I think I'll have to call this bootleg Sunday Scribbles. I thought it said 'Single' instead of 'Simple'. But my mind was already on the road with 'Single'...So here we are.
Okay, I accept that traditional Afghans get freaked out when you're 29 and unmarried. Look at it from their perspectives: At 29, you should be married with 3-4 (or 5,6,7,8) children. You're settled and comfortably enmeshed with the laughter, gossip, love, scandal and drama of an extended family. There isn't much you have to do except look for other single women to marry to your brothers, brothers-in-law or male cousins.
I accept it from Afghan-Americans. They want you settled (but with less children) so you can go through the same rigmarole as above. They want you to be part of their life.
To them I say, “Oh, it’s Qismat (God’s Will), Inshallah (God Willing), you know I like to travel.” and they fall back, satisfied that they brought it up, so at least I’m thinking about that quickly ticking clock. They’re more willing to accept it, thinking that I have one foot firmly planted in American culture.
But what's up with the non-Afghans? Why are y’all freaked out?
What am I supposed to say to them?
I had an interesting chat with an American man living in Dubai. We were flying on Ariana Airlines and discussing the country's progress. He showed me pictures of his family and we were discussing Dubai versus Las Vegas. Then, before he could stop himself, he says, "So why haven't you been married off yet."
What am I supposed to say?
This has happened before. It always makes me pause.
What do I say? Well, you see...My parents didn’t have an arranged marriage and they’ve always wanted me to focus on my studies. They didn’t get married until they were older. How do you explain such an integral part of your culture to those not of it? Those who have been exposed to more traditional Afghan culture assume that we’re all the same. How do I explain that the women of my family are generally strong? We carve our own path in life. How do I convey that within a culture, attitudes and mentalities vary widely from family to family? That, despite the slight angst of not seeing me married, they’re proud of me and content.
It’ll happen when it’s supposed to happen (and did you see so and so, she married him before she got to know him and NOW look at the shambles of their lives, she divorced him and didn’t return his mother’s jewelry. Now their families can’t socialize anymore and they had so much fun before.)
Or do they want to know that?
Or do they want to know each twist and turn of my life? That left turn I made back there, those months were I felt like I was standing still in the blistering summer sun, when really I was cooking up something new. Do they want to know about that march, which turned into a run and then into a stroll, leaving me standing where I am today?
Do they want to know about the months and years when Afghanistan beckoned me with black and white pictures, stories of wild roses growing on the family land, graves of elders? Or do they want to know about now, when maybe it’s Afghanistan beckoning me or maybe just my future?
Do they really want to know all that?
Because that’ll take a lot longer and you might as well brew up some tea and settle in on the couch, cuz y’all know I like to talk.
Is it just gentle curiosity?
Because, dammit, it’s rude.
A random American woman in Kabul announced in a room full of new acquaintances, “So, are you here to marry your cousin?”
I restrained myself from saying, “No, are YOU here to marry my cousin?”
Afghans, if it's a true curiousity and not malicious, at least try to corner you in moments when there aren’t that many present. They’ll wait a few months, after we’re friends, and start asking. I know now when to expect it and have a sweet reply (Unless they want to set me up with someone and that’s another post).
If Afghans trying to embarrass you with “Why are you still single” talk, it also doesn’t bother me as much. There are ways to deal with those folks (Say something noncommittal and bring up the good-for-nothing relative that they are ashamed of. Everyone has one and I generally don’t like to do this, as the person they’re ashamed of is probably pretty cool – but it works).
But with non-Afghans, it’s a blundering pounce, or maybe more like farting in a room of people.
Do you acknowledge it? Or try to hold your breath and go to the next room?