Friday, October 25, 2013

The Doll Factory

Disclaimer: This post is written by a very angry person

The past decade showed how women in music are all headed towards symbolizing women as objects; as good as their hair, clothes, and makeup, and should only be happy when they, as objects, are in demand by the consumer; a.k.a the common man. Two or three years later, the movies started portraying the common man as a wolf in sheep’s clothes; if the girl becomes an interesting enough commodity, then the consumer wants to steal instead of buy, use and abuse instead of create a solid and healthy partnership through love and marriage, and how their lives are all eventually ruined.
The songs sell because girls want to be beautiful, attractive, and sexy. Of course, stream this enough through the media and any girl going through puberty will learn that being smart is a big no-no (don’t the mothers tell them that as well), being sexy is good, but publicly slutty is a no-no, you can be slutty if you can hide it, because the guys like the secrecy, and that being yourself is.. wait, yourself? You want to be a real human being? No sweetie, you got it wrong, no one wants you for who you are, you are not an individual, you are a doll in a very big dollhouse called the world, you should know your place.
The movies sell too. They sell to guys because they talk about all that is taboo; sex and drugs, how you would ruin your life if you decide to marry the girl you like, and how it would be much easier to just play around with a girl who is easy enough. You’d be a sleazebag but no one can hurt you and no one really cares. They sell to girls because they sound like the lessons from the more experienced women of the world (aren’t they all directed by Inas El-Deghedy?) on how a girl should be sexy, but not easy, and that naïve girls get the boot almost always, because even if they are book smart, the wolves out there would get them, it’s eventual. A girl has to be “2arashana” and “sousa” to live a good life and sell to the right consumer; the man who has money and a job and would treat her like a princess; which basically means buy her lots of stuff because love is for losers.
We’ve come to live with that, Sexy girls and soppy love stories and movies about the big bad wolf. But the trend is changing, and apparently not for the better. It seems that all those movies did pay off in the end, girls are not easy anymore, at least they know how to hide it and if they don’t, who cares anyway, this is society now and we are a part of it. It is becoming more OK on a societal level that girls aren’t faking Hijab, mainly because of a stupid politically rebellious idea in the sense of school children teasing each other, but that doesn’t mean that girls should get too comfortable, oh no! You thought it’s time to be yourself sweetie? No, no that’s not going to happen, it just looks like you have more freedom. The new trend which was always there really but always subtle, is going public; society is coming out of the closet. We want Stepford wives, and you should be happy with that. You know of course that you shouldn’t have an opinion, we’ve been pushing that in your head ever since school and it’s been going on for decades, this is just trying to sell it. A girl is still a commodity, but we want to sell a Stepford wife now, not a slut, that doesn’t sell anymore.
The sluts of society are now talk show hosts; just look at them, they work late (imagine how they get home at dawn every day), they want you to think, they talk about hard political topics, they aren’t feminine, and most of them are either single or divorced. See where smart gets you? Here is the alternative, here is what sells. A girl should always act naïve and stupid, it’s so cute. You should always have hearts and teddy bears around, come on make it easy on the dude, if he decides to get you something, you have to like it. Got that down? Good! Now that you’ve attracted the right guy, you have to be obedient, yes you heard me, obedient! And stay naïve, if he senses that you’re smart or knowledgeable, he’ll be turned off and leave, and then you’ll be a spinster and not even a talk show host. Next, you have to dress the way he likes. No, it doesn’t matter if he liked the way you dressed before, remember, you’re a doll. Kids dress their dolls all the time, so you have to look the way he likes. Now, about those friends of yours, they’re bad influence, they’ll turn you against him most probably and open your sweet kitten eyes on how badly he’s been treating you, so you better not listen to them. Tell you what, let him pick your friends for you; probably his family members or the girlfriends/wives of his friends, and then let him always compare you to them to show you how badly you’re treating him and how they are way more obedient than you. Remember your place, you are there to please your man, do everything he says, even think the way he likes, this is part of your role as society’s doll; to be shaped the way the customer likes.
Now don’t forget, be happy! If you complain you’ll be a typical Egyptian depressing woman. Finally, when you get dumped because you’re too boring for him and you don’t know anything about anything, take it with dignity, even with pride. You mustn’t embarrass him or make a scene. One last thing, when you do get dumped, you’ll be used goods and no one will want you again, and you’ll still be a spinster, who doesn’t have a talk show and isn’t even smart.
We hope you’ve enjoyed your stay at the doll factory. Please come again!

