Your Love is On Reserve: How to Find Love in a Bookshop

It’s a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman past her twenties and in possession of a stable career, good degree, decent looks and fine manners must be in want of no man…

who doesn’t deserve her, obviously.

See, I’m tired of the ‘smart girls stay single’, or ‘girls like you intimidate men’, ‘we don’t need no men’ narrative. I’m tired, slighted and to be honest, cheated by it, because I once believed those platitudes, only to come to a gradual realisation that that’s not true. I believe that we are all destined to meet our life partners, eventually. I’ve written a blog post about relationships and all that jazz and if you had read it, you’d know my views on finding “the one”. My singlehood was a blessing and I appreciated my years before I turned 30 and got married as it allowed me to fully love myself, grow in my passion and anchor my values in what I truly want in life. (Here’s a book recommendation if you are wandering through this phase of life: Smart Single Muslimah by Farhat Amin. You can get it on Amazon or Book Depository. You’re welcome).

Recently, I got married, alhamdulillah. It’s been 3 months now, and we sometimes reminisce our first encounter and laugh at how easy it felt that afternoon, as though it had all been written and we were merely characters moving along God’s plot. I enjoy reading stories about how married couples met each other (particularly those that went to great lengths to preserve the sacredness of love after marriage) so here I am to share my story about how I, well, technically, first met my husband in a bookshop…

Like a classic 21st century love story depicted in the movies, our love story started with a swipe on the screens. We met on one of those Mozlem dating apps (lol) in what I’d say was an accident. You can call it a pleasant coincidence, because long story short, my family and I had already known his aunt’s family way back when I was in my kindergarten years (she was my teacher!). But we had never known of each other’s existence. Anyway, I thought I’d never be caught dead on one of those apps, but plenty of married friends have proven that these apps managed to yield pretty impressive results. Also, if you are like me, a teacher, at the point of your late twenties, then you’d know how bleak your chances are in finding a single, stable, mature man at your workplace.

So where do you go when the offline world seems hopeless?

Online, of course.

I downloaded it once just to see what it’s all about, and regretted my decision in 30 seconds. On my first attempt, I didn’t upload a photo when prompted because I didn’t want to be visibly seen; I was just there to ‘look around’. To my horror, I saw several familiar men I knew in real life and on the internets. Their profiles threw me off; some were vapid, while others were bordering on nauseating, considering that it was written by adult males of mature age. Needless to say, with a shudder and a sworn oath to never get on the app ever again, I deleted it.

In a few months’ time, for some inexplicable reason, I broke my own promise and decided to download the app again and post a photo – perhaps a decent photo will give me better chances of finding better quality men? – which doesn’t really show a clear photo of my face (I stand by my anonymity!) and CTRL+C CTRL+Ved a poem I had written to my future partner when I was a hopeful and sappy singleton in my bio because I couldn’t be bothered to write what my likes and dislikes are. And if a man doesn’t care about my poetic pursuits, then I do not care about him. Swiping through profile after profile of men who had liked you first felt so painfully superficial and reminiscent of scrolling down Shopee, shopping for a husband. Soon, I got sick of it and decided to delete it off my phone once again.

A few months later, after coming home from my summer trip in Europe, I decided to download the app again (it’s part of putting in effort, woman, you can’t simply pray, have tawakkul and expect your husband to fall from the sky, tie your camel!!) because, well, third time’s a charm, they say. And I was constantly reminded of my late aunt’s wish to see me married. So I did. I tied my camel by swimming in the dangerous waters that is the dating app, filled with disappointing, underwhelming, suspicious muslim men again.

(Before I get questions on why didn’t I ask friends and family to help me, well I did. But they couldn’t find anyone in their radar who met my criteria and were mostly afraid the poor candidate would not meet my expectations lol.)

It was an unceremonious afternoon. I looked through the accounts who had liked mine, and raised my brows when I saw a profile of a man who stated ‘Teacher’ as his occupation. It caught my eye because it was the first time seeing a fellow teacher on this platform. I said “Salaam!”, he replied, and the rest was history. He was skilled in his advances (He read my poems and my blog? He listened to my podcast? He bought my book? The man’s been scoring points!) as he studied my Instagram page and quickly learnt how obsessed I was with books, which wasn’t exactly rocket science. I too did my research (of course) by putting the analytical skills I’ve picked up from studying social sciences in university into good use (kidding), and found out that he’s fond of books and cats too (on the surface level, that kind of sealed the deal lol). He mentioned that had he known me from Instagram first, he wouldn’t have dared approached me because of how intimidating I came across. Well, thank God he didn’t find me there.

