What do women want? It's no surprise that their expectations about the perfect marriage partner differ from men's.
Wanted: a man with a clear direction and a kind heart
What does a woman want? This question baffled Sigmund Freud throughout his psychoanalytical career, as it has baffled many men before and since.
But my female friends insist adamantly that the answer is obvious. "We want love," was the unified answer when I asked them. "Simple, sincere and committed love."
For this column three weeks ago (Wanted: a Barbie who doesn't mind a hairy, greasy Ken, June 6) I asked every Arab man I met, married or single, what he was looking for in a female. Now I have asked women the reciprocal question.
I should start by saying this is not a scientific sampling; it's just women I met, mostly Arab ones, from different religions and backgrounds. I dislike stereotypes and wouldn't want to fall into the trap of generalising. But this is what I found:
There were some common features to the women's answers, but the females were not as consistent as the males. Most of the Arab men wanted a pretty sweet conservative blonde who didn't talk too much or too loudly, who would laugh at their jokes and who was from a wealthy or "good" family.
One of the main things women look for, and complain about the lack of, is a man's "devotion" to her.
"I hate it when I am sitting with a man and his eyes are everywhere but on me. Every woman, particularly the younger ones, must get a look over. So disrespectful to me and to those women," said one young Arab, who ended up breaking off an engagement over this habit. (Later on, she found out that the man did more than just look admiringly at other women.)
Women I asked all said that a man is a successful partner when he is respectful, confident, attentive, ambitious and able to be both a good husband and a good father. This combination is rare these days.
"Confidence is at the heart of it. If a man knows who he is and what he wants, then his partner feels comfortable … a real nurturing healthy bond can form," said a friend who's in a successful marriage. Her husband is her good friend, a good partner and a good father. I have seen that some men are good husbands or good fathers, but few are both.
He must be settled, in the sense that he is ready to take on responsibilities, and he must be able to afford a family. Many women mentioned men who have proposed but lacked the means to support them.
A few said that they wouldn't mind marrying an Arabian prince. "The old Arabs would go after what they wanted and they were clear in their hearts and in their minds. Not full of baggage, nitpicking and issues," said a woman married to a man from a desert tribe. While he is no prince, her husband is the closest to one, she said.
"I find few men are ambitious enough to better themselves. They just do one job, nothing too challenging, and depend on their parents; we want real men with dreams," said a beautiful Arab woman in her 20s. She started her own company and says she can't find a man who accepts the fact that she earns more than he does.
"They can't handle women of the world, they want simple-minded airheads," added another woman.
Looks are important to everyone, but the women I asked were conspicuously less focused on the physical than the men were. When I pestered them about appearance, I heard "he must be tall" … "with broad shoulders" … "with a full head of hair, no bald spots". Feeling petite and protected around her man is important to many women.
Ultimately, all these women see the gentleman who can roll up his sleeves and help around the house and sometimes with the children as the picture of the perfect man. And so do I.
Men and women agree on this much: a person with a kind heart who is attuned to the needs of others will be a great friend and a great partner.
Men will say this puts too much pressure on them, that women's expectations are unrealistic. But if men can want a Barbie, why can't women hope for an Arabian prince?
On Twitter: @Arabianmau