Game On

Darwin would’ve had a field day with the Muslim community. It’s all about survival of the fittest here, baby. Only the strong survive. Those who survive do so because they develop adaptations  suited to the specific environment they reside in. (Who knew, I was actually paying attention in Biology and not just sneaking potato chips under the table.)

To translate this into Love Haqtually terms, what this means is that the Muslim marriage circuit is extremely competitive. This is particularly the case for females, for reasons I’ve mentioned in previous posts e.g. perceived early ‘expiry’ date, possible number imbalance between males and females. But males are not immune from the race to the (figurative) altar, and so entire subsections of the community are constantly plagued by uncomfortable romantic tensions and undercurrents.

The problem is that because people tend to stay within their own circle, there really is very little to go around. If you attend the same classes and events with the same people, the chance of meeting someone diminishes significantly. If you do meet someone, you most likely have to reconcile yourself to the reality that Prince Charming has probably gotten to know someone within your circle, or that Princess Charming has probably been romanced by several fellows before graciously settling on you.

When ‘fresh meat’ comes into the territory, the change in the air is palpable. Everyone wants to know who the new guy or girl is, and if they’re even half-decent everyone clambers over each other to get there first. This becomes extremely awkward for both participants in the scramble and bystanders. No one wants to be too obvious, except that everyone is. Whether the approach is coy or flirtatious, demure or bold, it’s meant as a silent marker of territorial rights.

This unspoken, ever-present competition manifests itself in many ways. It’s often played out on social media, where ‘likes’ and comments act as weapons to add to the arsenal. The other way the competition tends to play out is a game of interest-matching, where the competitors try to demonstrate that their interests align so closely with the prized object that they must emerge victorious. You like X scholar? He’s totes one of my heroes! Now marry me, stat!

All this scares the heck out of me. Frankly, I’ve never been good with competition because of my huge fear of confrontation. But that’s a silly attitude to have when the stakes are high. Finding a partner is like landing a job in some ways; you need to take risks, put yourself out there and be prepared to find out that one of the other candidates has nabbed the position and not you. It’s pointless to complain of not being able to find a partner if you’re not willing to get your hands at least a little bit dirty.

If you want to avoid competition, go the ‘traditional’ route and let your parents find someone for you. But even this isn’t fool-proof. Some suitors are known to be notoriously picky and do the rounds with any number of girls, leaving each new victim wondering who will be the one to finally capture his heart over lounge-room cups of tea.

I know this all seems dreadfully cynical. What about feelings, you ask? Don’t some people just click? Sure they do, and it’s beautiful when it just works out like that. But if you’re an environment with five other girls all thinking they  click with the same guy, things get just a little bit dicey. If two or three people are interested in the same person, they obviously all feel some kind of connection with that person. Determining whose feelings are the most ‘legitimate’ is impossible; it then simply comes down to who is chosen by that person based on their own selection criteria.

How do you increase your chances in this dog-eat-dog world?  Here are some tips:

1.) Attend different events. Go to a place you’ve never been before if you want the ‘new girl/guy’ factor.

2.) Don’t put all your eggs in the one basket. Connect with different people through different interest bases.

3.) If you’ve gotten to know someone from one circle and it doesn’t work out, cut your losses and move on. Try not to double-dip if possible.

4.) It’s a big, big world out there. Don’t confine yourself to just your city or even just your own country.

5.) Positive vibes and a sweet, friendly personality will do wonders. It’s hard when you’ve been through a few romantic setbacks, but if you’re bitter and resentful this will not only blacken your heart, but also decrease your chances of meeting someone.

Please forgive me for the following cliche, but it really does come down to naseeb. This doesn’t mean sitting back and waiting for someone to throw a pebble at your window. Be proactive and fight fairly and honestly for what you want. But in the game of love, you have to accept that things don’t always happen when and how you want them to. You can’t force someone to like you when they don’t, and if you have to make yourself into a show pony to get someone to notice you then you’re fighting a losing battle already.

