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”.

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The Worst Store Names in Beirut

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

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Destructive me

2006 was a big turning point in my life.  I returned to England after the summer war in Lebanon. I didn’t recognise that I was traumatised or suffered from PTSD until recently.  It was a more recent trip to Lebanon  that brought this to my attention.  It’s hard to explain  to a person what ptsd symptoms are if they haven’t got a point of reference. Most people I know don’t have a point of reference and I’m really very happy about that.  I tried explaining it to a friend of mine recently. I gave her an example of seeing a child so traumatised ‘that the kid tries to pull their hair out,  scratches their arms (to the point of drawing blood) and then attempts to jump into a wall, banging their whole body against it in an attempt to merge with it or just jump out of their reality. This kid would do that every time they heard an exhaust back fire or was asked about their experiences” it sounds like a film or something quite surreal. It’s what I’ve been having nightmares about. My dreams start of so lovely and usually involve a beautiful place and I’m feeling so calm and serene then I hear screams and everything suddenly becomes black and I feel a very negative energy around me and I can’t move. Then I see this kid and around this child is a demon. That’s the point I wake up usually drenched in sweat.

This has made me rethink 2006. It’s made me rethink a lot of my life.  For example in 1997 when i saw a man killed in a road traffic incident from my apartment window in the UAE. It wasn’t so much seeing him killed at how he was treated. He was thrown into the boot of a car and he just disappeared. He was treated with so much disrespect and the person who killed him just drove away in his sports car with a smashed windscreen. You can’t explain cultural differences quickly so I won’t even go into it but I’ll say that in The Gulf states based on ethnicity your life value is predetermined. In this context this guy was a “nobody” because of his ethnicity and social status.

I combined that into my list of things I’ve seen because 2006 was a turning point for me. I adopted a “frame of mind” that seemed to determine my experiences.  For example my lack of trust somehow encouraged a lack of respect towards myself and towards almost everyone I met. I no longer trusted my own family.  I saw how easily people could turn against each other during conflict and how easily people could kill each other based on political ideology and blind faith. I became suspicious of everyone.

I used my suspicion to my own advantage and believed it made me ‘strong’. I no longer felt anything ‘nice’. My pain was the only thing I felt but I never showed it on the outside because that would make me ‘weak’. Instead I used my pain to make me strong. To make me able to walk away from anyone and anything without feeling or caring.  This was great.  I spent six months convincing myself I was ‘untouchable’ and oddly enough ‘immortal’. The latter is a typical sympton for war survivors.

I started to use women.  I didn’t take up self harming in the traditional sense of cutting. Instead sex was my outlet. Pain and sex because my thing.  Inflicting and receiving pain was the biggest turn on for me. But mostly dominating was what exited me.

Dominating wasn’t about sexual domination only.  It was about the emotional control I could have over a woman that then enabled me to control her sexually. I became crazy really. I can’t remember how many women I ‘went through’ between 2007-2009 but I know I gained a reputation among my friends who found my behaviour extraordinary and shocking to say the least. I was often described as the ‘woman with no sexual inhibitions ‘ and ‘not even close to girlfriend material’. I lied to every single woman. If I had to say ‘baby you’re the only one’ to get my way that’s what I’d say. If I had to tell them ‘I love you’ I’d say it. I’d  give them all a false sense of security and when I’d get bored or have enough I’d just cut them out of my life and make it impossible for them to find me. The ones who would try to track me down I’d make an effort for them to see me with other women and I’d often pretend i had no idea who they  were.  In fact I was so shameless I once told a woman ‘I’m sorry you experienced that with my twin Maria’ and I’d have a great big smile on my face.

All this that I lived is now coming back to me.  I have only recently admitted properly to myself that I did suffer from PTSD but have been living in denial. When I admitted it in the past I’d only said it because I was ‘expected’ to say that because how could I not have it after what I’d experienced? The Dr told me I most probably did, the therapist told me I most probably did but I thought they were ‘talking shit’. It’s taken me almost 9 years and a few more experiences since then for it to start emerging and only know I’m starting to accept that I’m suffering from it. I need to make peace with destructive me and start moving forwards because I’ve almost always been stuck in a frame of mind that is not helping me or anyone around me.

