interactions


The other day my mother had a gathering. She invited her friends and sisters for some fun and entertainment. So the house was flooded by about 10 to 15 women. There was dancing, food, jokes and of course gossip and idle chit chat. Inevitably, at least one woman would come up to me and make that fateful comment. Talking to me about that dirty three letter word without saying it.

 

Throughout the years I have come across ever possible approach from these women. This includes the veiled compliments, the suggestions, the questions to the outright self important proclamations. They would be direct or indirect, they would be public or discreet, supportive or hostile… you name the approach and they’ve used it. The most common approach right now is marriage and how I should be focus on that and sure enough the comments about my figure would follow shortly.

 

That’s right you read correctly, they talk to me about being a bit FAT girl! Fat is a dirty word in our society, and by society I mean global society. It doesn’t matter where you hail from you need to be a size 4 or less. And what is worse here you have to have a skewed relationship with food. You make massive quantities of the most decadent dishes and deprive yourself of them. You have to be petite, tiny, slim-waisted and dainty so that you are an eligible young lady and prostitute yourself before these older women to find an eligible man and have a suitable life.

 

What is funny is none of these women have these figures they encourage me to have. These women do not have the life I want to lead, know nothing about me except from that sliver of interaction and yet they presumptuously think that I am unhappy in my skin! I wish it ends there too, at least there is a context in which these comments are made. I really don’t like it when strangers come up to me and tell me I have such a pretty face if only I would lose the weight, or a shop vendor or tailor makes that comment. And don’t you just love the people that try to push those magic weight loss products?! These people may think that they are doing me a service by telling me about my body and what is best for it. It’s as if they have a right to judge me solely by a number on a scale without knowing anything else about me.

 

I have been fat since I was a baby. To me being thin is being a size 14, I am tall, big, round, curvy and yes that dirty word we all try to avoid… FAT. And you know what I am not apologetic about it anymore, I don’t feel sorry for myself, I don’t think I need to change and when one of these women comes up to me today or a stranger comes on the street says something my responses are along these lines: who gave you the right to talk about my body, excuse and what do you know about me to make that comment or very proudly I love my curves and they love me and they go everywhere I go!

 

When I was growing up I never thought of myself as fat despite being so, I was athletic and active and never really felt heavy. Yet the world around me made me feel such, but as I grew older I came to understand my body and respect it and demand what I could of it by taking care of it. Being healthy to me is more important that the number on the label. I was also adamant, from childhood, about people respecting me for my intellect, my personality and not my looks.

 

But it still took me a long time to come to terms with that dirty word and use it: fat. Fat is not acceptable to our world today, but fat I am and like I said to that woman and I will repeat it as often as necessary, I love my body, I love curves and I love my fat! If you have problem with fat then please take it elsewhere because this big fat girl loves herself enough to say enough.

I will soon be 32 and I have been asked what I want for my birthday whether it be for celebrations or for gifts. These questions got me thinking about past birthdays and gifts and what they’ve meant to me. I’ve done the crazy parties with the cakes and sparklers and massive amounts of booze, the traveling for my birthday and the quiet dinners. But this year I want something different, and I know exactly what I want.

This year what I want involves none of the above in any way, shape or form. This year I do not want any parties in bars or restaurants or cafes. I do not want any celebrations with cake, or alcohol or food. I do not want all that money spent for such a selfish and self centered purpose. My birthday! There have been many and who knows there may be many more too. But I do not want to be the excuse for a night of drunken revelry, I do not want massive amounts of food consumed at some lavish dinner in an expensive restaurant, I do not want anyone to go out of their way for me to celebrate in frivolity a day that comes a long often enough and there is really nothing special about it except that I popped out from between my mother’s legs like thousands if not millions of others on that day.

I do not want any gifts either not matter how big or small, grand or symbolic for I have enough stuff in my life and I am trying to get rid of a lot of it! There is nothing I really need at this moment in time and the things I want I can do without. So thank you but no thank you.

