Monday, December 10, 2012

Butterfly Effect goes "Sophie's World"

N.B. Sophie's World is a novel by Norwegian author Jostein Gaarder about a young girl's introduction to the world of philosophy. It was either that or The Matrix for the title.

Now that the title has been explained, let's move on...

As I was sitting with 2 others having one of those truly entertaining evenings filled with the right amount of laughter, random conversations and interesting discussions, one of them says “I wish so-and-so was with us”. This of course was said out of love, wishing the presence of another to enjoy the evening with us. However, had this person been with us, would we have had the exact same evening?

Once that thought was up in the air, we went into deep discussion on what that meant, and we have settled on the following:

Each person on this Earth has a certain link or relationship with another person that is unique to that person. What that means is that, for example, if you can say you are friends with two people, your friendship with one person is not identical to your friendship with the other. The dynamic between two people is a two way street, and it is the combination of both ways which ultimately creates the unique relationship between the two of you. This can be felt most when socializing one-on-one. You have the friend who you tell your every thought to, the friend who makes you laugh, the friend with all the gossip, the friend with all the answers, the friend you don’t really know much about but just thoroughly enjoy their company. You could be friends with someone despite obvious differences, but a shared experience or hardship brought you closer. Did you ever meet two people who were so close but surprisingly so different?

You never have the same conversation with two people; even when you’re talking about the same thing, it can never be experienced twice - exactly identical - even with the same person. It is the amalgamation of everything you've ever been exposed to in your life from personalities, backgrounds, experiences to ideals and opinions, etc., along with where you are in your life journey, that make us all who we are as individuals, and more or less define what kind of people (e.g. friends) we will be. And when two beings come in contact, all aspects of you come into play somehow. The dynamic is created by feeding off of what is happening before you and you respond accordingly.Therefore, if you change the person before you to someone with a different combination of life exposure (or lack thereof), the dynamic will alter with it according to how your being interacts with theirs; two-way street. Add a third person, and the dynamic is no longer a two-way street but six, maybe even more. Once you increase the number of players, the setting becomes all the more complex and harder to control because you're adding more variables as well as various combinations of those variables flying back and forth between all those present.

So we have established that no two relationships can be identical. That does not mean that you necessarily love one person more or less than another, you could say you just love them differently. I can say I love both my parents equally more than any other living thing on this planet, but there is no doubting that my relationship with my mother is nothing like my relationship with my father, similarly those relationships are unique to any others.

Okay, so at this point our theory is starting to make sense to us, and the discussion is heating up as we all fight to say what we’re thinking only to find we are all thinking the same thing but saying it differently. It is because of these different dynamics among people that no scenario can occur exactly as it has if one person was missing or even added. As the three of us were sitting, we realized that this discussion has resulted from the combination of dynamics between us, and it would not have played out the same way if there was a fourth person, regardless of who that person was, even if they were just sitting quietly in a corner or in another room altogether. We didn't know if we could attribute it to one’s ‘energy’ or ‘aura’ or if we could say this was some form of the ‘butterfly effect’, we just felt we were onto something here.

Then we pushed it a little further; had we had different seating arrangements, had we been sitting in an entirely different location, had it been slightly colder or warmer, had it been earlier or later, had there been food or had there been a TV playing 90s music videos, would this evening have played out the same way?

For example, had a certain song been playing which lead one of us to tell a story about that song, or perhaps refer us to another song, the conversation would have been steered in an entirely different direction. We might have gone down the YouTube path introducing song after song to each other, or we may have spent it telling similar stories to the one the first song sparked up initially. Imagine the possible different routes that night could have taken based on that song in the background. Imagine how different those routes could be from song to song. The song could very well have just played in the background with no effect to the evening at all. Or it could have gone by barely unnoticed if not for the one person who suddenly had a change in mood.


At this point our minds began to spin and we called it quits. But it did get me thinking about relationships in terms of the unique dynamic between any two people; how can you expect the kind of relationship you will have with your significant other before meeting them? How can one have expectations when there is no saying what kind of dynamic you two will create? Not just that, but once officially a married couple, who knows what kind of changes to this dynamic could occur when under one roof. Such a change in the situation of the relationship could very well destroy it. Maybe you two worked as a couple when each of you led separate lives, but not so much when you shared one? Maybe you worked together three years ago when you first met, but grew up and grew apart? Or even vice versa, you didn’t work then but you could very well work now. Maybe you work when away from family and friends in total isolation, otherwise you allow people to get involved in your relationship and ultimately ruin it. Perhaps you are the perfect couple to be in the public eye, but do not work behind closed doors.

Such unforeseeable circumstances I attribute to the final pillar I called ‘Life’. This, to me, is the miscellaneous category of marriage. It is ultimately the hardest category to face and accept because it does not exactly affect how you feel or interact, but does in fact govern your life together or at least the probability of it ever happening. This isn't limited to aspects of emotion and personal growth, it also includes general circumstances in life. It is painful to accept not being with the person you really and truly feel has been catered to be your partner because, say, you come from different parts of the world, or you are at different stages in your life. This is something that may be overcome, yes, but in some circumstances, they are not. Sometimes it's not outside influences keeping you from being together, but between the two of you, your individual life 'lines' have not yet met on the all-encompassing plane of life.

But, hey....that’s life.

Monday, November 26, 2012

FIFA vs. Call of Duty

Now don't get too excited from the title, it ain't what you think. You can probably guess from the title alone I am not exactly video-game-literate.

I've been trying to look at typical male behaviors to try to analyse them and categorize them in such a way that would help us pick up on bad habits early on. Simply put, I'm sort of, maybe, male-profiling here.

From that I believe I found a correlation between video game preference and emotional stability. Bear with me a minute and allow me to explain...

It is common to see a man on his absolute best behavior when he first meets a girl he likes. He's sweet, romantic, thoughtful, and says all the right things at all the right times. They are huge fans of grand gestures, especially when it is to make up for a massive mistake on their part, and they get impressively creative with it too. They get a kick out of it when the woman is a bit more guarded than most. They want to crack her. They want to lift her up so high that she finally lets her guard down ever so slightly and gives him what he wants; be it emotionally or physically. Once that happens, the asshole slowly starts to appear. Over time, prince charming gradually removes his once glowing mask and unzips his once valiant costume to reveal the asshole within. Some are so good they manage to keep the mask on long enough till they drop a bomb of asshole-osity; BOOM bitches! It is this process that lead women to believe men are only interested in the chase, and once they get what they want it is on to the next one. And with such cases, who can blame them? Are they just naturally assholes or do they begin to lose interest once they got what they wanted; once that goal has been achieved?

On the other hand, you do have a genuinely sincere man who doesn't necessarily offer you the world or lift you up to cloud 9. He probably barely gets you to cloud 7. But the difference is that is where you more or less remain. Much more straightforward, this guy. What he has to offer is consistent, you know what to expect. He may not sweep you off your feet or be as exciting as the previous guy, but he is more stable. This is not to say he is less capable of love or would love you less, he is just more reasonable in expressing it. He doesn't feel he needs to go above and beyond when a simple action would suffice. So long as his intentions are understood and feelings are known, no need for grand gestures, at least not all the time.

Is the video game comparison coming out yet? Well, if you haven't guessed by now, the former example was "Call of Duty" while the latter was "FIFA". To me, it makes sense that those who play "Call of Duty' religiously are assholes in disguise. I mean think about the game they obsess over. There's so much going on along the way just for the sake of keeping things interesting. There are always some goal(s) to attain, levels to reach, achievements and power-ups. The game goes on and on for what feels like forever, all the while trying to keep the player interested throughout and draw them in, but it doesn't actually go on forever. My point is, the game ends. And once it does, I dare you to find our avid gamer look at that game again. He has done what he set out to do and has lost interest, on the search for something new, something more. Then you have expansion packs and spin offs and sequels of prequels of sequels.

With "FIFA" games, and any sports game in general, they are basically the same throughout. Anything new doesn't necessarily change the game, it just offers different options and features for it to remain current. There is not much change to the actual game and I find those who enjoy playing it are consistent in their enjoyment. Regardless of what version they're playing, what archaic console they are using, they will enjoy the game. Yes, they may obsess over it. But they never really abandon it altogether now, do they?

