I have always been awed by weddings from all cultures, countries, religions, and generations. There is something about weddings and unions that leaves me happy, giddy, and excited. Apart from the flowers and gowns, cake and dance, one more aspect of any wedding that I always loved is the period of courtship.
In my culture, we don’t date and do relationships — at least not in the normal sense. We court. Yes, like the 1800’s–almost like in Austen’s novels.
“I saw myself in Austen’s world. I won’t lie; it was a lot of fun. I got to wear ball gowns, get my hair done, dance the night away, and, of course, dodge nosy mothers.”
Basically, the courtship tradition in most of our households is pretty much the same.
1. The girl has to like the guy and the guy has to like the girl.
2. The girl’s family has to like the guy’s family and the guy’s family has to like the girl’s family.
3. The extended family have to like each other.
And then finally the guy and the girl can start dating. Oh wait, start courting. Along with a family member from each or either side, of course.
That is, every message or e-mail or call or meetings between the couples is chaperoned. Chaperoning is considered necessary so that the members of the family know how each couple is with each other and whether or not they are good for each other. And most of all — to keep an eye on them so that they ‘behave’ with each other.
Having never been courted before, I was not sure of the complete details of it, until I had the fortune of reading That Can Be Arranged by Huda Fahmy. In her hilarious yet very informative graphic novel, Fahmy shared her love story of how she met, courted, and finally married her husband.
Fahmy, in her novel, described the courtship period she had been through, step by step. The best part was when she perfectly drew parallels between the courtships from Austen’s world and the courtships she experienced. After reading her book, I almost had a clear idea about courtships and what to anticipate when the time comes.
It’s pretty simple actually.
The very first level of (pre)courtship is the exchange of bio-data between families.
“Bio-data (noun): personal information about one’s life, work, family, personality, goals, financial status, values, beliefs, health history, favourite Pokémon, and other preferences about things both religious and secular. Think super detailed Tinder profile, except instead of dating, they’d get married.”
After the bio-data on each side is read and thoroughly inspected, the pre-courtship procedure reaches level number two — the meet up between the girl’s dad and the guy. This sounds the most fun part — where the father, being the protector, usually digs out everything and anything out of the guy.
While I was reading this part in Fahmy’s book, I was reminded of the cliché scenes that I had read in sappy teenager romantic novels- where the father would thoroughly inspect the guy who would take his teenage daughter for the school prom dance.
“As I grew older, though, I appreciated him (dad) for what he really was: a master interrogator and the first line of defence. Before a guy was allowed to court me, he had to go through an intense and thorough cross-examination.”
After the father approves of the guy, the courtship enters level three — the dating. Finally!
Dating while being chaperoned could be the most confusing part. But perhaps, it’s the same at the start with every single relationship — small or big, regardless of being in the presence of a third party or not. Some relationships are meant to last and some aren’t. Some hit off immediately (like In Fahmy’s case) and some take a lifetime and yet do not work out.
Perhaps that’s the nature of human relationships–unpredictable yet beautiful.
One sentence that particularly struck me in her book was,
“Did you know that souls meet others in a pre-earthly life? And when those souls meet each other again on Earth, it’s as if they’d known each other forever. That’s why you meet someone for the first time and feel like you’ve known them your whole life.”
Maybe that’s why we still partake in courtships–to look for that spark and inkling of whether or not we met each other in the pre-earthly life.
About the Author
Fareeha Arshad is a forager of meaning, a reader by passion, a writer by choice, and a scientist by vocation. The Arab born, confused Desi lives on the Persian Gulf coast of Saudi Arabia with her parents and siblings, where she spends most of her time studying, teaching, writing or cooking.