If you think that you have just one life, think again. There's the life you think you have, the life others think you have and the life you really have- three lives!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Part 2

His name was Wayne (I know- sounds like a stupid name now but, trust me, it was a cool name back then). He was in his final year at a private boys college which would have made him 17 years old. He was blonde, blue eyed and a surfer- everything I thought I would never have.

I knew, with all my heart and every cell in my brain, I knew that after that night he would pretend he didn't know me. I knew but I didn't care. For one night he did want to be with me. For one night he looked at me as he looked at all those other girls. For one night, I could know what it felt like to not be different.

So I took that step. I plunged actually- full on- head first- no thinking. The next day my friend's mother took a photo of my friend and I together. Two 15 year old girls in jeans and sneakers and matching pink t-shirts. I looked so different- so changed. It was quite striking actually and i felt my face redden as I imagined that everybody else could see what I could see. I imagined that strangers were looking at me and seeing this change and knowing what I had done.

As I write this now it sounds so silly and immature-embarrassing almost. I keep telling myself "what were you thinking" and I have to remind myself that I am not writing this as I am now- but as I was then- as a 15 year old girl, not as a grown woman with the clarity of hindsight who has learnt to love herself and who, for a long time now, has found her place and embraced her difference.

I told only one person. I told my sister. It only felt natural that I should- we shared everything- our hopes, our dreams, our secret crushes, our mad passionate love for the members of KISS. Her reaction was neither here nor there- or perhaps I just didn't see it. She did not judge, she only asked "why?" and I said "because he wanted me". That was it- nothing more was said of it. She wasn't curious as to what happened, what it felt like, how it happened, if it hurt- nothing. She only wanted to know why and then she walked away.

Then he arrived. The stranger. The son of one of my mother's friends from Egypt. A doctor, no less. My mother made it clear that she hoped one of us would please him enough that he would approach my father and seek marraige. For months I put up with his obnoxious presence. I hated him- he was rude and arrogant. Once he asked me to make him a cup of coffee and I told him that I hadn't noticed that he did not have legs and arms to do it himself. Perhaps, I suggested, he was a doctor who did not know how to make a simple cup of coffee? My mother took me aside and scolded me like she had never before- it was like I had insulted her.

My sister and I would lock ourselves away in her bedroom whenever he was around and make fun of him, laughing all the while at the ridiculous thought of either of us marrying Dr Dickhead.

Despite my obvious distaste for the man, he approached my father and requested his permission to marry me. Was he mad? Did he honestly think I would willingly marry him and submit myself to a life of depravation and oppression- a life of making endless cups of coffee at his beck and call. I protested loud and clear but I didn't need to because my parents weren't interested in forcing me into marraige. Besides that, I had just turned 17 and was entering my final year of school with plans to become Sydney's top criminal lawyer.

One night, my mother was looking especially pleased with herself. Dr Dickhead had decided that my sister was agreeable enough to be his wife. And she had said yes.
My sister was getting married- to Dr Dickhead no less. As much as I tried to be happy for her, if this was indeed what she wanted for herself, I could not fathom why on earth she would make such a choice. She had told me she hated him, had led me to believe that she would not ever conceive of marrying him. I kept my reservations and concerns to myself and tried my hardest to support my sister (she is still married to Dr Dickhead and I still hate him).

Then it happened. Why wouldn't it? I had been kidding myself all along thinking that my actions did not have consequences- thinking that I could control my own destiny. The path was winding its way along and there was no stopping now.

My parents were visiting my sister at her new home. For some reason I was restless and sleep did not come easily that night. I couldn't explain why but I was overcome by an uneasy feeling- a feeling of impending doom or sorrow or something ugly and dark.

When my parents arrived with my sister and her husband that night they headed straight for my bedroom- my mother screaming like a woman in the throes of childbirth:

"Where is she? Where is the girl? She's not a virgin. She's not a virgin."

I looked to my sister for some kind of explanation, without any emotion she looked straight at me and said "I told them everything".

Why? Why? Why would she do that? Why would she betray me like that?

The moments that followed are hard to express- there was a lot of noise, a lot of commotion, a lot of screaming. I could not take in what was going on around me- the tears, the yelling, the occassional fist in my stomach and kicks to my side, the frequent slaps, the insults, the degradation- it all seemed a million miles away, like it was happening to someone else in some alternate universe and yet it was happening, it was happening to me.