When I made these declarations to my friends their faces were so puzzled, confused and some were upset and said that was unacceptable! And so I told them that what would make me happy instead was for them to do something selfless, something that gives back to the community, something outside themselves and me.

One of my favorite quotes is “Be the change you want to see in the world” by Ghandi and this year this is what I want for my birthday. And so to celebrate I want organize an event that gives back to the community in some way or form. That recognizes the pleasure in working together to make a difference. If there is any money to be spent then it would be on the event and it should go towards your local community. And if you insist on giving me a gift then make a donation in my name to an organization that makes a difference to people’s lives like a cancer foundation, orphanages, NGOs that work on community development, and if you don’t want to give cash then clean out your closet and give the things you don’t want to people who can use them like the Gaza aid souk or the King Hussein center for the mentally disabled, or Ruwwad in Jabal Al Natheef, if you want to do this and don’t know how give me a call and I can help you or just drop things off with me and I can take care of it. Spend a day volunteering. If even that is too much trouble then just do something nice for a stranger in the street, it can be that simple.

If you still insist on giving me something personal then give me a good memory. Walk with me in the streets or Jabal Amman, come over and watch a movie, let’s have a good conversation, send me a letter or an email or help me paint a new bookcase I’m getting, take a picture and send it to me. I will also personally be arranging an outdoor activity that will focus on giving something back to the world we live in. Let me know if you want to be part of that activity, it will make me really happy to spend time with my friends doing something along those lines and I will post it here once the details are sorted out.

Help me be the change I want to see in this world we live in and embody some of the ideals and beliefs that I have. Yes I am an idealist and to some I may be foolish, but I think we can make a difference one small step at a time. Will you walk with me?

This weekend I went up to Shatana, a village in Irbid. This is my second time up there and both times have been to see the results of the Triangle Workshop taking place there. These workshops bring artists together for two weeks and they culminate in an open day which showcases some of the results of the workshop.

 

This year’s event was spread out all over the village and we basically walked through the village for three hours with a map trying to find the locations of the art work. It was a fun experience that I thoroughly enjoyed.

 

I loved the fact that we got to explore all parts of the village. Seeing the old and the new, walking on paved roads and clambering over rocks, walking into abandoned old homes all added such flavor to the art treasure hunt we were on. I especially liked interacting with the local villagers who were so welcoming and friendly. We engaged a few in conversation and others we waved at and got invited into their homes in return. I loved it.

 

But thinking back at the art work that we saw there were only a few pieces that really caught my eye. I loved the work of a Moroccan artist who used 1 piaster coins to make a map of Jordan and then asked people to take a piece of Jordan home, and if you are from Jordan to take a piece of where you are from. I loved the concept so much. It was simple, inclusive and eloquent. Another piece I liked was an installation that used old doorways from the village that had not been used and then lined up for people to walk through them. I loved it. There was another installation that had sting crossing a room from place to place with little messages at the end. This one was about our life paths and how it is like a river, you had to walk through and jump over, bend down to get through the strings; it was fun, deep and spiritual at the same time. I also liked the little cats painted all over the village as talisman warding off evil. They were fun and cute, as a cat lover it get a two thumbs up from me. There were other projects spread all over the village that were interesting and thought provoking, on the other hand some were disappointing and to me were not strong participations and I could not relate to them or understand the concept behind them, or how they come to be called art. They may be fun ideas and interesting implementations of ideas, but to me were not art. But who am I to say what is and what is not art? Each of us has an experience with each piece and an interpretation that is different. That is the splendor of diversity and exposure to different cultures and worlds, we may not understand but we learn to appreciate the differences.

 

Shatana may not have been up to artistic expectations but it was definitely worth the drive. Seeing the openness of the village of Shatana with its peoples, its houses, its lands was beautiful. Even if the art work wasn’t as provoking it was still good to go out there and see it. And what better way to end the day then with a full moon rising and accompanying us back home.

