Some Men Just Want Commitment: and NOW
Commitment phobia underpins the whole apparatus of modern mating, from the pre-relationship “just seeing each other” period to the way the gender roles have played out. That is, women feverishly reading the signs to see if the guy she’s seeing really likes her, eg really wants to go out with her, eg wants to commit so she can have her wedding, ring and babies on schedule, and men constantly on the run to escape the female talons that they fear will tame and trap them. In short, it’s usually men who are thought to be the commitment phobes and women the drivers of commitment.
Well, so deeply ingrained is this perceived reality – (I happen to think it is only partially true) – that it came as a total shock when, in Jordan the other week, I wound up in a heartfelt conversation with the man driving us the three hours to Petra and back, Ibrahim.
Ibrahim was a devout Muslim, a fact more apparent in his soft voice, heart-shaped Qu’ran prayer sign dangling its good wishes for the car and himself from the rear-view mirror, than his appearance. He looked like an NBA basketball player: in fact, his giant Ray Ban-topped frame and menacingly bald head had been used in security services in a previous job.
Towards the end of the long day we spent with him, the 32-year old Ibrahim, told us he badly wanted a family. Time was ticking and, God willing, he’d be a father within the year.
Only problem was, he had yet to find a wife.
How was he dealing with this problem? Outsourcing, to his mother. “I’m too busy to look for someone,” he said (clearly: when I asked what he was doing that night, the answer was playing cards and smoking hashish with some mates in Amman).
Now, Ibrahim had no time – or so he thought – for a girlfriend, which interested me. He said that once his mother found someone nice, he’d meet her, and “have a long talk with her”. If she was a good person, nice, and understood what he was looking for in a wife (eg a child-bearing, not too shrewish, family-oriented Muslim), then that was that. Marriage.
I asked if he wasn’t concerned about “getting to know” her before tying the knot – an idea that seems obvious to us. He wasn’t – a good wife is a good wife and you can tell straight away. But what about love, romance, sexual compatibility? Sexually, he said, it was all about virginity for the woman; as for romance, that would come, and anyway, was not as important.
I had flashbacks to the kinds of things my mother has said to me – imploring me to look for a box-ticking partner, to take the good with the bad, to understand that companionship is more important than the spark of romantic love when it comes to building a family.
I know what she means, but I am still at an infantile enough stage to think; “But what if I don’t fancy them?” No amount of lifestyle and moral compatibility can make up for that.
Or can it? Ibrahim launched into a heart-rending speech about the two women he’d been engaged to before (“fiancee” seemed to be his word for “girlfriend”). One was a Bulgarian violinist (Catholic) that bore some resemblance to Kylie Minogue in Neighbours. He kept a picture of her in his glove compartment – from a brochure of a concert she played in once in Jordan, where they met. But she didn’t want to get married – he wailed dramatically – even though he’d wanted to marry her, for her to stay in Jordan, and for her to become a Muslim. All this after a week or two of romance. Can’t blame her myself – but he was devastated and also bewildered.
The second lady – to whom Ibrahim confessed he’d lost his virginity (making her soiled goods and him confident in his abilities as a lover – he claimed they’d made love 7 or 8 times a day) – moved to Kuwait with her family.
By this point, he was sounding really quite upset. Hopeless and fed up with women, love and romance.
He wanted no part in it anymore; in fact, to feel that initial spark, that physical reaction, would be a sign of danger and dissolution to him.
I can see how he will tick his boxes and achieve his goals.
From the point of view of a non-traditional Western urbanite, his plan sounds as sweet, outdated, and also as horrifying as any I could imagine.
Women: if you want a “suitable” husband, for whom commitment is all he wants – and now – then take comfort that there are societies in which such men, nice ones too, are afoot. Just be sure you’re ready to have lots of kids – and that you won’t mind finding out your husband snores on the wedding night.