Tuesday, 24 December 2013

A not-so-stiff upper lip!

Was thinking the other day about how British one can become after a few years living here and realised it could really go either way, one can easily withdraw into oneself and refuse all signs of “Britishness” as a repudiation of the former self, some panic when they realise that they started thinking in English so they grow a beard and start wearing boxers, others refuse to speak English to their compatriots but mostly they grow more neurosis and despite their long London tenure they refuse to be labelled a Londoner for fear of what that might represent. Poor lambs!
Meanwhile in a parallel world not too far away, others who have passed the seven year mark have acquired a look, a special kind of look, an annoying mixture of arrogance, jadedness, know-it-all attitude and a hint (or two) of neurosis with a questionable and supposedly dry sense of humour.
These self-proclaimed veterans are also discernible through their slightly larger heads, dress sense and a politeness that is mixed between being a Brit and being wlid/bent Familia , you might not recognise yourself here or realise you’re IT; the following ought to make it easier;
when out of your own accord you’d get in line, any line and start queuing up for pure conformity, or when you say sorry more than 50 times a day, even when the man clearly jammed you with his shopping trolley in the supermarket, when you tut at people then become mortified they actually heard you or when you avoid confrontation at all costs even if it means giving up the last sandwich on the shelf or the last seat on the train! Doesn’t ring a bell? Ok how about this?
-          When you catch yourself trying to sound posh! Might be a good start to try to sound English first then upgrade.
-          When you think it’s cool to speak in a Cockney accent and evidently, you can’t hear yourself
-          When you have a specific and proven method to describe the geographical situation of Algeria using minimal words, you’ve done it so many times…
-          When you always roll your eyes and know when it’s coming “I have been to Tunisia and Morocco but never Algeria”
-          When you alternate between socialising with the Algerian and English crowds and using one as an antidote to the other
-          When someone says your name wrong and you can’t bring yourself to correct them, so forevermore you will be known as Rhonda!
-          When you always pronounce Algeria with a very deliberate A, to avoid the puzzled question “you’re from NIGERIA???”
-          When you are so tired of answering the same questions about your religion, country, race and weather, so instead you send links you have saved in your favourites
-          When you make every effort not to look Algerian (yeah you know who you are)
-          When somebody says you look Italian and you say “Ohh thank you”
-          When someone else says “oh but you don’t look Algerian” and you thank them with a beaming smile (yeah you know who you are too)
-          When you start matching your umbrella to your outfit, because you’re adaptable
-          When you work really hard at avoiding the Algerian stereotypes but people will still find you abrupt, direct, honest, and strong and other synonymous words they invented for rude.  
-          When you dread the Monday water fountain convo of “how was your weekend?” but go through it with a smile and a faint interest
-          When you feel inadequate because you only speak 3 languages
-          When you are tired of explaining such words as Darja, berber, Na3dine and why you speak french
-          When you feel pressured by the international social convention to do something on Saturday night or bare the guilt and shame.
-          When it takes you a few years to adapt to cooking a meal in less than 10 minutes, after you’ve watched your mother do in no less than 3 hours.
-          When you pride yourself in how few Algerian friends you have
-          When you are disgraced by people who pour hot water over couscous to cook it
-          When you think shop assistants are scary snobby little shits but like the rest of Britain and despite your alleged abruptness you’re too scared to say anything
-          When you hold back the tears after your haircut, but smile and say you love it
-          When you lower your voice on the phone when you see or hear another Algerian on the bus
-          When out of the whole empty train carriage, someone would sit next to you, out of indignation; you’d turn to the window and stare at it with loath shaking your head ever-so-slightly so that they don’t notice
-          When you insist on giving directions to anyone who asked rather than admit you just don’t know
-          When your sense of humour becomes a beautiful mix of random, dry with a hint of cynical
All this to drive the point home; you can take the person out of Algeria, but you can’t take Algeria out of the person.
Dz-chick…Dz-Brit with a proven track record ;)

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

London's up!

