Single in Beirut: Yes, Ammo, I live alone.

Sawtalniswa

The life of a single woman in Beirut.

Sounds like such a fun, sexy life, full of great parties, exciting weekends, fantastic getaways! And it is. Well, some of the time. But a lot of the time, it is annoying, difficult, tiring, and even enraging – to the point that I have perfected the art of simply smiling and ignoring the comments I hear almost every single day, so I do not launch yet another endless rant on why being unmarried is not necessarily indicative of some personal failure.

 

See, this “single” status at the advanced age of 27 almost invariably raises a red flag in Beirut. People want to help me, fix me, or hit on me.

 

“You’re still single? A pretty girl like you? But I’m sure many guys flirt with you, are you too picky perhaps? Maybe too intimidating?” Either that, they decide, or I am too demanding, too independent, too educated, or too well paid to “need” a man. I mean, there must be something wrong with me, since I am nearing thirty, yet wearing a ring only on my middle finger. The wrong finger apparently.

 

Many of my colleagues and friends try to “help” me. “Why don’t you fix yourself up a bit? Girls in Beirut are very hot, you need to make an effort… and there aren’t many single guys left.” And how can I possibly explain to them that I like the way I am, that this is me. Why would I want a guy who is attracted to what is categorically not me? And besides, why is it that the only fathomable reason I am single is due to men’s supposed preferences? What about my preferences?

 

My neighbors have a very different attitude towards me. I live in a small, overpopulated neighborhood, surrounded by families, senior citizens, and children. I may just be the only single girl over 18 in the vicinity. Which attracts the occasional rose or note on my car, but also the not-so-occasional investigation into my status and lifestyle. Yes Ammo, I live alone, without my parents, I work, and I am neither married nor engaged. Yes Tante, I do pay the rent. I also call the plumber when something goes wrong, and I am also the one who gets the car fixed. And yes, I do all this without a man in the house, or an all-mighty penis of my own! I feel their looks, this strange mix of pity, admiration, shock, curiosity and the desperate hope that their daughters won’t end up like me.

 

Generally, they are nice to me, as I am to them, polite and friendly. But it all changes when there is a man with me. They become curious, offended and judgmental and my hello is seldom returned, as they are too busy examining this creature I am walking with. “Her cousin perhaps? No, look how he holds her hand. Yiii. 3aib.” So let me understand this. They want me to transition seamlessly from single to married? I’m not supposed to have a man around who isn’t my husband? So… shall I order one from a catalog? How does it work? Or maybe I am doing it the right way, but failing to hide the process well enough?

 

Never fear, though, as colleagues, neighbors, friends and strangers alike are usually kind enough to reassure me that my day will come. “Don’t worry, you’re a nice girl, you’ll find yourself a man.” Oh, great, I’m so glad you think I’m worthy of this only possible “happy ending.”

 

And you would think – if you didn’t know any better – that the situation would not be totally dissimilar for single men. And you would hope that, somehow, there would be a kind of solidarity among all of us single people in this “you should be getting married” age group, born out of this pervasive scrutiny and pressure. But some single guys just make it worse. They feel they embody the elusive goal all of us single girls strive for – clearly they’re the savior all of us spinsters-to-be hope for – and as such, they act as though my being single means there is no reason I could possibly not be interested in them. Often, they approach me as a person would approach a kitten, begging with her tragically innocent eyes to be picked up.

 

In short, I am made to feel, on a daily basis, that I am flower to be plucked. I should not be the one choosing, I should be the one who is chosen. “Too picky” means I have an opinion and preferences regarding my potential partner. Which is why, they conclude, I am still single. Apparently all I have to do is make of myself a desirable wife, and wait. Easy!

All of that being said I, personally, have nothing against marriage. I actually do hope to get married, one day. But for now, at least, I am enjoying being single. Why does this bother others? Why am I asked to constantly defend it? Why do they make me feel as though I am nothing more than a problem in need of solving, a free radical in need of pairing, so that I may finally become stable, benign, whole? Perhaps I am making this more complicated than it really is. Perhaps, after all, this is nothing more than yet another aspect of our multi-faceted Lebanese intolerance.

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