Let's put it another way; new car. Mr. Call-of-duty buys a new car and rides it to within an inch of its life, dumps it and buys a new one. However Mr. FIFA takes care of his new car; getting it maintained and cleaned regularly. Maybe you can say it's a matter of maturity. But what if it's a matter of behavior here?

What about those who play neither? Or both? Well, haven't really gotten that far with this theory. What I have so far I do believe is genius, though!

Bottom line, personally, I'd take Mr. FIFA any day. Call of duty is far too emotionally unstable for my liking.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Every Arab Man is Sultan of his Harem

I made sure to post a little something about women (previous post) before putting this up as to avoid being seen as biased/feminist/sexist/etc. Don't flatter yourselves; men, women, all y'all crazy.

And as you probably can guess from the title...Yeah, I have been unashamedly watching one too many Turkish soaps....

But there is no denying that idea kind of stuck with us over time; every man is king of his castle. In a world where "democracy" is reigned supreme, you'd think maybe we can start at home, no? What was once a position of great duty, honor and respect, is now a position some abuse in the most horrific ways. Our culture, along with the Islamic religion, has given the man great responsibilities towards his household. That somehow has led some men to believe they have power rather than a duty to fulfill, and they brutally abuse that power. Possibly one of my least favorite examples of this is polygamy; something Islam has permitted with the condition of equality, as a solution to a societal problem, has instead been used in most cases as a man's right to indulge in multiple partners in a way destructive to once stable homes.

It is this very thinking that makes the Arab man believe that he should only hold certain prestigious jobs and positions. Just like on Kuwaiti soaps where nearly every male character has a company or sharikah and every son works for his dad and eventually takes over. It is also this very thinking that makes the Arab man feel he is invincible, he is above the law. Hence the cutting of legal corners at nearly every corner. And let us not forget the fantastic traffic on our Middle Eastern roads where everyone drives by their own rules and 3 lanes magically become 7, and people feel they are in the right to do so! It is that diseased mind that believes the Arab man is supreme, it is this very thinking that makes the Arab man treat his wife and even other women in his life like some sort of possession to the point of insult and abuse, believing wholeheartedly he has the right to do so. And in some places where there is no law to protect women in these cases from such power-hungry and hugely insecure thugs, the women are left defenseless. But I digress.

I feel as women the world over progressed to assert their position in the world, some men didn't get the memo, and are still bewildered at the changes occurring in what was once the natural order. The whole archaic notion of me-man-me-go-hunting/you-woman-you-cook-meat just does not want to go away (trying to convey the cave man voice through text, message received?). Although I know some women like it that way, especially some Arab women with men who go hunting and 'the help' cooking the meat. But that notion extends far beyond household duties. It's that the man makes all the decisions, the man is always right. It is that possessiveness where a woman loses her identity because she is now under his roof, therefore she must follow his rules, completely disregarding the fact that she is a grown-ass woman (pardon my French). Granted, some women do not behave like adults and are in constant need of authority throughout their lives, but that's only because she's never been given a chance. Forgive me, but a woman having to ask her husband for permission to, let's say, go to the mall...quoi? It's like a college student asking his professor to go to the restroom in the middle of a lecture; that stopped the minute you graduated high school kid, you don't need to raise your hand to ask permission to relieve yourself. Sometimes I think to myself: are we really still making this an issue? I mean really? Expecting her to ask permission, demanding she dress/behave a certain way, telling her what she can and can't do is all robbing her of her identity and any voice she ever or probably never had. And get this, for this reason some men prefer to marry (real) young girls to continue on where the father left off and raise her into the wife he wants her to be.....

*Mind explodes*

So I say this to you, pompous Arab man: get over yourself. Who do you think you are? You ain't no Sultan of no Harem.

The Arab man - in my eyes - is somewhat massively confused. If not confused, then perhaps conflicted? As open-minded as some men start out, once they are knee-deep in the pool of the stereotypical Arab, they feel the need to conform. They don't realize they can just get out of the pool! What gets me is at some point in their lives they had a sound mind, sound logic and sound judgement. Then somehow they do a 180 and become the stereotypical Arab they once despised. I find that they, more than women, conform to what society expects of them and are sometimes crushed by the pressure of that expectation. Hence some men marry only to meet that expectation knowing their hearts are not in it. That could sentence them to a lifetime of discontent or lead them to a downright nasty divorce. Worst part is he plays the victim and punishes the wrong person. And what with the poor girl you feel you 'settled' for? It's just not fair on her or even you to go into marriage for such reasons. But so long as you did, do right by her at least.

There is a certain species of Arab men that have been said to be somewhat robotic; lacking in any emotion, programmed to clock in and clock out, covering all the basics out of obligation rather than out of love. I've observed a few men of this species, and I can't help but feel sorry for them. I am wholeheartedly convinced that those who are seen as robotic and heartless, are those who have suffered deep, severe sorrow and heartache most. It's almost as if they reached a point in their lives where they sacrificed who they are, what they want in life, their dreams and aspirations because they felt compelled or obligated to do so. They grow up to be bitter and cold as they carry out their obligations to the fullest, but those closest to them are the ones who pay the price. He's a prisoner in his own life, and he imprisons the one sleeping next to him along with him.

To conclude, I wanted to share a story I heard about this Egyptian woman who killed her husband, chopped him up into little pieces and slowly fed it to the dogs (she actually researched how to do it through the internet). When I did a quick Google search I was surprised to find more than one story along those lines, each more heinous than the other. I can't help but think maybe, just maybe, the husband actually deserved it. I mean, it may not be the humane thing to say, and surely I don't like the idea of a man dying at the hands of his own wife, or anyone else for that matter. But it takes a lot of pent up anger, humiliation, desperation, helplessness and psychological damage to drive someone to do such a thing to their own spouse. Something to think about I suppose.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Behind Every Happy Peacock is a Clever Peahen

There is a growing trend giving rise to brazen, impertinent women in the Middle East. Who can blame us though? We've been pushed around long enough! But admittedly, some women do take it a bit too far (I am no exception). Since childhood, even as good little school girls we have been led to believe we should stick to what we're good at and what we know, being confined to a certain role (read: The Trouble with Bright Girls). Frankly, I imagine we are getting quite sick of it. But perhaps the years of oppression has led to an unruly backlash sometimes targeted towards the wrong people.

Ladies. Ladies, ladies, ladies! Stand up, but ease up. Don’t allow others to step all over you, but don’t go and do the stepping yourself. If only you knew the innate power of your femininity. I find it to be more like a super power; however it doesn’t exactly work on all people. There are those who may be immune to your power, but to others, it can be kryptonite 

Acting like a man will never get you a man, at least not a ‘real’ one. Being the dominant one in the relationship is insanely emasculating and insulting to a man and he may never recover from you doing so. He may even resist entirely and punish you eternally for it just to ‘put you in your place’. Don’t be a total pushover but don't let it get to that either. Let him wear the pants but be the one who puts the pants on for him instead (slightly disturbing sight, hopefully the point has been made). The way I see it, let the man be the man. A man likes to know he is needed and appreciated. Let him feel like he is in control for the most part. Fluff up their egos from time to time; let the peacocks display their feathers and give them the awe they are looking for. Show him you are impressed by the display and have chosen him as your peacock.

Similarly, don’t act like a child either. It may be cute for a while, but no man can put up with a grown woman who is constantly immature. With the immaturity comes the irresponsibility, mild cases of stupidity and various forms of juvenile behavior. Behave like a woman and embrace it.

“My persuasion can build a nation” – “Who Run The World”, Beyonce

As irritating and unnecessarily aggressive that song is, that line simply resonates with truth in my mind. Women tend to focus so much on how they are oppressed and what to do in order to combat that oppression. However it is my humble opinion that this battle began because women simply forgot how to be women. A clever woman can always get her way, without having to appear weak or be a total bitch. We just need to realize what we are instinctively capable of.

