I’ve been struggling to date, to be honest. A struggle that goes beyond Mama’s ‘betkallemy meen?’ and Baba’s ‘enty fein?’, it’s gone way beyond the way people stare when a man and a woman are sitting together at a table having coffee or sitting close on a couch smoking a shisha. Obviously, I’m writing this as a privileged cishet woman. I don’t think dating is hard because we can’t sneak around, I think dating is hard because we don’t know what to ask or how to get to know a person or how to recognize what really matters. Up until six months ago, I was obsessed with finding a person like me, someone who had a deep rooted interest in Islamic history and philosophy, someone who’ll speak of Frantz Fanon and Edward Said, you know, a run of the mill intellectual. Then, a friend of mine told me: “don’t look for shared interests, shared values matter so much more.” Again, the question really does present itself; how do I find out a person’s values without spending three years in their company (if that!) People spend decades married to someone and are still surprised by their values.
Enter my genius idea, a dating questionnaire. Below, I’ve thought of all the questions I could that would help guide you into understanding the person you’re getting to know more. This questionnaire is actually peak proof that the political is personal. Obviously, you don’t need to send them this list like it’s a damn quiz, and it’s okay if they don’t know the answers or if you don’t, even. It’s perfectly fine if you need to Google certain terms. That’s the point. There are no opinions when it comes to human rights and figuring out what a person believes in regarding human rights matters, because the chances of them believing in all human rights is slim, what with the currently rampant prejudice. It’s also a chance to open the floor for intense discussions and to keep conversations around important matters alive. Don’t ask them all at once, but keep them in mind. Oh, and I’ve passed this questionnaire around as a document and quite a few teenage boys and girls answered beautifully, so y’all should be good.
These are just some classic get-to-know-you questions, because we’ve mostly reduced those to ‘fav color’ and ‘fav food’ type of things. I love sharing memories, experiences, and thoughts. I’ve always believed that the best way to know a person is to get them to talk about the people in their lives.
- What motivates you most in your life?
- Do you have any siblings? Tell me about them/your family?
- How many relationships have you been in, if any?
- Have you ever been heartbroken?
- What’s your relationship with your ex(es) like? [babe, be very careful because how he talks about the women in his life – especially those he dated – is important].
- Do you need alone time often? What are signs you need some space?
- What are your love languages? Why do you feel like it is those ones in particular?
- What were you like in high school? What about uni?
- Are you close with your parents?
- What’s your favorite memory, like, something that truly draws a smile on your face?
- What do you imagine to be your perfect date?
- What are you looking for? Friendship, sex, just dating, or a long term relationship?
- Give me (insert number) of things you’re willing to compromise on for a relationship?
- What’s your moral compass like? Your halal-haram ratio, if you will.
- Can you list your priorities in life?
- How important is sexual activity/sex to you?
- Any pet peeves? How about deal breakers?
- Fights…how do you handle them? Are you particularly temperamental?
- Do you have any pets? If yes, may I see pictures? Are they a rescue or did you adopt?
- What’s the kindest thing someone has done for you?
- Were you ever gifted something that you hold very dear till today? Is there a story there?
- When was the last date you’ve been on? Do you mind telling me about it?
- If you were asked to prioritize time, health, and money, how would you order/prioritize them?
- When was the last time you did kheir? What did you do?
- Do you take your mom or sister out often?
- What’s your favorite thing about yourself? Hmm..What about your favorite thing about me, so far?
- Are you spiritually-inclined in any way? Not necessarily in any way that’s religious.
- Do you believe in love? What is love to you?
- How do you deal with sadness or grief?
Personally, I’d definitely want to ask political questions. The political is personal, and a person’s political stance (or ‘lack thereof’) says a lot about them. I’m a leftist intersectional feminist. I’m pro-Arab Spring. I’m an ally to the queer community. I’m also an Egyptian who lives in Cairo, so talking politics is…difficult, but important. So, if I were to ask a person some questions about (their) politics, here’s how they’ll go:
- What side of the political ‘spectrum’ do you lie on? Right-wing conservative? Radical leftist? Something in between? Can you tell me why?
- Your stance on the BLM movement? What about anti-blackness in the region? Do you believe it exists?
- What sparked the Arab Spring? What do you know about movements in the region before then that could’ve contributed to the foundational rage? (See: 6th of April Movement, for example)
- Do you think women are granted their basic human rights in this country (Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi, Iraq, Kuwait, etc.)? What’s your stance on intersectional feminism?
- Is sex safety/protection the responsibility of the woman or the man in a heterosexual relationship?
- What about Thawarat 2019, like 17 tishreen in Lebanon? Killon yaani killon?
- Is Palestine simply an Arab issue? Or a Muslim qadiyya? What is the Palestinian qadiyya to you?
- Egypt-Specific: What are your thoughts on the 1952 revolution? Abdel-Nasser’s rule? El Sadat’s? Actually, what do you think about the Peace Treaty with “Israel”?
- Egypt-Specific: What’re your thoughts on 25th of January? Do you think the revolution failed? What about the 14th of August, does that date mean anything to you?
- What are your thoughts about the UN?
- Do you think there’s hope for change?
