When I was little, I thought I'd get married when I turned 20, the age I would have graduated from college had I stayed in their school system.
I'm 28 now, which makes me about 50 in Arab years.
That fantasy about Prince Charming did eventually take over in my early 20s, but it was refined to be more mature and realistic.
Not only do I know exactly what kind of a guy I want, I also know how my wedding dress, veil and engagement ring should look, and even who should officiate. I mean, who cares what the guy thinks, right?
Maybe, if he wanted a say, he would be here already.
"Dating," or the process in which you get to the point of marriage, is kind of taboo in my culture. The word boyfriend or girlfriend can cause a Middle Eastern parent to have a heart attack.
Western-style dating is frowned upon in Islam, and that's because men shouldn't be allowed to go from one girl to the next without making a commitment. They should "get to know the girl" only if they intend on marrying her, and that period of "getting to know each other" is usually monitored and limited in time, especially in conservative families.
On-and-off dating, especially when there's no commitment or good intentions, devalues women and the sanctity of marriage. This is a point on which I agree with the conventions of my culture and religion.
Though I consider myself pretty Americanized and must have gone on a gazillion dates in the last five years, if I don't see potential in the first few hours of knowing and meeting a guy, I end it. I don't have time to waste (not when you're 50 in Arab years).
Of course, like everyone who's trying to find their soul mate, I have encountered disappointments. The last time that happened, I began to wonder whether I'm meant to be with someone at all.