And While we are on the Subject: Sketchy, old(er), Arab Men

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I have talked about a strange dynamic between me and Arab men. Some think I should be honored to be with an Arab man since my inferior African genes can get an upgrade a la mixed children. Some think this, but also think that I am not soo AFrican/black since I speak Arabic. It’s the equivalent of white people not saying your not black, black.

Something that has happened to me on more than one occasion is that Arab men, specifically older Arab men try to hit on me in the grocery store. Yes, the grocery store. I gave this preamble about racial dynamics because I think it’s pertinent in this context.

There’s a socio-economic hierarchy based on race and nationality here. I defy these paradigms because I am a black American woman who doesn’t necessarily look like a black American (whatever the eff that means).  If I’m speaking ARabic, then I am a Sudanese woman. If not, then I am just African… ha ha.

If I am in the grocery store and bagging my own groceries because I don’t feel myself to high and mighty to do them myself… then I must be a maid…. see where I am going with this?

If I am a maid, then I must be easily swayed by cheap shit and flashy talk. Sigh.

Case in point, last Friday I went to the grocery store, wearing a brace on my wrist that I had injured exercising. (Gazelle is trying to get into shape, ya’ll but it’s not working 😦

I bagged my own groceries and pushed my own cart out into the parking lot, because I didn’t have a lot of stuff and figured I could load the car myself. This older, (Arab) guy who was behind me in the line catches up to me and asks if I need help. Now, because of how I had noticed him hovering near me in the store, I was afraid he was gonna try something. And he did not disappoint.

I smiled and said no, and he exclaimed, when he realized that I wasn’t gonna push the cart down the sidewalk (i.e. I wasn’t going to take the cart to my home, but rather to a car)”Oh you have car!??”

GAzelle is already annoyed at this point and so I just roll my eyes and say yes, and ignore him. Then once I reach my car he is still nearby and proceeds to declare that he is looking for someone who will “work with him.”

I give him a blank stare that says “WTF does that have to do with me?”

He then responds, sounding hurt and a bit offended, “You don’t want to work with me?”

I am so annoyed at this point that I blurt out with as much attitude as I can that I already have a job so I am not in the slightest bit interested in working with some damn stranger.

He finally takes the hint and walks away at some point, as I load my groceries.

I hate incidents like these. And no amount of white-washing will make me believe that it’s not tied to race. I get singled out because they assume that I am desperate and can be taken advantage of and men like this dude in the parking lot make me sick. I hate to just go to the stores that western ex-pats shop in. I like having access to things that make the local color of this city so vibrant. But the reality for me, as a black woman with African features, is that I have to dress the part.

Again, I am in a brooding introvert era in my life right now and out of fucks to give on Friday morning when I’m just trying to get my stuff before the after Friday prayer rush. But usually I make sure to hold my keys in way that they are visible and to wear jewelry. The keys so these predator men know I have my own car and therefore am not looking for a ride from strangers so need to even ask. The jewelry so they know I can buy my own gold and will not be wowed by H&M accessories. Blunt as this may sound, this has largely worked for me. But those days when I let my guard down… ish like this happens.

It’s not just old Arab men (although it happens with them quite bit, to me anyway). I have had brush-ins with older European men as well. But again, Gazelle is not looking for a sugar daddy. There are plenty of young women here paired up with super old men to let me know that there are many who willing to go that route, I wish these guys would not get their wires crossed.

I am not interested in whatever “work” that creepy guy at the grocery store was trying to employ me to do. I just want to be left alone. Sometimes dealing with these social dynamics that are fraught with this snap-second judgements based on your perceived nationality…. make me let out such loud sighs.

 

 

 

 

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On Second Thought…. Eff That…

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I realize that as woman, or maybe a person I am continually trying to make peace. It’s this proclivity to let bygones be bygones that mired me in unnecessary stress.

No need for total details, I guess, but needless to say I no longer feel bad for supposedly hurting someone’s feelings. Why do so many men feel that it’s their right to have the woman they want when they want?

Eff that!