Since I was a young girl, I have always been fascinated by Cleopatra. Although her wit and charm did get her in a world of trouble which led her to tragically end her own life, you have to admire her ability to get not one, but two of the most powerful men of the Roman Empire at the time to do her bidding and protect her own kingdom. Some would attribute this to the power of seduction i.e. it was purely physical and emotional manipulation that got world leaders wrapped around her finger. However there has been skepticism towards her actual appearance. Simply put, there’s a chance she wasn’t that pretty. Regardless, surely she couldn’t have achieved what she did with her beauty alone. Her character, charisma, charm and wit are what others believe to be how she managed to influence both Marc Anthony and Julius Caesar before him. However many fail to mention the intelligence of Cleopatra; that she spoke 9 languages and was a brilliant mathematician (a trait she shared with Caesar, not so much Anthony). What it really was about her that made her story legendary, we may never really know. More importantly is how she managed to keep her kingdom afloat through these two men, which makes her all the more intriguing to me.

It is that innate capability that we women have that I believe Cleopatra took full advantage of (perhaps even abused?). There is no denying the greatly underestimated strength of a woman. Sadly women are the ones who have difficulty recognizing that. Greatness is not something a woman can achieve by acting like a man (we were created differently for a reason!). It is in realizing your own inherent strength that comes with being a woman and knowing how to utilize it. I am not referring to physical assets and sexual seduction - although in a marriage there is no harm in having fun with those particular aspects. It’s more about knowing how to deal with the man before you. It’s about knowing how to read him; when he needs your attention, when he needs space, when he needs compassion, even when he needs food. Knowing how to deal with him when he’s in a mood or knowing what ticks him off are all things that should be kept in a mental bank and referred to regularly and perhaps even used to your advantage. Open your eyes, pay attention, use your mind and you will know the secrets to making him happy and it will return to you ten-fold.

A lot of women take the petty road and turn to manipulation. Some do it in a more childish way which just makes me sick. Others are just downright emasculating. In all cases, I wish I could just walk up to these women and shake them vigorously to wake them up. This isn’t to say that there is one successful formula in how to treat a man – every man is different – nor is it 100 % successful (more of a hit and miss) but the approach I guess is similar. Don’t ignore him, but don’t pour all over him either. Don’t be a slave to his every whim, yet don’t neglect him altogether. Just be aware of him and his needs.
“As I said, though, a woman has a wonderful influence over a man’s whole life. If I had a chance to change the great social fabric any, though, I should ask woman to be more thoughtful of her husband, and, if possible, less severe. I would say to woman, be a man. Rise above these petty little tyrannical ways. Instead of asking your husband what he does with every cent you give him, learn to trust him. Teach him that you have confidence in him. Make him think you have anyway, whether you have or not. Do not seek to get a whiff of his breath every ten minutes to see whether he has been drinking or not. If you keep doing that you will sock him into a drunkard’s grave, sure pop….. So I say to you that woman, in one way or another, either by strategy and winnin’ ways or by main strength and awkwardness, is absolutely sure to wield an all-fired influence over poor, weak man, and while grass grows and water runs, pardner, you will always find her presiding over man’s destinies and his ducats.” 
Woman’s Wonderful Influence, an excerpt from the book Remarks by Bill Nye
Women have an immense capacity to love and care for others yet I feel the modern woman holds that particular instinct back as to not appear weak or fragile. There really is a way to have your cake and eat it too. You can be a badass Miss Independent also capable of some affection and compassion. Being a ball-buster will only drive him away; mentally, emotionally and/or physically.

Monday, September 10, 2012

"Moments in Love"

The title of this post is in fact a title of a song by Art of Noise, a song that this post is based on. I, for one, adore this song. My mom actually first heard it on the radio some time in the late 90s and went around to different record stores humming the tune in search for this mysterious track. Three CD purchases later, she finally found the track. Although, at the time all I really listened to (almost exclusively) was Ginuwine and Dru Hill, I still liked this track, as did all my siblings and anyone who had the pleasure of riding in my mom's car. As I grew older I continued to like it more and more. The older I got, the more I listened to it, the more the title made sense. At 10+ minutes, it's a long track but totally worth it, so give it a listen. If it's not to your liking, don't force yourself, you'll still get the message. I have yet to meet someone who doesn't like it so humor me and let me know if you don't (just to make sure y'all exist).

What I love most about this track is how it shifts in mood, to the point it reaches a very ominous, perhaps even a little frightening, mood at some point (@ 6:50-ish). It doesn't sound overly lovey-dovey either. It's sometimes serene, upgrades to a more sporadic serenity, there are pauses, and it even completely shifts into total chaos for a while before shifting back to the usual rhythm. I know these may not be the most technical descriptions, but hopefully you get the point. 

I love this song because it reflects the true moments in love in a way I feel is accurately depicted. It's hardly ever constant, far from perfect, but it still is love. Things will get hard, things will go wrong; over the silliest things or not. The important thing is to not give up so easily or too soon. It's so easy to face hardships and just bow out altogether, because in the back of our heads we somehow feel divorce is always a choice and many people take it the first chance they get. It's like the plane getting a little turbulence and you just jump off the plane anyway to avoid the bumpy ride. But where does that leave you? In the middle of Timbuktu, that's where! 

Sometimes the idea of divorce comes out as a horrible reaction, almost used as a weapon, without really considering the consequences of what's being said. Personally, I know myself to be a bit extreme in what I intend to do following an argument, which is why I like to put a lid on it before I say something I regret. So many different methods of retaliation go through my mind by the minute. Some are immediate and some are more long-term, maybe even evil. But after distracting myself long enough (time of distraction is proportional to level of anger), these reactionary diabolical schemes begin to subside and seem absurd even though the anger remains. It does tend to linger for a while. But eventually it does go away. Whether in a minute, hour, day, year(s), it does go away. Sometimes you need to put up with the feeling of anger for a while but don't let it govern your actions, especially ones you are likely to regret later. Therefore the idea of divorce should not be one borne out of frustration. And it shouldn't be announced to the world either, especially when it is most likely not happening. Now you have made your private marital matters public, and people will always wonder and secretly judge you for still being together. Keep such matters between you for as long as possible. 

Ultimatums like "do this or divorce" are just a low blow in my opinion. You're using your value to a person to get what you want. It's like your reducing the value of your whole relationship too just to use it as a bargaining tool. I'd hate to see the day they choose divorce over giving you what you want, and that is precisely what you're setting yourself up for. Divorce is not some sort of trump card. If you choose to do it because you're just not working together, then yeah I guess maybe that's fine. Although I believe such things could have been detected before becoming man and wife, that isn't always the case. In all fairness, there is always a point where divorce is imminent, and there's nothing wrong with that. But don't threaten with divorce every time things get a bit rough. On the other hand, don't delay the inevitable either. If you are destined for divorce, don't put it off. If you both feel that you cannot continue in the marriage, don't force each other to stay in order to save face or for the children's sake. Believe me the children are better off living in two whole homes than one broken one.

Now what happens when one side really and truly wants out but the other side doesn't in the least? To be honest, I really don't know. It's easy to tell married couples that they have to work it out, and that these hardships are normal. But they aren't all normal. There is a point where divorce is the only, perhaps even the most amicable, solution. I guess it's a bit pointless forcing someone to remain a part of a marriage they genuinely no longer find themselves in. In cases like this maybe it is best to just let go, even when you don't want to. But if you so desperately want out when your other half is fighting to keep you, maybe you may need to reconsider your decision (that is if divorce is not being refused merely out of spite). This person is fighting for someone who clearly wants nothing to do with them, doesn't that say something at least? At least half of you believe divorce can be avoided and you can overcome this. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Little Space Goes a Long Way

As promised, the issue of couples having the same group of friends will be addressed! 

It sounds ideal doesn’t it; socializing together with other couples (or singles), having everything out in the open. Just one big happy shillah. Something about the idea I find unsettling though. In my head, couples who always socialize together have one heck of a car ride home to look forward to! A lot of “why did you say this?” and “what did you do that for?” I’m sure. Let’s not forget “you embarrassed me in front of all our friends!” oh dear! What you see on the ever-so-popular TV show FRIENDS is not normal. It is not normal to always and forever be involved in a single group of friends together with very limited friendships beyond that. It is not healthy! It’s always good to diversify.