It was Samuel Johnson who once said “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life” an outdated, Victorian (or whatever), mono-gender quote from this erudite man of letters who gave the English language its first dictionary. What does the average Londoner nowadays have in common with Samuel Johnson to use this as a life-long modus vivendi?  The man was probably filthy rich and he might have even had servants, you, don’t even have a hoover!! His London and your London aren’t exactly the same nor will they ever be, and no not even if you’re playing in a costume drama.
All this to get to the following statement whilst avoiding judgment: BORED of London!
London life has become increasingly predictable and monotonous, perhaps you peeked too soon, perhaps you are too old now and it doesn’t help when you’re being deafened by that ever-ticking proverbial biological clock, finding things mundane and unexciting, getting by on one’s low boredom threshold and very high amazement standards because not everything is “AMAZING”, feeling jaded, provoking change, waiting for a change…
Waking up in the morning; an achievement in its own, going through the same repetitive routine of brushing teeth, showering and choosing something to wear that is suitable for a work environment, one that your bastard boss wouldn’t comment on again, trying hopelessly to predict the weather so you can arm yourself with that polar jacket you bought on sale for that polar trip you think you’ll take one day, getting on the tube, standing under someone’s arm pit and someone who reads with his mouth open and understanding the need to brush ones teeth, supress gag reflex, breath through your scarf and realise you need to do a load of wash. Get to your desk all flustered and bothered cursing the choice of big coat after the barmy temperatures of the tube. Make coffee, read the daily 1000 emails, delete 2000. Smile at colleagues, laugh at bosses jokes and curse hypocrisy but rationalise it with one word: Bonus
Spend all your money and lunch break standing at Pret-a-manger, you choose the same delicious falafel warm wrap, you eat it standing up for a change whilst cursing the corporate machine, you have the same tasteless coffee and go back to slavery, there are emails waiting to be deleted.
Checking ever increasing overdraft on bank balance, never recalling where your money went despite all your best efforts to remember whilst looking up at the ceiling and frowning a little, nothing comes to mind! Nothing moves either; well at least you know the Botox worked.
Getting tired of fighting conformity, hating the fact you feel you are living on the outside because you chose to be different, but you’re not really living on the outside, unless you live on a tree, drink your own wee and shower with the full moon, then you are right in the middle, and you know it and hate yourself for it.
You watch friends and colleagues race each other to the coolest Bar right now or some stupid costume party or rather and think how far away you are from that. Always running to the west End like they had their umbilical cord cut and buried there, sometimes you find yourself standing in the cold for hours holding a drink you’ve been sipping since the first round and wonder what you’re doing there, pretending to be having fun and not freezing at all when you’d rather be on your sofa wrapped in a throw reading a good book and sipping a hot cup of tea, so you excuse yourself to go to the bathroom and never come back.
You go about your London life with the same tenacity and stamina you had in your early twenties and expect it to be somehow different, you feel in a race to have more fun, to discover more of its borrowed culture, to do more things, you exhaust yourself with “fun” yet you’re hardly amused.
Just because there is a new restaurant open in town doesn’t mean London is brand new, reinvented or bearable until the next opening of the next place to be.
Sometimes it’s better to acknowledge the change and deal with it rather than go on pretending you still cared what London had to offer and spend your time and money getting there, queuing outside it or schmoozing with its punters or checking-in on your facebook.
Sometimes it’s best to recognise that when you’re tired of London, you’re tired of London and it looks like the only possible plausible FUN solution to this dilemma is to end one’s London tenure, though I doubt the verity of this very solution or the desire to solve this problematic.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

A Socratic Love Logic

Film still from Adam and Eve by Liliana Basarab and Costel Chirila

As I ponder the many possibilities of love, I can’t help but wonder if it’ll ever happen to me, then I swiftly discount the thought as a mere weakness, an expression for the needy and the romantics. I think about how I love chocolate, my family and Algeria, how I love England and taking long walks by the river, how I love the ice cold wind as it hits me on the face and I believe it’s making me younger, how I love many things and many people and think so what’s so bad about love anyway?

Why does it scare some people so much, to the point of rejecting it from any source and in any format. But I know better, I grew up in Algeria….or in your case… (insert Arab country here….).

