From a very early age, I understood that I would have to wait for marriage offers and that the best way to increase my chance of being paired with someone I liked was by being desirable, by being so beautiful and so good, that I wouldn’t want for options. Because of this, I took comfort in knowing that I had Hadi Ridha as a possibility, that I had already behaved well enough that one mother wanted me for her son.
But there was a price to pay for this security. Over the years, it came to feel as if my family was already married to the Ridhas in an unspoken and undefined way. While our parents never sat down and asked that Hadi and I be committed to one another, our mothers joked about it, our siblings and our fathers pretended to be unaware, and the women in our immigrant community gossiped about whether or not we were promised. It was this gossip that worried me most. With my name already so closely linked to Hadi, I despaired that no one else would ask for me in the future. I wanted Hadi Ridha as a safety net, not as my only choice.