Sharing friends, or situations where ‘my friends become your friends’ are slightly worrying. Maybe I’m thinking with the end in mind here, and how bloody awkward it would be for everyone involved if the relationship didn't work out. Who gets custody of the friends?! Or if you're in the middle of an argument, who gets to hang out with the friends?

Seriously though, without being too cynical, it’s nice to have friends outside the marriage who are your friends alone. Sure your friends can come round with their spouses for a couples’ night every now and then, and maybe you even do share some friends. But make sure you have a social life beyond that, one that is your own. You don’t have to be attached at the hip and do everything together. Not every event has to be attended together; you’re no Hollywood or royal couple where people will talk if one of you doesn’t show. As Khalil Gibran so wisely said in the The Prophet
‘Let there be spaces in your togetherness’.
I can never ever deny the truth in the saying ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’. And that goes duly for a marriage. I mean your spouse becomes the single person you see the most on a daily basis, day-in and day-out. As much as the thought of being away from your partner might be too much to bear sometimes, you need a healthy dose of you! You need to allow yourselves to miss one another. So any chance to do so should be welcomed. True, you do share a life now, but that shouldn't keep you from tending to yourself - love thyself!

I don’t believe one must wait for an excuse to get some space either. Let him have his boys' nights and let her have her girls' nights. If you don’t get a chance to get space, then create it! I suppose people might be sensitive towards the idea and feel their spouse is running away from them or is fed up with them, or that in doing so you are actively creating distance. However with the right amount of distance every now and then it could ultimately strengthen your relationship (too much would be a piss take). Both of you should allow the other to get this space without any hard feelings. Let it be something you both accept from time to time - before the space appears after an argument or fall-out of any kind by force. Just a regular dose of space can do wonders to a relationship. Sometimes this space can be in the form of a weekly or monthly trip/ritual e.g. he goes hunting while she spends the day at the spa. Or it can be in the form of a longer trip like visiting a friend or relative in another city/country. Through such absence you can actually miss each other and renew that excitement of reuniting.

Just be careful you don’t drift too far apart. Allow there to be space between you but make sure that space is not constant. Allow yourselves to lead separate lives but do not squeeze each other out. To me this is also a sign of trust; you trust your partner enough to not have to be a part of and actively involved in each and every aspect of their life. However, if I am with someone whom cannot be trusted this way, actually I wouldn't be with them in the first place! I wouldn't be comfortable with someone who I have to track their every move to keep them in check. Don't live your life supervising your spouse; you will both grow to be paranoid and find yourself doing things you never dreamed of doing because of it. Also, make sure it's mutual; he can't get his guy trips if you can't get some sort of equivalent.

Believe it or not,  I've seen married couples who have assigned certain days in which their spouses can see their friends. Please don't let it get to that, that's just sad. I honestly didn't know what to say to that when I first saw it, and I honestly still don't know what to say to that now. You're not a parent here, you're a spouse. This level of control over each other's life is unhealthy in my eyes. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Holstee Manifesto

Read about the inspirational story and team behind this manifesto here
This sort of tenacity and lust for life is what fuels my views towards self-love. But it also re-enforces my belief in the power of perspective. Sometimes we may get stuck in the cyclic daily patterns of modern life that we forget to pause and reflect. We reach a state of mysterious unhappiness amidst this repetative cycle because we forget to click refresh, recharge our batteries, stop and smell the roses, or whatever other idiom there is to just stop, inhale, exhale. And this is why I feel having regular 'me' time is so valuable. You need to give yourself a chance to just breathe for starters, and also to just think. It is in these times that you allow yourself to fully reflect on you, your life, what is happening in and around you.

A huge advantage is being able to finally realize what a little change in perspective could do to make life easier for you. When you allow yourself to stop and think of why you keep losing your keys, for example, you are able to find the root of the problem and better address it rather than getting more and more frustrated with yourself every time you lose your keys. You may even begin to realize how your constant frustration over losing your keys could have some sort of ripple effect throughout the rest of your day. So imagine how a little tweak in attitude could ultimately improve how your day goes.

The real value here, is when you adjust your perspective when it comes to your relationships with the people around you. You are having difficulty with someone at work; what is the common theme if there is any? Is it something only you are dealing with? Is it harmful or harmless? Could their troubles at home possibly be affecting their behavior and conduct? Maybe their behavior stems from fear, insecurity or just downright immaturity. And the list goes on. I don't see this as digging for excuses, to me this is the search for empathy. All it takes is a little empathy to adjust your perspective which will then allow you to face the problem head on, or at least be able to put up with it to a reasonable extent. It is in such adjustments that you start to begin to understand more about human behaviors that surround you, and you are more able to empathize rather than frustrate yourself time and time again. It is in this compassion and consideration that ultimately grants you just that much more peace of mind (like I said, no such thing as a selfless good deed, but no harm in being a little selfish here!).

You are better able to deal with people around you the more people you meet. Your ability to empathize grows and as does your patience. It may require some discipline, yes, but to me it is well worth it. Things start to make so much sense once you begin to understand. This doesn't necessarily solve all your problems but it helps lessen the load. When you have dedicated time to actually think about a certain matter long enough you are better able to make an informed decision on how to proceed, or at least it gets you just that much closer to doing so. Don't bury your problems in the back of your mind, unload them regularly at your own pace instead of drowning in them until the day comes when you just explode without warning.

Therefore you should always seek to understand, not judge. Seek to make friends, not enemies.Seek to build bridges, not break them. Realize the power of empathy and the value of human understanding. You are not always the victim, sometimes you're just caught in the crossfire. Learn to just forgive rather than hold grudges. That will do so much more than reacting - or rather overreacting - without thinking.

I know this is terribly mainstream of me, but I adore this song! It never fails to make me smile, even the video. Good night my beautiful people <3 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Love Thyself – Ain’t No Shame in a Little Self-Love

"It's been said that we can't love another until we learn to love ourselves. Not the narcissistic love that seeks a glimpse of itself in every mirror or shop window we pass but the kind of love that ensures that we take care of ourselves first before we take care of our family and friends"

For starters I would like to wish everyone Ramadan Mubarak, may this holy month be a blessed one for you and your loved ones. This has been a post I have been eager to post for quite some time now. During such happy times when we're constantly surrounded by family and friends we tend to neglect ourselves completely, and no one pays the price more dearly than you.

We are human. We always feel the need for companionship in any and possibly every form (if you’re lucky enough). We see preteens on TV sitcoms fall in love with their first crush, and then onto their first boyfriend/girlfriend and it just snowballs from one relationship to another. We see it in the movies we watch, the books we read and the music we listen to; endless portrayals of perpetual relationships in hopes of finding love and happiness, we end up looking for it in the wrong places. This desperate need to find a life partner, eternal companionship, a guarantee to never be alone, perhaps leads us to neglect what's important and lose who we are in the process. We may end up compromising where we shouldn’t. It’s almost as if we are led to believe we are not good enough as we are on our own, and we need some form of reassurance or acceptance from someone else. Before you know it, you are conforming to the life of another person and neglecting yourself; the dreams you once had, the things you once loved, the goals you wanted to achieve. Don’t get me wrong, not all relationships are such, and surely there is no relationship without compromise. But it does happen in some cases; the minute you are linked to another person too soon, you suddenly take a back seat to your own life. Let yourself grow first; don't stunt your growth by getting involved with someone too soon. Find happiness within yourself, don't expect it to fall on your lap or be handed to you.

