An Arab Girls Guide to Interracial Marriage

If you’ve been following my socials, you’ll know that my camera broke – after a particularly heartbreaking flat lay photo attempt – and I haven’t been able to record anything on my channel which is driving me absolutely nuts. If you’re new here, then welcome! Check out my youtube channel for more beauty/lifestyle posts.

Todays blog post is a little different, I don’t really share much of my personal life online, really it’s all curated photos and videos – pieces of my life that I choose to share with the public. One of my new years resolutions was to be a little more candid with my social media presence, share aspects of my life that I never really shared before and show the messy, sloppy side of everyday living. In my humble opinion, we live in a world of smoke and mirrors but thats neither here nor there right now.

May has always been a special month for me, I’ve always loved May and have always posted the same Gatsby quote every year (as my Facebook so kindly reminds me) along with Timberlake’s “It’s Gonna Be May” meme, cause you know, how can you not?

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”

May is also extra special to me because it’s the month John and I celebrated our wedding13267823_1190721370972642_1207096856152398217_n.jpg shower, I know a shower doesn’t necessarily warrant an anniversary but this was a big deal to us because in reality, we didn’t even think this could be a possibility. John and I come from two completely different cultures, something that gets brought up a lot more than I thought it would. I can’t tell you how many times people have been shocked to find out I’m married to a “white guy” or that John is married to an “arab, muslim girl”. The questions we get range from pleasant curiosity/surprise to kinda racist jabs. I decided today that I wanted to share my story on here, not only to answer any questions people may have about our relationship, but to also celebrate the fact that we beat the odds and we remind ourselves how lucky we are every single day.

My family moved to our small town of Windsor, Ontario when I was nine years old, we had moved around quite a bit before that since my parents were completely uprooted from their home and lost everything they had during the Gulf War. They were 10411123_944027535642028_9164194463693417213_nnavigating the waters of life while caring for two girls that were just trying to adapt to any environment they were thrown into. We didn’t fit in with the “white kids” when we lived in the rural town of Red Deer, Alberta and we didn’t fit in with the “Arab kids” when we moved back to Amman, Jordan – it was a super confusing time in all of our lives but we made it through. Coming to Windsor was scary and exciting, I knew my parents brought us here to give us more opportunities for personal and professional growth, but I was once again thrown into a new life with people that likely wouldn’t understand me. I 198749_900523338078_195137550_ndecided the best way to fit in was to become one of them. Instead of getting made fun of for the way I dressed, my big hair and my big eyebrows, I began making a conscious effort to look like my peers. Over-plucking my eyebrows to the point of non-existence (that was a bad, bad time for my brows), straightening my hair with a clothing iron and resenting my family and their culture. No matter how much I tried to fit in, friends would still turn their noses to the fact that my house “always smelled like food” and my parents wouldn’t let me out past 10:30. No matter what I did, I was the outsider. Over the years, I would push further and further away from anything that had to do with my arabic and/or muslim roots in an attempt to seem more relatable to my peers; thats honestly still one of my biggest regrets. I mean ya, my family made good food and sometimes that resulted in our house smelling like curry for a few days, no regrets!

My parents knew my sister and I were pulling away from our culture, which is why they always stressed that fact that when we got married, it would have to be an arab, muslim man. They stressed the importance of carrying on our culture even though we were so far removed from it. Since I had made such a conscious effort to pull away from my arabic roots, this only made me resent them more. How dare they ask me to marry an arabic man when I’ve worked years and years to protect my faux Caucasian identity!? It seemed impossible, scary and I felt trapped, like I didn’t have any kind of future. I began to settle into the idea that I likely will never get married and if I do, it’ll probably be for convenience instead of love. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those people that thinks marriage is the be all and end all of life, I’m fully aware that men and women both lead fantastic and fulfilling lives without being married, but in an arabic household, the only way to really be taken seriously as an adult is to get married. It’s backwards and weird but its just the way it is, I’m not here to bash the culture because I understand where they’re coming from, but growing up in Canada, I also understand the other side of it too.

I met John when I was in high school, he had gone to a different school but I had seen him around in our emo/scene kid days (lets just put it this way, my MSN screen name had a different Dashboard Confessional lyric in it every week). Our mutual friends worked with each other but really we had no real friendship beyond that. It wasn’t until I turned 20 that he was reintroduced into the story of my life and we had an instant connection. He was the first person I met that was truly interested in my culture, he came from a family that although grew up in Canada is extremely open minded and curious about the world, a quality that translated to John perfectly. It helped that he also grew up with muslim friends who had the same upbringing as I did. He understood the curfew, he understood why I couldn’t eat during Ramadan, he understood the significance of celebrating the end of our fast – I didn’t have to explain myself, I could just be me. It was the first time in my life that my culture and religion didn’t seem like an inconvenience to anyone, but was embraced whole heartedly. I slowly began reintroducing my culture back into my life, something that seemed so strange while simultaneously comfortable and familiar. I realized its not a bad thing, its actually beautiful and at a time when the world was beginning to hate arabs, I was learning through my white friend, how to love every aspect of my background.  In the back of my mind, I knew John had been the right person for me but I pushed him away convincing myself it was pointless because my family would never approve of him.

