Saturday, March 04, 2006

Girl talk (1 of x)

So many of the girls I know, my friends that is, are single women in their 30s. It's a phenomenon in Egypt. At least that's how I'm beginning to see it. It's not just that the particular women in question are somehow perpetually in search of a Mr. Right (or even a Mr. Would Do). There must be something more than that. And it's not just our particular idiosyncratic problems. It can't be! We're all so different. We come in different shapes and sizes, political and intellectual inclinations, accents, interests, social backgrounds, professional backgrounds, educational backgrounds. We really are very different. The one thing we have in common (aside from our friendship, yes) is that we're single. (There: z cat is out of z bag ;) )

But seriously, why is it that one doesn't meet whole shellas of single Egyptian men in their 30s? Where are the men that correspond to those women?

One of my favourite intellectual occupations is to come up with theoretical answers to these questions.

A friend, let's call her Layla*, once wondered how it was that she often met very interesting, different, (by which she probably meant "creative") women, with very boring, traditional brothers. That blew one of my theories right away: surely the families that brought up women like us, must have brought up men, also like us, and we just had to meet them. Layla's remark blew it. The corresponding men, our brothers, are - sadly - often quite different. The single 30-something woman often has a brother who is in a traditional profession, an engineer or a doctor, and who got married to a bitch (sorry, sisters-in-law but...) who has him firmly under her thumb and whom he more often than not met the "traditional way." So, perhaps, the same families brought up their sons and daughters differently. Somehow, men like our brothers are not attracted to women like their sisters... hmm. The girls are pushed from day one to be independent and strong in a particular way, to achieve in school and college (yes, often pushed to achieve in school more than the boys, especially among the middle and upper middle classes). Women have to work extra hard to achieve. And they have to be serious and not rely on their looks and all that crap. And the boys in the family get the traditional treatment: never mind ya habibi that you didn't get imtiyaz this year, don't depress yourself. don't worry ya habibi about helping mummy in the kitchen; your sister will do it... etc etc.

So that's one problem with Egyptian men of our generation: the poor things are getting confusing messages form family and media and society and they can't handle the challenge. All they want is a warm bed and a hot meal after all. So they just marry the bitch.

That's one theory.

A second theory that I've become quite interested in of late is the demographics one. I think there is a demographic problem. You hear of single women but the phrase single man - in Egypt - is getting to be an oxymoron. And I think the problem is a numerical one. It's as simple as that: there are more women than men. Of course I need to dig out the relevant statistics from CAPMAS which I don't have access to at the moment, but in most modern socieites, women outnumber men by varying degrees. If the percentage in Egypt is high then surely that explains why it is that the special, different, women are the ones last to go into a socially sanctioned pair.

And historical examples of societies where women outnumbered men abound. Usually war was to blame for killing off a large percentage of the adult male population; plagues and famines generally affected both sexes equally. But this demographic problem was behind the rise of such phenomena as women heading to convents in droves in the middle ages in Europe, or the construction of a social entity called "the spinster" (see: there is no male equivalent in English. Single man does not have connotations of spinsterhood. Adult single man at "worst" could be gay, that's all). I think Muslim societies solved the problem by multiple marriages and remarriages. It was very common in medieval Egypt and Syria for women to marry at least 3 times in a lifetime and for men of privlege to have more than one wife simultaneously. And rather than blame Islam and culture, I believe it was demographics. Because at other times in history, polygamy and remarriage were not as common. I think culture provided an answer for a real social issue. What do you do with all those women?

An aside: the Asians seem to be experiencing the OPPOSITE problem, believe it or not. They have all those men they don't know what to do with. Apparently they've been persistingly choosing the sex of their babies and boom: before they knew it, in one generation, men outnumber women. As my wonderful friend F often threatens me: The Chinese are coming! And they're followed by the Indians! And there you go: not only your clothes, your sneakers, you computers but soon, your men (not to mention your cars) will be imported from China. Heaven will be renamed China :) [Of course the above link was forwarded to me by my good friend Juhayna*, also a member of the club.] But, if you don't want the Chinese or Indian model, we'd better find some other outlet. Let's see.

Just this week a new report explained how evolution also provided an answer for European women. Researches have found evidence to suggest that women in northern Europe evolved with light hair and coloured eyes at the end of the Ice Age in order to stand out and atrract men. Competition has always been tough and you needed the added advantage, an edge as marketing pros know only too well. You need to stand out in a crowd. [I wonder how Arab women evolved... do you think, perhaps, perhaps, the hips, wel... do you think perhaps the Arab hips are the remnants of an evolutionary attempt to stand out 10,000 years ago? hmm...]

But, also as marketing pros know, the first thing that stands out is the packaging! It's all in the packaging, mind you. And what defines packaging? I think the old age criteria seem to apply.
The article went on to suggest: "Experts said that as relations between men and women have evolved, men may have become more attracted by brains, represented in their psyche by brunettes, than the more physical charms of blond hair." [my italics] I like the "may" in that sentence. I don't think our guys have evolved that far (national pride notwithstanding and all due respect to EGYPTIAN MAN).
The solution is this my luvs: go for it!

