I do most of my thinking in the car, actually that might not be true. I think about random stuff all the time, it is just that usually in the car I have enough time and nothing else to do and can formulate entire thoughts. Today’s thought was about saying No. I had recently seen a couple of posts on facebook about rape culture and consent and how anything other than a clear YES means No, which should be obvious, but apparently isn’t.
This isn’t about rape, this is about No. In our culture, No, is not an acceptable answer. Ever. It starts really early on. A mother is feeding her child, the child is still an infant or a toddler and closes her mouth because she is no longer hungry. That is a pretty obvious No, isn’t it? What does the mother do? She forces said child to eat some more, because No is not acceptable. A different scene, the family goes to visit relatives, and the little child is ordered to hug and kiss one of the people they are visiting, the child refuses. Another quite obvious No, again the child is forced to give hugs. And it goes on and on into adulthood. An arranged marriage is taking place and after the prospective groom leaves, they ask the girl if she is interested and she says No. Now that is a very clear no, instead of accepting it, she will be required to explain and justify her answer. She will also probably be pressured to say yes, at least to another meeting. Even as grown ups, if you are invited to lunch, your host will try and force you to eat more than you want foods that you probably don’t want to eat. Even if you say things like “No thanks, I really don’t eat liver” they will probably ignore you and pile that liver on your plate. I hate liver, and I hate how it smells and I will not eat it even if you beg me, yet these people refuse to accept taking No for an answer.
This is unfortunate, instead of saying what you mean and meaning what you say, you end up either being passive aggressive or just lying to get out of having to say No. Passive aggression is more socially acceptable than saying No. I wish I had an answer for why this happens. Could it be control? Everyone likes to feel that they have control over others by obviously forcing them to do things they do not want to do? Or is it just another cultural thing that no one has ever thought about? It doesn’t seem like it is an accident that one of the first things babies learn to say is No. I understand that as a parent, we need to teach them to say Yes too. The tricky part is teaching them where their boundaries are and how to protect them. The trickier part is to teach yourself all of that as an adult. And this is just the direct refusal of your No, I haven’t even got to the part where you say Yes/Maybe/Whatever because you just can’t say No because you don’t have the heart for another confrontation or just want to be accepted, but that is a totally different story. Or they can’t take being guilted, blamed or shamed for their choices anymore. It is exhausting.
We need to say No if we want to. We also need to understand that when others say No, we need to accept that and back off. We don’t own others no matter how much we love and care about them.
I still haven’t decided what I want to be when I grow up. I did for a while. I was a software engineer. I liked doing that. But I wasn’t really all grown up. Then for a while I was just a stay at home mom. That too was fun and not so fun all the time. And since I was still not done growing up I didn’t feel like settling on that. Then I became a knit wear designer. I still sort of am. I still enjoy it. But I am still not done growing up. I sometimes entertain myself with thoughts of things I could do. I could become a novelist. I would definitely like that. I would also like to be a photographer. I like telling stories with pictures. I don’t want to tell sad tales of defeat but of happiness and spontaneous brightness in life. I could become a chef. I like cooking. Experimenting in the kitchen with ingredients and telling a culinary narrative with edible items. Or maybe I could make jewelry and use gemstones and metal that describe fairy tales.
And then I realized I am a story teller. We all are. The medium doesn’t matter. Everything we do or don’t so tells a story. Every picture, word, stitch, movement is just another part of the puzzle. Another paragraph in our autobiography. Some are better than others at curating their stories. Some are more meticulous in what they reveal. Some are raw and open. Some are private and share with only a select few and others happily tell the world using the biggest megaphone they can find.
I am going to be a story teller now and when I grow up. I am going to use all the different outlets that can be used to tell stories. Real ones, made up ones, legends, fables, useless ones; it doesn’t really matter. The story is not the end. It is the vessel. The telling is the real destination. The way you tell and the content you share with the world. To find the beautiful and show it to the world in the form of a story. That is what I am going to be doing while I grow up.
I just finished the book Notes from the Internet Apocalypse. It is Gladstone’s journal following the internet apocalypse. Suddenly the internet disappears and he is trying to find it. It is an interesting read.
“Magic is a cliche, but what do you call it when you enter a place and you can pretend you’re anywhere and everywhere from the Mesozoic era to present day, provided you haven’t killed every bit of childhood wonder with cynicism? It is magic. The kind that exists.”
