“It is not the 1850s anymore.” Even though we like to think that our society has been modernized in the past decades and that we’ve adopted more open-minded strategies in raising our kids, there are things that have grown with us and “do that when you are married” is most certainly one of them. Every Egyptian girl has heard this before, and on some level clung to it whether consciously or subconsciously. But is a parent’s way out of okaying something his daughter wants to do, her own gateway to a dramatically disappointing marriage?
“Egyptian parents are mostly afraid of their daughters, rather than worried about them. They’ve long believed that a female is like a time bomb that can explode any minute and bring shame to the family. The day a girl becomes another man’s responsibility is a sigh of relief for them”, Sally Emam tells.
“Back in college there was this Luxor and Aswan trip that I really wanted to go to but my dad told me I could go when I am married. Sure, traveling and experiencing new things with the love of your life is a great thing, but this man shouldn’t have to satisfy a demanding wife that has lived all her life awaiting a one-way ticket to freedom on her left hand”, Sally argues.
“Egyptian parents are mostly afraid of their daughters, rather than worried about them”
And sometimes having high hopes for an unknown future dooms all that will ever be yours as ‘not enough’. “My parents thought they were being conservative when they’d be hard on me sometimes. I can’t say I was an easy kid to deal with, but the fact that lots of things were prohibited made me even want them more. I want to drive, I want to travel with my friends, I want to go to the movies at 12 AM without worrying that some proper scolding is awaiting me at home”, Layan Ahmed says. “After years of marriage, I can’t remember going to the movies at 12 even once, despite the fact that my husband wouldn’t even mind that. I just never thought of it. Maybe if my parents hadn’t strictly refused, it would not have been an issue at all”, she adds.
“My parents thought they were being conservative when they’d be hard on me sometimes”
And it doesn’t have to be traveling, driving or anything major or life-changing, it could be as simple as a girlish wish. “I have always wanted to cut my hair and dye it, but my parents would insist that I do that when I am married and now that I am in fact married, my husband still wouldn’t let me cut it”, Amira Saleh says.
We had a talk with psychiatrist Nahla Farrag who had a lot to say about this issue, “Usually when a girl is subconsciously clinging to the hope that her life will drastically change after marriage, she is very likely to say yes to just about any man who proposes, on the basis of the ingrained idea that he will be the answer to all her prayers”.
“When a girl is subconsciously clinging to the hope that her life will drastically change after marriage, she is very likely to say yes to just about any man who proposes”
And there are different scenarios to that story, “Sometimes even if the husband is originally more open-minded than the parents he will still treat her the way her parents did. ‘You want to drive? Since when do you even drive?’. On the contrary, if the husband actually grants her the freedom she wants, having lived all her life abiding by certain rules, it will feel weird for her, and eventually she is very likely to feel like her husband isn’t manly enough, or that he doesn’t love her enough. Psychologically, conceptions that have long been ingrained in you will live on with you”, she adds.
And the marriage falls prey to high expectations and wrong perceptions, the girl thought she was marrying Aladdin who will make all her wishes come true, and the husband just doesn’t know what he married into, a woman or her past? “Even if the husband is a fairly good man but can’t satisfy his wife’s luxurious needs, like a car or a fancy trip, it will result in a major disappointment”, Nahla concludes.
“The girl thought she was marrying Aladdin who will make all her wishes come true”
As a result, whether parents think they have their daughter’s best interest at heart, or whether they are just trying to manipulate and control her actions, the consequences of the “you can once you are married” statements reach far beyond a woman’s childhood home, potentially having disastrous effects on her future.