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Pet peeves

My list is small you’ll be pleased to hear.

1: being offered a funny looking mess on a plate consisting of couscous and ffs cauliflower among some greens and being told that’s tablouleh! Really? Since when? Which planet am I living on dammit it!!!  What a crime. Don’t dare call it tablouleh because we all be like “habouleh” (idiot).

2: assuming I’m Muslim because I’m from the middle east and then being asked “how do you feel? You know as a Muslim knowing that Muslims are killing each other right now”? so I’ll say this in response to the first part: don’t assume just because… and in response to the second part: like I give a shit what they do!

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Bike ride

C and I finally took our bikes out of the shed. We’ve been in Hampshire now for about 7 months and since leaving Surrey we’ve not cycled. The sun was out in our little town and we decided to find a country park so we could cycle.  I went to the shed and damn, my little foufou, she had some rust on her, plenty of cobwebs and dust. I felt sad. C saw and snarled “if she was your motorbike you wouldn’t neglect her”. I paused and thought about this.  She was wrong and I told her “I’ve been neglecting everything recently” as I dragged foufou out of the shed and left her in the garden. I went inside and came out with some disinfectant/sterile wipes and a whole roll of kitchen towels. I got cracking and cleaned her up and wiped her down. I was totally gutted to see spots of rust on her handle bars. I sat down on the grass beside her, lit a smoke and just thought about life. 

I used to take foufou out everywhere with me. She never left my sight.  I’d take her on adventures through the common or to the heath. I’d ride her along the river.  We’d go meet my friends together in town, either the southbank or Covent Garden then head to soho.If the weather wasn’t wet and miserable I’d ride her to work..foufou was my best buddy, she never let me down. I felt so sad I’ve let her down. C was right I’ve neglected her.

Since C and I moved I guess I’ve been mourning my old life. I started feeling sad, very sad. On a day like this; sun shinning, barely a cloud in the sky, the start of spring, my friends and I would all meet up for our first cycle of the season.  Usually we’d start off in Wimbledon village for coffee and a chat. We’d then ride through the common and cut through heading  towards Richmond Park. Once in the park we would ride towards Richmond gate and stop along the way for some water. Then we’d ride down to the river and find and good spot, lock our bikes and go for lunch.

I called  out to C “baby how do I remove fucking shit rust”
“Simple habibti (my love) scrunch up some foil shiny side up and rub the rust away. Hold on I’ll go get you some”
A few moments later she was back and she scrunched up two pieces of foil and handed one to me.  I took one side she took the other and we scrubbed away.

After lunch in Richmond my friends and I  would ride back to the village. We’d have a choice of pubs and we’d find the least crowded and grab some beers.  By that time most of the day would have gone and we’d be thinking about dinner.  Sometimes we’d have dinner out. Most times we’d pick someone’s house and meet there later that evening for games nights and takeaways. I miss our cranium and articulate games nights. 

C and I finished rubbing off as much rust as we possibly could. I looked at her “I miss my friends and I miss my life” She approached me and gave me a big hug “I know you do and I miss you.  You’ve not been the same since we moved”. I shrugged and said “yala I’ll put the rack on the car and sort out the bikes, you go lock up and grab my hoody.

We went to the Royal Victoria Country Park near Hamble. It overlooks the ‘backside of Southampton’ as it were.  What a grim place. C and I cycled for about 30 mins and realised we’d covered a great deal of the park. It’s not so big but I suppose it can be pretty if you go there on the right day. In those 30 minutes I was so happy.  I have a happy song I sing to foufou when I’m riding her it makes C and my friends giggle. C joined in and sang with me.

My lesson from today is; don’t neglect the simple things and the things that make you happy. 

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