Friday, April 23, 2010

Free For All Friday

Please note that Secret Friday will be posted as Secret Sunday this weekend.

Hi everyone,

This is the first installment of Free For All Fridays.  I hope to have many more in the coming months but I can't do it without you.  This is a chance to submit anything to me that you wish you could write about on your own blog but can't for whatever reason. I'll then post it 100% anonymously.

This is the committment I make to you:

  • I won't ask why you prefer not to write it on your own blog, or ask you to provide any further background (unless I honestly feel it needs clarification)
  • I won't censor content or change the text, it will appear as you've submitted. If for some reason I feel a strong need to make an alteration I will always ask first.
  • Length of the post doesn't matter.
  • It could be about any subject, and can take the form of a true story, fantasy, poem etc.
  • I understand that because this is going through me first, you may feel a need to hold back on disclosing certain information. I respect that and won't take it personally.
  • Those of you who know me, know how much I honour privacy. I promise I will never reveal your name. Ever. 
  • If you have something you'd like to submit please forward it to me at barrysquotations(at)gmail(dot)com

Today's post almost didn't happen, as the writer was afraid of being rejected by those who will read her words. But she pushed on anyway.  So to you, the woman halfway across the world who through this process has become my friend, thank you for your bravery in making yourself heard.  I admire your courage.

And now to it..

I am an Arabic girl, never married, just hit my 40s. There are two things I want to talk about. The first is not because what I am about to write I can not publish on my own blog, but actually because I want to open the subject for discussion in a different world, than where I live.

I was educated in a private European school, good at English, German and Arabic. Then I studied at one of the best Egyptian universities, where my studies included deeper aspects of language (linguistics), different literature episodes, language history, grammar rules and history, etc. This was the only thing I choose in my entire life, and I enjoyed it to the maximum.
I started my career by working as executive secretary in many companies, till I settled in a private reputable company as assistant to the deputy managing director. I stayed there for 11 years, then moved to Human resources department within the same company. Due to some problems and business shrinking, the management decided to close down the factory, lay off its staff and some of the department's staff as well. That was in mid-2009. I was one of them. Since then I am looking for another job within the same field.
I had a very special education, and therefore think different than 95% of Egyptian population. It’s hell I can assure you. It’s different because I was raised in a European school, having an European environment and education. It got me to have an European thinking way, rather than the Arabic one. What I kept was my Muslim ethics and way of treating people. The European thinking way gave me the opportunity to judge things based on their nature, with not much influence of people's words. While the Arabic/Islamic emotional part kept my emotions warm and passionate.

As time passes, I started doubting if I am a hopeless case, and I should give up on my right to "live" here or maybe I should try to build a life just "else where". Being different than 90% of people living around you makes you end up feeling like an outsider. Different values, different thinking way, different judging way, different feelings, different approaches. It's hell, when you feel lonely while sitting with your own family, very rare friends- I mean true, close friends. It’s hell to be single at this age in my world. It’s hell to know that everyone looks at me as "expired person" because I am not married, and none would think of even "looking" at me. I am too old. Exactly for what, I don’t know. But I started feeling rejected and to be honest- I have no hope to establish my life at home anymore. Maybe I should move to elsewhere? I don’t know.
I am thinking of leaving my home country and the whole Arabic world to live elsewhere. Europe, USA, Canada, Australia, Asia, Latin America. I don’t care. Anywhere where I can find a job and live. As explained above at this age 90% of people around me look at me as "expired person". Hopeless to start a family, find a partner and of course hopeless to have children. But as human being, don’t I have the right to choose my partner? If I haven’t met the right person till now, don’t I have the right to still hope to find him one day? As a human being should I give up on my life and start preparing myself to die?
Maybe - biologically - I can’t have children, or maybe I can. Who is here to decide? And if I can’t have children does it mean that I can not have a partner who I enjoy few years with? Can’t I have a partner to grow old with? To have some company? What is wrong with hoping anyway? What is wrong with when I meet someone I think could be a potential partner/husband but he is 5 years younger? What is wrong with approaching him and show him my feelings and check if we could have a future together? Why do I have to be cruelly rejected and reminded of my "expiry date"? Am I not a human being anymore? All I am asking for is acceptance for who I am at this age. Someone who wishes to find some happiness. This is all I am asking for. Is that too much?

