Thursday 16 February 201709:41 am
For the first time in my life, I went to a speed dating event in Beirut. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, there is a group of girls and a group of guys and you are allowed a few minutes at most with each person. It's a game of attraction based on first impressions. The event I attended allowed three minutes per date. The woman sits down at a table and a roster of guys sit down across from her for three minutes each. When the bell rings, the guy has to get up and move on to the next woman, even if he's in the middle of a sentence. The organizers give every participant a form with a 'yes' column and a 'no' column. You draw a check underneath yes or no for each guy you meet and the guy does the same. If there's a mutual interest, the organizers contact the woman and the man a few days later. It's like Tinder in real life. The other night, a friend teasingly accused me of being single because I have rather high standards, perhaps too high for the real world. And so I went to this speed dating event at Dar Bistro. I must admit, all the guys were eager, respectful, genuinely interested in meeting a like-minded woman, and interested in striking up a stimulating conversation. There was nothing wrong per se with any of them, but—at the risk of sounding arrogant or offending anyone—none of them were particularly challenging on an intellectual level. I liked a particular guy who seemed spontaneous, genuine, and wasn't hiding behind a carefully cultivated persona. He was amiable, he kept referring to the 'sparkle' in my eyes, my 'unusual' style, and my 'bewitching' smile. But he didn't seem very interested in my ambitions, my past, my background, or my deepest fears. I know those are all heavy subjects for a three-minute first date, but when you have grown used to male friends with multifaceted personalities and intellectual depths, it's difficult to envisage any sort of relationship with a man who appears to lack layers. No, I am not looking for the kind of mythical romance that is spun by storytellers' imaginations. But when you've spent your whole life socializing with men who are articulate, complicated, confounding, wounded in the places they ought to be wounded by a certain age, and maddening in all the right ways... it's really hard to go for the wide-eyed man with the simple pleasures and the expectant smile. The man who doesn't concern himself much with what goes on in the world beyond vague pronouncements, such as "this is unfortunate" and "this is sad" and "I like everything old-fashioned", without further elaboration. It's not that I'm picky or that I think I deserve a genius. Most of the men were handsome, age appropriate, and successful by typical standards. I am not looking for good looks or wealth or to be dazzled and swept off my feet. I am looking for things I have already encountered in men, not imaginary ones, but men who exist in this world, in my world. I once met someone who fit so neatly into my expectations and my way of life that I spent weeks waiting for the inevitable collapse. It was too good to be true and I was right. He had layers, this guy, so many of them; he had deep-seated issues which made him relatable and also made me feel less insecure. He was fiercely intelligent and had a sense of purpose that emanated from his every word and his every action. But he was also wide-eyed, a bit of a dreamer; he had the expectant smile that makes a woman unsteady on her feet and, of course, he waxed poetic about the glimmer in my eyes and my supposedly wide array of talents. And then I turned out to be just a regular person with pretty annoying flaws and life got in the way, and the beginnings fell apart in a matter of seconds before they could turn into anything real, and things turned uglier than I ever could have imagined. So I have a deep distrust of wide-eyed guys with expectant smiles. And, on top of this, when they have nothing else to offer beyond that, I don't see the point of taking yet another risk. Health-wise, the past couple of years have truly tested my limits of endurance, both physical and emotional. At this moment in time, I don't particularly feel inclined to rush into a budding but shallow romance based on a spark that could be fleeting, as life has taught me. I need someone who is not looking for a polished mundane life. Many well-intentioned women in their fifties and sixties, often our mothers' friends, attempt to convince us to settle. And there are more books than you can count, written in the US by successful women, urging college-educated women to ensnare a husband in college before it's too late. The overall message seems to be "it's better to settle sooner rather than later because ending up alone is the worst thing that could happen." But is it really? Isn't being in a marriage where entire parts of you are unfulfilled the same as being single? Society in the Middle East remains deeply uncomfortable with single people of a certain age, and that puts pressure on us to go for what's available, even when the match is ill-conceived and ill-fated. Well, I simply refuse to give in to that idea. Until then, I will continue to look for the layers hiding under more layers, the deep-seated issues that make you so deliciously flawed, all the stages you've gone through to become intellectually interesting and emotionally sensitive, and the ambition that emanates from your every pore, whoever you are. I crave nuance and I crave a strong mental connection beyond the initial physical chemistry. Maybe fear of ending up alone might push me to settle one day, but I hope it won't ever come to that. This is #WhyIStaySingle Why do you stay single?