Everyone…too

The “me too” campaign is going strong as more women – and men! – share stories and testimonials of what they’ve experienced or witnessed others live through, and although I am overjoyed that light is finally being shed on a crucial matter, I am saddened by many people’s reactions. For instance, every #metoo posted equals three “yeah so what? There are more urgent matters like war”.

Yes there are terrible things happening all over the world, does that mean we should neglect the abused in favour of things we mostly cannot handle ourselves? This is a matter we can fix, or help diminish by removing the taboo label off this behavioral herpes that sweeps our nations still. It is a worldwide issue, something that has been shut up in diaries, whispered and hushed for too long, something nobody should have to endure in silence or be silenced for having endured.

Abuse and assault of all kinds are what bring disease to our societies, mental disease, heart disease, invisible illnesses that plague so many secretly because this world is too blind to see and too ashamed to acknowledge that this is real and dire to address. We cannot sprinkle glitter on the matter and say “oh it’s a Hollywood thing”; it’s in your city too, in your street, at your kids’ school and your wife’s workplace, in your friend’s home and at the supermarket. It’s what keeps your neighbour from sleeping soundly or what makes your mother lock her door twice.

I have lived through too many things to allow people to disregard this issue, to trivialise my or anyone’s life altering encounters. I have been groped in taxis, spoken to graphically by strangers, talked to inappropriately at wotk, followed on my birthday as I left the metro alone at night and ran for my life only to have a pseudo friend ask me if at least my almost aggressor was cute. How could being cute make up for whatever could’ve happened if my feet had failed me? How could being cute make up for what could’ve broken inside me if two strangers hadn’t interfered and ran with me for a while? He wasn’t cute. He was scary and tall and made me dread walking at night, an activity I had always loved, and that whether alone or accompanied. He was a criminal and he stole my sense of security.

I wasn’t dressed in a revealing way. I didn’t mislead him with my words. I didn’t instigate him in any other way than by being there at that moment, when he decided I would make an excellent prey. There are no valid reasons, no possible excuses for such acts. There are urgent matters all around us, but right now we should open our eyes and ears and fight for more justice, push our faltering societies to act and alter our defective upbringing so that future generations don’t live through this fear we have borne for too long because speaking up would lead nowhere or would bring shame upon us. It’s not our fault. We didn’t ask for it and we don’t deserve it.

It is easy to forget that we are the actors not only of our own lives but others’ too; we are not mere extras in the picture, we’re supporting actors engaged for the betterment of each other’s days. You can help change things, and #MeToo.

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Flower for an hour

Illness is treated very differently through our lives as well as throughout the world with factors such as age or social habits taken into consideration when dealing with patients. A sick baby attracts more attention than someone in their late twenties, and propriety begs you visit a bedridden octogenarian even if their illness will automatically induce nods and morbid predictions. So if it’s all a matter of decorum or pre-determined fears, where does love fit in the sick world?

Having been in the sick bed recently, I was able to observe the visiting traffic from the opposite perspective, to analyse the different interactions illness provoked in front of me. First, to make things clear, I was in a two-bed hospital room. I therefore wasn’t alone and had to endure frequent visits from strangers coming to celebrate the ongoing life of my neighbours – how riveting.
First, there was a young lady who had just given birth; her friends and family catwalked right past my bed all day bringing flowers and nibbling on chocolate and whatever her husband had spread for the occasion. Conversation was basic, no intrigue, no passion moved their lips except when the offered candy graced their tongues – I’d visit patients every day if I knew I’d be rewarded with food!
Then, when mother and child were given the green signal, an elderly woman replaced her in the white sheets opposite the room. Accompanying her were her son and daughter, both probably in their sixties, alternating smile and pensive pout, worried what the future held for the matriarch of the family. They had no visitors, choosing to remain within the tight bonds of blood, communicating the same banalities they usually exchanged, “did you talk to x?”, “what’s the name of that honey you bought?”. They knew the risks, repeated her age to whoever asked what was wrong, nodded…she’s old, we all know what to expect.

Come to think of it, we deal with illness the way we deal with a beautiful flower bouquet: we hold it carefully, lay it down slowly, talk about it, photograph it with pride…then after a few days, our grip gets more careless, we change the water less often, we don’t talk about it much anymore because we know it won’t last long. We sometimes hang it to dry, stare at the withered petals with affection, nostalgia, and if bugs start clinging to it, we simply throw it away, unfazed. I was a flower bouquet this week, and somehow, I was put in a pot. You don’t take pictures of potted flowers, they’re here to stay, safe…as long as you water them.

