This was sent to us by a Woman in Bradford. She asked that it be published anonymously.
Thank you for trusting us with your words.
A Muslim marriage practice that occurs behind closed doors in some cultures today is one akin to an interview, but the couple are warranted the liberty of disagreeing to the match after meeting. I refer to it as an interview, as regularly marriage CVs are sent out detailing vital pieces of information such as height, hobbies and religious sect. In lieu of employment, is of course marriage.
Simultaneously in open areas people are meeting up for dates for the same goal of marriage with the luxury of family structure, home address and cooking skills hidden. I have been exposed to both scenarios and having spoken to other women alternating between the two ways of meeting potential spouses there is one behaviour I would like to address – dulling my shine.
Yes, I am aware. Women are not objects; I mean my metaphorical shine. There are certain behaviours I find myself less likely to exhibit in order to conform to societal ideas of a woman and to groom a man’s ego. It’s not something I am fond of doing, but it is the only thing that has resulted in a second date. Behaviours I refer to include coyness, laughing at attempts at humour, reducing my volume, lessening the passion in my voice as I speak about my career and concealing certain information such as the fact that I have friends of the opposite sex. These are not self-imposed behaviours; often praise is given to friends who manage to hide smoking from their husbands, and I have been advised by women within the family to amend what I feel are integral parts of me, parts that have taken years of positive affirmations to accept and cherish!
The term ‘interview’ at this stage holds appropriateness, as neither would I tell a prospective employer that I have friends from the opposite sex. However, the metaphor of an interview disintegrates as within a personal relationship these facades of coyness are sure to eventually emerge, or do women continually excel as long as it is in the shadow of their husband?
Let us momentarily disregard the duality and take a hard swallow as women are simply to expect or overlook when a man partakes in these ‘taboo’ things or reels off his achievements. Recently a man looked me in the eye over dinner and asked if opposites attract because he was such a “quiet and respectful person”. On another occasion, a man told me it was simply “banter” when he ridiculed my home language but accused me of being “rude” when I failed to laugh. “Rude” is one of the milder insults I have endured; I am numb to fouler names, being ignored or blocked after putting forward my political views, detailing why I am proud of myself or saying my grand plans for the future. Sometimes, I feel frightened when I respond to someone as I normally would because I expect the conversation to terminate. This is why I have become accustomed to dulling my shine.
Another thing I have uncovered is this acceptable level of shine – what I will refer to as a polish. This occurs for the man when the thought of an independent woman is alluring, when asked what they see in an idyllic wife words such as ‘driven’ and ‘career-focused’ appear nestled in the standard requirement of being ‘family orientated’. Quintessentially, excelling in your field and exhibiting the perceived qualities that are both commendable and suitable whilst knowing for marriage you will be required to condense yourself in to a reasonably less shiny woman. Repeatedly I have heard stories of men confronted with the zest that propelled that same ‘driven’ woman in to her career, resulting in the quest for this rare polished woman to continue. The boundary between polished and shiny are slim in my mind, and once a woman has realised her worth (or shine) she is commonly deemed unmarriable in my culture.
Although this post may seem overwhelmingly bleak, I am aware that a man unfazed by my shine may appear in my life, and there is also an equal likelihood that he may not. In the mean time I shall continue to meet a myriad of men looking for an ego stroke, searching for a polished woman or awaiting to abuse someone like me who refuses to dull their shine.