I was contrite, and tried to assuage male egos, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that I did nothing wrong. Man meet’s woman. Man wants woman. Woman is not sure she wants man. Woman is clear about needing more time. Man does not respect this. Woman is fed up with feeling rushed so she tells man (very nicely) there is the door, you can see your way out (because if you want something within a certain time-frame, and I am not sure I want those same things, and am not ready to make a snap-judgement about it, why not save us both the time and trouble?)… but yeah, Man behaves like man-child.

or take this scenario

Man meets woman. Man wants woman. Woman is very clear from the get-go that she does not want man as anything other than maybe a friend. Man pretends to be ok with these boundaries. Man continually crosses these boundaries. Woman gets mad, but tells man firmly, “Please don’t do x, y or z, I don’t like and I don’t want it.” Man gets offended.

or this one

Man reaches out to woman he as known for many years. Woman is very clear about boundaries and not wanting Man to get the wrong idea. Man continues to push, even though he claims woman would be the perfect match once he rids her of some her backwards/incorrect ideas (which also happen to be central to who she is as a person as they form the premise for her morale compass and worldview!). Again, woman lets man know that, No, it’s not like that, and it will never be like that. Man continues to push boundaries. Woman breaks down and practically tells man off. Man gets offended. …. but wait, she had been telling you No, No and no.

In any number of these situations (yes, situations plural, this has happened to me more than once, more than twice this year alone 😦  I have been made to feel at-fault. But actually, Gazelle has absolved herself of all these “sins.”

I am done apologizing. Eff that. and frankly, Eff them!

 

It’s Not About Actions Speaking Louder than Words…

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In case you haven’t read from the snark in my previous posts, I am going through a rough spot for a number of reasons, none of which do I get into on this blog…. ha ha…

Truth be told, someone I know (obviously someone I know) did something I am having a lot of trouble coming to terms with/ betrayed my trust in a sense and I haven’t dealt with the ramifications of that on me in an expedient or efficient fashion. Like many things in life it’s complicated, mainly because the situation is complicated— As evidenced by my lack of an ability to come up with singular descriptor of what happened. Needless to say, they did something cut a bit, well more deeply than it would had the perpetrator been just about anyone else (Gazelle is really good at shrugging people off… ha ha…). And to top it off,  I was, it seems glaringly apparent to me now, complicit in my own demise.

But the offender was a drunk driver, not someone who plotted my murder for months before carrying it out. And so, it’s more of a case of involuntary manslaughter than it is first or second degree murder…. hmmm I quite like that analogy.

Like I noted above, I played a part in this too, for lack of better language I was stupid, and naive and trusting—- way too trusting, not so much of them, but of my own optimism for the future, (blurred) vision of the present and  overconfident (to the point of hubris it seems) of my ability to learn from past mistakes. I also ran on the assumption that someone who has known me for a long time, and knows me as well as they do would never cause me to feel like this (like I said bluuuuuuuurrrrrrrred vision!… ha ha… even writing this is so sad because I really should have known better than to ever base anything on an idiotic assumption like that… sigh).

blurred-vision

Yeah, the world around me looked like this. source

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But I could have sworn that the image was crisp, like this one. Sigh. source

 

The thing about past mistakes and learning from them though, is that every new situation is new: There’s something unique about it that usually makes it hard to just plunk it into a lessons learned box.

So I found myself at an empasse, dealing with something very new, which echos of old things- dealing with something I never thought I would have to deal with, not in a million years.

To be fair, I ended up speaking with the person about this situation and they did apologize. Like my drunk driver analogy above indicates, it was not their intention to leave me feeling like, well for lack of better language — a pile of shit. But to be fair to me, that’s what happened all the same… apologies don’t change the reality on the ground all that much 😦

Most days I am fine, but things happen that trigger thoughts and then boom! I am back in self-doubt and self-blame land. I can’t help but feel like I haven’t been able to fully let this go because there is some lesson that I still haven’t learned

And this entry, I guess is another stab at a lesson that I should learn from this.  I had a thought today about how I can best learn from past mistakes and have finally been able to articulate something that’s been a useful framework for my reflections:

I lived by this:

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Well… as long as the two don’t reinforce one another you do in fact have a problem, Houston: Source

 but, now I think that

It’s not that Actions speak louder than words, it’s that actions and words need to line up.

I don’t know who else is excited about this little self-help mantra that I cooked up, but I sure am.  In the context of the bump in the road of life that I discuss above,  just thinking even semi-critically of my situation through this prism would have saved me a lot of head and heart ache.

If you have a friend who claims to adore you but then does things to make you feel inadequate… you may need to think about those bold letters up above.

If you have romantic interest that swears to adore you in private but acts like they don’t know you in public…. you too may need to think about those letters and how to apply them to your life.

