For those who don’t know, a meet-cute is the way a guy and girl meet in a rom-com. You know the drill. Guy meets girl and they ‘hate’ each other for some contrived reason, but you instantly know they’re going to end up together. Popular guy likes nerd girl but can’t be with her because everyone knows popular people can’t be with nerds (duh), but then she gets given a hair straightener and contact lenses, and voila, she’s just another Hollywood hottie. The meet-cute is where it all begins, the How I Met Your Mother story to be shared in the months and years to come.
As a rule, Muslims living in the West don’t get many incidental opportunities to meet members of the opposite sex. We go to work and university where we meet plenty of non-Muslims, but for obvious reasons they’re off-limits. (Well, not always, but that’s a blog post for another day.) If we want to meet other Muslims, we gotta go where the action is, and for Muslims that’s the MSA (Muslim Students Association) and other Muslim community organisations such as charities and social activism groups. This is mainly applicable to Muslims under the age of 25 because after that things start to get a bit more complicated, but again I’ll get to that later.
Now I’m not claiming that the only or even the main reason people volunteer for these organisations is to meet a potential spouse, but it’s a commonly uttered half-joke that joining up at the local campus MSA is a way to ‘hook up’ (for Muslims, this means get married ;)). Let’s face it, how else are we going to meet someone? Observant Muslims don’t go to clubs or pubs or parties where members of the opposite sex will be present. We don’t have the social lubricant of alcohol; when we say something stupid there are no excuses and no forgetting the morning after. When it comes down to it, it’s often a choice between either the MSA/community organisation or the ‘arranged’ way, and lately it seems that more and more people are rejecting the latter in favour of finding a partner of their own accord.
I should add for those who don’t know, that the events organised by these organisations are for the most part gender-segregated. This means that the attendees don’t usually get the chance to converse with each other, since they’re placed on opposite sides of the room. (That’s not to say no one’s using their one allowed glance though.) However, this isn’t the case for the organisers and volunteers at these events. These guys and girls will be forced to exchange numbers, have planning meetings and create Google groups for extended communication. Given that this type of contact may often be the only form of guy-girl communication available to observant Muslims, it’s inevitable that these people are going to start developing attachments to each other.
It all starts with a joke across the divide of the O-Week stall. Or maybe a moment of eye contact across a meeting table that goes on for a second too long. Or an email initially sent to discuss the final numbers for the registration list, but then starts straying into murkier territory. Or maybe even a Facebook PM about Islamic Awareness Week which leads to a friend request, which then leads to the discovery that both parties are into photography or whatever the hipster kids are doing these days. The beginning is always innocent. We’re Muslim-we don’t just ask people out. If we start developing feelings for someone, it’s going to be a closely-kept secret, at least in its early stages. Then the detective work begins 😉
But I’ll leave that another post. Do you agree that people often volunteer for events with a secondary purpose of meeting someone? Do you think this is a good way to meet someone?