Wives Wanted, Wife Cars for Sale
The classified ads in any country are always a source of the little differences that make life interesting. In many countries, under the Matrimonial section, the listings are not wedding announcements, but rather advertisements searching for suitable brides and grooms, circumventing the services of the traditional matchmaker. Indian families seem to place the most ads but other nationalities are represented as well. One listed in a United Arab Emirates paper reads, Young, elegant, blonde German lady from a good family, honest & very kindhearted, seeks a lovable, very respectable Arab gentleman.
Some ads mention the desire to find single grooms, meaning that the potential bride wants to be the man’s first wife, important in a culture where men may have four wives, as long as he can provide for them equally. Many of the ads seeking grooms are posted by young women’s fathers or brothers, and some are poignant, for example, addressing the negative views toward divorce and widowhood: “Brother invites proposals for his widow sister, fair, issueless.”
The adjective fair is a not-so-subtle code for light-skinned. Other important qualities in the ads are university degrees, height and weight, appearance (inevitably tall, slim, and beautiful), profession (potential brides often include doctors, dentists, and a lot of marketing managers), place of work, and even the salary.
Curious entries related to matrimony are found in another want ad section, Cars for Sale. These ads sometimes features what are called wife cars. Wealthy Arabs sometimes splurge and give a friend and his one, two, three or four wives each a new car. Of course, the only thing to do in such circumstances is to reciprocate with equally expensive new cars.
When I lived in the United Arab Emirates, I used to walk to my college, passing what I suspect was one of these wife cars. Unwashed, unloved, tires half-deflated and its Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament missing, the Rolls Royce straddled the sidewalk without license plates. Had someone parked it there one day and simply forgotten about it? I often considered working up the courage to knock on the door of the adjoining house and make an insultingly low offer ... with a bit off for the missing hood ornament, of course.