While men complain: “Girls these days live on Venus, they have no idea how costly life is. They can’t stand a life less luxurious than that they used to have at their parents’. They want an understanding Romeo who has a nice car, nice home, good financial and social status and, preferably, handsome.”
The result is 3 million girls above 30 are unmarried. Not all of them are expected to get married due the fact that the ratio of women to men in Egypt is 4:1 .And above all why would men get married while they can have all they wish for so easily, now that they have “commitment free” relations? Do parents help in solving the problem or are they making it worse? What are the reasons behind such alarming results? What do men and women really want when they look for a partner – is there anything as Mr. Right? What do religion and society have to say about such a phenomenon?
Sohair Lotfy- a Sociologist – argues that those who refer to the change in marriage age using the term “ late marriage” are not aware of – or may be disregard – the fact that it is a very normal change that was only a natural result that accompanied all the changes that swept the Egyptian society over the past decade. More girls are not only into education, reaching the highest educational levels, but also are in the work market, in which they have become essential working power in all fields. “How come that out of all the changes that happened in technology, media, education, we are still holding on to the marriage age factor and we want it to be the same”, Lotfy wonders.
Lotfy continues her argument comparing the needs of society in the past and the needs of our present days. “In the past, Egyptian society glorified the importance of big families and high numbers of children but at present, especially in the shadow of the economical crises, this is not the case anymore”, Lotfy explains. She believes that it is only normal to have such numbers of unmarried ladies over thirty who strive to catch up with the societal changes. She also believes that the attitude of society is changing regarding unmarried women instead of pity; they are met with respect and appreciation now, a positive attitude that is growing, Lotfy believes, and needs to be nourished.
Is catching up with the societal changes is the only reason why girls do not get married as young as our parents did? Or are there other factors that lead to such change?
Economical reasons won top rank in an easy fight with four other candidates: impossible or exaggerated demands , constant interference of parents , super- expectations of young men and women when looking for a partner, and last comes the high divorce rates which terrifies youth away from taking such a commitment.
Samir, Mohamad, and many other young men when asked why they didn’t marry till now- over 30 years old – all agreed that the key word here is money and the almost impossible demands of the bride’s parents.
For these young men Ms. Right should be what they term a “real lady” with a feminine attitude rather than a tomboy. They all argued that they want someone who gives them a feeling of superiority. “I want her to ask me for guidance, even if she doesn’t really need it”, says Mohamad. He wants to feel that his “wife-to-be” needs him, no matter how successful she is. Mohamad does not mind marrying a working lady and promises to help in all the house work, yet he totally refuses the idea of him going back home earlier than she does. “It is okay to marry a working girl but I wouldn’t by all means accept it if she comes home after me”, explains Mohamad, who wishes to find an independent, well educated, religious girl and above all beautiful.
Samir gave a very smart metaphor by asking who is more important in a battle, the king or the soldiers? Both, I replied. “Exactly! Soldiers can’t fight without the king’s wise instructions and the king can’t win without his dedicated soldiers and at the same time the king can’t leave the battle for long hours nor can he endanger his life by being in the battle field, right? The king is the woman”, Samir explains refusing the idea of women leaving their homes- for work – and endangering themselves, leaving their homes for long hours “without securing the home front” as he jokingly comments. For him, both the king and soldiers are important but each in “his field and duties”. Samir wants his “wife-to-be” to be obedient, quiet, well-educated, multi lingual, from a good, well-known religious family, who would support him powerfully. However, at the same exact time he and many other men interviewed, showed incredible confusion in dealing or combining or selecting what is valid from our old traditional norms and what has been introduced to us lately under the name of globalization.
Changes that occurred in the past two decades created a tremendous confusion in people’s mentalities especially in dealing with certain conservative issues and the new look of our society and its new demands and requirements.
