Saturday, May 28, 2016

Another Wedding Weekend in the Village, and a new trend for Omani women concerning divorce?

There were more than a few weddings to attend this weekend in my Omani husband's mountain village (why do you people insist on getting married in the summer?!!!). Being the summer, as most government jobs offer up summer vacation days, this is the regular time for weddings. What was odd about these weddings however, was  not the timing (weekend, summer) but about how many times (and how many weddings endured) these particular brides had been married before. Rates of divorcees getting married again in the Arab world are not the highest. But maybe things are slowly changing for Oman? Afterall, divorce rates appear to be climbing. Remarriage statistics should adjust accordingly.
Now before I go on to that, let me explain how my village is not the most forward thinking in the world. Less than twenty years ago arranged marriages were the norm, and child weddings also, for guys as well as girls. I know a set of brothers and sisters, who were married, first set, when the boy was twelve and the girl was eight, and the other set, when the boy was ten and the girl was six. This is old school even for Oman, but remember we are in the mountains;).

Today, weddings are less arranged per say, but they aren't a whole lot more modern, usually. The groom either grew up with the girl as a neighbor or a relative (cousin or an inlaw by marriage somehow). Both are usually close in age (at least on our side of the mountain). In Jebel Akdhar and Rustaq I have heard of girls in their early 20s or just graduated highschool marrying men over 50+. Now I personally like an age distance in a man and myself, of ten years at least, but that's just me. In village weddings it is usually 2-4 years difference only. Usually the groom knows of the bride, but sometimes his brother or friend or mother and sisters tells him about a potential girl. Often, in cases where a male friend tells the groom about a potential wife the girl is an inlaw by marriage, or a relation through business/work/or a former college classmate. Having a respectable connnection is still key. People always wanna know about my husband and me, since I guess our original connection is always assumed to be something scandalous;)? Who in a quiet village where nothing ever happens, doesn't want to hear about a scandal;)?

Now, to paint you a picture of a regular village wedding itself.
Village weddings in the summer (despite us being in the mountain, since us women are usually indoors) can be hot. We wear headscarves (only the bride doesn't) all the time (because of superstition about the evil eye or to make the bride stand out, I have no idea even after all these years here). Usually we have long sleeves. ACs sometimes are not working because it is the summer, and if an air conditioning unit is going to break, it will always happen in the summer. The dress pictured above would be worn matched with a sweater shrug and a headscarf in courdinating hues. Sweater shrugs and stretch t-shirt, how I loathe theee!!!!

Music will be playing. If you dance, some women will talk about you.... So I don't dance.
Usually I just sit and stare at the eye candy of traditional dress, crazy-ass make-up, and feel bad for the bride, how her photographer usually sucks, and the backdrop of all this expense, sucks. ...And  I eat. I like to see all the traditional Oman dress, and prefer when women wear that, since usually they make modest Western wear look awful. Not always, but usually.

If it is a close relative, sometimes I end up rolling up my sleeves and helping a sister-in-law or my mother-in-law and the housemaid with serving and doing dishes.
More often than that however, women make me give them makeovers. I spend hours doing other women's makeup during village weddings. Sometimes I will rouse myself from being overly resentful about having to wear hijab even in front of other women (culture---not Islam) and will pull AC wires out of the photographer's shots of the bride.

But mostly I visit and eat. My visiting is restrained by my lack of Arabic to formalities and little memorized phrases of politeness. It is probably for the best. A quiet woman, and dumb, is a safe woman:).
What makes these weddings stand out however, from the usuaul, was that both brides were getting married again. For one it was her fifth wedding. For the other, the seventh.

Getting married again after divorce or even widowhood in our village, if you are not over 50 and marrying a man over 80 or more (the unemployed woman for financial provision, the man, because he needs a nursemaid) is extroidinarily odd. Even women who were only married, (had melka) but the marriage was not consumated (walimah usually) have difficulty getting married again, to decent guys.

In the case of these two women, we in the village would say, they are very unlucky. One, when she first married, was divorced the day of the consumation of the wedding. Then, was married to another man, who was a loser, who she divorced. Same, again, and again. Another married a loser, had to divorce him, followed by more weddings and more divorces, and as the last one, was a second wife and the husband was a coward loser who divorced her. 

When you're a Muslim woman in the Arab world, after more than two divorces, people start to blame you. You can't be that unlucky, can you?
In one of their cases, I can blame a brother. He wanted a business deal with a potential husband. This deal was easier with marrying his sister off, without checking the guy's sincerity or intentions. Of course, she agreed, wasn't forced (young handsome rich business man whose charming seems awesome at first) but as sheltered as some girls are in Oman, you really do have to be on guard for them, if you don't raise them to know what to watch out for.

Or if you surround them with a culture that says, if you are a divorcee, be grateful for whatever comes your way, you shouldn't expect to get married again, so be grateful! Be flexible! Know that other women will take eagerly what you question!

This culture doesn't just come from insecure Arab men by the way, who think that a woman will always compare them, so they want a naive virgin etc.... It comes primarily from the culture of other women, in what they put up with or reflect upon their male blood relations.

I am a divorcee too, so I know the speal;). I also know the culture constraining Arabian women as divorcees has no power over me, because I happen to think it is a load of bs, and know my own faults not to limit me to the right to happiness and love, even within a culture containing the contamination of this way of thinking.

The man I married (second marriage) is just as backwards and insecure as any Arab man at times but it wasn't hard to convince him that any comparing I do with an unhappy first marriage and him is that it should make his life easier, and he can only do better in my eyes, not worse. That I do deserve the same rights as any man who went through the same.
In the old days, when the parade of the bride and her trouseau was done by donkey caravan, not decorated sedans in parade (and in Islam) a widow or divorcee marrying again was not an odd occurance.

Most of the original Muslim women we are told to look up to were divorced or widowed and remarried, sometimes they sought divorce, and many of them remarried multiple times!

In times when women commonly died in childbirth, marrying a woman who already successfully birthed kids was seen as a secure investment, since, well, paying that darned maher (dowry) and then having your wife die after less than a year of marriage, would probably suck.

Nowadays, any experience a woman has, has been manipulated into a fault, when generally, it should be seen as a benefit to be brought to the table. For example, even if a woman had faults contributing to the divorce, if she acknowledges them, in a new marriage, she can work to change destructive behaviours before they become habits. That's me to be sure;). 
So what's special about these particular Omani women, is, that despite being born into a village where even widows (who obviously lost their husbands from no fault of their own) are talked about if they contemplate remarriage, they are exercising their right to remarry. They are not accepting the concept that being divorced more than twice means that something is wrong with them.

They are saying that happiness and companionship is worth being brave enough to try for. And try again. And again.

...And that settling for less than that, is not a condition of the Arab Muslim woman. That women can change the ideas of men, when those ideas are supported only by ignorance, or weaker women.

So bravo to them.

Maybe they'll induce me to be brave enough to dance or sing or let my hair down, at the next village wedding;).

1 comment:

delicatescarlet said...

I can relate to that- the whole 'only the bride and two other people actually take off their hijab', and dancing means you get up and dance and suddenly your little spot of the floor is practically a stage and everyone else the audience. My sisters and I promise ourselves we'll always rock our hair, and we do- sometimes awkward, sometimes we suddenly become the center of attention, but I refuse to wear my full hijab in an all girls' party.:)