If you have a friend, lover, family member, that has categorically told you that they can’t do a certain thing for you, but they do other nice things for you…. you still might need to think about the words up above.

It’s not about kicking people to the curb, (not in every case!)… but it is about understanding other people’s limitations as stated AND demonstrated. I think there is a nuance that I was missing in my interactions with others, that perhaps I can now at least be aware of it’s necessity.

I hope this makes sense. The idea popped in my head about half an hour ago, so maybe it’s not as genius or as comforting as it is for me right now in this moment.

Sigh. Too little too late, for me anyway. But maybe not for someone else. Maybe this will be useful the next time I encounter a situation like the one I’ve been peeving about…. (*** rolls my eyes superciliously***)

****Note to LJ Cul de Sac: I don’t think you read this blog anymore, yes it’s a post about you…I don’t think I’ve stated anything there that I haven’t stated to your face, but I apologize on the small chance that you are offended by anything here or claim I’ve made. And of course, I can certainly clarify anything that seems unclear. I tried to write this post without giving specifics so there are things that are and aren’t directly related to you. ****

And with that I am off to something else. Here’s to making the last year or so of blogging count! … ha ha

I Can’t Fix Everything

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And that is ok with me. I realized this a little while ago and it’s been refreshing to let things go. Maybe it’s the being the (De facto) eldest among my siblings, but I’ve become the De facto mother hen in a lot of different contexts and for different groups of people. That is NOT a role I volunteered to play. Frankly, I am tired of it and so many other things. I acknowledge that until people are real with themselves and about what changes they need to make in life, change will not take root. I know what it feels like to sit with someone for hours as they ask me about planning out scenario a, b, or c and warning them against D and they turn around and pick D anyway… Somehow I started thinking in these contexts that the blame was mine, that I wasn’t convincing enough. But, it’s not about me. It’s not my fault. And most importantly, it’s not my responsibility.

It’s not my job to clean other people’s messes, both literally and figuratively. People wouldn’t believe how apropo this has been for my life…. how for the first time perhaps ever in life, I am letting things and people go… I am letting the chips fall where they may.

The most amazing part is that earth didn’t swallow me or anyone else whole. It’s not my job to fix things. I can’t fix everything. If I spend so much time trying to hold everyone else together, what I eventually end up with is a very broken and fatigued me.

So yeah, going hand in hand with expecting nothing, is being somewhat numb to other people’s life choices… Adults are adults and every adult is entitled to their own decisions and can make up their own mind about whatever they choose to make a priority. Sometimes people will end up making mistakes they would not have had they listened to me… but that is not my fault, that is not my problem. Heck, not just adults, the same goes for any other living thing.

So will continue to do what I can, when  I can, but  I am under no obligation to hold up half the sky for anyone. Gazelle’s shoulders are much too small for all of that.

This affirmation/realization has been quite freeing for me. I can’t fix everything, I am not obligated to fix anything.  I too need to acknowledge what needs to be changed in order for change to take root. And hand in hand with that is undergoing a self valuation… ha ha…

At the end of the day people are people and they will do whatever they feel is in their best interest however narrowly or widely defined those interests are. At the end of the day, my intentions or sincerely wanting the best for myself or person x, y or z may have nothing to do with their intentions towards me or in spite of me: love, respect, kindness, peace, support, none of these are guaranteed to be reciprocated.  And even when they are not reciprocated, it’s not a reflection of my not being good enough.

It’s more about reflecting on the space and time that those individuals take up in my life and adjusting accordingly… whether that means giving them the BOOT! (ha ha)… or just 2% of my concern as opposed to 75…. sigh.

So yeah, I am not taking anything personal… I am also not concerning myself with who might take my words or actions personal either. This is all about expecting nothing and suspending optimism for people and things and ideas that are worth it.

 

 

 

On Loving Yourself First

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So I have been thinking.

I turned 31 earlier this week and the days leading up to it, since last week and have been rough.  I started taking stock of my life, what I have done so far and what I haven’t. It left me in a bit of a conundrum and a funk, but I gave myself time to think it through and cry it out ( literally and metaphorically).

Yup… sometimes you gotta let it all out, once and for all then move forward

Nearing the end of this reflection session, I’ve realized something, that has become my New Year’s Resolution: I am going to love myself first.

Maybe it’s the middle child in me, but I tend to be the one who is accommodating in work, friendships, relationships etc. I tend to let other people pick which part of the project they want to do first (we have less fighting that way), I would rather go along to get along.