Where love is synonymous with mother or motherland, country, weakness and other futile and bad things, where it is secretly practiced never uttered, where only the love of the mother is implied never expressed.

Where there’ll be no holding of the hands, or touching of the hair, no fornication (in public), no adultery (in public), no homosexuality allowed (in public or otherwise), in fact no mention of love, where porn is 5% sex, 95% guilt, no fun or display of, not even liking, for God’s sake, just no affection related sentiments or acts!

Where the very concept of it is too much to bear, where love should only be for God and the prophet (pbuh), sometimes the other prophets too, but preferably only for Mohamed (pbuh).
Where the very thought of love should be banished and reduced to a feeling of guilt and shame, how can a man love a woman, surely only his mother can love her and therefore deem her a suitable mate, her father owns a business too so that’s always a positive, and so she was deemed a suitable mate by all (not you, your opinion doesn’t count).

Where love should not be fostered or encouraged. Heresy I say! A great source of debauchery and evil, reducing great men to their baser instincts and bringing out their soft side, which if not controlled, will make them disciples of the devil and the West.

Where a suicide bridge is preferred to the bridge of love, where sexual Jihad is encouraged and innocent love is condemned, where the word itself is so taboo it’s haram. It’s evil, it’s damned, it’s so small it’s big.

Where obscurantism is common practice, hatred is fostered and love is silenced, segregation is actively encouraged and sexual frustrations cultivated, where a man knows so little about woman, he fearand loathes her, imprisons and mutilates her, violates her, hides her, degrades her and obsesses about her. He, who gave her a rib, then threw in the cage for good measure.

Her forms, her soft yet strong being, her frail yet robust body, her fierce beauty and satanic mystifying bosoms. He hates how he loves her, how he needs her, how he wants and desires her, how weak he is in her presence and at her hands, he almighty bearded man who knows all, realised she’s the source of Love, she is the embodiment of Love and therefore evil and he never forgave her for bringing him down to this wretched earth.

Dz-chick… women are Love. Love is evil: women are evil 

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Bent Familia Syndrome!

The other day, some guy for reasons unbeknownst to me, referred to me as “bent familia”*! I didn’t know what to do or say, my reaction astonished even me as I recoiled in disgust, I think it was the first time anybody called me that,to my face at least , I had never questioned if I would ever qualify as a bent familia or not but I always had a secret suspicion that I didn’t quite fit into that category.
I feel the prejudiced judgment this expression carries is too huge to consider it a compliment, so in response worthy of a 5 year old, I said “YOU’re bent familia”.
This way of complimenting a woman on conforming, on her ability to be a doormat, on her passiveness, it is the positive affirmation for adult woman, like saying to a dog or a toddler “good booooy” In an attempt to reinforce 'good' behaviour.
Congratulating her on the way she wears the jebba** and the way she tucks it into the sides of her knickers when she does the cleaning! Sexy! On the way she cooks her mother meals and in anticipation has learnt her future mother-in-law’s too, on the way she matches all her outfits and wears them all below the knee, on her miraculous and science-defying ability to remain a virgin, on the permanent smile she wears on her face, on the way she mimics old people and fits right in with them, on her robotic capabilities to sustain misogynistic male treatment and interpret it as Love.
Her favourite pastime, cardio and therapy are cooking and cleaning, her social exercise is gossip.
She is a Stepford wife in preparation.
The status of Bent Familia is elevated to the highest ranks of society ladders, high on a pedestal (with drawers for the detergents and the aprons). Something every girl aspires to be.
To be labelled a bent familia is considered the compliment, a high place of virtue every girl should aspire to reach, somewhere I don’t want to be, the girls up there are a tough crowd, I don’t fit in with them, they look at me with the same look I used to get from their parents as a child, like the bad influence friend, I want to jump out of this pedestal and look up their skirts, point and scream HA HA!
Ben Familia, is the good girl who played that role for so long, she forgot to stop acting, she can be a hypocritical pseudo-religious puppet who lives up to every silly expectation; she gets married between the ages of 23 - 28 and stays married, she doesn’t laugh like a hyena, she smiles but never shows teeth or makes noise over a 0.2 decibel, her hair is always smooth, tamed and in a the same colour (whereas you probably look like an electrocuted tabby); she matches her bag to her shoes to her bra and knickers (you don’t even match your bikini), she’s considered a safe asset, an innocuous choice (you’re a liability at best of times), she can make a 3 course meal out of an onion and an egg, she is extraordinary in the ordinary, her beauty is subtle, in her shyness and vulnerability; she talks softly never raising her voice (...I GOT nothing), there’s a term for it…Settouta!, she’s as graceful as a mermaid (half tuna, half human), she has a roomful of wedding/marriage (trousseau) items she collects since she was 12, she can pull off any djebba or kaftan, with a full cleavage and love handles that magically appear (you barely look like an adult), she is a virgin, she never had sex, her name is Monica Lewinski, her cousin and her neighbour Omar are her best friends, she never goes out when it’s dark, she wouldn’t upset her dad and brothers.
Oppressed by the patriarchy, It's the only way she will ever leave her parents’ home and the only way she'll keep a roof over her married head.  She has to put up and shut up.
She makes you look bad, you want to hate her but you can’t, she does no wrong, she’s the good girl and you are no match for her.
Dz-chick…bent A familia just not that one!
*Literally it means “daughter of family” but figuratively “the good girl”
**A house dress (long, and preferably sleeveless to allow you to do the house work)

