*Disclaimer: author’s identity has been kept anonymous.
I hardly gave any thought on how I would meet my man. Or actually, I didn’t know if I would meet a man that fit my simple criteria. See, I didn’t care that I only wanted a few necessary things on my criteria list. However I did care enough that if I chose a man, he would fit my criteria to a T. I’d begun to open up to the idea of marrying someone in my late teens. As a female, my parents would remind me about marriage but suggested that I finished my degree first without too many distractions. So they weren’t prepared to outwardly look for me until I hit my 22nd birthday. I wasn’t too caught up in looking for myself either with university, internships and work taking up most of my time.
My rebellion within the notion of marriage didn’t come from the idea of marrying someone. My rebellion came from my parent’s idea of marrying someone from our own culture. We disagreed for over a year on this issue, so much so that our local ethnic community caught wind of it. As someone born and raised in Australia, I wasn’t too keen on marrying someone from my roots- not if they weren’t already living in Australia. And that was almost impossible, considering how ‘connected’ our ethnic community was.
So I decided to take matters in my own hands. My friend and discussed the idea of joining an Islamic marriage circle such as Mission of Hope’s The M Word. I was and still am very honest with my parents, so I wasn’t going to enter into this without the consent of my parents. I wouldn’t say it was a bad idea to tell my parents, but maybe it could’ve been handled better. Cue World War III. After that very intense discussion, I realised, fine, I wasn’t desperate to get married right here, right now. So I decided to place my trust in my parents and allow them to look for an appropriate guy, no matter how sceptical I was that they would actually find one that fit my criteria.
After one of my best friends got married at 20, my family was hit with marriage proposals- from around the world. They were all from our cultural background and they were mainly older men- so if I ever said yes to them, there would’ve been a good 7 to 12 year age gap. My parents and I weren’t too keen on that, as well as the fact that I wanted to remain in and work in Australia.
So it was a surprise to everyone when a proposal was brought to my dad by a younger, newly married family friend. This family friend was proposing one of his BFFs as a suitable partner for me. What surprised my dad was that he’d subconsciously taken note of the proposed guy at the local mosque for the last 3-5 years during Ramadan. The proposed guy had been living with flatmates in Australia as an international student for the last 6 years.
My dad decided to let me know about this proposal. I was fine with them looking into someone, but boy was I super skeptical. After much investigation into the guy, his family, his friends, his life- my parents told me that everything was fine and that if I was still open to the idea, to see him. I’ll forever remember the first day I saw him- Eid-ul-Adha 2012. There were a lot of anticipated and unanticipated things that went down that day…
I was about to see the man who could potentially be my husband. I was also going to see my best friend’s husband for the first time as he had just come from England and it was the festive day of Eid. Colourful clothing, presents, socialising- the exciting atmosphere in our ethnic community was everywhere. But nothing could have prepared me for what happened next- the shocks, the excitement overload and a bit of betrayal thrown into the mix.
My first drama was seeing the ‘proposed dude’ as I called him. Despite many attempts by my mother to lure me closer to him, I was overcome with embarrassment and shyness- which was new for me. Anyone who knows me knows how talkative and confident I can be. After a while, I relented by detaching myself from the protective circle of my friends and into the lion’s den. My mum and I awkwardly met the friend who initiated the proposal, his wife and kids and his proposed friend. We didn’t want to make it obvious to the community that something more official than Eid socialising was going on. There was a decision to keep it between close relatives, close friends and any family involved for now- in case the proposal was unsuccessful. I was happy just discussing my thoughts with my newly married friend, otherwise being alone in this would’ve driven me crazy.
I could barely look at his face, and I was sighing in relief when the chit-chat was over. I made a beeline back to my friends where another unforeseen drama was unfolding. Another friend of mine had announced that she was engaged. I was so happy and excited for her- particularly because we had no idea that she would be ‘the next one in line.’ The engagement was a quick process for her, and was kept under wraps. However at the previous Eid, I did suspect something might have been going on for her and commented about my speculation briefly to my mum. Little did I know what impact that would have.
We were congratulating her and after a while, I noticed her walking over and talking to the guy that was proposed for me. Cue shock number 2. I was looking at them wondering, what on Earth!? This guy, whom I had just met for the first time today, wasn’t heavily involved in community activities and had no way of being on chummy terms with a girl my age, since there’s strict gender segregation.
My other girlfriends and I were watching her curiously (me being the most curious) until a friend informed me that the guy my engaged friend was talking to, was her fiancé’s first cousin. Say what!? I think I was so shocked that we were both ‘investigating’ future spouses at the same time from the same family. After the shock, I became angry and betrayed. There was no way this piece of information could have gotten past my parents.
As I looked for my mum, I was really upset- why didn’t they tell me, why did they keep it a secret? These were some of the questions repeatedly running through my head. I had a severe discussion with my parents in the corner of the park for the following 10 minutes. They told me that 1, they didn’t tell my friend’s family that we were looking into her fiance’s first cousin as a potential for me and 2, after my friend’s family’s insistence, my parents had promised my friend’s family that they wouldn’t tell anyone about my friend’s engagement because she wanted to tell me and the rest of our friends herself on Eid.
After I had mentioned to my mum last Eid about my suspicions, she’d kept that in mind. While my parents were looking into the proposed guy it had gotten around to my parents that the proposed guy’s first cousin was already ‘settled’ with another girl in our community. So in true CIA style, she did a bit of investigating and found out who the other girl was.
In my raw hurt from being kept out of this piece of information my reflex action was to slam the proposal back in everyone’s faces crumbling up months of invested ‘research’ into family compatibility by everyone involved. But after (unashamedly) listening in on his conversations in the park with other people that day, I realised he truly was a nice, genuine guy. I couldn’t let my emotions get in the way of my judgment of him and the possibility of a future with him.
After another long discussion with my parents, I expressed my dissatisfaction with their choice (despite the fact that I knew they had no choice as they had a promise to keep). I also told them that I’d give the proposed guy a shot. So a date was set for a chaperoned meet-up in Bicentennial Park- and that led to self-discoveries more than I could’ve ever imagined.