The Lies of Marriage for Middle-Income Children

I call it the hollow, aching look in someone’s eyes when they see another friend married off.

They’ve been standing by and waiting or pretending to not do either, while they have been burning in agony on the inside. The wait has turned their insides into a beautiful effigy of resentment. We and they are all assured, it’s bound to happen. Because your privilege will not fail you. Your mother and father are of good stock. You’re educated and of good stock, too. It’s bound to happen.

Stock, the investment of education and inculcation of privilege, dictates that men and women will see intuitively in each other their respective stock, and intertwine their lives around each other until they commit in marriage. There is nothing else involved except the outward forms of stock and privilege — piety, agreeable character, success in work and career, proximity of values, family, and a future built on material wealth. Stock means that the process of meeting and dating is only punctuated by milestones — the first date, the first family function, engagement, food, food, food, wedding. Whatever else happens, the very sinews of relationships, is incidental and manageable. Where society magnifies these incidental events as the actual workings of relationships, the regime of stock gives it little attention. Have a career, don’t work too hard, work hard to make money, develop your personality, but no, not something artistic or original or unique. That puts partners off. And their families. And their stock. So, be funny. Not too funny. Be interesting. Not too interesting or opinionated. Your partner wants someone they can talk to about normal stuff. Be confident, but not too arrogant. Go to church, why are you not going, go to church, don’t go to church looking like that, there might be new stock, why aren’t you going to church! Are you lost! Are you atheist! Are you… PROTESTANT! Go to church. Spirituality? Who gives a shit about that, just go to church. As long as you’re in church, you’re spiritual and full of faith. So, stand tall, why are you tired, don’t sit down, you might miss the new stock.

Stock means you both will get automatic reprieve from each other’s screening process. Stock turns the art of meeting and committing to someone into an impersonal trade of check-lists and resumes. It becomes a lens worn and never taken off. If a person acts in contradiction to the regime, then the lens justifies abandoning that person. If a person plays the system and manages to retain the other through deceit or charm, then the lens confirms the good catch. Stock doesn’t deter people from treating other with impunity. It doesn’t stop a woman from destroying a man’s heart or a man turning a woman into tears. It could just makes it easier to justify. I had every reason to. They’re so many others out there. He or she just weren’t the right one. I can wait. The right one will come along because I deserve it. What are you doing wrong? You’re a mess, you must be a mess, stop being a mess. It’s your fault, it’s not happening because it’s your fault. Everything is going for you, it should just happen. It’s all about stock. If she’s good stock and you’re good stock, then that’s all that matters. No, their good stock is different from ours. Ours is real. Maybe I need chicken stock — don’t ever say that, your future spouse doesn’t want a sense of humour.

So, we were sold lies, that education, good stock, hygiene, presentation, style, and the right socialization will get us married in no time. They didn’t tell us about the game. Fear of commitment. That one broken engagement that turned your love into a sack of blunt blades. A string of hookups that turned your man of dreaminess into a hollow man. That in time, you yourself will turn into some ghoul that treats people like garbage because you’re privileged and you have problems, too. They didn’t tell us what to do while we’re waiting. The line of potential partners that end up passing us by like the opposite lane on the highway. We had to let go of many because you know why.

This regime of stock is doomed to fail if in time, every person standing at the wedding is single, of good stock, and still waiting for their moment, waiting for the lies to become truth.

The Dream of Travelling to a Far-away Identity

About eight years ago, I knew this young man called *Gabriel, while living in London. He was like any of his peers — horny, irreverent, and kept the world in his pocket next to his phone. The details have faded now, but I remember that in a sudden change of course, Gabriel engrossed himself in church. He was at every service and at every meeting. Sometimes, he carried a Bible. Soon, he started wearing the highest medal of piety — “Forgive me, I have sinned.” Donning that medal was a little odd, but I wasn’t going to hate on his hustle. I had gone through my own years previous. Meetings passed and liturgies were offered. Gabriel now had monastic texts glued to his hand and tongue. He wanted to become a monk. Those who knew him pre-Scetis rolled their eyes and walked past him at church.

Last I knew of him, Gabriel was engaged or married. I have no idea now if he is still wearing that medal. It doesn’t even matter because all he wanted was to be something different than what he felt or was told or wanted to be. Gabriel’s story tempers me when I try to be perturbed by the rise of Daesh’s allure for young people. Daesh is about young people finally finding something so tantalizing that they leave everything for it. And purely on experience, those young people had little or perceived to have very little to drive them into the arms of a far-away identity.

This piece is not about Daesh, but about identities we travel to. It shouldn’t be a strange concept. Everyone has the dream of travelling to a different country, city, continent, over there where it’s better, people are better, life is better, less black people, less vagrants, fewer Muslims, fewer Christians, no homosexuals, more people of faith, money, color. When I get there — they reason — I will be more accepted, more understood, no more loneliness, no more exclusion, no more nothingness. But identities are like countries. They have gatekeepers, communities, codes, and rites. You pay taxes by trying to fit in and being ridiculed when you get something wrong. You buy property when you marry into the identity. In time, you set up shop and you would have blended in.

You. Your parents are Egyptian or Sudanese or Indian or Iraqi. You grew up away from your parents’ home city. You picked up a few phrases and in time, you can cajole with the uncles and aunts. Soon, you arrived at a crossroads. Continue down that road, embrace the country or world of your upbringing, or fuck everything and thumb through Instagram until you fall asleep. You made a choice. You continued down the first road, the road of your acquired identity.

Me. I confidently report that that road is a dead end. The taxation system is severe with no breaks. The property market is not open to non-citizens. Setting up shop is welcomed because you can never have too much taxes. You won’t be sent out on a raft if you don’t conform, but you’ll feel it with every stare, pursed smile, and stray missile, aimed at your years of hard work.

Like Daesh, far-away identities are mothers that don’t love their children.

*not his real name

Violence lived is violence wrought.

I couldn’t meet her gaze. I couldn’t sleep later. I could see, later, what I had done with so much thought and fear. I did it two more times, each time engaging in the art of death. No moment to stop and consider the cost, or the damage, or the future. There are no moments available because time has ceased and been stripped of its serenity. It’s just a necklace of moments, strung together by the eventuality of more violence.

There will be no backstory or flashbacks to take you, the reader, into a psychoanalysis of the origins of violence in the violent. The violent’s world is a quiet one, where the cries from executioner and condemned is choked by nothingness. A world, fashioned by your own hands, skies expanded by arms’ lengths and soil made darker with more life shed. Visit another with violence, is on citizens’ lips. The world is solipsistic and inhabited only by the violent and his victims. Every kill makes the world thicker and more hollow.

Remember when love wasn’t returned? When your heart wasn’t respected? When your boundaries trespassed, your person used, your time wasted, your life belittled, your emotions mocked? The violent didn’t stop and choose to leave his world. He made violence his norm and ethos, his pain the ink on the declaration of war on future allies. Kills collected on a prized bedpost brought him to her tears, the bare moment where he destroyed his true love.

Violence lived is violence wrought.