One True Love?

We do not do Disney Princesses. Growing up a tomboy and then into a student of social justice, I thought I had enough reasons to keep princess culture at bay. But I recently realized another one – the idea of a One True Love (OTL).

There are the standard arguments centered around race/ethnicity and gender. Most Disney princesses are either White or Anglicized versions of other ethnicities which can be very harmful for the self-image of non-White young girls (remember the Clark doll experiments?). Princess culture also teaches our girls that their main fulfillment comes from meeting a man, and encourages them to focus on their appearance at the expense of other attributes. And why, oh why, should my three year old be interested in fictitious romantic relationships?!

But I also realized that the Disney (and other media) rhetoric brainwashes many of us into believing that we each have One True Love. Growing up in an Indian family and watching my fair share of Bollywood, I think I used to believe it as well. I have since been “cured.” However, this rarely diagnosed problem has very profound ramifications.

Firstly, too often I have seen young Muslim women, talking to potential spouses, scared to make a mistake in choosing the right one. Buried underneath some of this fear is the worry that perhaps they will choose someone who is not THE OTL… in which case their marriage and life are inevitably doomed.

Perhaps most importantly, the idea of the OTL also focuses one’s efforts on the search for the spouse, rather than the maintenance of the marriage. There is no OTL, in my view. There are several people with whom one can be compatible. To change that compatibility into strong “romantic” love does not happen through a magic kiss, a magic rose, nor a magic slipper. It comes from sincerity and hard work, and is a gift from Allah (swt). This paradigm – that love and marriage are hard work – is rare in our American culture. But it is a valuable one that we, as Muslims, must teach ourselves and others if we are to improve the condition of our families and our society.

Bhawana Kamil

Bhawana Kamil lives in Santa Clara, CA with her husband and daughter. She teaches Ethics at San Jose State University, and is the president of the Bay Area chapter of the Muslim American Society – but only on the side. Her real job is watching (and hopefully helping) her little girl grow up!

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  • Maha

    This OTL faze continues on into teenage years (the Twilight series) and adulthood unfortunately. It is a subtle sabotage of female identity and position in society. I don’t know how we can equip our girls to deal with these very powerful and enticing perceptions.

  • ummossama

    Important topic. Yes, marriage and love are hard work—unfortunately too many of our youth don’t understand this–just take a look at the divorce rate among young Muslim couples. And to be honest it is not always the fault of the young peolpe..many of our youth are going into marriage without any ideas, skills , etc on how to make a marriage work…parents and our communites are not doing the job of educating youth in this most important matter. JAK

  • Hagar

    Well said!!

  • fatima

    Yes, i completely agree. I do not want my daughters growing up in a culture of disney princesses, living for the OTL, dreaming of it, beautifying themselves for it.

  • Umm Layth

    Thank you Bhawana. We don’t know what Allah has in store for us and when we marry it is “The One” we are married to then LOL. Insha’Allah we will continue to pray that “the one” we married is “the one” for life. : )

  • Farha

    I totally agree!

  • Sadaf

    Thank you for writing this article! I completely agree.

    I don’t do Disney Princesses (or Barbie) with my 4-year-old daughter either. :) A fairy tale is just that – a fictitious tale involving non-human fairies. It has nothing to do with real life.

  • naureen

    thats one of the things i like about living overseas. the idea of working hard to make a marriage work completely exists in the muslim world.

    You marry cuz u like the “package”, the deen, the personality of the person, their family, their education, their background/upbringing, their views and you agree on how to make a life together and then the hard work begins :-)