The teacher’s kid

When I reached the age of 3 and went to school for the very first time, I discovered something brutal: I was the teacher’s daughter. Not only that, but I was the teacher’s daughter in 3 different schools! My mother taught in one school and my father in another and he owned his own language institute in which they both taught. I can safely say my parents were literally and factually a school.

My first day at school marked my first day as the 50/50 kid, the child whose appreciation was based on how beloved or despised my father was since my mum taught elsewhere. I was a 3 year old big eyed ball of everything happy when I came face to face with “that guy” on my bus – a 15 year old mess who detested my father and made it impossible for me to get the clean slate I deserved; I was henceforth marked. As days went by, the bittersweet reality became clearer, the random squeals of ecstasy my appearance provoked in some and the flagrant eye rolls and grunts I obviously inspired in others, it was all due to my father being a teacher, the perks and the suffering combined. I later received the same treatment from my mother’s students, but by then I had grown accustomed to the whole charade, numbed to the itchy label I seemingly wore on my forehead – watch out, I’m “the teacher’s kid”, the miniature daytime boogeyman.

It took me my whole pre-teens and a few years into the delightful years of puberty and awkward self-awareness before I truly understood how valuable and just how extraordinary my life actually was, being blessed with two teachers for parents, livng in my own private classroom. I was amazingly lucky, there is no better word to describe it. Under one roof stood gathered walking and talking human dictionaries and encyclopedias, two beautiful souls who had dedicated their lives to the sole purpose of guiding young minds (not to mention adult ones at my father’s institute) down the road of knowledge and haphazardly through life in many cases. I was taught to value people, give as much as I could and stand by all those who needed help in any way possible, to share what I knew, and something I will never cease to thank them for, to understand the value of hard work and hard-earned remuneration.

Our time on Earth is limited and precious, and while we’re here roaming its uneven roads, we might as well make our stay profitable to others, be the gardeners of minds around us, give more than we receive in the hope that someday we too will run into someone we once helped and rejoice in their resulting successes just like my parents so often do. With their minds, they could’ve been anything they wanted, but they chose to teach, to suffer through long parent-teacher conferences, long invigilation hours, endless correction nights, cancelled weekends and their kids blaming them for their lack of energy, too young to fully understand the worth of each day they spent bent over piles of papers, watering the roses of tomorrow.

I was 3 when I understood my parents were teachers, 3 when I started learning that those who teach can in fact do, those who teach know enough to understand that without what teachers do, CEOs wouldn’t be able to type their names, presidents wouldn’t be able to read their speeches and doctors wouldn’t know the difference between a vein and a nerve. I was only 3 when I understood that when I grew up, I wanted to be just like my parents: a giver.

Every day is women’s day

Social media reminded me as soon as I opened my eyes that it was international women’s day, and I cannot help but compare it to all other hypocritical celebratory days like Valentine’s or even Independence. Let’s drink to women everywhere so tomorrow we can go back to throwing the empty bottles at their faces for daring to be just that: women.

It took me several years to appreciate the fact that I was a woman, to celebrate my double x chromosomes and proudly wear the label. As a child, all I could distinguish of the female gender was the “fragile” stamp we seemed to all receive at birth, one we couldn’t wash off or replace in a society too stubborn to acknowledge our strength, our power and our deserving all the same rights and opportunities as our male counterparts. Then I woke up, and how glad I was to finally brandish my lipstick and fire away all the sparks my womanhood had bestowed upon me.

However I can’t shake the feeling that giving women a day to celebrate them somewhat diminishes their value, just like Valentine’s or mother’s and father’s day diminish all the fireworks our loved ones deserves every single day. It also feels filled with hypocrisy, the way everyone picks up pink pens and paper on this one day, writes a post on Facebook quoting whichever prominent feminist the internet provides in the search results, and then goes back to not caring or worse, going against what feminism stands for the day after. Your neighbour is a human you should respect, not catcall when she picks up her newspaper in her bathrobe. Your waitress is serving you to pay her bills, not to worship all the nonsense you think you are entitled to utter as a paying customer. That girl didn’t wear a skirt for you, she wore it because she feels good in it. That lady is feeding her child so he is well nourished and can grow to become someone who will stand up for the mothers you deny the right to breastfeed in public spaces because it makes you queasy. Every woman is a being to be respected just like any other being on Earth, with beautiful superpowers like those of procreation and overflowing emotion and empathy. To all those who still doubt it, our hormones are one of our sources of magic.

