Birthdays: Annual occasions where you celebrate not being hit by a car or shot at a wedding by some idiot for yet another year. Congratulations, you might not be the fittest but you survived anyway.
However, after a certain age birthdays cease to be mere merry occasions, they turn into panic attacks: What have I achieved in my 30 years on earth? When am I going to save some money? I’m never going to find love! My husband forgot my birthday, 3 years of marriage down the drain. Children! I need to have children before it’s too late. Who took my charger? I made it clear I don’t want anyone taking my charger. No, I’m not overreacting, YOU are overreacting! Hand me that popcorn. What? I’m not crying, I’m just overflowing with fulfillment. Sniff. TICK-TOCK, TICK-TOCK…
But it doesn’t have to be that dramatic, and don’t pretend it’s not. There’s always some after-party drama when everyone goes home and you’re alone with your gifts and leftover cake. And you’d be totally justified in taking that plunge into the self-pity, life-loathing pool; it’s completely understandable and okay, as long as you’re avoiding people and sharp objects.
But again, it doesn’t have to be that bad, not because “age is just a number”, make no mistake, age is a number and one that makes a difference, so let’s do away with that denial-drenched mentality and say it like it is. If you’re 30, that means you’re no longer 20, and everything is not the same. However, it doesn’t have to be all that different. It’s not like when you turn 30 you’ll gain weight uncontrollably or start shedding skin. Yes, your complexion might not look as fresh as a 21 year-old – unless you’re spending a small fortune on skin care products or have a very good surgeon- but you will still look beautiful, and you will still be able to do everything you used to do in your twenties. Honestly, I couldn’t think of anything you could do in your twenties that you couldn’t do in your thirties, not even running like a lunatic down the street or crying while watching Twilight. If you can do that in your twenties then chances are you can do it at any age, because you’re probably crazy, or a moron, and you will always have a streak of that and will, hopefully, grow up to be that crazy grandma with a purple hat/scarf who everyone loves.
My point is, don’t deny age, make peace with it.
I for one have made my peace with it, mostly because my choices are limited, you know, it’s grow older or die. And it really doesn’t matter as much after you hit 30. It becomes a chance to reevaluate yourself and the important things in your life, what’s been achieved so far, what needs to be done, what’s missing. A day to be thankful for the people you have around you on this very day – not only because of the cake and gifts- but most importantly for taking the time and the effort to be there and to make you feel extra special on this one day of the year, without getting a hint from Facebook.
It’s also a time for disappointments, which are an inevitable part of the circle of life, but it’s also a time to deal with them, reconsider things, put your life in order, reset and start a new, or simply resume, whatever floats your boat.
The amount of love I felt today almost equals the amount of sugar I consumed.
Happy sweet 16 plus 15 to me, it was definitely a good one
أبو ربحي يجلس في دكانه، الراديو يصدح بموسيقى مألوفة “صحصح صحصح صحصح صح… مع روتانا”، أبو ربحي لا يأبه بالبرنامج لكنه أكسل من أن يغير المحطة. مترهلاً على كرسيه تأتيه أصوات المذيعتين “رهف” و”ناديا” تلقيان بعض الأقوال الحكيمة المحضّرة مسبقاُ على أنغام الموسيقى، والتي لا يأبه بها أبو ربحي أيضاً. يستجمع قوة كافية ويهم بتغيير المحطة، وإذا به مجرى الكلام يتغير. رهف تتحدث عن “قلة عقل النسوان” وناديا تعطي نصائح للزوجات بأهمية ألا تكون أنانية وعنيدة، بلهجة صارمة تعالمية لا يسع أبو ربحي إلا أن يهز رأسه اتفاقاً معها وثقة في مصدرها، من منطلق “وشهد شاهد من أهله”. تتبع ذلك قصص مختلفة عن رجال يعانون الأمرين من زوجاتهم وأمثلة على أنانية المرأة وإهمالها في نفسها، وأبو ربحي يتمثل صورة أم ربحي بمريول المطبخ محاولاً أن يتذكر آخر مرة “سشورت” شعرها
أم ربحي لم تسمع البرنامج. الراديو في المطبخ وهي تركض بين غرف النوم وغرفة الجلوس لتنهي الترتيب والكنس والمسح قبل عودة الأولاد من المدرسة. تتردد على المطبخ بين الحين والآخر لتفقد طنجرة ورق الدوالي التي سهرت في لفها الليلة الماضية كي تكون جاهزة وقت عودة أبو ربحي عند الغداء لتجنب نكده. تلتقط طراطيش من كلام المذيعتين “لازم المرأة تكون في أبهى حالاتها مهما كانت مشاغلها لأنه الزلمة بحب المرة اللي بتدير بالها عل حالها”. تلمح أم ربحي انعاكاسها في مرآة الحمّام وهي تسلك مصرف المغسلة وتتنهد بحسرة. تنهي أعمال البيت فتسرع إلى ماكينة الخياطة لإنهاء الأثواب التي عليها تسليمها للزبونات مساء اليوم. مع اقتراب موعد عودة أبو ربحي، تطفئ النار تحت الطبخة وتغير قميص النوم القطني الطويل الذي تعشّق رائحة البصل وشرحات اللحم، تحاول لملمة شعرها قدر المستطاع، تتذكر آخر مرة سشورته يوم خطبة بنت أختها قبل شهور، تقول ربما غداً بما أنه ما عندي طبيخ، بينما تحدق فيها أكوام الغسيل في صمت
