Category Archives: Blame The Parents

Daddy Issues

translation: Metwally driver, Ashraf the tall guy... etc

translation: Metwally driver, Ashraf the tall guy… etc

This is what happens when your Egyptian father gets a smartphone with a touch screen.

A kind friend pointed out that Tamales means Zamalek

A kind friend pointed out that Tamales means Zamalek

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Someone pointed out that I clearly have Daddy issues since I’m always blogging about him. But seriously, look at these messages. The man is a comedic genius.

Whoops

Whoops

I know. I’m mean.

1 Comment

Filed under Blame The Parents

On Being Politically Correct

Last year, I had the horrible task of having to break the news to my father that his best friend, my best friend’s dad, was dying of cancer. I was especially wary of telling him as most of his friends had a habit of dying recently, and my kind mother immediately shirked responsibility and told me he’d rather hear it from me. Nadla.

‘Dad, we need to talk,’ I told him as he walked past, looking immensely cheerful after a great day on the beach. Seriously, it was like preparing to kick a puppy. A big, wardrobe-sized puppy; but a puppy nonetheless.

Baba’s face fell and froze mid-cheer, panic immediately setting in.

‘There’s something I need to tell you,’ I said, gulping. Puppies need to be kicked every now and then, I comforted myself, or else they’ll pee on the carpet. Not that my father pees on the carpet.

Baba now had the universal father expression of oh-shit-she-must-be-pregnant.

‘Are you pregnant?’ he growled, and if you know my father, you’d know how intimidating he is. Entire villages of men shake at the mere memory of his growl.

So I did the only natural thing I could do, which is panic.

‘Dad….’

‘Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr.’

‘I…uh… I’m a lesbian,’ I quipped.

Baba paused, and his facial expression immediately shifted to relief, then confusion, then comfort at the memory of the men in my life.

‘Don’t worry dear, I’m a lesbian too,’ he smiled. ‘I love women.’

So this is how we break bad news in our family.

5 Comments

Filed under Blame The Parents

The Overgrown Tomboy

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

–          Etiquette

–          Brazilian wax

–          Threading

–         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

–          3o2balek

–          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.

Instead:

Me: Blablablablablablablabla

Male: Uhuh.

Me: Blablablablablablablablablablablabla

Male: Cool.

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.

16 Comments

Filed under Blame The Parents

Fame and Your Family

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s been a while. I won’t lie to you, I’ve wanted to write more, but I’ve been busy basking in the fame and celebrity status I have earned in my family, thanks to my post I’m an Egyptian Woman and I Like Being Sexually Harassed.

Me: Baba, 3000 people read my blog about sexual harassment!

Baba: What’s a blog?

Me: it’s a note you write online.

Baba: Ah, so it’s not real.

Me: Why?

Baba: It doesn’t count if it’s not in a newspaper.

Me: 3000 people is a big deal!

Baba: I have 1000 names on my phone; does that make me a big deal?

Me: (sulking) This is not a competition.

Baba: She writes a note on Facebook and calls herself a writer.

Me: It’s not on Facebook!

Baba: Even worse.

Me: It’s a blog! Bloggers are writers, you know!

Baba: Does Naguib Mahfouz have a blog? Does Alaa Al Aswany have a blog?

Me: (sulking) No.

Mama: Are you sure the 3000 people are even real?

Me: What?

Mama: How do we know you didn’t click on it 3000 times?

Me: For God’s sake, people read my blog! When am I going to get some respect around here?

Mama: When you clean your room.

Baba: Let’s look at the newspapers today. Is your name in El Sherouk? No. What about Al Masry Al Youm? Bardo no. What about Magalet El Shabab? Ha? Ha?

Me: You people are terrorists.

Mama: Stop being so mean to her, Abdalla. She looks tired, she must have been up all night clicking on her note.

Baba: HAHAHAHAA!

Me: I’ll have you know that writing online is very cool. Alaa El Aswany tweets all the time.

Baba: He does what?

Me: He tweets. He sends messages on Twitter.

Baba: Mashy, so Alaa has tweetar. Hayel. How many books did he write?

Me: Many.

Baba: How many books did he sell?

Me: I’ll go clean my room.

21 Comments

Filed under Blame The Parents

On Birthdays And Other Scary Things

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I hate my birthdays. Not in the cute Hollywood I-Will-Not-Be-Defined-By-My-Birthdate-I-Am-At-One-With-Nature-In-My-Flowing-White-Dress-And-Flowers-In-My-Hair-Along-The-Beach kind of way.

No, I’m talking the heaving, hyperventilating, curling into fetus position while mentally dictating my obituary under the bed covers type of hate.

Drama queen? A little, I suppose; yet for as long as I can remember I have always been a nervous wreck around the time of my birthday. Why? Perhaps we could trace it all the way back to when I was three and I had a fit about the pink dress my poor mother was trying to make me wear -yes, even then I had a sense of style and didn’t listen to my mother’s advice.

Mother: Put it on.

3-year-old Me: No.

Mother: Go on, it will look pretty on you.

3-year-old Me: No.

