I was fourteen years old, being dragged to a dinner party I had no desire to be at. An aunty from my community had managed to corner my sister and I in the kitchen.
“When do you see yourself getting married?”
Having been used to this question from a young age, I had the usual answer at the tip of my tongue. I didn’t think twice as I said it-
I remember seeing this aunty’s eyes widen and mouth open large. For as long as I live, I’ll never forget what she said next.
“Your eggs will be old by then!”
Navigating and negotiating space as women in the world is its own journey. Understanding when we can take space, what spaces were not made with us in mind, and what relationships were meant to rob from us more than they give. Approaching this understanding requires honesty. But if you choose to engage in those spaces and relationships as a woman, maintaining sanity requires ignorance.
Particularly as we enter, exist in, and depart our 20s, the intense pressure of the expectation for us to find a relationship with a significant other can not be missed. And for many women, it can be an exciting time to explore life with a partner. For some it can look like escaping present situations toward new freedoms. And for others it can be filled with dread and anxiety for so many reasons.
For men in this world, it seems that we accept that they have a path. Men are the main characters of their own stories. For cishet men, timelines, particularly biological ones, don’t seem to matter or even really exist. What ‘comes with time’ is perfectly acceptable for men, and there is always space and capacity provided to mature and develop one’s spiritual, intellectual, physical, and emotional self.
Girls and women are not always offered the same luxury.
The urgency for many parents and communities in getting their daughters married early lies not only in an intrinsic desire to see her serve others and produce children/labor, but in the belief that there is a deficit of suitable counterparts.
“If you wait, you won’t find anyone”
The conversation around marriage with women operates from a place of deficit. Not enough men. Not enough eggs. Not enough time. Not enough.
And if there is an element of abundance, there’s an abundance of career and of opinions. Too much education. Too many ideas. Too many.
What if we felt we were told we were enough on our own? What if we bought our own flowers? What if it was okay to wait? What if it was okay to say, ‘not now’. What if it was okay to say, ‘mind your business’. What if it were okay to say ‘not for me’.
What power lives in the radical acceptance that we need no one but Allah? Fear no one but Allah? Answer to no one but Allah? Require validation from no one but Allah?
I often wonder what it would feel like for us to reclaim their space and time the way that Khadija (ra) rightfully did. Her ability to develop a booming trade and then choose the love of her life on her own terms at her own time. I wonder what it would look like for us to radically practice principle in the way of Sumayyah bint Khayyat (ra). To not seek permission in for our own spiritual convictions. These women were more than most men right now could ever hold.
The incredible Nadirah Pierre said it best when she said “they would eat y’all alive.”
A woman who is enough for herself, who makes decisions not tip toeing around the sensitivities and feelings of men, but rather from the center of her own agency, is more than any of you can handle. And Nadirah was right, they really would eat y’all alive.
In this new year, let us insist upon standing boldly in the center of our truths holding all of our aspirations, desires, dreams, and experiences as a testament that above all, we too are human with a full life worthy of selfish exploration and celebration. Let us be in honest conversation with one another. Let us walk in the steps of the noble women that came before us. InshaAllah.