I cannot count the number of times friends have posted a picture of hand with a ring on it to announce their engagement or post a picture of their ultrasound to let us know they are expecting. Social networking has allowed us to disseminate information at a much quicker pace to a wider audience. Love it or hate it – it is convenient. I did neither. Instead, I simply changed my relationship status, previously hidden, from “single” to “engaged” and the floodgates opened.
While we both received many congratulatory praises, our engagement was met with ridiculous comments from my ‘friends’ such as “how can your status go from ‘single’ to ‘engaged’ all in one step?” Some friends also felt that it was tacky to announce my engagement via status update. Although I really do not need to defend nor justify my actions, I will say that my relationship status (not status update) came after my closest family and friends were notified, but I digress.
Amongst the many questions people have about my upcoming nuptials, people really want to know how did he propose and of course they want to know about the ring. I’ll write about the proposal now and the ring later!
When I first met JB, he made it clear that I was someone he was interested in marrying (as I wrote about in the previous post). I thought it was too soon, but I was not alarmed or set back by his interest as I have met quick proposals and professions of love from other Muslim and African men I dated. While those proposals and professions were not always genuine, I understood the context in which they were spoken. In many non-Western cultures, most people are married by the time they are 30. Whereas in America and Europe, people are opting to skip/delay marriage and family until later in life or not at all.
I am not an expert on Islam, but I do know from previous relationships that dating or having girlfriends/boyfriends is highly frowned upon. A man should find his wife and that is it. While JB has had previous relationships, his mindset when I met him was Marriage. As I met many of his friends, they also discussed how they were looking for a wife. I rarely, if ever, hear any of my male friends under the age of 30 indicate their desire to find a wife. When they do talk about it, it is usually because they feel pressure from their girlfriend, but not because it is something they genuinely want to do on their own.
JB’s expression of interest formed the basis of the ‘proposal’. There was no hot air balloon ride, romantic dinner, or bended knee. It was simply a statement of intent. That intent was followed by “No’s” and “I don’t knows” from me. I felt it was too soon and totally against what I was accustomed. I did however agree to meet the family. As I accepted the invitation to meet his family I had pretty much accepted the marriage proposal as I was presented to the family as his fiancé. My unsure ‘yes’ turned into an emphatic YES as I spent time with the family. As with any relationship, trust is important. I would say it is even more important when long-distance is concerned. My last two relationships were long-distance and I told myself that if I was going to be in another long-distance relationship, I needed to learn from my past mistakes. One of those mistakes was going forward without really knowing the person’s family and friends. Meeting family and friends is important because you get the opportunity to verify the person is who they say they are and you get to see where the person is from.
Not only did I fall in love with JB’s family, I watched the adoration shared between him and his father. I saw the respect he gave his mother and grandmother AND the respect they gave back to him. I also saw the genuine camaraderie and bond he shared with his siblings. It was not about he and I anymore, but his interaction with other people.
Still not able to come to grips with the fact that I agreed to marry someone I barely knew, I asked JB to humor me and do some of the things we do in America. As always, he is extremely accommodating and after a little rehearsal, we called my family. He asked my stepfather for permission to marry me. After my stepfather agreed, I told my friends who were in constant touch with me while I was away and my parents began to tell the family.
I also told him I needed a ring and he accommodated as well…(I’ll write about the ring next post)!