Gender & Identity, Life, Weddings

I have bigger dreams than getting married, but why is that so wrong as an Arab woman?

Unless you end up with a ring on your finger before your 25th birthday, nothing you accomplish will ever be good enough.

The older I get, the more I realize how much I have yet to accomplish. My dreams of becoming a journalist and living in a cozy little apartment with my friends in Dubai seem like a lifetime away. My bucket list is ever-growing, and my goals are always changing.

I’m the seventh of eight daughters, all of whom can be described as strong, independent women. My parents raised us to strive for success and work hard to achieve our dreams, whether that was to be a writer or a doctor. But people still ask when we’re going to get married.

Unless you end up with a ring on your finger (before your 25th birthday), nothing you accomplish will be good enough. One of my sisters is a savvy businesswoman who works harder than anyone I know, but she is continuously told, ‘You need to get married soon.’ Although the extended relatives who sometimes say those things do have our best interest at heart, they do not realize the implications of their words.

I can’t help but feel disheartened whenever I hear people say things like that. I don’t ever want myself or my sisters to be seen as incomplete because we’ve chosen to put off getting married for a while. I hate seeing so many women being put down because they chose to put themselves first.

The truth is that we teach women that the most important thing they should strive for is a husband. It’s the 21st century and women’s potential has been made so clear. I am surrounded by so many successful women whose dreams go way beyond finding someone to settle down with. One of my best friends at university interned at an almost-all female-run law firm and is planning to earn her law degree straight after graduation. Another close friend of mine aspires to travel the world and make documentaries on the lives of minorities and those affected by war and poverty.

No matter how ambitious and accomplished women are, we still have had to prove ourselves time and time again. When we continuously pry women with questions about their marriage plans we inevitably make them feel like no matter what they accomplish in life, nothing they ever do will be as significant as getting married.

I’ll be the first one to admit, marriage is definitely on my bucket list, but it is not the first. Five years down the line, I want to be able to look back at what I have done and take pride in the person I have become.

We need to teach girls that they cannot love someone else until they love themselves. If that means putting off marriage for a few years to pursue their dreams until they feel like they’re ready to settle down, then so be it. We need to teach girls that they can aspire to so much more than ending up with a ring on their finger.