Sunday, February 25, 2007

Shokoko etc...

Sitting next to my husband in the car, I find myself watching him thinking it's no wonder he likes big cars. He's such a big guy that he would look - and probably feel - awkward in a small car. The way he positions himself in the seat, the way he drives with one hand on the wheel and the other arm hanging out of the window. He makes driving look easy because he's relaxed about it. When I am driving, I can't stop complaining about other drivers getting in my way or making mistakes. He never rants and raves the way I do. If someone is being really stupid, the most he will do is make fun of them. I love to watch him drive.

Who am I kidding? I mean, what don't I love to watch him do? I love to watch him, period. Sometimes I ask myself if I'd love him so much if he wasn't so good to look at. It's an uncomfortable thought. To think I might be so shallow, I mean. But let's face it, half the time when I let him get away with things that really irritate me in other people, it's because he looks so good it distracts me from being mad. How many times have I made up my mind to really put my foot down about something and then failed to even bring it up when I saw him face to face? I mean, who's counting?Who has time?

I try to push these thoughts out of my mind and enjoy the evening out. Last night, being too tired to dress up, we found our way to our new home. I discovered it recently. He liked it a lot. So before you know it, it's now our new regular hang out. An Arabic Cafe setting. That's the theme. You get your own tent. No chairs. You sit or lean on huge, comfy cushions on the floor. So comfy that I've fallen asleep on them a couple of times. They serve no food. Only traditional Arabic drinks and sweets and - of course - sheesha. They stay open at all times. At least they've never kicked us out yet and we've stayed pretty late a few times.

The service is excellent but the place is not pretentious at all. It's very relaxing. Almost like being at home. You get your own huge TV screen. The tents are big enough for 14 or 15 people to sit comfortably. So sometimes we go with friends and sometimes we have our tent to ourselves.

The tents are far enough apart that you can watch your favorite programs in reasonable peace. That's a big deal for him. Not me. Am not much of a TV person. But I bring along my novel or my laptop to keep me entertained while he's watching Egyptian football. Or talkshows on Egyptian channels about Egyptian football. I always find his obssession with Egyptian football odd. I mean, I didn't grow up in Morocco so I couldn't tell you the first thing about football there. And he's been to Egypt even less frequently than I've been to Morocco and yet he follows even minor league stuff in Egypt.

Last night we arrived to find this sign posted at the entrance:

ممنوع تفديم الشيشة لمن هم دون السادسة عشر

Which means they don't serve sheesha to people under 16 years of age. Can't say I was shocked or anything. The first time I ever came here I walked in alone to join a bunch of girlfriends. That was when I had my shock. The number of little kids who hand out there! And I mean little kids. As young as 10 or 11. Staying so late. Swearing at the waiters for not bringing them sheesha or allowing them to smoke. Some of them standing outside by the entrance or in the carpark to smoke. And I'm not talking about one or two kids here. I'm talking about big groups of them. Boys and girls.

As if all of that was not enough, as I walked in that first time, a group of about 4 or 5 boys - the oldest of whom couldn't have even been 14 - fell silent, stared and then I heard whistles and comments behind me. I froze. Then I turned around, looked at them and burst out laughing. The idea that these...these little STOOGES actually thought of themselves as men old enough to know ANYTHING about attraction was just hilarious to me. And flirting with me! I mean, I am old enough to be their mother!

Anyway, I think my reaction actually embarrassed them - because they all turned their faces the other way or looked down and went back to smoking their cigarettes. But of course I wasn't going to let it go at that. I proceeded to lecture them about smoking, ask them if they're done with their homework etc....I must have spent half an hour standing outside with them, making them tell me their names and lecturing them. At the end of which they hated me.

My friends and I took to bullying the poor little kids everytime we saw them there. We'd walk into their tent and ask them if it's not past their bedtime etc....They really got embarrassed by that. They really did. But they kept coming back. Which sucked because the idea was to do society a favor and drive them away from this sort of place. Where ARE their parents? This is just incomprehensible to me. Letting a 10-year-old stay out so late on a school night? Don't teachers give homework anymore?

Last night as we walked in, this 15 or 16-year-old kid stepped out of the way to let me pass. The perfect gentleman. I'd seen him a few times before so I said Ya 7abibi tislam(Thanks sweetheart) or something like that. And the kid blushed and smiled at me. So cute.

My husband didn't think so. When we settled down in our tent, I looked up to find him glaring at me.

Me : What?
Him: 7abibik? (sweetheart)
Me : K, he's just a kid.
Him: Mish sogayar lildaraga di ya3ni.(He's not that young.)
Me : Ok I'm sorry.


Me: Khalas. Wallah asfa.(I swear I'm sorry.)
Him (smiling): Khalas. (Ok)

I blew him a kiss. But by then he was busy fiddling with his sheesha.

Me : Excuse me. I gave you a kiss. Where's my kiss?
Him: 7adir. Gai. (Ok I'm coming.)

