I shouldn’t have to explain my self-worth to anyone.

I rarely discuss the romantic aspect of my life publicly. Let alone blog about it. The last blog that specifically covered my romantic life was written several years ago.

In any case, I’m gonna stop prefacing and get to it.

I’ve recently had some of the most memorable weeks of my life. Romantically that is. And I’m not just talking about myself. I’m talking about all the exceptional women around me. What can I say. 2017 made quite the entrance, and led us all to believe that this year, this year is the year where all of us kick-ass ladies would find our one and only.

Except we didn’t.

Let me start by sharing a few ‘fun’ short stories.

  • Translated for the UN, specifically requested to interpret major international conferences, wise advisor, loving sister, great friend. Meets boy. Falls in love. Boy proposes. Boy freaks out. Boy backs out.
  • Model-like body. Best heart. Wittiest soul. Exemplary daughter. Loyal-est friend. Loves boy. Boy loves her. Boy plays her. Boy ignores her. Boy asks her to travel with him. Boy disappears. Boy apologizes. Boy is too late.
  • Successful businesswoman. Absolutely stunning on the outside. Simply beautiful on the inside. Meets boy. Boy gets serious. Boy talks marriage. Boy flirts with other women. Boy disappears.

I don’t know about you. But I have the biggest girl crush on all three women. They’re outstanding. They’re the cream of the cream. They were discarded. Like the littlest of people. Like the pettiest of losers.

Except all of us rational-s know that they’re neither this nor that.

And the biggest question remains – how do we get ourselves in so deep, that we lose sight of who we are, who ‘boy’ is, and the incompatibility that we make ourselves believe is a ‘match made in Heaven.’

I’m not writing this because I found an answer. I’m merely paying homage to these incredible beings (and myself, really) who doubt themselves and their abilities everyday because of men who are simply, and for a lack of better term, not quite worth it.

I love men. This post is in no way, shape or form intended to dis an entire layer of society. I love them. And that will never (physically nor emotionally) change.

But I can’t help but resent the state that a good chunk of them put these women and me in.

But I did find a solution. A solution that will set me, these women, and our likes free.

A man who requires an explanation for why he should be with me (or them), really just shouldn’t. I (they) know who I am (they are). I (they) know what I (they) bring to the table. I (they) know what I (they) have to offer. And, at the risk of sounding arrogant, conceited, and full of myself (themselves), I’m (they’re) f**king amazing. And a man that I (they) have to explain that to is simply not worth my time, nor theirs.

I have spent way too much time investing in myself and my ‘life resume,’ which should really speak for itself.

I shall develop a one-pager that I hand out on dates from now on. You know, to get that bit out of the way early on.

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‘Can I help you with those bags?’ No, thanks. I’m fine.

devochka_s_chemodanomLadies, have you used this response more often than you’d like to admit? Congratulations. You’re in the doomed category.

Gentlemen, we probably lost you at bags. Let me give you a hand. If you’ve offered a lady (one you’re interested in or not) to help carry her bags, and she kindly declined, despite the fact that she looked like a Christmas tree with ornaments hanging from every limb (me earlier today), run (I can’t believe I’m scaring away he who could be my one and only). At least for now.

The thing is, it’s not just the bags you offered to help carry. Or the door you offered to hold open while she carried the boxes. Or the nail you offered to put in the wall. Or or. It’s much more complex that that. A lady who doesn’t admit to needing help with these medial things, is sure as hell not gonna admit to needing help in much bigger matters, be it at work or at home. In love or at war.

I’m guilty as charged. Whether or not I want to admit to it. I suck at asking for help. I used to think it’s my strength. But I couldn’t be more wrong. This just might be my biggest shortcoming.

And this hasn’t just appeared. Oh no. God knows it’s been there. It’s been there since that first class in kindergarten, and there it remained. I never asked for help putting together puzzles in elementary school, or studying for quizzes in fourth grade, or preparing for my big exam in 12th grade, or my final paper in university. I didn’t understand the point of group projects – to be fair, I did have pretty bad groups starting out, where I did everything, so I thought it’d always be the case, and stopped even trying to involve anyone. And that’s just how it was, is, and hope it ceases to be.