أبو ربحي يعود إلى البيت، تستقبله أم ربحي بتعب لا تخفيه المساحيق، يتجهم متذكراً الدرر التي سمعها هذا الصباح. “أنا بشر. أحتاج إلى رؤية زوجتي في أبهى طلة. لا أعذار. ماذا كنت تفعلين طوال اليوم؟ أكيد بتطق حنك، حكي نسوان وقلة عقل”. لا يغادره تجهمه حتى حين يرتدي دشداشة البيت وينتفخ كرشه بعد الغداء فيما يلاحظ أن وزن زوجته ازداد مؤخراً، وثوبها القطني المهترئ. ويتذكر أنه بشر، ويتحسر…0
إهداء إلى مذيعتَي روتانا ناديا الزعبي ورهف صوالحة اللي قرفونا تنظير وتنميط للمرأة. فعلاً المرأة ممكن تكون عدوة نفسها، خاصة لما تلبس ثوب التحضر والانفتاح وأفكارها لسا معلقة في فترة ما قبل الحرب العالمية الأولى
Just as I finished working today and as soon as I submitted the file I felt a compelling need to lie down and rest my eyes for a while. The next thing I know, I was in deep sleep. It was the first time I nap during the day in a very long time, maybe in years.
However, after I managed to get up more than an hour later, I was in a state of exhaustion, like I just wanted to go back to sleep again. So, in the spirit of my deep-rooted feeling that sleep is a waste of life and should be kept to a minimum, and to celebrate the restoration of the brisk night reeze in Amman and its suburbs, I decided to go for a walk to the supermarket after sunset.
Every time I go on such an impromptu, or even a planned walk, it hits me hard how much you miss out on when you do all your errands by car. Just as I left home I overheard a conversation between two boys on the street. One of them was telling the other that China makes crappy stuff and it’s not as great a country as he seems to think. The other replied that China makes good things but we only get the bad stuff. I couldn’t help that there was more to it than just a boyish conversation. These boys are discovering the world. Today they are discussing Chinese industries, 10 years from now they might be discussing the virtues and vices of communism versus capitalism.
Further down the road, there were 3 boys riding bicycles. Bicycles have a very special place in my heart and memory. There was a bump-up in the road and something about the way the bicycles heaved over the bump-up that made me almost want to ask them to let me take a ride. In fact, not very long ago it occurred to me to buy a bicycle for home use, to share with my brothers. However, I was discouraged by the fact that we would have to keep adjusting the height of the seat, or I’ll just have to risk falling off the bike.
I decided to go to the farthest supermarket, to prolong the distance and, to be honest, they have the best chocolates. As I exited into the main street I could feel the heat coming out from the cars, another reminder why one of my dreams has always been to retire in a farm house in the countryside. Down the road there was a watermelon tent, with dirty-looking carpets covering the ground up to the edge of the street, and that made me wonder about two things: Do watermelon tents exist outside the Middle East? And, do they ever wash these carpets when the season is over? Or do they just throw them away?
Then I reached the supermarket, and I took my sweet time moving between the aisles, picking stuff of the shelves and returning them and then picking them again. I got some cakes, chips and flavored milk for my nieces of course because it would be a total betrayal to be at the supermarket and not get them anything, that would totally create a rift in the relationship. And of course, I got myself some stuff for my stash, there must always be a stash.
I left the supermarket after what seemed like forever. I took the first turn into the neighborhood to minimize the distance I had to walk on the main road. This is the route I used to take when I came back from university; the only difference is that I used to take a shortcut, which no longer exists now as there’s a commercial complex in its place, the same one housing the supermarket I was at minutes ago. I remember there was a little girl I would meet on my way back through there sometimes, her name was Sura. There was a bunch of little girls nearby and it occurred to me to stop and ask which of them was Sura, she would be around 13 or so now, but I decided against it because it would be meaningless and possibly freaky for the girl.
