Get Married Or Die Tryin’

The wedding invites are piling up on the mantel piece. “Save the Date!” they shout out every day as I walk past them. It seems everyone and their mother is on the road to wedded bliss. I mean in one sense its normal. I’ve just turned 27, so it’s hardly surprising that friends around my age are tying the knot. But I’m sometimes alarmed by the absolute necessity which marriage seems to be in Lebanon.

I’m a guy, so it’s actually quite bearable for me. I get a few questions here and there about the existence or not of an unlucky lady in my life. But being a woman must be an absolute horror. Girls get molded into aspiring wives when they’re still potty-training. Two thirds of the female population grow into aggressive husband-hunters, whilst the rest actively reject this social imperative and try and delay things by a couple of years.

God forbid a woman would want something as unattractive as a career! She instantly becomes the conversational fodder of bored Aunties Who Lunch during their rendezvous’ at Paul Gemmayze in between hair and nail appointments. As the smell of hairspray hangs in the air and the 5th layer of foundation on their formerly wrinkled face (thank you Botox) begins to melt, they bring up the subject of poor Maya! “Yvette, you know I don’t laike to talk yaane. I’m very discreet, bta3rfineh. Bass cette Maya, she’ll never find a husband like zis. She wants to be a banker 2al. Haram her parents, 3an jad. Bass ca reste between us!”

The worst environment for a woman in her 20s to show up unaccompanied is undoubtedly someone else’s wedding. There she is showered with compliments and fake smiles, and asked when her “happy day” is due. People asking this tend to neglect that a wedding does not a marriage make, and that the “happy day” isn’t really what one should be planning for. The people egging this young girl on towards marriage are often themselves standing a few meters away from an alcoholic husband they’ve come to despise. Maybe they want to drag the young and the beautiful down with them into the realm of the Desperate Housewife.

Weddings themselves have become ridiculously lavish. I was invited to one last summer, and when I asked how many people would be there I got the most ludicrous response I’ve ever heard: “it’s a small wedding. 650 people.” Really? That’s a small wedding? That’s entire population of some island states in the South Pacific. The bride and groom probably get repetitive strain injury just thinking of all the hands they have to shake and the sweaty cheeks they have to kiss.

Then there are the less intimate weddings. The one’s with 1500 guests. The ones with a succession of Z-list Arab pop stars belting out their latest lip-synched tune. The ones with pyrotechnics worthy of the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. The ones with vast untouched buffets and rapidly depleted bars.  Weddings so gargantuan that they go beyond the realm of the fairytale and get lodged somewhere between the grotesque and the decadent.

I feel sorry for people from my generation who don’t realize that a marriage isn’t about the wedding. That after the sparklers have faded, the champagne has been drunk and the cake has been digested, there’s a real life full of ups and downs to envisage. When you look at someone you’re about to marry, don’t think of the good times you’ve had, think of the worst thing you’ve ever been through together. And think of that moment happening 50 times over the next 50 years.

I’m lucky I have a healthy example to look towards at home; my parents have been together for 39 years. When I look at pictures of their wedding it never fails to make me smile. Twenty impeccably dressed and impossibly glamorous people in small village church. My dad in a dapper suit brought back from New York where he was covering a story for his paper, my mum in a short white dress and big white hat like Audrey Hepburn on the poster for Breakfast at Tiffany’s. No pop stars. No papier mache center pieces. No ice sculptures. Just two people willing to face the future together. I hope I find that someday, and that you will too.

(PS: Please don’t dis-invite me from any weddings. I’m really looking forward to drinking your booze and hitting on your bridesmaids)

24 Responses to “Get Married Or Die Tryin’”

  1. Katherine
    December 11, 2009 at 7:39 pm #

    Sooo true Nasri! No one focuses on the actual ‘marriage’ part anymore!

  2. Maya
    December 11, 2009 at 8:23 pm #

    Impressive post! Really enjoyed reading it. I agree with everything you said, and I really love your style of writing!! Looking forward to your next posts

  3. rawad
    December 11, 2009 at 10:14 pm #

    such a waste of time (people tend to start preparations about 1 year before D day), of money , of effort you name it… so that you impress people so that they talk talk & re-talk ‘long hours’ about your ‘great’ wedding.

    lebanon rocks :)

  4. LK
    December 12, 2009 at 2:23 pm #

    so perfectly described!

  5. Nasri Atallah
    December 12, 2009 at 5:23 pm #

    Katherine – right? I’m happy someone agrees.

    Maya – thanks alot. maybe we should mix your drawings with my writing someday :)

    Rawad – Lebanon does rock, despite all its endearing flaws.

    LK – thanks!