Dr. Mona Reda, a Consultant Psychiatrist at the Institute of Psychiatry- Ain Shams University explains that “Men and women are shoulder to shoulder in schools, universities, and workplace. Fellowships have been granted to women. Parents began to realize new societal changes and in turn also began to grant more freedom to their daughters realizing that it is not a source of shame anymore but rather a source of pride among other families, allowing their daughters to travel for education or as her work requires. Men became more interested in women who are active, dynamic and successful and realize that they must marry educated, successful ladies who make them proud in social gatherings. But at the same time, psychologically, men refuse these concepts as foreign to them, refusing to admit they need the women’s financial assistance due to severe economic crisis and above all you rarely would find a man who accepts to marry a woman who seems to be more successful than he is.”
Ebrahim, 36 years old and married, revealed lots of the secret world of unmarried men. “Why would a Perfect man, – and by perfect I mean a man who is in every girls dream; handsome, successful, cultured, romantic- get married while he can get the prettiest of girls in a wink? Everything which was forbidden in the Egyptian society became available and easily attainable now”, explains Ebrahim.
“With the absence of religion in our lives and with the immense stress of moral challenges that men are subject to and countless “easy” girls who offer themselves for free, men forget all about their believes and traditions and turn their heads against the long, uneasy road of marriage” , Ebrahim shares. He also reveals that it is so difficult to win a man’s trust after what is being offered to him on daily basis. “Finding a decent young girl with no “black” history becomes difficult and with the daily exposure to these moral challenges it became very hard for men to hold on to their religion or even if not religious, to stick to acceptable behavior”.
A mother of three boys admits “it is my fault, and every working mother’s fault. We felt that we are not as good as dedicated mothers who gave up their careers for their children and we started to spoil our children. My boys are now used to getting everything done for them. They are used to seeing their working mother, come home, and prepare all their needs while they don’t help at all.”
Reham and Noha, both 32 years old and unmarried, believe that today’s young men are aimless and they ask for “too much” while they haven’t much to offer. “They want her as cute as Nancy Agram, as smart as Oprah, and sexy as Haifaa Wahby. Men are deceived by the media and the high exposure to women made them panic and became very selective when it comes to their wives”, Reham lamments. Noha agrees with Reham and adds, “men reached a point of feeling they are RARE and that a girl who is proposed to has to thank God and feel lucky to have been chosen out of four by a man! Such sick mentalities when confronted, they say their well known sentence “you are buying a man” as if finding a man became an expensive commodity that women seek.”
Every time marriage problems are brought up in any crowd, Amr Khaled, the well known religious figure, asks the parents not to ask for the world for their daughters. “Let us be reasonable in our demands from the groom. Life is hard already don’t make things harder and if they match together they will succeed. As the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said “if you find a suitable religious groom do not refuse him and let him down, otherwise it becomes disaster among humans.” Khaled believes that to solve this problem men and women should start organizing their priorities in order to find the most suitable match. Social and cultural not financial resemblance is a must. Money comes and goes but the good roots never change. Not only this but love or at least liking and comfort must be felt between both sides in order to start a happy life and build healthy families.
A free advice that Dr. Mona Reda offers to young men and women is to let go of their selfishness. “Never pretend you are someone else. Learn the art of talking and arguing. Learn to share your thoughts and above all to give before you take”, Dr. Reda adds. Furthermore, Dr. Sohair Lotfy advises those who still do not recognize the importance of an unmarried, yet successful woman, to weight her with her contributions to her society. “I know they are very few yet my advice is we are in a transitional phase that needs each and everyone’s effort to grow and develop so let us encourage them instead of putting up a burden that wouldn’t lead us anywhere.”
Girls ask for fair play. Beauty isn’t everything and it fades with time what remains is a good nature, decency, respect and love and after all judge yourselves before judging us.
Young men ask parents to be reasonable in their demands for their daughters and they prefer for parents to minimize the interference in the relation.
Parents ask for someone who is responsible enough to shoulder the responsibility of the most precious thing they ever have “their beloved daughter”.