Neutrality…

In life, in general, I tend to remain neutral when it comes to many issues. Generally I like to keep the peace and I tend to get on with most people.  As with most families mine has its fair share of drama. I’m talking extended family. My family is huge compared to many other families.  I have about 30 first cousins,  approximately 16 aunts and uncles (some of which are now deceased) and about 40+ second cousins. I know I have 3 surviving great aunts and I think about 3 great uncles. I have relatives all over the usa, scattered across western Europe and some scattered across the middle east.

I’m in contact with almost all of my relatives.  I treat them all the same – apart from a few of my cousins that I’m very close to and they’re mostly the European ones and a couple in usa and a couple in Lebanon.  I’m lucky in the sense that I can see them, communicate with them and even arrange holidays with them every once in a while.  I’m also lucky that I’ve been in a position to travel to some very nice parts of the world to meet my relatives.  The best part for me is that my immediate family and I have almost always lived in the UK with no other family members around. That means we’ve gotten on well with everyone and we’ve never taken sides when there’s been drama or nonsense going on between them.

In the last few years a couple of my cousins have moved to London to study and work.  That’s been really nice,  I get to hang out with them at least once a month.  Then my uncle and his wife retired and moved from the east coast (usa) to London.  That’s been nice too since I get to see them a couple of times a month. 

My parents have worked very hard is keeping my sisters and I out of family dramas and nonsense that’s occurred during the years. I’ve never been interested in the gossiping and the rivalry between them.  I’ve always taken a neutral stance.

Yesterday I was really rather shocked when an aunt of mine (fathers side) sent me a series of nasty text messages attacking my mother’s side of the family.  I read and reread the message several times. I was really shocked. I’ve always been close to both sides of the family and I’ve never differentiated between the two. It took me 8 hours to reply to her.  I was a cunt. I’m never usually a cunt.  I just couldn’t take a neutral position because I was being dragged into something that has nothing to do with me. I’ve never been a cunt to a family member before.  My dad’s youngest sister saw the worst of me yesterday.  I was harsh and hard and straight to the point. I didn’t say anything I’d regret and I didn’t defend or attack anyone; I remained neutral. What I did do though was make a very clear point that I’m not going to be used as a mouthpiece or put in the middle of something that has absolutely nothing to do with me or my immediate family. 

I’ve not told my parents about the messages because that could potentially start a massive family feud and there’s nothing worse than my parents fighting over their stupid siblings nonsense. This morning though I woke up exhausted. I didn’t even tell C about any of the messages. I feel really sad that my aunt saw the real cunt in me and that I was put in a position to be so horrible. I did wake up to a series of messages from her apologising for the position that she put me in.  Still, my attitude was so hard and I woke up thinking; since when did I become such a hard and detached person? That’s really what’s made me feel so sad. 

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My afternoon walk

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The sun is out and I’m meant to be on a job hunting mission.  Sun or job search? No brainer! I chose the sun. Job search can wait. The problem is the sun has been out every day this week.  As long as hubby doesn’t mind I’m happy. Besides she always says “as long as the house is clean and dinner is on the table when I get home,  I’m happy” well that’s not such a tall order especially for me Miss OCD.  Makes us both happy.

I’ve been trying really hard to read this book.

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It was given to me back in November. I was challenged to read it.  I think I’ve mentioned before I struggle to read novels. Give me the latest critical theory or political history book and I’ll finish it within 24 – 48 hrs.

This book though gives me a lot to think about.  That’s the problem. I read a page and I sit and think.  I like the philosophy behind it. Once I read in a lebanese newspaper about the roads in Lebanon; they are the only network that unites all the classes.  In Zen & the art of motorcycle maintenance, roads are looked at differently.  The highways and the country lanes. There’s an absence of class structures (in the book) in that sense but a reinforcement of humanity and humility and how human thinking in the digital age is being shaped.  This then leads me to think about Walter Benjamin and his famous article the work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction.

