FEBRUARY 14 ― Whenever I tell people about my grandmother’s neighbour, the many-times married Mariam (13 husbands!), the response is typical and ranges from laughter, judgement and bewilderment. How can one consider Mariam (Maghi-yang in Terengganu dialect) a successful model of a woman and wife, with so many husbands? She is certainly not a symbol of fidelity and morality.
Meek, she’s not ― we East Coast women are entrepreneurial and will wallop our men with a periuk if we get angry, and we have no problems casting off ne’er do well husbands. But immoral?
I’ve always put forth the fact that our urban, modern ideas of progression and feminism may not be what our rural sisters want. The Western notion of happily-ever-after romance may work in another part of the world and perhaps in Kuala Lumpur, but really, what’s wrong with serial monogamy?
After all, it’s within the tenets of Islam. Halal.
So-called sophisticated sisters from the city have multiple boyfriends, what.
Their kampung sisters ― husbands. The difference is if sex is involved, the former would have had it out of marriage, and the latter... within the confines of a legal structure. Nikah.
I did ask Mariam why she had so many husbands, and her answer was simple: why suffer? She knew her rights as a Muslim woman, and she didn’t need to go to school to learn that. She referred to the Quran and the imam nearby. She married all those men to stay away from zina.
Would she consider another marriage now?
“I’m 96 years old! What would I do with one now? I’ve been single for the past 30, 40 years and my life is less complicated. At my age, I can’t have sex anymore.”
So here we are, the sophisticated ones, baying for true and forever love. We get divorced once, it’s a shame. We get divorced twice or thrice, we consider migrating to another country. Back in Terengganu or Kelantan, youyeediotgetoutamyhouseallrightwho’snext?
It’s sort of the same with polygamy. I tell you, every time my mother updates me with the latest gossip, I end up smacking my head. What, so and so is recently remarried and is number two but she is 10 years older? What, a great grandmother found a great grandfather a young (and very stupid) wife so she can go up and down Pekan in peace and not be bothered? WHAT, she married for the sixth time and to whom? A Chinese dentist?
I asked my mother when we were in Bali recently: “How… does this work?”
Easy, my mother said. Multiple marriages and polygamy only work when the woman is the boss. Has the money. When she is in power, she can tenyeh the man and younger wives (if they are in the picture).
“With money, Dina, you can do anything.”
In the city, however, there is a dearth of single and sane men.
I tell you, ever since I remarried (the way my family is, I may just end up with six husbands... this is a joke, ok?!), my single friends keep asking me to help find dates with good, religious men. But their criteria begs serious questioning.
“He has to look like a (insert profession).”
“Because I like (insert professions). Can you find me one? If you can’t find me a single (profession), he has to resemble one.”
Sorang lagi, wants an adult hipster.
“With no body odour.” She went on to say that a lot of men in KL didn’t wear deodorant these days. Didn’t you notice, said my friend who is a single and very attractive woman as she adjusted her hijab.
No, because I have sinus.
Now a lot of single Muslim women I know are on a race ― they are virgins and don’t want to die not tasting the pleasures of the flesh (halal). Haduihhhhh.
When I suggested that they marry practically and if it didn’t work out, divorce, they were horrified. They believed in Forever. Love. Lerrrveeee.
“But at least you’ve tasted…”
We don’t do kahwin mutaah, they said. (If you have nothing to do, do read an old tongue in cheek article I wrote many years ago. My God, it’s satirical lah, why do Malaysians get sooooo uppity?).
This is not kahwin mutaah, I squeaked. Look at arranged marriages, they fell in love AFTER they got married.
No. We want Forever Love.
Don’t you fancy the idea of being a Malaysian Elizabeth Taylor?
Hey, what do I know? It’s the month of lurveeeeeee. You tell me: who’s smarter, the older and less urbane woman with many husbands or us, the educated sods pining for Mr Forever Lurve.
Kong Hee Fatt Choy to my readers who celebrate the holidays!
*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.