Recently, I have had quite a few readers (who know my identity) tell me that they thought that I was truly having an affair with the driver (or weren’t sure if I was). I will take this as a compliment to my writing :) As a note to all readers, as I am sure you have gathered; I am going through some personal issues within my marriage and this is an outlet for me. Yes, I did have a driver named Mohamed. Yes, he was Egyptian, 27, and attractive. I have used this blog as a way to explore all sides of myself and having a driver like that got me thinking about how dangerous Saudi Arabia can be for those with weaknesses and vulnerabilities (all of us).
For the most part, people laugh when they think about having an affair with the driver because generally they aren’t all that tempting. However, I am exploring those variables that separate women here from their drivers. If you establish a common ground between the two of you….how much could it take to fall into an inappropriate relationship? Saudi Arabia, and places like Riyadh in particular, expose the cracks in relationships, characters, and souls. This is an exploration of that and what we like to think we are so far away from, but could fall into before we realize it. May Allah protect us all. Ameen.
It scares me how comfortable I feel with this man that I have only known for six months. He keeps asking me what I want from him, but how can I answer that?
The most honest answer would be this. I want us in a bed; a bed free of outside obligation and safe from intruding religious police and husbands. I want to give my body to him one cell at a time. I feel his skin and warmth when I close my eyes. I taste his mouth and hear his voice. I am starting to question my sanity. This man has enveloped me.
Is it safe to have this type of love completed and fulfilled with action? Is it better to leave our hearts unsatisfied and burning for each other rather than risk the blaze of our oneness?
I see flashes of his lips in the rear view mirror, his green eyes staring into mine. My sporadic thoughts lead me back to our meetings and I remember things about him. I think about how it felt to sit on his lap, my knees on the car seat on either side of him, his lips on mine, cupping his face in my hands. His hands firmly grasped either side of my hips; the gravity that held me to earth. We both ceased to exist as separate entities; for an imperceptible second, it was only us and the empty desert in an embrace.
Originally posted on Contraposition:
it wasn’t the monkey
hand inside the coconut
unwilling to unclench extra
grains of rice that drove me, nor
cliché of mushroom-capped shaft
leading the blind towards the ditch,
it was that other cliché, mother lost
before she was dead, ice crystals resounding
from the living grave, distant father enthroned
before the TV, his ears deaf to a child’s
entreaties two backs turned
on empty reaching arms
this is what urged me to unclothe
the child I had never escaped,
bare-footed and scampering
for a warm lap, any breast
to nuzzle, at first sign a woman
I loved might be considering how
to close the door on the way out,
it was fear of being alone in the crib
which made me slink away
to insure it would happen
The last six years of my life have been all about evolution. In the last six years I have converted to Islam, gotten married, changed from geographer to English teacher, completed a Master’s degree and discovered my identity as a writer. I am a completely different person than I was before. My perspective, opinions, and viewpoints have changed so much that sometimes I feel like I’m losing my identity or gaining a new one. I just feel like the older I get and the more people I meet the less solid and static my opinions are. Do we ever know anything for sure? Things that seemed so simple and solid to me seven years ago seem complicated and dynamic to me at this point.
One particular topic that has caused me confusion has been the issue of control in a marriage (or any close relationship). The dynamics between to cohabitants of the same household are always private, complicated, and not always understood by outsiders. However, I would say that the spectrum of control has a borderline of healthy that generally is culturally relative.
For example, before I was Muslim I viewed relationships with the idealistic opinions of youth; that two people can maintain two completely separate identities with no compromises and still remain together. Although this can be true, I believe that generally ever couple has to make compromises in order to remain married and those are not considered abnormal. After converting to Islam, one is introduced to a lot of rhetoric about the ideal submissive woman and wife. It is surprising how much guilt can be held over a woman for not being submissive to her husband. Even in the most open-minded of communities, women are bombarded by this idea of the ideal spouse.
I severely underestimated the effects of moving to Saudi Arabia. I did not understand a society’s role in shaping relationships because until that point I had not lived outside of the United States. I did not understand that the social dynamic of the country would shift the dynamic of my marriage. In Saudi Arabia, if you are a woman living within your husband’s house or your family’s house; the quality of your life is determined by the men that are “responsible” for you. Since women cannot drive, you will be constantly at the mercy of the men in your life. Whether that man is a driver, a husband, a brother, a father, or an uncle; they will wield a great power over you. Some men take this responsibility very seriously and do everything in their power to care for the women in their house. Others do not. Others use it as a means to exercise control. Existing in an environment in which women are ferociously dependent on others has changed my perspective on the dynamics of a relationship between a male and female, as well as my perspective on the difference between submission, control, and responsibility.
When we submit to Allah; it means that we trust that whatever Allah has planned for us is better than what we could have planned for ourselves. There is innate trust between Creator and creation. In order to truly submit, we must resign to the fact that we do not know what is best for us and that Allah knows best. We submit to Allah in the greatest of sense.