Mother: Your friends are all outside waiting for you and this pretty pink dress will look nice. Don’t you want to go out and play?

Me: (stubbornly) No.

Mother: There’s pink cake too. With sugar icing.

Me: (less confident) No.

Mother: Look, just try the thing on.

Me: It’s ITCHY.

Mother: (exasperatedly) How would you know? you haven’t tried it on!

Me: It LOOKS itchy.

Mother: (Losing it) Look, you either try on the dress now or I’ll put you to bed and your friends can have your cake without you.

Me: (sniffling). Ookay. (Put Dress on) Oooh, it’s prittee!

Mother: (rolling eyes) Oh, don’t you look pretty in that!

But no, that couldn’t be it; I cannot blame a lifelong neurosis on a pink dress and a toddler’s attitude problem.

It’s not that I hate birthday parties; on the contrary, I’ve had many wonderful celebrations full of food, music, games and the people  I love.

It’s never been about the gifts either: as much as I love the shiny, superficial things in life; the experiences are even more valuable, which is why one of my all-time favourite birthdays was when I travelled alone to the Red Sea coast for a long weekend. With just three CDs (Pink Floyd, Dave Mathews and a mixed CD) and the third part of Lord Of The Rings, I spent my days sunbathing and reading, and my nights writing and sleeping. It was simple and relaxed. It was awesome.

But back to my annoying dilemma (I say annoying only because I’ve noticed how my friends get increasingly  wary of me as my birthday approaches, and my parents gently inform me that they will call me in a few days once my wave of pre-birthday neurosis has ended and I’ve stopped yelling at the phone that has imbedded itself into the concrete wall after I threw it)-

Perhaps all this fear, panic and self-indulgent whining have something to do with that time when I was twelve and a strange man came up to me at a Christmas bazaar. Without a word, he took my palm, proceeded to readthe lines on my hand, and then told me that I was going to die at the age of twenty four.

I tried to shake his words off, after all; how would he know? But what if he was right and I only had life till I was 24? That gloomy prospect stayed in my mind until that dreaded birthday finally arrived twelve years later.

Surprisingly enough, I didn’t die; but I did lose my best friend, a death that was quite difficult to bear and unfortunately not the last one to endure. I didn’t die at 23, nor did I die at 25 or even at 27, but that’s how old my friends were when I lost them. It’s always around my birthday when their deaths strike close to home again, when I remember their faces and wonder at the fact that I will never see them grow past those ages; and only they will remain forever young.

I also look back at my own life and question what exactly I’ve made of myself in all these years. I have yet to climb a mountain, yet to write a bestselling novel, yet to make a name of myself that will be remembered long after I’m gone. And when will I be gone? All these are tough questions to face on a day that should involve cake, balloons and glitter; which is probably why I retreat into my three-year-old skin every year and demand a loud party. Bring on the joy, laughter, and the pink icing cake. And my favourite meal of grilled chicken liver, peas and carrots and mashed potatoes; the same I’ve had every birthday since I was five.

This results in an argument with the same mother every year along the same lines:

Mother: I really don’t want to cook chicken liver this year. Can’t we just have a nice dinner at a civilized restaurant instead?

27-Year-Old Me: (Stubbornly) No.

Mother: (Sighing) Look, you’re too old to be this stubborn. Can’t I just take you to Abu El Sid and you order the liver there?

27-Year-Old Me: (Stubbornly) No. It’s my birthday. I want chicken liver. And pink icing cake.

Mother: Does it have to be pink? There’s no pink icing colour available at the supermarket. Can’t I just buy you a cake from Pumpkin?

Me: (lip trembling) Make some. Use rose petals. Or hibiscus flower. Be creative.

Mother: You know you don’t HAVE to have a pink birthday cake every single birthday.

Me: (stubbornly) Yes I do.

Mother: (sighs) I wish I’d had a boy.

Perhaps my fraught nerves stem from a fear of aging, which could probably explain the borderline fanatical obsession with my childhood traditions of pink birthday cakes, chicken liver meals and a big birthday party.

Lately, the aspect of aging has become a lot easier. I’ve begrudgingly come to accept that I will never look twelve again (though I occasionally act it), that cellulite and laugh lines are inevitable (in fact, i’m secretly rather pleased about the laugh lines appearing before the frown lines) and that turning thirty doesn’t necessarily mean the end of life: I have several friends who have survived the big 3-0 and are still cool; so it can’t be that bad.

I’ve also managed to cut back on the fetus-position/howling-at-the-moon-if-I-don’t-get-a-birthday-cake drama.

So, if you catch me scowling on my birthday or failing to smile when you burst into song or wish me a Happy Birthday; please don’t take it personally. I’m probably just fretting over the years of it raining on my birthday and resisting the urge to stamp my foot, have a tantrum and be sent to my room for acting all camp and drama queen-like. But then again, when the lip begins to tremble and the clouds threaten to cover the skies, I am comforted by the memory of that itchy pink dress that turned out to be a lot of fun, just like all of my birthdays and the years that I’ve lived through so far. So far, so good. No?

10 Comments

Filed under Blame The Parents