Trust in Allah swt and make the most of whatever opportunities He sends your way. Don’t nitpick, but uphold your standards of what matters to you. If you like someone, don’t wait for them to make the first move, but don’t compromise your self-respect. If someone isn’t interested, realise that it’s not about you: they simply have a different idea of what they’re looking for. You’ve been given a whole life to live and you are wholly you, regardless of whether you have your ‘other half’ by your side or not.

Do you feel silent pressure to get in the ring? Have you ever liked someone who was being pursued by someone else?

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10 responses to “Game On

  1. Nice read.

    I find it difficult to not ‘wait for them to make the first move, but don’t compromise your self-respect’.

    I end up not trying at all.

    Any tips, as silly as that sounds?

    • Thanks! 🙂
      It’s definitely hard, but if you’re shy just put subtle feelers out. Engage them in casual, friendly conversation and see how they respond. If they’re equally friendly, take it a little further. If they don’t respond well, just back off and see what happens. Get a mutual friend to suss things out for you if you’re not feeling confident enough.

  2. Sometimes I consider the traditional route, but I’m too embarrassed to tell my parents. Currently I just got rejected by someone and there was little to no competition involved in this scenario. And what sucks the most is that he really likes me as a friend, so my escape plan is difficult to implement at this time. 😦 Let’s hope that feelings change, but I highly doubt it.

    Anyways, excellent post! Your level of insight never fails to amaze me. Stay blessed, sister. 🙂

    • They’re your parents-they always have your back, never fear!
      That’s sad. It’s really hard to be so close yet so far from what you want, but iA the right person comes along for you.
      Thank you for your kind words, and the same to you 🙂

  3. Just another thing I was thinking about. A friend and I attend lecturers and she’s interested in guy. No mutual friends exist and neither has even spoken to him. Any thoughts on how to approach him without coming across as disrespectful, desperate and anything else on-lookers could call us? lol.

    • Perhaps ask the person conducting the class if they know the brother? Or wait for a natural opportunity for conversation to arise? It’s definitely a hard one-often at events I think that there are eligible brothers and sisters there but no means for them to meet!

  4. I agree, that’s what I told her. This article came straight to mind when she was telling me about him. It’s just so awkward asking people!

    • It’s very awkward, but sometimes you have to risk a bit of awkwardness to get somewhere. Let me know how your friend goes inshaAllah!

  5. Definitely the hot topic, the real challenge for which Muslim diaspora hasn’t really come up with a solution… I mean, the old-fashioned way is becoming increasingly old-fashioned, yet it’s difficult to navigate boundaries / the correct way to approach someone! I guess Love Haqtually is a step in the direction of a solution, i.e. the fact of talking about the issues frankly!

    The crux of the matter for me, and it’s probably something individuals of every religion and community has, is that there’s a girl I like, with whom I have a decent, professional relationship, a respectable laugh or joke around whatever the task at hand is. If I take it up a notch, ask if she’s interested in taking discussion to another level, then it’s either make or break. Either it progresses in a positive direction, or the whole “friendship” is mired in awkwardness and doomed. I guess at 22, with us both still studying, my instinct is to wait it out until we’re both out of study mode and in a better place. Heck, maybe there’ll be other fish in the sea I come across by that time.

    But what would be amazing? A magic spell – no, not to make her like me! – but simply to see what is in her head! I know girls think about marriage etc. ten times more than boys, so maybe I would pick up if she was interested. Or maybe some girls still expect the boy to make the first move! Reminds me of this: http://www.barbarapijan.com/bpa/Graha/Shukra/Understanding_women_volume_one.jpg

    • Thank you! I agree, that the conversation is the first part of the solution.
      As for your situation, I feel many young Muslims have a similar mindset: they scope out their options, but are wary of getting into a relationship too early before they’re ‘ready’ or before they’ve had a chance to see what else is out there. Take your time and see how you feel, but also know that waiting too long may cause you to miss out on someone amazing.
      Many girls would like to make the first move, but they’re afraid of the stigma of being ‘desperate’ which still attaches to girls when they show an interest in a guy. In time perhaps this stigma may lessen as more and more girls feel confident enough to make the first move.

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