Somehow the idea of being selfish is seen as an entirely bad thing, but I don't think it's all bad. Yes, there is no selfless good deed but that's only because in certain circumstances, being selfish is okay. It is this blogger’s humble opinion that there cannot be love and happiness with another if you do not first find it within yourself. This is a belief I always had, but it was upon watching a talk on 'Habits of Happiness' given by French neuroscientist turned Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard, that led me to reach for a pen and paper and articulate this philosophy of mine for the first time. The words poured out so quickly and passionately, it somehow reinforced my belief in them simply by writing it down. I cannot stress this enough: Love thyself! If you feel a void within, don’t expect someone else to fill it for you, especially when they may have a void of their own they are looking to fill. So far, this is what I've come up with:

  1. Love yourself. If you cannot bring yourself to love you, how can you expect others to? Acknowledge your imperfections but know that no one is perfect. Take the good with the bad because it will never always be good. Be comfortable with who you are just as you are and accept yourself wholeheartedly. Others will follow.
  2. Don’t judge others or yourself. It won’t do you any favors. Forget not the Golden Rule, Confucius say: "What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others"
  3. Don’t take yourself too seriously; learn to laugh at yourself.
  4.  Spoil yourself. Allow yourself to indulge in life’s little pleasures and enjoy it thoroughly.
  5. Put yourself first. This is your life, never neglect yourself and expect others to take care of you. You’ll be waiting a long time. Don’t ever feel you need someone to take care of you, but rather you want someone to do so.
  6. Don’t rush through your days. Remember to take it all in as it goes along. You only live once; every day you live is a day you will never get back so make each day count.
  7. Don’t be scared to admit when you want something, even just for the sake of wanting it. And if it is within reach, go for it. Don’t sell yourself short and give into self-doubt. Allow yourself to strive for something.
  8. Dedicate some time for yourself. Every now and then, spend some time with ‘me, myself and I’ (not me as in the person who is writing this, 'me' as in you!). Some spend it in prayer and/or meditation, others in sport and exercise. Some find their solace with nature and others on the rooftops of skyscrapers. Whatever your flavor, make sure you set some time for yourself to do what you love and do it with passion.
  9. Don’t be afraid to let your mind wander, see the wonderful places it could take you. Think, wonder, daydream, ponder. Unlock and explore the limitless bounds of your mind.
  10. Live without regret. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you've made and those you have yet to make. The important thing is that you learn from them, there’s no need to be so hard on yourself.
  11. Smile and laugh often. Make it count and relish in the moment.
  12. Never try to be someone other than you. You are unique, celebrate it! I promise you there is only one of you in this entire existence. (Refer to point #1)
  13. Love wholeheartedly, unconditionally and passionately. Don’t hold back. Reserve your love for those deserving of it, but make sure you give them all you got.
  14. Do not fear solitude. If you run away from yourself, so will those around you. (Refer to point #8)
  15. Give credit where credit is due. Pat yourself on the back when you feel you've deserved it. Then chuckle at how slightly narcissistic that seems, and go on to treat yourself regardless. Oddly enough, according to Forbes, a little narcissism does pay off when job hunting. No harm in a little narcissism then! (Refer to point #4)
  16. Pause. Reflect. Self-reflection in an open and honest way is not easy, maybe even a little daunting. No matter how honest you are with others, if you lie to yourself you could still hurt yourself and those around you. Trust yourself and only then can others feel they can truly trust you.

I wish I could have come up with something concise and catchy like some sort of mantra, but it wouldn’t do it justice to simplify it further. I feel like this list could go on, and it probably will. What would your list look like?

And now to the image at the top of the post. I have decided to include what in my eyes is an iconic image which symbolizes the value of happiness. This is the flag of Bhutan, a small, remote kingdom in South Asia where instead of measuring the nation's GDP (gross domestic product - used to indicate the health of a country's economy) they are more concerned with the nation's GNH; the gross national happiness. The government has made the happiness of its people the primary indicator of the nation's 'health'. Studying the impact of any governmental policies or programmes on both the GDP and GNH, the happiness of its people has become a political priority. How lovely is that! Wouldn't want to live there though, some policies are a bit extreme but still a lovely thought nonetheless.

In closing, some wise words from the world's most famous Buddhist, Buddha himself!
You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Generation Impatient

Now. Everything has to be done now. This person must be contacted now. The e-mail must be sent now. The SMS must be read now. The pot noodles must be cooked now. The multi-GB file must be downloaded now. The photo must be snapped, edited and uploaded now. This must be watched now. This must be read now. This must be shared now. We must be heard now. Generation Y has become one very impatient generation. It all has to be immediate or we do not waste our time with it. We want things to be done 'yesterday before today'. We have such high expectations with our own personal productivity. Because of all this instant access and connectivity are we able to finish a multi-page report in one day. Imagine what it would have been like having to search through library catalogues  and books to get information and actually having to write things down…..! We don't even search for information anymore, we wait for it to come to us. Even worse still is when we believe everything that lands on our Twitter or Facebook homepage. We rush through our lives and get thrown from one phase of our lives to another so violently we forget to just live.

(Comedian Louis CK on Conan O'Brien a couple years back, talking about just how spoiled and demanding we have become as a human race. One of those that-is-so-true-I-feel-pathetic moments)

Our beloved Middle Eastern societies almost do not allow the youth to be young, almost as if it is taboo. Why can’t we be young and foolish? Why can’t we just take life day-by-day and just live out our days without much care or concern? Yes, we will fall. Yes, we will fumble. Yes, we may even get lost. But we will eventually get back up and fumble our way back. Pushing us from one huge decision to the next will not create resistance (yet), but we will always feel like we missed out on something. One day we will look back and realize our youth has been squandered. That is the case especially if one has decided to marry a little too soon. Funny thing is, thanks to the very little change in the judging minds of our kin, instead of allowing our children to experience what we missed out on, we just let the cycle continue. 

I will be fair here and say sometimes it is the young and foolish who rush into marriage with very little external pressure or force (if anything they encounter pressure not to marry!). True to the forms of this generation it wants to find love and marital bliss NOW. I have seen more than a few marriages where all I can think of was ‘would it have killed you to wait just one year?!’ (when hopefully by then they would have realized that perhaps they were most likely going into it for the wrong reasons?). There are even those who I actually believe are perfect for each other, but the timing just was not right and they faced many hardships because they got married too soon (rather, too young). After all, what’s one extra year to get your bearings straight when you’re considering a life together? Marriage is definitely something that cannot be rushed into, regardless of what century we’re in. We are not living a Midsummer Night's Dream; there is no magical potion that makes us fall in love with the first thing we see. Our kids don't need that potion, they do it all on their own! Let's think reasonably here; can you honestly believe you struck it lucky with the first girl/guy you just so happened to get along with?

I found that sometimes the problem occurs when being swept away by the long-awaited marriage. Ideally, pre-marital relationships are seen as taboo. So when something official comes along the horizon, the young and foolish rejoice at the chance to finally hold hands and call each other 'baby' with parental consent! They get so caught up in this whirlwind romance that they do not adequately address the necessary issues one should when considering a life partner. Either one or both sides put up an act - a performance deserving of a gold statue or globe of sorts - as to not jeopardize their chances at finally hitting the societal jackpot of marriage, the epitome of success (at least right up to the wedding, then you're a failure again unless you start cranking dem babies). Very little thought is given to what happens beyond that, once people stop applauding your marital accomplishment. And that is why some people believe that 'traditional' marriage is flawed. Marriage will be flawed, regardless of how you meet, if you do not approach it with the right frame of mind. The battle of traditional marriage vs marriage for love in our society seems to get worse, but I want to bring peace in the Middle East regarding this battle. Perhaps this point I will expand on later in another post.

Patience, my fellow Arab youth, patience. Don't get antsy and restless when you see those around you getting married one by one. Don't let a moment of weakness or two lead you to rush into something so life-altering. Your time will come when the universe decides you are good and ready, if that day should ever come! Don't waste away your days waiting for that day, hopefully it will come in due time. All you need to do until then is just continue on your merry way, experience what else life has to offer beyond a wife/husband and kids, discover who it is you are and what it is you really want out of life. You will be a better spouse and parent for it. The more you experience of life, the more you see of the world, the more you can give back. The more you know what you want in a life partner, the better spouse you can be to your partner. The more decisive you become in how you would want to raise your children, the better you are able to raise them. Focus on loving YOU, raising YOU, become YOU, before you can think to give your love to others.

Have faith. Live. Laugh. Love. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Can You Hear it Ring....Ka-Ching!

Finally back to the 5 pillars with number 4: Financial.

