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Thursday, September 21, 2006
Arab-Americans make bad brides
A handful of years ago my crazy aunt and her oldest son paid my father a visit. I was living alone at the time and had the misfortune of visiting my parents on the same day. I remember how I wanted to hit my head against the wall when I opened the door and heard her voice making its way from the living room. It was too late to turn back and I was forced to spend an afternoon that, if God were just, would put me on the express lane to heaven's gates.

Auntie was there to get my father's advice (and money). Summertime was coming and she wanted to send her 22-year-old son to Egypt for vacation. She was hoping, as well, that he would find himself a bride, though she admitted that he was still young and had plenty of time. I rolled my eyes at her and asked her why she would want to send her son thousands of miles away to find a bride when there are plenty of women in America to marry.

"You want my son to marry an American!!! There's no way I'll ever let him marry an American!!"

Poor kid was sitting there, fidgeting in his seat, wishing his mother would turn mute.

I asked her what was wrong with Americans and she replied that Americans don't have any strong traditions.

"Ya3ni, if he marries an American woman, she won't let me live at their home. Then I'll be out in the streets?? No, no...he can't marry an American woman."

I was thinking in my head that no normal, sane woman would ever allow auntie to live in the same house. Arab or non.

Me: "Fine, he doesn't have to marry an American woman. There are a lot of Egyptians here, Arabs as well. Is that better?"

She replied that Arab-American women were even worse than American women because we KNOW our traditions, but don't follow them.

I got really angry at her for saying that and got even angrier when my father agreed. Apparently we're not marriage material because we're independent, don't take shit, and won't allow our mother-in-laws to live with us. We value our careers and won't cook for our husbands.

My father went further to say that if an Egyptian man would ask his advice about marriage, he would tell him to go back home to find a bride and bring her here.

Me: "So basically, you're condemning all of us Arab women here, is that it?"

Dad: "No. You can still get married."

Me: "How are we supposed to get married if you keep encouraging all the Arab men to go 'back home' to find someone? We can't marry the Arabs and you refuse to let us marry Americans. So what's the solution?"

Dad: "You [Arab-American chicks] should change. You need to know how to cook, how to maintain traditions. If you do that then you can get married."

Me: "Ma3lesh ya gama3a, but this is bullshit. What's you're saying is bullshit. Me personally, I won't change. And if an Arab-American woman asked my advice, I'd tell her NOT to change."

Auntie: "So you're never going to get married. Is that what you want?"

Me: "I can marry anyone I want."

Auntie: "Ya3ni eh you can marry whoever you want? Are you going to marry an American???!!!!!"

Me: "I can marry anyone I want."

Auntie: (to my father) "3agbak el kalam da?? You're going to let your daughter marry an American????"

Dad: "I've taught her right from wrong. She can do whatever she wants and marry anyone she wants. I can't control her life."

For a split second I felt like I was on top of the world. My father made me SO proud with that statement.

Auntie: "Ya3ni if she gets married to an American [and American here translates to non-Muslim] you'll throw her a wedding?"

Dad: "No"

Auntie: "Will you go to her wedding??"

Dad: "No."

And that was that. I told you, a split second of happiness, no more.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 4:35 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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