When people talk about submitting to their husband, I find this idea very dangerous. Perhaps it is because of the enormous amount of trust that is involved. However, it is obvious to me that the submission we have to Allah is of the highest order and that we cannot possibly submit to a human being in this fashion. If you boil it down, I think it just means that you should trust your husband enough to trust his decisions for the family.
This trust can be violated when control is exerted in means which are detrimental or in situations in which it is not warranted. The man has to illustrate that he is capable of handling the responsibility of these decisions in order to be trusted.
Where do you draw the line between protector and maintainer to abuser?
Is your husband allowed to bar you from traveling?
From leaving the house?
From wearing a certain outfit?
From speaking to other people?
From eating certain things?
When does “this is good for you” become “I control you” or “I own you”?
Some of you have been concerned with the darkness in my posts lately. This post is to lighten Yankee Doodle up a bit. Cheers!
Things I am Grateful for in Saudi Arabia
- I have a job in which I feel I am compensated not only adequately, but more than what it would take me to do the job. That is a luxury that millions, if not hundreds of millions of people do not have.
- Never did I ever imagine that I would miss the small city I grew up in. Nothing like leaving something to make you appreciate it.
- Living in a culture other than your own forces you to realize who you are very quickly. Some people live their entire lives without such knowledge.
- No matter what happens, even if I go home and never leave the U.S again; I will always have a story to tell.
- Traveling is the best way to affirm that humans are simultaneously as unique as snowflakes, but exactly the same underneath it all.
- Moving away shakes the excess and fake friends from your life; you simply no longer have time.
- The food. Do I really need to elaborate?
- Traveling to other countries is a lot cheaper from here than it is from the United States.
- Ridiculously affordable healthcare.
- I used to dream about leaving my mark on the world. Now I can honestly say that I did. However, small of a contribution I have made in the education of Saudi people; it was a contribution.
“Verily the lust for comfort murders the passion of the soul, and then walks grinning into the funeral.” Khalil Gibran
I never meant to kill my husband. It was an accident, seven years in the making. The events leading up to that moment were so gradual; they were imperceptible to me, him, and everyone else around us.
It all started with the morbid curiosity that has plagued every attached person at some point in their relationship. The lock on the cell phone, the long trips to the bathroom, the typing and smiling; they were all signs that I ignored because I was too busy trying to cover up my own wrongdoings. Last night, my husband left his old phone on the charger when he went to go pick up dinner, so I made my move. His unlock code was easy enough to figure out, so I began my search for incriminating material. It wasn’t difficult to find. Selfies of random women, text messages, phone calls, Skype calls; he had mistresses on phone applications I had never even heard of!
As I read the sexually explicit exchanges, I only felt guilt and self-hatred. I had brought this on myself hadn’t I? As all life-changing realizations typically do, something previously unnoticed slowly permeated my understanding and caused my hands to shake uncontrollably. Some of the time stamps on the messages I found were six months old; four months before I realized I was in love with Hamoodi. Long before I had sunk to my lowest point, my husband had been double dipping all over town.
I reached for my cigarettes and headed outside to the roof with his phone to think. Knowing I only had a few minutes to finish my reconnaissance, I began to quickly snap photos of the offending conversations. I figured at the very least I could use them as leverage to get my divorce. When I was almost through with my cancer stick, my husband opened the door to the roof.
“Food’s here.” He seemed cheerful. That was too bad.
“We need to talk.” I said with my own voice unrecognizable to even myself.
His face darkened immediately. I held up his phone and wagged it.
It took a few seconds for a look of understanding to cross his face.
“About what?” he muttered and spun around quickly, retreating into the apartment.
Although I had been completely calm, a surge of rage bubbled up with such force I was left lightheaded. I followed him into the apartment to do what should have been done months ago, before both of us were left with only the smoldering ashes of who we used to be.
To be continued…
“Touch me through each word you think, write with pen upon my skin, tell our stories, scribble ink on every space.” Alex Sandra Myles
Love is an emotion that is both inexplicable and transparent. It was clear to me that I was in love with Hamoodi, regardless of the inherent consequences. We had ended our affair with the intentions of clearing our consciences, but unfortunately all it did was illustrate the hypnotic draw of our hearts. Within twelve hours of being crushed by the “end” to our relationship, it was renewed with unmatched fervor. We did however, agree that meeting was a horrible idea and would only lead to us continuing down the same path; down into the deepest rabbit hole either of us had ever managed to fall into.
Although affairs and love triangles are common in movies, television series, and steamy novels; no one ever really explains the strange cocktail of emotions that are stirred when one steps outside of the boundaries of fidelity. The excitement and intoxication of newness and illicit love are commonly smeared as the upside to cheating, but in my experience that benefit is fleeting and superfluous. Considering a tandem skydive or bungee jump could provide the same rush of adrenalin without the moral cost; it was not the excitement that rose as the glistening silver lining. Since I was residing in one of the most conservative kingdoms in the world, it was also not the thrill of the illicit. The thrill of illicit is transformed in Saudi Arabia. Those of us rebels who seek pleasure in the push back on authority have plenty to work on before arriving in adulteress territory. A quick spin around the block in my husband’s Toyota would do the trick.
