The venues are booked. The speakers are listed. The program is online. The event photo is up. The attending list: public.
Slowly they scroll and scan, their eyes hoping to land on the familiar, or perhaps unfamiliar, visage of the man or woman of their dreams. The days creep closer, the tagged notifications swell, and everyone swallows their guilt that their thoughts are more preoccupied with the sister or brother they sometimes catch out of the corner of their eye than any morsels of knowledge that might be gleaned.
The rituals begin.
Her neck is bent at an uncomfortable angle, fingers of one hand pulling her skin taut above her zygomatic arch while the other hand does the same in the opposite direction, allowing the threader to close in with her spools of floss and unceremoniously rip away any unsightly hairs that could divert a marriage proposal.
He runs the razor under the faucet, wicking away any excess water and carefully returns the blade to tend to the edges of his artfully cropped goatee. He inspects the results of his handiwork. It doesn’t scream mullah. He’s going more for well-adjusted son-in-law.
Hours before the event, closets are thrown open. Their contents are inspected, considered, rejected. Kohl is applied. Hair is painstakingly, casually gelled and tousled. A panoply of hijabs beckon, one of which will be chosen to adorn the head of its owner.
Moments before heading out the door, a hasty grab for paper and pen.
The day begins. The moving anecdotes are relayed, and the sympathetic tears are shed. The heads are dutifully bent over notebooks and laptop screens, scribbling away.
The freshness of morning stales into the afternoon. The perfect line of kohl smears. An in-grown hair chafes. A sigh is suppressed.
This was all so much better in my head, she thinks, heart sinking as she picks at a fraying tassel.
I don’t have a dime to my name, he thinks, heart sinking as he spares a glance at a row of vigilant aunties.
The show must go on. Pens are reluctantly pressed to paper, with the sinking suspicion–no, the certainty--that these notes will never see the light of day again.
Evening arrives, and the shine of the day has evaporated. Salaams are exchanged all around, and all the lonely children go home.
Depressed and discouraged, no longer covered in clothes and cosmetics, but only in themselves, they weep.