All in the context of a somehow conservative family background. I’ve read things about how it can be tough to date in Lebanon and I feel that our experience was a bit similar.
Allow me to share:
Some Origin Stories are More Acceptable Than Others:
One of the very first things you’re asked is how did you meet your SO. As I’ve learned, not every story is acceptable. Our extended families have been told we met through a mutual friend.
The truth? We met online. And that online relationship slowly became something real.
Very romantic and very reflective of this day and age, huh? But also extremely difficult to explain to an uncle or grandmother that 1. He’s not a weirdo stalker rapist and 2. I wasn’t actively seeking a relationship because that’s 3ayb in their opinion.
Keeping Secrets is Hard but Must Be Done
You’re not expected to have a boyfriend because what self-respecting girl does that? So this guy is someone “you’re just talking to”. Never mind the fact that you have a lot of male friends from college and work.
This means that dating is extra difficult. Sometimes you’ll have to go to great lengths to hide the fact that you’re out alone with some guy the family knows nothing about.
But of course, because this is Beirut, and everyone knows everyone, you’re bound to run into a friend of someone or a relative that will ultimately blab on you and get you in hot water.
Bright side: your creativity to come up with random excuses and reasons will greatly expand.
Time is Your Worst Enemy
I had a curfew up until the day I got engaged. And I was 23 when I got engaged and had lived abroad. That curfew hindered a lot of our outings. We couldn’t take long road trips, we couldn’t really go out to parties or late movies and if I were a couple of minutes late, my phone would explode with messages wondering where I am and why I was late.
That’s because as I said above, you’re not supposed to be seen in public with a guy you’re “just” dating.
We’re lucky in that in the early days of our relationship we had a lot of free time to get to know one another, or I think we would still be stuck trying to figure each other out and what not.
You’ll Run Out of Things to Do
There’s only so many times you’ll grab coffee before it gets boring. And sometimes you really don’t want to go out but still want to see your SO, maybe watch some series or a film.
Well, he can’t set foot inside your house until things are official. Because again, people will talk about how you’re not self-respecting and all.
Just wait it out, Skype call, or watch stuff on your smartphones in the car (been there done that).
Forget about Intimacy
And I mean intimacy in all of its meanings: even holding hands, kissing, and hugging can be quite difficult when you’re either in a car or out in public trying to avoid being seen and people talking about how you have no manners.
Intimacy is one of the main elements of a relationship but unfortunately many people don’t get the chance to experience it
Telling Your Families is Worse than An Interrogation
So when you finally decide enough with the hiding and games, or if you’re upfront from the get-go, be prepared to be met with endless questions varying from general concern to the absolute ridiculous.
Samples include, what does he do, where is he from, what degrees does he hold, what does his dad do, describe his family history, can he buy a house (fundamental marriage prerequisite), etc… Sometimes the questions will be repeated for the supposed sake of “we’re just making sure he’s a good guy, ebn halel”
But we all know that’s not the real reason. It’s because no matter who you are and who he is, your family will always think you deserve so much better.
The Pressure is On
Any and all relationships are assessed on the basis of their potential to become something serious. Casual dating is nonsense and is discouraged. If there’s no indication that somewhere down the line his parents are coming to ask your parents for your hand in marriage, then forget about it, you’re wasting everyone’s time.
Even though in the case of this relationship, we did eventually make things official and we’re wearing rings and preparing to be married, we came to the decision on our own after we find out we had mutual interests, backgrounds, and incredible chemistry.
Society and its norms and expectations did make it tough on us but you know what, I wouldn’t trade in those long walks at AUB, those road trips, those evenings by the Beirut Waterfront just sitting and talking in that old Mercedes.
They made our relationship what it is today and made us feel truly grateful for everything when we did get engaged and had a bit more liberty to do things.