Wednesday, 17 July 2013


Everybody in the office continue to be concerned about my lack of liquid ingestion, to the point of joking about my need to visit the bathroom, or rather lack of. What a liberty!!
Today I had my mid-year review at work, positive all around, great improvement since last year when I gave less of a shit, my boss thinks me capable of taking on more, in fact he used the word “increase your workload”  crazy anyone? Since it had been noted that I was seen on my mobile phone a couple of times and let’s not mention the blog, but that was blocked two years ago, for my own good they’ll have me believe. Ah if only I gave 2 shits about it!
At lunchtime (what lunchtime), I ventured out of the office to breath, away from this dust-filled, mite-infested, assumption-riddled office; but the sun was playing “you’re it” and I, not in mood for playing! Walked to the gym, had a shower and went back to the office, then somebody asked me if I was going to pray? Hello? Where did that come from?!
Me: “Do you believe in God?”
Idiot at work: euhhhhh “well yes , I do”
Me: “ok when was the last time you went to church”
Idiot at work: that’s a bit personal isn’t it?
Me: I rest my case.
Work has become like a minefield of religious policing and assumptions galore, if you leave your desk, you must be going to pray, everything you do, can be traced back to Ramadan, everything you wear, is due to Ramadan, if you’re reading a book, it can only be religious, if you’re wearing a skirt for a change, then it’s definitely Ramadan.
If you’re yawning, it’s Ramadan
If you’re sleepy, it’s Ramadan
If you’re quiet, it’s Ramadan
If you’re moody, it’s definitely Ramadan
If you talk on the phone, you’re talking about Ramadan
Enquiries are incessant, which can be nice if genuine, and as much as you love being the centre of …well everything, it gets a bit tedious, how many days now? Do you want a cup of …oh sorry! Is Ramadan Muslim? , You look tired, are you tired? Why do you fast*?
Sometimes, focused on a task or like me on a blog, you forget it’s even Ramadan, but they’re very quick to remind you, they want daily updates, they’ll ask the same questions over and over again, I find myself answering them whilst counting to ten, that’s talent right there!
Perhaps because some are curious, some try to be polite and some just don’t understand why you would freely** subject yourself to such cruelty, such pain and masochistic a ritual.
Damn you Channel 4 for announcing Ramadan! Why can’t they just ignore it like they do Shabbat hmm hmm? Why can’t they just leave it alone? Oh I know, because we’re practicing it on their turf! I read a very funny, to the point of ignorant comment this morning, explaining how it’s an aberration from Gods’ intention to punish Muslims for travelling too far north.
At work or anywhere else on this planet, if I don’t mention the word Ramadan, Ramadam, fasting, water or Hmmmm Coffee, then why should anybody feel the need to worry about my wellbeing, my starvation, my faith or lack of, equally for the self-righteous, the pious and the bored fasters who broadcast their practices to those who aren’t interested, haven’t you heard: Love, religion and salaries are private matters – get it and we’ll all live happy.

