I have to admit, my opinion of arranged marriages… or rather, arranged courting or matchmaking… has always been pretty negative. To me, it was a transaction that could only be compared to something like buying a car. Mr Eligible Bachelor asks people he knows if they have a car for sale or know where he could possible find one. Someone says ‘oh yes! I have a fantastic car for sale!’ Mr E Bachelor comes over and checks out the car. If he likes it, he takes it. If he doesn’t, he tells the owner he is terribly sorry, but he doesn’t like it. Wasn’t good enough. Of course, the car should just be thankful that a buyer even came along – too many cars for sale, not enough buyers. The car goes along, willingly.
Of course, in my little analogy, Miss Eligible Bachelorette is the car. Even though (at least in most Middle Eastern circumstances) the lady involved is able to reject the potential groom, something about the whole set up always felt inequitable. Watching friends and cousins get married after being introduced to their now husbands through an aunty or uncle blew my mind. I just couldn’t ever accept, couldn’t ever see how a woman could be happy like that. It creeped me out and angered me.
I’m starting to see things differently. Look, maybe I’m starting to realise I’m one of the few apples left on the tree of Lebanese girlies. Maybe it’s because some half-decent proposals have been made lately. But maybe it’s not such a terrible idea – maybe it’s not such a foreign concept. Something has clicked in my mind. Let me share my ‘wisdom’.
Let’s have a look at online dating. You realise you’re ready to find Mr Right (or Mrs Right – this is an equal opportunity blogsite). Your friends convince you to sign up to a dating website. You throw the idea around in your head, jumping from the THIS IS SUCH A GOOD IDEA to WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING sides of the fence. You fill in your profile deets, upload a picture and you’re good to go. The site will probably look at what you’re looking for and show you profiles that match your preferences. You’ll randomly receive creepy, unsolicited messages, but that’s okay – they’ll help make the good ones seem even better. If someone looks okay, you’ll go on a date and talk it out. If it goes well, it goes well, if it doesn’t, you text your galpals and tell them how insane he was and how lucky you are to have made it home in one piece. If it goes well enough, you’ll live happily ever after and appear in those stupid eHarmony ads where the couples are all “OH GOSH. LOOK, WE FOUND EACH OTHER. YOU CAN AN AWKWARD LOVE LIKE THIS TOO.”
It’s not too strange to think about. I mean, everybody and their mother is on Tinder. Apparently these days, a swipe of the finger is all it takes to find love.
So how is matchmaking by your parents or their friends different? I… I can’t believe I’m actually saying this – but I think it’s exactly the same.You realise you’re ready to find Mr/Mrs Right. You tell your parents while you’re throwing the idea around in your head, jumping from the THIS IS SUCH A GOOD IDEA to WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING sides of the fence. Hopefully, in the 20+ (HOPEFULLY 20) years that you’ve had this parent/child relationship, your parents know you well enough to know what you’re looking for. C’mon, you’ve had those scarily exciting life conversations and have bitched about other people’s partners – they’ve got a pretty good idea. They’ll have a look at the people they know and based on what you’re looking for, show you profiles – I mean people – that not only match your preferences, but meet their psychotically protective requirements too. Sometimes you’ll receive unsolicited proposals from weirdos – but that’s okay. They make the others look decent.
You meet this person. If it goes well, you meet a couple more times. Hang out with each other’s families. You get to know each other. Eventually you’ll get married and live happily ever after. If somewhere along the way it’s not going so great, you cut your losses and move on.
I’m about to freak out a lot of my friends – but I think it might even be better than anything that online dating, Tinder or even just real life dating can offer. Your family will generally do some investigating. They’ll ask people they know who know the potential partner, or people who know people who know the potential partner, about them. They’ll uncover skeletons in the closet. Any lies, any games, any ticking time-bombs about them or their family are made crystal clear. Were they previously seeing someone else and then destroyed them? You’re going to know about it. Are they lazy? Greedy? Slobby? Sneaky? Useless? It’s the only benefit of the 0.2 degrees of separation that exist in the Lebanese community – sure, an aunty who sees you out will call your mother and dob you in, but she’ll also be a Nosey Nancy who can tell you how many times a day your potential partner urinates.
This arrangement basically means that your potential suitor will tick all the boxes on your check-list. Your parents have the added bonus years of wisdom and clarity that comes with age and not having those love-goggles on. No relationship is guaranteed to last forever and it is quite likely that you’ll be hurt some time in your life (if you’re hurting now, let me help you). However, this little arrangement appears to mean that you can semi-safely fall in love with this person. You’re not falling in love and then trying to make it work – you’re figuring out if you can make it work and meet your standards and then falling in love. A risk minimisation strategy for heartache? Oh my Allah! Sign me up!
My dad and I have our ups and downs, but he’s my hero and loves me so much and knows me so well. Having him as a bouncer for my heart is sounding like a great idea. Knowing that he’ll interrogate any potential suitors and ensure that the man I end up with comes from the top shelf and not from the bargain basket is pretty comforting.
Who knows. I may meet my sweetheart at the library or on the bus. He may bump into me and pick me and my dropped books up. Or, my parents may introduce me to a man who is so charming and dashing that I’ll just fall head over heels in love.
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It could work really well if your parents understand you. If not, maybe not so good! Where I’m from (Bavaria) there used to be a custom of professional matchmakers, especially in rural communities. That way people could meet someone who they might be compatible with and who lived too far away for them to get to know otherwise. That doesn’t really exist anymore. I think it can be quite hard to meet a good match, especially as we tend to move in the same friendship circles. Have to admit my husband and I actually met via RSVP. I had actually almost given up. There were so many duds or nice-but-not-right guys that he was the last try. Funnily, it was the same for him; guess we got lucky!
No way! That’s amazing! How amazingly romantic is that – it was meant to be!!
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