Even though I’m in Toronto right now I can hear the cars honking on the streets of Amman to indicate that two people are on their way to getting married and everyone in their family apparently has a car that came with a horn. So I feel inclined to rant about the noise pollution from a distance.
Its wedding season and I had nothing really to say on the subject other than the usual cynical view of our society and culture. Weddings have become a pseudo-science in our modern day culture and there’s nothing to be done about it; you can’t turn back the wheels of time. So I’ve remained relatively quiet on the subject, especially while reading a few excellent posts on the subject here and there in the Arab blogosphere.
But today something caught my interest…
Marriage Cancellations May Reach 50%, Stock Market Crash Blamed
The stock market crash, which affected more than 3.5 million middle income investors, has delayed the marriages of many people this summer, Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported. Every summer, tens of thousand of Saudis get married but this year, the number is expected to drop by more than 50 percent.
Fahd Al-Harbi, a wedding hall owner, said that many people who had made reservations cancelled them after the crash. Al-Harbi said that many wedding hall owners would reduce prices to attract customers and that he had reduced his prices by more than 50 percent.
Saleh Al-Muntasheri has postponed his wedding which was scheduled for the summer because of the crash. He said that he had lost SR120,000.
Ahmad Ali is another Saudi who lost money in the crash. He said he had lost SR67,000 which had taken him more than five years to save. He said he had been forced to cancel his wedding because he could not afford it and that he would not borrow the money. [source]
Upon reading this I thought it was funny that people would cancel their weddings because of a crash in the stock market but then it started making sense. 120,000 riyals is about 32,000 US if I’m not mistaken.
I think people are very passive on the subject but in reality it’s something that is going to transform our populations. It’s a vicious cycle I don’t see ourselves breaking any time soon. This is about the middle class Jordanian man. The rich are rich and they tend to marry rich and can afford to, so all the variables cancel each other out. The poor are poor and neither family has money or high expectations and just want to get rid of their kids who become financial burdens so there are no surprises, and all the variables cancel each other out. What’s left is that shade of grey where this new phenomenon in our part of the world, this new social experiment known as the middle class, is most affected.
And it’s growing, and it’s troubling. I have many “issues” with weddings I see in Amman, and they are many, but my concern here is more societal than anything else. When I ask friends my age (early 20’s) they seem to react to the word marriage in horror like it’s an unspeakable act to consider at such an age. When someone our age is about to get married you hear people saying “he/she is too young”. Ironically most of these people are old and were married at a much younger age themselves. Perhaps they are aware of something the rest of my generation is not? Or perhaps they’re just victims to this vicious cycle and unaware of it. My friends seem to always say the magic number 27 as the ideal age and they say it in such a matter-of-fact way that makes me certain they’ve put a lot of thought into it. Strange enough this is the same number the government says is the average age in Jordan for males. Honestly I’m betting it’s much higher if you remove the poor who marry younger and occupy most of the population. From observation the age seems to be in the 28-32 range.
This is a leap from the early 20’s of just 15 years ago. In other words, in these past 15 years when I was still growing up men have pushed back the age almost 10 years. That’s where they set the bar for me and my generation. (Seriously, thanks for that)
But is it the men who set the bar? The situation is complex. It’s a vicious cycle that has many parts to it and all those parts are connected and interdependent on each other. The parents of young women need men who are financially secure which is something which takes some time to do in our economy. So they look to someone who is about 10 years older than their daughter, or even the daughter looks for someone of that age (not only because of her parent’s reasoning but also these days it seems most men my age are still boys). Also society tends to judge the man and what he’s achieved. When men actually do get to a position where they feel financially secure they’re in that higher age bracket and when they look around for a wife their age, those women have been married for 10 years now by men who are 10 years older, basically where he is right now. So he marries a very young girl. And we’re stuck in the cycle. Perhaps the parents search for that security because they hear about all these young couple getting divorced, but perhaps the reason they get divorced is because of all the social and financial pressure/burden they inflict upon themselves from the get go.
