He said he worried about his wife several years ago when Americans and other Westerners were targeted by militants in a number of bombings and shootings. "We took special precautions," Mazen said. "But things have gotten calmer and have become more normal."
Malof said her husband's family has been very accepting. But it took her a while to adjust to the religious police and the brazen boys in their buffed cars. The police patrol stores and sidewalks looking to fine or arrest women deemed to be improperly veiled. And the boys and young men, living in a country where the only contact with women is arranged through families, are bored and seek titillation by leering and driving alongside cars carrying women, sometimes boxing them in on highways.
"The religious police can spot a [partially veiled] blond head from a mile away. We'd run and hide from them in the shopping malls," she said. "Then there's the guys holding up signs in their cars, pressing them against the windshields and windows. 'Don't call 911, call this number.' Most of the time, these guys are harmless. They're just out cruising."
She said it's been difficult being an American in the kingdom since the Iraq war. She's received fewer invitations from Saudis and has been startled at how the U.S. is reviled in much of the Muslim world. This political chill is sobering and reminds her of other things so different from the farm country where she was raised. The desert is harsh and men believe children should be raised by wives and hired help. The call to prayer can be lulling, but it's hard to make friends with the neighbors, and her children have few places to play outdoors.
"It can be tough here," Malof said. "There was a time I was a very angry person. Once Mazen asked me, 'Why are you upset? When you're here, just expect the worst.' You can't change this society single-handedly. To live here you have to make peace with it. One day I committed, I'm never going back to the U.S. There is no Plan B. Sometimes it's easy to forget the problems I had in America too. A single, working mother with no maids.
"Would I really be happy back in Cincinnati, joining the PTA? I don't think so after having lived an international life. I think the people back home think I'm married to a rich prince and I'm the trophy wife."