When you hang out with single people, and happen to be single, the conversation inevitably comes around to the “marriage process.” I started to notice a pattern in the sorts of things guys complained about while using online services like http://www.halfourdeen.com or even e-harmony. While I am writing from a guy’s perspective about what Muslim men perceive as challenges when they search online for a potential mate, I firmly believe the advice applies equally to both women and men.
Here is my short list of the five items we gentlemen would like for Muslim girls to know:
1. Seven pictures that won’t “bring the boys (girls) to your yard.” An online service is a true “market” setting.
The online “marriage” scene is a “one click” process- your picture is the first, and often final, impression you make before someone decides to read your profile or move on. Understanding how to market yourself is critical if you want to take advantage of a matchmaking website. The following are seven images you should NOT post as your profile picture or in your gallery:
1. Pictures of flowers, a masjid, the beautiful landscape from an exotic vacation you never went on. It doesn’t offer any meaningful information and frankly is rather trite.
2. Pictures of a part of your body that is not yours, or worse someone that is obviously not you.
3. Pictures of you posing with guys that don’t immediately bring to mind the idea that they are your dad or grandfather.
4. Pictures where you are having a “wardrobe malfunction”- okay this is obviously relative, but if it’s a Muslim site you are signed on to, the rule of thumb is probably to err on the side of conservative or find another service.
5. Pictures that are obscure- “Oh look, here’s Fatima standing next to a lemon tree (five bloody miles away!).”
6. Pictures with other girls who are also available for marriage. Keep my focus on you, not your best friend.
7. Think of your profile picture, or any other image in your gallery from the perspective, “Will my mom approve of this photo?” This check ensures your picture has mass marketing potential—chances are if your mom will like it, so too will potential mothers-in-law. And if your mom is as quirky as your are, then ask yourself, “Will the Imam at a relatively conservative mosque in the community greenlight this photo?”
2. Don’t be a contradiction, consistency is important.
“I am a practicing Muslim girl, looking for a religious Muslim boy”- Great! So am I. But the pictures splashed across your gallery show a girl at a nightclub wearing a short skirt. So, sure you can be a “Muslim girl,” but do you honestly believe a “religious Muslim boy” would be into that? Or, maybe my conception of “Muslim” and “religious” are just really off? That type of inconsistency can read as hypocrisy or dishonesty, both of which are a surefire way to drive guys away.Then there are the more subtle contradictions. The profile will say “Muslim girl, independent and career-orientated…looking for a guy who will be supportive and adventurous,” but an exchange with the girl will give the distinct impression that she looking to be a stay-at-home-wife and considers going to dinner parties on weekdays adventurous. There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of that, but please maintain a consistency between your photo, your profile description and who you are over the phone and in person. If you say something you should live up to it, and the same applies to guys. Remember, guys move on when faced with contradictions or inconsistency. We have the luxury to be fickle because Muslim-American men, as compared to Muslim-American women, are a commodity that is in short supply, and we boys don’t face the same social pressures to marry that our sisters do.
3. Becoming Mrs. Right to find Mr. Right.
I’ve often heard girls complain that they have wasted weeks or months talking online to the wrong guys. I think marriage is more about finding yourself, than finding your other half. If girls come to the table having an exact notion of what they are looking for from a guy, and if they make their priorities clear from the get-go, they’ll weed out the mismatches quickly and zero in on the “one.”
4. The process is not traditional matchmaking.
Parents or siblings often create profiles in the hopes of helping a girl get married. These well-meaning relatives treat matchmaking websites as another tool in the toolbox for the traditional Muslim marriage process. In other words, they assume that the parents of the two prospective people will sit down face-to-face for cardamom tea and the boy will then call the girl’s father requesting permission to speak with his daughter. If this is the sort of thing you are looking for, then searching online is the wrong approach. Most guys using these matrimonial websites are turning to this particular vehicle in order to skirt the “traditional” process; they want to connect with a girl directly, bypassing intermediaries, so they can get to know her themselves.
5. Controlling the Process
These websites lay out protocols to go about searching for, contacting, communicating with and even ending interactions between you and your prospective interests. Each person though has his or her specific comfort zone. Since the “What’s next? What’s appropriate and what’s not?” guessing game sucks, it’s best if the girl delineates how she wants to go about the process. Spell it out for us ladies, so we have metrics to gauge where things are going. The downside—if you’ve got too many rules, guys are bound to break them. So be generous and keep it straightforward, simple and practical.
When not running from zombies or surfing the Pacific Ocean, Affad Shaikh can be found sitting on his MacBook, listening to music and participating in the progressive revolution through technology and a personal connection to God. Affad can also be found posting his thoughts on The Religious Left blog, Illume Magazine and his personal blog This American Muslim. He currently is a fellow with the Los Angeles Jewish-Muslim NewGround Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter @socalmoslem.