The truth is, what I could get away with, albeit barely, in elementary school, middle school, high school, and college, won’t do in the real world.

Where the winner is she

Who knows her weaknesses.

Who raises her hand when she needs help.

Who isn’t afraid of admitting when it’s just too much.

Who doesn’t let pride get in the way of her learning new things because she knows that she can’t possibly, nor is anyone expecting her to, do everything on her own.

Who understands that those who get to call themselves kick-ass, are not those who were born with it, but those who become it.

I won’t pretend that she is me just yet. But I also can’t deny that she is just around the corner.

The cake I waited six years to taste

If you’ve been reading me regularly, you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised that this post is a little shorter than usual. It’s about cake, after all. How much can you really say about a slice of cake.

The story goes like this:

In 2009, in between classes, I walk into a Starbucks near my college campus to grab a green tea. ‘No sugar please,’ I tell the cashier as I placed my order. I walk over to wait for my tea, and I felt the need to tell the barista one more time ‘sorry, can you please make sure you don’t add any sugar?’ You know, just in case. It was almost summer, which means almost time to go to Lebanon, which means looking like a fat foreign kid who can’t resist American junk food was just not an option.

As I waited, a slice of scrumptious chocolate cake grabbed my attention. It wasn’t like any other chocolate cake. This was heavenly chocolate cake. It looked so good. So sinful. My mouth was watering and stomach making all sorts of sounds just thinking about it. I couldn’t just leave it there.

Little did I care that what I was about to say was gonna make me sound like someone who’d lost their mind (you know, asking for a green tea with no sugar. Twice. Then ordering (what looked like) a 2000-calorie slice of cake): ‘can I also have a slice of your Chocolate Decadence Cake, please.’

I couldn’t wait to get out of there and go somewhere quiet, so I can peacefully devour my cake. A slice that had my name written all over it. I sat in a perfect spot, under a tree, all excited that I was about to have my first cheatcheat in a month. I opened the bag.

Wrong cake. I can’t believe he gave me the wrong cake. I debated going back to claim what’s mine, but it was time for class. (I found out later that the food-deprived me gave him the wrong name. Chocolate Decadence Cake was the name of another slice right next to my beloved).

In 2012, I walk into a Starbucks near my office in Abu Dhabi to grab a green tea, with no sugar. As I waited in line for my drink, I saw it again. Beautiful as ever. The same cake. The other side of the planet. Three years later. It’s fate. I wasn’t gonna get the name wrong this time. So I looked real carefully at the tag, and placed my order with confidence. ‘May I also add a slice of your Dark Belgian Chocolate Cake, please?’

‘Sorry, ma’am. The gentleman there has already ordered the last slice.’

You’ve got to be kidding me, I thought. I debated fighting for my cake, but I had already made a scene by confirming twice that my tea has no sugar.

In 2015, I walk into a Starbucks in Kaslik, Lebanon. As I stood with a friend in line, I saw the cake again, and smiled. I told him the quickest version of my cake story. ‘Tonight is the night,’ he said.

I knew the name by heart. They have more than one slice. No one is ahead of me in line. Nothing can go wrong. ‘Okay,’ I (happily) surrendered.

We walked over to our seats, and as he placed the tray on the coffee table, my greenteawithnosugar spilled all over the tray. I should have known. My cake is ruined. I’m sure it’s ruined.

It wasn’t.

I sighed with relief. Tonight is the night, I reassured myself.

I sat down. My eyes widened with anticipation. My friend pulled out his phone to document the moment. I took my very first bite, of the very cake I fantasized about for so long.

It was gourmet-less, taste-less, disappointing.

We laughed and joked about it. He thought the story was so funny, I should write a post about it. I smiled diplomatically and thought to myself, what the hell am I gonna say about cake.

