Love + Sex, Love

Being a single woman in Egypt is almost like getting a death sentence

Surprise! I have to have balls of brass to have survived Egypt as a single independent woman, so you can talk to me.

There’s a special moniker for the word spinster in Egypt, Anees. It is never used as a compliment. Women are graced with this scarlet letter once they are unsuccessful in claiming a husband within twelve months of graduating college. In case you’re wondering, yes, it’s always the woman’s fault if she doesn’t get married.

It’s quite literally considered a fault in Egyptian society to be an unwedded adult female.


Well-meaning aunts and elderly neighbors, who are also called aunties, hem and haw in search for suitable suiters for the lone spinster in the building. They pimp you out to anything with a penis and a willingness to accept a bride of the ripe old age of 28. They visit your mother, their offerings in tow. They contemplate their matchmaking efforts, “he comes from a good family. He owns a car and a reasonably sized apartment, and he has a job. What else could she want in a husband?”

They’ve already shown him your photograph, but you only get a holistic description. “Men are not faulted for their appearance,” they say, when they really mean that he’s bald and fat. Nevertheless, you must accept, begrudgingly, to meet him in an outing that has already been arranged. You are given a date, time, and location, just like a drug drop off.

[bctt tweet=”You are given a date, time, and location, just like a drug drop off.” username=”wearethetempest”]

You don your best outfit. You get your hair done. You put on makeup, but not too much makeup. Your mom gives you a hug before you leave and reminds you, “laugh at his jokes and answer his questions politely. Ask him some questions, too, you want him to know that your interested in getting to know him. But don’t ask him too many questions, it’s not an inquisition.”

And you head off to your blind date, to be examined like livestock in an auction. Sometimes, both mothers tag along to chaperone and pass judgement. Then, a few hours later, you go home and never hear from him again.

[bctt tweet=”They pimp you out to anything with a penis.” username=”wearethetempest”]

The matrimony council gathers for a postmortem.

“She’s too shy, she needs to lighten up.”

“She’s too boyish, she needs to act more demurely.”

“She’s too focused on her job, she shouldn’t take her career too seriously.”

Of course, it’s the woman’s fault that she didn’t get asked out for a second date. It’s always her fault.

When you decide to apply for graduate school, people assume you’re only doing it to stay busy until you get married, or perhaps you hope to bag one of your colleagues, or better yet, a professor. If you’re friendly with married male acquaintances, then you’re definitely trying to lure him away from his wife and family.

Attending weddings as a spinster are the worst.

Everyone you meet at the ceremony immediately asks you, “so, when are we going to celebrate your nuptials?” The well-meaning aunts console you with, “Don’t worry, habibty, God will send you a good man to take care of you.”

Why do I need a man in the first place?

Towards the end of the wedding, the doting mother of the bride makes a beeline to your table and drags you to the middle of the dance floor, thrusting you to the front of a group of giggling twenty-somethings waiting to catch the bouquet. She signals her daughter to aim her floral projectile your way. And she reminds you to pinch the bride’s knee, so that her good fortune rubs off on you and you get betrothed within a week.

[bctt tweet=”Pinch the bride’s knee, so her good fortune rubs off on you and you get betrothed.” username=”wearethetempest”]

During large family gatherings, you get placed at the kids table, while much younger married cousins sit with the grownups. No one knows how to talk to you beyond the obligatory question: how is work? Because, let’s face it, without a family, what do you have you going on in your life? All discussions are reduced to three topics: the weather, traffic, and politics. Of course, what would a silly little 35 year old know about politics? So, instead of engaging you in a meaningful conversation, people simply talk over you.

[bctt tweet=”Surprise! I have balls of brass to survived Egypt as a single independent woman.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Your Masters and Ph.D. are merely distractions, while being selected as a wife is considered an ultimate achievement, topped only by motherhood.

When you save up enough money to buy your own place, people ask you if you’re going to rent it out. “What need do you have for an apartment?” they wonder. When you finally move into the apartment that you paid for with your hard earned cash, the home owners’ association asks if they can talk to the man of the household.

Surprise! I have balls of brass to survived Egypt as a single independent woman, so you can talk to me.