Dz-chick…if this sounds like déjà-vu, that’s probably ‘cos it is.
*why are you stupid?
** subject to terms country and conditions

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Day 4: Nostalgia is a woman!

Was browsing through facebook...stalking really, what else is there to do on a Saturday in Ramadan! what did I do before? I can't remember!

I stumbled upon a friend's Nostalgic comment, and reading the replies from her male friends left me puzzeled, they cited "Tagine at the kiosk at la Grande Poste", "Sandwich Garantita a 2am by les 3 horloges in Bab el oued", "Sardines beddersa a Telemly" and many more little rituals and habits, that I don't recognise, I don't know of, it's different to telling the stories of what goes on at the ladies local hair salon and compare and laugh with its counterpart the Gents barber, but this is Nostalgia, although the souvenirs could be personal to each of us, the general landscape of it should be shared, agreed on, like sunny blue skies and white buildings, days at the beach, Lemon sorbet (kreponi if that's how it's spelt) and friendly albeit curious people, it shouldn't be gender specific.

Wondered why it is that girls and boys in Algeria hold different souvenirs of home, like we didn't live the same lives (yes same - socialism remember!), as if we didn't go to the same schools and beaches and went through the same war, or maybe our souvenirs are similar but not the same;
Then it hit me, girls and boys do live the same events, it's just the view or perhaps more appropriately, the viewing platform is what differs, boys whiteness it from the street, up and close whilst the girls view it perched up on the balconies and windows! sequestrated behind shutters, "sheltered" behind doors and veils.

A friend of mine in Algeria, used and still gets revolted by the fact she couldn't leave the house after a certain time of the evening, if she craved a Coke, she'll have no way of getting it, she'll have to lump it and swallow it, but she remarked that had her brother craved a Coke, he'd up and go an any time and get himself one! Who said girls can't go out after dark? who started this unwritten LAW! This very same law that makes my nostalgia diffident from my brothers'.

To be continued....I am hungry now!

Dz-chick...Ramadan and nostalgia don't mix well!*

*but I am fine, honest, I am fiiiiine

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Day 2: Yes yes it's RamadaM, get over it!

Ramadan is ahead full steam, I am not, I am more like an old locomotive running out of coal but who keeps going on pure motion power.
My only problem with fasting is the non-stop yawning at my desk; I could sleep at any time.  I could actually close my eyes at my desk and fall asleep. The smell of coffee literally hurts me, anything else I don’t mind.

At work, you don’t talk about it; you don’t complain (we all do) openly about it, you’ll yawn openly and noisily though.
You don’t mention it’s Ramadan or that you’re fasting, you strive to keep it private, not let it be used against you in a situation where you’d hear the usual “you’re not focused”, or “you don’t have any energy”, or “bound to happen, you’re not eating” even on the smallest most common mistakes, you want to prove that fasting really doesn’t  affect your mental or physical abilities, that it doesn’t to a certain extent or time of day where your face has turned green and you could paper-cut with your tongue, that you are in fact Robocop.

A few comments that come back a lot like a bad smell, to count a few:  “not even water?”, “so, did you stuff your face last night?” and again “you can’t even drink water?”, “so only air then? And my favourite “oh jesus, is it RamdaM again?”

People seem to be concerned, about something, about you, about the job perhaps, or about witnessing a fast, some feel uncomfortable, others prefer not to know, either way, you are different and they don’t understand why you would willingly inflict that on yourself.
It plays as your cue to wake up, prove them wrong, be energetic and a little hypocritical.
Isn’t Ramadan hard enough as it is, without having a bunch of ignoramuses coming back with the same questions over and over again, you’re always reassuring them that the answers are the same from last year and no you are not moody because you aren’t eating, you’re moody because they’re being stupid. The end.

Dz-chick…no assumption, no consumption!*
*lame I know!

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Bring on the Kelbelouz!!

