free stats Carmen's Web: June 2007
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Staying in the fight
I hate the nighttime. It's at night that everything hurts so much more. The emotional pain becomes amplified and starts manifesting itself physically; it's when the tears flow harder and the convulsions and shakes start. It's when the self-doubt threatens to creep in. When the fight just seems to be too hard and throwing in the towel becomes incredibly appealing. It's when I have my breakdowns. I can't stand the nighttime.

My mother is proving herself to be very difficult. While I wasn't expecting her to embrace my decision, what I DEFINITELY did not expect was the cruelty that she has been throwing at me. I honestly thought that if I gave her enough space and time to process all this we'd be able to have a fruitful discussion in which we could talk about things as adults. But it seems that the more time I give her, the more time she has to become mean, unreasonable, and unnecessarily cruel. She's fighting dirty and is resorting to tactics that are disappointing me in her.

I'm trying hard to put it all in perspective. She's grasping at straws and is beyond desperate. She's afraid and confused. And everytime I get really angry I have to stop and remind myself that this is not the same woman who raised me. Not the same woman that my friends respect and revere. I have to stop and remember that she really does love me, even though she acts hard and is closing herself up. I make excuses. And excuses. And excuses. But there's going to come a time when I can't do that anymore and all I'm praying for right about now is that we don't get to that point. Because I WILL lose respect for her.

I am doing everything in my power to keep this woman in my life. To keep my parents in my life. I'm not allowing my mother to sever ties with me. I am letting her humiliate and degrade me, drag me through the fucking mud. And why don't I leave? Why don't I just pack my bags and go? I have never allowed anyone to shit on me like this. NEVER.

I stay because I'm trying to show her that it's not ME that's going to do the severing. It's going to be her, them. I stay after all this humiliation because I will do whatever it is that I can to prove to them that I value them, that I love them, that I'm willing to fight for them just as much as I'm willing to fight for R.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 11:40 PM
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Sunday, June 10, 2007
Delayed reactions
While I didn't feel any better after having exposed myself to my mother yesterday, I didn't feel any worse either. I was calm, proud to have taken that big, huge, no-going-back-now step. Proud of having faced my demons head on. The stress of having kept it a secret for so long was gone, but it was replaced with new stress so it wasn't as if I shed any burdens.

I left the house after telling her. It's not that I didn't want to face her. I needed to clear my head in different surroundings and needed to NOT think about it. I didn't want to wallow. I didn't want to think of what I could've done better, how I could've said things better. The head needed to be cleared immediately.

R and I went to catch an early movie so my mind could be occupied by something else. As we were driving back home he suggested we go visit his brother's house. I love his family and being around them is a blast, but yesterday was simply not the time for me to socialize with anyone. He parked in front of his house and insisted we go inside. I told him that I just couldn't see anyone today, at which point he said that I'm always doing that and we should just go inside. I didn't feel like fighting and was planning on walking in and then leaving his ass there. I was really pissed.

When I walked in I saw the entire family there. His brother's wife, their daughters, the daughters' boyfriends, and a bunch of people I didn't know. Hang in there, I told myself. One go around of hellos and you're outta here.

It was then that his niece made the announcement that her boyfriend had just proposed and I realized that's why R was so insistent on going in. I was very happy for her and my mood lightened up a little. I was still slightly angry because, well, he should have given me a heads up so I didn't go inside like a sour puss.

I didn't leave right away though, in retrospect, I should have. I stayed through her father's speech, "We're happy to have you in our family, E", her mother's tears, the sisters' screams, the family phone calls. I watched the elated faces and the happy hugs. It was such a sharp contrast to what I had just went through with my mother earlier.

I kept checking my phone throughout this entire time to see if best friend or Toots sent me any texts...they were both worried and proud of me and I needed any words of encouragement that came round my way. R noticed and asked if I needed to go home. I told him that I was just checking for texts. And told him also that best friend was really angry with him.

She called him two days ago to tell him about a party she wanted to throw last night to celebrate our engagement. She wanted to get his family's info so she could invite them. I, of course, called her earlier in the day to tell her about the saga with my mother and canceled. I felt bad, but she understood. He, however, had not called her back and so is now on her shit list.

He insisted he never got the call, but when he checked his voice messages heard a really long one from her. Apparently he had forwarded his calls to another phone which doesn't send along voice messages. He felt AWFUL and then gave me the message to hear.

Her voice was the trigger to my subsequent breakdown. She didn't say anything in particular..."I need e-mails, I want to throw a party"...but just hearing her voice, hearing that she wanted to celebrate me pushed me over the edge. I became instantly quiet. R kept asking me questions and I couldn't answer him because if I opened my mouth I'd start crying. My heart started beating faster and all of a sudden I felt the tears about to come. I ran off to the bathroom. Got off my seat and ran. And started crying. Bawling.

It was just too much. The celebrating vs the lack of celebrating on my part, the happy faces vs my mother's face, how easy it was to welcome people to the family vs the shit that I'm going through. It just seemed too much to take in.