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Purpose of Life

The eternal question, what’s the meaning of life? What’s the purpose of life? Why am I here? Why was I born? Do I matter? Why is the universe so big... etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

42 (just kidding)

The purpose of life is a story.

The only things that matters in life are stories. Aren’t stories divine? To become a story teller is to reach out and grab a piece of that divinity. After all, the book I love so much, the word of God and the message of the belief I hold so dear to me in my heart of hearts is a book of stories, the Quran, and each tiny part of it has a story of its own. Its messenger PBUH is a story teller; not in the sense of his making up stories, but because the story teller is a story on his own through his credibility and his honesty. Oh yes, a story teller is honest, perhaps the only important thing about a story teller, whether he makes up stories or just tells them, is that he is honest because he believes in the words of the story he is telling.

I talk too much, and I blog too much, especially about myself. It’s quite disturbing in fact. I can only imagine you, dear reader, wishing I would write about something else other than me. But maybe if you come back to this humble blog, then you are listening to the story of me. It would be nice to dream that one day my blog would be a book about all my stories, wouldn’t that be nice?

But enough about me…

Imagine your story. Take a minute.

Do you like your story so far? How does it go?

Was born in a thunderstorm 20 something years ago, in the middle of the night or at midday. Meant the world to your parents, went to school and college, played the bad boy every now and then, fell in love so fiercely that you thought your heart would break, felt your soul shatter to a million pieces when your dream didn’t come true.

Your smile lit up the room and your laugh was like chiming bells.

You saw so much, made so many mistakes, travelled inside your soul and out, and realized this and that!

You went through the bitterness of regret and the even worse bitterness of lost hope.

Your friends were everything, or they were nothing, you worked so hard because you believed in something, or just liked to work, or you were a workaholic by heritage.

You had fun and you laughed and you cried. Once you spoke to a person and that person’s eyes lit up because she’d realized something that was so profound, and only you could make her eyes shine like that.

We exist to tell stories, our stories, other people’s stories. We exist because in our laughter and tears, in our losses and disappointments, buried under the debris of our shattered dreams lies a shard of broken glass, that if held to the light in exactly the right way, would reflect the light of the sun. Our stories are the stories of existence and of life. Plain old life. So maybe it’s much simpler than all those crises we go through; identity, existential, oompa loompa?

How would you like your story to end? Take another minute, please :)

I want people, at the end when they read my story, to be sad that I died (isn’t that how stories on earth end?) but not because my ending is tragic –who knows maybe it would be –but because they loved the character. I want them to be happy because I lived a full life, because I tried and failed and maybe succeeded a few times. I want them to be happy because I was good and honest. Honest stories are the best. I don’t want to be the good guy, or the bad guy (gal), I want to be human; good and bad. I want the person who reads my story to love me at times and hate me at times and get angry at me for being so thick, and wish me guidance when I lose my way. I wish my story’s ending would not have any loose ends; I don’t want my readers to hold their breaths and think, “if only she had another hour, she could have done this or that” but that’s not up to me. What is up to me is not to waste my time wishing. Who would want to read a story about a person who sat there wishing and never did anything about it! I am glad I am stuck sometimes though, because that’s always the best part in a story, when the character is stuck and the reader just can’t wait for them to get unstuck; to be sent a miracle or make one of their own. Isn’t that what always happens in stories?

