Being Single as a Twenty-Something Arab Woman ft. Third Wheel Chronicles
I'VE BEEN SINGLE SINCE I WAS 16 YEARS OLD.
there is nothing wrong with us single arab girls - as a matter of fact, I think more things are right with me today than ever.
let me explain...
My experience being someone's "girlfriend" revealed to me my lack of wholeness, my deeply rooted insecurities, my urgent growth areas. it taught me early on that I needed to be a someone for myself before I could possibly be anyone for another. At the time, I had no concept of "self" that didn't involve another person (contradiction much?), so I promised myself that I would stay single until I developed a self-concept that I was proud of.
and while I have loved this journey, being single as a twenty-something Arab woman had its bumps in the road for a while. we live in a world where a woman's worth is often defined by her desirability. in my community specifically, striving to be a good wife/mother/"sit bayt" (lol) is engrained in us. we all have that aunt who is always trying to find us a husband, that relative/family friend who is scared we won't ever get married. *rolls eyes* like most of my arab sisters, I felt this pressure early on, but my fears were a bit different: I was terrified to get into a relationship and be emotionally, financially, and/or spiritually dependent on that other person.
As I matured and became less prideful, I re-channeled that fear into a practical understanding that committing to be the best version of myself before I commit to someone else will ultimately lead to a stronger, healthier and happier union, and therefore, a stronger, healthier, happier family.
in this nine-year journey, I've slept countless peaceful nights without a "goodnight" text, and woke up countless bright mornings without a "good morning beautiful." I've spent and celebrated many happy moments without my "one" to share them with. I've learned not to let his absence take anything away from the joy I was feeling. I've realized that all along, I had been conditioned to feel as though moments like these required someone else, and so I've taken the time to unlearn all those stories trying to tell us we are not enough as we are. I've even become an awesome third-wheel,
but we'll get to my exciting third-wheel chronicles later.
Admittedly, I've also spent nights falling asleep on the phone to the wrong man's voice. I've spent countless hours with someones, pretending he could somehow be "the one." sure, I kept my promise to stay single until I was ready, but the journey wasn't smooth. in these nine years I loved deeply, fell out of love abruptly, I've hurt others deeply, I've hurt myself deeply, i deliberately got lost only to come back as a better, more whole version of myself. I'm still recuperating from these bumps in the road because, I, too, fell victim to the fears that urge many of my sisters to choose premature relationships with others over the relationship we need to have with ourselves.
TRUST ME, I AM NOT JUDGING ANYONE STILL DEALING WITH PREMATURE RELATIONSHIPS BECAUSE WE ALL KNOW, THE FEARS ARE REAL.
I, too, was scared of not being "enough;" I wanted to be wanted by someone else; I wanted to have a "someone" while i waited for "the one." There is nothing wrong with wanting to be wanted. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a fantastic wife, mother, etc. but first you must ask yourself: do you want yourself? in order to ensure I could honestly answer this question, I decided to trade in all temporary relationships for a lifetime relationship with myself, promising that I'd only invite someone else in when I was ready.
These are the kinds of questions I'm now able to answer. I knew that I needed to be me for me before I could be me for a "him" or a "them." Those things that I said I wanted so badly, I wanted to make sure I wanted those things for me, not because someone else made me feel I should want them. so, In these past nine years, I put everything up for re-evaluation to make sure they were truly my own: my "body goals," my relationship to religion and god, the values I claimed I wanted to raise a family with, etc. I can honestly say that being single has helped me redefine and recreate a "me" that I'm proud of and excited about. I'm so comfortable being alone. anyone who comes into my space needs to be giving me something that is better than what I've learned to give myself.
and your standards should be that high too sis, but that's a topic for another post.
ri's third wheel chronicles
CHOOSING TO BE ALONE BECAUSE YOU KNOW YOU NEED TO HEAL IS A REVOLUTIONARY ACT AS AN ARAB WOMAN.
I applaud any woman able to salvage her individuality in a world that is constantly trying to make us mere possessions to be enjoyed by someone else. if you're being you for you, I'm proud of you. but I want more for us. I want women to be comfortable and happy being alone, so happy that they can celebrate others in love without feeling the competitiveness, envy, insecurity or incompleteness that the world tries to perpetuate in us single women.
I joke a lot on social media about always being a third wheel, but if I'm honest, I want to show other women that you can simultaneously be single and happy. being a third wheel with a seriously happy couple could be hard to do for someone who doesn't feel whole. (but let me tell you, I make a pretty awesome tricycle!) seriously though, we can be genuinely happy for others who are deeply in love, even when we don't have that in our lives yet.
us single women can and should celebrate people in love. I can't tell you the amount of women I know who hate Valentine's Day calling it "singles awareness day." some even say that they intentionally avoid social media on that day because seeing happy couples all over their timeline makes them sad. when they say this, it makes me sad, and I really hope this post can get some of us to feel differently about celebrating love. just know that I plan to flood my IG with pictures of me as a happy and excited third-wheel as a way to resist that way of thinking.
here is why we should all celebrate love:
1- WHAT'S YOURS IS YOURS
what's yours is already yours, even if it isn't currently in your life. your love is out there, waiting for the right time to come get you. and guess what boo? people will celebrate you when that day comes, and it will feel like everything you have ever wanted it to be. in the meantime, why wouldn't you celebrate others' happiness? why wouldn't you be excited when others' destiny makes its timely entrance into their lives? all of my closest friends are married, in relationships, planning weddings, thinking about kids, etc. and I couldn't be more excited or happy to be part of their special moments.
2- YOU'RE DOING THIS FOR YOU
please don't be that miserable girl waiting for someone to "save" her, feeling like the last one left when your friends find love. if you are feeling this way, then you definitely need to be alone. if you're feeling incomplete because you're not with someone, that's a sure sign that you need to give yourself those very things you are looking for in someone else. I would even argue that god is saving you from trying to feel "completed" by a probably-not-so-significant other. we shouldn't be looking for our "other halves;" we should be getting ready for our other wholes. instead of focusing your energy on what everyone else has, focus on getting yourself ready so that you can have it too - the right way.
3- TBH YOU SHOULD REALLY JUST BE HAPPY FOR PEOPLE, JUST BECAUSE
this is a huge one for me, and definitely one I will write an entire post about. I once read a quote that said something to the effect of "don't talk about your happy relationship to the person who just went through a breakup." I understand what the sentiment behind this was, but I don't agree with it one bit. you don't have to have something for you to be happy for someone else who does. in fact, even during your most heart wrenching breakup, your heart should still swell at the happiness and love you see around you. if you believe in abundance and in #1 and #2, this shouldn't be an issue. if it is an issue, forgive yourself for being envious, and work on changing it. you'd be doing your heart a favor.
and so, in time for Valentine's Day, I will be celebrating love by posting a bunch of pictures of me being a happy third-wheel LIKE THE ONES YOU SEE IN THIS POST. I hope that you can find your own ways to celebrate love that isn't your own. because, learning to be happy for others is a sure way to be happy with yourself.
THAT WAY, WHEN LOVE DOES COME YOUR WAY, YOU'LL KNOW YOU'RE IN IT FOR ALL THE RIGHT REASONS.