I managed to compose myself just enough to get my keys and run out to my car where I had my nervous breakdown. I started hyperventilating (which scared the living shit out of me) and couldn't stop the tears. I didn't realize how painful this would be. I knew it was going to be hard, I knew I'd be hurt in the process, but I never dreamed of the extent of pain that would be involved.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 9:41 AM
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Saturday, June 09, 2007
Round one
Thirteen years ago this month, my mother banished me to Egypt. Her Egyptian daughter was becoming too American and college in New York would only allow this transgression to worsen. She had to nip it in the bud. She waited until the day after my high school graduation to inform me that I was to go to and stay in Egypt for an indefinite amount of time.

I didn't go willingly. I yelled, pleaded, and cried. I appealed to her maternal instincts and threatened life-long hatred, but nothing worked. She didn't want to be responsible for the trouble I would get myself in if I stayed. What that meant is that she didn't want to get in trouble with my father, who would've blamed her for not raising her kids properly.

I hated her for a very long time. Real, genuine hatred. I stopped talking to her for nearly two years and things returned to "normal" only when my grandmother died. It was hard to hold grudges then. By that time, I had become the daughter she wanted and expected. I spoke more Arabic than English, was devoutly religious, and met and got serious with a proper Egyptian Muslim man. No more reason to worry about me.

Until now. Now my mother finds herself in the same exact situation she found herself in over a decade ago. The only difference now is that she finds herself without any kind of ammunition.

I told my mother about R earlier today. I didn't plan on it. I certainly didn't wake up thinking, "I'm going to do it today". There were a number of factors at play that led to the big bang. Last night my next door neighbor (who's Egyptian and is essentially extended family) invited me to her brother's house for game night. I told her I had plans with R and she told me to bring him. I wasn't comfortable with the idea because I haven't exposed him to anyone on my side, but she told me that it's about time I do it.

So I called R and asked him if he wanted to go. He seemed uncomfortable with the idea but agreed to go. As we were driving I noticed him become fidgety. I had never seen him like that. It was as if I were taking him to meet my parents!! I told him to stop being so nervous, that we were going to hang out with people our own age. He should be nervous when he meets my parents, not these people.

The pep talk didn't help much. His discomfort was so palpable and we nearly got into a fight because of a stupid comment he made about meeting my family. I had to control myself though because this is all my fault. I've put him in this situation. I've kept him a ghost for so long and have put this fear in him. I vent so much about my parents, Egypt, can I expect him to carry even one positive thought?

I dropped the conversation and we went to my friend's house. He had a great time. He was uncomfortable at first, but everyone welcomed him warmly and he took to them immediately.

This morning I woke up feeling frustrated that I contributed so strongly to his discomfort. And started hating myself for not being able to muster up any strength to get this part of my life going already.

I went to the gym to release this frustration. An intense workout and a surge in adrenalin had me very restless. As I was driving home, Pat Benatar's "Love is a Battlefield" came on the radio, which put me in an unexpected trance. When that video came out in the 80s (and if there's one thing that made the 80s what they were it's music videos), my brother, who couldn't have been more than six, told me that regardless of what happened in life, he would always love me and would never abandon me.

I came home, lay down sweaty on my bed and tried to control the millions of thoughts forming in my head. My mother was in her room talking on the phone and I just couldn't take it anymore. I've been waiting and waiting and waiting for the right moment, but there is no right moment. I'm either going to tell them or I'm not.

So I went into her room and asked her to get off the phone. I told her I needed to tell her something. She sat down and listened intently. I began by telling her that I've known someone for a while now and she said "I know". Which wasn't a surprise to me. She's not an idiot. She just chose not to say anything about it. I told her that he's not Muslim and watched her eyes grow a little. Again, she knew but the fact that I was confirming everything like this kinda shook her senses.

She asked me how I could put myself in such a situation. I told her that what's happened has happened and that I needed to tell her. I then dropped the nuclear bomb...we both want to get married.

I have never seen my mother's face form the way it did. Her eyes weren't full of anger or rage, they were full of pure fear. She asked me what I was thinking and that this could simply not happen. I explained to her how I came to my understanding that it was not haram and she simply wouldn't hear it. It's haram, it's haram is the only thing that came out of her mouth. Every religious class she took say it's haram, all the sheikhs say it, thousands of years of fiqh say it. It's haram.

I expected all her arguments, thanks to the anons that wrote their fabulous comments on previous posts. I had an answer for everything. Of course she simply wouldn't hear it. She said that she couldn't approve of such a thing. I told her I wasn't looking for her approval but just didn't want her to cut me out of her life. She repeated again that she couldn't approve, which basically means that she won't have me in her life. We had to cut the conversation short because my father walked into the house but not before I asked to read her books on sunnah. We'd talk about this again, but when we were both slightly calmer.

The confrontation went exactly as I expected. I could've scripted it. It wasn't a success, but it wasn't a failure either. My mother didn't get hysterical and I didn't break down. I was tempted at one point to throw a shoe at her head as she kept repeating, "it's haram" but I maintained composure. I mean, it's taken me two years to get to this point where I'm comfortable with my decision. I can't expect her to be comfortable with it in two minutes.