He kept fiddling with that sheesha for a few more minutes until he had it just right. Then he put it aside, pulled me by the hair and kissed me. When we came up for air:

Him: Satisfied?
Me (giggling at the way he looked with my lipstick all over his face): Wasn't that a bit excessive? I just blew you a kiss.
Him: Howa la kida 3agib wala kida 3agib? Niboos ti2olo mish 3arif eh. No3od sakteen ti2olo ma bitrodoosh leh. (He's asking if nothing will make me happy)
Me (picking up a paper tissue and wiping liptstick off his face): Don't you know how to blow kisses?
Him: Merci ya 7abibi. La malish ana fil7agat elnazari di. (Thanks. No I don't believe in theory only practice.)
Me: Ba3dain sa3a astanak tboosni? (Besides do I have to wait for an hour to get a kiss back from you?)
Him: Allah. Kont mashgool. Ana ragil a7ib arakiz. Liki sho2 ya shatra istani lama akhalas illy fi idi. Za7ma mish 3ayzin za7ma. (He's saying that he likes to concentrate on one thing at a time but in a really funny way - not sounding like himself at all. Like he was doing an impression of some actor in an Egyptian comedy.)

Then because of course that cracked me up. No one has ever called me 'ya shatra' before.

Him: Btid7aki(You're laughing)? Timooti inti fi kalam elma3alimeen da. Ana 3arif. Zo2ik mon7at(He's saying I have low taste for liking this manner of speech).
Me: Ana zo2i mon7at? Inta illy titkalam!(I have low taste? You're the one who is talking!)
Him: Aiwa 3ashan ad7akik.(Yes. To make you laugh.)

Then he started doing more impressions of actors in Egyptian soaps and movies - especially comedies. I was in hysterics. At one point, I asked him who he was imitating.

Him: Shokoko.
Me : Meen? (Who?)
Him: Eh? Ma ti3rafish Shokoko? (You don't know Shokoko?)
Me : Some one is actually named Shokoko?
Him: Ah tab3an. Da ragil gamid gidan.(Yeah, he's great.)
Me(laughing) : Never heard of him.
Him: Tisada2i 3aib? Yinfa3 kida? Ya3ni ana dilwa2ti ezay ab2a mitamin 3ala awladi trabeehom wa7da ma tisma3sh 3an Shokoko? Da inti kida thaqaftik elmasriya mafish. Abyad. (He's asking how he can feel comfortable with his children being raised by a woman who doesn't know Shokoko. That it means I know nothing about Egyptian culture.)

At this point, my mood suddenly changed to Lump-In-Throat, Heart-Bursting-With-Love-ness. I wanted to throw myself in his arms. Or jump up and down. Or do something equally mawkish and embarrassing.

Thankfully, my self-control held. I didn't want to over-react and have him withdraw or say something that would bring me down from the heights I was in. So I let it pass like I didn't notice.

It's just that he hardly ever talks about me as the mother of his children. Even as a joke. I'd been having serious doubts about whether he envisions children in our future at all. Or ever would. The way he hates it when I bring up parenthood. The obssessiveness about birth control - in an otherwise NOT obssessive personality. To keep the peace, I haven't tried to bring up the subject in ages. Whenever we talk about the future, I'm silently alert for any sign that he sees it as anything other than just the two of us. Nothing. Zip. Zilch. It was awful to think what if he's never ready to have children? What if he has no wish to be a father? I mean, I want him to want it as much as I do. This is something pretty vital for me - something I think about at least once everyday.

So to have him suddenly drop a casual comment like that in mid-conversation? I know he was joking but well you HAVE to grasp at straws when you're desperate and it looks like straws are all there is no?

Today I'm all dreamy and distracted - my head full of visions of little boys who look exactly like him. Please God make it happen. Make him let me have a baby soon. Yarab, yarab, yarab.

I still don't know who Shokoko is but from where I'm sitting right now he sounds like the coolest guy in the world.


Saturday, February 17, 2007

What do you do?

You had a friend. A sweet, loyal and reliable friend. A very appealing personality. A heart of gold etc....Circumstances threw you together for a while and you became close.

But there was a problem.

As you got to know her better, you noticed that she seemed unable to win people's respect. You were constantly finding her in situations where someone was being disrespectful to her or making fun of her. And not only did she always fail to put a stop to it or react with any dignity, she wouldn't even realize she was being insulted. It would all just go over her head.

You were never sure what to call it. A weird, exaggerated form of innocence? An inability to believe that anyone actually meant it when they used her or said something harsh and out of line to her? Try as you did, you just couldn't understand or appreciate her ability to keep giving people the benefit of the doubt who simply did not deserve it.

Your initial response was to get very protective of her. You became the champion of her cause. Always telling people off for being mean to her. Always making her point when she failed to make it for herself. You got into a lot of fights with a lot of people on her account. At one point - you were ready to fight with your partner in life because you didn't like the way he spoke to her. You kept hounding him and made him feel so guilty that he was forced to apologize to her.

At one point, in a fit of temper, your partner then stated the opinion that she was just dumb and she set herself up for these things etc....You were furious with him for saying it. Probably because deep down inside it was what you thought too and you hated yourself for it.

Then you started to get impatient with her. She irritated you. You can never stand it when people don't stick up for themselves. Soon, all your conversations degenerated into you lecturing her, telling her how you think she should protect herself etc...