It seems silly to me that all of this is done over nothing more than a farce. That’s what it is. All this talk about financial security is crap and that’s the truth. Most middle class men take years to reach any form of stability in Jordan where the economy is not very supportive and work is rare. What happens really is that they aim for this stability but then turn 30 and realise it’s a lie and this is around the time when his parents and family are driving him nuts to get married. So he does. And it’s all done on credit cards and loans and monthly payments and you get two young people entering the first few crucial years of their lives in debt: a marriage on lease. Keep in mind that the middle class man is not only looking for financial stability but also social status, so they tend to become lawyers and doctors and engineers so they can have that title and get that money: two birds with one stone. Of course this means we have a whole lot of doctors, lawyers and engineers that pretty much suck at their jobs.
And all of this goes back to that small period in time that is called the marriage process. From the proposal to the wedding party a lot of money is lost; not invested, no, lost. Wasted. As simple as that. Because really, if you can’t afford to invite 100 people to the wedding why do you invite 500? Do we actually even know that many people in our entire lives? And all that crap about it being a joyous day full of memories also seems to be just that: crap. Because all the money people pour in just to make their weddings “memorable” is wasted since the average Jordanian family will attend 10 weddings every year and they all become one giant blur in their memories. In reality I suppose it’s not just an attempt to out do another wedding but really just to reach that bar that’s been set so high. If you know someone who drove to the wedding in a Mercedes, you need to get a convertible, a Lamborghini, a space shuttle and so on and so forth. Book the hotels that are impossible to book. Invite the most well connected guests (usually government ministers). Build a cake that will sustain an army or possibly feed the poor for a few years. From shooting hand guns to Ak-47s; from firecrackers to TNT.
None of these families can afford any of this so it becomes a charade, an act. I don’t understand how people invest so much in a lie.
This is why weddings have become the same old thing. A common 5 star hotel wedding today would’ve been talked about to death over a decade ago. Today? Today Amr Diab has to jump out of a plane and parachute right on to the platform of your wedding to his latest song to 6,000 guests, only to be joined by the groom’s best friend 50 cent. “6ab how does the groom know 50 cent?”, I ask. “Through a friend of a friend who did him a favour”. And the cake was 4 stories high and they used King Arthur’s Excalibur attached to a crane to cut it.
Yeah, yeah. Those people are actually rich, and again the elements cancel each other out. But they do set the bar for the middle class which is stuck in this part of society that is trying to move in to the high class (through pretence) but ends up spending so much on the farce that they fall down to the lower class.
Above all this I always laugh inside when I hear Gods’ name invoked during these weddings. Because after all this whole marriage thing used to have something to do with religion we just don’t remember what that was exactly. Seriously, position yourself near conversations during weddings and from the sheik who marries them to the people who gather around them you hear Gods’ name everywhere. “God brought them together”…or “it was Allah’s will”. Then they all read the fate7a and when the moment of humbleness is over they get in a bunch of rented lavish cars and drive through the already traffic prone streets of Amman honking their horns, slowly.
For some reason during weddings, I’m inclined to look up to the sky and wonder what God is thinking at that very moment about all this. Weddings should be secular because the more you bring religion into it the more it feels like one giant contradiction. Islam makes the process fairly simple, we come along and complicate it, but still attach religion to it.
I don’t have an exact solution to what I regard as a problem. There is a domino effect and there is a cycle we can’t seem to get out of and that’s what I wanted to point out in this post. I’m well aware of all the other arguments, and I’m well aware of the woman’s side of the story, I just don’t have enough time to discuss it all. Instead I chose the middle class Jordanian young man because that’s the segment of society I’m more inclined to categorise myself in.
I don’t see the cycle ever being broken unless of course there’s a major war and we’re all brought down a peg or two. I’m not suggesting that what worked in the past is necessarily the solution to the present; things change, elements change, situations change and new solutions are required to address them. What I mourn is the loss of our humbleness, the loss of our spirit, of our traditions; all of which we’ve sold for something valueless.
To many this isn’t a major problem, or it’s insignificant. I don’t know if I agree with that. We tend to be passive about it because itÃ¢??s something we want to get past and never worry about again. Meanwhile every generation unknowingly sets a precedent for the following generation, not caring about the generation that comes after it and what they have to deal with. In that process we often forget that the next generation will be our own children. Our debts carried onto them.
But I’m just ranting…