To commemorate the beginning of my 20thRamadan, I wanted to make a special “tribute” to everyone…

….Everyone, who starts Ramadan with a little bit of Alcohol in their system, those who replace alcohol with hashish, those who squat the mosques in their best robes trying to erase the year’s earthly decay, those who start praying and stop by the third day, or the 29th! Those who steal to pay for the holy month’s food requirement, those who behave like baboons because they’re going extinct, those who will travel away for 30 days so they don’t have to eat in hiding, those who will spend their alms at the Halal casino, those who judge, watch and scrutinise their neighbour to make sure they’re not suffering alone, those who will eat sushi instead of Chorba because it’s healthy, those who do it out of convention, and those who eat in hiding, those who fast in hiding to avoid judgment at work, those who don't want to explain why they froze their gym membership, those who will crack open the presecco the day of Eid, those who dedicate themselves to it religiously (no pun intended) and finally those who just don’t care.

Ramadan Kareem to all

Dz-Chick...cynical? Never!!!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Chasing the Velvet

The sun was warm and gentle like a tender caress on my skin, the air was breezy, the sky azure, it felt as though I was floating through velvet, far from being poetic, this is exactly what I felt one summer day in Algiers. I played footy with my little nephew, well I passed the ball and he ran for it mostly screaming for it to stop.
Then we walked up the stairs to the Monument’s esplanade where a Book festival was taking place, there were a lot of people, but not too many that I’d feel crowded, just enough not to feel deserted.  A big gaming castle was erected for children on the side and parents were busy queuing, filming and encouraging their little ones. I hung out, people watching, waiting for the festival to start. I felt good, so good, too good, I couldn’t explain it, was it the velvet concoction of wind and sun on my skin or was it something else…
I walked around the book fair, prospected the tents, each one representing a publishing house, mental notes made about which ones to contact for my book (I had a dream etc), purchased a novel and sat down on the reading area set-up, soaking up the soft rays of sunshine, reading a little, then getting distracted by this soft velvet atmosphere I feel but cannot explain, I tilt my head back and soak up more sun and breeze, this recipe that I feel I was the only one privy to, I look around to see if people feel it too, people seem to be happy, even I AM relaxed and my London pace has slowed down to a mere shuffle as if I am worried I’d finish too quickly and lose the thread of velvet.

I stayed idle a while, leafing through my book, my nephew at a table nearby going frantically with a red crayon over his colouring book with his tongue sticking out the side of his mouth.
My sister joins us, she looks stressed, Samia lives in Algiers, she’s always stressed and uses this word often, it seems Algerians finally matched the word to the feeling, she drags her daughter by the hand, she was at her ballet lesson, she walks over looking her usual flustered self, the security lady chasing her, demanding to search her bag before she could enter the book festival.
Samia joins me, breathing frantically, looking everywhere as she talks, trying to locate her son, I point at him, his head down on his book, colouring with a blue crayon now. Her shoulders slump immediately and she seems to feel what I am radiating, she tilts her head sideways as if trying to work something out, then she shakes her head as if to dismiss the feeling and picks a chair, dispatches her daughter to join her brother and sits facing me, she looks at me as if waiting for instructions, so I instruct her to relax, she fidgets a little, rummages through her bag for something she can’t find, she calls out at the kids and gives instructions to do this and not do that. She just can’t relax. I take her by the shoulders and shake her gently with a smirk, she fixes me for a few seconds then laughs, then as if making a decision, she rests her back on the chair, tilts her head back and lets her arms dangle on either side of her chair and stops moving. I say the word “velvet” because I keep feeling it and Samia says “il fait beaauuuuu”. Finally she feels it.
Back at the house, the smell of freshly brewed coffee was intoxicating, Mum made my favourite cake and set the table, we all gathered around and chatted about nothing I can remember, observations about the kids, something my mum wanted my dad to fix or buy, I find myself worried the time will ran out and I will find myself alone again, so I cling onto every moment of coffee or lunch where we’re together, I offer to wash up and to help out with lunch but I am not allowed near the stove, my culinary talents are little to be desired.
Sometimes, as discreetly as they can, my parents always with a smile, ask if I thought about coming back home, then I don’t know or remember what happens next, my mind flies back to London, to my life here, my friends and my things, so many things I attach myself to, shackle myself with to validate the decision to stay here and be alone.
Time to say goodbye, yet again, I don’t remember going to the airport, my mind was going through mental lists, lists of reasons why I would remain in London, why life would be better in London, but I am not convinced, justifying my choices through self-delusions and a false sense of achievement.
In London I don’t feel the velvet, the coffee doesn’t smell the same, the sun doesn’t feel the same, the street noise isn’t the same, and I am not the same. Living shackled by material processions, fears of missing out on something and constant worries of time elapsing, chasing the sun, the air and the velvet where it cannot be, making a lifestyle out of Nostalgia and homesickness like an orphaned child who lost his home, living in the myth of no return.


