set in their ways’. Mothers even warn their daughters against marrying anyone too close to them in age, telling them that they’ll look older than their husband in the distant future. These notions are underpinned, in my opinion, by insecurity and fear. A man has nothing to fear from a woman who has racked up an impressive list of achievements before becoming his wife, and a woman has nothing to fear from a man who, inshaAllah, should be able to look beyond stretch wrinkles, lumps and bumps (surely he’ll accumulate a few of his own, after all).
A certain stigma attaches itself to a woman who remains single years after her ‘prime’, regardless of her own feelings on the matter. Having spoken to many such women, their feelings on being single in this unforgiving climate vary from sorrow to ambivalence to relative contentment. In the words of one friend, ‘I’d rather be a crazy old cat lady than marry someone I don’t like.’ But on the other hand I’ve also spoken to girls who’ve seen their older friends remain single into their late twenties and are taking proactive steps to avoid the same fate. For these girls, the prospect of turning twenty five and still being single is one which fills them with deep sadness and regret.
In non-Muslim years, twenty five is nothing to worry about. The average age of marriage in Australia is just under thirty for a woman and just over thirty for a man, so there’s still plenty of time to date, cohabit and eventually marry. But Muslims tend to do everything on fast forward; we skip the years of dating and cohabiting and go straight for marriage. When there’s no physical or even deep emotional intimacy before marriage, it’s not hard to imagine why the age of twenty five is just right. In fact, it might even be considered fairly late to be getting into the swing of things, if you know what I mean 😉
For those over twenty five, did you notice anything change once you hit this age? For those under twenty five, do you feel the pinch the closer you get to it? Or is age just a number?