What would happen if the internet is gone? I wondered. I am from the generation that existed pre- cell phones and constant connectivity. But I am also from the generation that has become so accustomed to the ubiquity of the internet.
I wake up and call my mom and sister who live on a different continent using VOIP. I check my email and my social media accounts. I also make a living selling digital files on the internet using a skill which I coincidentally learned by watching online videos and visiting blogs. I watch my movies, buy my books and learn stuff. I even use it to stay connected with my husband even when I am not away because we share photos, music and random notes. I use it to monitor what I am eating (and what I shouldn’t be) and upload the data from my wearable tech to find out how much I am moving (or not) and then compare that to what I should be. I listen to podcasts about topics I find interesting, that I might not otherwise have access to.
My daughter is 6 and she already knows that if she asks me a question and I don’t know the answer, we can Google it. She knows that she can stream her favorite cartoons on demand or read books on it. She sometimes even video chats with her grandmother and aunt all by herself.
But the question continues to pester me, what if it is all gone?
I wouldn’t be able to call my family. Would I resort to calling cards? Would we go back to writing letters? I wouldn’t mind writing letters, but with the current state of local post, I would probably be luckier to send homing pigeons. I know I would read more books. I remember when I would go through a couple of books a week. I still read a book a week, but I am sure that I would have more reading time if I didn’t get sucked into watching YouTube videos of people walking on water or doing strange magic tricks.
I would watch movies on TV when they aired or rent DVDs. I would listen to music when it played on the radio or buy CDs. I don’t mind these things, as a matter of fact, I might even enjoy the slowness of life. Everything is on demand now. Just think of a type of media and you can instantly devour it. I haven’t read a paper in years, I get my news from the internet.
I might even enjoy my bubble, not being bombarded every 10 seconds with sad and horrific news from around the globe, either from events that happen to people I know or people I do know who are scattered around the world.
But then the thing I would miss the most is people. I am an expat. I almost have no friends where I live. I stay connected with friends using technology and to be denied that privilege would be sad. Or maybe it would force me to go out and actually make friends. Even the friends I made here were found on the internet. I complained once about the lack of friends on twitter once, so a twitter friend who lives in the UK, connected me with her friend here. A friendship that grew and brought more friends with it.
I am sure we all suffer from information overload, all the time.
“There has not been a piece of technology designed to save labor that has not increased labor. Word processors allow you to do what your secretary used to do for you. The Internet, BlackBerries, iPhones, yes they keep you tethered, but that’s not the main problem. It’s that along with increasing personal productivity, they increase the expectation of productivity. It no longer becomes a bonus to do the work of one and a half men, but the norm. And then when everyone’s working at one hundred and fifty percent capacity, they can fire a third of the workforce and still maintain output.”
And then there is this quote. So much more is expected of us, of our children and of society. We no longer think that normal productivity is ok, we have to be overachievers. Children aren’t left to grow in their own time and speed, they are constantly being compared with everyone else on the planet. And when it comes to society we are expected to relate to everyone else, have a stance on everything and try to change the world. When people try to live in their bubble now, they are mocked, ridiculed and called self centered. The need for self preservation is higher than ever before.
I understand that it is a great tool. It has opened the largest gateway or portal for mankind to more information than we know what to do with.
The future will probably be even more connected than the present, but I guess there is no harm in going completely offline every once in a while to be ready for the apocalypse (just in case).
August 1st, 2014 | Category: General | Comments are closed
My father had an interesting habit, whenever he came home after a day or more away he would open the fridge and just check the contents. It had nothing to do with being hungry or wanting to eat, it was his way of confirming the fact that he had come home. I carry on the tradition.
I was born in a country that I was not a citizen of, moved to another country while still a child, lived in 2 different cities there and then finally we moved back to Egypt. Years later, I got married and moved to the country I was born in. I have no roots. I don’t share memories with a lot of people because the memories of my childhood were not shared with the friends I have today. When I started my own family I was obsessed with the idea of growing roots, settling down in one place and being buried there. I did not want my child to have to live through the same things I did. I wanted her to still be friends with her KG friends when she was 20 or 50. It is a romantic view. Not suitable for life today.