Perhaps too much sun has got me thinking and maybe I just need to go back inside and start job searching.  Or perhaps I need to admit defeat and give up reading this novel.  I’ve been challenged though and I don’t care if it takes me a year to read, I’m not giving in.  Besides, Said’s  Orientalism took me almost 2 years to complete and gave me a heck of a lot to think about. It also damaged my ability to engage in popular culture without questioning all sorts of practices of representation.

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Grim

About a month ago C and I decided to check out the gay scene in Hampshire.  Of course there isn’t anything in Winchester or even Romsey. There’s something in Basingstoke but we chose southampton instead. 

Southampton has grown on us both.  We’ve found an area which is very culturally diverse and has several amazing restaurants. We figured that the gay scene may be a little bit more diverse and up our street.  Online we found a pub that puts on a drag cabaret/comedy night and we decided to give it a go.  We got ready and headed out for the night.

When we arrived at the pub,  which is in a very nice part of Southampton, we were surprised at how grim it was in comparison to its neighbours. Snobby me wanted to leave but then I thought of Mollys  in soho, London,  and decided against judging a book by its cover. Besides I’d had so many drunken fun evenings in Mollys. I noticed C and I were the new faces in town.  Many people looked at us as though we’d stepped into the wrong place by mistake. C and I found this amusing and thought they probably think we’re tourists.  We ordered our drinks and found a table near the podium. 

The first act had us laughing so hard we both had tears in our eyes, achy jaw muscles and stomach pain. The first act was hilarious.  He was bloody brilliant! We hadn’t laughed so hard  for such a long time.  The second act was awful.  Vulgar. Cheap. Crude. Nothing about this person was funny.  He was extremely offensive.

He spent the first 10 minutes going around the room and picking on people.   It seemed more like humiliation. He would pick out a large man or woman and make fat jokes, ugly joke and then call the person a c**t. I was astonished that many people found this sort of humour funny. C and I both had the same thing on our minds; let’s leave. I was in the process of finishing my drink when suddenly that hideous creature found his way to our table “look what we have here a fucking chinky” pointing at C.  Half of the audience started laughing and the other half “whoa”. Then there was silence for a few seconds before he continued in what he imagined to be a peculiar Chinese accent “fucking chinky c**t what is your name”? as he stuck the mic in C’s face. I looked at C and said “let’s leave” but she had already given him her name. I was about to grab the mic off him and verbally rip him to shreds but C being C held me back.  He didn’t stop and he wouldn’t stop for about 3 more minutes he continued being racist and offensive.  I looked around and noticed that many people found his humour very funny. 

I don’t like racism at all. I don’t find racism funny.  In fact his sort of racism was aggressive and violent. I thought of racist nationalistic sentiments that are both ignorant and highly offensive. I thought of how insecure he must be to hold such views. I continued to think about tolerance vs acceptance and how tolerance is such an ugly word when it comes to racial and ethnic divides.  Don’t forget I come from Lebanon and the damn civil war was fought across ethic and sectarian divisions. So to tolerate reminds me of the tolerance that exists among communities in a divided State and that can only lead to violence and aggression, which is a continuous state of affairs in the political sphere back home. 

As I thought of all these things that dreadful drag was insulting my girlfriend by which point most of the audience were now hysterically howling.  I became so angry.  I didn’t  want to be part of such a crowd. As I looked around the pub the audience reminded me so much of my racist homophobic neighbours that I’d left behind in Surrey.  I took C’s hand and said “we don’t belong here” and I walked out.  On the way some of the crowd made booing noises and others laughed. The hideous creature approached me and started telling me it was better that I was out because we didn’t “fit in” and that we’d “clearly strayed out of a immigration detention centre”. I had absolutely nothing to say to him but in my mind I continued thinking. 

C was very upset about this. I asked her “as a Dr don’t you want to give people like him the wrong treatment so they’ll just die and the world would be a better place”? She looked shocked and said “you could never be a Dr Maria for exactly that reason. I treat everyone equally and so should you regardless of a persons opinions”. I guess she’s a better person than me. What I do know though is the gay scene that I experienced in Southampton is shocking and grim. It brought up so many negative thoughts of culture, racism, insecurity and sectarianism. What also triggers me is the “Vote UKIP” signs that are dotted around Hampshire, which makes me think the gay scene are just part of the political demographics/mindset/identity in my part of the country. 

