Zarah, early 20s
I attended a top school in my country—a co-ed school that specializes in STEM education. There were only 15 women in my class, in a sea of men. I am the first woman in my family to go to university. I had envisioned a very different life for myself—a fulfilling career, some travel, and perhaps marriage and children, later in life. I abandoned hope when, a few months into college, my parents told me they’d started looking around for possible marriage proposals.
My mother approached me one day and told me they’d found a nice match in the UK. I frantically searched his name on Facebook and LinkedIn, but found nothing except photos of fast cars and a sparsely populated work history. In a panic, I told them I knew nothing about him—that I couldn’t just be expected to marry anyone.
“He’ll be here in a week, for his sister’s wedding,” my mother told me. “And you’ll have a chance to meet him and then we can have your engagement ceremony.”
The day came quickly. I spoke to him for a few minutes and went back to my parents in tears. I told them, categorically, “No.” They sat me down over the next several weeks and, underhandedly, made it clear that I had no choice in the matter: “This is what we’ll do for your wedding,” my mother would say, showing me photos and brochures.
The more I tried to resist, the more they began to taunt me: “Do you think you’re too good now—because you’re educated? You’re becoming arrogant.”
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