We sort of, kind of, really need to talk about sex. You can’t avoid sex as a conversation topic forever for two reasons. The first being that it’s a large indicator, if you try to have this conversation in a non-heated manner and they keep sexualizing you or making passes when you haven’t discussed boundaries (basically, if they try to turn this into phone sex when you don’t want it to – and it shouldn’t), that’s a red flag. Second, because sex is a big part of any romantic (or casual) relationship and leaving it as an elephant keda in the room is counterproductive when you need to set boundaries and understand their thoughts on important things.
- Is your interest in sex of the vanilla variety or not?
- You’re into D/s? Oh, how were you introduced? (If they answer with 50 Shades or 365 Days, RUN.)
- Are you familiar with the terms ‘safeword’ and ‘after care’ then?
- Would you prioritise your pleasure or mine? If I say ‘no’ or safeword halfway through either a virtually or physically intimate session, what would you do?
- Your thoughts on pornography?
- Did you know PornHub uses content that isn’t at all consensual? That it actually promotes nonconsensual sex by profiting off of (and thus, profiting) trafficking rings?
- What about sex work? Like, what do you think about sex performers and Only Fans?
- Do you follow or know of either Dr. Sandrine Attallah or This is Mother Being? What do you think of their work?
- Do you believe sex education is important? Why? Do you think it should be implemented in schools?
There’s nothing that’s more alarming than a person existing without being aware of their social responsibility, especially as privileged people in a shit world. It’s easy to see that we live in a region that – if not physically colonized – is at least under imperial control. We’ve normalized racism (specifically anti-blackness), sexism, homophobia, classism, xenophobia, ableism and other things. So, recognizing our privilege and seeing situations of injustice are vital (literally).
- Thoughts on people who have their pronouns in their social media bios? Do you think it’s an important step to take?
- Do you find it humorous when other elites (either upper middle class or upper class people) make fun of other Arabs’ imperfect English?
- How do you feel about the terms ‘bee2a’ and ‘souqeya’?
- Do you think poverty is a choice?
- How do you feel about Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and/or Mark Zuckerburg?
- Do you believe in capitalism, socialism, or communism? Maybe something else? Can you tell me why?
- Are disabilities only physical? Which institutions do you think are ableist? How so?
- What would you do if you saw a person with a physical disability try to climb a ramp, for example?
- Whose fault is harassment, assault, or rape?
- Do you consider yourself a feminist? If yes, how so? What is feminism to you?
- If we’re walking and I/another woman got catcalled, what would your reaction be?
- What do you think is considered abuse?
- Do you know what gaslighting is?
- If called out, what are the steps you’d take in response?
- Do you think periods are gross or not? What about body hair or facial hair?
- Are you familiar with the term FGM? What are your thoughts/what’s your stance regarding it?
- Why are working class people working class? Is it a cycle?
- Why do you think that resistance parties or revolutionaries are mostly composed of working class people?
- Do you care about designer labels? Do you shop from local brands or small businesses?
- What are your thoughts about trigger warnings?
- Thoughts on the homophobia/queermisia that’s everywhere? How do you feel towards Sarah Hegazi?
- Do you think conversion therapy should be outlawed and punished by law?
- Thoughts on Abdallah Rushdy?
It’s already stigmatized enough…and I’d like to think that, as a generation, we’re much more open about mental health and mental illness than those who came before us. Now, talking about mental health and illness matters because, let’s face it, most of us suffer with mental illness. Personally, I’m diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, severe anxiety, and mild depression. Dating a person with a mental illness isn’t easy, and as a person with mental illness, I care about my safety. This means that I need to be comforted when I fall into a 3 day stint where I don’t move from bed or aptly taken care of through or after a panic attack. I need to feel comfortable communicating my needs without being made to feel like a burden, but bel 3aks, I need to be loved through it all. So, transparency matters.
- What do you think of and how do you feel about therapy?
- Have you ever been to a therapist or a psychiatrist?
- Are you diagnosed with anything? Would you like to talk about it?
- Is there anything I should know about your illness? Any boundaries? Any patterns you’ve noticed about yourself? How would you like me to deal with (blank)?
- I’ve been diagnosed with (blank), how does that make you feel?
- Communication will be even more important than usual if we pursue something romantic seriously, do you think you can put in the effort while keeping your boundaries?
- If I communicate being triggered during a fight, what do you think you’ll do?
- Would you be cool with setting up a safeword for intense conversations or fights too, in case either of us is triggered? And maybe a sort of pseudo-aftercare routine after?
- If there’s a chance for the both of us to go to therapy together, like couple’s therapy, would you want to go?
I hope you’ve had the chance to Google a lot of things. I hope your curiosity has been sparked. I hope you feel like there’s a gaping hole where something should be, because step one of recognizing we’re being played is noticing erasure. Seriousness aside, I hope you have fun with your shella and partner(s). I hope this questionnaire helps guide you into choosing more carefully, it is not fool proof by any means, but it’s an indicator. On a more personal note, I’d like to thank my friend Manmouna for making me think seriously about doing this and making it public. Oh, and this is a nod to my twitter friend Hegazy for pushing for more ghashama and while that’s impossible right now, he made me realize that we don’t emphasize how important politics are in our friendships or relationships nearly enough. Have fun with this, enjoy yourself, grow with it, add more to it, and remember that the political is personal and vice versa.
Happy dating and fuck anzemet el qam3,