Is it career suicide if she said ‘yes’ way earlier than it’s commonly mouthed? Does the weight of that ring on her finger mean a happily never after for her hopes and dreams, or is it all just one big myth?
Somewhere along the line, the society-clock created a marriage bracket claiming pre-graduation too early, and post thirty too late. But what happens to those who don’t play by the rules? Is it the 1800s and the girl quits her life to become one more desperate housewife? Or is there a twenty-first century way to handle this? 7 married undergraduates decide to open up to us about their routines, lives and fate-twisting choices.
Mariam Samy, 20-year-old, Applied Arts Student – German University
Believing she wouldn’t be doing anything wrong from a religious perspective, Mariam said ‘yes’. “I don’t need to be apologetic about my decision. By getting married, I traded emotional distraction for stability,” she explains. Mariam had to research in order to convince her parents it was the right thing to do. Now, the GUC undergraduate manages a great balance between her emotional life and her academic career. She enjoys a planner of a partner who doesn’t leave anything up to fate, and together they plan when she’ll be studying, and when he’ll be working so they can find time to spend with one another.
Despite praising her undemanding husband, Mariam still insists that external help
is one of the essentials for married undergraduates, given the fact that she doesn’t cook or clean. What’s worth mentioning is that, by the time the 20-year-old was planning her wedding, she was ranked the 10th on her class.
Dina Bayoumi, 30-year-old, Literature Student – Azhar University
Once upon a fantasy, a 14-year-old fell in love with a guy at first sight, only it was no fantasy when she ended up engaged to him right away, then married after receiving her General Secondary certificate. Finding the right match too early eventually set a ticking clock for her. “As soon as we got together, he was all I could think of. I didn’t even bother opening any books. I had the dream of being a doctor once, but with my 75% score in Thanawya Amma, that wasn’t an option anymore,” Dina explains.
Quick to become a mother, Dina failed her freshmen year, repeated her sophomore year twice, then was forced to change her major. She doesn’t blame anyone but herself, given the fact that when her husband was in her life, she was also in his, and while he was excelling at his job, she was failing in her studies and drowning in his love. Soon enough, when Bayoumi got pregnant with her second baby in college, the responsibilities outweighed her not yet healed shoulders. “My features changed, my face just looked sad,” she describes. “I love my husband, I do! But if I had married him after college, everything would have been different,” she adds. The now mother of four girls insists she won’t let her daughters fall into this fatal mistake.
Heba Ereiba, 20-year-old, Business Student – American University in Cairo
At some point in Heba’s relationship with her fiancée, they stopped moving forward. “When the getting-to-know-each-other part was over, my parents wouldn’t let us go out together alone, and we knew that we’d end up together anyway, so we said why not get married? We didn’t have any of the problems that force people to wait,” she clarifies. The AUC undergraduate, whose father pays for her fortune-worth education, has her supporter of a partner studying for her and fail-ironing her veils. “He’s the kind of person who would open a tuna can when there’s no food. He makes it so easy,” says Heba, adding that their parents handle laundry, and food.
Asyl Farouk, 31-year old, Computer Science – Azhar University
If you think Asyl’s story is about getting married in college, pregnant by mistake, and taking 8 years instead of 4 to graduate college, you are wrong. This mommy lived on the move without a glimpse of stability. “We would spend a lot of nights at my mother-in-law’s house, and we’d travel on a weekly basis to my father-in-law who lived outside Cairo so he can see the kids. Sometimes we’d stay for maybe a month outside the house, and of course I didn’t move around with my books, so basically I didn’t study,” she explains.
Campus life didn’t go easy on her either, since she had a schedule that ended around 8 pm, and sections at different buildings. Asyl would grab her pregnant belly, taking the stairs up to the fourth floor every two hours. “Even after having the baby, it didn’t get any easier. I’d leave him with my mother-in-law all day feeding on herbs until I came home,” she says. But that wasn’t it for her, because after having her second baby, Asyl started using painkillers and sedatives. “I don’t encourage any woman to get married before 30, because that’s around the time I started feeling responsible. Before that, I was just a good friend, a sweet daughter maybe, but not a grown-up,” she says.
Sally Emam, 31-year old, Medicine Student – Azhar University
Being a married medicine student didn’t just mean Sally’s career was on the line, it meant it was hung up in the air with nothing holding it up but persistence, and everything else pulling it down. “My parents were worried my grades would change at first, but I promised them everything would stay the same,” says Sally. With her getting pregnant right after marriage, and attending exams with an 8-month-old baby bump, it was harder to keep that promise. “My husband was very understanding though; he’d make us fried chicken sandwiches on exam nights,” she says.
The med-student’s routine varied between fainting in gynecology rounds, receiving cynical comments from professors, and studying by her husband’s side. “I’d get tired, but never weak,” she protests. “My early marriage may have negatively affected my career, but it doesn’t matter because my family comes before my career,” Sally justifies.
Yasmine Hashem, 25-year-old, Applied Arts Student – German University in Cairo
Referring to herself as young and dumb, Yasmine married the love of her life at the age of 19, thinking it wouldn’t be as hard as they claimed, and she was right. It wasn’t as hard, it was harder! “I don’t recommend that for any woman. A girl should be enjoying every stage of her life and not jumping steps,” says Yasmine. The now mother to two kids and applied arts student, claims it’s not just pressure, stress and the weight of the world, it’s also your own readiness to deal with the inevitable change of your partner post-marriage.
“When you are engaged, if you hint about having a headache, your partner would make you feel like he’d take you to Germany just so you can be treated. But when you are his to take for granted, if you try to complain about not feeling well, he’d be asking for lunch, or getting you an aspirin just so you can get up and iron his clothes,” Yasmine explains. She clarifies that this emotional change could alone be enough of a distraction from your studies. According to her, a woman is never ‘protected’. Yasmine, who received two unplanned babies, was so angry with her university’s refusal to cooperate. “Apparently, you can’t be absent on the day of delivering your baby. For the GUC, that’s not a medical emergency!” Yasmine jokes.
Ola AbdelAlleim, 32-year old, Biological Sciences – Azhar University
Attending practical exams while 9 months pregnant is not fun according to Ola, who failed her senior year and had to repeat it with an unplanned baby on her lap. “I used to study while he’s napping, feeding, or even playing around me,” she explains. A time machine would come in handy for Ola, because if she could turn back time, she’d still get married but would postpone the pregnancy. “I remember once, I went to my exam only to find my former colleagues supervising. That was kind of a silly feeling, that they’d finished with high honors and are now working,” she adds.
Each of these women had her forked road, and initiated her path. Their individual cases don’t represent you; they don’t tell you what to do, but they do suggest how to think. Some say you can’t shape the clay after the sun dries it out, turning it into an unchangeable and breakable rock. Others say, it only turns into a piece of art when it becomes its destined complex shape. So, take your turn, make your choice, write your story, but make sure not to ever need a time machine to rewrite that story, because aside from the fact that they haven’t invented those, rubbers don’t erase ink, just like you can’t undo your choices.