Various conversations about marriage (in philosophical terms rather than proposals), have been making me consider how the blazers this institution works. (It should be said that the enforced idleness of unemployment is also directly responsible for such fruitless rumination.)
When I first met ex-colleague Lion, she had been engaged to Perfect But Boring for about a year. Lion and I shared an office, and towards the end of each day, just as energy levels were slipping and our energies were concentrated on downloading music, Lion would receive a phone call. Every day the response was the same ring ring – “ufffffff”, and I knew it was her fiancé. There would then follow a murmured two minute conversation during which Lion would mime vomiting/strangulation, before hanging up and contemptuously throwing the mobile across her desk as if it was a turd.
I met Perfect But Boring once. He was an entirely unassuming sort, seemed very polite, but I probably wouldn’t be able to pick him out of a crowd if I saw him again. He had the type of job of which in-laws’ dreams are made; job security, good money, prestige within his field…but he failed to arouse any significant emotion in Lion other than a feeling of intense horror at the prospect that she would be casting her lot in with his for the next sixty years. After stifling weekends of silent lunches and passionless drives, she would return to work with her spirits so low they were practically seeping out of her shoes. Whenever we discussed it, she would point out that while dull, Perfect But Boring worked in the same field as her and offered stability. I pointed out that her chair possessed the same qualities. Pressure from her family, resignation, and above all fear, meant that she never left Perfect But Boring during the time we worked together. She had sufficient strength of character however to repeatedly stall the marriage using the pretext of work commitments.
It was no surprise then, that Lion recently informed me that she had left Perfect But Boring, and was marrying a distant relative who was everything her ex wasn’t; dashing, good-looking, and generally pulse-elevating. He was also younger than her, unemployed, and unlike her, entirely un-academic. She swears that he resembles the hottie with the vacuum cleaner in Elissa’s Agmel A7saas clip. Sharshar says that he looks about 18 and has what is known in England as the gift of the gab i.e. is a bit of a chancer. I cannot judge, given that I haven’t yet met him. Their marriage was practically an elopement, Lion informing her colleagues that she would be married only on the day of the wedding itself, in a town three hours away, on the first day of the Eid – thereby guaranteeing 100 percent non-attendance.
God knows that left to their own devices and the stigma of being alone, allegedly ‘emancipated’ Western woman manage to navigate themselves into unhappy marriages. Women in the UK must generally guide themselves through the romance minefield alone, there being no class, religion or family status signposts to signal who is, and isn’t, a suitable Mr In Sickness and in Health. Women in Egypt’s choices are informed if not dictated by the double-edged sword of factors completely unrelated to the content of Mr X’s character. I don’t know which situation is worse; to have to choose from a vast ocean of potential candidates and possibly never find a match, or to have your choices limited and in the process unwittingly strike out a soul mate…Situations like that of Lion would seem to indicate that the spark between two people which comes into existence entirely independently of salary and surname must be present if the marriage is not to end up in the divorce courts or, even worse, one or both partners are not to suffer a slow, agonising, spiritual death. But as I can attest, relationships founded solely on this spark will lead to the same loneliness, because if two people have nothing in common, they have nothing to feed the bloody spark with, and it and the relationship will eventually and inevitably kick the bucket.