A step inside a Libyan Engagement . . .

Tonight I attended my first engagement party ever.. and it was a Islamic engagement party, there were five of us that had been invited to our friend from Uni’s party. Over the course of this year I had become comfortable asking her questions that may offend others, I asked about the different culture practices, how she felt about Libya, what her wedding (a hypothetical at that point) would be like, the practices of hijab wearing and so on. So when she invited us to her engagement party, we jumped right in to asking questions.

Will there be men there? What should we wear? How will the engagement work?

Now since this was an arranged marriage we asked all sorts of things about that practice as well we learned as much about the practice as we could.

But when I entered this room it was still a shock, some of the most gorgeous women were dressed to the nines a roll away cart filled with Hijab’s and coats sat next to the door,a threshold where you no longer had to be restricted or worry about the happenings of the other gender.

These women had the most beautiful hair of all cuts, colors and styles they had curled it, straightened it, in updo’s. women I otherwise would have spent the night wondering about their hair now moved freely with gorgeous tresses on every head. These women were dressed in full make-up and gorgeous dresses, dressed up for each other, and themselves because truly that is who women have to dress up for everyday as it is. . .

I was lucky enough to sit at the table with the grooms family, Libyans via London, and the nicest women I have been in quite some time. They shared there customs with me, they told me what every piece of food I had on my plate was and invited me to London to relive this experience all over again in December.

While I am sure American’s have these same interactions at weddings, and make new life long friends there was something about this particular experience that was different, I don’t know if it was the fact that it was all women, and therefore no need to compete for the attention of the men in the room, or if it is a cultural difference that somehow in our capitalist, self preservation, separation  of Church and State society that we have lost. Something about this culture welcomed me in.

We ate, we talked, we laughed and enjoyed the celebration of our good friend, and new sisters engagement,  during the middle of dinner about 8 oclock, some women began to leave the various dining tables and make their way to the hijab holder, grab their beautiful over coats and hi jabs and make their way to the back of the room, almost out of sight but not quite. At first the 5 of us that were not Islamic were quite confused and then just as silently these women began praying, one of their 5 daily prayers, in groups of 2 or 3 women made their way back to complete this ritual. There was no interruption of the party even though the party of 98% women who partake in this act of Faith, they allowed the party to go on and each took part in their faith in their own way.

There is something beautiful about that, that these women did not feel the need to flaunt their faith or make their faith more important or better than anyone else’s this was a conversation between them and Allah and they were the only ones that needed to be involved. I think that this type of relationship with your God is a sign of true faith in whichever religion you are practicing.

Then came the dancing, a moment  when 30 women crowded on the dance floor to show off their moves to each other, there was traditional Arabic music and dancing, there was wonderful booty shaking that I think I could master with more practice, there was laughter and trilling that I could not get my tongue to manifest. Then in the middle of it, the music changes to . . . Trap Queen. and every one of these faithful women jumped onto the dance floor, began dancing away and singing every word!

In that moment I looked around, made eye contact with my two friends that were there with me and just thought, ” I love this moment.” ” I have never been more happy to have a new cultural experience than I am right now.

We spent the night celebrating, no competition, no petty drama, just women enjoying the moment in the life of our friend and each other.

And as I left I gave each of my new friends two kisses on each cheek, as four is traditional in Libya, as I learned and said goodbye and I hope to see them in December.

So how can we create these moments, these times when we are all so welcomed into a new cultural accepted as ignorant and unknowing but taught the ways and loved for our attempts at culture? When is there a space in our everyday life that we can invite someone into our culture and take the time to step into theirs? When we are comfortable enough to make the effort with no judgement no reservations?

I hope that I am able to find more times to step into other cultures to learn more about Libya and Islamic culture and to welcome them into mine.

❤ Kelsi Rae

Let’s build a bench…err Marriage?

So a big thing happened this weekend, Mr. and I moved in together! This is the first time I have ever lived with a boy, including family members so I am interested to see the things how the stereotypes live up, so far I would have to say living with a boy is AMAZING. But I am also only 4 days in.

So what does this bench have to do with my marriage?