So what was it that was keeping me from tumbling into the depths of depression due to my recently stained soul? It was and is validation. There is nothing more validating than an affair, in the most human of senses. Although it is typically considered validation in the most traditional of senses, for beauty or self-worth, that was not the case for me. My validation came in another form. When I married my husband, everyone had an opinion. Most people were negative, only pointing out the problems and dangers. Everyone thought I was acting in such a radical fashion and making a huge mistake. Most people tried to “save me from myself” and to warn me that they were older and wiser and that I would one day “come around” or “wake up”.
If you are asking yourself whether I received validation that they were right or that moving to Saudi Arabia was an enormous mistake, the answer to that is an absolute and irrevocable no. There is no way I would have ever done anything differently. Even if my husband and I end our relationship in a messy, disgusting, and extremely painful divorce; every good moment was worth it.
I was loved.
I might have forgotten that along the way and gotten lost. We might not be in love any longer, it might not be a fairy tale ending. However, Saudi Arabia will forever be in my bones and this is exactly how it was supposed to be. I was meant to be my husband’s wife for a reason, regardless of whether I know the reason yet or not.
I was brave enough to trust my heart.
Was it all so I could meet a man and fall in love?
Was it simply meant to be a way for me to appreciate my country of origin?
Does it matter?
Our beautiful and imperfect story has already been written.
Alex Sandra Myles http://www.elephantjournal.com/2015/02/i-only-want-to-be-touched-by-you/
I would say that when most people say they “escaped” Saudi Arabia, whether it was quietly in the middle of the night or screaming in broad daylight; to the rest of the world images of abusive religious police, domestic violence, and gross human rights violations committed by extremists carrying ISIS flags on camelback are invoked with the very mention of the Kingdom. As anyone that has been to the Gulf knows, those things lurk in the dark, but are generally not even blips on the radar when it comes to life here. Most of the people here have never experienced anything other than small annoyances, petty crimes, or other acts of criminal mischief that are commonplace everywhere else the world. Saudi Arabia, is all around, usually a safe place.
However, what I find to be the most aggravating and difficult for expatriates, especially those of Western origin, to deal with are the little daily annoyances that seem to build up and balloon into the majority of strife that plagues their existence here.
The coffee machines are inconsistently broken or empty. No one has change…ever. The urges and cravings for food or drink seem to appear only when it is prayer time and everything is closed. The drivers arrive untrained, disoriented, and still more “qualified” to drive than you, despite your driver’s license sitting unused in a wallet stuffed in the bottom of your purse. The incessant questions about your marital status, progeny (or lack therof), and all other personal matters that people refuse to believe are private details of a life that is no business of theirs. Being stared at because of your English, “yellow hair”, or simple existence can be jarring. The complete lack of organization and efficiency in almost everything leads to the necessity of wasta.
These are the things that make Saudi, the land of contradictions. They are also part of some things that bring joy. For every deficiency, there is a good side that can be derived. This life is not for everyone. I can’t even tell you if it is for me. I can just tell you…it is. This is Saudi Arabia.
I am afraid.
I am excited.
I am sad.
I am happy.
I am angry.
I am remorseful.
I feel guilty.
I feel entitled.
I feel love.
I feel hate.
I feel at home.
I feel like a stranger.
I have betrayed him.
I have betrayed myself.
I have cried.
I have screamed.
I have smiled.
I have laughed.
Don’t let me leave.
I want to be happy here.
I will go.
I can’t stay.
One thing I have learned from my time here in Riyadh is that there are two kinds of people in your life…those that will become closer to you as you fall and others will use that as an excuse to head in the opposite direction. The problem is sometimes it is easy to determine to which group they belong. The writings in this blog are an amalgam of fiction and non-fiction and they are all snapshots of a complete life that exists outside this forum. There are happy moments, precious moments, and private moments. If I have decided to share something it is because I believe that others will derive benefit; whether that is from emotional support, readability, or a life lesson. The “I’m in Love with the Driver” series has been derived from a combination of personal experience, the experiences of others, imagination, and third party accounts of events. My “negative” posts are generally written so the negativity is purged from my actual life…and so people can relate. My experience living in Saudi Arabia and being married to a Saudi is unique; however it is made of various experiences that are very similar to many of the wonderful human beings that make this place their home. If you are under the belief that you can “catch” loneliness, unhappiness, negativity, or a variety of other ailments from reading my blog…I would advise that you don’t read it. I refuse to drown in sorrow just as adamantly as I refuse to succumb to the naiveté that causes people to call Saudi Arabia the “safe haven for Muslims”. Saudi Arabia is a flawed country, just as I am a flawed person. This blog is not a feel good mantra of Muslimness nor Saudi wifehood. It is not a testament to the human spirit, a tale of survival, or a carefully crafted story of transformation. It is simply a catalog of portraits; ideas, thoughts, and feelings. I am just one channel broadcasting my signal into the universe. Tune in if you’d like.