Seriously? Well, ok, we can't ALL go blonde at the same time (God knows enough women in Egypt have gone for it and, ehmm, well, gotten away with it? Witness the nation's latest bride, for one example.) But is it simply the packaging? Many of the women I have in mind, who belong to our exclusive club, are quite attractive. They just attract the not-so-right guys! Malak* refers to this phenomenon as "magnet for losers." We've all used the phrase at one point or another. Why is it that the men who are attracted to us (and, perhaps later we can turn to that, the one's WE ARE ATTRACTED TO) happen to be bad, bad news. (I mean really bad news: psychopaths, nosepickers, unshowering, chronic commitment phobics, drug doers, chronic unemployds, etc.)
One answer lies in this thought: a recent Channel 4 programme argued that in fact ugly, unattractive men had more confidence in chatting up beautiful women because... well, because, unlike attractive guys, they're used to rejection. They don't really fear it. So they just say, what the heck, I'll give it a shot and they approach pretty, attractive women. Wheares attractive guys are used to women drooling all over them, they fear rejection and don't want to take a risk of rejection and so play is safe. Yes! Yes! That's how, perhaps, the bitches get the great guys!
Do you like that one? ;)

I have a few other ideas up my sleeve. But perhaps another day. Today is Saturday after all and a little bit of repackaging is in order :)

Good morning, and, good luck :)

* Names have OF COURSE been changed... what were you thinking? You DON'T know any of those women, so forget about guessing. Return to reading.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Alaa said...

well your demographic theory doesn't hold, because women do not outnumber men in Egypt (there is a very slight variation among the very old but nothing significant and nothing that affects spinisterhood).

if you are interested in the actual analysis check mylad's latest post

http://endehash.manalaa.net/polygamy

my theory
1- spinsiterhood crisis is overrated
2- it is a middle class only problem anyways
3- you can't find the answer to a particular group of single women, the answers are statistical and statistics do not apply to individuals
4- marriage requirements are ridicolous in Egypt
5- the middle class is being split into narrow strata (subclasses) and marriage across different subclasses is becoming a big nono, where in older generations you'll find many couples of different backgrounds (across actual classes was rare but class was also defined along easier lines like education), these days couples come from almost the same socio-economical and educational backgrounds (which might be what you called getting conventional jobs and marrying the conventional way), the effect is your domain of choice is too narrow
6- the whole thing about confused urban middle class male is spot on, but it's main effect women like you are looking for a mythical character to marry and the men are also looking for a mythical character, my theory is women are not willing to accept the negative aspects that often come with the men they might find interesting and attractive and the same for men, for men it's easy to measure cause it tends to fit stereotypes, for instance most "englightened" males I know want a creative independant modernisitic wife, but at the same time still want a level of traditional wife obedience and girly sensitivity that while not nessecarily incompatible with the independance part tends to be lacking in independant women, I'm not sure what kinds of negativly corelated attributes women like you look for in males but I bet many women are looking for things that tend not to be found in attractive or well off men for instance.

it's not that ugly men are used to rejection, I don't think channel 4 observations apply to egypt physical attractivness takes maintenance and time, money and effort (unless you're genetically lucky), in a society that has no notion of health like Egypt and a polluted environment like Cairo's it's even worse, women pull it off because they feel that they have to, it's not an option, with men the pressure is not that high, men who are normally unatractive (meaning they're not particularly ugly) are simply normal individuals with more time an energy for other things, if they're interesting this will lead to them having time working on the interesting parts if they're not they'll waste that time on football and discussing how many CCs this and that car has.

as for why single men don't flock together, I bet that's because married men don't have to give up their old shella while married women are forced to.

good luck though, being with the right is the best thing that happened to me.

Saturday, March 04, 2006 12:58:00 PM  
Blogger forsoothsayer said...

u know what it is? kollohom hagro 3ala barra. i live barra and their are elgible, if slightly geeky men, 3ala afah min yesheel. God, try being coptic. that's playing the number game for sure.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 7:18:00 AM  
Blogger Nah┬Ědet Masr said...

Khadiga, it's my first time to stumble into your blog! excellent style and content. Just wanted to add another, more realistic theory; first off, CAPMAS statistics show almost identical percentage of men and women in Egypt. Second, you are forgetting the mass migration of men in the hot age-group to either the West or the Gulf, and they usually do that without getting married first. The other phenomena that is taking root now is ordering imported wives! just check bride.ru and see how easy a man can get a blonde wife from the country side of Ukrain, with the "attractive" aspects you mention in your entry! so maybe women in Egypt should start importing husbands as well ;-)

P.S. This problem is even more serious in Lebanon; last time I was there my female colleagues there were assuring me that the rate of women to men there is 7:1 because of immigration of able men.

Cheers,

Wednesday, January 03, 2007 10:44:00 PM  

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