Aren’t we reading each other’s stories now? Maybe mine is wordier because I write too much about myself, but that doesn’t mean that it’s better or fuller or more meaningful. The best thing about stories is how they make you feel. And the best stories are definitely the ones that linger for years in your head; those moments and passages and images and words that hit us when we least expect and make us laugh or cry or be wary…

Or maybe in the frenzy of all those stories, we just realize that life is a story of stories that overlap and intertwine, and that this story will go on and on and on until that day when we see how our stories fare.

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

What became of the Lost Boys

Excerpt from Peter Pan

“Of course all the boys went to school; and most of them got into Class III, but Slighty was put first in class IV and then into Class V. Class I is the top class. Before they had attended school a week they saw what goats they had been not to remain on the island [Neverland]; but it was too late now, and soon they settled down into being as ordinary as you or me or Jenkins minor. It is sad to have to say that the power to fly gradually left them. At first Nana tied their feet to the bedposts so that they should not fly away in the night; and one of their diversions by day was to pretend to fall off buses; but by and by they ceased to tug at their bonds in bed, and found that they hurt themselves when they let go of the bus. In time they could not even fly after their hats. Want of practice, they called it; but what it really meant was that they no longer believed.”

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Becoming Absurd


“Who knows what ‘stagger’ means? Who wants to demonstrate to the class?” said the English teacher.

I raised my hand, went up to the front of my second preparatory class, and staggered.

“Why did you do that? You looked ridiculous, everyone was laughing at you” said my best friend after class. Lesson learned: don’t make people laugh at you.

Years and years passed. For the rest of my school years, I was considered poker faced.



I asked a question in class, my friend next to me turned to me and told me, in a surprised but indifferent tone (at the same time, yes it’s hard to imagine, sorry) “you participate!”

I spent the next 2 years quite quiet, but then I couldn’t help myself. I like talking.

I can’t say I was “interactive” or even talkative. I found it very hard to talk to people, talk in class, all that. But when I got around closed circles I did talk, and people laughed, it didn’t hurt, I liked it. I got a lot of “how could you say something like that?” and “stop doing that” and “people will laugh at you” with very angry scolding faces. Faces I thought I could only see at home, but everyone likes to play big brother/big sister/mother/father/grandfather/distant family member who likes to interfere, or simply a distorted idea of a friend who doesn’t like their friends laughed at. But that was never it, it was always “will being associated with her embarrass us? Will she expose us and laugh?” or maybe it was something entirely different.. who knows.


First Job

“we didn’t like you at first, but it turns out you’re fun” a very honest and lovely friend told me once. I wasn’t poker faced, I was indeed quiet, at first, then when I left they told me the floor got quieter and that I made all the noise!

On one of the performance reviews, I got something like: you’re funny, you make everyone laugh, and you lighten up the mood when we’re tense. What I actually got in my mind’s eye: you’re the class clown! I got upset, really upset.


Hospital room after car crash

“don’t worry about it, ‘fadaky’ (which is a term that means whatever happened or was lost can be sacrificed for you) Thank God you’re safe” said the family friend (who came to the hospital room when I specifically asked all my personal close friends NOT to come) his wife was on the phone as well.

I responded by hysterical laughter. I mean really, how can I stop myself from laughing other than swearing using words I didn’t even know? How can “fadaky” console me? How can other people’s lives be “fadaya”? His wife thought I hit my head, of course that would be the only thing that would make sense; that I’ve hit myself because I’m being absurd to laugh at a time like this. I hate to say it, but what plebes!


Rest of my life

I make people laugh, even if I don’t mean it, especially when I don’t mean it. They never laugh when I do. I am excellent at accidental comedy. I laugh and people laugh with me, or at me, same difference when you’ve been clumsy all your life; falling down and staining your clothes with food, and occasionally tripping over your own feet, oh and I walk into walls as well, just did that a few months ago actually. It’s ok to laugh at other people as well, there are levels of absurd that even I don’t comprehend, but I don’t get why people feel offended if I laugh at their absurdity. I have come to accept mine, and the world’s, which happens to include, well, them!absurd

Wildly unreasonable, check!