Ultimately, everyday should be women’s day and mother’s day and an occasion for all those beautiful celebrations to remind us that we should love each other with no boundaries, no misogyny or sexism or antiquated patriarchal ideas on the place of women in society. A woman’s place is wherever she deems fit, wherever she feels comfortable, wherever she feels useful and hopefully, wherever that is, she can feel safe and strong.

Too little too much

Ever since I was a child, I have been taunted by the fear of being too much of anything, too loud, too different, too nice and yes, even too loving.

In a society that promotes distance, casual relationships with no profound attachment, caring too much has somehow become a defect of the human heart, something we’re doing wrong. Every time we get too close to another, whether friend or more, an alarm resonates and we pull out of our mischievous trance; today’s society is based on nonchalance and vapid companionship, anything more can turn out fatal. We call friends people who make our hips dance but our souls stand still, lovers those who offer us everything but their hearts, and for some inexplicable reason, this has become completely normal, synonymous with happiness.

I remember watching old films with my parents, listening to fabulously written dialogue and loving diatribes spoken with passion and glistening eyes, and I dreamt of the day I’d be old enough to have someone come up with words as warm and tender as those uttered by the likes of Cary Grant and Gene Kelly, swoon under the riveting gaze of chivalrous men burning with untamed passion. Instead, all I have seen of courtship has been reduced to strangers finding solace in strange bodies, short-term internet-made friendships, divorces happier than weddings and a world much less inviting than my innocent heart had dreamt while watching those films with the only two people who ever made me dream of more than society allowed or taught me to seek.

In the end, it isn’t being too much of anything that truly scares me, it’s the world being too little endowed with what makes my soul flutter and my heart beat faster; I will always do and be more than is advisable, and maybe someday society will finally decide to catch up.

Generation “te3tiration”

I was born in 1990, and while growing up, my parents always repeated how lucky I was to have escaped the war, how good it was to be a 90s kid. When I look back on some of the things that decade gave me, I tend to nod and agree, but then I remember the 90s are over and I’m not really happy about the 21st century.

They call us generation Y, the generation that’s not as strong as the survivors we call X, but more technologically savvy, also more distracted and definitely less rooted. We are everything and nothing all at once, we’ve been given the tools and ripped of the answers, offered the world then deprived of its authenticity. I don’t have a sense of belonging, don’t really know where I am heading and not sure I want to pick just one place, one definition or one destination; I want it all, but is it really a good thing? I believe our generation was permitted to ask too many questions, to rely too often on introspection and in parallel, to accept cheap answers trending wherever we look. The media is too present, everything we do is controlled whether we notice or are completely unaware, our rebellion is programmed years before we think of it, our passions written for us… even our facial expressions are dictated by social media. We have built a gigantic mess and worst of all, learnt to embrace it as a comfortable dwelling, living in willingly ignorant bliss.

They call us generation Y, and boy are they right, because I wonder “why” too.

The colours of love

I have asked myself several times over the years if I believed in love. I can’t say I don’t, it is an ability I proudly feel master of, an emotion I feel in my waking hours and understand in my dreams. However, what kind of love do I truly believe in?

Friends often point out my extreme attachment to my parents, how I seem to include them in my every thought or action, and it certainly has bewildered many a person in my life just how far that attachment goes. Well of course I love them, they gave me all my favourite memories, a lot of my character was forged with their help and my sense of freedom and revolution was mainly born from their constant encouragement to always push through society’s boundaries. You can’t not love those who build you, that is something I learnt early on and have noticed every day since. Similarly, friendships based on giving are worthy of so much love for nobody forced anybody to care for you or your future or the simple appearance of your smile; unlike family, some choose to love you, or at least their souls do, and it is quite useless to fight against the current. Sadly enough, I have also often heard that animals don’t have souls or emotions but having witnessed what I have, there is no doubt in my mind. From dogs crying the absence of their carers to a little calf getting hit with depression at the sight of his mother being taken away for reasons it doesn’t understand or can’t even fathom, animals are as feeling as human beings, and it is definitely reciprocal.

Ultimately, genuine love comes in so many different colours and shapes, so many shades and definitions, but one thing I am sure of is where it comes from; the birthplace of love isn’t that organ that pumps blood or that other that calculates every step feeding on sugar and sprinkling it on whatever its whims dictate, love is rooted in the bottom of our souls, before anything else came to exist, blossoming into a thousand thornless roses each with a different but just as powerful smell, enticing, addicting, life-giving. We were born evergreen, gardens to our perennially blooming emotions.