Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Eventful Morning

Today being my husband's first day back at work, I managed to hold out until about 10:00am. Given the fact that he starts work at 9:30am, that's not saying much really, is it? I had to stop by the clinic to see how he's doing.

When I arrived, his door was closed. So he was with a patient. I was actually relieved. A temporary respite. Wasn't looking forward to the moment when he realized I was there. I had a feeling he wouldn't like it, that he would consider it hovering over him etc...

Quick flash-back to when we were still dating. In those days, I would stop by the clinic whenever I felt like seeing him. And he would ALWAYS be pleased to see me. That thought brought on an attack of chronic Lump-In-Throat-Syndrome (LITS) so I didn't dwell on it too much.

Where was my friend - the receptionist(R) - anyway? There was no one at the reception and phones were ringing like crazy.

So there I was - reading very old magazines in the waiting room. The same issues they've had since before he and I were married. Told him about that so many times. An hour or so passed. I was starting to get restless. After all, it's not like I had all the time in the world. I was on company time.

A little later, the door opened and a patient walked out with the nurse. No sign of K. The patient was a young woman in hijab. She looked Palestinian but I couldn't be sure. Her eyes were red, like she'd been crying, but she was laughing with the nurse.

The nurse led the patient to a chair practically next to mine and asked her to wait please. The nurse did not acknowledge or greet me in anyway. I don't know what it was but something wouldn't allow me to let it go at that.

Me: How are you, (her name)?
Her(looking a bit sheepish): Fine thanks. And you? Long time no see.
Me: I'm fine too. Thank you. Will he be long?
Her: His next appointment is here. I don't know about the rest because R isn't here yet.
Me: Oh yeah, where is she?
Her: I don't know. She shouldn't be late. Some patients are finished and waiting for her to do the insurance documents. Only she knows how to do them. And she has our stamp locked in the drawer.

Boy, are we feeling talkative today, I thought. Normally, she'd barely say two words to me. But what she said made me worry about R. This isn't like her at all.

I called R. She didn't pick up. Curiouser and curiouser. Then I tried my husband's cell. I figured the nurse would have told him I was outside so no use hiding anymore. His cell was diverted to the reception. And of course R wasn't there to pick it up. Why does he do that? Divert his cell when he's at work I mean? I never do that. If I am busy, I keep it silent. I have my own voicemail so why make the receptionist take my messages for me?

Was still pondering that when suddenly all hell seemed to break lose. The sweet, gentle-looking Palestinian patient suddenly started complaining loudly about being kept waiting. And then other patients - who had been kept waiting much longer than her - started to echo her. In no time at all, it looked like there was going to be a minor riot in the waiting room. People are so impatient.

No one from clinic was there. I didn't count. The dentists & the nurses were all inside with patients. R was in the middle of her disappearing act. I sank deeper and deeper in my chair.

Soon, one patient after the other was leaving - declaring their intention of going to see the management on the top floor. A few minutes later, someone from the management showed up, trying desperately to placate everyone.

I saw him going into my husband's office - where he was apparently told to wait until my husband was done with his patient - because he came right back out & went into the next dentist's office.

It looked like a mess. And in the middle of the mess, R suddenly walks in. The management guy & two of the dentists - not including my husband who was still in his office - stood glaring at her.

Felt really sorry for her. The management guy told her that now that she was here - she should process everyone asap because they'd all been delayed enough. And that he would contact her superior. He apologized again to everyone, asked them all to be seated. When the place was quieter and a little more settled, he left.

What I hadn't realized earlier was that the Head of Dentistry was away for a conference - as of today - and that my husband was supposed to be acting for him. So he was now 'her superior'. The nurse explained this to me in another act of astounding friendliness. What WAS with her today?

I hadn't caught so much of a glimpse of my husband yet & it was nearly 2 hrs since I had left my office. I had to get back. So I told the nurse I needed to speak to him for a few minutes. Wasn't sure she'd tell him.

Apparently, she did. He came out into the waiting room 5 minutes later:

Him: Ahlan, ahlan. Saba7 Elkhair.(Good morning)
Me : Saba7 elnoor.(Good morning)
Him: Khair? Fi 7aga? (What?Something Wrong?)
Me : La. Itwa7shtak 7abait asalim 3laik.(No just missed you and wanted to say hello.)
Him: Allah yisalimik ya sitti.(Returning the greeting)
Me : How are you feeling today?
Him: El7amdullilah kwais(Fine thanks to Allah). Ana 3arif ini howa da illy gaybik.(I know that's why you're here.)
Me : 7amdilla 3ala salamtak.(Arabic expression meaning thank God for your safe return(to good health))
Him: Allah yisalimak. Bas ma kansh lazim tit3ibi nafsik wi tseebi shoglik ya3ni. (Thanks but you didn't have to go to so much trouble & leave your office.)
Mish ni32al ba2a? Yinfa3 kida? (He wants to know when am going to return to my senses. Which means when am going to stop worrying about him I guess.)
Me : I wanted to say welcome back to work. Can't say that from anywhere else but here. I'd look stupid welcoming people to a place when am not even there don't you think? So now that I am here, nawart el3iyada(Arabic colloquial expression of welcome. Literal meaning is you've brought light into a place - in this case the clinic.).
Him: Allah yikhaleeki da noorik(Thanks it's you who is the source of the light. Usual answer given.). Bas 7amdilla 3ala salmatak di tit2al kida 7af?(He's protesting the fact that all my good wishes are verbal.)
Me : Kaif kaif?
Him: Ya3ni, mafish taba2 konafa, kees fakha, ay 7aga?
Me : I could come back after work & bring a cake. In celebration.
Him: That's not exactly what I said but a cake would be nice, thank you.

He sort of patted me on the cheek. Then turned around & walked in the direction of his office.

Me: K! I'm talking to you.
Him: 7abibi mish fadi ana dilwa2ti(I'm busy now). Mish shayfa eldoniya ma2looba 2andi ezay? (Can't you see the mess here?)Roo7i inti kaman shoofi waraki eh rabina yihdeeki.(You should go back to work too.)

And he went back in his office. Was about to follow when I saw a patient walk in. Great.

I make a mental note to bake a cake AND buy him some Egyptian Konafa. I know he loves Konafa. I still have to figure out how to make him 3aseer 2asab(sugar cane juice) - something else he really loves but is really hard to get here.

Was pissed off at myself because I wasted the few minutes I had with him and forgot to put in a good word for R.

After I got back to my office, I called her. As soon as she heard my voice, she started crying. I asked her if anyone had spoken to her yet. She said no, not yet, they were too busy, that she doesn't know what will happen to her.

I asked her why she was late. She said she was staying with friends in Dubai & she has to take the bus to Abu Dhabi everyday. The poor girl doesn't have a car. I asked her why she was staying in Dubai. She explained that she and her roommates were kicked out of their flat because the landlord didn't want to renew at the same rate & they couldn't afford the new rate. And for two months now, she'd been trying to find affordable accomodation.

She said that she stayed at a hotel at 400 dhs a day for a whole week. And the rest of the time, she's spent staying a little with each of her friends. She and her roommate have finally found an apartment they could share but it won't be available until Feb 8th. Her roommate took the remaining time off & went to see her family in Romania. But R has used up her annual leave so she has nowhere to stay but with the friends in Dubai because she has no more money for hotels.

I felt so bad for her. Of course, I know that rents are exploding in Abu Dhabi because the demand is much bigger than the supply. Everyone says. But I mean, come on. The poor girl can't afford 400 dhs per day. And she can't travel from Abu Dhabi to Dubai everyday without a car.

Briefly, I considered asking her to stay with us until the 8th. After all, we have 3 bedrooms & there's only the two of us. But I figured I'd need to discuss that with my husband first.

I told her that when he talks to her, she should tell him what she told me. She's a good friend of ours but she seemed really scared of him. I hope he'll try to undertand.

Haven't heard from either of them yet. I have, however, heard from my mother-in-law. She called to check on my husband and, of course, couldn't reach him all day so she called me. I told her he seemed ok & gave her a brief account of what I saw at the clinic.

She went silent for a bit. Then she said she doesn't like to interfere but I should reconsider because it would be 7aram(religiously unlawful) for me to invite a female friend to stay with us. I asked her why. She said because I can't be home 24 hrs to chaperone them and if am not home then the female friend would be alone with my husband. She said it's 7aram for an unrelated male & female to be alone together.

I thanked her for the advice and hung up. Then I called my mother, told her the story to see what she'd say. She said that if it's for a short time and I really trust my friend and my husband then it's ok.

