Saturday, March 22, 2014

Salonat on the Field

I owe it to my journalistic duty (note to self: buy a Fedora) to report on the actual happenings of my first Salonat experience (the Egyptian term for arranged marriage meetings). I’ve already done an analysis of the situation back in 2011 and my friend’s comeback to the idea just a few weeks after, which makes this my third encounter with the idea, and hopefully my last.

First of all, I would like to set the stage:


The prospective bride (Me):

I am a 27 year old workaholic who stays at work till 10:00 pm and says she enjoys it; her own managers are telling her to get a life. I am an engineer (lot of good that does me) and annoyingly book smart, potentially a know-it-all-goody-two-shoes, who is a self-diagnosed crazy person with very high standards in men that almost resemble the geek girl version of a Disney prince (I have actually published that too as a checklist!) and a couple of really bad relationships deeming me a very untrusting person.


The prospective groom:

A 33 year old banker who lives in Maadi, probably comes from a nice family, and whose father is a banker as well. (yes it’s a one-liner)

The circumstances:

I’ve been going back and forth with my mother about this for a while now. So far, I’ve been lucky enough (or maybe manipulative enough) to have my mother reject all the other prospective clients, sorry I mean grooms, without my interference based on her own set of standards, which are basically him being an engineer and from a good family. I have to explain that she is under the preconceived notion that engineers are smarter than other people, and I have made no attempt to remedy her perception since it works to my favor. As a disclaimer, I have seen my share of stupid engineers, and so from my perspective, a person coming from an engineering background only guarantees minor enhancements in cognitive abilities and nothing else. So finally, with her worried that I am becoming an old spinster at the age of 27, she has agreed to let go of her standards with respect to the engineering background and set up this meeting (while claiming that I’m only 26.)


The events of the encounter:

I was late… very late actually, to my mother’s utter shame. They had been waiting for almost an hour and she had to go ahead and meet them before my arrival. The party consisted of his mother, his aunt, and the groom to be (or not), in addition to the missing link, I mean the common link. As much as I would like to say that he was an alpha male jerk who was trying to make a poor display of his testosterone (like some guy a friend was trying to set me up with, both of them learned their mistake in half an hour or less), he was actually nice! I was expecting an anti-feminist-ugly-stupid-creep who would criticize me and attempt to tell me his version of how he sees my life. I got a normal guy, who was actually interested in learning about my work and my interests. He was noticeably shorter than me, a bit more on the traditional side, not the funniest or the most interesting. There was no love at first sight, or even admiration at first sight, but the conversation was pleasant. He was an average Joe, and there is nothing more to say there, and nothing wrong with it either.

All in all, we stayed about an hour. He was good at trying to avoid the awkward silences, and we talked for the entire duration. I didn’t linger on the conversation, didn’t think about it, or him, afterwards, and I can honestly say I didn’t feel anything about the whole situation; just someone I met, talked to, and walked away. The missing link said some things in the middle in a feeble attempt at trying to be funny, but only ended up putting everyone present at awkward situations. But the lesson was learned, or would be learned in the aftermath.


The aftermath:

I gave my mother the above feedback so that she can convey it to the missing link. Apparently, it wasn’t that simple. How was I to know that having polite conversation gave the impression that I’m interested? That “if they’re talking” then “they’ll get married in a fortnight!” The mechanics of the arranged marriage system escape me, and escape my mother as well. She got on the phone with the obnoxious lady and told her my feedback. The obnoxious lady wasn’t convinced so my mom resorted to the only negative thing I had actually said about the guy: he was too short! The obnoxious, and quite stupid lady, while promising that she wouldn’t tell his family that, conveyed the message and got back to my mother to tell her the events of the conversation, which of course included the short comment. By the end of her call with my mom she dropped an “oh by the way, why did your daughter get so fat?”


The conclusion:

I made it clear to my mother it was not to happen again, simply because I am not the type of girl who believes that having pleasant conversation is equivalent to being ready for marriage. I think my mom, knowing that a lot of my friends are guys, knows that I will not be impressed by a guy I meet on neutral ground, having the backup of his family who are gathering ammunition to fight back rejection. Isn’t that half of the equation? You meet someone and get a 50% chance of either rejecting or being rejected. Again, common sense most probably doesn’t apply to the arranged marriage mechanics, but at least I made it clear that it isn’t for me, and definitely snapped back an “I told you so” about the result of the rejection.; At the end of the day, it’s a judgment match; one team is judging the other. To come out of something like that with a pros and cons list, all very shallow and subjective, shows how this system does not work, at least not for me.


The silver lining:

My mom is happy that I did it. Apparently she doesn’t feel like I’m a freak of nature anymore since I wasn’t rejected. I think I have convinced her, for now, that the arranged marriage thing is not the way forward. The cherry on top is that now she knows that obnoxious women, like the missing link, should not be a part of her circle, much less present us with her suggestions about possible grooms, and ways to look, act, and dress to please (yes, it’s very 7th century) while she knows absolutely nothing about me. I’d take my mom telling me to “find someone” over “let’s do salonat” any day.

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