I have been looking for a job since one year now. You know why I can’t get employed? Because people here think that wearing a headscarf- based on Islam's rule for women- means I am incompetent to work at a multinational company, and because hiring someone of my age is a loss. They need someone young and dynamic. Well, has anyone tested my capabilities and find me incompetent? No. I don’t even get the chance to have a pre-interview. How am I supposed to earn my living then? I am living now from my savings over the past years, when I was working. But what to happen when those savings finish?

I decided to give it a try through your blog. I need to know what "rest of the world" thinks about what I have to say. If I moved to your country - wherever that is- would I be accepted, judged or refused based on my competencies or based on my originals, religion, looks or age?

My second idea is a very simple question. Does a woman, who was raped when she was a child of few years and never had the chance to receive proper after-rape-treatment (as this branch of medicine didn't exist back then, and she too scared to tell her family about, and had to hide this incident from everyone fearing getting hurt)- does she have the right to still love, get married and have her own family? Or is she condemned to never escape this painful experience? Does a woman who is at my age still have the right to hope that one day she will find a partner to spend the rest of her life in happiness with him (who understands what she has been through and still love her for what she has developed herself to be), or is she really too old to be considered?

This is what I can not publish at my blog, because I already know the answer within the Arabic world. But do you -inhabitants of another part of the world- believe in age, barriers, etc- or a woman is still human and is entitled to "live"?


  1. Goodness what an honest and great post. All I can say is that judgement will follow you anywhere you go. You can not escape it, but really at the end of the day you decide whether you let those stereotypes hold you back or not. You said it yourself you want to be free to live as you wish. Then do so. Live the way you want. Let go of what other think, religion thinks, whatever. You will never finish with the barriers that can hold you back. As long as you believe in what you are doing and you are happy LIVE ON WOMAN! Live on. Marry when you are ready, marry whom you choose to marry. You are not "expired" until you die. As long as you have life you have the opportunities to do whatever your heart desires. I wish you well in all your future en-devours, may you find your way and your inner peace.

  2. This is a very honest post. And yes judgement is part of life. I'm 30 years old and I don't have children yet. I get judged on that a lot. The people tell me negative things like the older I get the harder it will be to have children so you better start now, otherwise. I know what you're going througn. Sometimes it's best to not look at what people think of you but what your maker (God) is thinking of you. He has the last say in your life!! People will judge people all the time.

    I wish you the best of luck. Just hang on there!!

  3. What I'll write here is the way I believe most people view women in North American culture. There are of course exeptions in society in general or within certain relationships in particular, so please keep this in mind as you read.

    Socially, women are given about as much freedom as men. They don't have to cover themselves or walk behind their husbands. They're not expected to be subservient and are treated more as equals than 'property'. At the same time, people who observe certain religious practices are free to keep that part of their culture. This is very prevalent in Canada.

    In our society women can come and go as they please. They're allowed anywhere men are. They have freedom to dress as they please, express their femininity, personality and sexuality without serious repercussion.

    It's generally not frowned upon for a woman to take on a younger partner. In fact there's a growing trend for older women to develop relationships with (much) younger men, often as a purely physical experience, and is considered quite empowering. It's becoming more accepted that 'older' women are every bit as loving and vital as younger women.

    Marriage is not expected. Some never marry by choice, others marry later. Even the definition of marriage is sometimes grayed, with arrangements such as polyamorous/open relationships becoming more common. This is a whole other topic of discussion, but my point is that there is a lot of opportunity here for people to live a life that suits them. Same-sex relationships are also becoming more socially acceptable (finally) although I think few can argue that there's still a long way to go in this area.

    These are truths that we in North America tend to take forgranted, as many people in other parts of the world will never know this kind of life.