I got home that night, and realized that this is not just about my cake. It’s about every single thing I’ve ever put a ‘my’ in front of, when it actually wasn’t mine. Be it a job, a boy, a trip, a dress, a cake. Every single time I put them on a pedestal and made them out to be the next big thing. My next big thing. When in reality, they were neither meant to be mine, nor a big thing.

Often times, we try to make things happen, against all odds, against all laws of nature. We ignore everything and everyone telling us to stay away. Because in our minds, it’s ours. And we want it.

Well maybe it isn’t. And maybe we shouldn’t.

Some 48 hours I had

(initially drafted on July 3, 2015)

I hadn’t been home for my birthday in a few years. So I decided that this year, my 25th, is an ideal time to go. I kept hoping I’d get excited about the trip, but I didn’t. “Maybe I will when I get closer to the day,” I thought. But I still didn’t.

I’m not sure what it was. Perhaps the fact that I’m a Gerascophobic turning 25? Or maybe because I had put on a few pounds since my last visit, and no one notices weight gain like Lebanese girls? Or the fact that my sister’s future in-laws (i.e. her fiancé’s parents) invited us out to a post-engagement lunch on my very birthday, and my parents didn’t decline, so I felt like my birthday was being hijacked from me? Or because I’m going through a helovesmehelovesmenot period? Or the fact that I was questioning the questions that you’re meant to question yourself at 25. You know, the who am I, what am I doing with my life, what have I done, who should I be?

Perhaps all the above? I have no idea. All I knew is that right then and there I was down. And nothing was gonna change that. Or so I thought.

I landed in Beirut, and standing in the middle of the airport, at 3:30AM, were my parents and sister carrying balloons and colored signs with “Happy 25th Birthday” written on them.

We got home, and awaiting my arrival were more balloons.

Despite all the balloons and love, I was still down.

The next day, I went to grab a coffee with one of my closest friends, who got diagnosed with the unmentionable last year. For the purposes of this post, let’s call her Nour. Those of you who know Nour, would understand why the news of her illness was devastating. She’s what you would call full-of-life. Her energy is contagious. Her laugh is capable of turning anyone’s day right side up.

But those of you who know her also know that if anyone was gonna kick cancer’s ass, it would be her. And she did.

I got to the café and there she was. That familiar smile. That short hair that she rocked like no one else could. And there it was. That thing about her. Arrogance, perhaps. Towards the illness that thought it could steal her life and her laugh away from her, but couldn’t.

We hadn’t seen each other in a long time, so she immediately started asking about me. My life. My plans. And I didn’t have the courage to ask her about hers. Then I did.

How are you? I asked.

There was her smile again. Then she said amusingly “I had cancer and now it’s gone.” And laughed hysterically. The I-did-it laugh. The who-does-cancer-think-it-is laugh.

Then she said. “It was a good experience.” I couldn’t help the “yea, okay Nour. Keep telling yourself that” look on my face. And she saw it. So she explained.

I hit rock bottom, Rita. And now I can live. None of the little things phase me anymore because I’ve been through the worst.

And there it was. She gave me the first lesson of the trip, on a silver platter, without me having to go where she went.

The next day, we had the in-laws lunch that hijacked my birthday. My sister looked so beautiful and so happy, so I was happy. We partied and danced till we dropped. But I couldn’t help but think that I’m here celebrating her engagement, again, instead of my birthday, which I came home to celebrate.

And then it happened. The second lesson.

The waiters at the restaurant where we were came carrying a massive cake, with 25 candles. Then I heard an all too familiar voice singing my favorite birthday song – my dad. Who has one of the most beautiful voices I’ve ever heard.

I looked at my sister. She was singing and clapping and smiling. The I-gotcha smile. The you-think-no-one-can-ever-surprise-you-but-I-just-did smile. The I-love-you-so-much-I-would-turn-any-engagement-party-of-mine-into-your-birthday smile. So I teared up. At the hate I had towards this lunch that turned out being my surprise birthday party. At the selfless woman that my sister grew up to be.

That evening, I had plans to go visit a friend of mine whose father passed away a few weeks ago. She and I weren’t very close, but we talked sporadically. And when her dad fell ill, I’d check on her every once in a while and let her know that my family and I were praying for them.

