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The proposal


2006 Riyadh

He felt that this inquiry was laughable and almost an insult, but he was certain that this simple minded man did not know what he had requested.  He would never consider a poor man, a shop owner 15 years her senior, but if circumstances were favorable it would be much different. He stared at me and puffed his chest taunting me with words that stung my senses. My opinion was already well known and this conversation had been replayed numerous times as proposals came in for both girls. Each time I reminded him that it was up to them and first they would finish school and find their own way in life.  The same response was given as I sat silently listening to a list of complaints and accusations. Did I want her to be a willful, stubborn female, alone and childless. She was 16 and of marrying age and ultimately it was up to him, he was the head of this household.  He was a God fearing man and claimed he would never force her, it was not allowed in the religion, but it was clear that if the “right” man came along he would surely push until we were either doomed to relent or possibly flee. He continued his rant questioning my motives and a potential plan that lay beneath the surface. Was I dooming her to be an empty person who cared about this worldly life and its trappings. Once again I reminded him that she was a free person and had rights given to her and guaranteed by the almighty. He pulled his thobe over a ragged tshirt and grabbed a miswak (a stick used as a toothbrush) brushing teeth with a rugged motion. He stared at me one last time and warned me not to poison his daughter’s mind with thoughts of independence and disobedience.


Her short brown hair was now styled as she saw fit and a bright red scarf lay over her chest and shoulder. She walked past the mirror checking lipstick, adjusting the thin top that had been layered under a silky shirt. Her life was now her own and had become a mix of work and education. A semester in Spain had not only bolstered confidence but also helped to reinforce her third language and a sense of independence. It was time for his arrival and although they had spoken at length he was still an unknown. Her brothers stood peering out the window then casually walked away making room for the rest of us. We paced anxiously, hoping to get a glimpse of this man, he was an enigma, a mystery and it almost seemed as if he did not exist. Somehow he was a compliment to her feisty ways, calm in the storm of all that moved us, but more importantly he was in fact, of her choosing. She shooed us from the window and walked nervously out the door and into the arms of what would be forever.

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