It’s how I dealt with a lot of things. But I am thinking it’s time to turn over a new leaf.

Gazelle needs to love herself first. Gazelle needs to respect herself first.

I think I should print this an pin it to my desk…. Nah… ha ha… It’s enough that I’ve memorialized it here

It’s as simple as that. I took a long, hard look. Well, it was inspiration from a friend who recently told me about how he periodically takes stock of himself and the relationships he’s formed and decides whether or not they should continue.

I guess, I do the same, but in a different way. My process has been sudden. I came back from a trip to Thailand (more on that later, I ever get the pics on my phone) and my mood is completely different from what it was even the morning I left.

It’s like a rain cloud came over my mind, forcing me into the indoors of my heart and I wasn’t allowed back outside until the storm had subsided: The way I looked at myself, at life, at people is all topsy turvy.

It’s funny how you can be naive and optimistic and just in your own little world and then BAM! Something clicks in your brain and you have to confront what you should have known all along. Gazelle has been basing her actions and plans off of assumptions that she never should have made. And then, in the last few days a little birdie told me:

Wait how do I know if something is one or all of these things????!!!!

So yeah I am doing a mix of taking stock of my own actions and my reactions to the words and actions of others.

The end result, (I presume) will be to reassert who I am and who I want to be. This sounds cryptic (as many of my posts do, I guess) but it’s really not about any one person, well it’s really only ABOUT GAZELLE. So for those of you who know me in real life and may think you know what this is about…. YOU Don’t. You really, just like don’t know even half of what I am writing about. Sigh.

I just need to be a healthier me and I have realized that going along to get along, Peacemaker Gazelle is no longer the part I wish to play.
Life is beautiful. Or at least I am hoping it will be once I decompress and declutter.  It may seem like a silly, juvenile declaration, but for now, its the most clarity I have been able to decipher. I’m gonna love myself first and put myself first and see where that leads.
I am already coming to some important realizations (elucidated perspectives, dare I say ;- ). I would really like to go back home (to the U.S. broadly defined) but not for the reason(s) I would have thought or listed a week or two or three ago. Sometimes things present themselves as seemingly good opportunities, but the specter of what they truly are is always there, waiting to be uncovered. And so, Gazelle, is apparently still ready for the next adventure, it’s just not the one she thought she would/should be hoping for a few weeks back. But in this one, she gets to be her own leading lady. So, there that. I mean, that’s a thing… right?
Here’s to being older and presumably wiser.

On Baltimore Burning

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No justice, No peace

I watched the drama unfold in Ferguson last summer, mainly through the filter of being a black American ex-pat in the UAE. Now, as summer begins in the US again, this time it’s my home-state that is ground zero for police aggression and black oppression.

It’s surreal. I can’t say I have any strong ties to Baltimore— Maryland is one of those states where your cultural affiliation depends on geographic location, I am culturally a DC metro area person. I would have to live a little further North for Baltimore to be the city that I affiliate with most.

Baltimore has always been like another world to me. When I was younger and not a US Citizen, my mom would talk make to the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Services) for one reason or another and I hated going there. Not because of the government bureaucracy but because it meant going to Baltimore, a city that just always left me feeling strange.

Orioles park sparked no emotion in me; not a baseball fan and besides, in our part of Maryland, the Washington Redskins were pretty much the only team that mattered. The Harbor was cute, but I was always struck by how strange the city’s set-up seemed: One block was pristine, the type of city street you send your kids on field trips to go see. Then next block, looked like the most dilapidated thing you could ever imagine. This contrast, of rich and poor was always unsettling.

Once, my mom got lost and we ended up going deeper into the city. I can still remember thinking “Good Lord, DC has poor neighborhoods, but not THIS poor.” I wasn’t sure what a crack head looked like, but I was pretty sure that I had seen more than few during our 30 minute detour. Baltimore always made me uneasy and I couldn’t put my finger on it. Now, I guess it was the black poverty unlike anything I had ever seen.

Now it seems, the chickens are coming home to roost. A population that has be degraded and derogated for too long is speaking out and demanding justice while hoping for true equality. People who have been cramped and stuffed in boxes where they couldn’t even begin to dream of a better life are now so fed up of the darkness. The national spotlight turns once again to a unjust system that seems to let darker hued people down.

