Always the Bridesmaid, never the Bride

Way back at the end of the Christmas term, my Arabic teacher sat us down and told us, quite matter-of-factly, that every year one Arabist comes back from their Year Abroad married. We’d all heard the rumour before, but to hear it from the lecturer’s own mouth was quite something. It’s like coming home from secondary school to your parents filling you in on the playground gossip. It just didn’t seem right. But apparently, it is. Arabists, it seems, have a bit of a knack for getting hitched on their year abroad. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Arab men – or at least, those I have met on my travels in Morocco – are very forward about the whole marriage proposal thing, though I would hope that nobody actually takes them seriously… it’s normally just all a part of the bartering game, right? (At least, I hope it is – for Archie’s sake…) Strangely enough, it’s not just the girls who get hitched either. The split is a clean fifty-fifty, which is odd, not because girls get more marriage proposals – Archie can vouch for the contrary – but because the dowry paid to the bride in Arab cultures can be ludicrously excessive. Putting true love into a box in the corner for the time being, it’s a lose-lose situation for the men: hitched, grounded and probably penniless as well. At least the girls can put that dowry towards that nasty student loan debt. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

We drew up sweepstakes as a class a while back, trying to decide who was most likely to get hitched. Surprise surpise, I ended up tying with fellow gappie Rosie for the spot. Ha ha. Very funny. I’ll bet my sickeningly broody reaction to the Elvet Riverside baby last term had something to do with it. The joke’s on them: I’ll be in Jordan for a maximum of four months. Five tops, factoring in moving in and travel around. Hardly enough time to get to know anybody on a friendly basis, let alone well enough to talk wedding plans. How some students came back for Year Four with a wife and child is beyond my understanding, though an idiom involving the word ‘shotgun’ comes to mind. So sorry to disappoint, but I don’t think I’ll be coming home with a glamorous Jordanian bride, folks. It ain’t happening.

Mum’s opinion was that the whole subject was childish and foolish. It’s a time to branch out and set off down new roads, for widening horizons – not laying down roots. Never mind the fact we’re supposed to be mastering the language. The stress of an Arabic wedding, hypothetical though it may be, if simply not on the cards. Not that she’d mind in the slightest if I came home with a brown-eyed, dark-haired Spanish girl on my arm (‘Think of the grandchildren!’). Not that I’d mind either. Brown eyes, curly, dark hair, and a killer accent. I’m in heaven (maybe now you too can see why they put me at the top of the list…). There’s something intensely captivating about brown eyes, don’t you think? Or maybe that’s just my angst about my ice-blue eyes talking. I’m getting better at it, but it’ll still be a while before I’m happy with having blue eyes. It’s a curse for travelling around the Mediterranean, or anywhere else for that matter. It’s as clear a sign that ‘I’m a Brit’ as a sandwich board. When my eyes finally give up on me – long may that day be in coming – I might go for brown contacts. Though in the best of all possible worlds, I’ll have gotten over my self-consciousness for good by then.

In three weeks’ time I’ll be in Amman. Humbling thought. Presumably still in a hostel, searching for accommodation. Reasons to be a girl studying Arabic include: having the luxury of a homestay organised for you. Though I can see the practical reasons for it, it leaves guys like me and Andrew in the lurch when it comes to finding a worthwhile place to stay. We’ll just have to see when we get there, I guess. Isn’t that the most exciting way? BB x

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