Illogical, not always, but, check!

Inappropriate, yeah baby! Check!

The above define absurd. Absurd is life. Absurd is humanity. Absurd is you, dear reader, and is definitely me, even if we don’t comprehend or play the fools on that one. Society considers whatever is not following its norms as absurd, probably throwing it in the inappropriate part. But is it appropriate to accept war or murder when it falls in the area of our interest? Doesn’t that make it inappropriate? Doesn’t that make it, wait for it, absurd? Wait, wait, what about football? Death and love and high blood pressure, absurd?

Let me redefine absurd in my own sense. Absurd is when I perform acts that are illogical (I am a girl after all), wildly unreasonable (I tried to force a guy back at college into tying his shoes for him, the loose shoe lace thing annoys me), and inappropriate (I am so good at that one!)

So according to the dictionary, I am absurd, hurray for me.

How I became absurd is very simple. I stopped listening to all the discontent voices. I stopped looking at all the frowning/concerned faces, and I stopped caring altogether about societies ideas of norms. Well not altogether, I don’t want my mother to get a heart attack, but mostly, I like to live by my own rules, the rules I create, custom made to fit Dina, that’s me, and they just work. It gets hard sometimes, especially when I severely blush, but then I laugh even more and the nervous laughter and silly jokes are so conveniently mistaken for confidence and carefreeness that it just works so well to be absurd.

Sometimes, at night when it’s very dark, I question myself, I got this horrible nagging voice that I can’t seem to bury in my head, and that is always louder than all the other voices that tells me off, it even sounds like it has that frown that’s on everyone’s faces. I admit, it’s hard not to listen to it when it’s dark and quiet everywhere else, maybe I do; turn it down a couple of notches at family gatherings and such, or when the older ladies are around because they would frown at my mom I guess. I’ll accept the “young and stupid” look I get from them and smile. I’ll even accept the nervous smile that says “uh-oh, she’s insane, better make up an excuse to leave” because there is something very relieving at the acceptance of one’s own absurdity, and that is the fact of not caring.

I see the photo of the sad clown all over facebook of all the sad ones out there who smile all day and frown on the inside and I think, I need the opposite of that, I need the photo of the human on the outside and clown on the inside because that is what I am, and that is what I like to stay; a clown. If you think about it, that’s what you want me to be too, the clown, the one who makes everyone laugh and hypes them up and right out of their daily boring tedious routines, I am the human entertainer that lives among the masses, laughing and smiling and just cracking that joke that didn’t even sound like a joke but it’s so absurd it can’t be anything else. In your eyes I am the clown, in my eyes, I am privileged because I see it all as quite very funny, and so so absurd. You can only laugh if I make you, so what does that make me really? Don’t freak out, I’ll just stick with absurd.

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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Me, Fady, The Idiot, and Stuff..

Suddenly, as I read that climatic moment in Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, I understood it all; how men and women can think so alike and yet so differently. Well, not men and women really, just me and Fady.

In our conversation about Russian literature that kept moving all over the spectrum of all the literature in the world, he told me how he admired Dostoyevsky’s characters; their depth, their structure, I am paraphrasing here so I hope no one takes this personally. I had got a similar comment on Dostoyevsky as I was struggling to read Crime & Punishment from Ahmed Essam back in our first or second year of college. I was never able to get through it, and I think it would take me a few years before I venture into Russian lit again. But here he was, Fady I mean, telling me about the Brothers Karamazov, and how they were so ingeniously portrayed, as I was struggling through the last few chapters of The Idiot; a story with a massive retention dip! When you read The Idiot, you start off by loving the characters, and hating how they are so thoroughly explained in the beginning, feeling cheated at how that takes the fun out of discovering them well ahead within the story. Then in the middle, you see all those situations that have almost no weight. Their sole purpose is to further display the personalities of the characters which have already been transcribed in the very beginning. I am a storyline person myself, I never remember endings, I just remember how the story goes. So for me, it was a massive disappointment. It took me close to 6 months to finish, was an excellent cure to insomnia, and has been indeed a great motivator to get up and do something more interesting!