This is a bit of a touchy subject among people in general, anything concerning money tends to be. But let’s face it, some problems in a marriage could very well be money problems which could blow up and lead into bigger problems. Needless to say we all know how marriage is costly on both sides at first (wedding preparations and what-not), but we all have this notion that from then on the husband is fully responsible. A few things I have to say about that:

  •       Assuming that is the case, it is pretty clear that this man who is looking to marry should be financially capable of taking on the responsibility of his spouse. Providing a place to live, food to eat, way to get around, etc. A concern that is multiplied with the addition of each new family member. If said man is not financially ready to do so, that could cause problems. Also, if said man is doing so while relying on daddy, you may survive for a while, you may survive forever, but do you really expect someone who isn't capable of standing on his own two feet to be able take care of you?! And vice versa, how can you expect to take care of others if you can’t even take care of yourself. Plus, being reliant on the in-laws gives them the power to intervene on your life together. There will always be the threat of ‘do it our way or else’ and you could very well remain at their mercy. Of course that’s not always the case, but these are very probable situations and I for one won’t risk the chances of that happening. We are part of a culture in which by and large we continue to live under our parents’ roof until marriage, meaning we don’t have much expenses to worry about other than our own, it’s all pocket money and savings more or less. So going from that to not just being on your own but having someone with you is a huge step, and we must make sure we are prepared for it.
  •       Ladies, ease up on the men. Don’t expect the high life from the get-go. Very few women are lucky enough to get it, and even less want it after they realize that they’re not happy and it’s not what they wanted out of a marriage. Don’t be so demanding at first, grow into your life of luxury, at least it is a life you built together (again, not at the mercy of in-laws). You’re part of this marriage too so you need to start doing what’s best for you as a couple. If that means settling for the BMW rather than the Rolls Royce (I know, the horror!), it may well be a sacrifice you have to make. Whatever financial decisions you have to make, it is important you at least discuss it if not make the decision together as a couple. Whatever prudent decision you land on, you have to support your spouse. This goes for any financial problems you may come across (God forbid) as husband and wife. Even if he is the primary bread-winner, don’t make it so damn difficult for him to please you. If things get rough, make sacrifices and stand by him. He will love you eternally for doing so. If he doesn't, wait till he builds his fortune again, dump his ass and leave with half!
  •       I think I've already pushed it too far with the concept of the man being the primary bread-winner (I feel the burn of frustration exuding from feminists everywhere). Particularly in the Middle East, that notion is standing strong. Believe it or not quite a few men are too proud to accept it otherwise. The truth of the matter is, among the middle class especially, with rising costs of living, there is a growing need for some households to depend on two incomes rather than just one. From my experience, I found this point is especially harder to swallow among men! If the man is happy to provide and won’t have it any other way, so be it. But if need be, don’t be too arrogant and refuse any help from your wife. Remember this is your life together, if it’s needed she should help out too, and neither one should be ashamed to do this! This is the reality of the situation sometimes, and you have to face it together.

Finally, we come to a great misconception among society. People choose to believe that only those from the same social class (i.e. similar financial standing) should marry. I ask, why? Fair enough, those from a similar background/upbringing are likely to get on and lead similar lives. But marriage should in no way be restricted to this. More importantly a marriage should not be refused solely for this purpose! If all other measures of compatibility match up, don’t let something this silly ruin it. As long as both parties know what they’re getting themselves into (one party will always have to make adjustments for the sake of the other). This is in no way a measure of a successful marriage. However, realistically, it isn't something to be ignored either.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Things That Make You Go Green

When getting married, your partner becomes everything to you; a spouse, a lover and a friend for starters. That friendship could be built on or integrated to strengthen the bond and relationship between husband and wife. But then, does that mean your spouse will be your only friend?

I’ve seen it happen a lot; one gets married and cuts off any and all friendships with the opposite sex. Although it has yet to happen to me personally - at least not with someone close enough to matter - I fear the day it does happen. It all just seems so sad. You’ve been friends for x amount of years and suddenly, nothing? I mean the friendship is expected to experience a shift in boundaries once one or both sides are married, that’s normal with any friendship of any gender and any culture too. But cut off altogether? It makes me feel like the friendship was cheap and meaningless, feels like it wasn’t supposed to happen or it was wrong to be friends in the first place.

I don’t know if this cutting-of-the-ties is done on the spouse’s request or it’s some sort of unwritten rule. If it’s the latter, I wish someone would go ahead and just write a rule stating otherwise to cancel out this unwritten version. But like I said, with the start of any serious relationship one does naturally step back a bit with friends, and that’s usually if they consider their partner separate from their friends. Couples who socialize together and have the same group of friends could be either very lucky or unlucky (more on that later).

Do people really discuss this though? When a couple starts to get serious do they discuss who they will and will not continue their friendships with? I know in some cases there is always that jealousy from friends, especially if your partner does not like your friends. And in those cases sometimes there is a clear and resounding “them or me” ultimatum. I can never picture myself in such a situation and God forbid I ever find myself in one. I would hate to have the person I love ask me to cut ties with the people I’ve been close to probably and most likely far before he was ever a part of my life. And vice versa, I would hate to ask that of anyone.

The idea just makes me sad. I don’t want to have to say goodbye to any one of my friends, and I don’t want to lose any one of my friends for this reason. One may be willing to do this for a partner at first but that might breed resentment further down the line. Of course this applies to close friends; I’m not talking about people you merely know. For those you just ‘know’, if you’re partner just does not want you near them for whatever reason no matter how ridiculous, they’re not worth the battle, regardless of 'principle'. So in cases like this I would understand how it's best to respect your partner's wishes at least to some degree. But with close friends, it boggles my mind how people let go so easily without a fight. If crazed jealousy is to blame here, the friendship can be a bit more limited without total destruction. If you genuinely feel or even notice that a certain 'friend' is being a little more than friendly, consider just talking about it. Mention it once, twice, 10 times. Actually discuss what you see/feel and let your feelings on the matter be known. Let the decision to deal with this person be their own. If they sense discomfort from your end, give them a chance to do something on their own accord. As long as they do so with conviction and not simply to shut their partner up!

"....the demon of jealousy, that dragon which slays love under the pretense of keeping it alive." 
- Havelock Ellis, On Life and Sex: Essays of Love and Virtue (1937) 

Jealousy is a monster I have yet to meet. I have met envy, boy have I met him! We are very well acquainted. But jealousy, especially the irrational kind that pushes one to unthinkable lengths, has never stood before me. To me jealousy is a mythical creature, sort of like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster. I don’t believe in mythical creatures beyond the realm of myth. Which is why I cannot comprehend how one could allow something not real to cloud their judgment time and time again? You tell me your spouse is jealous of your friend. Pray tell me dear spouse, why are you jealous of this friend when it is you who are envied for being lucky enough to call your other half your own? Why are you so worried you will lose your love to this friend when your love has chosen to be with you? He/she could have chosen the friend, but they didn't. If fear of losing them is due to lack of trust, that’s a whole other ball game here. The question you should be asking is why would you be with someone you fear will leave you (again?) so easily if you didn’t keep them on a short leash? Forgive me but I see nothing loving or romantic about having to keep tabs on your spouse to keep them from slipping through your fingers. And keeping them from friends to avoid them slipping away will only delay the inevitable, not prevent it. Although I can't deny that people do feel jealousy, I can fault them for how they choose to act on it.

“Jealousy is a disease, love is a healthy condition. The immature mind often mistakes one for the other, or assumes that the greater the love, the greater the jealousy - in fact, they are almost incompatible; one emotion hardly leaves room for the other.” 
- Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land
Jealousy and trust cannot coexist in a single relationship. Oddly enough just as some might see jealousy as a clear indication of lack of trust, others see the absence of jealousy indicative of lack of love! My partner is not jealous ergo he/she does not love me. Wow, some logic! Don't try and convince me there is a healthy kind of jealousy because it will never stay 'healthy'. As soon as it rears it's ugly green head even slightly, it will drag the rest of its ugly body around with it, and it will grow and fester within your relationship. However, I do believe one can be protective of their spouse, now that would be out of love in my opinion. But the minute you allow jealousy in, it will slowly but surely chase the trust out and eat at a once healthy love.

