Dylan and I sat in the well-worn cushions of the black pleather love seat in our counselor’s office, the three of us wondering how I’d respond to Dylan’s marriage proposal.
“Well?” Dylan asked, his gray-green eyes locked on my face.
“Yes! Oh my god, yes,” I said, but my up intonations gave away my uncertainty. “Of course! It’s what we’ve been talking about! Of course I want to get ma-mar—engaged!”
I winced at the shrill sound of my own voice. The pleather groaned as I shifted and sunk into my seat.
The rest of the session I was Woody Allen in “Annie Hall.”
He was one of the sweetest men I have ever known. He was my best friend and my boyfriend.
For my graduation present, he planned an elaborate, thoughtful, and interactive gift. It celebrated the culmination of my years at school in tandem with our time together as a couple. He placed a blindfold over my eyes and took me outside of our school building. It was after sunset and the air was crisp.
He took off the blindfold and I saw a white card on the ground with the numeral one hand-drawn on it in that precious sans-serif script that he practiced daily. I picked it up, heart racing from the excitement, and peeled it open.
Ed. Note: Please welcome our newest writer Luca, whose column “Halal Since 22” will be published the third Tuesday of every month.
“You’re the nicest guy ever!”
I’ve been called a lot of things by women throughout my life. Forward thinking, a saint (after a very unsaintly evening), emotionally unavailable, a complete fucking asshole, etc. I’d prefer to be called any of those things than be called nice. Nice is mild chicken wings. Nice is clothes from Old Navy. Nice is there, but otherwise totally unremarkable. I’m not “nice,” and I cringe when I think of guys who say they are.
But a few weeks ago, for the first time since my early teens, I got called a nice guy b y a woman I was interested in. To be fair, I was being quite a bit nicer to her than I am to most people.
I recently decided to step back from actively searching for someone to marry. I’m serious and interested, but aspects of the Muslim matchmaking process are strange for me.
I lost my beloved wife, Joan, just over a year ago. The prospect of starting over with someone new after sixteen years of marriage is daunting. I am a forty-year-old white American male, but I am also Muslim. Some readers may respond, “So what?” But I’ve discovered that when you are a member of a minority, your identity markers have real impact. And, with 1.7 billion Muslims globally, a lot of cultural practices get mixed into love and (re)marriage.
As a Muslim convert, I have to navigate different cultural spaces to find a Muslim partner. On top of that, I have a biracial and transcultural son. These variables create a mix of opportunity and chaos.
As a teenager, I was never confident about my body. I was darker-skinned than was generally accepted; I had thicker eyebrows than other girls. I never believed any man would find me beautiful. Unlike some of my fair-skinned friends, who were pursued relentlessly, no one pursued me. There was this one classmate who gave me a little attention, and I really thought he would be the first and the last. How disappointed I was when I found out that giving attention to girls who “weren’t the most sought-after” was just his thing.
I wasn’t one of those calm and composed people. I never looked before I leaped. I was not good at masking my emotions. The term most used to describe me were: frank and photogenic. I hated being called frank. It meant I spoke my mind, and scared people away. I hated being called photogenic. It meant that photographs of me, tricked people into believing that I looked good in real life.
After I started working, I got myself a chic haircut. I believed this change in appearance would change my life. Things did start to look up a little, but only once I left my hometown. I was approached more often. But I was still honest. If I wasn’t interested in someone, I never led them on. If I liked a guy, I usually expressed it. Once I did so, the men who pursued me because they thought I was unachievable, lost interest or shifted their interest to someone less available. I was even referred to as “eye candy” but not girlfriend material. I always felt there was something awfully wrong with me.