But here I was, talking to Fady, very excited about finally getting over and done with this novel, telling him how the characters seemed different to me than their descriptions in book reviews and plot outlines. I have to admit I’ve never really read the whole plot outline, who does THAT! But I have read some of the reviews. In them, the character portrayal was all about symbolism; the angelic girl versus the not so angelic girl, and the prince who suffers from the love of both, and so much more blah. First of all, the characters are NOTHING like that; it’s not Jane Austen people! Not even Shakespeare, whose characters can be completely described in 2 adjectives. To me, towards the end but not quite there, the characters were all very normal with some curiosities but nothing to call interesting. How they spun together in the web of the storyline was, in my opinion naïve. Fady rejected these ideas in his usual, but not unpleasant, cynicism, because to him, the story was driven by something deeper inside each character, and in the end I knew why.

I will try hard not spoil it for people who are planning to read it, but here goes. The ending shocked me, even though I had a general idea about it, and it was like someone finally turned on the light in that crammed closet to find that the answer was sitting right in front of you all along but you were never really able to put your finger on it. Despite all what you may have thought of the characters in the middle of the story, all the ideas that kept changing over and over, the ones where you wonder why the writer was so misleading in the beginning, turned out exactly as he had described at the start, but with the actions of the story taking their toll. In a way, it was their attempts to change and adapt, and their inevitable failure at being anything other than who they really are. The only character I felt was not portrayed correctly in the beginning was Evgenie Pavlovitch, or maybe it was the only character who was able to adapt. Better still, maybe he started off pretending to be someone else, and showed his true colors in the end, who knows. Read it and let me know.

The light at the end of the tunnel was in the end related to love, and in turn, how men and women thought differently, how Fady focused on the characters while I focused on the storyline. The prince, or the idiot, in my opinion, was abstract emotion; a creature driven solely by his heart. Often described as simple, and in his description of his life and education, he was. He has loved Nastasia Philipovna with that sense specifically; a woman with a reputation so to speak, but only just that and nothing else, for she has shown nothing from her attire at the beginning except modesty. That was how society conceived her, and how she came to conceive herself. Abstractly, wouldn’t a human, in all the sense of the word, love her for her suffering? For her modesty? For her beauty, which the prince had seen, on the inside? Wouldn’t that abstract person also love Aglaya Ivanovna for her youth, her untainted heart, even though I say this conservatively, and for her love of life? Apparently he would, or so Dostoyevsky thought. But in reality, people are not abstract emotion, people are not abstract greed, and are not abstract goodness or badness or any other thing. People are complex, capable of things they can never imagine; good or evil. Even the women; the suffering woman who has to live with her feelings of unworthiness because that is what society has chosen to tag her with, and the child growing into womanhood with pride and beauty and a general feeling of worthiness because society has chosen to bestow that upon her. She did not go through what Nastasia Philipovna has gone through, she, like society, allows herself to judge, and in her own mind’s eye and society’s, remain pure and white hearted.

Dostoyevsky indeed focuses in the characters. His novels portray depth in the human soul. Fady agrees with that, is interested in that, and in a similar manner, this is how he thinks. I on the other hand see the characters from the context they are put in, I believe in emotions and empathy, I cannot be so analytical as to think the human character is an algorithm that we can use to decipher behavior. The prince, in his abstract emotional sense, in a symbolic way did not survive life because he tried to look at the emotions of each person conceptually, and tried to analyze all their actions based on that and that alone, like women do most of the time. As a woman myself, believe it or not, I cannot identify people with a specific set of characteristics and play match; each situation with the equivalent character trait, because in my very humble opinion on my very long blog, I believe that the context in which you are put matters, hence my love for the storyline and my dislike of Dostoyevsky.

I bet I’ll have to follow up on this post when Fady reads it, stay tuned.

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