When I first started thinking about my then husband to be as a potential husband one of the things that pleased me most was the fact that we had met, got to know each other, discovered our shared likes and dislikes, and started to fall in love long before anyone else knew.
What displeased me most was when I introduced him to my mother, and she looked at him sidewise, and said "are you related to x and y?" turned out his parents and mine had been college friends and had kept in touch intermittently, they knew that their first borns where both medics, but had not been aware that we had met.
My desire to decide my destiny without familial interference was only partially met.
Times have moved on since, and it seems to me that finding the perfect match just keeps getting more complicated, finding a partner when you are living in a foreign land is difficult enough. Add to that an increasingly restrictive list of prerequisites and it becomes almost impossible.
For years my parents worried about my brother's future, and having chosen to become increasingly more "Iraqi" as time went by, the search became ever more desperate, daughters of friends, sisters of friends, and friends of friends where all considered and rejected for one reason or another, it took a decade before someone suitable was found, a successful marriage but one very much arranged.
And for the past three years a second search has been on in ernest for yet another ideal wife for someone else, the internet is scoured, his mother joined "elderly Iraqi community" groups to meet mothers, and conversations that start with "how many children do you have" are had both with people working at the embassy, and those protesting and waving placards outside it.
He is intelligent, funny, a successful academic, so what can possibly be the problem?
Well like all potential wives she needs to young but not too young, pretty but not too beautiful, intelligent but not too clever, successful but no more than him, add to that the Arabian requisite of being born and raised in the East away from the temptations of the West, being religious but maybe not too much so etc etc.
But the main stumbling block is that she must not only be a Sunni, but ideally should also be from a family who feel persecuted by the Shiite, a pre-requisite that is only discussed openly in private, and yet this shared persecution has become the mother of all pre-requisites, this shared belonging a requirement so basic that it somehow manages to be the starter of every "do you know any eligible women" conversations without it ever being specifically mentioned!