BY Shefa Ali
I love the notion of forbidden love. Not sure if it’s the yearning, the exquisite heartache or simply the longing for an enchanting yet unachievable romance. Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, Coco Chanel and ‘Boy’ Capel, Aladdin and Jasmine and of course, forbidden love at its finest, Romeo and Juliet.
Love can be forbidden for many reasons – a big difference in age, religion or social class. Here in the Middle East, love is forbidden by religion and culture if it isn’t within the sanctity of marriage. Most people have their marriages arranged by their families and people usually marry within the tribe or close knit family circles, so any type of love before marriage is considered taboo.
That’s not to say that it doesn’t happen; it does, but it usually ends in tears and broken hearts. Being the local gossip girl that I am, I hear plenty of unhappy stories, probably some of the unhappiest ever told. I refer to these love stories as ‘The Impossible Love’; you know, all you lovers out there, the love that is – despite the desire - just impossible to pull off. Maybe some of you have at some time in your life lived the Impossible Love, the love that no matter what you do just cannot be fulfilled.
Here are two classic cases of Impossible Love from our society:
Forbidden Love Case A
My friend (let’s call her Mona) had to marry a man her family selected for her, but this man was in love with another woman. This man’s family forced him towards a marriage with Mona, although I don’t believe in that; no one can ever force you to do anything you don’t want to do and Islam does not permit this. Anyway, Mona got pregnant, and guess what? Her husband left! He explained to his family that he did want they wanted him to do – he married the girl they wanted and produced a full breed local child. Since he carried out his responsibility, he went off to marry his one and only true love. He divorced Mona and to this day does not care one bit about his baby boy.
Forbidden Love Case B
My other friend (let’s call her Sara) loved this dude, but she was not a purebred local, so her lover explained to her that his family was not in love with the idea of him marrying her. After a four year relationship, he explained that if he gets married to the girl his family selected for him then he can then marry her (similar to Impossible Love Case A). Four years into his marriage, he told Sara he can’t marry her right now because it would break his children’s hearts. He says he still loves her. So now after 12 years on, Sara is all alone while the dude is happily married with children.
The way I see it, there are only two kinds of love story: happy and unhappy. Either boy gets girl or boy leaves girl. Curiously, the unhappy ones are much more interesting; perhaps they help us come to terms with our own unhappinesses.
Case A demonstrates that sometimes, the forbidden turns out to be possible. Among the most famous stories of Forbidden Love are of King Edward VIII, Aladdin, Sir Lancelot, Romeo and their female counterparts. Edward VIII King of England gave up the throne for love. Edward made a global radio address, providing the explanation everyone had been just waiting to hear out loud: “I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as King as I wouldn’t wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love.”
Wallis Simpson, the lady in question, was an American divorcee (twice) and there was absolutely no way Edward could marry her and make her queen; the royal family and the public wouldn’t have accepted it. Instead, Edward became the first British monarch to abdicate. The price this famous royal couple of the 1930s paid for their love remains incomprehensible still to this day. The couple sacrificed it all for their undying love and spent the rest of their lives in exile from England. They remained loyally devoted to each other until his death in 1972. Wallis died 14 years later. They are buried beside one another in the royal burial grounds of Windsor Castle.
Due to their forbidden love, Romeo and Juliet are forced into conflict with the social world around them: family, friends, political authority, even religion. The famous lovers try to avoid this conflict by hiding. They volunteer to give up their names, their social identities, in order to stay together. In the end Romeo and Juliet can’t escape the responsibilities of the public world. To preserve their love, Romeo and Juliet commit suicide.
Whenever you hear the names Aladdin and Jasmine visions of magical carpet rides across the night sky, through the clouds, over the moonlit desert city come to mind. This supposedly Middle-Eastern romance is a Disney cartoon, but it perfectly illustrates the aspects of forbidden love. Aladdin, a poor beggar boy, wished to prove to everyone that he was much more than what they all called him – “street rat.” One day, he helped a young girl in the market place and he began to fall in love with her, not realizing her true identity in the beginning. The young girl was none other than the princess of the kingdom, Princess Jasmine, fortunately his love was reciprocated. Although the princess could only wed a royal suitor, Aladdin gets his girl in the end.
The opposite scenario that played out on screen in Pretty Woman was just as enthralling. The lost wealthy businessman comes across the Beverly Hills prostitute. He is serious and uptight as she is crazy and extravagant. They end up spending an unplanned week together and fall in love. Again all odds they end up together.
These stories seemed then, as they do now, the stuff that fairytales are made of. Hearing them brings about a sense of hope. Hope that the impossible is possible. That someone in the end will somehow pull through for us, too. Because in the end, that’s all a girl really wants, someone who would fight for her if it came down to it. Now, I know I am going to get so much slack for this article, but I am a dreamer – I just can’t help it!
People can’t help who they fall in love with. Love can happen no matter what your circumstances are. Whether you’re a king in love with an American divorcee, or a poor beggar boy chasing after the heart of a princess; whether your families have completely different faiths and backgrounds. Love happens. Or then again, it also could be the simple attraction to what we cannot have, the forbidden fruit, so to speak.
Regardless of the reason, love of these kinds has made for some wonderful and inspirational stories. Stories about such couples keep the dream alive. The dream that love, although forbidden or seemly impossible, with great sacrifice is achievable.