In hushed tones with upturned noses…“shhhh shoofi shoofi lala americania….” There are sides to Moroccan culture and relationships that I love, the ones that encourage family values, stability, longevity and togetherness. There are also sides that frankly I would rather leave at the door. This concept however I don’t feel is a product of Morocco specifically but surely exists in many other countries and cultures. It is the ever present glare of women who have decided that you have stolen one of “theirs.” I’m not so narcissistic as to think there is something special about me, because there’s not however I have overheard and been party to the complaints, stares and cajoles of Moroccan women unhappy with my marriage as well as those who have no problem letting me know that I am the starter wife.
Moroccans are known for their hospitality, their openness and understanding, their tolerance and virtues. Moroccan women however are not known for their love of foreign women who marry Moroccan men. It started as a few stares here and there when we would go to visit Morocco, but when we befriended many Moroccans it became obvious that there was something else there. Out of a handful of 10 couples all of the men had married an American woman first, and only my husband and one other were still married to that woman. The eight other Moroccan women didn’t have to verbalize what was apparent to the two of us remaining.
Perhaps it was an anomaly however it was clear that we were looked at as starter wives and that eventually our husbands’ would divorce us and find the “real” wife from home. This might sound like paranoia but I’ve heard this tale and seen it countless times on my own. It has also made me realize that as an outsider I will never be fully accepted into the circle. Even if I speak perfect Darija, am a Muslim and do stay with my husband I will always be an outsider and the inner sanctum that Moroccan women inhabit will forever elude me as an outsider.
Moroccans are generous, hospitable, open armed and tolerant of others, but that is a layered reality. On the surface there’s the reception and drinking of a the’. A little deeper is the sharing of a room in a home, or a meal. Further yet is a marriage to a non-Moroccan and even children with them. Deeper is full acceptance into a household and a culture, the final step, and one I dare say simply isn’t done-no matter what the circumstance.