Oh Allah, Please help me. Please help us. Please show us mercy and help us meet a significant other that will bring us closer to You and earn Your favor not Your anger.
I prayed out loud as my friends and I drove back from a woefully disappointing matrimonial mixer. I know it might seem dramatic, but the mixer was just the tip of the ice breaker. Each of us had our own tough experiences over the past few months, and now, we literally spent our entire day – including four hours in the car – going to a nearby city for a Muslim matrimonial event that wasn’t terrible by any means, but still didn’t result in any prospects for any of us. My faith that Allah (swt) would send the right person into my life never wavered, but I couldn’t help wonder when my time would finally come. When would the time for all three of us come?
I continued to make a short dua out loud for all of us that day. After all, wasn’t a dua made by a traveler guaranteed to be answered?
4 Days Later…
Ten more emails. Two more meetings. One more report. Then, I can finally leave for the day. How was it already 3:00 pm?! I thought incredulously. Time at work always seems to escape me. I logged back into my computer and was about to pull up the report I needed to quickly complete before my meeting in 30 minutes when I saw an IM blinking on our internal company chat system.
Zain: Yo! Do you ever go to Wednesday dessert specials?
Zain? Why was he IM’ing me? We had just met two hours ago over a lunch with a mutual friend at our company cafeteria along with a few other of his coworkers, so it seemed strange that he’d IM me, especially about something so random.
Me: Hey! Nope. What’s that?
Zain: Oh man. You’ve been missing out. Half off all desserts on Wednesdays after 3 pm in our building’s café. Really awesome dessert too. Like banana splits and super moist chocolate cake.
Me: What?! Why has no one told me yet? I’m always up for dessert.
Zain: Okay, next week! Put it on your calendar.
My heart skipped a beat. Is he making plans with me? Why? Maybe he’s inviting me to a group hangout with him and his other co-workers. They probably go all the time since its right downstairs for them, I rationalized. If I’ve learned anything in the past twenty-five years, it’s that guys are never interested me from the get-go and that’s not about to change now. There was no need to act like a teenage girl and overanalyze or read too much into a simple conversation.
Zain: Okay serious question … . Thanksgiving potluck – chocolate fountain or pumpkin pie? 😛
Me: Both!! Duh!
Zain: That’s what I’m talking about. I knew we’d get along.
The next thirty minutes passed by in almost an instant. I had never laughed so much in an IM conversation. My co-workers probably thought I was watching YouTube videos instead of working. Nothing else could explain the repeated fits of laughter or the goofy smile that I couldn’t seem to get rid of. Zain was easily one of the most funniest guys I’d ever met, and for some reason, he actually wanted to talk to me – even if it was just as friends. Because that’s all it was. Don’t get too excited, I reminded myself and forced myself to log off only a few minutes before my meeting, which, of course, I failed to finish preparing for. It was going to be a long day.
The Next Day
Some meetings are just a lost cause. No matter what you do, you can’t pay attention. If this meeting was a class in college, I would have just gotten up and walked out. Unfortunately, that’s completely unacceptable in corporate America. I felt as if I was going to die of boredom when suddenly my work phone lit up with a text from an unknown number.
Hey! It’s Zain. How was your lunch?
He must have gotten it from our company directory, I thought excitedly! I pulled my phone under the table and tried to discreetly type a reply, but my huge smile was probably giving me away. The rest of the meeting went by in a blur. All I remember was trying to stop myself from bursting out in laughter multiple times.
Over the next week, we texted every day, and it was one of the most exhilarating experiences. I had never ‘clicked’ with someone like this. It felt like something out of the movies. We could text constantly for hours in a row, and it never felt forced or awkward like so many of the conversations I had with the guys I met online. Whether it was through Ishqr or Half Our Deen, I felt like I had to put so much effort into starting and continuing a conversation that I often didn’t even want to carry on at all. I would remind myself that chemistry isn’t automatic. It’s built. It takes time to feel that connection with someone. I should give whichever guy it happened to be that I was talking at the time a chance, but each time, I felt myself drift. It just never seemed to work. I couldn’t understand why.
To make matters worse, it had been years since I had met someone I was actually attracted to – physically and intellectually. I couldn’t help but wonder – Was there something wrong with me? What was I doing wrong? Was I actually “too serious, very austere and corporate” as one guy I met on Half Our Deen told me after talking to me for a month?
I actually kind of believed the Half Our Deen(HOD) guy too. He really hit me deep with that one. I’ve always been a nerd. I took honors classes through high school and college. I studied too much. I had a hard time making friends, something that I continue to struggle with. Even now, I am definitely too “career-oriented” for a lot of guys, and being told by HOD guy that “talking to me feels like an interview” really hurt. It made me deeply question myself and how I come across.The worst part was that in spite of him passing such strong judgements about me, I was initially still willing to give him a chance. I ignored the fact that I never really enjoyed our conversations because I thought that the first few interactions are meant to be awkward. It takes time, right? Soon after this though, for other reasons as well, I decided it wasn’t going to work. The whole process with him made me wonder if meeting people online was really the right choice for me, so I tried the matrimonial mixer that following weekend, which didn’t help the situation.
Then, a few days later, I met Zain. With him, I didn’t even have to try. Our conversation could be light-hearted and fun – proving that with the right guy I could be funny! It flowed easily. It was seamless and natural. We just seemed to fit.
