Sunday, 12 October 2008


When I friended family on Facebook, I knew it was just a matter of time before the childhood friends I suffered many a Pakistani party with would make a friend request.

It happened last week. My heart sank.

Now, before anyone recoils in horror, let me explain: for the most part, we really couldn't stand each other. The bitchiness and competitiveness wasn't an undertone, believe you me. There wasn't *ONE* girl I sat with at those parties - with the exception of my cousins, Ambereen and Nageen - that I would have trusted with any snippet of my real life, because it would have been met with nothing but contempt and ridicule. I sat there for hours on end, hating the shallow conversation, the regurgitation of parental mores, the smugness...the unthinking acceptance of everything being shoved down their throats. In many cases, I could stand their parents even less.

But much as my friends today will find it hard to believe, I was a 'good girl', so I said nothing.

It's no wonder I don't - and most likely *won't* - ever have a close South Asian female friend, at least not one who hasn't made some kind of real break from the culture. Yaqoob is currently my only South Asian friend, and he's a Christian male.

So, what did I do when this request came through? I accepted.

Why? In part, because I think I should be over the childhood crap and trust that they've grown up to be thoughtful human beings. In part, because I'm curious. In part, as a way of facing the childhood I'd really rather not admit to having.

The result? Flipping through her pictures, I feel suffocated by her life: the same friends we had growing up, one job lasting 4 yrs, 91 South Asian friends - not a white or black face amongst them, indicative of a narrow circle, a narrow mind and a troubling racism. Every single picture is of a Pakistani party that is a clone for the life-draining ones I grew up with, with the shallow happy-happy comments of 'what a lovely couple!' beneath photos, even when the woman's body language and expression indicates she'd rather be having a root canal than be with the rank, limp Pakistani man by her side, who has the befuddled expression of someone who never expected to have sex, but is actually going to get some because his parents found a girl who'd take him.

And if I see the expression 'mash'allah' beneath another picture, I'm going to hurt someone. Or defriend her.

What do I remember about her life before we lost touch? She couldn't get into medical school here, so her parents sent her to med school in Pakistan, which didn't pan out too well when she got back - aside from my mother's rhapsody on how well she spoke Urdu and how she'd fallen in love with the culture. Then she accepted an arranged marriage, had kids, and had no life of her own, just got absorbed into some replay of her parents' life.

"Independent free thinker"? I think not.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, walking out of my parents' house was the best decision I ever made.

Yes, I know I'm being judgmental and that my reaction is much more about how I feel about my childhood and the restrictions of the culture I grew up in. I feel suffocated by MY childhood and what could have been, not her life.

Instead, I need to be thankful for the authenticity of my life, full of friends from all over the world, and for the love I'm surrounded by, as well as the fact that I have the freedom I've wanted for as long as I can remember. Would I love to be married and have children? Absolutely. But only when people look at a picture of us and don't feel the need to comment, "What a lovely couple," because well, *real* couples - with laughter, passion, closeness - aren't...'lovely' or 'nice'.

But I need to face what this Facebook friend brings, not run away from it. And it's not fair of me to hold her responsible for it, simply because she's the one who decided to re-enter my life.

After all, I chose to let her back in.

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