It is a truth Gazally acknowledged that girls, those unmarried in particular, do not usually go alone after dark. This week, however, was pretty interesting for me. It brought with its beginnings two meetings with some internationals which, for my normal fortune, have to take place after feast, that is to say after it’s dark.

Never mind. I have never let darkness assume its control over my own life. In fact, I would simply use my secret tender weapon against it: My mother. My mother, who probably would be the last person to break any of our social rules, is just another typical Gazan with such a conservative mentality which many times for a long time I’ve considered unpleasant. Telling her about such meetings is probably the hardest part. I start very confident:
“Mom, guess what?! Today some internationals came to work and we had some really interesting talk.” She grins kindly showing some interest, “and you know what, they wanted to make an interview with us, and it would be videotaped.”
“Good for you, when is that?”
“Well, mother. 8 o’clock” I say, less confident.
“Isn’t that too early?”
“8 in the evening, mom!” knowing that she would not ask me to cancel it nor would she give me an immediate approval, I always have to wait till she think the matter over in her mind again and again as if she had not done it like tens of times before and she already has a set answer.
“Well, ok. I’ll be going with you then.”

Never has this matter had the least effect upon my life whether academically or socially. I can always take my mother along with me to any social occasion that might take place after darkness.

“Oh, very nice”, said Emmy, one of the three internationals I’ve met in the office the other day, shaking her head impressed by what one of my colleagues declared so proudly that her parents being very different and of a really opened mentality would let her go out at night with no companion. Their faces, however, frowned with a pitiful look when I simply said I’m not allowed to go out at night.

Their pitiful looks would not have surprised me at all, but what really hurt was the “Thank God for my parents” I heard from one of my colleagues. Astonished by the fact that I’m being hinted to have a family with a “backward mentality” or “not-illuminated free” family by one of my own people, I think I naturally started acting aggressive.

“It’s ok; I could always bring my mother with me. She can drop me by any time I want” A smile was drawn in Emmy’s face who must have thought this very interesting as she said excitedly, “She’s very welcome. I would love to meet her.” My other two colleagues were exchanging sarcastic looks and giggling, and then took the role of explaining to the international that unlike lots of other families, theirs are very fine and would give them the freedom to go out even at night which is something that many other “poor girls” do not have. I would not deny it; I did shoot them a scornful look.

The first thing “Emmy” got to ask me the next day when I arrived at the center after my mother dropped me there was “Where is your mother?”
She was then surprised when I told her that she dropped me by and went to a family visit as usual. “I thought she would be waiting for you here till you finish” said Emmy. I do not think I would give my mother such a torture. She never has limited my choices or restrained my freedom and never have I restrained hers. Well, to some extent.

I was expecting their following questions which is a common feature I have felt in most of internationals whom I met so far. They always try to investigate whether women are being oppressed in the society or not, whether they are happy with their position or not, and they are so good at the feminist talk of women’s right. Explaining that it is something to do with our parents protective nature, especially when it comes to females, besides religion and social customs and traditions, the subject swiftly drifted to more interesting subjects involving Literature “Shakespeare, George Eliot, Jane Austen, Suad Amiry, Edward Said” and many others. I was actually surprised to know that “Sharon and my mother in Law” was first published in Italy as Shantal, the other Italian international, told me.

When both my colleagues arrived an hour later, we had to start videotaping a discussion revolving around international role in the Gaza Strip. The discussion went pretty well till one of my colleagues stupidly repeated her remark about she being one of the elites whose parents have no problem letting her go out in the darkness UNLIKE others who do not enjoy such advantage. Obviously, another intended “Pity you and lucky me” or let’s say “You should be looking into the bright side of Gaza”.

That’s it. This has to be put to an end. Turning very aggressive this time, I guess I started talking about how internationals should really respect cultural differences. I’m from a different culture. If your parents allow you to go out alone after midnight, mine do not. Had this affected me in any way possible? Not the least. That’s it. Period.

My mobile phone rang. My mother told me she’s coming to get me. Emmy made another invitation for my mother. I said goodbye. I met my mother at the door who as usual took me to the nearest ice cream restaurant where we have our little chat. There echoed the words of my colleague in my mind, but this time with a wide smile as I was looking at my mother explaining her own adventure, “Thank God for my parents.”

Sameeha Elwan
18 August, 2010