I would be tempted to say that for me feeling guilty is a total pleonasm: after all, I do have an Arab mother, meaning I’ve been injected with Drops of Guilt for the past 27 years.
It all started quite straightforwardly: you know, you’d be a brat and your mother wouldn’t merely tell you you shouldn’t behave this way, but rather, she’d yell herself hoarse asking God Almighty why YOU were doing this against HER (Lesh 3am bet a3zbineh hek?) , as if you were badly behaving to spite her. Which you weren’t, honestly, you just enjoyed knocking things down and having a good old cry, no personal offence meant to anyone.
Growing up, you’d naively think the guilt would abate, which is, with a bit of closure, frankly laughable. Now that your parents had instillated the right soil to make feeling guilty all the time grow, the seeds of guilt were showered daily with messages sent by society, espcially designed to make you feel guilty and awful about yourself. I mean, first of all, religion – or at least how it is taught in its vast majority- doesn’t exactly scream Non-Judgment, but rather, you WILL burn in Hell for all eternity for not Obeying and Observing what God says. Such a feel good motto.
And since I have filed no application to Sainthood, chances are, I WILL most likely burn in Hell.
But I doesn’t just stop at religion. Advertising and women’s magasines have made a splendid job (not to mention a thriving business) at making people feel guilty. As we say in French, c’est bien simple ma chère amie, if you eat, you should be ashamed of yourself, how could you be so weak, the right thing to do is to starve yourself, now go buy all the slimming drinks I’m adverstising for. If you wear last season’s coat, you’re not good enough, if you don’t perform enough, if you’re not top of the class, if you’re not popular enough then you’re basically a failure. The pressure we currently live under is somewhat very close to unbearable, yet challenging it has to be the toughest job there is out there.
Because it’s not only the evil capitalist world that makes people feel guilty: sometimes, ideology kills too. Let’s take the ideology I subscribe to, for lack of better word and example: feminism. I sometimes feel like I’m a traitor to the cause because I’m married and I cook, but I don’t do it because my husband bites me if I don’t, I do it because i Love it, but nevermind, It doesn’t stop me feeling a tad guilty while I’m chopping onions, ruining all the fun. I also feel like I’m a fraud when I wear a dress and high heels and lipstick, I feel guilty for what seems like letting my sisters down. That’s it, khalas, I love a man and I’m happy to do things for him sometimes, I’m a Geisha and should be banned from the Sisterhood. The odd looks other feminists give you and the remarks you get (you look different in real life than in your Facebook photos, you know the ones with the red lipstick and very high heels: errrr ok?!) kinda don’t help either.
I’ve heard guilt gets worse once you have children, as in, you don’t lose baby fat quick enough, you don’t see enough of your child if you work, you’re a brainless half wit if you quit working. I can’t wait.
In brief, in the words of the Great Samantha Jones (from Sex and the City, Need I say it), AHHHH Coulda Woulda Shoulda. Maybe we should stop shoulding ourselves all the time and just accept who we are in all our complexities. Acceptance. Now that’s a nice word.
To be perfectly honest with you, I do still feel guilty right now for still being in my pyjamas, and I also feel guilty for writing about this rather than writing about what’s happening in Tahrir and Homs and Deraa and Syria as a whole, just to name a few.
As my best friend, the Great Dina Esfandiary would say, I have “First World Problems”.
Or maybe,I should just admit to myself that I’m a neurotic 27 year old lazy Geisha who loves writing about her neurosis in pyjamas. I think I can live with that, after all, it’s not like I’m invading Irak or anything.