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Meltdown.

That’s how C put it to me last night in bed “Maria I didn’t notice until recently that you had a meltdown before we moved from Surrey”. I was very surprised to hear her acknowledge this. She continued “you had no reason to move here with me, you were happy with your life,  your work, your family close by. I was so busy with work I couldn’t see it and didn’t realise it until now”.

I hadn’t thought of it as a meltdown. I thought this is what couples do; they support each other and grow together, they make sacrifices and compromises.   C has always stood beside me and supported me through all of my decisions and heartaches. Moving seemed like a natural part of our lives and our future.  Looking back though I can see I did in fact have a meltdown. I sort of froze.  I didn’t want to move. I loved our house, the neighbourhood, the close proximity to my family and close friends, my weekly drunken nights out with ‘the girls’, our games nights, cinema nights and dinners. I don’t miss the rude, racist, homophobic neighbours but I miss everything else.  I miss my friends coming over for unannounced sleep overs, or morning coffees at the weekend. I miss our cycling adventures in spring and summer. I miss my Surrey life and Hampshire is a whole different place and a  very different life.

I quit my job. I work part time in London.  My commute is about 3 hours a day. I rarely see my friends and no regular drunken nights out.  Instead I’m a housewife in part time employment. I have a lot of time on my hands here.  Some days are lovely and other days I feel as though I’m a million miles away from the person  I used to be. Bloody hell,  C and I go for walks in the country side and I get tired from the fresh air. We are members of the national trust and some botanical gardens  thing that she signed us up too. It’s all rather peculiar.

We’ve discovered an area in Southampton which is very run down but somehow when I’m on that street I feel as though I’m in London.  It’s a culturally diverse neighbourhood and people are not stuck up their own asses. I don’t know how I’ve made it almost eight months here. I have sort of changed my perspective and think of this area as an extended vacation but a place where I must find full time work. Commuting to London isn’t feasible.  On my days off I have started the tedious search for work.  It’s just a pity that I’m in a part of the country where my line of work isn’t in demand.  However,  I’m determined to find something that’ll keep me close to C.

I’m just grateful that C noticed what I’ve been ignoring.  It’s hard for a person to give me some home truths, C does it so gently and with a lot of sensitivity. I’m not used to being ‘looked after’ and ‘taken care of’. That’s been the biggest issue for me; relying on C. C says that’s part of the process of a relationship and shows that we are both committed to the same goal as a couple.  Sometimes I just find this hard to digest. 

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Miss Charity…

One day she left for a holiday “I’ll be back in two weeks Maria”. Apparently she was going to visit her parents.

A few days passed and I was preparing a report for work. I noticed a new file in my documents folder and I opened it. That file contained many explicit emails from men and women to my girlfriend. I was shocked. Surprised. Amazed. She acted like a little angel. Everyone who met her thought she was a saint. In hindsight she was manipulative. Always acting sweet and innocent. No one would have believed how deceitful she was.

Towards the end of her first week away she called me “how are you baby?” I told her I was fine then I asked her “sweetheart which charities do you support”? She answered “Princess Alice and The British Heart Foundation” I told her that was perfect.  I wanted to support one of her chosen charities.

As soon as we ended the call I emptied all of her clothes and belongings into black bags and I loaded them into my car ready for the next morning. I had this little psycho in my head telling me “you have to let her go” and I did

In the morning I took all of her things to  Princess Alice. I felt so empowered.  She had only her suitcase of belongings when she returned. I wanted to laugh she had gone to a hot country and it was winter in England when she returned. I didn’t give her socks or underwear away, instead I threw all of those items away. Besides who purchases used underwear and socks from a second hand store?

She took a shower and I sat on the sofa waiting to hear what was coming. She came into the living room with a towel “honey where are my clothes”? I smiled “at the charity store” She screamed “what the fuck Maria? Why did you do that” I paused “I could ask you the same but I’m not going to waste my breath. At least I gave them to a cause you support. It seems you’re generous with your body but not your belongings. Tomorrow, go away”.  All that was said in Arabic and it sounds much more dramatic.

