I walked into one of my favorite places in Amman only to find curtains put up. This is yet another step in their on going year long renovations. These were not opaque curtains but rather they were strings hug closely together and the other was a modern seventies shell curtain. I loved them. They created the visual divide between spaces, enclose them. They gave the illusion of privacy.
Our lives are like that. We put up walls, close our doors, keep our secrets, but lets get really non of us have the privacy we desire or guard preciously. What we have is exactly what those curtains give: an illusion of privacy.
Some may argue that we control our privacy and we choose not to be private. I beg to differ. Being raised Arab with three siblings and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins everyone knew everything about everything that went on in our lives. A secret was something only 5 or 6 people at least knew about. A private room was something spectacular, personal space is an alien concept and if you fight for any of those you are considered reclusive and that there is something wrong.
The ideas of private and public do exist in the Arab world but the meanings are so different that the western constructs of privacy and personal in most cases do not apply here. You have no privacy in your public life, what does that mean? Anything about your work is public even your salary. Who you are friends with, where you go, what you do is all public domain and is watched over by nosey neighbors lurking around ever corner. How your closet is arranged is not your choice but your mother’s or your sister’s or whoever is in charge of that.
Yet we are all individuals who believe we are private with private lives and some semblance of privacy. At close inspection most of our lives are out there in one form or another. I know mine is. This blog, facebook and my interactions with people on a daily basis are all testaments of how much of my life, at least, is not private no matter how hard I try to keep it otherwise. But I must say some things do remain private, that’s the way we live and that is the illusion of privacy we keep.