She Speaks We Hear

Bringing women's voices together, unaltered, unadulterated


Leave a comment

From One Single Woman To Another

66229616

There are many ways in which a woman may find herself single at any point in her life. Whether by choice or an inability to find a suitably compatible partner, by way of divorce or being widowed through a tragic loss – singleness can happen to any woman at any time.

Sadly, the vast majority of society places a great amount of pressure on single people, especially us women, to get hitched up and to do it soon. So it’s easy to feel like a despairing busker lurking on the outskirts of a city seemingly teeming with married couples, trying to explain to them all about how challenging single life really is – to get them to understand. But I want to say to you, stop. Yes, being single sometimes does have a few snags, your parents and aunts might find every opportunity to tell you how ‘worried’ they are for you, perhaps you turned down a man and your fear has you doubting yourself and your decision, well I want to say relax, trust yourself, it is going to be alright.

“You don’t owe anyone an explanation of your life and choices.”

What’s more important for you right now is to understand the reasons you’re in this position at this point in your life. It could be a gentle push from above, a loving nudge in the direction of The Almighty, encouragement to strengthen your connection with Him with no distractions. Maybe this is the time for you to realise your talents and figure out how to use them to better your life and the lives of those around you. Maybe this is the part where you learn patience and resilience and discover your self-worth, so you can validate yourself by yourself.

Maybe it’s all of the above.

Look to this as a blessing in disguise and embrace the period of solitude you’re lucky enough to have received, few others are in possession of such a luxury. You are in a place in your life where you can spend all your time, if you so wish, thinking about yourself and doing good things for you. The door to a new, glorious journey is in front of you and all your decisions lay at your feet.

Don’t feel disheartened at having no reply to those questions of ‘when?’ and ‘why?’ pertaining to your single status. You don’t owe anyone an explanation of your life and choices. Don’t ever feel like less of a Muslim by statements like ‘marriage fulfils half your deen’. This simply means that half the problems you’ll face after acquiring a spouse will be related to your marriage and the implications that marriage has on your imaan because quite often marriage is one of the greatest tests we are given. We already have various levels of imaan, we go into marriages with these, and it then either deepens and flourishes or lessens depending on us and the efforts we put into the partnership. There are many who go around scaring single people into rushed marriages with this statement, not fully comprehending themselves exactly what it means. You are not inferior to anyone because you don’t have a man at your side, you are and always have been a complete entity made with the purpose of praising God, solely, not made to acquire a partner or else. That is a bonus of this life.

Know, that no matter how long a period of time you’ve been single, in the grand scheme of your life, it’s not even a drop in the ocean even if it’s been ten years. Hold firm to your coveted cloak of autonomy and wear it with pride, a symbol of your individual strength. Because when the days of love come around once more, these finite moments will be memories to cling to during times of adversity, reminders always, of your personal power, your bravery, your courage.

Make this time of your life the best of your life.

By Fadila Henry

Fadila Henry is a creative writer currently working on a collection of flash fiction stories. She is interested in feminism, defending single women and foreign languages. You can find her on Twitter @apricotpinks or her blog fadilahenry.com
Image credit: https://memegenerator.net/instance/66229616
Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.
Advertisements


2 Comments

An Open Letter to Happily Married SuperMums (Who Got Lucky…)

Dear Happily Married SuperMum,

Hi there.

You already know me so I won’t go into too much depth describing myself: I’m basically the antithesis of everything you are – the all-too visible single brown elephant in the room. You know, the +30-year-old “bogey-woman” who looks like she’s having way too much fun being single to get married and who, instead of being the heroine little girls used to be told to look up to, is now used as the subject matter for multiple horror stories (“warning little would-be astronaut: this is what happens to you if you’re TOO outspoken/opinionated/intelligent and don’t get lucky like your mumsy did. You die ALONE”).

Image courtesy of Akeela Ahmed

Image courtesy of Akeela Ahmed

It’s hard being me.

No, really.

It is.

Mainly because the likes of me are constantly being compared to the likes of you. As though in between looking after ourselves and our families, holding down jobs, paying our taxes and mortgages, looking after ageing parents and basically surviving how we can, we’ve been sleeping away the years instead of attempting to reach that supposed pinnacle of human endeavour: marriage.

And to be honest, it’s exhausting.