So there it is. The wheels are now in motion. I thought I would feel a weight lifted after telling one of my parents, but I don't. I actually feel kind of sick. Butterflies keep forming in my stomach. I also hate that I have now afflicted my mother with the same terrifying thoughts that have plagued me for the past two years. Now SHE'S going to get the sleepless nights and the stomach knots. I never wanted to do this to her. I kept putting this shit off because I simply didn't want her to go through this.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 4:41 PM
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Egyptians just don't get no luv
via The Superficial:

Martha Stewart was on her way to make an appearance on The View Tuesday when she noticed she was being followed by a police cruiser. When her car stopped at the studio, it was surrounded by officers and her driver was promptly arrested. Page Six reports:

"A visibly upset Stewart went up to her dressing room and, according to a source, "started shouting loudly to an assistant over the phone." The domestic diva yelled, "How could you do this to me? Don't you do background checks on people? He was Egyptian! What do I pay you people for?"

Hmm, right, so apparently Martha Stewart pays her people to make sure she doesn't hire any Egyptians. I'm pretty sure that's illegal. As is cutting off somebody's head and wearing it like a mask. I think.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 12:05 PM
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Monday, June 04, 2007
Why I Can't Talk to Muslims
I took some of my students to Columbia University last week for an internship. It took us nearly two hours to get there from Brooklyn. We didn't mind it so much though. The trip on the subway was fun. I always like interacting with my kids outside school; they drop their inhibitions and start acting like real people.

Somewhere between Canal Street and Union Square, an African-American Muslim woman jumped on the train and started preaching. I've never seen Muslims proselytize (lecture maybe, but not active proselytization), except for scattered members of the Nation of Islam on random city streets. This woman, dressed all in black and wearing black gloves, stayed with us till we reached uptown. I'll admit, she was a great orator, but it was getting too much at one point.

She started by extolling the virtues of Islam. Which was fine. It was actually a pretty good lesson for my students. She practically gave us an entire history unit in twenty minutes. We got a great history of Islam, an overview of the five pillars, and a useful comparison of the monotheistic religions. The flyer she was handing out was also a handy resource I had my students save it to study for the history regents they're going to take next week.

My students were mesmerized. It was hard not to be. The woman just wouldn't let up and even if you tried to ignore she'd manage to suck you in. At one point though she started talking about how Islam is the only true religion. My Argentinian student looked at me and whispered, "Miss, that's not nice what she's saying. It's...what's that word you taught us last week??? It's 'intolerant', right?"

"Well, what makes it intolerant, J?" He gathered a group together and analyzed the intolerance of her statement. It was really cute. I would've never in a million years thought a subway trip would serve as a teachable moment.

The woman kept on talking about the only true religion. She wasn't trying to be insulting, but for a group of adolescents who usually hear only what they want to hear she seemed quite arrogant. I stopped her as she walked past me and suggested that maybe she should drop the whole "true" religion bit.

"What do you know about Islam? Are you Muslim?" she queried.

"Yeah, I'm Muslim and you will continue losing your audience if you make them feel like they're .... "

"Sister, before you start preaching to me you should go and look at yourself in a mirror. Muslimahs don't look like you. Learn to cover up before you preach to me."

This is the umpteenth time that I've had someone dismiss me because I don't look Muslim. Last summer, a fellow classmate took issue with my breasts. Last semester, my West African students couldn't understand why I didn't veil (and I couldn't understand how they managed to veil but were fine wearing such tight clothing to school). On this blog, people will always resort to personal attacks to try to put me in my place. When trying to have a debate on hadith or religion, people will hold their own for about three or four emails/posts before resorting to something like "well, if you're such a Muslim you should be veiled", "you can't be a Muslim and have a boyfriend", or (my favorite) "you're going to hell". Dialogue ends immediately.

The thing that bothers me is that there's no way that anyone would attack a Muslim man in such a personal way. I've read Muslim male bloggers write about fucking strangers while on vacation or drinking themselves to oblivion, yet there is never a comment directed AT them. My cousin, who my father is financially supporting, is an alcoholic and a womanizer. My other cousin, who my father was also financially supporting, had three daughters with three different women (all of whom he was married to and divorced within a year) and doesn't support any of them. They don't get personally attacked. But I always do.

My students got very angry at the preacher woman. The Islam they knew and learned about would not put someone down like that. Besides, how dare she insult their favorite teacher! One of my tenth grade girls stood up and told her, "This woman comes to teach us everyday even though we drive her crazy. She stays after school to teach our parents how to speak English. She feeds us, pays us compliments, and is much more decent than you."

She then came, gave me a hug, and whispered, "You're beautiful Miss. Inside and out."
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 7:56 PM
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A sweet interview
This woman put a smile on my face as I was driving into work this morning.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 7:08 PM
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Who: Carmen

xx-something egyptia-yorker who's spent over half her life stuck in two worlds not of her own making. unable and unwilling to fully embrace one identity over the other, she created (is trying to create) her own place in the world where people love each other unconditionally, irrespective of artificial boundaries, and where dancing merengue is as necessary to life as breathing air.

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