Well we built it.. no kit, not precut pieces of wood, nope just a youtube video and a trip to home depot later and we were making a bench. This took both of our strengths and some I don’t think we knew we had in order to accomplish it.

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Here I am at home depot, bright eyed and bushy tailed ready to construct our very own bench, something that will hopefully last 30 years so we can pass it down to our children, as his parent just did with a picnic table Mr.’s Dad built 30 years ago.

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Did I mention we decided to build this bench on the day it snowed in May? No? Oh well here I am bundled up in our garage waiting for the snow to melt as we begin sawing.

But we get underway constructing this bench and just like I imagine we will in marriage, we started to hit some bumps, my bright eyed and bushy tailed turned into curse words and we were soon doubting if we could put this bench together at all. It started when we realized we didn’t charge the drill, and were left screwing most of the screws in by hand, do you know how many screws it takes to put a bench together? Way too many to screw them in by hand I tell you that.

I started to think that this was Ben’s fault and that it was his drill so he should have been responsible for the charge of the battery and as my wrist became more and more sore, I had two choices to continue blaming mr. and become resentful, or realize that this is something we are in together, realize we both will make mistakes and that as a team we will work through them, so on I went screwing in screw after screw by hand. ( And to be fair, he was also participating in this, it wasn’t like I was left with a screwdriver on an abandoned island or anything)

And I am sure he was thinking that I could be helping more, or stop nagging him about the directions, I am sure I screwed a screw in wrong, or measured the pieces of wood too small ( ok  I know I did that one once) And he could have taken those things and created a list, an arbitrary checklist of the ways I was failing him and allowed that running record to eat away at his faith in me. in us. But he didn’t every time no matter how frustrated he was he would look at me, smile, say “you are doing great babe”, and move on… EVERY time.

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And then we screwed the legs together wrong, leaving us with what would have been a seatless bench, not very effective right? So unscrew the pieces, and start again, this time following the directions. This is where we could dip deep down into those gender stereotypes pull out the one that says men don’t follow directions put a big ole check mark on it and slip it back into our pocket of low blows to use next time. But if we are going to create a marriage that is built to last, what we really need to be doing is digging into that pocket of stereotypes and low blows and throwing them in that brand new recycling bin we just got and let someone else compost those. Because holding on to these things just creates an environment where both Mr. and myself could be digging deeper and deeper at each other until one of us breaks.

Now 50 years into this bench building marriage we will have so many of these things we could be throwing at each other that there is no way to survive all of those bad experiences, but if instead we choose to recycle that crap, chalk it up to a mistake we both made and move on, then in 2,5 or 50 years we won’t be counting all the ways our spouse has messed up over the years right?

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It was starting to look like a marriage…. I mean bench, the pieces were all where they needed to be, it had legs it could stand on and a sturdy seat two people could sit on. But there was something missing, just like our marriage which has 79 days until it becomes official ,our bench was missing some crucial pieces to it’s structure. But this is where it really got tricky, the video said to put the back at a slight angle so that it would be more comfortable to sit on. The guy used a fancy tool to measure and then drill sideways through the posts in order to accomplish this with ease. However here we were with our dead drills, no fancy tool and only the few screws that we had purchased which were now to short for this job. How were we going to accomplish it?

And then Mr. had an idea, he said why don’t we use extra wood, create a back for the ends and use that to nail into, that would cut down on the amount of screws we need and allow us to create the comforting angle we had heard about in the video.

There you have it folks I am marrying a genius this is where I got to celebrate with him, think about how I never would have thought of that on my own and rejoice in his accomplishments, I could do this without fault because I had already thrown my earlier reservations in the recycling with our bench building mistakes.

So that is what we did, and it worked!

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And there it was our beautiful bench, it is still not perfect all the pieces don’t exactly line up, the wood is not sanded or painted to perfection, the back angle isn’t exactly even or at  the magic comfort angle that was prescribed, but let me tell you what…it is sturdy,

And in 30 years when our marriage has seen the test of time,  I hope we will look at this bench think of all the things we could have held onto over the years, all of the little mistakes that could have torn us apart but instead made us a better team and think it all started with this bench.

❤ Kelsi Rae