I walked on, passing by a newly built building whose ground floor windows looked very appealing. They had small colorful plant pots on the windowsill and the design of the window panes along with the lighting inside made it look like something out of a movie. I couldn’t resist but take a peek inside, despite the moral conflict and feeling like a peeping Tom, but I really wasn’t trying to spy on them or anything, I just wanted to have a feel of how it was inside. It’s still wrong, I know.
Further down the road I passed by the mini market we used to go to as kids. I opened when I was in the second grade, and it was one of our daily destinations, sometimes several times a day. It was closed at the time and I thought that in our day it would be open at such an hour, and we would be going back and forth to buy cheap snacks. A few years ago I took my niece, who was 4 years old at the time, to that minimarket. I wanted her to experience something else other than the big supermarkets with expensive candy bars. Well, she wasn’t impressed at all. In fact she acted like a grossed-out Mary Antoinette. It’s funny how we used to buy a ton of things with less than 50 piasters while nowadays if you’re taking kids to the supermarket you must be armed with a fat load of cash.
Turning the corner, a few meters down the road was our old house and the street where we spent a handsome part of our childhood. There were children on the street but they didn’t seem to be having nearly as much fun as we were in those days. A group of girls had a baby stroller with them, which was something we frequently had too as there was always a baby in the neighborhood at one point or another, and apparently the neighbors were happy to dump their babies on the neighborhood kids and have some time for themselves, which is completely understandable.
So, what started off as an energizing walk turned out to be a walk down memory lane. Most interestingly, I was mentally blogging all the way, which brings back the good old days when that was a constant mental exercise. It’s amazing how many little things you could discover and rediscover when you stretch your legs and spare the air some emissions!
“So, that’s it?” He sister said as she came into the room without knocking. “One bad interview and you’re shutting yourself up in your room?”
“I found that to be the safest course of action.” She said calmly, without taking her eyes off her phone.
“Ummm, lying on bed all day while browsing facebook does not qualify as ‘Action’, you know.'”
“I’m not on facebook,” she replied, unmoved. “I deactivated my account. Too many happy people.”
“Those shameless monsters!” Said the sister sarcastically with squinting eyes.
“No…” she sat up. “I’m serious. The whole thing is like a giant microscope. Everything looks bigger and better than it is. A trip to the beach looks like the trip of a lifetime, a simple gathering of friends at a local café seems like a dream, a high-class velvety fundraiser makes it feel like they’re gonna end world hunger. And you’re sitting there like a peeping tom with a pair of binoculars, observing the mood changes of people you couldn’t care less about, browsing carefully picked photos of beautiful people with big, wide smiles going on and on about their friends and their jobs, all the while reminding you that you don’t have any of those things…”
“Well then get up and go find yourself some friends!”
“I don’t want friends!” She slumped back onto the bed. “You’re missing the point.”
“Then get up and go find yourself a job.”
“Tried. Didn’t work out very well.”
“How bad could it be? I don’t understand. We all have bad interviews, that doesn’t…”
“I really don’t want to talk about it.” She said sharply, avoiding eye contact. “I’ll get a job when I get a job.”
“Yeah, but based on my humble knowledge of the labor market, jobs don’t usually come knocking on your door.”
“Invaluable information, thank you.” She raised her eyebrows in mock astonishment.
“Suit yourself.” He sister finally surrendered. As she left the room, Dina got up from the bed and walked towards the big window. She pulled the curtain slightly aside and stood there staring at nothing in particular, thinking that her sister had a point. What’s next? She’s has graduated a year ago and she’s yet to find a decent job.
Suddenly, her gaze froze, she felt the blood draining from every vein in her body, and her muscles turned to stone. There with the same yellow smile and the stench of smoke she could smell without smelling, stood the man responsible for her latest phobia. But he wasn’t alone, along with him there was a woman dressed in an elegant navy dress, wearing her hair down, and two children who ran and jumped in front of them. They were clearly a family, and a happy one too.
The moving truck didn’t leave much for speculations: those were their new neighbors.
“3 scoops, on a cone. Dark chocolate, double chocolate and chocolate mint.”
The guy at the ice cream parlor stared at her for a few moments, trying to figure out whether she meant what she said.
“Hello!” She blurted out pettishly.
The ice cream guy went to work right away. This didn’t seem like a girl who appreciates her ice cream taken lightly. He quickly scooped out the globs, stacked them on top of each other with little tact, and stretched it out to her.
“Not so fast.” She said, still upholding the same scowl she came in with. “Syrup, and lots of sprinkles.”
Spoiled grump. He thought to himself. A girl who doesn’t lighten up at the sight of 3 scoops of chocolate ice cream is probably one with deep issues, the kind of girl that’s not very easy to please.
“I suppose this is your lunch.” He said teasingly.