I sometimes wonder what home is. Is home a place? Is it the bricks and mortar that make the building?
It is a place, a time, family, familiar sounds and smells, a meal, opening the fridge. And so much more. It is the things you carry in your heart and yearn to all the time. It is that cup of coffee in the morning before anyone else is awake. It is the sound of the alarm clock. It is the shelf of books that you have already read and the shelf of books still waiting to be read and cherished. It is the box of old photographs. It is the smell of lunch cooking and a sink full of dirty dishes that no one else will wash. It is the place where you belong even if it doesn’t exist.
I don’t want to grow roots anymore, at least not just yet. I want to grow wings. I want to learn how to fly and discover the world. There is so much more homes out there that I still want to experience and enjoy before deciding on one that doesn’t move from place to place.
July 24th, 2014 | Category: General | Comments are closed
Every year after her birthday is over in October, my sister starts asking me what I want for my birthday. It is in November. And every year she ends up yelling at me, because I almost always won’t tell her what I want or if she suggests something that I feel is too expensive I will make up excuses about why I don’t want it.
The fact is, I feel uncomfortable asking for something, it feels impolite or wrong or needy or whatever it is. I am uncomfortable asking. It is that simple. Even though I am certain she doesn’t mind and can afford whatever it is I might want or ask from her. It is sort of like when someone asks you what do you want to do or where would you like to go out today and instead of telling them what you want you just say “whatever”. Whatevers do not make us happy. They are just a silly way of saying I want something but instead of asking for it I will just say that so i don’t feel like I asked for something. Maybe I don’t want to want something and then not get it. I am guilty of that too. The fear of rejection or failure creeps up in every part of your life when you let it.
I also feel bad about wanting things. It is like I do not believe I deserve to receive a gift from my loved ones. I do not feel worthy. I don’t feel I can afford to reciprocate a more expensive gift so I don’t want to receive one.
I did not see that reason coming.
I do not feel worthy of receiving gifts.
It is a scary sentence. It is also heartbreaking.
But it is not true, it is a lie. A lie that my brain has obviously so intricately woven into my thoughts that I was unaware of. A lie that I am no longer willing to tell myself or believe.
So this year I am going to make a list and send it to her.
October 24th, 2013 | Category: General | Comments are closed
I had to visit the bank (well a couple of banks and branches) recently, and noticed that there were almost no fat women employed. At least none were visible at the time of my visits. Also most of them (I don’t remember seeing any one) were not hijabis and they were also quite young and pretty. Strange observation right? It doesn’t matter? Right? These were all of course private banks and one was a global bank.
My problem isn’t discrimination (if it exists), but with social conditioning. We mostly associate the banking industry with efficiency, punctuality and professionalism. Government banks (like El Ahly) employ women, who are usually old, fat and veiled. I am sorry if I am being blunt. The real problem is that government banks are also associated with slowness, stupidity, rudeness and being dowdy.
The problem is that with time, eventually people start associating women who work at government banks with these negative traits and the positive traits from the private banks with young, thin women who do not cover their hair.
Again this is not about discrimination. This is more about what happens when we associate certain traits with what we see on the surface. It worries me that this is always more noticeable with women than men. Because there was quite an equal number of fat and ugly men at both types of banks.
After a while, we start believing that all fat women must be lazy and stupid. They must be lazy and stupid, they can’t get any decent jobs at good banks, they are only accepted at the bad banks. It all happens on the subconscious level.
It makes you think about all the other things that we also associate with traits without thinking. Do we think that fair skinned people are richer and more cultured than darker skinned people? Do we believe that older people are slow and obsolete? Short haired girls must be really boyish? Do we look at mothers who take care of their looks and always look put together and think, oh they must be neglecting their children? Some of these judgements are never spoken aloud. While others just linger in the back of our minds because of being conditioned for so long.
Look around you, what do you see?
October 2nd, 2012 | Category: General | Comments are closed
But before I go on my rant I have a disclaimer, if you are a housewife and like being called one, good for you, that’s your choice and I respect it, but it is not mine so please respect it too. Another word of warning, this post is really angry and might have a couple of expletives too.
Yes I am serious, you may call me a lot of things but don’t you dare call me a housewife, that lands you in black list forever. Don’t make fun of the things I do, or I will either stop talking to you or will find a way to get back at you.