 

The other day I was helping a friend organize her pictures. She is never far away from her camera and is ready to snap away when you aren’t. We can always depend on her to capture and document the moments of time that we are all together.


After we were done organizing I started to sift through the albums, and there it all was. I laughed, smiled, was horrified, was shocked, and was sometimes surprised at what I saw. Our friend has documented our lived through these pictures, the good, the bad and the ugly in full color. I saw all of last year’s memories in front of me. Things I thought only existed in my faulty memory, and things I had deleted from my consciousness were all there. There I was, as were others, forever immortalized in full color prints, sorted chronologically and filed in indexed albums. 


I am not sure how I feel about the whole matter. I used to be a believe that if its not worth remembering then it wasn’t that good. However with a faulty memory my belief faltered. Seeing some of those pictures I was able to relive some great emotions and good times. I was also seeing some really bad fashion choices, bad hair days, and not so great poses! All of this was now immortalized.


I’m horrified that not the best of me is preserved. But does it really matter? It only shows I’m human and thus flawed, not always picture perfect. The other more important question for me is Do I want to relive all the emotions and feelings of the past? Do I want to go back in time to the things I want to forget? Isn’t forgetfulness a blessing?

The flip side of this is since we forget there will always be a record. We’ll be able to see old friends and new, people who have come and gone from our lives. A history in pictures serves as a reminder of who, what, where, and how, and somehow that’s not a bad thing at all.

 

I was watching an episode of Sex in the City that questioned and then celebrated singlehood. It made reflect on my weekend, and yes, how great it was to be single. 

 

 

Thursday night was spent at home with DVDs, my thoughts and books. Friday was getting pampered at the hair salon and then an afternoon with the girls followed by social hopping from one place to another.  Saturday came and it was time for me to really start the year and so after the dietician, the dentist and the credit card company I went off to do something for me. I went to the Rembrandt exhibition. I spent a full hour with myself and the reproductions of Rembrandt. After leaving I went to my favorite café to spend some quality time with myself. 

 

 

 

Something dawned on me. I love spending time with myself, I love having my own space, I like to do my own thing, I like disappearing when I want to unasked, unaccounted for, unquestioned. I enjoy being single, I like being a hunter (Think Dido’s song, Hunter).  

One may be the loneliest number but its easy, uncomplicated, and it’s the number of freedom, independence.  I like being a one, or as they said on the show, Single and FABULOUS!

 

As the year begins I have already received the first few gifts of the new year. Its such a pleasant way to start off. But if I would want anything I think I would like to have the following gifts: health, patience, travel, insight, good friends, satisfaction, good fun work, good coffee ;), music, good movies, and great memorable experiences.  

I also look forward to presents. I have over the past 30 years accepted, and graciously I may add, many gifts. Some have been marvelous, others have been good, some mediocre, some were repetitive, and others just didn’t make sense. I will continue to accept gifts graciously and love the thoughts and sentiments behind them all. However, there are things I have a bit too much of, here are some things you can over look and I will definitely forgive you if you don’t think of me when you see them: 

Anything with a cat motif. I AM NOT THE CAT LADY. I only have the one cat in my life and I love him to bits and that’s it! Having said that feel free to buy Z anything you want. Gifts for him are always welcome, especially toys on string.  

Key chains also make the list, I have more than I know what to do with.

Coasters, I have 5 sets of 6 and I have never used 30 glasses at once!  

Tea, this one is self inflicted, I bought myself a year’s supply of tea from Sri Lanka of all flavors and so I have out done myself here.  

Book marks, I love these but always forget them in the wrong books, I end up using either one that I love (it has the serenity prayer on it J) or a ticket stub or business card. So thanks but it will probably get lost with the 30 –  40 other book marks I have.  

Woodwork, I’m very particular about my carvings so please don’t try. I love masks and figures but that is not an invitation for trees, animals and other random pieces of wood.  

