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Friday, January 26, 2007

Tic Toc … It’s the Biological Clock! - PART 5

The single 33, 34, 36, and 40 year old girls began telling their tales of rejection that basically rotated on the fact that he, or his mother, thought they were too old to have kids. They talked about the inquisitive eyes, questioning looks, the muttering, the murmuring, the whispering, and the curled lips that stalk them in weddings, parties, gatherings, and outings. Society and family deny them the right to choose and to refuse because they are “too old”. They struggle with their self-esteem and self-fulfillment, and are torn apart between their hormones, nesting phases, and settling down urges - we ladies suffer! I barged in again lending my fellow single females a supporting hand. I played my favorite Libra game; single and happy or married and miserable? Single gal or single mom? No man or wrong man? No kids or wrong kids? I hit a bull’s eye when I mentioned the possibility of adoption; if your maternal instinct is nagging non stop and Mr. Right took a wrong turn on his way to you, nonetheless, you can still be a mother. Options start from nephews and nieces, cats and dogs, to sponsored orphans and live in orphans. Motherhood is not about getting pregnant and giving birth; motherhood is all about nurturing and caring – be it a warm hug, a sound advice, a shoulder to cry on, or a comforting smile.

Tic Toc … It’s the Biological Clock! - PART 4

The first dart hit the guy who was bragging about his ability to have kids at any age as I faced him with the sad truth; yes, he could have a kid at the age of 45 but he will never give him the fun that a 25 year old young dad can give him. He will feel old, look old, act old, and be old. The second dart targeted married men; I asked each of the wives to make a wish – 5 traits that they would like to be passed on from their husband to their son or daughter. After the initial humming, came a silence, some gap fillers, and then a few incoherent words that just reflected how these women are not convinced of the men they chose. The men looked offended but that was no excuse for me to spare them; it was their turn to tell me the 5 qualities that they wished the wives had said. Their masculine faces looked dignified and proud as they waved the flags of responsibility, generosity, sensibility, and the like. I watched as the male and female eyes met; the men threatened and the women recoiled - The men looked victorious, the women looked revolted, and I could not touch my soup.

Tic Toc … It’s the Biological Clock! - PART 3

The other day I joined a group of friends, and their friends for lunch in a nice warm Italian restaurant. My best friend literally begged me to keep my views to myself and asked me not to turn the outing into a futile debate. I was a bit insulted but I gave her my promise. Finding my cute resemblance in my squeaky wooden chair, I sat, smiled, nodded, and managed a giggle when needed. I was about to dive into my bowl of soup, when one of the single guys on the table proudly stated that men were privileged with their ability to “impregnate” a woman regardless of their age. Thinking of my friend, instead of jumping at his throat, I decided to see what the other guys and girls on the table had to say. The married women used the word “compromise” many times – especially when looking towards their husbands. The married men used the word “favor” at lot - especially when looking towards their wives. The single girls were drowning in helplessness, the single guys were choking on their private jokes, and my friend was pressing my hand when she should have gagged mouth.

Tic Toc … It’s the Biological Clock! - PART 2

The world seemed to conspire against me when I got a call from my mom a few minutes later. After the usual hellos, in her adorable enthusiastic tone, my mom shared with me a brilliant idea; I am to find a man with good genes, get married, get pregnant, and get divorced right away. I laughed my heart out. I wished I could hug her. She thought I was mocking her with my laughter and she was ever so intent on making her point. She flashed the biological clock pepper spray in my face as she quoted a doctor on TV: “As women age, the quality and quantity of their eggs declines; thus, affecting fertilization success, embryo quality, and pregnancy rate. The rate of decline varies from one woman the other, but overall, fertility begins to decline slowly in a woman's 30s, with the greatest decline happening after the age of 35.” I was no longer laughing as I felt trapped between a huge rugged rock and a very hard place; part of me acknowledged what my mom said yet another part insisted on doing it the right way. I want a child with the right man; I never wanted any of the men who came my way to be the father of any baby I gave birth to.

Tic Toc … It’s the Biological Clock! - PART 1

“You are running out of time!” typed a long-lost recently-found schoolmate from childhood upon knowing that I was not married yet. I wanted to flaunt my long list of achievements but she kept asking me to be careful. I told her I have a great career in public relations, she was not interested; I said I am sharing my working experience with my students, she said they were not my kids; I explained how companies use me to enhance the skills of their employees, she wondered why I did not want children; I sent her my blogs to read everything I ever wrote and published, she said she would read them when her kids were sleeping; I told her I am doing a TV show on relationships, she ordered me to get real! She sounded so content being married with two kids; it was a relief to have caught the bus rather than happiness that I sensed in the tone of her words. As if she only came online to disturb my peace, she wished me luck and left the chat. Once again I felt like the little girl I once was, trying to show off my handmade Kleenex flowers when no one was really interested!

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Being the daughter of an insectologist, I grew up playing with butterflies, examining mosquitoes, and studying the morphology of unheard of flies under the microscope. One day my father got me a silk worm - as a pet. With lots of love, I watched my worm transform into a cocoon and I waited for the colorful butterfly to come out of its silk hiding. I woke up one morning to find a small opening in my cocoon. I watched the butterfly for several hours trying to get out of the hole, then I decided to help her; I proudly, yet lovingly, snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon with a pair of scissors. The butterfly then emerged easily but something was wrong with my pet; it had a swollen body and small wings. I waited for the moment when her wings would expand and she would fly. Neither happened! My baby pet spent the rest of her life crawling. My dad then explained to me that the butterfly’s struggle to get through the tiny opening was nature's way of forcing fluid from her body into her wings so that it would be ready for flying once it was free from the restricted cocoon.