I am not a housewife, I am not a meek woman with no opinions, I do not enjoy doing housework or keeping the house spotless. Staying at home raising a child was not really what I wanted to do with my life, and if I could go back and change things I probably would. I am not the kind of woman who will dreamily tell you that raising kids is hard and that I wouldn’t change it for the world. I don’t do crap and I don’t do bullshit. Yes, I knit, I sew, I crochet, I can make pizza from scratch and don’t bake a cake using cake mix. But that is not what defines me. For your information, I can also write code, I can disassemble electronic toys and put them back again. I can fix basic plumbing and wiring problems. I used to be a systems analyst and I used to be a software developer.
I don’t have a 9 to 5 job, but I run my own design business and it is hard work. I have to do work just like everyone else but don’t have the luxury of having protected work time to get it all done. I do it while running errands and taking care of a 4 year old.
Oh and back to that 4 year old. I am not that awesome at getting rid of the stains from her white t shirts or at cooking vegetables and forcing her to eat them. I let her draw on her body with felt tip pens, lick the glue stick and glue paper to the wall. Her room is messy more often than not, with art supplies all over the place. When she needs help I don’t rush to her side and help her every time, I step back and watch while she struggles until she can do it on her own. I don’t do it because I am an evil mother, I do it because I am teaching the basic skill of carrying her own weight, which she will need for the rest of her life. I throw imaginary tea parties to imaginary friends just because I can. I am not raising a sissy. I also throw fits when people call her a 3arussa (Egyptian for doll/bride it is usually meant as a term of endearment) because I don’t want her thinking that marriage is a goal in life, it is just a means of life. I throw fits when people try to tell her she can’t do boy stuff because she is a girl. She can play with cars and build stuff if that is what floats her boat, no one has the right to tell her what to like and what not to like because of her gender.
I get irritated when people don’t get what I do and instead of asking me to elaborate, they just assume I am a lazy woman who doesn’t want to work. So to them I say SCREW YOU. To the people who think I drop my daughter off at school and then go home and watch tv all day or sleep until I have to pick her up again. I get up every day at 5 am, just to get in an hour of work done before she is up. I get back and do some more work, while juggling laundry, lunch and whatever else needs to be done.
Am I perfect at doing it? No I am not, I struggle every step of the way, but no one is every sympathetic with me. Oh no, the sympathies are all reserved to the working mother. I am not bashing the working mother, on the contrary, I just wish people would stop bashing me.
I help my husband with some of his own work, but that’s never really recognized as work either. Because I am just a bloody house wife.
I don’t fit in with the housewives and I don’t fit in with the working women.
The story of my life
I just don’t fit in.
I have my own opinions, ideas, hopes and dreams. I am not an extension of a child or a husband. I am my own person. I don’t understand why that is so hard to understand for some people. I have never made ma7shi and I don’t intend to. I won’t waste time in the kitchen that can be better spent elsewhere.
The assumption that I am stupid because I don’t have a 9 to 5 job is the one that infuriates me the most. When people talk down to me I want to poke their eyes out with a fork. And when people tell me I am lucky I don’t have to wake up early and go to work every day drives me insane. I was at an outing yesterday with people I met for the first time, and when I mentioned that I got up at 5 am, they asked me if I worked and when I said no, they asked why would anyone wake up so early if they didn’t have a job. Well that is just it, I do have a job, I work two jobs actually, a full time parent and running my own business. I would get up at 4 if I could, and I just might end up doing that soon because I can’t find enough time in the day to do all the things I want and need to do. I understand why some people assume that housewives are stupid, I have met many of the stupid ones. Ones that have no identity, opinions or basic knowledge of a lot of stuff. And I usually want to kick them into fixing all that because they are going to raise idiot children who will plague us with their idiocy. I have also met working women who are just as stupid. Who complain all the time that they are exhausted and that they are swamped with work and that they have no life, some of them too have no opinions and if you listened to them you would assume they just came from under a rock.
To be honest, I don’t really care what other women want to do with their lives, that is their decision, and I don’t think I have any right to judge them.
I just don’t think anyone else has the right to judge me.
This is one awesome talk by Novel Laureate Daniel Kahneman. The next time you do something make sure you save the best for last for a happier memory of it. If you have no idea what I am talking about, watch this TED Talk.