My mom came along, one because I was home for a total of three days and she wanted to spend every waking minute with me, two because she knew her family well, and three, because I don’t know how to act in these situations. Do I talk about it? Do I not talk about it?

So my mom, who’s brilliant at everything, started the conversation. And it got my friend, whom we’re gonna call Nayla, talking.

Nayla: It kills me every day. I’m a believer, yes. He’s in a better place, yes. But he’s not here. I lost my father, and I’ll never get to see him in this life again. I am blessed, though, you know? I have no “ifs.” I spent every minute I could with him. When he got sick, I was always either with him or taking care of his diner, the second closest place I could be to him. And now that he’s gone, the diner is my priority. This place put food on our table. My dad spent his life building it and growing it to ensure that we didn’t need anyone and I can’t leave it now. Everything else can wait.

She then told us countless stories and memories of her and him. His best days. His worst days. She didn’t shed a tear. But the sadness I saw in her eyes and the anguish I heard in her voice were more powerful that all the weeping I’ve seen in funerals.

Nayla: In the days before he left, things were lining up like a puzzle. I believed more than ever that everything happens for a reason, you know? I’m so sorry, I talked too much.

Little did she know that I wanted her to. That I believed that too. That me going there on my birthday had clearly happened for a reason. Yes, she needed to talk, but I also needed to listen. Here’s this girl who just found a purpose in the midst of the biggest loss of her life. 

Nour and Nayla had every right to be bitter. I was healthy and the former wasn’t. My dad is here and the latter’s isn’t. But they weren’t. They graciously offered me the lessons they learned by going to hell and back, without even realizing that they did.

And then I saw it. The lesson of all lessons. Perspective.

Should women lose the pants?

(initially drafted on January 24, 2014)

You know life can have quite the sense of humor sometimes. This past week has been eventful. So eventful, in fact, that the title of this blog post didn’t start out the way it reads now. It initially was “Women Should Lose the Pants [period]”

The reason? Simple. At some point this week, I thought my pants are the problem and was ready to give up on them; but now, I’m no longer sure.

Chances are I’ve lost you at pants. If so, please get your head out of the gutter and think a little deeper.

Many years back, I dated a drop dead gorgeous guy. To this day, I still think he’s the hottest thing I’ve ever seen. So hot in fact, that I stayed with him for a whole year and a half just so I can look at him. That’s a long time when you’re 17. I was the girl who always built up his ego, reminded him how sexy he was everyday (though he didn’t need the reminder) and even complimented his brains every now and then; despite the fact that he wasn’t exactly what you would call smart. Guys need that, a woman who supports them, I thought.

Months passed and I realized that I was giving a lot more in the relationship than I ever took. That by staying with him [knowing he was having an affair], I was sacrificing my everything including my dignity.

I decided to put an end to it but blamed myself for the mishap for a very long time. I probably wasn’t enough for him, I told myself. A drop dead gorgeous guy needs a size 0, six-foot tall drop dead gorgeous girl so they can be gorgeous together and have gorgeous babies.

It took me years to finally get over him. But with getting over him, came another item.

The Pants.

Sorry it took me this long to finally get to the pants, but I needed you to be aware of the background before we got here.

I wasn’t always the woman I am today. Bitter is probably not the best word to describe it so let’s call it “pink-less,” “girl-less,” “pants-ful.”

To girls, I’m strong and independent. To guys [or some], I’m probably the Cruela who doesn’t need them or anyone else for that matter.

Whether Hotboy (HB) was the reason or not, is not the point of this post. He was definitely a trigger though. The trigger that brought out the pinkless in me.

I’ll give you a couple examples so you get the picture. I gave HB passes for everything; being hours late to dates, not putting me first, checking out other women when I was around, having no clue what he wants to do in life or even what he wants. Anything he did wrong in the eyes of everyone, I gave him excuses for. Because, I mean, he was him. The hot, handsome him. And he was with me, though he could have been with any other model-like girl. And trust me, we don’t have a shortage of those in Lebanon.

