Early warning signs
14 September 2010 § Leave a comment
I always never thought I would actually marry a white man. Despite several indicators to the contrary early on in life I always assumed I would crush on whomever, but when it came time to settle down I’d at least find myself a nice Muslim boy of any Arab origin to make my parents happy.
But much like I chose to study engineering my first year at university despite all the clear signs (SATs, AP exams, grades) pointing to a future in the humanities, when it came to thinking about a mate I blatantly ignored what had been there all along.
I believe it began with Neil Fields back in the second grade in Bahrain. Oh, he was a wild one, Neil, and in retrospect he most certainly had ADHD. But dear lord did I love him. He was always trying to emulate Chuck Norris and climbing up the walls or throwing paint around or knocking a desk over. I mean, what was there for my chubby, tom-boyish, seven-year-old self NOT to love? Alas, it was not meant to be for us, as he only had eyes for Dutch Barbara and her stupid stick-straight honey blond hair. Also, we were seven.
Then there were Jonny and Bradley (shocking I somehow never crushed on, say, a Biff or a Whitney) in the third and fourth grades respectively. Jonny and I used to sit next to each other on the bus to and from school, but jump onto separate seats whenever we passed Lover’s Lane (eww! cooties!). Bradley, however, barely even knew I existed. And if he did it was only because I kept him from kissing the other girls during the daily recess game of “kissing tag”. (Were New Jersey kids more promiscuous than kids elsewhere or was this par for the course?)
Oh, and then there was a string of blond-haired blue-eyed biker/skater boys from fifth grade onward – Griffin, with his sciencey-type parents who wouldn’t allow him to eat tuna because of the dolphins; Ivan, whose parents were exiles from some Eastern European country and who had the most rad skater boy haircut; Brian, the seemingly all-American son of an abusive alcoholic; Seamus, also the son of a recovering alcoholic who had been sexually abused as a youngster (oh, have I mentioned that my penchant is not just for white boys, but tragically damaged white boys?)…
The list goes on really. As an early-blooming but late-blossoming (that means I, erm, developed early on, but was otherwise unattractive to the laddies until the age of maybe 15 or 16) being raised in a conservative Muslim household I had many, many latent crushes. Most of them passed without me realizing them until much later. In those formative years, until I entered university, there were only one or two blips on my white-boy-loving radar – Ahmed and Mohamed (the only two names in this list that I have not changed in order to conceal their identities because, really, why bother?).
Ahmed and I had a two-year long flirtation which consisted of me throwing his possessions (often Swatch watches, which he collected) out of the window during Arabic class, and him sticking wads of paper in my frizzy hair. At the end of the 8th grade he finally got our mutual friend Tareq to pass me a note in which he told me how he felt about me (and how he knew I felt it too) and to call him during the summer if I wanted.
I did wanted. And I did call and we talked a few times using a complicated system of ringing and hanging up to alert the other that the other was waiting by the phone in order to avoid parents picking up. (Oh, middle school in a conservative Arab country.) But then when freshman year of high school rolled around, suddenly Ahmed started ignoring me and hanging out with the all-American crowd (as opposed to my Silk Road crowd) and that was that. And then Seamus (remember Seamus?) arrived on the scene and Ahmed was relegated to a mere memory of middle school loves lost.
Mohammed was, if we’re to be honest, much more than a blip. He was my first love. Our relationship was kindled over his ability to use this newfangled thing called the internet to find Kurt Cobain’s suicide note, which he read to me over the phone that first heady summer. From that point on, we began writing each other passionate love letters (and someone may or may not have written one such note in his own blood. Maybe.).
I mean, this was real love, man.
But despite his name (and actually most people knew him by his decidedly non-Arab nickname—”Freddie”) and his chocolatey-brown complexion, Mohammed’s soul was white as the driven snow. He played in a band. He wore his hair long and lived in flannel. He wanted to be a rock star (alongside being a dentist, of course) and live the life when he went off to college in Canada. My point is, Freddie was as Farangi as you could get without actually being a Farangi.
But it was only when I got to college – and even then it was more like three years into my university experience – that I realized my long and storied history of white boy loving. And once I realized that I set about on a mission to de-program myself. I couldn’t possibly actually ever end up with a white guy, and so I was going to focus on getting myself straight and clean. Of course, I was doing this all while becoming further entangled with the smartest, kindest, most helpful whitest white boy ever. Followed by another entanglement with the most devastatingly intelligent, musically talented Midwestern white boy ever. Followed by…well, you get the idea.
But I persevered and after six years back in the US I packed up my things and hauled ass back to Egypt giving myself one last-ditch chance to kick the whitey habit.
But God has a sense of humor, all, and He’s not afraid to use it…