Muslim Girl in America

I'm an American girl, born and raised, and a Muslim.

A Banquet of Matrimonial Proportions

on September 1, 2013

So the main reason for today’s post to describe yet another attempt to meet someone decent in this world to marry. The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) is hosting their annual convention in DC this weekend. As part of the convention, they hold “matrimonial banquets”. Here’s a breakdown of how my day went.

7:00am – I wake up calm and serene, made a yummy breakfast of southwestern-style eggs with salsa, hashbrowns, and avocado (a superfood to help me have a super day!).

1:00pm – After spending the morning running errands (and fruitlessly searching for something new to wear for the evening), I decide to wear the very lovely dress that I was wobbling about wearing. The banquet starts around 4pm, but with travel time I’ve got to leave around 2:30.

1:30pm – Clothes are ironed and ready.

1:45pm – I realize I haven’t prayed yet, and do so, adding in some extra prayers for a good evening.

2:00pm – I realize I haven’t eaten anything since 7am and quickly inhale a salad while getting my purse organized (more avocado/more superfood!).

2:10pm – I realize my bag is too small to carry everything – wallet, contacts (yes, I am wearing contacts this time), glasses for when I take my contacts off after the event, extra hair products to combat the DC humidity (because sometimes 4 products in your hair are just not enough), and the various papers and printouts I have been told to bring with me. But, darn it, the bag looks cute with the outfit so I forge ahead.

2:15pm – I realize there is a bit of static cling in my dress.

2:15:30pm – I spray static guard on my dress.

2:15:32pm – I realize I now smell like static guard.

2:15:35pm – After a furious internal debate, I decide against wearing perfume to hide the static guard. Plus, perfume+DC humidity = not a pleasant smell.

2:20pm – Base makeup is now on, lip gloss is flung unceremoniously in small-yet-cute-bag.

2:21pm – Hair is weighted down with additional product, and fixed.

2:22pm – Debates begin over jewelry decisions. As I’ll be taking the Metro back late in the evening, I don’t want to be too flashy.

2:25pm – Jewelry decisions made, I put on the new shoes I bought. I know – new shoes on a night like this? I’m positively mad! But I break them in by walking in them around for room the next five minutes – clearly enough breaking in time.

2:30pm – I put in my contacts, after fighting with my eyes against the unnatural intrusions. My eyes are now red, watery, and some of the makeup to hide those dark eye circles has faded. Too late now!

2:32pm – I grab a scarf on my way out the door. It doesn’t match the best with the dress, but it is cute and I don’t feel like I can go to this thing without some sort of scarf.

2:40pm – In the short distance (about 100 yards) between an air conditioned building and the entrance to the Metro, my hair has expanded and I am sopping wet from the humidity. DC summer – welcome to it!

2:42pm – As I walk to the end of the Metro platform, I can see lingering gazes on me. I think they can still smell the static guard, but I’m hoping it’s because I look cute despite my soppiness.

2:43pm – I realize I forgot eye makeup. Frak.

3:30pm – I arrive at the Convention Center. The convention is really nice, what little I see of it and what I read in the program. They have lots of lectures on various aspects of the Islamic experience and what it means to be a Muslim in a modern world. Reading some of the descriptions, I can tell some are skewed in a more conservative direction, but I like that ISNA at least realizes that they can’t ignore the challenges that I and other Muslims face.

3:45pm – I arrive at the ballroom where the banquet is being held. There are hundreds of people milling about outside the doors (which will open around 4pm) and everyone is looking at everyone as they come up. And did I mention that some people also have their mums and other family in tow? So, yeah, a very awkward meat market, to say the least.

3:50pm – I recognize someone I’ve met through one my Meetup groups, I’ll call her E. She has done this before, and tells me how completely disorganized they were last year. We catch up and I tell her about my new business venture selling skincare (by the way – if anyone out there loves ProActiv, they’ll love the skincare line I’m selling! Contact me using the form below if you’re interested) and we catch up on other news.

4:10pm – We both head into the ballroom. The set-up is a lot like the speed dating, though they were clearly unorganized this year as well. We’re split up by age groups, so E and I are both in the same group and head off to an assigned table. The men are organized to be in a staggered age group (so they’ll be at least 2 years older than us, if that makes sense). For example, if the girls are 25-30, then the guys in that group will be 27-32.

4:30pm – A gentleman comes and sits down at our table (three people can sit on each side) and sits in front of E.

4:40pm – Another guy comes and begins to sit down in front of me, and then changes his mind and sits in front of the other girl at our table. Wow. I will not let this deter me. I did have avocado today, after all.