Today as I watch many of the young men and women that I come across at work or in my classes and workshops, the image of my poor pet comes back to mind. I flossed my brains trying to find out the mental connection between the two until it hit me one day; in their attempt to protect their kids, our mothers crippled them. “We want a revision” howled a 28 year old marketing student in my class, but I see the pattern of the ready-made-easy-to-cook attitude everywhere. Like my butterfly, they face the world with shriveled wings, limp bodies, porous bones, and hollow heads. They are neither equipped to deal with the heavy blows of fate nor the daily challenges of life. They have no sense of direction and a vague reason for existence. Following the “use it or lose it” rule of thumb, if they are not used, muscles turn to flab, brains turn to mush, and determination turns to lethargy. I loved my pet so much that I wanted to ease her way out of the cocoon but instead, I maimed her for life. According to Darwin, I turned what could have been powerful wings into a vestigial structure – like our degenerate tail bone and wisdom teeth. Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life; if nature allowed us to go through life without any obstacles, it would cripple us.

When I moved out five years ago, my mother thought that I did not love her anymore; today she is still wondering what she did wrong to push me away, or what she did wrong to deserve a daughter like me. When my brother graduated she got him a job, when he wanted a car she gave him hers, and when he wanted to get married she got him a bride, a house, a wedding, and more. There were times when I felt that the boy wanted to be a man but with her over protectiveness she stifled all his attempts to grow up. My mom is no exception; like many mothers, she believes that it is her role to take care of her baby until – well, until forever! One day I questioned her and she said “After I am gone, I want him to remember how I loved him and how much I helped him. I wish I could spoon feed him all my experience to spare him pain and unnecessary frustration.” Then she looked at me with a smile and said “You are tougher by nature; I wish you were not so tough. Come let me braid your hair.”

Magda Abdel Wahab (55) has a soft spot for babies. “Their little hands and feet are just irresistible.” With Mohamed, her eldest son, Magda had a long list of forbidden fruits that covered visitation rules, playing hours, friends allow list, and places block list. “I wanted to keep an eye on him all the time; no matter how much he grew up, in my eyes he will always have little hands and little feet.” At the age of 42, Magda had Omar. “I loved to be a mother again but I was not getting any younger. I suddenly realized that my ways were not fault-free. I will not live forever and I needed to equip Omar with the tools that will see him through all the walks of life.” The forbidden fruits fell off the tree and a change of strategy was needed. “I would walk him to the arcades a few times, show him the signs on the way and back, explain the rules about strangers, and then I would let him go on his own. Every time he is out of my sight I feel my ribs closing on my heart and my worst nightmares turn into ominous deja-vues. I would only breathe again the moment he walks though the door and throws his little hands in mine as he tells me about the fun he had.”

On asking Jailan Gamil (35) about the 8 simple rules for dating her teenage daughter, she said “I teach my daughter, Sandra, the difference between right and wrong and I remind her that even when I am not there, God sees her all the time and that she should not upset Him. I spot check her online chats, her room, and her phone – I am just scared. I want to keep her safe from the crazy world out there. Dating is not a welcomed option.” Dalia El Rashidy (40) knows that her 15 year old Lara is no longer a little girl. “She grew up all of a sudden. Watching her adjust her belly ring, curl her hair, put on lip gloss, and wear perfume made me realize that I have to become more of a friend than a mother; she has to come to me with her stories and I have to show empathy while helping her straighten-up. I worry about her but I have to give her space to grow up.” Hoda Shafik (54) has three fine gentlemen. “I never worried about the girls they dated as long as they never married them. My boys are strong; they know how to discipline their women they never show their weakness. Men were created to rule and to be obeyed; that’s how I was brought up and that’s how I raised them.”

Claudia Venturini (39), living in Cairo, originally from Luxembourg, has an Italian father, a Belgian husband, and two daughters, has a very different way of thinking; “When it comes to kids, I believe that you have them as you make them; you sow what you reap. If I sow the seeds of inexperience, I will reap the fruits of disappointment. I make sure to let my girls, 7 and 4, choose, make mistakes, fall, get their hands dirty, and find their own answers. Over-sheltering them would be like killing their immune system.” On the issue of dating, Claudia said “Alex and I worry a lot about who the girls will bring home; being European does not make us loose, on the contrary, we are quite conservative. Just like Egyptians, we do not want our girls to get hurt or to end up with the wrong man. We just do it differently; we are always there to guide them and to give advice but we allow them to grow through their own experiences.”

I had to ask Claudia about her opinion on the discrimination between the way boys and girls are raised up in the Middle East, she honestly disapproved saying “those young boys and girls are the nucleus of society and if I corrupt the nucleus, I corrupt the society. I have lived in Egypt for the past 5 years and I have no plans of leaving soon, which raises the chances of my girls dating Egyptians. My girls were never bossed around and they will never allow anyone to do it. Federica and Alexia were brought up to express their thoughts and views, no matter who disagreed, as long as they abided by the basic courtesy codes. They are independent and strong from within. I wish the girls in this part of the world realized their potential and acted upon it; being a woman does not mean being submissive and needy. I also wish that the men would learn the essence of manhood; being a man does not mean being self-centered and disrespectful. I believe that mothers spoil the boys and oppress the girls and this destroys the chances of having a well-balanced family and a healthy productive society.” In three words Claudia summed the core of a man in being “respectful, responsible, and honest.” whereas, a woman is “graceful, intelligent, and powerful.”