x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

The Ali Story: Sister's lessons in love

Ali Al Saloom shares his insight and experiences from growing up in the UAE.

When I was 15 years old, I decided to get married to my cousin (I won't say who specifically so the other female cousins don't feel hurt). But, anyway, yeah, I did want to marry her and since I really liked her a lot, and my aunt loved me, then I thought things would go smoothly. I could easily ask my older sister to help me get the message across to my parents.

I waited one afternoon for my sister to arrive home from school and thought I would simply tell her right away that I wanted to marry my cousin. I worked out two scenarios: either she would tell me yes, or she would say, "turn out the light, get out of my room, and close the door after you leave. And, oh yeah, Ali, you are still a child."

So, the moment of truth arrived. My sister entered her room. I knocked on the door, which was not the right thing to do because this meant I was being polite, which meant I needed something. But I had to do it to show that I'm well-behaved. I asked my sister - who is a mother of four daughters, by the way - if she would speak to me. She kept on looking silently at me, so I said: "Seriously, I want to tell you something important, but I don't want you to cut me off because I have to explain things to you from my heart."

My sister didn't even let me finish my sentence. She looked me in the eye and smiled, then said, "Ali, my darling, she is not the right girl for you. You don't love her, you like her, and when you grow a bit more and she grows a bit more as well, you will simply change your mind. Believe me, I'm your older sister and I know more than you do and especially about this subject, I already know everything."

I jumped quickly here before she kept going and said: "Wow! How did you know?" She laughed a bit and said "Silly, I'm a girl and you are my brother, so of course I can easily tell from the way you look at her and how you always mention her. Plus, you are both the same age and, and since both she and our families keep on saying you will both be for each other when you grow up, all of that helped in making you both believe you will end up together. Which is possible, but I know you very well and I know what kind of person she is as well, and how you both will have different opinions about this soon when you grow a bit more. But, hey, you can still like her, and soon you will feel she is like a sister to you.

I remember how my eyes watered from my tears. I asked my sister: "But don't you think she likes me too?" Then I continued asking: "You know she also likes me don't you? I can wait, I will wait for her till she grows."

My sister stopped me. "Ali my dear, no one can stop you from liking anyone, but wait until you graduate from high school and you will remember this. You will remember that I did tell you once that you will grow and that you won't feel like you want to marry her anymore. You will both feel that you are not a good match for each other."

Twenty years later, and, boy, was my sister right or what! A couple of years after that conversation, I remember not having my cousin in my mind at all, and certainly not thinking of wanting to marry her. There was a time where I kept in touch with her for few weeks but, soon after that, the feelings I had when I was a child just disappeared. And I soon remembered my sister's words and talk.

Often, I reflect on my childhood and how my parents or my older sister dealt with me every time I asked them about wanting to get married. I reflect on this because I know that I could come across such a scenario when my beloved son eventually comes to my room and says, "Dad, I want to marry my cousin" or somebody else. I would do my best to embrace him, respect him, make him feel comfortable to trust me and not say anything that would hurt him. But in fact, I would listen to him and open my heart and mind to him and try to walk him through the process of waiting, and to be there for him until he grows quickly and goes to the next step of his life, whether it's university or whatever he could get involved in to get him out of that "I want to get married" mood.