Thursday, March 15, 2012

What is Love?

What is Love? Baby don't hurt me, don't hurt me, no more. (Okay, I can move on now that those lyrics are out of my head.)

Over the past year, my world view has changed significantly, mostly because I moved half-way across the globe and got married. I've learned more about "love" in the past year than I have in my entire lifetime. Still, I don't presume that I know any more than just the tip of the iceberg. The things I've learned aren't all that commonly expressed in popular culture. Pop songs are all about burning desires and dramatic love gestures. And although that may play a part in our relationships, it's an insignificant molecule on a tiny piece of ice chunk on that big love iceberg.

Here are some of the things I've learned about love:

1. Love is practical. It's setting alarms so you or your spouse can wake up on time. It's hanging clothes out to dry. It's buying bread and yogurt and a new pot.

2. Love is cooking. The most amazing thing happens when I cook or bake and people enjoy my food. It's love, from my stomach to theirs, and that's the only way I can explain it.

3. Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds. Shakespeare's sonnet captures it succinctly. Life throws hurdles in your way, and if suddenly makes you fall out of love with someone, were you really in love to begin with?

4. Love is family. Being apart from my family has taught me that a family is the very essence of love. Love in a family can go through stages...I think we've all experienced a certain chunk of hatred for siblings who steal our clothes or parents who we think are making our lives difficult. But you never fall out of love with your family. The bond of blood is unlike any other, and it has taken me so long to come to terms with that reality. My heart is owned by them.

5. Love is imperfect.

6. Love is conversations. You know, real conversations that make you feel like your life has meaning and you can accomplish just about anything. Those conversations over tea or french fries that shape the course of your future, but you don't know it yet.

7. Love is a friend. You know, the friend who is the first person you think of when you say "friend." That person who is part of your life, no matter what stage you're in, or how far apart you are from one another.

8. Love is your babies. Pure, unadulterated love. My sister had a baby boy two weeks ago, and although I have not met him yet, I love him like nothing else I love.

9. Love is sacrifice. The moment you decide you can't sacrifice something for someone, is the moment you realize you do not love him or her.

10. Love is your mother. No matter what.

Monday, March 12, 2012


My rather antisocial personality has led me to despise the overly social Egyptian customs. Okay, maybe despise it too strong of a word...let's just say "have difficulty with." I'm used to entering a grocery store or clothing store and being able to mull over the things I want without being disturbed, and when I'm ready, I take them to the cashier (or even more detached - the automated check-out). And I like it that way.

I hate shopping in Egypt, especially for clothes. I used to enjoy going into a store and browsing, and now it's extremely difficult to do so since a) I don't have my sisters to shop with, and my husband hates shopping (naturally), and more importantly, b) the sales person is on you like a hawk on a mouse in an open field. Right when you enter, they ask if you are looking for something specific, but that part is okay. The problem is this person begins to follow your every move, eying your every facial expression. And if you so much as dare to pick up a shirt, she'll quickly pipe in: "we have your size in this, and it's so pretty, it's totally in style!"

First of all, you don't know what my size is. Second of all, it's ugly and I was just picking it up to get a closer look at its ugliness. Thirdly, it was never "in style" unless you existed in a parallel universe where gold buttons, awkward frills, and incorrect English were in style. This is why I revel in the few stores here that are antisocial - those that are too big and too busy for people to bother you.

I miss the disconnected indifference of North American culture. People here are just in your face all the time, they want to know what you cooked today, and why you don't call them every single day of your life (they get offended if you skip a day of talking to them), they want to know WHY you do the things you do, or say what you say, or wear what you wear. They need to know. And when you don't cooperate, you're seen as a strange and difficult person.

Mostly, I just want people to leave me alone.