A boy regrets his arranged marriage

Kabul, November 18, 2014

Engagements are a complicated thing for me, at least since I've lived in Kabul. Every time someone tells me about their own, I don't know whether to say congratulations or my regrets.

In the meantime, if I have reasonably good friends, I immediately ask: "Have you found the wife or your family?" That means: do you marry for love or not? However, the answers to this question are not a reliable yardstick. Some friends are deadly unhappy with their arranged marriage, others have no problem with it at all, or are even happy because they know that when they say yes, their social standing will skyrocket from one second to the next. Still others say that their parents arranged the marriage when in fact they were engaged to their longtime friend - they don't want to damage the family's reputation. As I said: it's complicated.

That's why I ask really good friends straight out: Are you happy or not? "Half-half," replied a friend the other day. He hadn't chosen his fiancée himself and he had known that his parents would arrange the marriage. He had only hoped to be able to postpone the whole thing for another two or three years. But then his sister was promised a cousin - and in return he was promised the cousin.

A friend came to our house this week. I hadn't seen him in a few months. "How are you? What is life doing? ”“ It's great! ”He said. “I got engaged! Now I'm broke - but also very happy. ”I was happy - about the news, and about the fact that it was so different from usual. "Congratulations!" I said. And then: "Did you find the woman?"

“Nah, my parents arranged that. And I'm very happy about it too. You know how it is with us: we all live together under one roof: my parents, my wife and me. If at some point my wife can't get along with my family - or the other way around - at least I'm not the one who screwed it up. "

The friend said that it had taken months for his mother to find the right one and negotiate all the conditions: the engagement takes place in the hotel (expensive!); the wedding takes place in the hotel (even more expensive!); and: the man's family pays all the costs. On the last day of the negotiations, the friend had a vague idea that now might be the decisive day, but it was not certain. He came home from university, everything was dark. Only when he closed the door behind him and switched on the light did a couple of dozen relatives jump in the air: “Congratulations!” They shouted, “You are engaged!” At this point the boyfriend did not even have a photo of his future wife seen. The mother only said to him: “She is very pretty, she is educated, a teacher! And her family is decent too. "

On the day of the engagement, the boyfriend picked up his future wife in the car - on such occasions they are covered with roses from top to bottom. The woman was waiting in a beauty parlor, where she had been worked on for hours for the ceremony: hair curlers, make-up, nail polish, white powder for the face. When the friend arrived she was wearing a veil, he saw nothing of her face. "Take her hand!" Hissed his mother, who accompanied him. So he took her hand. “She was shaking,” he tells me, “she was so excited. I was insanely nervous too. I didn't even know what to do. ”The two of them got into the rose-covered car, together with their friend's parents, and drove to the hotel where the engagement would take place. When they got out, the friend wanted to take the woman's hand again, but now his brother hissed: “You are not engaged yet! That's not right! ”And the friend let go of his hand again.

Men and women are separated for the ceremony. It's just the engagement party, but the wedding vow is still being taken. First a clergyman asks the man: Do you want to marry this woman? Then he asks two male groomsmen who represent the woman whether the woman wants to marry this man too. Then the two are married. The friend he has to let all the guests on the men's side of the celebration shake hands. Then he meets his wife for the first time.

There is a room for the two of them to change and eat in. They have half an hour before the ceremony continues. There the man sees his wife's face. She looks away and doesn't say anything. “She looked so nervous,” he says, “and of course it would have seemed strange if she just started babbling about it. I was nervous too. But I thought to myself: If you don't say anything now, the two of you will sit here and not talk. "" Are you tired, "he asked her," you've been in the beauty salon for hours and now you've been through the whole ceremony. " "No, it's okay," she said. "Shall we get something to eat?" He asked. “They'll definitely bring something,” she said. After half an hour they go back again, this time to celebrate the women. They sit together on a throne and watch the people dance.

After the celebration, the man brings the woman home. His parents are in the back of the car, and he shares the passenger seat with his wife. “Give me your cell phone number,” he whispers to her, “then I can call you.” It's not forbidden if you're engaged, but your friend says his family wouldn't like to see it.

“And now we talk on the phone every day!” Says the friend. “She says she misses me and that she wants to see me again. Once I picked her up from class, we had lunch and then I brought her home. ”“ Are you happy? ”I ask again. “A lot!” He says, beaming. "I love her. She is my wife! And I always want to be good to her. "

Then he tells of a trip to Dubai a few weeks before the engagement. He was traveling with a colleague from the USA - and apart from visits to Pakistan, it was the first time for the friend that he left Afghanistan. “My colleague wanted to go to a night club. I said, 'Okay, let's do that. I'll see what that looks like then.' At the nightclub, my colleague paid a woman to go to bed with him. 'Don't you want to?' He said. 'No, stop it,' I said. And: 'Why are you doing this? What's wrong with your wife? What about your kids? ' The colleague said: 'Oh, you can't have a say! Once you're married, you'll see how it is. ' You know Ronja, I think this is nonsense. If I don't do that while I'm single, I certainly won't do it as a married man. "

The friend told even more stories from Dubai. In the end he said: “I know that we have strict rules in our society. But somehow they help me too. Because I know if I follow them, then I can't go wrong. Then I am a good person. It's like knowing where the exit of a building is, then I know exactly where to go to find it. If I don't know where the door is, I'll have to look for it forever. I'm wasting time. And in the worst case, I never find them. "

Only one thing, says the friend, really sucks: he had to pay more than $ 20,000 for the engagement. "Now I'm a poor man," he says, "and we haven't even married."