by Rayan Harake
My first few days are full of family visits. My mother hasn’t been to Lebanon since before I was born. My sisters teach me some bad words in Arabic so that I get a good kickstart in the local language. Nothing too serious: ‘Hmar’ – donkey – to say that someone is stupid, ‘Hayawan’ – animal – used as a general insult. My Arabic is okay since that’s the language I grew up speaking at home, but I was limited to my parent’s vocabulary, and they were rather polite.
My sisters don’t only have moderately bad words to teach. They also listen to music, and it doesn’t seem like the others – grandmother or mother – care much about it. I am soon chanting all kinds of songs, from Nancy Ajram to Evanescence. My grandmother watches Islamic and other channels: It becomes normal on weekends to watch a show hosting a number of singers and actors, or a political satire featuring some inappropriate jokes, or even a beauty pageant.
But mostly, when left to watch TV to my liking, I will choose Disney. We were allowed to watch cartoons back in Brazil, but there used to be ones that my father definitely didn’t like, and we could only watch them when he wasn’t around. Pokémon and Digimon were okay, Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z were not. Here in Lebanon, I can watch Kim Possible, Brandy and Mr. Whiskers, Zack and Cody, and even Hannah Montana when it started airing.
It seems suddenly okay to watch all these things. If my father had been present, we would have been much more careful with what was on TV. Back in Brazil, we used to rent DVDs of Hollywood movies when they came out; which to me seemed to be the worst idea. My father would get extremely uncomfortable with the faintest thing – sexual or not – that might appear on the screen, and assume sexual meanings behind the slightest gesture, and from there go on in an ‘Astaghfirullah’ rant, accompanied by fast forwarding the scene.
When it wasn’t sexual, it was the emotions: any kind of emotion displayed on the screen would invoke in my father the need to mock it. He made fun of lovers showing affection to each other, of family members talking about feelings – anything that was slightly emotional was to be ridiculed. Through his mocking, he tried to send the following message to us: actors act as though emotions are real, and we, the naïve watchers, might end up thinking emotions are real. So we should mock them to show we are not fooled by their act.
My 10-year-old self will grow up, read more and search more, and diagnose her father as having a Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
My narcissist father approached many life events with extreme intensity. Anything related to our health or bodies was very uncomfortable for him, so he would either ignore it all together, or make out the hugest deal possible out of it.
Going to the dentist was terrorizing for me: we weren’t allowed to feel (or at least) express pain. The slightest groan would make him extremely tense; he would assure us that there is no pain and that we need to stop faking it. Occasionally, the dentist would become fed up with him. “She is a small girl,” he would say. “It’s normal to feel pain.”
Up to a point in my childhood, I believed that everybody who said they had a headache was faking it for attention. I thought it was a thing that we were all ‘in’ on, and that we played along with the person faking it just to be polite. I don’t recall having a headache, and my father must have made fun of headaches at some point, so it made sense for me that they weren’t real. During my first year of school in Lebanon, I almost told a classmate to stop faking her headache because she was embarrassing herself.
As I start getting used to my new environment, I consult my older sister, Fatima, for cues on how to behave. Back when we were in Brazil, she was always slightly more opinionated and challenging to my father. She would sometimes refuse to do things that he wanted, like when he obliged us to eat honey sandwiches that were ‘good for our health’ and tasted horrible.
Here in Lebanon, as I implicitly realize that some things I know about life are wrong, she seemed like the perfect guide to normalcy. She had, after all, spent two years here adjusting to the normalcy herself. I would usually adopt all her opinions on music/people/shows as I was unable to formulate my own. A movie I was once watching with her had an emotional scene. I started to make fun of the characters, and she immediately shot me a disgusted look. For a moment, it made me think that perhaps what I was doing is wrong; perhaps it is not normal to make fun of other people’s emotions. It will take time, however, for my toxic mindset to recede.
(…to be continued…)
2021: Conceived – Volume 2 of a Contemporary Transadaptation
January: The Pack – Alejandra Baccino (Uruguay)
February: The Pink Shirt – Talia Stotts (America)
March: Dragging the Past out into the Light – Kate Korneeva (Russia)
April: Looking Forward to Spring – Marilin Guerrero Casas (Cuba)
May: Every Little Thing – Gennady Bondarenko (Ukraine)
June: The Girl Who Chased the Rainbow – Toni Wallis (Sarah-Leah Pimentel) (South Africa)
July: Another World – Jonay Quintero Hernandez (Spain)
August: Life after Nare – Nane Sevunts (Armine Asryan) (Armenia)
September: Meeting My Homeland – Rayan Harake (Lebanon)
October: Catching Water (Part Two) – Javier Gomez (Argentina)
November: Remember – Seyit Ali Dastan (Turkey)
December: Los Caminantes – Veronica Cordido (Venezuela)
Background – Context
In the Middle – Prelude to a Contemporary Transadaptation, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2020)
Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)
La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)
The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)
L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)
From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)
Emblems and stories on the international community
Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from around the world
Photo: Beirut, Lebanon – A Ramlet al Baida beach – Fotokon (Shutterstock)
Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed