I am not one who takes cabs. I far prefer hopping on the subway for a fraction of the cost, and this has been true in each of the 3 cities I have lived in over the past 10 years. Sure, if I’m with a group who wants to take a cab I’ll join, but if I’m solo you will only find me in a cab if I’m either running very very late or coming home by myself late at night. Or the two times in Buenos Aires when a cab substituted as my moving truck.
When I do take a cab, however, I enjoy chatting with the cab driver. If I’m with a group of more than 3, I’ll always hop in the front. I’m interested in hearing other people’s stories and feel awkward sitting quietly while another person drives me around. In New York cabs conversation can be difficult due to the partition, which makes the driver and passenger feel very separated. This didn’t get in the way of my cab driver last Tuesday night.
It was a coming-home-by-myself-late-at-night kind of situation plus a dead phone that made me cough over the money for the Manhattan to Brooklyn door to door service. I knew I wanted a safe ride home but I had no idea I was looking for dating advice.
My cab driver was from Bangladesh, moved here 14 years ago, and brought his wife over a couple of years ago. I dug a little deeper into the relationship, mainly because I was curious how they managed living in different countries while they were married, and I found out they were in an arranged marriage. A few years ago he was ready to get married so his mom, the rest of his immediate family, and relatives researched the female options for him over in his home country, weeding out the bad apples, and came up with this woman who is now his wife. He met her and liked her, went home and told his mom so, and a couple days later they were married.
In America, arranged marriages are completely foreign to us. It’s just not the way we operate when it comes to love. In countries like Bangladesh, the way we find love is completely foreign to them.
“You have it hard here. It’s very difficult to make the decision all by yourself of who you will marry and spend your life with. It’s a lot of pressure on one person. You don’t have the community helping you make sure you meet the right one,” says my cab driver.
Hmm. When you put it that way…
He strongly believes in your siblings, mom, neighbors, etc. playing matchmaker. They check out the potential spouse’s family, where they’re from.. Maybe it’s even someone you grew up with. Each of your matchmakers gives their opinion on your behalf and you have no say until you are finally introduced to the group’s choice.
And the divorce rate is lower in his country than America, he tells me. I ask if it’s illegal or looked down upon, thinking that is the reason. No, it is legal, and some people do it, but rarely. So much thought and research has gone into finding the right person for you that love does come. He values his marriage, telling me that when each party works so hard all day at their job, they should come home to happiness, not fighting.
I had never discussed arranged marriages with someone who was in one himself. The conversation was fascinating to me, shedding a whole new perspective on relationships. As a single woman I certainly pondered this cab ride afterwards. Although we like to think we know ourselves better than anyone else, it does seem like a lot of pressure to choose your mate for life all by yourself.
On the other hand, although we don’t have arranged marriages in the States, do we really make this decision alone? No, I don’t think so. Most of us are lucky enough to have family and friends who we go to for advice. They meet your significant other eventually, and either volunteer their opinion or are asked for it. I don’t think any of my friends have felt “alone” in their search for a mate. I value my friend’s and family’s opinions greatly. However, after hearing about my cab driver’s experience, I think I will value getting my friend’s opinion on guys I date even more. It doesn’t hurt to have a second (or third or fourth or fifth) opinion.