All the while I just stood there- not moving, not flinching- my eyes fixed only on one thing, one person, my sister. I tried to speak but my voice made no sound so I looked at her and mouthed the word that was consuming every thought in my mind: 'why?'. She never answered.

I can imagine now how the conversation might have gone that night. My sister had just received notification of her high school leaving score- she hadn't passed. I can imagine my parents sitting there, facing my sister and her new husband across the table and saying something like "Thank Allah she got married because she's failed high school- she's not like her sister you know- her sister is the smart one- her sister...her sister...her sister".
I can imagine that my sister would then have broken her silence, that all the years of pent up resentment would have rushed forth and exploded as they had wanted to so many times before: "You think she's an angel? You think she's perfect? Wait till you hear what she is really like."

The screams grew louder. My mother was inconsolable. She was hysterical. And my father?My father kept his head down afraid to look at me. Perhaps he wanted to keep that image of his little girl for as long as he could- even if it was just a few moments longer.

Having rid themselves of their initial reactions of rage, my parents took me into their bedroom, locked the door and began the inquisition. Who was I with? What was his name? When did it happen? How many times had I done it? What else had I been hiding? A million, zillion, trillion questions.

Then a period of calm. Like the eye of a storm.
Quiet, peace, silence.
Were they done? Was it over? I started to come back to reality- to feel the pain in my head and stomach and the bruises on my legs.

Then the storm raged again.

"She has dishonoured us."
"She does not deserve to live"
"She needs to die"
"We must kill her"

And my father's hands- those hands that once had gently caressed me, those hands that had introduced me to the joy of art, the wonders of Gaugin and Chagall and had nurtured my love of painting.

My father's hands gripped my throat.

I'm sorry. I have to stop now. I promise I will write Part 3 soon.

Memorable Moments #2

This one is going to take a while so please bear with me.
It's a long story but it is a story that I promised myself I would write a long time ago. Until now, it just didn't want to be written...

We, my brother, sister and I, grew up as typical Sydney wogs. By that I mean that our parents as immigrants to a new land, worked long hours to make ends meet and I was often left only in the company of my siblings. This explains why I never learnt to speak Arabic until later in life.

My sister and I were close. We're only about 18 months apart in age (she's older) and, with our parents often working shifts, we spent most of our time together and were often mistaken for twins. As we grew older our personalities and interests developed in different directions but the bond we developed as young girls remained strong. I had an inquisitive mind and would spend my time reading and studying. Not surprisingly, I excelled academically. My sister was a dreamer who would rather spend her days lounging in the sun and listening to music. She exasperated my parents, who placed a strong value on education, with her average performance at school. While I often won their approval with my glowing reports and perfect marks.

It was not that I tried to overshadow my sister or to make her look bad. It was just that I had found something that I enjoyed and that I was good at. My biggest regret is that I never noticed the pain in my sister's eyes whenever my parents yelled at her "why can't you be more like your sister".

When we started high school, my parents insisted on sending us to a posh Anglican ladies college. I didn't belong there among the girls with their shiny blonde hair that glistened in the sun. I, with my dark curls, dark eyes and dark skin which I wore like a hideous birthmark. They with their perky breasts, lean hips and big houses in Sydney's upper class suburbs. I with my breasts already so large that they strained against my school uniform, my round hips and parents with thick accents and middle class jobs. Oh how I longed to be like them. To start each school week with exciting stories of parties and boys, a first kiss, a first date. How I longed to be a part of their world.

It's not that I was unpopular. My penchant for acting, my class antics and my academic achievements made me very popular at school- but I was always an outsider. My parents were very traditional and I was not permitted to attend parties or outings with the girls from school. I would never, not in a million years, get to experience what they experienced. My world was the shadows. Theirs was the light.

We maintained Muslim traditions in our household- we always fasted Ramadan and celebrated Eid- but my parents never taught me what it meant to be Muslim or what was expected of me. I knew one Surah- the Fatiha- which my father taught me when I was 10 and one Arabic song- Mama Zamanha Gaya- which I remembered from my early years (funny how we all seem to have one song that stays with us through life). Apart from that, I knew nothing else of what it meant to be Egyptian or Muslim- I only knew that it was what I was expected to be.

As time wore on my parents softened a little in their strict restrictions on me, mainly as a result of my sister's insistence- the elder child must always pave the way and the younger ones must always enjoy the fruits of that labour.

