By Latifah S.
Let me tell you something about my family: it’s big, literally. I have ten aunts, and each one has at least seven children. We are what people would call a “traditional Khaleeji family”.
But I have often wondered if I am truly related to them, and at times was quite sure that I was accidentally switched at the hospital. Unlike them, I don’t enjoy being in the company of children, I never saw myself as a mother and I don’t imagine being married to the same person for the rest of my life.
Whenever I raise this wish with my mother, she would scold me and tell me that I’d regret my decision when I’m old and lonely and there’s no one to take care of me. She would also tell me how every woman on earth is meant to be a mother and that it’s our birth right.
“I don’t see myself growing old with the love of my life. I don’t see myself surrounded by squealing grandchildren. This is how I feel…and I refuse to allow society to make me feel guilty about it.”
Khaleejis, and Arabs as a whole, are collective societies, and are very family oriented. Growing up, getting married and starting a family is the norm. Historically speaking, it was rare to have a woman grow old unwed. My grandmother would tell me how in her younger years, when a woman lost her husband, men from the family and community would ask for her hand in marriage so that she would have a support system, and a man to depend on.
But that was then, and this is now. As women grow to be more financially independent, some don’t see that it’s a necessity to get married for the sole reason of having a support system anymore.
Women can now independently travel the world, start their businesses and invest their fortunes in different assets. In some societies, women have the luxury to be selective, and a lot of my female acquaintances, Western and Arab, are deliberately pushing away the thought of marriage to focus on their careers.
As for me, I am not pushing away marriage because I want to focus on my career. I neither want to travel the world, or live in ten different countries before I turn 40. I simply enjoy my life the way it is. I like my simple routine. I’m comfortable with the way things are. I dislike change, and like to have my life preplanned, from my daily tasks to my five-year goals.
I don’t see myself growing old with the love of my life. I don’t see myself surrounded by squealing grandchildren. This is how I feel. This is how I see my life, and I refuse to allow society to make me feel guilty about it because there’s nothing wrong with it.
“I am not pushing away marriage because I want to focus on my career. I neither want to travel the world, or live in ten different countries before I turn 40. I simply enjoy my life the way it is.”
We are developing in so many areas. Our Gulf States have witnessed tremendous changes in economy, education, healthcare and more. One could easily witness the changes in mentality, and reasoning in three generations of the same family. My grandmother is often in awe at my life choices, and I often wonder how she has managed to stay put in the way she perceives things despite the crazy speed at which change in her own country has been taking place around her.
“We should loosen the grip and pressure we put on members of society.”
But we are yet to accept individual preferences when it comes to choosing to wed or remain unwed. Perhaps if families and society stopped pressuring people to get married at a certain age, then maybe we would see less divorce rates (though I’m sure others backed with research would argue that divorce rates are still high in societies where people don’t face a similar pressure). However, I guess that’s my own wishful thinking.
I strongly believe that when it comes to marriage, we should loosen the grip and pressure we put on members of society. No one should feel pressured to conform for the sake of conforming and because that’s what’s expected of them.
The views of the authors and writers who contribute to Sekka, and the views of the interviewees who are featured in Sekka, do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sekka, its parent company, its owners, employees and affiliates.
Latifah S. is a Khaleeji storyteller based in the US and the Gulf Region.