Being Single In Jounieh

Growing up in a Lebanese Christian environment around Jounieh, I was expected to find me a husband, get married and have good Christian babies. But I had a different idea and the thought of marriage was beyond ridiculous to me. Even as I lived among all those married people, the concept never made any sense whatsoever. I had other plans and I set out to pursue them.

In the paradoxical Lebanese society I was living in, you are supposed not to talk to boys but then when you’re not interested in them in the first place, you’re not normal. However, it was fairly easy to be single as a teenager: people expected me to grow out of it one day so they quit trying to convince me… or my mother.

But being single as an adult, now that’s just not right! Oddly enough, my family became more and more accepting of the idea. I guess because after 30 years, they’ve finally come to terms with my being different. I felt bad for them, having to explain on my behalf and tell people not to suggest any possible grooms and finding me a man to take care of me. Society’s assumptions and pressure is the most annoying part.

Whenever you achieve something -and I pride myself on my achievements- they wish me the “bigger joy.” What bigger joy? This is my pride and joy, the life I’m leading! Whenever someone gets married they wish that dismal fate upon me and I have to say “thank you” for the insult. It’s like my life is incomplete unless I have a man to support me, to give me his name -which is a whole other absurd ridiculous concept and I can’t believe it is still being applied in all those said developed countries, where women think they have achieved equality.

In every step I take toward my full independence, I discover how entrenched patriarchy is in people’s minds. When I first moved in alone, people thought that either I was a student renting a room or that I’ve gotten married. Some assumed I had a disagreement with my family. Even when going to the banks or submitting for electricity and water, people ask me questions as a married woman and it never occurs to them that I’m single. Here’s one example:

Him: Ma’am, why are going for 15 amperes? That’s not enough.

Me: Yes, it is enough for me.

Him: You should think about later, when you have kids around the house.

Me: I’m not married. I’m the only one who’ll be living in it.

Him: Oh.

And, from the expression on his face, the “oh” reads like: “Too bad. I feel sorry for you but don’t lose hope.”

Not one place did I go to while preparing to move in where I didn’t have to explain to people that I was single.

Males are never asked such questions; males are supposed to buy houses even if they don’t plan on getting married.

Not to mention that when I first moved in, I had to deal with all the annoying harassment of young teenagers, the knocks on my door at midnight by immature neighbors trying to be funny, the questioning glances at me every time I leave or come back…

I wonder if a single man would ever have to face any of this. My friends had advised me to live in Beirut, since they say many people live alone there and raise less “suspicions” about it. I don’t know much about Beirut, but I can’t tolerate the hustle and bustle of a city. I’m not cool, I’m not hip. I love nature, I love solitude, I love peace and quiet. I’m like a 60 year-old rural person who loves the simple life. I just happen to be a female and that complicates the whole issue. I still don’t understand why.

So, no I don’t want to run away and I don’t want to move away from loved ones. I don’t want to succumb to society’s pressure and I want to do whatever makes me happy, as long as I’m not hurting anybody. Despite all the difficulties of living differently among married friends and relatives, I can face society and I can deal with the pressure. I say the more people stand up for themselves, the more they educate others around them and open their eyes to other possibilities. But the biggest obstacle I have yet to  overcome is the legal system which states that whatever I do and no matter how independent I am, legally, I’m still incomplete, a half a citizen with less rights than my fellow countrymen. I have yet to hear a plausible reply to my
very simple question: “Why?”

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Sawt al' Niswa

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