The year I turned 15 was uneventful in most respects. I was in year 9 (Junior High) and was starting to enjoy some level of freedom. I attended a few school parties where I got to know some of the boys from the neighbouring schools. We were friends but they would never entertain the thought of seeing me as anything more than that. I was too different- and when you're a teenager, different isn't what you want to be. No, they reserved their affections for the girls who were like them.

You know how sometimes you make a conscious choice to do something and you have no idea where the consequences will lead you? You kind of take one step along a path and then it is like you are at the mercy of destiny and nothing you do can change your path- you can't go back but you can't go forward either because it is not you who is in control anymore. One night I made a conscious decision. I stepped onto a path without giving a single thought to where it might lead. I saw a way that I could be like them- like those girls- even if just for one night- and I took it.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The real reason my kids think I'm cool...

... is that my friends look like this:

PS: I'm the handsome one!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Why is this happening?

I've just watched a television interview (I've linked it here) with Wassim Doureihi the young spokesman for Hizb ut Tahrir in Australia.

The group, clearly an Islamist organisation with strongly wahabi influenced views, is running a conference right here, right in Australia, where the guest speaker Ismail Yusanto from Indonesia went on about the responsibility of every Muslim to undertake training and fight the 'enemy'.

Doureihi defended Yusanto's calls to arms stating that Muslims needed to prepare for the return of the Caliphate and that it was the duty of all Muslims to learn self defence in the case of an "agressive" attempt by the enemy against Muslims- he used Iraq as an example. Hmmm- funny that he doesn't mention the acts of agression by Muslims against Muslims- perhaps he has not heard of Darfur.

My question is...
What the fuck is the Australian Government doing? If the Egyptians can manage to keep a fairly tight lid on extremists to the point that people like Zawahri have to flee Egypt and head to Afghanistan; to the point that Islamists have actually called on the UNHCR to assist them seek asylum in countries like the UK and France because the Egyptian government does not allow them to breathe- then what on earth is the Australian government doing allowing them to come here and attempt to steal the minds of our young with their warped ideologies?

What am I supposed to do as a mother of young boys to protect them and ensure that they do not succumb to the mindset of the extremists when my own government won't lift a finger?

This is just ridiculous. How can this be allowed. If Yusanto and Doureihi want to blow themselves up because they have some kind of warped idea that Allah wants this from us- then go right ahead- do it- blow your own fuckin brains out and have a great time as you head to straight to hell in a bucket. BUT LEAVE US ALONE. LEAVE OUR CHILDREN ALONE.

Honestly, I just don't know what to do anymore. How do you fight something like this? How? When is the Australian government going to realise that dealing with terrorism is not just about 3D blast modelling and CTV and identity cards and police raids- it's about winning hearts and minds. It's about stealing back from the jihadis what they stole from us- peace, harmony, the beauty of Islam, and the minds of thousands of dead young men who believed in their "jihad".

My Big News

I have just accepted an invitation to teach a 3rd year unit at the University. The topic is....

Sex and Intimacy in Cinema

The coordinator said that she had heard about my interactive style of teaching and thought that I would be perfect for this unit. Not quite sure what she meant by that! In any case, it sure will be an interesting semester!

I decided to share my big news with my family- husband (H), 16 yr old son (B1), 14 year old son (B2) and slightly younger step son (B3) over dinner tonight. Little did I know that the conversation would end like this...

Me: So... I've been invited to teach a special elective unit at the Uni. It's on Sex and Intimacy in Cinema.

B1: Sounds like a fancy shmancy term for PORN

Me: Where do you learn these things?

H: Ha ha ha, 'porn', that's a good one!
*high 5s B1 and they laugh their stupid 'we are the masters of the universe' laugh*

B1: So Mum will you have teach them about the clitoris?

B2: What's a clitoris?

B3: Yeah what's a clitoris? We saw it on Southpark. It's a big huge pink thing that looks like a hat.

Me: It's not huge OK. Where do you learn these things? Who's letting you watch Southpark?

H: ha ha ha, Southpark, yeah that was funny.

B2: Yeah and it has magical powers or something. What is it Dad?

Me: Don't ask him, he doesn't know.

H: *shoots me a look and suddenly gets all serious*
Well boys... when you have sex...

B3: Ewww gross. I'm getting out of here

B1: Man, our family put the 'DIS' in disfunctional

Me: No son. Our family put the 'FUNK' in disfunctional

So much for my big news!