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!

Saturday, February 10, 2007


I want to thank everyone who left comments on my story.
Your words really touched my heart. You see, I've held this secret for almost 20 years now and lived with the guilt and shame of what happened. That is why I have never told- I wrapped the story in guilt and shame and hid it in the back of my mind.

What happened back then was the start of a long and hard journey. There were many many more times when I would feel the stinging aftermath of my father's hand across my face and the pain of my mother's biting degradations- my adamance for choosing my own path made me the black sheep; the 'wild child'. Ofcourse my uncanny aptitude for choosing the "wrong" men did not help- my first true love was Coptic Egyptian- as it happened he was not just the "wrong" religion but also the wrong class- his parents threatened to cut him out of their will and stop his allowance if he continued to see me- our relationship ended soon after. But not before his mum rang my mum and exposed our ilicit romance.

It also did not help that I am the first woman in my ENTIRE family (that's about 100 people if I was to bother to actually sit down and count) to ever get divorced and the only woman in my entire family to marry a khawaga (gringo).

With those kinds of credentials, is it any wonder that my life has been one long battle to escape the shadows?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Part 3- The Final

I read an article in the newspaper yesterday about a small village in Pakistan that had lost a lot of its young men to suicide missions thanks to an Al Qaida recruiting program. The fathers of these young men were talking about how proud they were- how honoured they felt that their sons had sacrificed their own lives for some warped ideology- how they had earned the respect of the entire village and were regarded with esteem as the honourable fathers of martyrs.

It strikes me that some people think that honour is all they have in this world. They hold honour so dear yet they do little to honour themselves, instead placing their own honour in the hands of others. Where is honour if not in your own heart? Why must people die so that others can claim honour? If death is indeed honour, then I choose life.

I will never know exactly what it was that made my father stop himself that night. Perhaps the sight of his own hands closing around my throat as I struggled for breath, reminded him of how they had once guided mine: "Bishwish, Bishwish- softly, softly. Tenderly ya habibti. You are not painting a wall. Paint from the heart. From your heart, to your brush, to your canvas. Let the paintbrush capture your feeling."

Perhaps in that instant- that millisecond when time stood still, he released his grip and allowed the breath to once again enter my body- he had realised what honour really is.

From that point on I became "she", "her", "that girl", "the tainted one", "el bet di". When I tried to speak to my mother she told me that I was no longer her daughter. My father left the room whenever I entered. I became a ghost. I was alive, but in their minds I was dead. How ironic that the consequences of my actions should be that I became an outsider even in the shadows.

Determined to do well in my final school year, I threw myself into my studies. I studied 10 hours each day, everyday, emerging from my room only for bathroom breaks and to eat. Oddly enough, this kind of diversion therapy has helped me get through some rough patches in my life. Years later when I separated from my first husband, I started a Masters degree by Thesis and finished in less than a year. When my boyfriend (now husband) and I broke up, I would divert my attention by immersing my self in home based projects. Had it not been for the fact that we broke up about 5 times during our courtship, the rooms in my house would have remained bare and unpainted.

Occassionally I wandered into my sister's old bedroom. Dr Dickhead, deciding that Australia was a land of painted hussies where a good little Muslim wife could easily be led astray, took my sister to Egypt where she embarked on a life as the good Doctor's coffee machine and baby making factory. I would sit on her bed and the room would come alive with memories of the two of us listening to music, arguing over whether the members of Duran Duran were gay, laughing with glee as we imagined Dr Dickhead's penis as a pale pink flacid appendange no bigger than a peanut dangling helplessly between his thunderous thighs, and squeeling with delight as we found new and even more disgusting ways to degrade him.

My parents kept a close eye on me. They quit full time work so that one of them could be home at all hours to watch me. If I missed the train and took a later one, I would find them waiting for me at the train station questioning why I was 10 minutes late. They regularly raided my room searching for any incriminating evidence that I might have found a way to evade their close surveilance and sneak off at night to fuck a football team (or two). If my period was late, as it often was, my mother would march me down to the clinic to draw blood for a pregnancy test. There were no school excursions, no outings, no extracurricular activities, no acting classes, no debating team, no friends, nothing. Only the shadows and school.

One day my mother told me to get dressed as I had an appointment with a doctor. "But I'm not sick" I protested. As it turned out, this was not the kind of doctor you go to if you're sick.

As we sat in the doctor's office, my mother went through my medical history- tonsils out at five, no major illnesses, no major surgery.... Then she leaned towards the doctor the way people do when they are about to say something shocking and life changing and whispered "Doctor, she is not a virgin." The doctor sat back looked at my mother and then at me and, with a slight grin, responded "So what?". After about 10 minutes it was settled. I would go in for surgery the next week.

I was to be re-virginated. Born again as a pure, untainted, unsniffed rose. I was to reclaim my virginity, re-instate my hymen to its once glorious status as protector of my virtue. I was to become marraigable material- a fine and beautiful virgin for would be Dr Dickheads.

I was angry but I had no choice. What options were there for me? I could run away but what about school, my exams, my dreams of studying law? I was not willing to give that up- that dream was the only control I had over my own life now. I could refuse to have the surgery but what good would that do? It would only serve to incur my parents wrath even more. No. I had to go along with this, even if I strongly believed that your experiences make you who you are and that nobody should ever force you to erase part of yourself.

As the school year neared to an end and I prepared to take my final exams, my parents revealed their plans for the new, improved, re-virginated me. I was to go to Egypt with my mother where I would stay with my widowed Aunt and cousins (whom I had never met) in Cairo. Ofcourse if I wanted to come back to Australia when University started the next year I could, but I would spend at least 4 months there. I was not fooled by their false assurances, not convinced that they would suddenly hand me back control of my life and allow me to step out of the shadows. I was to leave the day after my final exam.

And so the path winds it way and leads us places we never imagined we would go. And we let it because we made that initial choice, we took that initial step and threw ourselves at the mercy of destiny. And now we cannot move- not left, not right, not back, not forward- we only go where the path takes us. We watch helplessly as the scenery changes around us and we are forced to change with it. All the while desperately yearning for a path that is our own.

My parents rang me from Australia the day my final results arrived. I'd done well and was offered a place at Sydney University's Law Faculty, my first choice. But it didn't matter anymore. That dream belonged to a different life, a different path. I had to let it go if I was ever going to regain control. I had to embrace the reality of my new life and forge a new path. And I did.

There. It's done. I've told it. The secret that's lived in the dark places of my mind for so many years. The memories that make up my third life- the life I really have. Now I've released them from the shadows and brought them to the light.