In retrospect, I think I’ve spent half my life defending being a woman, and the other half wishing I wasn’t. Egypt is a patriarchal society, where men call all the shots and have all the fun – well, except when it comes to traffic police. Meanwhile, us women either attempt to fight the status quo and get labeled whores or feminists, or we’re stuck in a Stepford Wives-like nightmare. Yes, I generalize. But Stepford Wives scared the shit out of me.
I’ve envied men ever since the age of six – until then, I was running, climbing trees and playing hide and seek with the boys in my neighbourhood. Then one day, my mother informed me that it was time to put on the top half of my two-piece swimsuit instead of running around in shorts (I apparently spent the first 2.5 years of my life running around naked in people’s gardens , which makes for very awkward small talk 20 years later when I run into them).
I remember being absolutely indignant at my mother’s request.
‘Why should I?’ I hollered, ‘The other boys don’t wear tops.’
‘You’re not a boy, dear,’ my mother sighed. ‘You’re a girl.’
‘So what? I climb faster than them, and some of them cry like girls.’
It’s true. I remember a whiner called Sherif who would run blubbering to his nanny every time he got hurt while tree climbing. Yes, I was a tree climber and crying boys were sissies.
‘You’re not the same as boys, dear,’ my long-suffering mother tried again.
‘Why? What do they have that I don’t?’
An anatomy book landed on my bed the next day.
My mother tried to hammer into my stubborn head that my body was going to change and I would have to wear tops like all the other girls. I was horrified, and pursued a valiant two-year campaign of running, jumping and climbing things to outrun this garish nightmare. Eventually, the bastard known as puberty hit me, and I was suddenly expected to play with Barbie dolls, nail polish and wear pink frilly things and not climb trees anymore.
Fast-forward twenty something years later, and I still find myself often wishing I was a man, instead of being a gender that is physically, emotionally, and socially prevented from doing everything I want to.
It’s funny to realize that the possession of boobs holds you back more than it helps you. To my male counterparts and my community, my gender is a liability, one that attracts attention and trouble, both for me and for them. And as a former tomboy, I’ve come up with a practical list of why it sucks to be a female:
- Can’t pee standing up
- Can’t pee standing up in groups by the road side
- Burping is unladylike
- The word dainty
- Brazilian wax
- Sexual harassment
- People who justify sexual harassment
- Society’s expectation of you producing kids like guinea pigs before you’re thirty
- Disappointing your parents by not producing kids like guinea pigs before you’re thirty
- Disappointing your parents by being female (‘I wish I’d had five boys instead of you. They’d have been much easier to handle.’)
- Not being allowed to joyride a microbus
- Or to hitchhike
- As a journalist, not being able to crack into underground men-only worlds of prostitution and drug dealing
- Underwire bras and high heels (motherfucker who invented them deserves to be eye-gorged)
- Ladies’ clubs
- Egyptian weddings
- Being cajoled into the bouquet catching ceremony at Egyptian weddings
- having periods
- Nadia El Guindy
- Women hanging out in the ladies’ room, or even worse, insisting on coming into the stall to keep talking while you pee
- Self Help Books
- Talking about Self Help books
- Thinking Self Help books will actually explain men
- Having a cat means you’re one step away from Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction
- The existence of Female Genital Mutilation till today
- Oprah Winfrey
- ‘You’re so cute when you’re angry.’
- Not being able to jog shirtless like Omar Sharif’s grandson
- Chest bumping is awkward
I could go on but I kind of forgot the point of this list. I like making lists. They make me feel efficient. Sometimes I’ll write things that I’ve already done on the list so that I can cross them off and congratulate myself on being accomplished. [Day One: Get out of bed. Check.]
Honestly, life was so much easier when the measure of my worth was how high I could climb or far I could swim, and not how dignified I behave while politely eating a burger. Note: there is no demure way of eating burgers, watermelon, crabs, mussels, mangoes and spaghetti -my mother once told me: ‘Never eat spaghetti in front of the man you love, dear. The way you eat it, he’ll never love you again.’
And frankly, I do often prefer my male friends’ company to my girlfriends’. Conversations are so much simpler – and often monosyllabic – and do not involve detailed, blow-by-blow accounts of HelookedatmethenIlookedathimthenhesaidtomebutIsaidtohimsohewalkedawaydoeshelovemebutIhatehimletsfacebookstalkhim.
Me: I’m so glad we talked.
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t hate women nor do I hate being a woman, it’s just that this whole being feminine thing often perplexes me; especially when we spend hours of tweaking, sweating, squeezing and straightening our bodies, faces, clothes and minds to please our other halves who are meanwhile lounging in stained sweats in front of the TV with their feet on the table laughing at Beavis and Butthead. I mean, I can wear a dress and everything, but I’ve been such a tomboy/klutz my whole life with arms and legs that always get in the way that if you looked at my knees you’d think I was a) a football player b) a mountain climber c) a man.
Let me make another list (yay!) to explain:
- There’s a photo of me when I was two years old with a black eye. I apparently gave it to myself by punching spoon into face.
- I have stopped ironing because every time I’d iron, I’d accidentally iron over a finger or into my arm. Hello burn marks.
- I once dripped burning hot wax onto my leg. I stared at it for a good two minutes (still burning) then reached for a towel. And wiped the floor instead.
- I can’t slice anything or open a can without cutting into my thumb and bleeding everywhere dramatically
- I once stuck my hand into a hot toaster to see if it was hot enough, then burnt all the skin off my fingers.
- I set my fringe on fire after lighting the oven and didn’t notice until the smell of burning hair filled the room minutes later
- I am the only person I know who was injured by sand after reaching for a Frisbee and scraping all the skin off my leg on the beach. My friends died laughing.
- My baby toes are permanently disfigured from running into table legs and sharp objects
- I sat on a glass table. I fell into the glass table.
- I once bumped into the fridge and apologized. To the fridge.
Once again, I can’t remember the point of this list, but I think what I was trying to write something profound about being a woman, etc. Err. Yeah. I think.