Haven't made up my mind yet. My husband and I really value our privacy. But it is only 8 days. I'll talk to him tonight & see.


Sunday, January 28, 2007

A Corpse, A Vegetable or An Imbecile

Me : 7abibi?(My love?)
Him: Ma t2oolish 7abibi(Don't say 7abibi). Ana mish 7abib 7ad.(I'm nobody's love.)
Me : Laish tayeb?(But why?)
Him: Kida. Ana 2arfan minik asasan.(He's saying he's pissed off/sick at/of me.)
Me : Come on. You think this is easy for me? I'm frustrated too.
Him: Inti tistahli. Ana zanbi eh?(He's saying I deserve it but he doesn't.)
Me : Ana astahil?(I deserve it?)
Him: Allah mish di afkarik elnayara?(Isn't this your bright idea?) Ishrabi ba2a (Don't complain).
Me : Allah yisam7ak.(God forgive you)
Him: Ya sitti. Allah yisami7na kolina.(God forgive us all.)
Me : Tayeb hat bosa. (Ok give me a kiss.)
Him: La ana khalas mish batbas.(No I don't want to kiss anymore)
Me : Na3am? So you're saying you want to have sex with me without even kissing me first?
Him: Mana ba2ali isboo3 mi2adeeha bos(He's saying he's done nothing but kiss me for a week now). That's not enough foreplay for you? Da inti moftariya.

Which made me laugh so hard I inadvertently scratched his arm.

Him: La ba2oolik eh dawafrik 3ashan bagheer wana lama bagheer bastaghba.(He's telling me to watch my nails because he's ticklish/oversensitive & won't be responsible for his actions etc...)

Being scratched really turns him on. I think he harbors secret fantasies about felines or something.

Me : Sorry.

He pulled me close. Forgetting what he said about kissing, he kissed me.

He went back to switching TV channels with me in his arms. Was fairly content with that for a while. Then I wanted another kiss. Said so.

Him: Eh wana mish lissa mideeki wa7da? (Didn't I just give you a kiss?)
Me : Please.
Him(kissing me): Khalas kifaya 3laiki kida(Ok that's enough.). Masma3sh sotik tani.(Not another word out of you.)
Me : Please don't be mad at me. I just don't want you to hurt yourself.
Him: Hurt myself how?
Me : I mean if we have sex before you're completely recovered.
Him: Leh inshallah(Why)? Nayem ma3 bulldozer(Am I sleeping with a bulldozer)?
Me : Well I can be a bit rough.
Him: 7abibi, inti how much do you weigh? 60 kg?
Me : 62.
Him: Ya3ni ana law ka7ait titeeri(So if I cough you'll be airborne). O3odi sakta bas(Just be quiet, ok?).
Me : Luckily for you, I am not that weightless.
Him: Luckily leh? Da inti tnawareeni. Min fo2 wala ta7t , ay itigah ya3ni kolo fol.
Me(warningly): K?
Him(all confused innocence): Yes dear?
Me : Behave yourself.
Him: Yes Mother. Ba3dain ta3ali hina. How do you know I'm not completely recovered?
Me : Are you going to work tomorrow?
Him: No.
Me : Did you go for your swim today?
Him: No.
Me : Did you go to Friday prayer yesterday?
Him: No.
Me : I rest my case.


Me : Look, I'm just scared ok?
Him: 3arif ana film elro3b illy inta m3ayisha nafsik feeh(He says he knows the horror flick I like to live in). What can I say? You're a hypochondriac.
Me : You know I really don't appreciate attempts to make me sound like a hysterical female who just imagined your illness.
Him: And I really don't appreciate it when I AM sick & people treat me like a corpse, a vegetable or an imbecile. If I say I feel up to something, I expect you to listen.
Me : Fine.
Him(suspiciously): Howa eh illy fine?(What's fine?)
Me : I get the message. My concern for you is something you see as a burden. Fine. I will try to control it. Or at least to keep it to myself.
Him: Thank you.
Me(crying at this point) : And if you still want to have sex, it's ok. Just not right now. I need time to calm down.
Him: Yeah, I'd say the mood is pretty much shot to hell right now. Take all the time you need.
Me : Thanks. Can you let me go now? I need to be by myself.

Funny but I was in his arms the whole time. I can't believe he can talk to me like that when he's holding me. Or that I let him hold me while he did it.

This is a convo where I started out laughing and ended up crying. I've written most of it down and everytime I read it, it hurts more.

Marriage is not for the faint of heart. It struck me today that he and I have had fights over practically every significant issue or event in our life together so far. My miscarriage, his illness, his friends, my social life, finances, parenthood etc...Everything seems to strain our communication lines. And the area of 'landmines' or issues we have to skirt around or avoid altogether because they're too sensitive or explosive - that area keeps growing between us. I don't know where this ends. Will we run out of things to fight about at some point & finally have some peace? Or will we run out of patience with each other first?

It was so much easier before we got married. And the saddest part is - I think we're more in love now than we were then. Isn't it sad when the more you fall in love, the harder it is to understand each other?

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Conflicting Basics

The last few days have been tough. In more ways than one. For one thing, 4 days of celibacy - apart from Ramadan - is plenty for us. We're not used to it. I mean, we have sex even when we're barely on speaking terms. I have yet to figure out if that's good or bad.

Usually if we're not having sex, it's because it's the wrong time of the month for me. Or because I am too exhausted or upset or whatever. He's not usually the one with the excuse. And to be honest, am not used to a situation where am ready & he's not. It just seems weird because men are supposed to live for sex, right?

Now I'm beginning to get a new understanding of how he must feel when I can't or won't have sex. I'm frustrated. I miss the intimacy. But I haven't been saying anything because well, it's wrong to have lecherous thoughts about him when the man isn't feeling well right?

So when I woke this morning to lecherous things being done to my body, I thought at first that I must be dreaming. I'd been having quite a few of those dreams lately. But as soon as I was a little wider awake, I was scared for him. Yes, he's improved but he's by no means back to normal. Maybe he should take it easy a little longer? What if one of us makes a sudden, wrong movement in the heat of the moment & his back is injured once more? I remembered his mother telling me only yesterday on the phone that it takes him 10 days to 2 weeks to get over these sprains.

Basic fear simply overcame my basic lust. I couldn't go through with it. I froze on him. Except I think I might have left it a little too late to do that because while he did stop, he didn't look happy AT ALL.

Afterwards, he said that if I wasn't in the mood, all I had to do was say so. Not in the mood? I told him that he must be kidding, that I am so in the mood it's actually scary. He asked me so what happened?

Trick question. You see, am not supposed to mention his illness. Am supposed to pretend not to notice it. He's made it clear he doesn't like being constantly reminded or made to feel feeble & helpless when he's sick. And I had faithfully promised only last night that I would stop reminding him.

But if I don't tell the truth, then well, I don't need him to start thinking I don't want him or anything stupid like that. You never know where a man's thoughts might lead him. They're such strange, unpredictable creatures.

Talk about a rock & a hard place. In the end I opted for the truth. He listened to my lengthy, fumbling explanation and said only that I should have trusted him to take care of both of us.

Which of course made me turn on the waterworks. Big-time. What woman wouldn't? I mean, that SUCKS!!It's totally unfair! He can't turn this into a trust issue. We do NOT have a trust crisis. We have a medical crisis. I DO trust him. Completely. Implicitly. With my life.

I just don't trust an injured muscle to sustain sexual activity before it has completely recovered. And I hate seeing him in pain. So I'm willing - not happy - to wait. Surely that's not an unreasonable position to have? Why am I having so much trouble making it sound as reasonable as it is?

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Thursday, January 25, 2007


Following what had to be the worst night so far, I finally tire of my newfound role as emotional punchbag/doormat/crutch, harden my heart & decide ok that's it, am going to work in the morning & he can take care of himself - or not. I tell myself from now on, it's all up to him, that I've done what I can. I stifle all twinges of conscience & the little voice inside my head that kept whining "But he's my baby. But he's sick etc......"

This morning as I was getting ready for the office, I thought I heard good morning. Couldn't be sure though because it was said very softly & when I turned to look at him, he seemed to be asleep. Besides, I told myself, for several days, he's been ignoring my good mornings so even if he did say it that was his tough luck, it was my turn to ignore him, right?

Then - at the office - just as I was finishing my second cup of coffee, I get this SMS:

"Elnas btrod 3ala sba7 elkhair be ay sba7...sba7 el3asl masalan, sba7 elfol, bosa, itnain, talata. Kida ya3ni. Mish biltanfeed ya basha. Wala eh?"