Even though it had only been six days, I felt like I had known him for over a month. I could feel myself falling for him. He wasn’t like other Muslim guys I met. He wasn’t socially awkward. He was confident, but not cocky. He was bold. He was fun, but he didn’t monopolize the conversation. He asked me about my life, and he actually remembered what I told him. We had so many of the same quirky habits and hobbies. We both loved eating pizza – at any time of day – but not from Pizza Hut. We even shared the same interests in learning about Islam. We listened to a lot of the same scholar, and when I told him about an Islamic conference I was planning on going to, he was actually excited and thanked me for telling him about it, so he could buy a ticket too!
I was head over heels, and this is coming from a girl who often questioned if the “chemistry” and “connection” thing that people talked about even existed. I would watch movies like The Notebook and scoff at the idea of two people falling for each other so quickly. How could they develop an instantaneous connection? I know, I know, it’s a movie, decades are mere minutes before our eyes but to like someone at after one conversation? ?! I’d question in bewilderment. That never happens in real life! I’d tell myself repeatedly, but the truth was I couldn’t understand it because I had never really experience instant chemistry like that, at least not until that moment.
At first, I kept reminding myself that he just liked me as a friend. There was no way he was into me. He was much more attractive than me, more exciting and fun, and more established professionally as well, but every time I convinced myself that it was absolutely impossible that he would be interested in me and every time I thought I was convinced of our platonic friendship he would do something that made me think otherwise.
He texted me every morning and night for the following few days. He made an effort to keep the conversation going. He would jokingly flirt and try to make up plans/excuses for us to see each other at work even though we were in different buildings. I never had to play hard to get because he would almost always reply immediately when I texted him, so I felt comfortable replying right away as well. He would randomly ask me for my opinion on things throughout the day. He knew I worked pretty late, so he would text me in the evening to ask if I was still at work or if I made it home alright. When we went on a group lunch with a few co-workers, he was attentive to how much I was eating and repeatedly as if I liked the place or if I wanted something else.
He was giving me all the signs. It seemed like he felt the same way, and I thought Allah (swt) had answered my dua from that long, disheartening car ride – which was only a week and half ago, but it felt like a lifetime away. Maybe, it was finally my time.
I know you’re reading this and thinking – Calm down girl. You’re getting way ahead of yourself. Well, you’re right.
On the sixth day we were talking, he was texting me around 1 AM about a problem he had with his car. We had spent the past thirty minutes talking about the best place for him to take it to get fixed. When we finally decided on the closest and cheapest solution, I asked:
Me: So do you have a roommate who can take you to the shop to buy the parts?
Zain: Roommate? U heard me say I’m married right? As hard as it may be to believe …
My heart plummeted, and I froze. I just stared at my phone. Unable to move. Unable to think. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. MARRIED?!?!?! When did he EVER say that?!?! Had he mentioned it at the first lunch when we met? I racked my brain, but I couldn’t remember. To be honest, I didn’t pay much attention to him at the lunch. He was just another guy that was there, but now, I wish I had paid attention! HOW DID I MISS THAT? I was shocked, embarrassed and disappointed. I never had such a rush of emotions flow through me at the same time.
It felt like someone had just thrown ice cold water on me, waking me up from an amazing dream that left me dazed, confused and hurt. I couldn’t believe it. I kept rereading it again and again, waiting for him to reply with a “just kidding,” so things could go back to normal. But that didn’t happen. My phone stayed silent. He was serious, and I was overcome with humiliation. In that moment, I blamed myself. I clearly misunderstood everything. How could I be so stupid? How could I let my guard down? How could I get so excited and invested so quickly?
I didn’t know what to do, but I knew I had to respond to his text, so I casually mentioned I didn’t know that he was married, and I ended the conversation shortly after that.
The next morning my humiliation and disappointment turned somewhat into anger and indignation, especially as a few of my close friends confirmed that his behavior was inappropriate for a married guy. They reassured me that they would have come to the same conclusion I did. Either way, I knew I had to create some boundaries.
Over the next few days, I shortened our conversations. I didn’t want to be rude nor did I want him to realize that I had liked him. I casually responded if he texted me or IM’d me at work, but I tried not prolong the conversations. It was difficult at times because it was fun to talk to him, but when I’d find myself thinking that we could just be friends, I would think of his wife and wonder how she would feel. Whenever he tried to make plans to hang out, I never even considered it, and I would make an excuse about being busy. Eventually, I eliminated almost all communication outside of work. Alhumdulillah.
Yet, I still wondered – what was Allah (swt) trying to teach me with this experience? I wholeheartedly believe that every experience has meaning. It’s a lesson in disguise. Allah (swt) sends people into our lives for a reason, and we just have to take the time to reflect and discover the wisdom He bestows upon us through these circumstances.
That’s when I realized that perhaps this was Allah (swt)’s way of answering the burning question that was plaguing me especially after the Half Our Deen guy and matrimonial mixer, but had been lurking under the surface for over a year or two now – was I doing something wrong considering I never felt any feelings toward the guys I was talking to? Was there something wrong with me?
No. There’s nothing wrong with me, and there’s nothing wrong with expecting to have a connection with the guy you’re talking to. This experience made me realize what that chemistry felt like. It showed me that there are guys out there that I could find myself relating too and feel attracted to. I was trying so hard not to be “picky” and to be open-minded that I was forcing myself to talk to people even after I felt like I wasn’t interested in or didn’t enjoy our conversations. That’s not fair for me or the other person because you need a certain level of connection. It’s a natural occurrence, and it can’t be forced. It’s just a matter of time, and inshAllah, my time will come.
Until then, I will continue to make dua, have faith and be grateful because “if you are grateful, I will surely increase you” (Quran, 14:7).
This post is a feature of the altM/ishqr partnership.
Photo Credit: Sarah Bindszuz Photography