After a few conversations, we knew it was better if we met in real life as soon as possible. We had communicated our intentions clearly from the get go that we were not on the app to “just look around” so we knew we weren’t wasting each other’s time.

So, guess where did we decide to meet?

Yes, at our favourite bookshop. It was the perfect date – a trip to the bookshop, lunch, and coffee right after. It was also the first time he tried an Americano, which I’d only found out later on in our relationship that he wasn’t actually a fan. “So you drank all that on the first date just to impress me?” “Yes.” I was simultaneously amused and charmed by his determination and candour. I discovered that we have plenty of similarities as much we do differences, which mainly lies in our personalities (he’s calm, patient, gentle, slow, a homebody, hates vegetables, and basically everything I’m not). After an afternoon of good food over pleasant and cerebral conversations, we felt like we’d already known each other for a long time. Something inside clicked for the both of us. At that moment, I remembered my late mom’s answer when I asked her how she knew dad was “the one”. “The first time we met, I just knew.” I could never fathom what she meant by that, but at that moment, it all made perfect sense. Fast forward a few months, we decided that we were sure of each other, told our parents about our relationship and made plans to tie the knot soon. I prayed fervently and asked God to guide me in this life-changing decision. On the 12th of June 2021, we finally wrote our first chapter together.

Finding him wasn’t like a puzzle that finally fits and makes sense. Finding him was like finding the book that I’ve been wanting to read. Or the outfit that matches my book cover. He doesn’t complete me. He complements me.

(At this point, I thought I’d slip in a disclaimer: I’m not endorsing any dating apps and encouraging you to find your other halves through such platforms. It’s an option in this day and age but do exhaust other alternatives like asking parents and friends first. And if you do get on the app and were to meet the person in real life, do take the necessary precautions and do not meet in a secluded area.)

For the longest time, I thought I would never find this elusive, perfect man and settle down happily ever after. But once I let go of my lofty expectations of the people I love, I learn to love them in their journeys and progression. I lowered my ego and acknowledged my shortcomings too. I’m not perfect either. I learn to love better, treasure His temporary gifts, and appreciate his answered prayers. Till today, I still find it hard to believe that I’m married. How simultaneously bizarre and beautiful is this!? Allah works in such brilliant, mysterious ways. And He works in His own perfect timing.

If you ever feel like giving up on men because of all the unpleasant firsthand experiences or stories which your friends have told you, I feel you. I have been there, plenty of times. I remember making du’a to Allah to simply grant me what’s best for me, even if that means living a life of solitude with twelve cats, dedicated to cultivating herbs and spices and working on my dream novel. But at the same time, I knew deep down in my heart that I would rather have a life partner I could grow old with, so I put in the effort to wake up for tahajjud and shamelessly ask for Him to grant me a husband who loves Him, and who loves me. I learnt to be open to friends’ and family’s recommendations. I asked my loved ones for their prayers in secret because I knew how powerful they can be. I begged on the floors of the Haram and prayed for companionship. I remember saying, “Ya Allah, I’m so lonely. I admit that I can get very lonely sometimes. Please send me someone who loves me and who deserves me. Please gift me someone who loves You.” And when things somehow fell into place, I knew that it was a culmination of my effort, my loved ones’ prayers, lots of tawakkul, and of course, entirely Allah’s will.

I genuinely believe with all my heart, and affirmed by Allah’s word (78:8), that there is someone written for everyone. And that everyone’s story has been written by the Writer of all writers. So trust that in the destined library of love, between shelves of different souls and stories, every single one of us has a love that’s been reserved. And so, very, absolutely, well-deserved. (It’s just waiting to be checked out.)

But first, go find him in a bookshop.

Then, write your story. Together.

Photo credits: Love Me Tender @lovemetenderfilms
Location credits: Wardah Bookstore, Singapore @wardahbooks

Notes:
alhamdulillah – praise be to Allah
haram – holy/sacred place (referring to either Mecca/Medina)
tahajjud – prayers during the night
tawakkul – trusting in God’s plan
salaam – a common greeting in many Arabic-speaking and Muslim countries

2 thoughts on “Your Love is On Reserve: How to Find Love in a Bookshop

  1. I love how you guys met at my favourite bookstore too!! And I love how raw and real this story is. May Allah bless this union with the light of His Beloved and unite you both in Imaan and eternal love 💖🥰

    Like

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