(People usually respond to good morning with good morning(or words to the same effect). With a kiss or 2 or 3. Something like that. Not with silence. Don't you think?)

Ok, the man is clearly resolved to drive me insane!

For 3 days, I am literally at his feet, giving him all my time & attention, treating him like royalty, getting him what he wants before he even thinks of it and how does he respond? He acts like he can't stand me.

Then the minute I leave him alone, he's suddenly all jokey & flirty & begging for my attention?

Please, please tell me that I am not supposed to play hard to get with my own husband! Oh please!

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

When It Rains

I love my husband. I do. It's just not always easy to remember this. Sometimes I have to make myself repeat it constantly under my breath like a mantra.

The second I open my eyes this morning, I can hear the shower running in the bathroom. Jumping out of bed, I rush to check if we have clean towels in the bathroom cupboard. No luck. Frantic, I go to the kitchen to check in the dryer. Thank God, I find one. I know that if there's no clean towel within easy reach, he'll just walk out dripping. Which I can't afford now. Until further notice, keeping him warm & dry has become the focal point of my existence.

I get to the bathroom. He's just getting out of the shower. I hand him the towel. I have to clench my hands into fists to keep from throwing said towel on him & rubbing vigorously until I know for sure that there's not a drop of moisture left on his back. I have recently been told - in no uncertain terms & in several, choice phrases - what he thinks of such behavior. Very conscious of the fact that these days he has me pegged as Public Enemy Number One, I decide it would be a good idea to remove myself - or him - from the immediate vicinity.

I ask if he's done with the bathroom. He says yes & leaves me to it.

Later, in the kitchen, I make our coffee. And I make him a sandwich. I get back to the bedroom to find the door to the balcony open. He's standing out in the balcony. Barefoot & wearing nothing but a pair of shorts. It's so humid the glass on the balcony door is practically opaque. And he just had a shower.

I step out into the balcony in my thick bathrobe & bathroom slippers & I am FREEZING. Terrific. Cold & humidity. On top of whatever the hell he already has, he's now trying to get arithritis. Not to mention pneumonia. Because we haven't both suffered enough in the last 2 days.

I take a deep breath.

Me : 7abibi, I made you breakfast.
Him: I'm not hungry.
Me(still fighting to keep calm): At least have some coffee.
Him: Ba3dain.(Later)

Yarabi, what do I have to do to get him inside without letting on that I want him to get inside given that he does the exact opposite of whatever it is he thinks I want him to do these days?

Me: K, it's really cold out here.
Him: Law bardana idkholi gowa.(If you're cold you get inside.)
Me : What am I supposed to do inside all by myself? I took time off to be with you.
Him: Manti kaman btistahbili. Elmafrood konti tiroo7i shoglik. (He's saying I am silly to take time off, that I should go to work.)

At that point I am praying "Allahoma irfa3 ghadabak wa maqtak 3ani"(Please God save me from Your Wrath). Forget the going to work bit. We both know am not going to work until he goes back to work but if I am cold?IF I AM COLD? I am not the one who has been bedridden with a bad back for the last 48 hrs you stupid idiot, I want to scream. Of course I don't though. One of us has to be an adult right?

Me: Ya 7abibi wallah bard 3laik.
Him: Ya ragel.
Me: K, please come inside.

He ignores me. And he doesn't come inside.

Of course in less than half an hour, he comes inside of his own accord & goes straight back to bed without saying a word. I know he's in pain again. A little while later, I hear him on the phone to a pharmacist friend of his. He's giving the guy a list of medications. He tells his friend 'ana hakhali elwiliya t3adi 3laik dilwa2ti 3ashan takhodhom'. Elwiliya. That's me. He's never called me that before. Oh well I've been called a lot things in the last 2 days that he's never called me before so what's one more name?

And of course when he asks if I'll go to the pharmacy & get his medications, I say sure 7abibi, anything 7abibi, your wish is my command etc.....And I do hurry up because I know he wouldn't take anything at all unless he was pretty desperate. I am so angry I start crying in the car because I could tell he was better when he got up this morning. Why did he have to pull that stupid stunt in the balcony? When will this ever be over if he's going to behave like this? What if he's really hurt himself this time? How do I know when he won't even get an X-Ray?


Earlier this evening, my manager calls. He asks how my husband is, when I think am coming back to work etc....The whole time am thinking this is really unusual. That something else must be on his mind. And not something good.

Finally, it comes out. We're currently working on a tendered package for one of our clients. I am writing the technical specification. And we will also be evaluating the bids. Again I am responsible for the technical part of that.

It's a pretty big contract. And one I will never forget because it gave me my first live encounter with corruption. Last week, one of the prospective bidders actually came to my office and tried to get me to tailor the specification to his product. And later, to recommend his technical proposal over others. All for a price of course.

I did what I thought was right. I left him waiting in my office and went & got my manager. I repeated to him what the guy said to me infront of the guy. I never saw anyone's face get as red as that guy's did that day. He denied everything. My manager asked him to leave and not visit our offices again.

My manager called the client and set up an urgent meeting with them during which we briefed them about what happened so they could tell us what they wanted us to do about it. They were very angry - naturally. We charge them what I consider extortionate fees & in their place I'd be pretty angry with anyone who tried to corrupt my consultant.

The next day, we were instructed not to accept any bid from that particular vendor. Apparently, the decision was made at the highest level within the client's organization.

Happy ending, right?

You tell me. The day after the fiasco with the attempt at bribery, another vendor called to tell me he wants to drop by our offices to pick up his bidder's pre-qualification package & to ask me a few questions. I said sure. About an hour later, he called to apologize for being late and asked if he could still come and see me. I told him I needed about half an hour. He said that would give him time to visit Starbucks as he hadn't had coffee all day. And asked me if he could get me anything from Starbucks. Without thinking, I said yes thanks. So the guy brought me a regular caramel machiatto from Starbucks. We had a 45 minute meeting and then he left.

The problem? My manager saw him walk into my office with the Starbucks package & he was calling to grill me about the meeting. I answered all his questions as patiently as I could. And I pointed out that I had already emailed him the minutes of meeting.

He tell me he thinks it's inappropriate for me to be allowing a prospective bidder to buy me coffee, that his might compromise our integrity and objectivity, that he'd really rather I didn't socialize with any of these people. Socializing? Someone bringing a cup of coffee from Starbucks to a meeting IN THE OFFICE is socializing?

I told him I disagreed with that assessment, that there was nothing compromising about the way I behaved & that he was blowing things out of proportion. We kept arguing then he said he didn't want to disturb me anymore at home, that we'd discuss it when I came back to work.

So why did he call to talk about it aslan? I know it must have been preying on his mind for the last 2 days. I left the office right after that meeting. And I haven't been back since because of my husband's illness.

Ok so to recap, I have a husband who isn't getting better because he keeps shooting himself in the foot to spite me (or to be stubborn - whatever) & a boss who thinks I can be corrupted by a cup of coffee.

I am so popular these days aren't I?

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Nursing Duty

Despite all my best efforts, he's not feeling any better. Took a couple of days off work to sit by his bedside. I am doing everything I can to make him as comfortable as possible. But as of now, there's no indication that I am doing anything other than irritating him. His mood hasn't improved. He's still snappy & sulky.

Everyone please meet my husband. 33 going on 6 years old. Can't he see I am just worried and trying to help?

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Playing Nurse?

My baby's sick.:(

A severe muscle strain in his back. Very sudden. He's obviously in a lot of pain even though he won't admit it or take anything for it. I know he's in a lot of pain because he actually came home from work early today. Have never known him to do that.

He says it's only a muscle strain, that he's had them before, that it will go away on it's own. And he won't see a doctor. I called my mother and she agrees that's probably what it is because his work involves a lot of standing & bending over patients in positions that are not necessarily healthy. She says bad posture will give you occasional back problems in the long-term. Even though he does exercise regularly.

I suspect it was also the day we went out biking that finally triggered it. It had been raining before he picked me up & he was wearing a really thin sleeveless t-shirt. I remember his back being soaking wet. And it was cold. Or maybe I was too heavy leaning on his back? Or maybe my convulsive, death-grip on him caused by extreme terror was too much for his back to handle?

Mom says he should stay in bed, keeping his back straight, keep warm & take something for the pain, that he will be better in a few days. A few days! That's too long. If not, he should see a specialist.

