Contributed by: Anonymous woman
Story from: LA, United States
My Other Half, Whoever He May Be
I am a twenty-something year-old Arab woman, but I am westernized to an alarming degree. And so, the man I will marry in the future is something I ponder often. I don’t think about personality traits or even specific physical characteristics. I only wonder about what ethnicity box he will check: Arab, white, or other.
The concept of an arranged marriage is not uncommon in Arab culture. I already have people asking my father if their sons can have my hand in marriage. But, if an Arab man is willing to commit to an arranged marriage in his early twenties, then he most likely will possess the closed-mindset that many Muslim Arab men often have. This will be a point of friction if I do decide to walk the arranged-marriage path. I am liberal. If my children are gay, I need my husband to be okay with that. If they want to date, I want their father to meet their partners instead of scaring them off. I think the only way I’d be happy with an Arab if he were almost as whitewashed as me – the perfect dilution of white Arab is really hard to come by, though. The funny thing is, even though I don’t need to marry an Arab, I do want to.
My parents ideally want me to marry an Arab-Muslim. In Islam, it is unacceptable for a woman to marry out of her religion unless her husband-to-be converts. I had a conversation with my mother about this because I was wondering where she stood. I asked her if she and my father would accept me if I bring home an American one day. She said, “Obviously, I prefer somebody like us. It would be easier and better. But, as long as he’s a good man, as long as he takes care of you and loves you the way you should be loved, then I don’t care where he comes from.”
Proximity is a factor which determines who we are attracted to. As the term connotes, humans tend to congregate towards people who we are near geographically, solely out of convenience. My lifestyle living in the U.S. has me surrounded with white people more often than not. My dating history is indicative of proximity playing a role in whom I choose to be with romantically. I’ve been with more non-Arab men than Arab, and of those, most were white. My biggest fear if I marry a white man is that my children will not grow up speaking Arabic. I want to converse with them in the language that I speak with to anyone who will listen. I want them to read and write it better than I do, to not lose the skill when they are taught it, like I did. I want them to eat mana’eesh zaatarand foolfor breakfast with their family every Friday morning, like I did growing up. I fear that this will not happen. I fear that they will only know a few words of the language and that their favorite food will be French-fries.
If I fall in love with a white man and decide to marry him, I would not be questioning my confidence in my looks like I’ve done in my past white-boy flings. No matter the race of the man I marry, I know he’ll think I’m beautiful. The thought of marrying a white man, though, gives me anxiety in a different way. I wonder, if marrying one will make me truly happy, or if I will sacrifice even more of my identity to Western culture than I have already. In forfeiting a part of my identity, I would be insulting a culture and religion that my parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles all bear so proudly on their shoulders; a culture and religion so rich in history and beauty, a culture that I should seek in a spouse.
If I do not marry a nice, Arab, Muslim man, I know I will be okay, but there will be an aura of disappointment or discomfort around me within my family. I would be a pawn contributing to the slow sacrifice of identity to the West. I’m the granddaughter of refugees: my grandparents have already watched their culture thin down, their roots break more and more. Their pain translates into some sort of expectation I have for myself to squeeze on tighter to what I have left to uphold their legacy when they all pass.
It’s rare enough to find love without this restriction I’ve placed on the ethnicity of my partner, the criteria of being Arab, but not too Arab. But, this stipulation is what I want for myself. Looking at successful Arab-to-Arab marriages in my family, those that are the perfect fusion of Arab and Western, makes me crave the same bond. These marriages make me realize that what I want is indeed possible, and I shouldn’t settle out of convenience or proximity. I need to remember that.
All my love,
This is Aida, Founder of 365 Days of Love <3
Thank you to the woman in LA for your beautiful love story! I would love to hear from you to see how do you balance your heritage, culture with the way you pick your current/potential spouse? I’m working on figuring this out so would highly value your thoughts!
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With Lots of Love,