I hope that something good comes out of this young man’s death, that racist policies are reconsidered and that an end comes to this “New Jim Crow” that’s not just a southern thing; it’s unfortunately an American thing.

Happy New Year: Elucidated Reflections on the past 368 days

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2014 has come and gone.  I am sitting in my room listening to children play some game as they shout at each other in Egyptian and Syrian dialects.  OMG I have succumb to all that is ex-pat living.  This quiet, humdrum passage of time has become the new normal.

Ok, it hasn’t been thaaat quiet

Store clerks in malls call me “madam” out of respect, systems for getting things done are altogether different from what I had in the States.  But this is home… It’s been over a year and yes, I live (not study, not just work) abroad.  This reality was solidified as I went through the course of 2014.

For me, last year was one of those quiet, unassuming years, that brought with it much promise but ended as quietly as it began.  And now, I sit reflecting on all that I learned through it… and what I should hope for/look towards in 2015.

I can’t recall the extent to which I documented things (probably not very well at all) but I traveled quite a bit in 2014, much of it to places I had never been or had any previous connection to: Italy, Cyprus, China (the Mid-west and Western US). So I was thrust, for the first time in a long time, back into the role of foreigner, of tourist.

 

When you live in the Arabian Gulf, foreigner, I think doesn’t really stick as a title. Everyone is foreign (the vast majority) and so we all fit even though we seem like this strange menagerie of colors, tastes and sounds.  Food from the Phillipines, the Indian subcontinent, south east Asia and Ethiopia are all within my fingertips (not to mention the Arab World).  My neighborhood is a noisy, bustling barrio dominated by Arabs and South Asians with sprinklings of Africans (mostly East siders) and East Asians: I hate it and love it all at once.

Being here has made me realize the extent to which I have internalized a sort of Arab cultural mindset, in the way I dress, interact with others and even see the world in a lot of ways (this was a scary realization)…. it’s Egypt that did me in, I think. And it’s easier in many ways to weave in and out of communities as this “new” me. In some ways though, I feel like I’ve confined myself to a system that is not my own, that I didn’t ascribe to previously and that I have subconsciously taken on even though I don’t have to.

 

Yes, 2014 made me realize all of this stuff.  I guess the post title is a misnomer,  because all is not yet elucidated. But, Gazelle, as ever is thinking about next steps.

 

living here as a single, introverted ex-pat is great.  But I would want to have a family life back home or at least somewhere that is not here…. ha ha… and as the fireworks that came with my 30th birthday celebrations (in Cyprus!) should have made clear…. time is ticking…. :-/

For lack of a better term, living here has got to be the ultimate “cockblocker”…

Or could this be the sad truth….???? ha ha …

I’m just not into any of it (the halal kind or otherwise). People tend to fall into certain categories: the ones who come here already married, the ones who meet the person they will marry here but quickly within the first year or so, and the ones who don’t quite make a go at it.  I fall into the last category…haha (there are also different classificaitons of ex-pat men that I have deduced, but that is for another post)… but I’m not mad.

 

Going abroad, it seems always makes me realize how American I am, how proud I am to be American, and how much I love home.  It’s in no ways perfect, but it’s where I grew up and where I have the strongest ties. It’s where my roots are grounded and where my heart is.

2014 Marked the 10th straight year in which I traveled outside the US for month or more:

2004- studied abroad in Morocco and  Spain

2005- studied abroad in Morocco

2006- Research in Spain and short trip to Morocco

2007- Yemen, and where I started this blog

2008- 5 months in the UK

2009- I rounded out the 4th quarter of the Year in Qatar

2010- Still in Qatar

2011- Rounded out the year in Egypt and the holidays in the UK

2012- Still in Egypt and returned to MOrocco for the summer

2013- Moved to the Gulf

2014- Living in the Gulf with short stints in Cyprus, Italy and China

2015….

It’s a lot of experiences that I have tried to pack and unpack (some on this blog some not). It’s pretty anticlimactic, but 10 years and 35 pounds later… I’ve realized that I’m a down-home, All American girl. It’s been wonderful learning about all these beautiful places and people. It’s been rough dealing with harassment, racism, prejudice (both from within and without) but it’s been worth it.

I can’t believe I turned into one of those people… ha ha…

 

It’s not like I know all there is know about anything, really. But I guess that is what I’ve learned the most: there always something new to know, some new place to experience.  All in all, Alhamdullilah for 2014 and Alhamdullilah for 2015, 16, 17…. you get the picture.