Well, he IS in bed. I get the feeling he couldn't get out of bed if he wanted. Keeping him warm is a bit of a problem when he won't wear anything in bed but I've bundled him in extra blankets and rubbed Deep Heat on his back at regular intervals & fed him & made him lots of hot things to drink. I suggested a hot water bottle. He said thanks but what he has is not PMS. Geez. Macho man! Just because I use my hot water bottle when I have PMS doesn't mean it doesn't have any other, perfectly masculine uses!

And keeping his back straight? Well, he's asleep right now. On his stomach. On top of a pillow he has squeezed in his arms. Looking utterly adorable admittedly - and I AM a bit jealous of the pillow - but his back doesn't look very straight from where am sitting. I am tempted to pry all the pillows away from him, try to adjust his position a bit & sneak that hot water bottle up on him after all. What are the chances I'll manage all that without waking him up & having to listen to something unprintable? Slim to non-existent. That's another sign that tells me he's in a lot of pain. He doesn't usually curse me. Or curse infront of me. And he won't let anyone else curse infront of me either. So the fact that he's doing it so frequently today means his back must hurt like hell.

Who was it who said that doctors make the worst patients? Excuse me. Not doctors. Dentists, as he would be quick to remind me. Well, people in the medical profession. They're all the same to me. Sorry but I just can't see the distinction he's so particular about.

At this rate it doesn't look like he's going to work tomorrow. Which means am calling in sick too. No way am leaving him home alone when he's not feeling well.

And now, I think I'll go risk getting cursed out after all.

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Saturday, January 20, 2007


So I am struggling to be tactful in introducing a subject I find highly morbid & depressing. I get all tongue-tied & trip over words until he loses patience & tells me to just spit it out because he hasn't got all day. So I tell him I don't know anything about his finances or vice versa & that might create problems in the event of an emergency.

Silence. Then I look up to find him staring at me like am crazy.

Me : What?
Him: Ba2a howa da illy mday2ik wi mkhaliki min elsob7 3amala tlifi witdoori mish 2adra tinta2i?
Me : Yes.
Him: Eh ya 7abibi nezam Alzheimer illy inti feeh da? (He's asking if I've got Alzheimer's Disease.)
Me : What do you mean?
Him: 2olili how inti ma3aki elcard illy ana kont midihoolik zaman wala daya3teeh?(Do you still have the bank card I gave you long ago or have you lost it?)
Me : La. 3indi.
Him: El7amdullilah(Thank God). Ya3ni feeh amal(So there is hope). Tab ya roo7i. On the back of the card you will find an 800 number. Call the number and activate the card. I can't believe I have to explain this to you. You're supposed to be tech wiz in this house.
Me : You don't need to explain it. I know how to activate cards.
Him: Allah yinawar 3laiki. Tab lama inti shatra awi wi bti3rafi ma tgarabi kida wi ib2i 2oolili fi eh.(Good. So why not try & let me know what you find?)
Me : Why not just tell me?
Him: A2oolik(I'll tell you) wi malo. The card gives you access to all my accounts: current, savings, loans, credit cards. It's all there wi ta7t amrik min ghair wala emergency wala 7aga. 7atta el7asabat illy bara(Even overseas accounts) can be accessed online. Which you would already know if you had ever bothered to activate the card.

I was speechless. I thought it was just a credit card! It looks like a credit card!

Me(spluttering): You mean I could ruin you with a few mouse clicks?
Him(smiling): If you wanted to, you could make me a very poor man.
Me : I don't know what to say.
Him: Well, that's new.
Me : You didn't have to. I mean, thank you for trusting me that much bas really, isn't this too much?
Him: I knew you'd find SOMETHING to say. Too much eh wi bta3 eh ya bint elhabla? Inti 3abeeta ya bit? Howa ana baini wi bainik eh? Wara2it 3orfi? Inti mrati. You're my responsibility. Ba3dain howa ana 3ayel sogayar 3ashan tifootni 7aga zay kida?

Ok that's the stuff I don't like to hear. Am not his responsibility. Am an adult. Am responsible for myself. But I wasn't going to make an issue out of it just then. Was too shocked by what I found out. I needed time to take it all in.

And I was too embarrassed by his generosity. Generosity can be excruciatingly embarrassing I am finding. I mean, no one has ever casually given me the power to ruin them. Without even discussing it. Like it's the most natural thing in the world. Even if it's done out of chauvinism, how can I say anything but thank you?


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Out Riding

behind him on that motorcycle last night. That had to be the scariest thing I've ever done in my life. Those things are so fast & so exposed I can't believe they're actually legal.

Last night has given me a whole new perspective on mortality - mine & his.

It's so frightening that this is his idea of a hobby. Why can't he just do something basic & male like drink beer & watch sports? Ok maybe not the beer.

Having a biker husband sucks. What kind of luck is this? I hadn't even realized you could have Egyptian dentist bikers. I mean, he wears no jewellery, sports no tattoos, his hair is not long, shaggy, dirty-blond or worn in a pony-tail. He's done more graduate school than I ever dreamed of doing & his ambition in life is to do more. Which makes him a boring academic, like he keeps saying.

And what is my boring academic doing speeding like a lunatic on a stupid motorcycle? That's not what I bargained for, damn it!


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Money & Mortality

Several responses to my post on marital finances were to the effect that married couples need to be aware of each other's finances in order to be prepared for emergencies. It made me think of how whenever we have a family get-together - which doesn't happen as often as any of us would like these days - my parents would insist on sitting us down & updating my siblings & me, complete with documents, on where they stand financially & what each of us would be entitled to get in the event of their death. They'd feel compelled to explain & justify each decision they had made & plead for our understanding. Decisions like why the younger siblings are entitled to more because they're still students, why the girls need more economic security than the boys etc....And I remember how awkward it would be, how embarrassed we'd all get, how my sister & I would start crying because we can't stand the thought that one day our parents might not be around. And how my parents would then start telling us we should never fight over money after they're gone, that instead we should always stick together etc... And then my older brothers would say that of course they will always take care of us girls. And I would say the same to reassure my parents. I mean, of course I'd take care of my little brother & sister if they needed it. How likely is it that I tell my 16-yr-old sister - unpleasant though she might be - to go out & earn her own living? Do these things really need to be reiterated ritually & periodically?

God, I hate those conversations.

I never read the documents. Never felt up to it. I'd just stuff them in a drawer & keep them sealed until the next meeting & the next set of 'updated' documents when we'd be told to destroy the old ones because they're now worthless. I wouldn't do that either. I'd have to touch them to destroy them and I don't want to. Much easier to just shove them all somewhere out of sight & not think about them.

When I tried to think of handling my husband's finances in the event of his death or disability, the first reflex was I don't care. If I can't have him then I don't want his money. You see, I don't have any sense of entitlement to my husband's money. If I had to borrow money from him, it would feel just as awkward as if I was borrowing it from a friend. The fear of imposing would be the same. Even more so actually because while a friend would let me pay it back, my husband never would. When he tries to give me money, I feel just as insulted as if a total stranger was trying to give me charity or something.

I didn't feel any richer when I got married. Financially, I still felt I was on my own. So I never really gave much thought to what he does or does not have. If he gives me something, it's a gift. It means he loves me. It would mean a lot less if I thought he was giving it to me because it was my legal entitlement by that piece of paper he signed with my father.

A long time ago, a friend of mine was once talking about everything she was entitled to get from her ex-husband that she isn't getting & how she was suing him for alimony even though they had no children & the logic of it just went straight over my head. I mean, if I break up with a boyfriend, would I say to him:"Ok, now you owe me X dirhams for the two years we dated"? To me, marriage is just a formality, a piece of paper that makes it possible for me to be with the man I love without having to upset my parents or deal with any culture/religion-related issues. If I was born in a different culture with a different set of religious beliefs, I don't think I'd have ever married or felt compelled to declare our love for society's approval. I'd just live with him.

It's different with my parents. I've always known that my parents have worked all their lives to give us a good standard of living & that virtually every cent they ever made was made with us in mind. They brought us into the world & they feel very strongly that our well-being is their responsibility. That makes sense to me. I would feel the same about my children.

With my husband, am not his daughter, am his wife. We're partners, we're equals so am not about to charge him for being his wife. I'd only agree to share our finances if it was done with the understanding that we are equals, if he would feel as entitled to my money as he wants me to feel to his. Otherwise, I prefer to keep our finances seperate. I want no part of a partnership where I am the junior partner. Blame it on my horoscope. I am a typical Libra - the sign of the Scale. I like everything properly scaled & balanced.