  6. Dalia
    December 13, 2009 at 11:00 pm #

    unlucky lady in your life? it would appear, monsieur atallah, that lebanon has humbled you 😉

    it is a bit ridiculous that in the middle east a woman’s shelf life expires at 25, at which point (as i am constantly reminded) ‘bitalla3ou il shabab 3al il jeel illi ta7tkon’. it infuriates me as it assumes marriage is a mere box ticking exercise. good family: tick. pretty: tick. capable of reproducing: tick. age: hmm..well she has a younger sister…it is a serious affront to the ego when you are made to feel so easily substitutable.

    my favourite is the suggestion that independence, financial and social, will intimidate potential suitors. loved ur sadly accurate depiction of busy-body botoxed mothers. why would i want to marry someone who is intimidated by a successful career? its an entirely alien concept to them that we may want to end up with someone who likes us for all our unique quirks as well as all the aforementioned prerequisites.

    having said that, although i am loath to admit it, their fear, albeit exaggerated, does stem from a legitimate concern that we are all so gung-ho about our careers, we often lose sight of what we ultimately want in life. and the realization usually comes too late. now you’ve had your career revelation nasri, i wait with bated breath (along with the other 1000 future guests) for your wedding invitation 😉

  7. Omar
    December 14, 2009 at 1:07 pm #

    Nasri, I’m officially your biggest fan.

    Dalia, spot on!

  8. Nasri Atallah
    December 14, 2009 at 7:26 pm #

    lovely rant D. I agree with everything you say! And we should have a nice mutual rant next time we meet up!

  9. Nasri Atallah
    December 14, 2009 at 7:27 pm #

    lol thanks Omar. See you this weekend.

  10. kimina
    December 15, 2009 at 10:06 am #

    This is class A hehehee ..raheeeb!! Just sent this link to my six moms (mom has 5 sisters and no buffer uncles).. oh and does it help to mention that I am 30 year old Happily “unmarried” woman?! I especially cracked at “Z-list Arab pop stars belting out their latest lip-synched tune” Classic! …heheheheee raheeeeb!

  11. Zean
    December 15, 2009 at 10:33 am #

    Thank you thank you thank you!
    Ive been ranting on like this on my own blog for years and finally i get to hear it from the male perspective. I dont understand why people desperatly want to set me up or are in such a rush to see me married off when the majority of the marriages i know are not even that happy!
    We get carried away with all the planning for the “big day” that one forgets its actually a lifelong commitment. The “institution” of marriage is actually now an industry where peopel dont stick together thru thick and thin and at the slightest hint of any problems they are quickly divorced.
    Im happily single by choice! and when that day comes when i meet my life partner trust me it will be a small wedding. But having said that we know that the wedding is not for you, its for your parents.

  12. Dana Jaber
    December 15, 2009 at 10:57 am #

    I loved the article Nasri, bravo! I really enjoyed reading it xx

  13. Desperate Housewife
    December 15, 2009 at 11:44 am #

    As much as i admire your style of writing… i have to say, you generalize way too much!

    1- having a woman aspire for a career does not contradict her aspiration for a happy marriage, neither does it stop in the way. I can give you a never ending list of very important career woman, married and responsible for a house hold.

    2- Marriage is not ALL about the wedding, but the wedding is a very symbolic night, and some people like to make it a night to remember. It does not mean they don’t love each other and it does not mean they have not promised each other to be together in sickness and in health.

    As i have read in your previous posts, you’re new in Lebanon, it will rob off on you soon enough :)

  14. R
    December 15, 2009 at 1:07 pm #

    Very impressed with your wit, style and eloquence!

  15. Nasri Atallah
    December 15, 2009 at 1:20 pm #

    Kimina – Six Overbearing Women? You poor thing. My heart goes out to you. :)

  16. Nasri Atallah
    December 15, 2009 at 1:22 pm #

    Zean – Believe me I know how you girls feel. I’ve often stood next to you poor souls as you’re badgered on about getting pimped off to a “decent” guy from a “good” family. Keep On Ranting. :)

  17. Nasri Atallah
    December 15, 2009 at 1:22 pm #

    Dana – Thanks :)

  18. Nasri Atallah
    December 15, 2009 at 1:24 pm #

    Desperate Housewife – I agree, I generalize too much. But that’s the fun of it! It’s far less fun if I make an intelligent and balanced argument :)
    I lived in Lebanon between the ages of 15 and 20, and have been here every three months since I moved back London. So If anything was going to rub off on me, it would have already done so :)

  19. Nasri Atallah
    December 15, 2009 at 1:25 pm #

    R – Far too kind. x

  20. Pamela
    December 16, 2009 at 12:25 am #

    Very true, smart and funny ! well-said !
    Looking fwd to more articles

  21. Nasri Atallah
    December 16, 2009 at 4:03 pm #

    Thanks Pam x

  22. Wedding Sparklers
    June 30, 2010 at 6:40 am #

    I have been to your port before. The more I learn, the more I keep coming back!

  23. Lara
    June 30, 2010 at 11:28 am #

    …brilliantly said from a(n) (Arabic) man’s perspective! Love it! and yeah SAVE THE DATE !

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