Today, I’m different. I surprise myself everyday with behavior that would be deemed too manly/extreme/harsh even for a man.

When I love, I still love with all my heart. And I’m still a giver, that hasn’t changed.

But I want things to be a certain way now. The guy I choose needs to meet me half way, put me and my needs above others’, respect me enough to show up. On time. Feel just as lucky that I chose him as I feel that he chose me. Because, I mean, (narcissistic comment alert) I think really highly of myself. I studied hard, worked tirelessly and overcame incredibly difficult experiences to build my “life Résumé” and become the me writing this today.

I now decide overnight to take trips to the randomest of places, by myself, because I can. I have no problem packing up tomorrow and moving to a different continent, because why not. I have no desire to tie the knot anytime soon and don’t see the issue in sitting at the movie theater watching a movie by myself.

Love issues this week called for several “meetings” with a few girl friends of mine who see life from the same angle. We decided that maybe our pink levels are too low, our pants are too high and that we need to act more like “normal” girls.

Okay, okay. Maybe there are things that we could do differently. Letting guys pay for things every now and then is a good start and not the end of the world. Getting their opinion on things before we actually do them is feasible. Not talking to them for days because they broke one of our rules is probably not the best solution. But I can’t act vulnerable and dependent. It’s simply unnatural. Un-me. Undoable for any guy regardless of how much I love him.

Do we need them? Undoubtedly. But in the same way they need us. To give us love, sex, babies and be someone we can build a life with. We (and by we I don’t mean Women, I mean the Pinklesses) don’t need a provider, a leader, a controller. We need a lover, a companion, a friend. Who respects our independence and lack of helplessness and understands that these attributes don’t diminish our love by one bit.

Is this too much to ask? I mean should we tone down the pants so we don’t emasculate the guys in our lives?

But.

I kinda like my pants.

When the control freak faces the uncontrollable

(initially drafted on August 10, 2013)

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a couple weeks now but I couldn’t. For one, I haven’t been able to articulate what I want to say and two, the circumstances that triggered me to write it in the first place have taken up most of my time since. And I couldn’t be happier. But more on that later.

See, I’m what you would call a control freak. I’ve been self-diagnosed recently and am so glad I have as up until that point, I had no idea what that uneasy feeling I got when I was unable to control a situation was.

Depending on your beliefs, spirituality or religion, you may or may not think that you ever have control over a situation, whatever it may be.

I believe that God has given me freedom of will which allows me to have control over what goes on in my life, but not all of it. It’s the “not all of it” part that I have a problem with. It’s the unpreventable, unfixable, undoable, irreversible that freak me out; hence, the “disorder.” I want to be in control to the point that I couldn’t go on a slide at the water park a few weeks back because I felt like I was throwing myself into the unknown and that was too much for me.

Throughout my adult life, I’ve faced numerous uncontrollable situations and they range anywhere from not getting into Harvard to falling for the wrong guy. How did I deal with them? Okay I think. I mean the first and only time I’ve been really drunk my whole life was the day I got the rejection letter. And I’m still dealing with the latter given that it’s happened more than once and suspect it will happen a couple more times before I learn. But I’ve done okay.

Until the uncontrollable hit home. My very own. My téta.

You always hear of the “hal marad” (that disease) and the “Alla yeb3do” (may God keep it away from us and our loves ones) and for some reason you think that you and your family members are invincible. That it will never happen to you. Well it could and it did to the woman who practically raised me. The amazing woman who hasn’t and is incapable of ever hurting anyone.

That, I didn’t take so well.

Téta is in Lebanon and I’m in Abu Dhabi and when I first found out, I held it in and kept it together for my mom’s sake. Until I called téta one day and she couldn’t talk. That destroyed me. Only five days earlier I called her and we laughed and laughed on the phone but that day, she couldn’t. That’s when I knew that I needed to be there. That I needed to leave everything behind and be there.

