When you hang out with single people, and happen to be single, the conversation usually comes around to the “marriage process”. Over time I started to notice a trend of things guys complained about while using online services like www.halfourdeen.com or even www.eharmony.com – the last friend gave me the impetus to do something when he encouraged me to “blog about it.” Here is my short list of the 5 things Muslim girls need to know, from a guys perspective about what message their profile sends to a prospective suitor (some of them also apply to guys as well):
1. Seven pictures that wont bring the boys (girls) to your yard
When people refer to the marriage process in terms of a “meat market”, it’s not an exaggeration; it’s the sad reality. When signing up for an online service, you really are in a “market” setting. The online “marriage” scene is a “one click” process- your picture is the first, and often final, impression because a person takes an immediate glance and needs to decide to read your profile or move on. Marketing yourself is critical to taking advantage of the site.
The following are 7 things you should not post as your profile picture or in your gallery:
- Pictures of flowers, a masjid, the beautiful landscape for some exotic vacation you never really went on.
- Pictures of a part of your body (some guys have foot fetishes, but the operative term is “SOME”, not all or just your eyes (or if you wear a Niqab, you standing in your niqab…no, for real. Is that really you under there?) or worse someone that is obviously not you, i.e. Salma Hayek.
- Pictures of you standing with guys that don’t immediately bring to mind the idea that they are your Dad/Grandfather
- Pictures where you are having a “wardrobe malfunction”- okay this is obviously relative, but I have to admit, if it’s a Muslim site your signed on, the rule of thumb is probably go conservative or find another service.
- Pictures that are obscure “Oh look! There’s Fatima standing next to a tree (five bloody miles away!).”
- Pictures of some message, especially a joke- (image- http://weknowmemes.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/if-you-remember-these-your-childhood-was-not-that-awesome.jpeg)
- Pictures with other girls, who could also be marriageable.
The same could be said for guys posting up pictures. I can’t imagine girls being all that thrilled at seeing a guy standing with other girls that all look like they could be his girlfriend, nor would I think girls find it appealing to see hairy pot belly stomach man, wearing a speedo at some nudist beach in Europe. My advice is simple, think about your profile picture, or any other pictures you post, from the perspective of “Will my mom approve of this picture?” to cover your picture snafu’s (and if your mom is as quirky as you are than ask yourself “will the Imam at most-conservative-masjid-in-the-community approve of this picture?).
2. Don’t be a contradiction, consistency is important
I read some profiles and honestly I have to wonder how simple words can mean totally different things to people. Like the line “I am a practicing Muslim girl, looking for a religious Muslim boy”- Great! So am I. But the pictures posted up show a girl at some night club, wearing a short skirt. So, sure you can be a “Muslim girl” but do you honestly believe a “religious Muslim boy” would be into that? Or, maybe my conception of “Muslim” and “religious” are just really off?
Then there are the subtle contradictions. The profile will say “Muslim girl, independent and career orientated…looking for a guy who will complete my other half, be supportive and adventurous” but after a brief exchange guys get the sense that the girl cares nothing about her career because she’s looking to be a stay-at-home-wife, and she considers going to dinner parties on the weekdays adventurous. There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of that, but in a situation where you are trying to “market” yourself and get the right types of guys, language matters.
If you say something you should live up to it, the same applies to guys. The only difference is guys move on when faced with contradictions or inconsistency. Unfortunately guys are fickle because they have choices, backed up by the “Good Muslim Guy Shortage” theory.
3. Before searching for Mr. Right, make sure you’re Mrs. Right
Girls usually complain about how they always talked to the wrong guy. I am not saying guys shouldn’t be Mr. Right when you’re talking to them, they should, but I do think that girls have two things working against them- first, guys have choice; second, coupled with choice, girls not knowing what they want leaves us with the power. Girls keep talking to the wrong guys and often times they feel powerless because of it.
I think marriage is more about finding yourself, than it is you finding your other half. If girls come to the table having exact notion of what they are looking for from a guy, then they wont spend so much time talking to all the Mr. Not-Rights. Empowering yourself with knowledge is good way to shift gears, think of it in the terms of marketing a car.
If you are trying to sell a Mercedes Benz but your market is largely people looking to buy a practical car, you won’t advertise the Benz in terms of its high luxury status, but you will emphasize its practical features. The same goes for you. People advertising a Benz know exactly what product they are dealing with and the market. Enabling them to speak to that product and also the market they want to advertise it in because they have done the market and product research. In the realm of marriage if you understand yourself- strengths and weaknesses, habits and peculiarities, the larger picture of what makes you tick- looking for a guy to compliment you becomes easier.
The process of getting married shouldn’t be this blind game where you’re playing Russian roulette, going from one guy-who’s-not-right to another that probably worse. People will evolve over time as they go through the marriage process and especially after marriage. But starting the process as a blank slate you will have a difficult time finding Mr. Right (and vice versa).
4. Be down with the process
There are a lot of girls on the internet relationship sites who, for no fault of their own, don’t understand the process. Part of the problem is that parents or siblings create profiles in the hopes of helping them get married. Regardless of what brings them to the site, they treat it like another tool in a toolbox for modern day Muslim marriage process. If anything this speaks to the dire situation we as a community are faced with in terms of the “marriage process.” What I want to point out is that guys using the site are using it to skirt the “traditional” process.
Of coarse there are guys out there trolling- shame on them! If you want a traditional process to get married where parents of the two prospective people sit down and meet each other, or you want the guy to call your dad and ask for his permission to talk to you- the site is two steps ahead of that process. Using the site to fit directly into a traditional marriage process turns guys away. I don’t think this gives license to guys to not seek out a Fathers permission or to go elope, but it does mean that before meeting the future-in-laws the two people first talk, get to know each other and then discuss the possibility of next steps (which itself is a pretty awkward process).
5. No, Really you are still in control of the process, but there are consequences
Process is really important. The online sites establish these protocols to go about contacting, searching, communicating and ending interactions between your prospective interests. I personally like eHarmony in terms of process, but the price is redunkulous! If you aren’t using eHarmony, than you- as a girl- can still control the process. Set ground rules for communications. Just to state the obvious, you shouldn’t be giving out your cell phone or other private information out until you are most comfortable with the whole conversation that has taken place (that means praying istikharah, talking to your parents, doing a google search-more on this later).
You control the process so you get to tell the person you’re talking to how things will proceed. BUT YOU NEED TO COMMUNICATE THIS TO THE GUY, especially since guys suck at communicating. Understand what process your comfortable with and communicate that clearly. The “whats next” guessing game sucks, but for you girls, its painful as well. While you have the ability to control the process, guys are the commodities in short supply. I mean there is a “good Muslim guy shortage” right? We can easily just stop caring and move on because we have “options” (I don’t condone such behavior!)- so if you know how you want to go about the process, lay it out so the guy has metrics to gauge where things are going. The downside, if you got to many rules than as a guy I am bound to break them. So be generous and keep it simple and practical.