And that was the end of Miss Charity and I live happily ever after.

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A Wedding!!!

I mentioned in previous posts that my mother decided to out me last year in the usa to all of her family. Since then my mother has confirmed my sexuality to all of her ‘Arab community’ in the UK in the same way she did in the usa, ‘Maria is gay and lives with C, they’ve been together for many years and they’re happy. I just had to accept it so now you must because it is normal in England”. That’s been mother’s line to everyone.  It’s not that I’ve never been out, I have always been out in a way. However, when it came to the ‘community’ I was asked to keep it ‘quiet’ because they’re “all so judgemental and it will only cause shame for the family because Arabs are not open about these things”. As a result I sort of distanced myself from the community but never hid who I am, I just never said anything and I allowed people to come to their own conclusions and I have always included my serious girlfriends in any Arab occasions that I’ve been invited to.

I think C and I moving away from London made it very obvious that we’re in a relationship. I had no reason to move but C did for her work. I believe it was this that made my mother tell everyone. She could no longer ‘cover up’ my life.

It’s funny how things have taken a turn though. Since confirming my relationship with C many of her friends are now asking “when are you two getting married”? They haven’t built up to this conversation, they’ve done what true Arabs do; blurt out what’s on their minds. The sweetest way someone asked me was “Maria you know we could really do with a happy occasion and a damn good party. Have you thought about when you and C are going to get married? We can all help you plan a big Arab wedding”. I was very surprised to hear this from N. She’s alway struck me as a little narrow minded, God fearing Orthodox Christian. So when she asked I was a little shy and very surprised.

It doesn’t end there though. My aunt in Orange County recently called me and said that her husband and her had been discussing C and I and wanted to know “when’s the big day” and whether “you can plan it for summer 2016 because we already have plans to go to viva fiesta in Texas this spring”. I was very shocked because she’s almost on the verge of being a born again Christian with some very interesting ideas about who we live our lives.  She did end the conversation with “i love you no matter what. I just believe marriage is the right thing and it’s what every woman wants”.

To be honest I’ve not thought about marriage for a while. I had a stupid idea once to marry someone and we got engaged briefly. Since then I haven’t considered it. It seems everyone around me though is thinking about it.

On Tuesday night I went to visit a friend and his wife who have recently had a baby girl. Shortly after arriving K asked his eldest daughter G “aunty Maria is here now are you going to ask her what you want to know”? After a few moments of being shy I looked at G “you can ask me anything” and she smiled came sat on my lap and looked at me “Aunty, when are you and C getting married” I was not expecting that,  G is 5 years old.  K and his wife both looked at me and K said “have you thought about it? I think you make a perfect couple and we are just waiting for you to announce an engagement or something, it’s about time” and his daughter agreed. I looked at G and answered “next time you see C why don’t you ask her”. 

What’s been wonderful is knowing that everyone around me supports my relationship and my sexuality. What’s taken me by surprise is that I had no idea that marriage is what everyone assumes C and I should consider as the next stage of our relationship. 

On wednesday evening I came back home.  I told C last night about all these recent conversations and how everyone seems to think marriage is our next option. Of course for us It’s not an option as long as she’s not open and out to her parents.  She did say something to me about marriage though “when you ask me properly you’ll know my answer and a big Arab wedding would be amazing. Who would come and how long would it last” and of course I replied “when you’ve told your family then we can look at our options. In terms of who would come, I’d have to invite about 200 people of who are mostly family and close friends. And if I compare my cousins weddings in the usa and Lebanon they’ve lasted anything between 3-5 days and the good thing is that my sisters, mum and aunts will organise it all”. I was hoping that would deter her and her whole face lit up “my friends would think that’s amazing and so would i”.

Posted in Lesbian, Lifestyle | 18 Comments

The Worst Store Names in Beirut

http://m.beirut.com/l/39520

Number one cracks me up.  I hope this gives you a little cultural insight.

Posted in Lebanon | 2 Comments