Monday, 24 June 2013

Ps: Mashallah

A few years ago, I went to visit a friend, she had 2 kids, I felt I needed to show some kind of interest, so I played with the little things, the boy laughed and giggled, the girl, still a lump of needy flesh only managed to squirm in her pram so I got away with saying “awww so cute, she really looks like a girl”, I paid attention to the kids and cursed my hypocrisy whilst she scrutinised me from behind the fridge, sometimes I caught her searching my face for any kind of feelings, feelings of jealousy, envy or something that would explain why I didn’t have kids or whether I envied her litter, or perhaps something that would make her feel better about herself?
I did my duty, said goodbye and was on my way, but later that same night I get a phone call from Yasmine informing me with panted breath that the kids have been quite poorly since I left. Shock horror. Are they sick? Do you want me to come? drive you to the hospital? What seems to be the problem? In my confused state, I tried to work out all the eventualities of what could be the cause of this but nothing; after all I am not a doctor, psychic or their mother.
Yasmine didn’t want any help; she just wanted to call me to inform me that since I left her kids, they have not stopped crying and paused for my answer, which was complete silence… confused,  I hung up the phone and texted her “Ps: Mashallah”
Mashallah, the new obsession of the year (which year?), the latest Wahabi import, the “Mashallah” that has to accompany every compliment, praise, every feeling and every expression. I don’t remember hearing it being used before, last year or a few years before that, maybe because I was younger or maybe because I don’t care enough about having children or carry enough envy to feel the compulsive need to say Mashallah at every little brat that moves in front of me, or every friend who has achieved something, or gotten engaged, married or went to Australia for a holiday.
You spot the Mashallahs everywhere on facebook, on texts, on people’s mouths, sometimes you spot someone from a distance gushing about someone else’s kid and you can almost feel the time to say the magic words* “Mashallah”. It feels like people feel compelled to say it or they’ll get blamed for everything that may or may not go wrong in the next year or two!  sometimes you forget to say it, sometimes you don’t feel the need to say it, maybe because you only said the kid was cute out of sheer politeness, still, people will think you’re envious or going to give them the evil eye (yeah), other times, you do say it and laugh at yourself because you think it’s such a geriatrics’ thing to say and nobody wants to sound like their grandmother, a pious thing to do and everybody knows that being religious is not über cool.
It’s not über cool to sound so religious, to say such words in Arabic, after all we’re Algerians and we have complexes to uphold, and there is no French word for Mashallah or Lahybarek, so we refrain from saying it, it ruins our image, I mean if you say Mashallah, you may as well wear the Hidjab. Hello!!!
And more often than not, when you do say it, the recipient of the Mashallah doesn’t seem to believe you mean it, so you catch them reciting in their hearts, you can see them concentrating on something, their little eyes fluttering and mouths moving like a slow reader moving his lips as he reads to himself, they recite prayers trying to build an invisible protective shield around them so you don’t touch them with your clearly evil compliment that will bring destruction…what else!
Others say it out of sheer convention, others expect it out of convention and because some people always have something nice to say to others, everybody else does and it can’t hurt to say a little Mashallah, it pleases the recipient and it clears you from any blame, everybody wins and it’s always nice to be nice. So I am going to give myself a Mashallah for getting to this conclusion, God knows we all need a little protection.
Dz-chick…combatting convention since 1985!
*it’s actually 3 words

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