Because at the end of the each and every day, what we are essentially having to defend ourselves against is a serious case of victim-blaming. We’re the victims – nay survivors – of a world (be you Muslim or not) that still places women’s worth on their marriage v singledom status. We’re not the ones at fault here. Trust me. And here’s why:

  1. There’s not a woman I know, be they in their late twenties, thirties or forties and who is still single, who hasn’t tried EVERYTHING to find a man she won’t end up throttling 24 hours post meeting. Online dating? They came UP with the concept! Intestine-curdling “marriage events”? They’ve been there, done a thousand and puked up after most of them. Shaadi/Elite Singles/Believe-My-Lies.com? Tick, tick, and major tick. Agreeing to meet men who are ‘players’/ ego-maniacs / ‘religious’ stroke other-types-of hypocrites / bores / intellectual misnomers / straight out liars / happen-to-have-had-twenty-girlfriends-in-the-past / so-vain-it-hurts? Of course – in fact, they were starting points! In short, there is nothing that hasn’t been tried – every stone has been turned over so many times they’ve been worn away to mere pebbles. So to suggest that a woman in her thirties/forties is single because she hasn’t been trying hard enough is like telling Stephen Hawking he could walk – if he just had a little more willpower! It’s beyond insulting.
  2. Our careers are important to us, certainly – but mainly because it puts food on multiple tables and roofs over multiple heads. Please don’t use it against us. We need to work to pay our way in this world – whether it’s because we have a choice or not is our business. Some of us have ailing parents to tend to. Some of us don’t have parents at all. Some of us are solo bread-winners thanks to high male unemployment rates. Some of us work because we find home-making too hard and tedious and want to contribute to the wider world. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t matter, nor does it mean our job is the one solo thing we give our lives over to (we can do more than one thing at a time, remember?). Would we give it all up tomorrow to trot the globe at leisure and fill our days with afternoon teas? Hellz yeah – if we could afford to and not risk being dependent on anyone else. To suggest those of us who are single and working are placing our careers ahead of every other desire in life is to be grossly negligent of who we are, what we’re about and what we both need and want out of life – not to mention the financial pressures we face (which hint, hint, are the same as men’s). It’s tragic that in 2015, single women earning are still looked upon as wilful rebels. My male counterparts would never have to justify their economic activities in relation to marriage. If men don’t have to put up with searing judgements for simply being employed, women certainly shouldn’t. And if we should happen to be enjoying our careers as an added bonus, surely that’s a good thing? Isn’t it? Or do we need to be miserable on all fronts as a ‘punishment’ for being single?
  3. Ah! The Ultimate Classic Boogey-Card: babies.  There isn’t a week that goes by where I don’t hear the words “But don’t you want children?” Er, yes. I do. But only if I meet a man I would want to procreate with (so far numbering at zero). And besides: why is MY stance on the spectrum of motherhood of concern to you? Ah yes! Because it’s a viable threat to hold over my already over-burdened head! Well, let’s put this one to bed: fertility is SUBJECTIVE. There are women in Germany giving birth at 65, whilst I have friends as young as 22 who are having fertility issues. What part of children being a part of God’s blessings bestowed as is His/Her will is hard to understand? And who is to say that if I had married at 19 I’d have had no problems conceiving? Sure, my body would have been firmer/more adept/hotter, but then so would have my supposed hubby’s. And just in case you haven’t heard, men have age-related fertility issues too. So they may be able to produce sperm until death do them part, but the older they become (and the wider the age gap between them and their partner), the longer it will take for them to be able to impregnate an egg. Charlie Chaplin may have had Mavis at 76, but that’s probably because it took over a decade for his barely alive message to reach the mother-ship. Get it? Besides which, I’ve always found any discussion around “fertility” in relation to marriage abhorrent: call me whatever you want (fool, naïve, a gonner), but I want someone who wants to be with me for me – not for what my body may or may not be capable of producing. The last thing I want is for love to be conditional. Should I lose my legs or limbs or womb due to an accident or cancer or war (God forbid), I’d want my partner to…I don’t know. Stick around! Not scarper off and marry the next “fertile” woman he can get his hands on. Any children would be a blessing – an enrichment to a relationship that should be strong enough to survive with or without them. So please. Enough with the biological blackmail. I’ve seen this threat be used countless times to force both men and women into marriages they weren’t ready for, and the only thing given birth to is misery and divorce.
  4. 25 is NOT the perfect age. Hate to break it to you, but there’s no such thing. People are instinctively attune to when they’re ready for marriage – for some it hits young, for others it hits later in life, and for some (gasp!) it may never hit at all. It all depends on a whole world of things and again, is subjective. I’m a completely different person in my thirties than I was in my twenties and know myself far better – so my idea of what I want in a life partner is far clearer (and saner) too. The things I would have looked for a decade ago (basically a mix of Frodo and William Wallace) seem hilarious to me now.  And how many of us have friends and family who married too young because of family/societal pressures and are now traversing the earth in a state of Divorcedom? Time to let this myth go too: we have enough to be getting on with already.