And yet my mother has convinced me that in the event of an emergency (not a fatal one), I might need to know about his assets so I can use them to help him or just to keep them safe for him. That I had to accept.

I decided to start with myself. For the last hour or so, I have been writing down details of my own financies, trying to figure out what he would need to know about my finances if I were to suddenly drop dead or comatose? And having all sorts of questions about how to be fair.

There's my gratuity. My parents are named as the next-of-kin beneficiaries in the event of my disappearance from the scene. It's in my work contract that I have to tell them who to give my end-of-service benefits to if I die. Should I tell him about that? But before I tell him, shouldn't I make him a beneficiary also?

There's an apartment & some pieces of land that my parents have bought me in Casa. If I die, should they go back to my parents - and my siblings after them - or go to my husband? Who is more entitled? How do you choose between your family & your husband?

The apartment is currently leased. The rent money is deposited in my account back home. Ok, he should know about that account. My parents already know about it since my father opened it for me but my husband should know too. That's pretty straight-forward.

And then there are my savings - which are invested in a portfolio of bonds & stocks with the same investment firm that my father uses. Again, my parents are named as the beneficiaries & the next-of-kin on that. I guess I should add him to the list & make him aware of it.

Loans? I just have my credit cards. But these will be automatically deducted from my gratuity because banks here will only issue you a credit card if you bring a letter from your employer to that effect. And besides, I rarely use them anyway. And when I do, I make sure I repay them within the 40-day grace period so that I don't have to pay interest. That was something my parents taught us because they believe interest is haram. Haven't got anymore loans. I had a loan but it's finished now. And I finished paying for my old car two years ago.

Do I owe anyone money? Well I owe my brother some money because last time he was here, I happened to be out of cash & couldn't get to an ATM so he loaned me some cash. But it's not very much & anyway he refused to let me pay him back & I doubt that if I died he'd let my husband pay him back. It's better to keep silent about that sort of thing.

Does anyone owe me money? Quite a few people. But do I want my husband chasing after them after I am gone? Not really. Some of them I trust to bring it back when they can without being asked. The others I know can't afford to pay me back & I only gave them the money in the first place because they're close & I had to help but I called it a loan so they wouldn't feel bad about it. So this he doesn't need to know either.

It's more involved than I thought. I hope HIS finances are less complicated.

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Expensive LouLou?

I was absolutely thrilled with my anniversary gift. And I have come to love my new car as much as the old one. If the old one meant a lot because it was the first car I bought for myself, the new one also has it's mushy, sentimental value because my husband gave it to me on our first anniversary.

But lately, the accumulation of a lot of comments & reactions has made me have misgivings. Everyone acts like this is something out of this world - that it just doesn't happen, that it's too much. All this disbelief has left me feeling guilty, like I'm a parasite bleeding him dry or something. The thing is, I don't know any other woman who gets anniversary presents like that.

So now am left feeling gluttonous, decadent, greedy etc...I don't like the image of myself as one of those demanding, gold-digging, obscenely expensive wives who drive their husbands to bankruptcy.

Even my aunt was lecturing me about how I shouldn't let him do things like that, that we are just starting our lives together & we haven't even started a family yet etc....so we should be taking this opportunity to save & invest for the future etc....that a sensible, wife would teach her husband to economize if he didn't know how, instead of wasting the money on motorcycles & new cars & holidays etc....

But the thing is, how could I have stopped him? I don't 'let' my husband do things with his money. He makes those decisions for himself. We keep our finances seperate. I don't even know how much he makes, for heaven's sake. I don't know anything about where he stands financially really. Which is worrying. Because now am starting to obssess about how well he could afford to buy me a new car. I don't want him spending money he doesn't have or getting into trouble or anything.

I don't THINK am an expensive wife. At least I try very hard not to be.

When I moved in with him, our rent & utilities were prepaid for a year by his employer. He's entitled to accomodation & utilities as part of his package. Am entitled to cash in lieu of accomodation & utilities - which he isn't - meaning I can have it in cash whereas he can only have it in the shape of a rented house/apartment with the clinic's name on the lease.

So it made perfect sense to leave the issue of rent to him.

The interior designer was a friend & refused to let us pay, insisting on doing our apartment as a wedding present. The furniture, we bought together, each of us picking up the pieces we liked or that were more important to us.

However since he never used to cook when he was living alone & never bothered to stock up on supplies, whereas I love to cook, I decided I should pay for food & supplies. He resisted that initially but couldn't keep that up for long because he's so useless at buying groceries & household supplies he never brings back anything useful and I end up having to go & buy them again anyway.

Our personal expenses are completely seperate. That means car expenses, phone bills, clothes etc....Except I can't say car expenses anymore because now he pays the monthly installements & insurance on my car doesn't he? Bummer.:(

What else is there? Well our dry-cleaning rule is simple. If you pick it up, you pay for it. When we go out together, he insists on paying. I've learnt to let that go because he's so stubborn about it & then make it up later by picking up something for him within the same price range next time I go shopping . Sometimes I make it up by buying something for the house, something we can both use.

When we go away on holiday, he insists on paying airfare & hotel bills so I try to buy tickets for theater, opera, boat/yacht rides, sports events etc....He won't let me pay while am with him so am careful to get tickets beforehand. Am also generally responsible for buying souvenirs, gifts for family, friends etc....

One-way or the other I've managed to keep things pretty balanced so far. And he keeps saying I hardly cost him anything, that we live like roommates.

I mean, I wasn't even particularly expensive for him to marry since my family insisted on paying for the wedding which was arranged back home without much input from me or him & was really out of our hands. Which was good because weddings in my father's family are huge, tribal events which go on for several days, with an uncle giving a dinner here or aunt hosting something at her house there etc...My parents would have paid quite a bit but most of the expense would have been shared out among our relatives & would be absolutely prohibitive if one person tried to pick up the tab on his own. Besides, my parents said it wasn't fair to make him pay anything when 99% of the guests were people he didn't know who were our guests & who we invited & not him. The wedding took place in my hometown not his.

That was another big point of contention. He didn't like not being allowed to contribute anything to his own wedding & kept complaining that he felt like a guest not the bridegroom etc...And my father essentially told him that once I was 'fi baito'(living in his house which Arabs use to mean a wife moving into her husband's house & becoming his property I guess), then my husband could pay things for me but as long as I was still living with my parents, I was their daughter & they would pay.

After the katb ketab, he had his bank issue me a sort of supplementary credit card. I took it because I didn't want to upset him further in the middle of all the tension with my parents over the wedding expenses but to this date, I have never even activated it. When he asks, I tell him I am keeping it for emergencies. The thing is, I've got my own credit cards, why would I charge things that I buy on somebody else's card just because he's a man & am a woman? It makes no sense to me.

My head has been so full of such calculations & balance sheets over the last few days. I am desperately trying to convince myself that I am not ruining him or condemning our unborn children to a life of poverty & destitution just because he bought me a new car.

I don't want to say any of this to him yet because I know he'll be upset that am reacting to his gift this way. He will accuse me of creating problems where none exist, not trusting him, being obssessive, being impossible to please, letting other people interfere in our life etc.....He will not like any of it.

How does a woman go about making her husband 'economize'? Any advice anyone? I don't see my husband responding very well to any attempt to tell him what he should do with his money. I really don't.

And the funny thing is, when he got himself that motorcycle for his birthday, a friend of my mother's told me that I shouldn't leave him with so much extra money, that men tend to stray when they find themselves with money to spare & that I should make sure I always spend all his money so he can never afford to take a second wife or have an affair!


Friday, January 12, 2007

Hell Hath No Fury

than a woman scorned? Maybe but what I question is why no mention of a woman whose son you scorned? Because that particular brand is no less scary.

Last time I checked, turning down a marriage proposal was not in violation of any treaty.

This particular story is fairly old. A few years back, I was in Dubai for training and a Belgian friend invited me to dinner to meet her fiance, a Moroccan. During the course of the evening, we discovered that he was from Casa., my hometown & our families back home were connected through several intermarriages - which is not uncommon among North African Arabs. They tend to approach marriage like that sometimes. We married into that family & we had no problems so let's do it again. Or sometimes it's even done out of a sense of obligation - one of their men took one woman off our hands so now that one of our men has reached marriageable age, let's return the favor. Needless to say, it's all very bizzare to me.

