I’ve had lovers but no long-term relationships. I am now in my 30’s and am starting to wonder if I’m just not the ‘relationship type’ or whether I’m just unlucky in love.
Many years ago, back before everyone jumped on the Tinder bandwagon, I joined a dating website called RSVP. In your profile setup there were sections you could fill out to denote your religion and cultural background. You could also fill out preferences in your ideal mate including their religion and their cultural background.
Naturally I ticked ‘Islamic’ and ‘Middle Eastern’ in mine. If I came across a woman I was attracted to I would check to see if she had included ‘Islamic’ or ‘Middle Eastern’ in her preferences. None of them ever did. Most of the women had ticked ‘Western European’, ‘Eastern European’ and nearly all of them ticked ‘Latino’.
It’s not that women are not attracted to Muslim Arabs. It’s just that there was, and still is, a subtle prejudice that operates on people’s minds. It’s the result of a long history of racism towards, and misrepresentation of, Arab Muslims. Arab men are unfairly seen as domineering, unyielding and angry, due in part to the Middle Eastern political and cultural climate—so not the kind of guy that you want to date.
Arab men are unfairly seen as domineering, unyielding and angry, due in part to the Middle Eastern political and cultural climate—so not the kind of guy that you want to date.
In reality my ‘background’ doesn’t really mean much from day to day. I’m not visibly Muslim or Arab. My name is Biblical/Hebrew and my surname sounds German. In case you’re wondering Sleiman is just another spelling of Solomon, which means ‘man of peace’. But I nonetheless still identify as Muslim and Arab.
Like many Australians I have a had a tempestuous relationship with dating apps. I have deleted them countless times and reinstalled them just as many. I have had some WTF moments as well. A few months ago, I exchanged messages with a woman who ended up admitting that the pictures in her profile weren’t actually her. When I asked why she would do that, her profile disappeared from my matches.
The worst are those that are just blatantly Islamophobic. For example, one woman I ‘e-met’ on Tinder, who expressed a keen interest in me initially, unmatched me as soon I told her that I am Muslim.
Recently I’ve decided to get out of the dating game. It’s been months since I’ve been on Tinder or Bumble. My screen time has nosedived and I don’t plan on going back. For many people being alone might seem like a bad state to be in, and society tends to view those who are alone as somehow in need of fixing.
One woman I ‘e-met’ on Tinder, who expressed a keen interest in me initially, unmatched me as soon I told her that I am Muslim.
I however like being alone. I enjoy being in the company of my thoughts, movements and dispositions. I like watching films and going to concerts or events alone. I get the opportunity to take in things that I may not have noticed in the company of others. I may start a conversation with someone who I wouldn’t have if I had a friend with me. I get to observe social nuances, communicative embellishments, props, sounds and make sense of it without the added pressure of needing to be ‘social’. There is a certain liberty in this kind of detachment.
In Arab and Islamic culture marriage and having a family are a big part of it, and yet I currently don’t feel the need for any of it. Perhaps that sort of life was never meant for me. My romantic life has been a slew of short liaisons, transient friendships and heartbreaks. However, some the most enjoyable moments I have shared with others have been those first few weeks or months when you’re getting to know another person. It’s exciting, it’s fresh, it’s spontaneous. The conversation is pleasingly new, you’re exuberant and the attraction, if it exists, is arousing. There is nothing quite like new love. I would take a few endearing dates over an uninspiring relationship any day.
Over the years whether through traditional forms of dating or ‘hookup’ apps, I have found meaning in the short intimacies shared with others. They’re like tie-in chapters, bridging together diverse character narratives within my patched-up story. And in that story, I have realised that being alone doesn’t mean you’re lonely, being single doesn’t mean you have somehow failed. It’s not you, it’s just you. I’m good at being single. It’s my forte. Above all I am content with it.
Perhaps I’ll meet another person who is happy to be single together—an oxymoronic romance, my kind of romance. My new tinder profile will read ‘happily single, seeking same’ with an Arab emoji next to the crescent.