Thursday, September 21, 2006

Assisted Marriage

There is a wonderful story on Muslim speed-dating in the New York Times. Neil MacFarquhar paints a vivid picture of a "matrimonial banquet" at the Islamic Society of North America's annual meeting in Chicago. 150 women sit at small tables, while 150 men circulate among them for ten short conversations. They had to ban parents from sitting at the tables, too. Instead, the mothers cluster along the walls, watching and swapping information about their accomplished, eligible children. The parents are allowed to mingle with the young people only during the social hour that follows.

The organizers don't even call it "speed dating," because the very word "dating" suggests pre-marital sex to the potential participants and their parents. Yasmeen Qadri, an education professor who spoke in a panel discussion about dating said that what American Muslims really needed to create was an American version of arranged marriage. Since that term would probably seem too directive for freedom-loving Americans, she suggested "assisted marriage."

With the eldest Gruntled daughter now at college, Mrs. Gruntled and I have been trying hard not to be the kind of "helicopter parents," hovering over our child, that college deans come to dread. But, as our eldest said, she is a "helicopter child." Like many in her generation, she wants her parents involved in her life, and values their opinions as she is considering her choices. She makes the choices, but she wants to talk them over with us first.

Could any parent ask for better? Is that not the most civilized arrangement – the children do make their own decisions, but seek the wisdom of their most loving elders? And when better to ask for parental help than in making the most consequential and permanent choice of adult life, the choice of your husband or wife?

Assisted marriage sounds good to me.


LMR said...

I also read this article and found it very interesting. I have to say that I wholeheartedly agree with the idea of "assisted marriage." Parents are likely to choose a partner for their child who comes from a similar background in terms of economics, value and location, which would eliminate some fights common in marriages and give the couple a common background to draw from in order to resolve disagreements.

Maybe it wouldn't be love at first sight, but it would provide a solid foundation on which to build a relationship.

Quotidian Grace said...

Assisted marriage sounds good to me, too. I think that the relationship you describe with your eldest daughter shows that you have instilled your values in her and that in itself will provide her the "assistance" you want her to have.

Gruntled said...

True. I would still like to sort through the possible guys before anyone commits to anything.

Mark Smith said...

I have to differ on this one.

First, most American fathers are rather ... PROTECTIVE ... of their daughters.

The 2nd time I met Carolyn's parents it was at her house. She had a headache and went to lie down for a while. I was at the kitchen table with her parents and perhaps brother.

Her father said that he had something to show me. He went into the closet and came back with something. He then proceeded to line up bullets and shells on the kitchen table, in ascending order of size and deadliness. He didn't follow this up with any threat - he just educated me about ammunition.

Reportedly he caught hell from both mother and daughter later.

At the same time, my parents found Carolyn to be a bit weird. Let's face it - she was. Their little boy was dating a woman almost 3 years older (we were in college) who was what many would call eccentric. She still is eccentric, but my family is used to it now.

It would be a stretch to say that either set of parents disapproved of us, but it would also be a stretch to say that they would have chosen the match. And yet, both sets of parents absolutely LOVE their in-law now.

Sometimes the parents can get in the way - and it still works out for the best.

We will be married 12 years next months, with 7 years of dating before that.

Gruntled said...

I don't envision parental assistance as a veto, just shared wisdom -- and a built-in "slow down" mechanism for the young ones. I know my daughters have good sense, and expect them to pick well. My son is young yet, but I am hopeful about his developing judgment, too.

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