Thursday, October 30, 2008

What if Jane Austin were a blogger?

Did you ever think what Jane Austin's work would look like had she lived in our time? Had the benefit the internet and the bloggersphere? No, neither have I until I read this article "Reader, I didn't marry him: blog lifts veil on match-making in Egypt" in yesterday's issue of The Independent.
I was so intrigued by the subject that I went on a search to learn more...

A 29 year old, attractive, funny, intelligent, self supporting, Egyptian woman is driven to distraction by her family and all her close acquaintance in an effort to save her from herself. To remedy a fatal flaw in her, something that stands out for all of society to see, to gawk at and ridicule.... Her lack of a husband.
At 29, there's not much time. She'll soon be 30, eligible men will see her as old, and refer to her as, that strange and unnatural creature, the dreaded Old Maid.

Ghada Abdel Aal has endured her family's overwhelming concern in her marital status for years... 8 to be exact. In her town of Mahalla, girls marry and marry as quickly as possible. In her 29th year of unhitched and childless life that concern turned into a frenzied intervention. This was an emergency and drastic measures were needed.
Gone are the lists of criteria that defined a suitable husband for Ghada the beautiful pharmacist; Forget rich, forget handsome, forget young, forget intelligent, forget tall for god's sake! Male with a job and 20 years of life expectancy will do.
And so it was, that Ghada had to endure yet another year of evening after nerve
wrecking evening in her family's salon meeting and greeting and ultimately and invariably refusing the specimens of male humanity the came parading through her door. She refused the bearded fundamentalist with 2 wives at home, the cop, who felt running a background check on her entire family was normal procedure in a courtship, the football fanatic who insisted on their first meeting o turning on the TV so that he wouldn't have to miss the game, Actually that one left on his own, as Ghada tells it "He found out I supported the rival club and that was that. I was off his list. It was very strange. Who does that?"
So far nothing too unusual about this story, millions of single women from traditional societies go through this everyday. A girl's marriage has been and remains to be a defining feature of a woman's life.
Even in the most liberal of the western societies, you still find women of all ages in questing in search of a mate, only instead of nosy aunts and overbearing mothers they have Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha, Miranda and Stanford .
The wedding dress, of what ever colour, the ring and the status of wife is dearly cherished all over this 21st century globe, and rightly so.

What's different about Ghada's case is that she wrote it all down. She started her own blog, and she wrote everything down. She chronicled the 30 plus suitors, her mother's rationalizations, her father's eager anticipation and ofcourse the never ending aggravation that has become her life. She wrote with humour and depth, always choosing to laugh where others may scream. Her life, as presented in her blog, is a brilliant satire of 21st century Egyptian society. A black comedy full of characters that are stargely familiar to anyone who's lived in the world, both endearing and infuriating at te same time. A blog that she began at the age of 22 because, she says "There was a proposal from a groom to be. I decided to write about it, and seek the opinion of others,", has become One of the best known and most visited blog in Egypt.

The blog was so successful in fact, that it has formed the basis of her first book "Wanna-b-a-bride" عايزه آتجوز. The book is already a best seller.

According to the Washington Post "Her book is in its fourth printing in six months. Her writing -- in colloquial Arabic rather than the classical form usually used in publishing -- has struck a chord with many young Muslims. They write from Canada, Bangladesh and Pakistan to express support. ". Her book speaks not only to the women of Egypt but surprisingly to the men as well. Marriage has become so expensive, that Egyptian men are also suffering the same familial pressure to marry in materialistically prohibitive matrimonial market.

Ghada, wants to marry, the title of her book says it all really, she just wants to marry the right man. She doesn't want to settle for good enough... "I'm still hoping to meet someone. Someone I would decide, yes -- I like him."

As a big Jane Austin fan, I couldn't help but run parallels between 21st century Ghada and 18th century Jane. Somehow I imagine that were these two rebellious women ever to meet, perhaps in an alternate and very cool universe, they would immediately recognize each other as kindred spirits. What that statement says about the state of women's lives in the Arab word is a subject for another diary.

Ghada's blog is still going strong and you can check it out at عايزه آتجوز.

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