Anyway, the evening went quite well, I thought. And then I went back to Abu Dhabi & forgot all about it. Then my friend calls me up & explains that the company her fiance works for is looking for an IT solution provider & can he meet me & talk about it? I said sure. If true, it would have been the first time I manage to bring a new client to my company. I was still a fairly new employee & felt called upon to prove my usefulness all the time.

But he didn't want to talk to me about business at all. It was just an excuse. Instead, he started explaining how he'd been having second thoughts about marrying a foreigner because Western girls were all too wild & easy - especially now that he'd met me & noticed the difference between me & my friend(from one meeting) & felt I would understand his culture more than her. And also my friend had apparently refused to convert to Islam & he had concerns about the mother of his future children not being Muslim. But that he'd asked around about me & it was confirmed that am from a good, Morrocan Arab family but at the same time, I was educated & cultured & best of all, I had the looks of a European girl since all the Morrocan girls he'd met before were too dark-skinned for his taste. He said I was even fairer than my friend. So I was perfect & he'd already told his parents who were now in the process of approaching my parents so we can all get to know each other etc....

I was FURIOUS. The initial reaction was being upset for my friend, who was very much in love with him. I started angrily defending her. My friend may not have been very religious but she was not a slut. She was actually very reserved in character & she'd often tell ME off for flirting, being too wild etc.....She is quite shy and didn't date much. It was infuriating to me that anyone would call her either wild or easy just because of her nationality. I remembered her once telling me that he was pressuring her for sex, & if I thought she should do it. And I had explained - at the time - that if he was a typical Arab, then sleeping with him wasn't a good idea if you wanted something long-term with him but it was hard for me to tell without actually meeting the guy. After having met him, I found myself wishing fervently that she'd had too much sense to have sex with a man who clearly respected her so little. He didn't deserve her.

That was the initial reaction. The second action was fury at his presuming that I would stab my friend in the back that way or settle for someone who only wanted me because of my family name & skin color - especially when that same person has revealed himself to be so prejudiced & bigoted in every sense of either word.

All in all, it was not a good evening. I remember walking out on him after having told him what I thought of him in no uncertain terms while he gaped uncomprehendingly. For some reason, my reaction was totally unexpected for him. He thought I'd jump at the chance. And that made me even more angry. People who have these blindspots make me CRAZY. I can't believe there are people who are so wrong but simply cannot see it & actually think they're right.

Once I was a little calmer, I called my friend & told her. I wanted her to dump him before he had a chance to dump her. She was devastated. But she did chuck him. Thank God.

And I thought that was the end of the story. It wasn't. His mother called me a few days later. Apparently he'd interpreted my reaction to mean that being a good, Arab Muslim girl, I just needed to have it confirmed to me that his intentions were honorable to accept him. His mother didn't say anything about marriage. She just went on about how good it always was to meet other 'pure' Moroccan Arabs when living abroad & how much she'd like to get to know my parents etc....I wanted to SCREAM but I had to be polite to his mother who was an older woman. Years of being taught to respect my elders proved to be too inhibiting. When she asked for my mother's number so she could meet her, I couldn't say no.

So she takes the number, calls my mother to say hello & sets up an appointment for them to come over to our house. Then she calls me back & says oh your mother is Berber? You didn't tell me. I'd forgotten that for some Moroccan Arabs, who view themselves as 'ashraf'(descended from the Prophet), Berbers were a lower-life form. I told her very sweetly that yes, Mama was an Algerian Berber, knowing I was making things worse. From the pov of people like her, Morrocan Berbers were low but all Algerians were considerably lower. And Algerian Berber was the lowest of the low. At that point, I just wanted to be rid of this family which appeared to be so full of every, concieveable prejudice. I thought if my mother's ethnicity will drive her away, then well & good.

But the woman coolly replied that oh well, it's ok because what's important is that the father's blood was 'pure'. Upon which I instantly added that my father was actually half-European, that my grandmother was a Frenchwoman.

She sighed and responded that again it was ok because the lineage was pure as long as no non-Arab MEN entered it, that impure, female blood was inconsequential. I got the feeling that she was desperate. She wasn't happy with my set-up but she thought I was far prefereable to the European, non-Muslim woman her son was involved with. It was so sickening to be patronized & patted on the head & told not to feel bad about being a hybrid in that way.

I remember going home & telling my father, playing up the insults against Mama as much as I could. In addition to the fact that I'd actually met the guy as a friend's fiance.I didn't want my parents to start hounding me about marrying him. They also had a tendency to see it as an opportunity whenever I met an educated, Morrocan boy from a good family while living abroad. But I knew my father would never tolerate any disrespect to my mother.

And it worked. I managed to cut that story much shorter than it could otherwise have turned out to be.

Except a few months later, the same guy proposed to my cousin. I could see why. My cousin didn't have a Berber mother. She was much purer than me. She was also younger than me & much, much younger than the guy. So her parents refused him on the grounds that she was too young to get married.

And his mother decided that the first refusal was an insult. The second was a declaration of war. She started a family feud against me & my cousin. Gossiping, starting rumors, abusing either one of us whenever she runs into us in public.

For years, everytime I'd meet her at social events(usually weddings), she'd ask me snidely if there was anything on the way - meaning an engagement or a marriage, that she wanted to 'tifra7 feeni'(congratulate me). She'd make unpleasant - although perfectly polite - comments about my clothes, the way I danced, the way I ate & subtly suggest maybe these could be reasons - in addition to my polluted blood - for my spinster status. All in this cloying, laughing manner that women have. She never failed to hug & kiss me when we met. Or to inject the words 'ya binti'(my daughter) or 'habibti' & other terms of affection an older woman would use to a younger one who was like a daughter to her. As I got older, I lived in dread of her. There's no end to the humiliations a woman her age could inflict on you. And you could never be rude to her because then you'd be demonstrating a deficient upbringing & humiliating yourself & your parents more.

My mother could respond to her & usually handled her beautifully. But she was rarely nasty to me infront of my mother. She would wait to catch me alone.

Last night, we met at a wedding. When I saw her, I unconsciously found myself edging closer to my husband. Then I told myself I was being stupid. I was a grown woman, I had no business to be hiding behind him. Or to be scared of her. But I was. Afraid of her. She hates me so much. To hold a grudge and be so spiteful for all these years. It's scary. What does she WANT? I mean, her son is already married. Has been for some years. I heard that in the end, he went home to Casa & had an arranged marriage there & was now living with his wife in Dubai.

I stayed close to my husband all evening. And she still made sure I caught a comment she whispered to another woman while we were standing by the buffet. Something about silly girls having to settle for foreigners because they're getting old & can no longer get good Morrocan boys to look at them.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

3:30 AM

Him: Bardo mish gaylik nom?(Still can't sleep?)

I jumped. He scared me to death. I didn't hear him come up behind me.

Me : Bismallah AlRa7man AlRa7im. Sa7i inta?(Are you awake?)
Him: Mana wa2if odamik. (I'm standing infront of you.)
Me : Am sorry. I didn't mean to wake you.
Him: Well you should try sitting still then. You might even get some sleep.
Me : Am sorry.
Him: Feel like going out?

Exactly what I was dying to do.

Me(gratefully): Yes
Him: Bas inti illy tsoo2i(But you drive). Ana mish shayef odami.(I can hardly see)
Me : 7abibi law ta3ban balash.(Baby, if you're tired it's ok.)
Him: No it's ok.
Me : And you'll be fine at work?
Him: Ana gamid gidan.(I'm very tough.)
Me : And if you kill someone in OR tomorrow? What will you tell people?

He starts singing 'Lailt imbari7 magaleesh nom'('Last Night I Could Not Sleep'. Old Arabic love song). I had to laugh because he really sounded like a drunk.

Me : That's what you're going to say?
Him: Ma takhdeesh fi balik(Don't worry.). Ana bas mhayis min 2ilit elnom.(I have no idea what that means.)
Me : Mhayes?What's mhayes?(Expressing my confusion with his slang.)
Him: Ya3ni mhartil.(He tries to explain.)
Me : Great. And mhartil means what?(Fails miserably.)
Him: Can't you speak Arabic?
Me : Wallah I thought so until I met you ya3ni. Everyday I hear at least one word I never heard before. I should start taking notes.
Him: Good idea. But not now. Go change. Let's get out of here.
Me(looking at his shorts & vest) : And you? You're going out like that? Won't you get cold?
Him: Cold? 7abibti, I was born in Scandinavia. 3ayzani abrad hina? (You want me to feel cold here?)

Good point.

