This post is part of the Kolena Laila Campaign:
And you wonder who Laila is... Laila is a Lebanese girl, actually she's not sure if she should be considered a girl or a woman, she has her moments of indulging in childish behavior, with her own whims and silly laughter, which she secretly enjoys, maybe an opportunity to feel protected by others, maybe some freudian remnant, maybe just the need for innocent affection, some interdependence among a daily fight to be the liberated woman she strives to be. Yes, she also tries to be as woman as can be, sometimes in bed with the lights dimmed just so the right glow dances around her curves, sometimes she suddenly metamorphoses into a well educated young lady most probably at a family dinner to please her parents, and then at other times she's the comforting professional who deals with patients and physicians on a daily basis. Why patients you ask? Well Leila is a student in medicine, part of the reason why she hasn't been able to delve into womanhood just yet, yes she's still a student. With the anxiety of exams and grading and attendance.
Trying to define who Laila is depends on the situation she's into. Laila is not real, she's not a person, she's only the reflection of what those around her expect her to be. No she's not a hypocrite but did you honestly think that those around her were looking to understand who she is? Did you really believe that they might have thought just for a second that she might be different, that she might have her own perception of life, that even though she's talking to them, maybe right at this moment, and she seems so genuine, so accessible, so real, so transparent, she's actually still trying to find out who she really is. Yes Laila doesn't believe she fits the definition that she has come to be associated with.
So you failed to define Laila, can you at least try to find out if Laila is happy? What would make her fuzzy inside? What can measure happiness in this Lebanese life that she's leading? Laila wants to conform. Unfortunately she has come to realize that in the society she's living in, the only way to be happy is to please those around her, maybe you agree and maybe you don't. It seems like such a defeatist attitude coming from the girl who was once so independent, so free, so self-ruling. And it is. Laila has discovered that in Lebanon there's only one way to live, you're part of this herd and God forbid you try to channel your own path. And no Laila is not worried about what "people" might say, people being those complete strangers who will have something to criticize no matter the situation, Laila is mostly worried about how her actions might reflect on her immediate entourage, being her parents, her family, her friends. Laila is not an individual anymore. Laila is intrinsically unhappy. She says she's content. Why wouldn't she be? It seems that everything is going for her, her performance at Medical School, her dear friends who she has come to carefully select, her health, her parents' health. Something is wrong though. Something doesn't fit. Could it be the fact that although Laila considers herself successful, it still bothers her that at social gatherings, a histrionic, typical Lebanese woman, the one she secretly dreads to become, the overdone makeup and hair, the revealing, and in no way age appropriate, clothing, the pretentious attitude, that same woman living off her husband's money and yet putting him down in front of his own friends, that same woman comes up to Laila and tells her: "Haram, 3am ta3emleh Medicine? Nshalla nefra7 mennik..." Translation: "You poor thing, you went into Medicine? I hope you eventually find yourself a husband..."
Here it is, success measured in this society. But beware, for it is not by finding yourself just any husband. You needn't look for the love of your life, you needn't take too long at the risk of drying up your eggs, you needn't look for someone of another religion or another nationality no matter how compatible you might be. You need to look for money. Marry money. Yes, if you're a Lebanese woman, it's not enough to make your own. This can actually turn out to be a source of utmost pity. "Haram she's so career oriented, she's never going to find a husband!"
And so, with all the holidays coming up, with my closest relatives wishing me the happiest of days to come, with them genuinely wishing me a happy marriage with the so called prince charming I haven't found yet, with the only thought in the back of their mind being for me to find someone to love, with them also prohibiting me from spending these holidays with the one I might find myself happy with, with them actively seeking my own happiness thinking they're of a clearer mind. With all this, with the nefra7 mennik at every sip of wine, Laila leaves the dinner table. She tells her parents it's time for her to go meet some friends, yes it's Christmas eve but Laila wants to get away. She gets into her car and she drives, she drives up to the closest mountain, she lights up a cigarette, although she promised her parents she'll be quitting soon. Laila turns off her car lights, it's 11pm on Christmas eve, rarely does she notice anyone driving by, she opens her windows, no radio, no sound, nothing. Laila finds herself far away, she escapes. She's gone. Only the time to finish that last cigarette. Laila dances. She imagines herself dancing her life away, twirling twirling and then some more, just enough to feel dizzy, just enough to have her thoughts all mixed up with nothing left to think about, cast away with a feeling of unexplained unjustified happiness brought on by a simple physical exercise. Dance Laila Dance.