Since when does your partner micro-manage your social life and dictate who you may and may not befriend? When did love give them the right to do such a thing? Where’s the trust in all this? You want to be a part of each other’s lives, be a part of it as it is. Do not try to bend it at will to fit your liking, and that goes for the people in their lives, regardless of gender. Even worse still is when a spouse urges the other to cut ties with family members. The audacity of such requests drives me mad! That is genuinely how I see the issue, I do not see anyone has the right to tell me who to keep in my life and who to kick to the curb. But alas, not many people share this view.

People may believe that in a relationship, sacrifices such as this must be made for the sake of compromise, to please their other half. If and when the sacrifice is constantly going both ways - a two-way stream – I could perhaps say that’s fair. Foolish, but fair. They wanna play the sacrificial lovers that will do anything for each other, I get it (not really but I’ll let it slide). However I for one strongly believe there is such a thing as too much sacrifice and it leads to resentment. You shouldn’t need to give up so much for someone who supposedly loves you for who and how you are, not how they expect you to be. I’ll reserve this theory of mine to discuss in a later post in more depth.

Until then, if anyone has any pictures of 'jealousy' sightings as proof of existence, please share!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Always More Than Friends?

It has been argued the world over: can men and women be friends and keep it strictly platonic?
There are those who answer yes (myself included), and there are those who answer no.

Some people believe it’s not possible and would say so for one of two reasons:

  •        Every connection with the opposite sex carries with it some form of sexual tension. Now let’s think about that statement for a second. It seems that there are people in this world who actually believe they are so irresistible that every person of the opposite sex they meet actually wants them (and vice versa of course). How lucky are you that you are able to be attracted to (and also attract) such a wide range of people!  People like that are quick to ‘fall in love’ and just as quickly fall out of it. My advice, if someone believes men and women can’t be friends for such reasons, don’t waste your time, platonic or otherwise.
  •       There are others who don’t believe men and women could not be friends as much as they believe men and women should not be friends. Those who are a bit more traditional and/or conservative view such casual relationships as not so casual. Whether they feel it inappropriate, unnecessary or even forbidden. Some go so far as to firmly believe that any contact with the opposite sex under any circumstances will lead to indecency, or is in fact indecent. I guess this has a lot to do with the culture/faith as well as upbringing, and despite my disagreement with the idea as a whole I have to respect people who have such limitations.

Why the limitations though? I think such limited contact with the opposite sex is unhealthy and has adverse effects. Why lock yourself up and allow the opposite sex to be seen as such a foreign creature? They won't bite, I promise! We already know that men and women behave differently. Not just that, but within the gender group there are differences in behavior. This knowledge only comes with first-hand experience. Only by experiencing this would one then be able to handle themselves around them. Not just that, but also knowing what kind of guys/girls are out there will help you form a clearer picture of what it is you want in your future partner. Without this exposure the image of perfection in your head - which bears no resemblance to reality - will only set you up for disappointment. Know what's actually out there. Find out what are the qualities you've actually seen in people; which ones you liked and which ones you didn't. 

Being told how men/women think – whether from books, music, TV, grandmothers or any other medium – is usually a rash generalization that rarely tells you much about the people you are actually surrounded by and dealing with. It is only through being exposed to the opposite sex do they appear less foreign and unfamiliar, hence they become less of a mystery. This exposure does not necessarily have to be through actual relationships (be it romantic or platonic), any sort of interaction even in academic or professional settings eases the mystery of it all. At least you are able to interact on some level to get used to the fact that they are people too, there's no need to be so nervous or anxious or cold, find a way to be yourself around the opposite sex and it will do wonders to your self-esteem and self confidence. 

Although you do learn much more through relationships, do whatever you find comfortable, nothing should feel forced.  And I’ve seen a lot of examples of strange relationships and limitations. I’ve seen those who befriend but don’t date, those who date but don’t befriend, those who tag along with a sibling/friend but only observe from the sidelines (third wheel), those who date and/or befriend everyone under the sun but will never allow their sibling to do so or live freely till that ring is on their finger and it’s game over (hypocrisy at its best!). As long as people do it out of their own choosing and they did what they felt was right, total respect. I just think one shouldn’t underestimate the advantage of such exposure in the long run i.e. marriage. The more insight you have on the opposite gender, the more you can focus on what really counts.

My answer to the question is of course we can be strictly platonic. The more the issue is over-hyped, the more it becomes an issue when it doesn’t need to be. Of course if someone is just plain shy by nature and doesn’t see themselves being friendly around guys/girls, that’s a different story, it’s part of their character. I suppose it does require a bit of maturity and perhaps even some modesty! One must be humble enough to accept not every guy/girl they meet is a potential. I see that is the case with many people more often than I care to admit. Just by getting along with someone, people might imagine sparks where there are none. To these people I say be honest with yourselves, do you genuinely feel the chemistry and is it mutual, or are you just over-excited you hit it off so well? I even saw cases where the sparks were a hallucination from both sides, plain disastrous. I do believe that the key to keeping things strictly platonic is respect, and lots of it. Both parties must behave respectfully in order to be deserving of respect, it ain't given away for free. I don't mean be stiff and frigid, just know where the lines are and draw them firmly.

This does, however, present another concern….
What about friends of the opposite sex while married?

Later addition (10/12/2012). Nicely said! Just get over yourself...

Sunday, May 6, 2012

With a Little Help from Marvin and Barry (Part 2 of 2)

'Bride & Groom/Female dominance' - from the series, An Intimate Geography. 
by Aziz Qahtani © 2010 - 2011
From the brilliant work of the young artist Abdulaziz Qahtani, the boundaries of social taboos in our region have been tested. Each and every piece in the series entitled An Intimate Geography speaks volumes, very bold, daring and thought provoking to both Middle Eastern and Western minds. This particular piece is one of my personal favorites. I look at this and cannot help but find it humorously ironic how despite the clear sexual connotations, they stand up straight, indifferent, side by side, not even touching. How very Arab! The shock and awe induced by the imagery is a testament to how we have been conditioned to denounce any connection between culture and the mere essence of sexual activity. So much so that for some people it's hard to shake that idea off when the time comes to do so. Change the cultural background of the subjects to something more Western and it would not have made nearly as bold a statement. But beyond the shock and awe, I wonder if this depiction is more true than we care to believe. Maybe, just maybe, appearances really are deceiving and things aren't as they seem. I admit it is a tantalizing thought; that behind our high walls and closed doors it is in fact the man who submits to the woman (if the woman is smart enough, she could do so and make him believe he's the one in control). Are we that good at keeping up appearances?

We all know that appearances do make a difference to some extent. We tend to analyse things based on appearance and from that form a first impression. The way you present yourself does indeed say a lot about you. This applies to nearly everything from job interviews to the people we meet on a daily basis. But there's a difference between general appearance and looks. There are those who judge potential partners based on looks; either they want someone good-looking or surprisingly they don’t (they know themselves to be the jealous type). To those who insist on a pretty face I tell you looks will fade. looks mean nothing. A message perhaps Disney failed to deliver. From experience I believe that when you get to know someone even as a friend, and you like their character and personality, you somehow get drawn to them and in time they become beautiful in your eyes. You see every imperfection is perfect. It’s an unexplainable phenomenon in my eyes; how genuinely loving a person lets you see them in such a different light. Even with someone who is pretty, with little to no substance beyond it you tend to get bored; what once dazzled you will eventually appear lackluster over time.

Meanwhile, those who deliberately dodge people who are good-looking I find are equally judgmental.  Pretty people need love too. If it’s a matter of jealousy, I commend you for knowing yourself well enough not to put yourself in that position, knowing you will be insanely jealous if you were with someone beautiful. But at the same time, come on! Beautiful or not, it’s the character and conduct of the person that you should judge not their looks. You might be with a total ugo (ugly one) who instead of attracting attention from the opposite sex, would go after it (tends to be the case with ugoes, insecurity issues coupled with the need for validation). How would that be any better?!