4:45pm – Another guy comes to sit in front of me (I’ll call him B). We are all chatting with each other across the table, very casually. E is very outgoing and friendly, which keeps the conversation moving.

4:50pm – I realize that B is not the nicest guy. Example – DC has a new panda cub (yay!) and we are quite excited about the little one. B thinks we should stop trying to save species, particularly the panda, and let them die off. He also said that ugly species also shouldn’t be saved. And that’s after I’ve told him I work in environmental conservation.

4:51pm – There’s an announcement that they are pushing back the official start to 5pm. And now I have to make idle conversation with jerky B until they start.

5:00pm – The event starts. They actually had the gentlemen move down before we started, so at least I don’t have to talk to B anymore. The next guy is very nice and a doctor.

I met a lot of doctors during this night and, I have to say, I was surprised.  There were also a lot of female doctors, too. I was surprised because, at least from what I’ve seen, doctors are snagged pretty quickly in the matrimonial scene. I mention this to E at some point who suggests that maybe it’s because the doctors of our generation are likely less conservative and less traditional. Interesting to think about anyway.

5:45pm – After meeting about 30 people (yes, 30!) my brain is fuzzy. They pause in the rotations while an Imam gives a short talk about the meaning behind this event. He tells us that you shouldn’t expect to fall in love tonight (even my romantic nature knew that going in), that he won’t be performing marriages, and that the families should realize that, too. (Oh yeah, forgot to mention. Those family members who tagged along? They are now seated in a section that overlooks the banquet room and are watching all the goings on. At least they weren’t on the floor where we are. Still kind of awkward, though.)

I met a few cool people, some of them very lovely looking, and even fewer from the DC area. I met a few guys from Canada who were surprised when I said I would prefer to stay in the US (yay, America!) as my parents live here and I want to be close to them. I exchanged email information with a few of them.

I did meet some other not so nice people. Example: one guy I met asked me my ethnicity and I said Pakistani. He asked if I go back often and I say not as often as I like but I try to go back for weddings (because the whole family is there and I can see everyone at once, plus they are crazy fun) and he tells me that I’m not really Pakistani because I don’t care about what happens there. I call him out. I tell him that is a mean thing to say. Of course I care about Pakistan. Just because I have fun while I’m there doesn’t mean I don’t care about my family or what is happening there. He seemed unconvinced (and clearly was not listening to the Imam when he said should be respectful to everyone you meet) and we sit in awkward silence until the next round.

6:00pm – The rounds begin again. I meet perhaps another 20 people. Most of them are very nice and I seem to connect with a few of them (none of them from DC though). Some people actually left when the Imam started speaking, so I have a break from time to time, which my voice really appreciates.

One guy though, tried to jump the age groups and was found out! E was sitting across from him when the event folks came up and told him to return to his age group. Creepy!

6:45pm – “Social Hour” begins. They have food set out and it’s a good chance to mill around and speak with people. E and I grab food and walk around when one of the guys I spoke with approaches me because he wants to trade info. He suggests phone numbers. I say, why don’t we start with email and go from there. He seemed a bit desperate to be honest. I find E later who tells me that he’s been going up to everyone asking for their information. Well, that’s good – at least he won’t feel bad if I turn him down.

I also run into someone I met at speed dating who never contacted me because he left town and was unable to access the email (excuses, but I give him the benefit of the doubt). He hands me his card, so I might email him. I also spend parts of the social hour avoiding other people I have met at speed dating and have no interest in speaking with again.

I stand off to the side at one point eating, and a random guy I didn’t speak with before comes up to me and stands WAY too close. I move a few feet over, and then he moves over. Finally, I politely say that I am going to get some more food and that it was nice to meet him.

Then, as I headed to throw away my plate, I run into a guy I did like. During our rotation we talked about music and other fun things and, it turns out, his sister is there as well (and participated in the event) so I get to meet her, too. He acts like a typical older brother, teasing his sister, and his sister and I have similar tastes in tv and things, so we get along well, too. And he’s taller than me! It’s only probably an inch or so, but it still counts.

8:00pm – Social hour is still going on, but E and I decide to head out as the crowd has thinned considerably and I have a massive headache from wearing the contacts so long.

So, all in all, it wasn’t terrible. I got to meet some cool people and maybe something will work out – you never know.

P.S. – 5 minutes is clearly not enough time to break in new shoes.

Thanks for reading!

-M

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2 responses to “A Banquet of Matrimonial Proportions

  1. […] A Banquet of Matrimonial Proportions Sep […]

  2. […] Here is yet another account of this ISNA event from a single […]

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