“Are you saying I’m fat?” She snapped. “Look.. Kareem or whatever,” she glanced at his name tag, “I might be a little bit on the chubby side but I definitely won’t call myself fat, and I know what I’m doing here. Besides, who are you to call me fat? Look at yourself looking like a broom stick despite working in an ice cream parlor. How is that possible? You people drive me crazy!”
“We… people?” He questioned.
“Humans!” She snapped again.
He didn’t retort, just carried on with his colossal task silently. She felt a pang of guilt. Why was she taking her anger out on him? She shouldn’t have done it half an hour ago at that fiasco of a job interview before she stormed out of the office.
The footage played back in her head.
“We don’t have vacancies right now, but I’m willing to help you if you’re willing to help me.” The 50-something man behind the desk shot her a smoke-tinted yellow smile. It took her a few moments to register what he said, aided by the reflection in the glass panels of the wall unit behind him.
She felt her stomach turn. Suddenly she didn’t want that ice cream anymore.
“It’s for you.” She worked-up a smile as the young man behind the counter handed her the finished work of chocolaty art. “Enjoy it.” She said as she ran out of the shop clutching her stomach before emptiying it all out on the sidewalk.
To be continued…
It was a few days ago, in a small dusty stationary shop, when I stumbled upon what I considered to be a treasure, a blast from the past: the children stories I grew up with and were some of my first reading experiences and a gateway into the world of books and literature.
As it turned out, many people were just as excited about them as I was, or even more so, although I must say for those unfamiliar with the said illustrated stories, the reaction may seem a bit over the top. In our defense, though, they would look much more appealing if you were a kid in 1992.
So I decided to get some of those stories and experiment with them on my 8 and 5 year-old nieces – whenever I could get them off their tablets that is-. To my mild surprise and despite the not-very-flattering illustrations, they seemed quite interested. However, there was a little problem.
You see, it’s different when you read a story from the 1990’s after you’ve developed some critical thinking skills. You start reading the story to the kids and then your mind goes into panic mode and you’re completely horrified at the crap you’re pouring into their minds right now.
Let me give you an example.
We read a story called “In the circus”. That particular story seemed to caught the eye of both my nieces, how not so when it has a monkey balancing on a rope and bouncing a colorful ball over his head? It’s a daydream materializing into a 2-D drawing.Yet, the title of the story was a bit misleading, so to speak. If they called it “How to be a good monkey who suffers silently” well, that would be more like it.
The story revolves about a little monkey who works at the circus, and who one day decided he’s had too much and decided to run away from the circus because the trainer works him and his brother too hard. He suggests the idea to this brothers who refuse to join him so he carries on with his plan alone. Long story short, the little monkey escapes, gets into trouble, and finally goes back to the circus with his trainer, ashamed of what he’s done and promising not to do it again. And it gets better, and by better I mean worse of course, for guess what was the monkey’s name? “Nimrod”, which is a famous name in Islamic and Biblical literature, the name of the tyrant who threw Abraham – Peace be upon him- in the fire. In popular culture, the name became synonymous with mischievous, rogue and unruly behavior. In other words, that monkey was a no-good maverick who didn’t know any better.
As soon as I finished reading it I turned to my 8 year-old niece and asked her what she would do if she was in the monkey’s place, would she run away or stay in the circus, to which she immediately replied that she would stay. Naturally, I told her that I would leave, because that trainer had no right to torture that little monkey and because monkeys should live freely in the open wilderness where they could feed on bananas and swing on trees. To be fair, I told her the monkey’s only mistake was that he broke into someone’s house and ransacked it.
But that’s just one story and one kid. What about all the kids who have read this story and others? Don’t underestimate the power of the subconscious mind and all the ideas instilled in it. Don’t you dare resist. Don’t you dare revolt against oppression, and don’t you dare find a better life for yourself.
I’m not questioning the intentions of the people who wrote and illustrated those stories. I’m almost sure they did it with the best intentions at heart, but after all there are many ideas that are deep-rooted in the collective mindset of society and those are bound to display themselves in our literature. Take another example:
Here, the raven is being described as “ugly with its hideous black feathers”. It’s not strange at all given this is coming from people who live in a society obsessed with whiteness and who associate fair complexion with beauty. And it’s not only this story, I’ve read other stories from our folklore with some less than subtle comparisons between the pretty white princess and the sinister, ugly, black slave. I guess this is a universal problem, white supremacy is global plague, but it becomes alarming when you see that in the 21st century, it is still being nurtured and instilled in our children.
All in all, there is no way to protect your children from all the poisoned ideas that will be pitched at them whether on the street, at school or through the media. The best thing you can do is to try and help them develop the power of critical thinking to be able to think for themselves from an early age and bust any rotten idea before it seeps into their minds and take part in shaping the way they see the world.