 

So, to all Happily Married Supermums out there, I offer my congratulations. You got lucky – extremely lucky, and I’m truly happy for you. But your circumstances were/are not the same as mine, so nor will my life-path be.  I didn’t meet the love of my life in/before/straight out of university. Nor did I encounter him in my work-places or through my family’s attempted arrangements. So instead, I’m simply getting on with my life – refusing to marry men who I know I could never love and who simply wouldn’t “get” me. I don’t deserve censure for the way my life is going – nor do I need to be constantly treated like something that needs to be ‘fixed’.

So please, the next time a 25-year old comes to you for marriage advice, tell them what I tell their counterparts:  love and marriage will come, if and when God wills it. By all means look and be open to it, but don’t forsake your own life – or careers – or sanity waiting. Men certainly aren’t expected to. Women shouldn’t have to either.

Yours sincerely,

Onjali Qatara Rauf

Onjali was the former Assistant Editor for emel Magazine; Campaigns Manager for Women for Women International UK, and is Founder and CEO of Making Herstory: a self-styled human rights organisation working to end the abuse, trafficking and enslavement of women and girls worldwide.  She was shortlisted for the Care2Impact and Emma Humphreys Awards in 2014 for her works in the women’s rights sector. You can follow her on Twitter @OnjaliRauf  and follow  @MakeHerstory1 too

 


3 Comments

An Open Letter To A Single 25 Year Old Asian/Arab Girl

Image courtesy of Shiraz Chanwala

Dear 25 year old single girl,

Congratulations! You’ve completed your degree, landed yourself a stellar job and are well on the way to carving out an exciting career.

So… shall we talk about the elephant in the room? Marriage!

When it comes to finding ‘The One’ some of you may feel that NOW is the time to begin your search but are unsure on what to do next. The rest of you may simply feel that you’re not ready; you still have your career to think about, you want to travel and you’ll worry about all that later.

As an educated, ambitious woman myself, with friends of similar ilk, I can see where you’re coming from. I totally get it.

But sadly, life isn’t necessarily going to fall into place as neatly as your #HudaBeautyLashes. The reality is that there is an (un)fairly narrow window of opportunity in which to secure your future husband and, from my experience, I’d say it hovers around the age of twenty-seven.

Image courtesy of Ed Garcia

There is no magic formula on how to go about finding ‘The One’ but having spoken to many 30-something year old single women, here are a few of their thoughts.

1. The Search MUST start today and not tomorrow

In my role as a voluntary matchmaker, I’ve come across hundreds of brilliant girls who were in your beautiful designer heels a decade ago. These girls are now in their 30s having grown into successful, strong, independent women who have realised every feminista’s noughties Western dream. They’ve seen the world and they’ve spoken to it. Yet they have fallen victim to the traditional Asian/Arab marriage system, which is inherently biased in favour of men and pressures women to be a certain way. Although, the rules are changing, progress in glacial. But that’s a whole other letter.

The biological imperative remains as unfair as ever. Mother Nature was not, is not and never will be a feminist. And to add salt to the wound, most South Asian/Arab men do not live in an era where they rank a woman’s intellect over her fertility and beauty.

So IF you do want to marry AND have children before the age of 35 (when you begin to enter the realm of ‘higher risk pregnancy’) then I would suggest starting your search much sooner rather than later.

2. Deal breakers and barriers

I have received countless matchmaking enquiries from young women (AND men) that are mind bogglingly specific. For example, one particular 25 year old female teacher was looking for a Gujarati doctor. Or dentist. Or accountant. But strictly NO lawyers. They’re just ‘too argumentative’. Ideally of East African descent although this wasn’t essential. No younger than 27, and certainly not a day over 30. A practicing Muslim; whatever that means these days (she didn’t know either). Facial hair would be ‘acceptable’ but she was averse to ‘full-on’ beards and volunteered her irrational phobia of hairy backs. Speaking a European language was also a plus point, but not a deal breaker.