Save your impression on their looks, and just go with it. You might be surprised who you end up connecting with, it might not be what you have imagined her/him to be like at all! Don’t put extra limitations on yourself, you’ve already got limited room to maneuver as is.

Equally problematic though, is having insane chemistry or attraction towards someone and not much else. That kind of animalistic, primal attraction is fleeting, not to mention potentially destructive. It’s usually the young and foolish who tend to believe this kind of thing is the real thing. That level of passion could so easily flip into passionate hate and even flip back and forth again and again. This is the kind of chemistry that is what they call unstable. Now let’s go back to the labs; what happens to an unstable chemical compound? When shocked, it leads to a reaction, possibly (likely) an explosive reaction. That kind of explosive attraction will make everything else explosive. We don’t want that now, do we? But if that attraction is there (explosive or not), and everything else seems to have fallen into place also, congratulations! You have won the marital jackpot! But being caught up in a whirlwind of passion is downright dangerous to me.

Now it’s no big secret that ideally, our culture does not condone premarital sex. Because of this ban some people rush to change the pre- to post- to avoid eternity in hell (forgive the bluntness, I mean no disrespect just trying to get to the point). At this point I am left confused though. Because some people really just can’t keep it in their pants, and their religion dictates they do so until marriage, I can’t help but feel sorry for them because that surely is one big moral dilemma right there. Hence they are quick to bind themselves to a partner for life just to avoid sin. This kind of thing makes sense one second and then it just makes no sense the next. So let me get this straight; you decided to make such a monumental life decision and choose your life partner just so you can bump uglies with divine consent, completely neglecting what it means to take on another human being to join you on life’s journey? What about all the other aspects of marriage; is your partner merely a play thing strictly for your pleasure? But then again, it’s either that or premarital sex (or maybe a little self restraint, although easier said than done I’m sure), hence my confusion and sympathy. What I have always wondered though is that if we are a part of a society which does not publicly condone premarital sex, and some people go ahead with it anyway, what happens if they finally do get married? Do they fess up to their soon-to-be partners about their previous sexual 'experience' or do they build the marriage on lies?

The solution to some [Islamic] religious folk is: Muta’a (temporary) marriage. A marriage tailored for those who cannot keep it in their pants, do not feel prepared to embark on a full-on marital life and just do not want to burn in hell. In a nutshell, basically it entails paying a women a dowry to enter a marriage with a predetermined expiration date, she has no rights in this arrangement as the average wife does e.g. not included in his inheritance, not expected to be provided for and any children born will go to him no questions asked. Oh ok, that totally makes sense. Totally. Also another alternative which also acts as a remedy for spinsterhood is Misyar marriage where a woman gives up more or less all marital rights owed to her in a traditional marriage. All she gets is regular visits (at her own home) from her 'husband' who does no provide for her in any way or even live with her. Most of the men resorting to this convenient set up do so to take up a second wife in secret. 

(The term ‘dickheaded’ suddenly holds a whole new meaning in this context)

Now you can agree with this or not, but I personally find that idea revolting. In my eyes it is a legitimized affair or contractual prostitution with consent of a cleric. Concepts such as this are ruining the image and sanctity of marriage; a quick fix to avoid commitment and damnation all-in-one! With such a tempting offer why would anyone settle for an old fashioned marriage, eh? Even more worrying is what happens to the 'wife' after this arrangement is over? This is clearly designed with the male in mind. This type of religiously-condoned thinking is producing a social disease instead of addressing the root of the problem. If our society is having trouble with marriage, there is clearly a problem in how we socialize. Therefore it is a social issue, not a religious one.

It’s about time we briefly address those who simply cannot wait till marriage. Without even thinking twice about it, they just go for it (and go for it, and go for it, etc). I may come off a little self-righteous here but abstinence really is the way to go, one thing Bush Jr. actually got right (a message which fell on deaf ears). Yay abstinence! Some may think saving oneself until marriage is for religious purposes only, completely oblivious of the negative impact it may have on your sex life and sex drive once you do get married. An experience you are only meant to share with your other half you have already shared with someone else (or multiple someones), consequently tainting what should be a unique experience between husband and wife. 

And girls don't think if you spread your legs it's a done deal and he WILL marry you. The definition of gullible right there. If you do it just for the heck of it, hey, power to ya! Just don't think for a second that doing so will guarantee a ring. That is literally all I'm willing to say on this point, it's just that stupid. 

So consider saving yourself for your first, your last, your everything. Now with the help of the one and only Mr. Barry White....let's boogie!

Monday, April 30, 2012

With a Little Help from Marvin and Barry (Part 1 of 2)

Upon making the marriage official, and all the paperwork is done, the cleric turned to the husband and said:
ستكون أقرب إليها من أبيها
(Translation: You will be closer to her than her father)

Pillar number three: Physical. 

We come to the third pillar. I have a feeling this is going to be brief because I want to keep it PG. In a nutshell, in addition to the emotional and mental connection, there must be a physical connection (altogether I believe they form what is referred to as 'chemistry' between two people). If you are not physically attracted to the person before you, soon to be your wife/husband, there could be problems. If you don’t, at some point(s), feel the urge to rip each others’ clothes off and just pounce, then there is no attraction. If you don’t have that urge, don’t think it is civil or respectful of you, not each and every thought that crosses your mind has to be decent, and don’t try to convince me otherwise. Parts of marriage are, let’s say, indecent and that would mean you have less than decent thoughts when thinking of your other half (not all the time though, that’s a whole other problem altogether). Our culture has always deemed this issue indecent, something people don’t normally discuss openly and we don’t see much of it as they do in the West (don’t get me wrong, that’s a part of our culture I actually like!). The downside however is because of lack of exposure people tend to feel it is indecent or ‘aib and never get over that notion, always feeling shy or embarrassed when it comes to matters of pleasure. It is more than natural; people have been doing it for centuries. Your chance has finally arrived, just enjoy it!

"There's nothing wrong with me loving you. And giving yourself to me could never be wrong if the love is true." - Marvin Gaye

(WARNING: This song may result in pregnancy)

It’s only logical that one has chemistry with their partner, to me that is a combination of emotional, mental and physical compatibility. And that physical compatibility is a physical manifestation of the emotional and mental connection between two people. By physical compatibility I don’t mean that you look good together (although to me that is a must, but that’s just me being superficial), it’s that you have that attraction that makes you gravitate towards each other. You feel this magnetic pull towards one another.

In my eyes, this aspect of marriage is by far the most difficult to determine until the marriage is done and dusted. All you have to work off of is a feeling of attraction and nothing more. Whether or not that chemistry will meet each person’s expectations, there’s no way of really knowing. I admit, that is scary. Because what a huge bloody let down that would be, eh?! In all seriousness though, it is tricky to detect. This physical connection is an extension of the love you share and therefore vital to the relationship, it will bring you closer. And this is what makes marriage such a unique relationship; since this is a closeness you will only ever have with your other half. This is something that shouldn’t be embarrassing to think about or even talk about between the two of you. You have to be open about what you like and what you want. If you don’t get it out of your marriage, where else can you get it? (Again, this is another driver for infidelity.)

This aspect of marriage is often reduced to 'making babies' or perhaps it is the marital right of the male alone; just wham, bam, thank you ma'am. Now that's unfair, and fairly primitive if you ask me. We ladies need some lovin' too, we have needs! Things like this make me understand how one could believe man came from monkeys. Then we have the opposite end of the spectrum, porn-addicts. As far as I'm concerned, no good can come of it. It completely warps and deforms one's expectations and with time it could make one desensitized (figuratively and literally). Excessive porn leads to a more behavioral addiction which in my view is worse than substance addiction. From a very insightful (albeit lengthy, still well worth a read) article in The Guardian on the subject, it seems the effects are more deep-rooted than one would care to admit:

'....the user of pornography is also psychologically on the run...."People who use pornography feel dead inside, and they are trying to avoid being aware of that pain. There is a sense of liberation, which is temporary: that's why pornography is so repetitive - you have to go back again and again."' Men and Porn by Edward Marriott, The Guardian

Now that the awkward subject is out of the way, I want to talk a bit about physical appearances, but I'll get to that later.