Eventually, the relationship became so stressful, you decided to put some distance between the two of you. And you did. Gradually and - you hoped - gently, you disengaged. You made yourself less and less available until things got to the point where the two of you simply lost touch.

A few months later on Valentine's Day, you receive an email from her. A very touching note about how much she misses you, that she's going through hard times and needs a friend etc...

You feel bad for her. But the thing is, you have no wish to get engaged with her again. The relationship had reached a point where it had become a burden you were glad to get rid of. You keep telling yourself that compassion alone is not enough to sustain a friendship.That you don't have anything in common. Your partner finds her irritating and a bore. So do your friends - the people you spend most of your time with. You don't want to have to impose her on all of them again. You don't want to deal with the stress of forcing them to accept her and treat her the way you feel she should demand to be treated but doesn't.

You finally admit to yourself that you don't think she is intellectually your equal and that you don't like being around people you feel yourself talking down to. It makes you dislike yourself.

What do you do? Give in to your sense of duty and loyalty? Reach out to her and try very hard to change your perception of her?

Or keep your distance because you don't want to deal with all the negative feelings being around her generates in you? Would you even be able - feeling as you do about her - to give her the emotional support we all need when life isn't being kind to us? Could you be a good friend to her? Even if you could, being around her is so GRIM for you. So you ask yourself is it selfish and wrong to think friendship should be a teeny, weeny bit of FUN?

So what do you do?


Friday, February 09, 2007

Five Things You Don't Know About Me

Tagged by Om Luji. Thanks a lot!

1) I fast a lot. Because I use the expression 'Oqsim billah' (I swear by Allah) without thinking a lot - especially when am angry. And then when I think about it, I find I've sworn by Allah I'll do something I can't do. So I have to fast 3 days to make up for it.

Recently, a friend has told me a woman needs her husband's permission to fast if it's not Ramadan. If so, then I'm a great sinner because I never thought to discuss it with him. I don't think he even noticed because he comes home from work long after Magreb(sundown).

2) Twice, when my husband was buying presents for my evil sister-in-law, her husband or her children, I watched him buy all the wrong things and wrong sizes. He's a terrible shopper. And I kept my mouth firmly shut.

3) I am very claustrophobic. I hate elevators so much that I take the stairs whenever I can. When I can't, I break into a cold sweat. I'm incapable of having a conversation in the lift because I can't stop worrying it will get stuck and I'll never get out.

I cannot sleep in a room which doesn't have large glass windows or a balcony. Same for my office. Or sit anywhere other than by the window on trains, planes etc....

If I am in an enclosed space, I have to at least be able to see outside from the window.

4) I am so soft-spoken that people often complain they can't hear me. Conversely, I have the most loud obnoxious laugh you ever heard. The contrast always startles people.

I am tagging:
1) Alina
2) Puppy
3) Kareem
4) 2B||!2B®
5) Carmen
6) Forsooth
7) Tooners
8) Hal
9) Highlander


Thursday, February 01, 2007

Children Follow the Father

Carmen raised the issue of interfaith marriages in Islam on her blog here and here.

In response, some of the commentators have stated that one reason that Muslim women can't marry outside the faith is that chldren follow the father's faith.

Well, I find that very interesting, given the fact that I know several families with Muslim fathers & non-Muslim mothers, where the children don't even speak the father's native tongue or know the first thing about Islam and are infact very much more into the mother's faith.

It's the MOTHER who raises the children, people, and who is naturally more influential. Most men, especially in traditional, patriarchial societies like our Muslim one, believe raising children is women's work. The husband(Tarzan) goes out to work & makes money & the mother(Jane) sits home cooking & washing & having and raising children. So what makes people so sure that the children would follow the father's faith? What exactly is the guarantee?

Personally, it was my mother who shaped our attitude to faith as we were growing up. Most of the time, it was her nagging at us to pray, eat with our right hand, say Bismallah & Alhamdullilah & Mashallah when we're supposed to. She was the one who decided when we were old enough to start fasting in Ramadan. And as a result, she was the one we went to with our faith-related questions and dilemmas.

Sure Baba would be the Imam when we'd all pray together but that was just a ritual. And while I always loved to hear him recite the Quran because he does it so beautifully with an amazing voice - it was my mother who helped me study it day after day for school. She was simply around a lot more than he was.

And my mother wasn't even a stay-at-home Mom. She is a doctor. If she didn't go out to work, I'd imagine that her influence would have been even greater.

My first memory of talking faith with my father was when I was about 14 or 15. The age at which I thought I was the smartest person in the world and knew better than everyone else & I was just beginning to question what my parents told me - as opposed to just accepting their word as Divine Wisdom. My father loves arguments & debates. So I got to know his views on faith while debating them with him - same way I'd get to know anyone else's views on anything else.

If I was ever indoctrinated or pre-disposed towards my faith, then it was definitely by my mother and not my father.

I don't know. Maybe I am letting my personal experience affect my understanding too much. Maybe it's different for everyone else. So how about it, everyone? Whose influence on your faith was greater? Your mother or your father?