I Looked for a Husband
During my first year in Riyadh, I fell under the charm of an Egyptian man. We got engaged. I converted to Islam and expected him to fulfill his promise to marry me, but he took up with another woman– an American, besides — and I never learned why. He married her and moved to the USA. She didn’t have anything I didn’t have— even less, from the looks of her.
I still wanted to get married, and I let my girlfriends know. As a Muslim, I would not be able to date, but as an American, I couldn’t imagine marrying a man without a period of dating. Well, first I’d have to meet someone…
One girlfriend, a Syrian pharmacist, took on the project of finding me a husband. She would come to me and say, “I’ve found someone!” I’d ask a few questions, and the answers always caught my attention.
The first man she introduced me to was a Syrian businessman. The three of us met in the family section of a nice restaurant, where we chatted, and sized up the potential. He had been widowed– a story I was to hear too often — and he had two little kids. He spoke well, dressed nicely and would have interested me had he not been six inches shorter than me. I am not tall, at five feet four inches, and I could not work up an attraction to a man shorter than that.
The second man she introduced me to was a Saudi businessman. We visited his home, as she assured me that all his kids would be there. He was also a widower, and had six girls of various ages. I met them all, and was charmed by all except the father. He was skinny, and I was fat, sort of, and his face was not attractive to me. Nevertheless, he seemed nice enough, and the situation was tempting. He drove me home in a Mercedes Benz, and I would have agreed to see him again, had he not handed me his business card and asked me to call him when I wanted to see him.
I do not call men. They call me.
The next man was an Egyptian who smoked cigarettes. On that fact alone, I wanted to reject him, but he and his sister both bothered me for days, begging me to meet with them and consider the man. I invited the sister to my apartment. but when she pulled out her cigarettes and wanted to smoke in my home, that was the end of it.
Another girlfriend showed me a nice photo of an American man, a convert like me, but I was not interested in Americans. Besides, he was too young for me.
The next man my Syrian friend brought was another Saudi businessman, a wonderful man who I grew to love after many phone conversations and several clandestine dates. We considered getting formally engaged, and breaking the news to our families, when the first Gulf war broke out. Suddenly he stopped phoning me. The tensions of the war caused me distress, and I left Riyadh until the war ended. Afterwards, I never heard from him again, and I still don’t know why. What is it with these Arab guys when they want to break up with a woman?
July 14, 2009
During the three months since this post was published, I’ve received responses from men who are looking for wives. I thank them for their interest, but I must emphasis that this post refers to a time in my life that is now past. I am not currently looking for a husband, nor do I anticipate doing so. I am too much in love with my grandkids to admit any new man into my life!
Every Arab girl has a list of encounters as such, it’s not usually explained. At most of the times, you or the guy would say “Mafi Naseeb” or this is not meant to happen, blaming fate is a nicer way of saying something is wrong…We as Arabs don’t take the truth very well, and consider the issue too personal if someone says that he/ she is not interested, we end up depressed and getting back at the person for pointing a frank dislike… To avoid all that, people just withdraw without an explanation, men have upper hands in this as they are the ones seeking women and not vice versa in our societies, or simply said, because they can…
I’m sorry about being left hanging like that. Do you wonder if the war made him remember you were American and that made him disinterested for some reason? Or your leaving just gave him the needed excuse for not staying in touch? Thanks for sharing this. I enjoyed reading about your meeting-a-potential-husband experiences. How did you finally meet “the one”? Was that in Saudi or elsewhere? I hope I’m not prying. I like some “how we met” stories and this post makes me curious. 🙂
Btw, LOL @ the man 6 inches shorter than you!
Ya Allah … the Muslim marriage hunt. It’s so frustrating. I’ll bet most of us reverts could write a book.
Hey! We should, lol!
Im sort of glad Im over all that…Im 40…married (now divorced) since I was 18 for 20 years…not a happy marriage at all…so Im sort of at that point where I dont believe I would ever willfully seek another marriage partner…and stories like this just confirm for me that Im happy with my new found solitude…lol. Dont know if it will last..but hey…live for today.
Interesting responses! Glad to hear from you, Hala, bringing the Arab perspective!
Susanne, I do plan another post or two about meeting the man I did marry.
Safiyyah, the Muslim marriage hunt is not only frustrating for converts, but also for born Muslims. My two girls had much frustration in finding their husbands, and probably wouldn’t have married them if they could have dated American style!
They will be the frist to point out, however, that American style courtship more often results in divorce.
I, too, am happy and grateful for my current status as a single woman, so I understand how you feel, coolred. My marriage wasn’t always bad, and I was happy in it more often than not, but the events leading to my divorce cured me of any desire to repeat the cycle!
Interesting. In my experience, professional and personal, the walk away with no explanation is a typical male behaviour, whereas women want understanding, explanation, and closure. Must be on the x and y chromosomes.
The 1991 Gulf War was the coup de grace on a friend’s marriage. As a Moroccan living in the US he felt extremely uncomfortable, and wanted to reconnect with his roots, making him even less interested in having children with his American wife, which made her eventually leave. He later remarried, another American, and has a boy and a girl, all living in Morocco now. Partly age, stage, in life, but the tensions of the war definitely played a part.
I think the war made many people re-think their cross-cultural activities. Perhaps is did in my case, as well or perhaps my suitor sensed my ambivalence about continuing to live in Saudi Arabia.
Even though he and I would have had plenty of vacations outside the Kingdom, I was, indeed, uncertain about whether I could accept wrapping myself up in black every time I stepped out the door— for the rest of my life!
The Gulf War was interesting in that American wives (or any nonarab wives) were sort of caught in the middle…are you with or against us took on a whole new meaning.
Are you with US…the Arab/Muslims that are being oppressed and destroyed by the Ameircan govt…or with the American govt and its corrupt policies and thus…against US…us being your husband…his family…so on and so forth.
Sorry…thats another topic…just thought Id mention it.
In studies of cross-cultural marriages, one of the stresses mentioned is the unexpected one, like a war that suddenly puts the 2 cultures at odds, or results in discrimination against one and therefore ultimately both partners, or the rise of a certain political group that targets one culture. In that sense I think the 1991 Gulf War was stressful for alot of Arabs (international Arab on Arab coalition) and mixed couples (Western countries against Arab). I developped Acute Traumatic Stress Disorder from watching multiple news casts per night to keep the hub company in his coping strategy–successfully treated by turning off the television!
So many things to think of in the husband hunt!
As a single, American male considering spending a year in Saudi Arabia, I was intrigued by the essay and the comments. I have found that the “walk away” is as common among women as men here in the States. Perhaps the divorce rate in Phoenix would be lower if more people were more open to the diversity of different ways of thinking.
El Kabong–interesting observation. I agree that more tolerance and better communication would probably improve relationships. Here’s hoping that if you do go to Saudi, you will live on a Western compound with the freedom to frequent the non-walk away woman of your desires.
looking forward to reading more about it insh’Allah 🙂
Allah has saved someone far better than any of those guys for you Hon, Just hang on there .. 🙂
Thanks for the lovely thought, Maryam!
Well, my dear, don’t hunt and you will get it!
You don’t know what your future is hiding for you 🙂