By Dana Husam Abdullah
“Reema, Reema, open the door!” Her grandma rapped on it. She sighed, and got up out of bed, “Coming, nanna.”
Her grandmother; ever so beautiful, healthy and spirited for her age; held a tray of freshly squeezed orange juice.
“I know you said not interrupt you for an hour until you’re done with your project,” her warm face was a comfort to look at. “But I thought you could use a short minute break to drink and just talk.”
“Thanks,” she said, taking a glass.
“Were you sleeping?” Her grandmother asked, gesturing at the bed.
“No, I write while on the bed. I lie on my stomach and just…” she pulled out some sheets of paper next to her pillows.”
“You could get ink on the sheets. Just write on the desk.”
“No, I prefer to be in a state of complete relaxation while I write. Like at a massage table where you’re lying face down.”
“If I’m not comfortable, I’ll anxiously wonder if my writing is good enough. It’ll hinder any progress.”
“So, um, thanks for the juice.”
Reema pulled up her papers and read-over the article she’d written:
What kinds of thoughts do unmarried Arab women have, who are nearing the age of 30?
“How come my married friends don’t initiate contact as much anymore?”
“If it ever happens, you’ll have wrinkles on your wedding day.”
“The longer it takes, the larger the age gap between you and your first child. When they’re 30, you’re 60.”
“Why hasn’t it happened? Am I not pretty enough? Am I not as successful? Am I too successful? Do people think I’m too outgoing? Do people think I’m not outgoing enough? Maybe I need to be more religious? Maybe I come off as too religious?”
“If it doesn’t happen and you get old, would you want to live alone with cats; or as a burden on your brother or sister and their respective family; or at a retirement home?”
“If only I didn’t reject Mr. A, if I had just settled with Mr. B…”
Their own personal demons have at least occasionally invaded their thoughts; the last thing they want is for society to pressure them about the topic too.
From the pitiful “Obalek” (meaning “Your turn will soon come.”) or “It’ll happen when it’s supposed to, I know XYZ who got hitched at 30/35/40 years of age…” to comments such as, “I think your standards are too high” people just want to comment on the issue, disregarding whether or not it’s appropriate. Some people are well-meaning; others probably have the psychological inner need to feel superior about their own lives by bringing down others. They shouldn’t ask a childless couple, “When will you start a family?” They shouldn’t ask parents of all-girls, “When will you have a son?” or vice versa. They shouldn’t ask people who have one or two kids, “When’s the next one coming along?” And they certainly shouldn’t ask single girls, “Emta hanefrah feeki?” (Meaning “When are we going to happily attend your wedding?”). It would make the commentee feel inadequate as a human being until they’ve met the expectations of the commenter. No, everyone is complete and whole as a human, as a person, regardless of whether or not they’ve met society’s standards.
After some thought, she wrote the conclusion:
It is the wise bachelorette who knows it’s better to wait until you’ve found the perfect match rather than jumping into the pit-fire with the wrong one, as though it’s a race to see who gets there quickly. There should be compatibility. This is a lifetime commitment after all.
After typing it out on the laptop and sending it to her editor, she went out into the living room.
“You know what, nanna?” She said, smiling. “I think it’ll be okay. Stop worrying about me.”
“What do you mean?”
“You know what I mean, nanna. May you live a full, longer and happy life. But you’re stressing about me and my relationship status is not good.”
Her grandmother smiled sadly. “When you’re a parent or a grandparent you’ll know we can’t stop worrying-”
“I don’t care if I ever do or do not get married and have a family. I’ll be okay. I’m doing fine just now. I like my life as it is.”
“But I want to make sure you’re alright before it’s my time to leave-”
“We can always subconsciously think positive thoughts, and hope we get what we desire. But you can’t plan these things, nanna, and you need to know that whatever happens, I’m alright. I have God. So that means I’ll be alright. If I ever marry, it’ll be to someone who’ll help me maintain this level of happiness. He’ll come along when it’s supposed to. Until he does, I want to live in the now. Make the most use of time. Not wasting it discussing the issue for the hundredth time, or stressing over it.”
Her grandma got up and kissed her forehead.
“That’s right, darling. Let’s make an effort to forget about it, and enjoy the present.”
She smiled and hugged her grandmother back. “Let’s go check out the new fountains they installed at the park.”