We had a minor debate about my choice of outerwear(jeans & a sweater). He wanted me in something thicker. I pointed out that we'll be in the car & given the fact that he was half-naked, he shouldn't talk. And he reminded me that am always cold.

True.I do get cold a lot if am sitting still. And it's true that he doesn't. His hands are always so warm - which gives me another very practical reason for wanting to hold his hands. Mine are always freezing.

I pulled on a scarf for extra warmth & then we were on our way in my new car. I figured the Corniche thing was getting a bit old. So I drove on Meena Road - towards the harbour. Late at night. Streets empty. New car. So I could drive as fast as I wanted. That's always great therapy for me. I felt lighter almost instantly.

We were talking & listening to music. He asked if I had a cigarette. Shock. I'd never seen him smoke a cigarette before. I said am sorry I didn't.

A couple of minutes later, he stopped responding to me. I looked at him. He was asleep. My poor baby. The things I put him through. Does he really think he's protecting me? It was strange to think that he was perfectly happy with me being on the streets at 4:00am if he's with me - even if he's asleep.

I pulled over & lowered the back of his seat as gently as possible. And I used my scarf to cover him.

He never stirred.

Kept driving along for a while. When I'd had enough of the harbour area, I drove us back to the City Center, through Khaldiya. On impulse, I decided to stop by the 24-hr Khaldiya Co-op for cigarettes. I didn't know what brand to get him so I just got a pack of mine. Or the brand that used to be mine.

When I tried to get back into the car, I couldn't do it quietly enough. He woke up & looked at me. I opened the pack, took out a cigarette & lit it. Then I handed it to him. He was frowning at me, looking very confused. Then his brow cleared:

Him: Inti btinzili 3ashan tigeebili ana cagayer?Bit-haragi wallahi.(You stopped just to get cigarettes for me?You must be kidding.)
Me : 3ayza ashoof.
Him: Tishoofi eh?
Me : Can you actually smoke a cigarette? Have never seen you do it.

He gave me a speaking glance but took the lighted cigarette from me. I lit another one for myself. Turns out that he does know how to smoke after all. We smoked a couple more. Then decided to quit. So we threw away the pack and went home.

We made love. Very sweet. Afterwards, he fell asleep in my arms. I just lay there, holding him & staring at the clock. Sleep came gradually. Which was nice. I could feel myself unwinding, getting drowsier & drowsier. And believe me after 48 hrs of wakefulness that's a sensation you enjoy a lot. Was aware of the moment when my entire system had shut down & all I needed to do was close my eyes. I fell asleep kissing the top of his head. Weird that. His hair was getting in my mouth & tickling my nose. Quite uncomfortable actually. And I fell asleep like that anyway.

When I woke up, it was 11:00am. And I was alone in bed. Why didn't he wake me? He knew I had to get to work. At least I could have called the office. No show/No call is not my style.

Did call my manager. Was too tired to think of a lie so I told him the truth. He was quiet then he said that if I'd had enough rest, he'd like me to come in for a couple of hours to attend a meeting. What could I say?

Tonight we stayed in. Neither of us felt like going out. He went to bed fairly early & am doing my best to keep from disturbing him. And what about me? Well, it's almost 2:00am & am still up. Could be because I slept during the day & just need to re-adjust my internal clock. Or it could be that the attack of insomnia is not yet over. Either way, I got 5 hrs of sleep today. I can survive for a couple of days on that.


Monday, January 08, 2007

Same Old Story

It started last night. Another attack of insomnia, hyperactivity, claustrophobia, you name it. With memories of recent marital rows over my midnight outings still fresh in my mind, I tried to keep busy indoors. But doing what?

Tried to stay in bed after he went to sleep but I was too restless. Was tossing & turning so violently that I nearly woke him. Then I broke into a cold sweat. I could feel my sheet, blanket & pillows getting damp but I was shivering cold. Teeth-chatteringly cold.

That was my cue to get up before I started hyperventilating or something. Went out onto the balcony. It was pretty cold. And I was just in my nightie. But the fresh air felt good. I felt my breathing - and my heartbeats - slow down.

Why was I so scared? Utterly irrational panic. An anxiety attack, my mother would have called it. But fear of what? I'd been in a perfectly good mood until my husband fell asleep. Not a care in the world. Couldn't put my finger on anything scary that happened or was expected to happen. And yet I was. Scared that is.

And then all of a sudden, my thoughts went to the last book I read. Colleen McCullough's 'On Off'. A thriller about a psychotic killer who preys on young girls. It has a truly horrifying ending. Couldn't get over it at the time.

But I'd read that ages ago. I must be even more unhinged than I thought I was to be still having panic attacks in the middle of the night over it. It was FICTION, for heaven's sake.

So standing there on the balcony, I silently talked & laughed myself out of the panic attack. And I went back inside, anxious by then to avoid an untimely death of hypothermia. I was FREEZING.

Prayer seemed like a good idea. After a hot shower and a change into admittedly less glamourous but warmer clothing. Layers held a lot of appeal at that moment. And socks.

And so it went. After the shower & change, I made myself a cup of hot chocolate. Then I sat on our prayer mat for so long my legs started to cramp. When I felt my mind start to wander, I knew it was time to stop. I was taught that you shouldn't pray or read Quran without full concentration.

Felt better, calmer. But no less active. Still hyper. The thought of going back to bed still held no appeal. Was glad I managed not to wake him though. He keeps saying that he can't function properly at work without at least 4 hrs of sleep. And his work days are much longer than mine.

When I looked at my watch, it was 5:00am. An hour before I had to get up for work. I spent it essentially wandering around the house aimlessly in my socks from room to room, occasionally pausing to stare out of a window or the balcony. When I heard my cellphone alarm go off in the bedroom & I heard him complaining, I started crying. Relief, I guess. The night was finally over.

Of course he took one look at my face & he knew. He said 'astagfirullah yarabi'(Allah forgive me) under his breath. Which struck me as on odd choice of prayer in the circumstances. God forgive him for what? He hadn't done anything at that precise moment. But then he held out his arms. Gratefully, I got into bed with him. The bed didn't seem so scary anymore with him awake in it.

But I could only enjoy being comforted for a few minutes because well, duty calls, no? Work is work. As always, he offered to give me something to help me sleep after work if I wanted. And as always, I could tell he wasn't happy to be offering that. So I said no, I wanted to fight it.

Tonight he stayed up with me until 2:00am. And then I took pity on him. I pretended to fall asleep so he'd go to sleep. And it worked. He was out like a light in less than 2 minutes.

And here I am. It's 2:52am.


Saturday, January 06, 2007

Let's Talk About....

My friends tell me that am turning into a sex maniac - as in I talk about sex a lot more than I used to. Really? I asked. Yes, they said. I felt I was well within my rights to object to that because unlike most of them, I never discuss or describe my personal experiences. I may blog about them but then anonymous blogging is different.

They all conceded that point but they explained that I was now much more open about sexual issues, discussing them, joking about them. Also, the most unlikely things seem to make me think of sex. My friend D. stated that she'd never known me to start conversations about sex before but that now I do it all the time.

I didn't actually say it to them but of course they should have known that it's marriage that did this to me. Because - being a good Muslim girl - my husband would have been my first. And my wedding night would have been my first time. So I didn't talk about sex before because I had nothing to talk about essentially. And I am more fascinated with it now because it's such an important part of my life - as opposed to when it wasn't part of my reality & something other people did. Perfectly logical & hardly original in this part of the world, one would think.

Except that's not nearly as self-evident to everyone around me as it is to me, I guess. D. would know. She's a close friend. But the others probably may or may not have believed it. Why? Well, before my marriage, I'd heard lots of reasons for why people didn't think I could be a virgin: I don't wear hijab, I smoke, I go out clubbing, I travel abroad without a mo7ram, I flirt etc......Not that I ever bothered to defend my sexual experience - or lack thereof - to all & sundry. I couldn't have for one thing because no one would say that sort of thing to you in your face, would they? They'd say it to someone who'd say it to someone etc...until someone volunteered to tell you about it. Provided they didn't reach my family, I didn't usually worry too much about these things.

My ex didn't help. After I managed to end our engagement, a friend of mine - who was also a good friend of my ex's - was doing his best to get us back together. I tried -as gently as possible - to explain that as far as I was concerned, pigs would have to fly first etc......He would keep telling me how much my ex still loves me, how heartbroken my ex was. And then once he suggested that my ex felt honor-bound to marry me because we'd slept together. I can't remember his exact words. He didn't come right out & say it. Kept hinting around it until I lost patience & confronted him & asked is this what you meant? And he couldn't deny it.