Plants, it will only die! I can’t for the life of me keep anything green alive, just ask the struggling cactus in my house! 

Refrigerator magnets, my cat likes to play with them and will knock them off, break them or they will end up under the couch after he has played toss them all around the house with them. 

Stuffed toys, I am not 7, enough said? 

Red Roses, ohhh I hate them, an ex over did the red roses and now I have developed a really bad allergy to the sight of them. Any other color rose is acceptable, in fact I love flowers of all sorts and you can’t go wrong with them.  

Jewelry, I’m not that kinda girl. With few exceptions (see below) please don’t bother.  

Electronics, I try to be as low tech as possible, so unless I specifically ask for a gadget, I don’t want it.  

OK you must now think this is one ungrateful women, who doesn’t like anything. But wait here are some things I can’t get enough of: 

Great experiences, which means anything that creates and leaves good memories.  

Flowers, aside from my aversion to red roses you really can’t go wrong here. Tulips are my favorite if you must know followed by sunny bright sun flowers.  

Books, a good book is really the best thing you can give anyone who reads. But if you do give me a book please don’t forget to write on the inside a little personal note, I love opening these gifts up years later and remembering the sentiment.  

Movies, whether it’s a trip the cinema or a DVD, just no slap stick comedy PLEASE! 

Massages, in person, gift vouchers, or we could go together… I love massage.  

Jewelry, yes I said not to but if you have to then you must know that I rarely wear necklaces or braclets, I don’t change my rings and so ear rings are the way to go. But wait there is a catch! Tasteful, simple and made by obscure local designers and artists is the way to go, just make sure they have a bit of funk in them. 

Candles: scented and otherwise, I burn them all the time and so they will be appreciated and used fondly.  

Scarves, this is an obsession of mine. I have drawers full of them and I can never have enough. Any color, any texture, any size… I just love them! 

Having said that neither list is exhaustive, and as time rolls on things will move from one list to the other I am sure. Some may even get dropped, others may be added. SO I do recommend that you treat this as utter nonsense. Buy me what you will, if anything at all. I will love it, it came from you and thus will remind me of you which is more important than what it is and will give it true value.  

As the year ends and I look forward to a new year I also want to look back and thank everyone who has been a part of my year.

  

  • I want to thank some unsung soldiers who helped me realize that I am human and don’t need to be superwoman through discussions, talks and constructive criticism of who I am.
  • I want to thank all my lovely friends for the great times and wonderful parties and events, you all know who you are.
  • I want to thank everyone who helped me adjust to my full time work schedule, even though I still resent it at times 😉
  • I want to thanks my travel buddies throughout the year, great places only made more interesting by you.
  • I want to thank all the shoulders I cried on and arms that held me in my times of need.
  • I want to thank my muse for my inspiration, even in absence.
  • I want to thank my family, despite our dysfunctionality, we are getting there.
  • I want to thank everyone for the cat gifts, despite the fact I am not a cat lady, I would also like to request no more gifts that have any cat motif on them.
  • I want to thank my dietician and doctors, without whom I wouldn’t be a healthier person than I was this time of year last year.
  • I want to thank the 20 kg that I lost for giving up my fun life and dissolving into oblivion. See you in another life J
  • I want to thank all my lovely hosts when I traveled, your hospitality was ever giving.
  • I want to thank all my visitors who stayed with me, your presence was as always enriching
  • I want to thank all the new friends I made for coming into my life.
  • I want to thank all the old friends I had for staying.
  • I want to thank those that have supported me in my decision making, faulty as it may have been and for helping me stay together through it all.
  • I want to thank those that have helped me with my exit strategy, still waiting, but couldn’t have done it without you.
  • I want to thank my boss for the diversity of the projects I work on, and the space to do my work comfortably.
  • I want to thank my work colleagues for making our office a fun and lively environment (never a dull day).
  • I want to thank you for reading this and other posts, I enjoy the feedback.

 Have wonderful conclusion to 2007 and a great 2008.

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