At this moment I have two very good Egyptian girlfriends who are having love problems. Basically both of them had been engaged once in the past and then had broken off the relationship when things didn’t work out, and both are now, or had recently been (respectively,) engaged a second time.
Lets give them underground names to preserve their anonymity (not that any of you know them anyways but whatevs): Ammena is currently engaged and Souad recently broke off her second engagement but has not told any of her extended family.
For those of us who were western-born (or raised) this is absolutely not an issue, painful and heartbreaking yes, but nothing that would induce us to raise any eyebrows. I mean heck, who doesn’t know someone who is triply or even quadruply divorced? Thats when things get a little hairy, you know what I mean.
But in Egypt its a completely different story: two strikes and you’re out. Especially when it comes to women, upon whom the blame is laid in even the most sexist of situations. Hell, if your husband goes out and gets a second wife its YOUR fault because you didn’t give him enough sex/dress up enough/watch his favorite TV shows/insert some other really inane and bullshit reason here.
I could rant, oh could I rant, on how women get the short end of the stick in pretty much every situation here but I will restrain myself to the topic at hand.
Once a girl has been engaged twice and neither relationship works out she is stygmatized as being faulty.
Something has to be wrong with her, two men decided to not marry her. What do you mean she broke off the engagement? Hmph, she must be too picky, she’ll never be satisfied. God knows I won’t marry my son to such an ungrateful woman.
Do you see how twisted the thinking is? Can any of us imagine this? I mean engagement is the closest thing practising Muslims get to dating. What if we were stygmatized after our second boyfriend/girlfriend? Men get off a little bit easier, but it is noted when a man is a serial engager, if only by the girl he wants to get engaged to next.
Either way both Ammena and Souad are up against a wall here. Both of Ammena’s relationships were scarred by personality clashes: she is a strong-willed and opinionated woman (which is a no-no here – God forbid a woman who thinks for herself) and she has had the misfortune to get into relationships with equally strong-willed and patriarchal chauvinists (which I consider to be the true personality failings.) For her she has the choice to conform or be shunned. Currently she is still in the relationship (which has the markings of an abusive one) but is unsure whether to continue or not. I do believe her fiance will probably become a domestic abuser and he plans on moving her to Saudi Arabia after the wedding which would further deprive her of all rights. I understand her hesitance, she doesn’t have very good prospects either way but I do believe that leaving the relationship would be the lesser of two evils.
Souad, on the other hand, left both of her relationships for religious reasons. Neither of her fiance’s were at her same level of iman (think equally-yolked mom) and her desire is to find a man who will help her to become a better Muslim. She has had noble reasons for leaving but it is the same for her socially. Once it gets out that she has had two failed engagements she will be marked for life. She made the decision to leave, but she second-guesses herself on whether she made the right choice. I think, overall, the situation for her will be a little bit better in terms of explaining to future prospects why she left her previous fiances. Assuming she does find a man with the proper level of iman, he would understand why religion came first for her over fulfilling societal expectations.
Both women are in painful situations placed upon them by the insubstantial and unfounded beliefs of a rigid and critical society.
Even in baseball you at least get three tries.