So that was how I came to know that my ex was going around telling people that. What did I do? Well for one thing, I cut off all contact with the guy who brought me these wonderful news. If my ex told him a story like that and he didn't know me well enough not to buy it & he didn't even think to ask me if it was true then he was my ex's friend & not mine. I didn't want his friendship.

The second thing I did was call my ex & describe in great detail how if anything like that reached my family & upset my parents, he would be very, very sorry.

After a while, the rumor died down. Some people still believed it but no one whose good opinion I cared about very much. A happy ending as far as I was concerned.

Even my husband was surprised - and not too happy I remember - to discover when we first started dating that he had a good Muslim girl on his hands. The conversation went something like this:

Him: You're not a virgin, are you?
Me : God, you make it sound like such a terrible thing to be!
Him: You are?
Me : Not that it's any of your business but yes I am.
Him: Ahlan.
Me : Ahlan wasahlan. I want to go home now. Nice knowing you. Bye.

And I walked out on him. Went home & had a crying fit.

He called. And called. And in the end, pretty late the same night, I picked up, fully intending to dump him before he dumped me. I was sure he would. You see, I'd been dumped in similar circumstances before. I once went through a phase of feeling depressed & frustrated because I couldn't face an arranged marriage but dating - in the long-term - seemed to require that I should be willing to sleep with the guy - which I wasn't before marriage. Without sex, guys just stopped calling after a while. Or they started talking about how am like a sister to them & maybe we should stay friends etc....

So we talked.

Him: Ana asif. I was very insensitive. I guess I was surprised.

Which pissed me off. I was tired of hearing that.

Me : Why is it so goddamn surprising? Why can't I be a virgin? Do I look like a slut?
Him: No it's just that you're almost 29 years old. And you're so beautiful.

The 'so beautiful' might have mollified me if it hadn't been preceded by the 'you're almost 29 years old'.

Me : What? So 29 is too old to be a virgin? I didn't know they had an age limit.
Him: La mish el2asd.(No I didn't mean that.)
Me : Tell me, K, do you have sisters?
Him: Khalas. Fihimt. Ana asif.(Enough. I understand. I'm sorry.)
Me : And really if you would prefer that we stay friends...
Him: Why would I prefer that?
Me : Ya3ni. So you can be free to see someone else who can give you what I can't give you.
Him: Inti btitlakikili ya bit inti? Howa ana talabt minik 7aga? 2oltilik ini na2isni 7aga?
Me : What does 'btitlakikili' mean?
Him: It means you're looking for an excuse to break up.
Me : K, there's nothing to break up. It's just a few dates.
Him: Bardo talakik.

Can't remember how the rest of it went. Or how he talked me out of ending it there & then. It took him most of the night so even if I could remember it, it would be too much to write here.

But yeah, that hurt.

Anyway, I guess that explains why some might be surprised that I am now more fascinated with sex than I seemed to be before. If they thought I'd been having a hectic sex life all along, then they wouldn't expect marriage to make that much difference I guess. They'd look for other reasons to explain the change. Like what? I can't help but wonder.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007


In a long-past incident, in response to a request that he should try to be less physical with me in public because people were looking at us, he asked scathingly what are we supposed to do?Hold hands?

Like that was a really outrageous, unacceptable suggestion.

My husband will NOT be seen holding my hand. Never. Oh he doesn't mind sitting with an arm around my shoulders or walking with his arm around my waist etc...He would hug me or kiss me in public. Or play with my hair. Sometimes when I am playing hostess & I hand him a plate or something, he'll grab my hand & kiss it - even with people around.

But he will not hold my hand.

But why? I have often demanded. He doesn't like holding hands, he always explains. But why not? He just doesn't. He doesn't have anything more enlightening to offer than that.

So imagine my surprise when on New Year's Day, the two of us are sitting in the lobby of a hotel in Dubai, eating a big breakfast at 6:00am, having been out partying all night & feeling absolutely starved, and the following conversation takes place:

Him: Eh ya 7abibi? Your coffee must be cold.
Me : Freezing. You've been holding my hands for the last hour or so.
Him(hurriedly dropping my hands like they burned him, going red & not looking at me): Sorry. Uh...why didn't you say something?
Me : Say what? I have dreamed of this. Do you think I would blow it for a cup of coffee?
Him: Dreamed of what?
Me : Holding your hands. Now I can die happy.
Him(still not looking at me): Tab bas ba2a. Batali ghalasa.

I have a feeling he will never do it again. But why?


I have a nickname for him. It's a Frenchified version of his name & I think it's really cute. He has always professed to be horrified by it. Whenever I say it, he protests vehemently - after having looked over his shoulder to make sure no one heard.

I have always received saracastic comments like "Inti bitkalimi ibn okhtik?"(are you talking to your nephew?) in response to any attempt to baby him or pamper him. But I love to do that sometimes. When he's sick or tired or when am particularly pleased with him - I get so emotional I can't help pampering him.

And yet inspite of all that, I have persisted in using my favorite nickname for him. I would smile sweetly & call him by his nickname & then cringe, waiting for the inevitable explosion of sarcasm & protest. I enjoy teasing him like that sometimes. I admit it. And I got so much into it that I recently noticed that I hardly ever call him by his real name when we're alone together anymore.

So we're in the middle of this impasse, this morning, I happened to be watching when he first opened his eyes. I smiled sweetly & said good morning K(using his real name). It was a lapse. I was rushing around getting ready for work so didn't have the presence of mind to try to provoke him.

Him: Eh K di?Fi eh?(K?What do you mean K?What's wrong?)
Me : Na3am?(Excuse me?)
Him: Inti bt2ooli K leh?(Why are you calling me K(the real name?))
Me : Ismak ya 7abibi. (Your name, my love.)
Him: Aiwa bas inti min imta ya3ni btindahili bi'ismi?(Yes but since when do you call me by my name?) Inti mitday2a mini wala eh?(Are you mad at me?)
Me : Anadeelak bi'ismak ya3ni mitday2a? (Calling you by your given name means am mad at you?)
Him (sounding very disgruntled): Asl ana ba2ali kteer ma smi3toosh minik.(Well it's been quite a while since I heard it from you.)

I'm confused. Seriously though, what does he want from me now? Does he like the nickname or not?

Is there any explanation other than that he is just weird or mentally unbalanced about some things?


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The New Receptionist

Me : Excuse me, this gentleman needs to send me a fax & am out of business cards, can you please give him the fax number?
Her: Excuse me ma'am are you staff?
Me : Yes.
Her: Where is your access card?
Me : My office is on the 7th floor. My access card doesn't work here.
Her: Then you should hold personal meetings in your office - not in the reception.
Me : This is not a personal meeting.
Her: Meeting your banker is personal business.
Me : He's not my banker. The bank is a client. This is a business meeting.
Her: No one told me you are staff. I haven't seen you before.
Me : I'm sorry. I didn't know it's my job to walk around from desk to desk letting everyone know I work here.
Her: I need to know so if you get calls or visitors so I can direct people to you.
Me : Then it's your job to find out who everyone is & where they work.
Her: At least you should introduce yourself when you walk in here. To be friendly. It's the New Year.
Me: Please forgive me if I don't take a lecture on friendliness from you very seriously. You have been extremely rude - for no reason whatsoever. And you have embarrassed me & the firm infront of a major client. I hope you don't greet all visitors with this attitude and you know what? I think I will do something to make sure you don't.
Her: You shouldn't threaten me. If you have a problem, take it to HR.
Me : Thank you. I think I will.

I don't get it. Why was she being so bitchy? I mean, I don't often have to visit other floors but I had a visitor who ended up on her floor by mistake. We only needed to talk for a few minutes so instead of dragging him upstairs to my office, I offered him a seat at the reception area where I found him. And I did smile & say hello to her when I first joined him there. It's not like I ignored her. What is her problem?

The thing is I don't really want to complain about her. They fire receptionists & secretaries for practically no reason here. You see a new one every other day. And I don't want to cause anyone to be fired. Especially not on this season. And the woman looks very young & obviously pregnant. It's not just that I feel sorry for her. It's against my beliefs. We call it 'qat3 alarzaq'(causing someone to lose their livelihood) and it's very haram.

But she made me lose my temper and say I'll complain so I have to do something. And she was very rude despite all my attempts to stay calm & reasonable & not make a scene.

I keep writing emails to HR & then deleting them without sending.

Bummer. Not at all how I wanted to spend my first day back at work.:(