    Socio-economically, women are free to pursue careers in the same way men are. They head major corporations and are found at the top levels in business and government. It's generally accepted that women's opinions are as valuable as men's and they have as much to contribute to society as men do. Many people (myself included) realize that there isn't full equality yet between the sexes, but I believe it's safe to say the gap has been steadily closing. Many of us don't take gender into consideration when it comes to a person's abilities.

    Sexually, our society is very liberal. Women aren't expected to be virginal when they marry. They're not expected to 'repair' the physiological effects that come with loss of virginity, as if a woman is somehow 'damaged'. Female genital mutilation is outlawed here (thank God); women are free to enjoy the physical pleasures that accompany sex as much as men are.

    Sex before or outside of marriage is not punishable, and many people actually prefer more sexualy-experienced partners.

    Your story of rape is heart-breaking. I've spoken privately with far too many women who have experienced some form of rape and/or abuse; it's overwhelmingly common in North America. However survivors of abuse are not usually frowned upon or cast out. There are many opportunities here to seek physical and psychological treatment. It's a subject that has come out of the closet and is being talked about more, so there is certainly hope in this area.

    Again, I want to thank you so much for contributing your story here. It's been a memorable experience for me, and I hope somewhat liberating for you.


  4. Wow. What a wonderfully honest post! I wish I could give you a hug.

    Yes, you could definitely find a job and acceptance in another part of the world. You're intelegent and experienced. Age doesn't care near as much weight in western cultures as it does where you are.

    Also, while you couldn't get help right after you were raped, you can still get help now. There are counselors and other professionals that you can talk to to get help.

  5. Wow. That was an incredible post and so very brave.

    I'll answer the second part. You can still get counseling for being raped. You can do that at any time. And it sounds like something that still plays in your mind, as I'm sure it does for anyone who has ever had something like that happen to them.

    But yes... you of course still have the right to find someone who loves you and who you can spend your life with. Everyone has that right. What happened to you is not your fault and you shouldn't be condemned for the rest of your life for that.

  6. Unfortunately in some countries women are virtually prevented from seeking counselling for rape due to cultural/religious reasons. Many are reluctant to come forward for fear of being permanently cast out by family or society. It's a traumatic experience regardless, but I'm extremely thankful that women in Canada and the US have access to these services. It breaks my heart to know that others don't.

  7. I really don't want to say that coz I wouldn't like to hear it but I feel really bad for her that she must going through things like that.
    My answer to your question is YES! Of course you have a right to be loved and love! You are surrounded by people who don't understand your needs, your feelings and your approach to many things.

    Maybe you should try to find a job in some charities who help Arabic women. Maybe that would be a temporary solution.

    I want to ask you for one thing - don't stop believing, you have a right to be happy no matter what color you are, what religion you believe in or what age you are. Love yourself for who you are and make you disadvantages your advantages. Miracles happen every day. Tomorrow it can happen to you.

    p.s. Barry! I am in!!!

  8. I know that the Arab world has a different culture... and I know that this is not the best place to be for an educated woman like you.

    There is hope elsewhere... don't stop looking. Age is not an issue here... what you are and what you can become are the most important things.

    I guess that I'm lucky that even if I live in a third world country, women can exercise their rights, we have a voice.

    Don't scrap the Philippines from your plans... not only US and Canada can give you a better life.

    Although the electric power rates here are too high. Hahaha! (Just want to make this comment light.)

    To Barry: thanks for doing this series. You are awesome. And my socks are brown. Hahaha!

  9. Thank you everyone, who cared to write and encourage me.
    I so much needed it. it really made a huge difference to me, to know that I could be accepted somewhere- just anywhere.
    I am looking for a job, to be able to move. as said anywhere, where i can just live.

    that was really very kind of all of you, to accept a complete stranger, for no other reason than her just be a human being.
    this is what i wished to find here, in my homecountry.

  10. Lots of countries can give you a happier life. People in the forties are "worth" just as much as anyone. In a western country you are free to be who you want, practice your beliefs, write as you feel a need to and to express your feelings. I hope you can make a decision that will make you happy. Please keep us informed