The day everything changed was in the summer of 2015, it was an ordinary, hot summer night. I remember I was rearranging the furniture in my bedroom (I’m always changing the decor everywhere I go) when I got a phone call from John, his voice sounded quiet and excited at the same time, I knew something was up. Thats when he told me that he had just gotten back from the mosque. He was curious about Islam and decided to visit the mosque to ask more questions about it, while he was there, he fully converted. I remember my stomach dropping as soon as he told me. I was fearful for him, I was scared that people wouldn’t understand and that he would experience the same racism we had. I was scared that his family would get upset with him, I was scared of what this meant for us and our future. In that moment I knew that marriage could have been a possibility and its possible that I could end up with someone thats loving, considerate and that I actually get along with or dare I say, love.

He spent a year educating himself further, learning the ins and outs not only of Islam, but of arabic culture in general. His interest peaked and we had more to talk about then ever. He would ask me questions I didn’t know how to answer which lead me to do my own research and fall in love with my culture all over again – we formed our little club, him and I learning about life, love, culture and each other. I never expected to learn more about my family and my life through someone that was virtually a stranger just a few years ago.

A year later, I was sitting at the dinner table with my parents when the phone rang, it was John asking to speak to my dad, my stomach dropped again. In true arabic custom, John had asked if he could come over with his family to speak to mine. I was terrified, not in a bad way but I had just dove into unchartered waters. I didn’t know how my dad would react, would he hate him? would he turn him away? My mind was reeling. I had heard so many horror stories of middle eastern girls wanting to marry someone outside of their race and being completely disowned. My parents were never that strict, they never made us feel as though our decisions would make them love us any less, but I had also never been in a situation like this before, I really didn’t know what to think.

That weekend, John and his parents came over to chat. I remember sitting in the living room fidgeting, wondering when it was going to happen. I had remembered mydad saying that its custom for the bride-to-be’s father to tell the groom that they’ll think about the proposal for a few days before actually accepting – an old tradition that I didn’t quite understand. I just wanted to accept and move on to the fun stuff. To my surprise, my parents hit it off with John’s family, we both sat there looking at each other with surprise as they jumped from one conversation to the next. Without warning, John’s dad got up and said he had a speech prepared. His mother and father stood in our dining room and read a poem they had written about their son, how amazing he is and how they would love to welcome me into their family. To my surprise, my dad jumped up and said “YES!”. No waiting, no games, it was a straight answer, yes. I felt like a weight was lifted off my chest and for the first time in my life I saw my future.

We had a short engagement, only 7 months lonScreen Shot 2018-05-07 at 8.32.00 PMg. Partly because my family had stressed that that was the arabic custom (I had one more custom to adhere to before I was home free) and partly because we were so scared that anything would change. Those 7 months were a complete whirlwind but I honestly wouldn’t trade it for the world. John always makes fun of me for using the expression “I can’t believe it” a little too liberally, “I can’t believe its already the weekend”, “I can’t believe its already spring”, he looks at me with shock every time the littlest thing happens and says “I CAN’T BELIEVE IT!” in a mocking tone, but when I tell him that I can’t believe how lucky we are I know he feels the same way too.

One day, when we start our own family, we hope to teach them the best aspects of my arabic culture and his Scottish roots. We hope to teach them the importance of knowing their ancestry and living in an openminded, accepting way.

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I hope you guys enjoyed this little peak into my life, I think the moral of the story is if something is meant to be, it will happen regardless of what barriers are in your way.

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9 thoughts on “An Arab Girls Guide to Interracial Marriage

  1. This is THE sweetest!! I love that your parents clicked so instantly – that’s so, so special! You two are adorable together!

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  2. This is so interesting. Living in the Detroit metro area we have diverse ethic groups all over. I know of many interracial relationships but your husband really delved into it more than anyone. Lucky you – and him.

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    1. I live in Windsor! Right across the border from you so i totally get it, we’re extremely diverse in our area which I feel like helps people understand and appreciate other cultures a bit more

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  3. I love reading this Layan, not only because it’s a beautiful story (and I’m SO Happy for you!) but because I lived through something similar.

    I’m Persian and my now-hubby is half Canadian half Trinidadian and for years, my parents didn’t accept our relationship. I went through 2 depressions and gained 30 lbs. It was hard keeping two parts of my life separate because I’m very close to my family, but I also knew that this was the man I wanted to marry.

    It look a LONG time but after 8 years, my parents accepted him and we got married a year and a half ago and the relationship between my hubby and parents has been INCREDIBLE.

    Thank you for sharing your story. I think our stories are unique because it can be hard to understand some dimensions of Middle Eastern cultures.

    Seppy | http://www.elleisforlove.com

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