A few years ago, back when I was living in the States, my other téta passed away and I couldn’t make it back in time and I still regret it everyday to this very day. I wasn’t going to let the same thing happen this time.

When I look back, I see téta in every big moment in my life. When I first walked, talked, my first day of school, my First Communion, my exams, my grades, every airport pick up and drop off. All of it. And I wasn’t about to let her go through this on her own. So I packed up and left.

I was there for 2 weeks and I think I spent more time with her than I had over the last 9 years (since I left Lebanon). And it wasn’t the sitting with her while checking what’s app, updating my Facebook status or plucking my eyebrows kinda time. It was actual quality time. She had to make an effort to talk but she did despite my pleading for her to rest and not worry. She wanted to tell me so much and I was eager to listen. She told me everything from when she fed me my own méghlé when I was a week old to when I talked at 10 months to her prayers to God that He keeps me safe every step of the way. And He has.

One night, four people were in the room with her trying to get her settled in bed as she couldn’t move much. After they left, she signalled for me to sleep next to her. She was too close to the edge for me to fit so she moved herself with all her might until I could. She put her hands on my hair and we just sat there, in silence. I knew right then and there that I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

Téta’s heart is still beating in Lebanon (heavily but it’s beating) and I’m back in Abu Dhabi. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to see her again but I do know that I did what I should have done and told her everything that I wanted to tell her especially how very much I love her.

I can’t begin to explain how hard it was to watch someone you love as much as I love téta suffer. Not eat, not talk or walk when she was the one who taught me all of it. I had to sit there and watch her shut down little by little and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it. This would probably be hard for anyone, let alone someone who wants to be in control of it all.

See you can’t and I know that now. But there is a whole lot you can do to make the ride easier to swallow.

Scared and free

(initially drafted on May 29, 2013)

Ever since I posted my last blog, I’ve been thinking of a new topic to write about. Something interesting. Something that you would care about. Something that I would care about.

Unfortunately, I had nothing.

Now I’m not the type of person who ever has nothing to talk about. In fact, ask my friends and they’ll tell you that I’m the type who has so much to say, I talk so fast to fit it all in 24 hours.

So it’s not that there was a lack of topics. Or that my life has been eventless since February (2012 that is –yes, I haven’t written in a year and 3 months). As a matter of fact, so much has happened since then, it scares me to even think about it. I quit my old job, I moved 2000 miles away from home, I got a new job, I co-founded an NGO, I fell in love, I fell out of love, I took a solo trip, I met countless amazing people, and most importantly, I learned more than I ever thought was possible in the span of a year.

So it definitely wasn’t that either.

The reason I stopped writing is because –as clichéd as it sounds –I didn’t know what voice I should be writing with.  I still don’t. I think I’m going through this stage in life where I’m just trying to figure it out. I never thought I’d live to see the day when I say this because as far as I was concerned, I’ve had it figured out since I was 5. I was going to grow up to be a doctor by the age of 28, then marry Mr. Perfect and have his gorgeous babies.

So I’m definitely not a doctor (I’m also not 28 yet so I still might meet Mr. Perfect by then or later and have his gorgeous babies.). I’m not even working in anything that has to do with science which had always been my kinda thing.

I’m actually working in PR, thinking of maybe going to law school, or maybe becoming a diplomat, or a politician, or a teacher. Some days, I want to sing for the rest of my life. And on others, I want to start my own thing. I’m all over the place. I’m so all over the place that I have 3 different standardized test prep books sitting on my desk as I’m not sure if the next step is law school, med school or just a good ol’ Master’s degree.

I’m sure this is an inevitable stage in life. But some struggle through it more than others. And for someone who has always made plans, stuck to them and put deadlines on every next step, this is a mess. It gets you to doubt everything else about your being and you start going all Oprah and questioning life and its purpose and your calling and your personality and who you are and who you should be and and and the list goes on.

Now I can’t say I’m writing again because I figured it out. Nor can I confirm that I ever will. But I think I’m starting to realize that maybe it’s not such a bad thing if I don’t.

Am I scared? More than ever. But I’m free. I’m scared and free.