x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

From Big Mouth to happiness

The most surprising discovery of all is that being married has made me a better person.

I have a friend who is on the hunt for a husband.

All this friend has ever wanted, from the time she was a little girl, is to get married.

Oh yes, I know. So very uncool at this time and age. How archaic, for a young woman to declare she wants something as safe and traditional as marriage. But there you have it.

The problem is, of course, that it does not end there. She is judged and ridiculed, described as desperate and pathetic. Because, if a woman, young or otherwise, professes a desire to marry, she is regarded as somehow weak and pitiful.

Of course, having a "boyfriend" is a completely different matter. That's acceptable, desirable even; that makes you an instant member of the popular group. Why, just the other day, over a coffee with two other women, it emerged that both have that coveted accessory: a boyfriend.

"Marriage!" scoffed one. "I don't understand why anyone even does that any more... why would anyone want to willingly tie themselves down like that?"

The other thought to check, belatedly, if I was married. I imparted the bad news. And Big Mouth - too stupid to understand that marriage is not a wretched constant, but as good or as bad as those within it - could not mask the sneer of disgust.

Once upon a time, I was Big Mouth. I was convinced that I would never, not in a million years, find someone who not only would understand me, but allow me to be myself, to be happy whatever that would require, simply to be. And since that person could not possibly exist, I thought, why in the world would I settle and make do with the next best thing?

It made no sense, especially once I was financially able to support myself; a bit of a feat for an Arab girl from the Levant region, where single salaries cannot pay the rent. I upped and moved to the Gulf, that sparkling area of the world that is seen as the place to go if you want to seek your fortune. And then, before that first month's pay cheque ever made it to my wallet, I met a guy whom I secretly began to think of as The One.

And since I unexpectedly stumbled upon the identity of The One, it seemed to give my friend carte blanche to hire me as her matchmaker. She comes to me with her prospective husbands, her failed relationships, her wails of despair. I try to soothe and comfort, with clichés I once abhorred. "Once you stop looking, when you least expect it, you'll meet the perfect guy," I have been known to say. "Don't swear off marriage, it's what you'll automatically want when you meet the right guy," I've assured her. "You'll know he's the right guy because it'll feel like you've come home," I vaguely tried to describe to her.

It's all nonsense. There's no generalisation to attach to this one; we're all too different to go by the same formula, and life is too full of surprises to be planned out to the last detail.

I consider myself my best example. I was anti-marriage for the sake of appearing modern, cool, independent. Then I met Mr T, and overnight, I began praying that every girlfriend of mine would find this kind of love, this type of commitment, this measure of happiness. Why not? It's that good, and when you're this happy, you begin to want the best for your friends.

Which brings me to the most surprising discovery of all. Marriage has actually helped me become a better person.

When I'm not embarrassing Mr T via the published word, of course.