I remember the time my mother sat me down for a serrious conversation. I guess I was on the brink of womanhood and unaware of it or something [Majnoon says I am still there;) and never left it, which is part of my "charm"]. She had a kind of worried look about her, which I am sure you had nothing to do with you Khaleel;), since you to this day remain the only Omani man she trusts, but nonetheless... She sat me down and asked me, "What will you do if you fall in love with an Omani and he asks you to marry him?"
I remember gazing out into the humid starry sky, thinking... falling in love, boys, men, and marriage were the last thing on my mind. I wanted adventure. I wanted to do amazing things. I wanted to be as amazing as the world that was out there, still to be seen. I was going to go work in an orphanage in Africa as an English teacher. Oman was just a bump on the road to cheaper airfare at the time. If I had never caused such insult to Faisal and his family, this would have all turned out much differently.
I would perhaps still be that shop girl dressing windows in fabulous clothes when I returned home. Ralph Lauren had given me an interview. When Petrovsky and his university girlfriend broke up, maybe we'd have gotten back together after he sent me that internet letter, and gotten married and rented that fabulous apartment with the fireplace and Bay Window overlooking the street with Chesnut trees that Faisal and I lived on when we were married, and I'd still be Miss Prada drinking intellectual cocktails in the Bengal lounge with an anthesiologist, a journalist, and a lawyer with a bent for Canadian politics, and their interesting lives that fascinate me still. Waldon would offer us all a cigar, Petrovsky would rant on an impassioned tangent, and Scott would tell us about his impossible credit card debt, and I would never have ordered that "Titanic" drink with the champagne icecube. Or...
Maybe Faisal was right. Maybe I would have been gunned down on the border there in Africa. I wanted to get as close as I could to the Congo without speaking French very well. Or I'd have gotten some fever and had to come home quite annoyed and without much of a story to tell. A fate far worse then, to the supposition of that naive young girl sitting there under her mother's watchful gaze behind the fence of bougainvilla and the roof of black sky.
So I answered her with the answer that she wanted to hear and that sounded right to me, as sure as I was of myself and everything else in that world that would be so vastly different in only a year's time from all I had known or could ever have supposed.
"I would say no, because our cultures are too different."
"That's right," my mother nodded, unconvinced.
She is one of those 'some people' who think that I am a flirt because I attract attention. But honestly I never mean that my gestures do any such thing it is just part of who I am and what not, and how God made me, and I swear, I am 100% innocent of flirting on purpose. Whenever I intend to it ends badly, or doesn't work at all, and no one even responds, lol, so I am safe from myself when it comes to all that at least, in regards to anything intentional.
"Because if you did marry an Omani, you won't have a world anymore," she told me. "You won't belong with the expats, and you won't fit in with the Omanis, because the expats won't trust you, and the Omanis will always think something bad about because you are Western."
I nodded along, toying with the sap from the broken leaf of a potted aloe vera plant, all the while disagreeing with her but not saying anything at the time which was, and is, and remains, for the most part, our relationship....
Only everything that I've said since then can't be taken back for the sake of peace and a starry sky.
I don't know that I'd want to reverse it all. I may not have said things the right way over the years to my mother, but I've meant often enough what I've said [minus any cursing or things shouted in despair] to know I'd say it again, just clearer and calmer, and in the more tired voice that maturity lends.
My mother saw Omanis in a certain light, thinking she knew them from her limited (albeit extended) exposure to them. She also generalised expats, as she didn't socialise much with them either, feeling alot of the women were too superficial, and all the drama of all the affairs that happen in the married British population. It got to be too much of a chore for her to have to tell a husband his wife was cheating on him because they were friends, and vice versa, so she mainly kept to people she ran into on errand runs. Khaleel, Ghrbsh, Yaser, from the security set, Philipina shopworkers, the cigarette checkout guys at Sultan Center, the Indians from the club, and the ones from the souq, and the Turks from our favourite Khuwair restaurant.
I had seen less of Oman than her at that time, and knew next to nothing about Islam, but assumed rightly that my mother's conclusions were to be of the same clarity as her own ability to guage her own actions and peoples' reactions to them.
I am thinking back on that night now for some reason as I am about to give birth to my own daughter, and all the other important women in my life are about to start a new page in their lives, some with the possibility [and risk] of new men and marriages, and others, the sureness of leaving the old, and along with it, that sick part of culture that binds.
It binds like a boa from KSA, UAE, to Bahrain, culture, constricting what love there is until it dies. There is an old saying that "love is a bird." If that is so, then I have seen far too many birdies suffocated in the coils of culture, laws of the nation, and family machinitions.
So that night of all nights, and my mother of all people, come back to me now.
Maybe because I am wondering how my baby girl will fare as a child of mixed descent in a tribe where everyone's mother and father have the same family name?
I don't think so. I think she will be fine if she has the calm patience and happy-go-lucky determination of her father, and my penchant for being okay with never having a plan work out.
Maybe because I am worried that Audrey is making the wrong decision marrying this guy without government permission, repeating the mistakes that Sheikha and I both made, and that Celeste is still making, last I heard tell, though the two of us don't have too much to do anymore.
Perhaps that it true, but I don't want to be like my mother and wishing to have control over how Audrey is thinking.
If time has proven anything, it is that situations affect people differently. For example, in many ways my mother was correct one could argue.
I no longer fit in perfectly with the ex-patriots, but more because I am veiwed as "exotic" than anything else. As far as I know, not a single one I have met ever distrusts me, like I am going to tattle on them for doing things that Omanis don't do or some nonsense like that. No one thinks I married Majnoon for his money, or any other ridiculous thing my mother accused Western women of marrying Omanis to do.
And while she was perfectly correct that the Omanis will always amusingly assume I am "a wild girl with a past" [which would be a bad thing if I ACTUALLY WERE OMANI], in that same breath, because I am Western, they forgive me for it [i.e. their own "exotic" assumptions of what a Western woman should be] completely content with the woman I am now.
So I was right also, the world is not so small.
[Too tired to write anymore, going to bed]