I kindly advised the young lady that although I know many lovely Muslim doctors who sit comfortably within her specified age bracket, I am completely oblivious on the state of their body hair and general grooming habits, and to be very honest, I prefer to maintain my ignorance. That’s not to say that I’m dismissive of personal preferences relating to things like hair, hygiene and horrible habits, or the ‘3 H’s’ as I like to call them. But regardless of how highly they may sit on your tree of disgust, it’s certainly not a great way to start (or even end) marriage talks.

You need to accept that Mr Perfect doesn’t exist. He is simply a romantic Holly/Bolly/Lollywood myth. Focus instead on finding ‘Mr Suitable’. You find him by making a rational list of the characteristics you’re definitely NOT willing to compromise on. For example: Someone whose strength of faith is not aligned with yours. Someone who lacks humour. Someone who is too intro/extroverted. Someone with a criminal record. Someone with a history of cheating/lying. Outside of your main ‘deal breakers’ the rest is negotiable and I promise you that there are PLENTY of Mr Suitables around. I often hear from them. They are surprisingly lovely, so give them a chance.

3. Don’t rely on your parents

Before I have every auntie in the country wanting to beat me with her stick then please read on.

Far too often I’ve heard of successful mid-30 year old women who had exclusively depended on their parents in the spouse hunt, only to be disappointed later on. Unfortunately, whilst every parent does of course have their child’s best interest at heart, it is important to recognise that their social networks are limited to a smallish pool of friends and therefore a finite pool of eligible bachelors.

As an aside, I have also witnessed A LOT of parental “not-good-enoughery”. This is truly disappointing as many great suitors are being sidelined in the vain hope that the perfect son/daughter-in-law is hiding just around the corner. The reality is that the corner can sometimes be a very long and tortuous road and takes several years to turn, if ever.

4. Always try and look your best.

In an ideal world, a guy would immediately fall in love with your ‘inner beauty’ whilst Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are” would be playing proudly in the background. In an ideal world. After all, it IS your character that truly matters in promoting the longevity of a happy and healthy marriage. And so, how I would love to say that ‘looks don’t matter’ but for all the rights and wrongs of it, it’s simply not true. It’s a biological fact rather than rocket science: men and women are attracted to physical beauty. Therefore, first impressions can be last impressions and so I would suggest that you make every effort to look presentable in the same way that you would for your dream job interview.

And for the love of God please STOP pouting in your ‘Rishta photos’!

5. Don’t prioritise career over marriage

It’s difficult growing up in a world where the cultural mantra of marrying young has finally, and refreshingly, been replaced by encouragement to postpone marriage (ever so slightly) in pursuit of high ideals – education, career and true love. However the two can run in parallel as opposed to sequentially.

Life doesn’t stop once you have a ring on your finger. You can pursue your goals AND be in a fulfilling marriage. It’s simply great to have someone with whom to celebrate your successes and it’s even better to have him holding your hand through the difficult and daunting times.

Be open to attending social networking functions, marriage events and accept invitations to private parties. The thought of attending on your own can be a bit daunting. What if you wear the wrong thing? What if you get stuck in the corner sandwiched between Vain Zayn and Awkward Abdul? BUT, what if you end up having a thoroughly enjoyable time and meeting someone great? You may not know anyone else in the room but I’d say that’s all the more reason to go.

Sign up to matrimonial sites and download the various marriage apps. I know they’re a bit hit and miss but what do you have to lose? Tell your friends and relatives that you’re actively looking so that they may suggest suitors within their networks. Of course, none of these measures can guarantee Mr Suitable knocking on your door at a time of your convenience, after all these things are pre-destined, but following this simple advice may be a good starting point.

Finally, remember there is absolutely no shame in putting yourself out there and actively searching for ‘The One’, in fact I’d say it suggests a degree of maturity. Stop worrying about what so-and-so might think. This is about YOU and NOT them. It’s time to woman up and take some control.

Yours sincerely,

Farah Kausar
Voluntary Matchmaker

Dr Farah Ahmed is a London based GP and mum of two boys. She  is a Global Ambassador for ‘Mothers 2 Mothers’, a charity that trains and employs Mentor Mothersto provide essential health education and psychosocial support to other HIV-positive mothers, on how they can protect their babies from HIV infection. Farah enjoys running, writing health articles and matchmaking in her spare time. 

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.

Images courtesy of Shiraz Chanwala and Ed Garcia