Discover more from Love & Literature
FEAR OF FLYING: FINAL CHAPTER
Written by: Nada Chehade
Are my clothes too tight?
Do I laugh too much?
You say I’m not polite?
I say, fuck you very much!
Lyrics from We are Lady Parts — Bashir with the good beard
I spent an awful lot of time acting like who I was supposed to be instead of just being me. It was embarrassing to be a strong woman. She got judged, slut-shamed, picked on. Blamed. It was easier not to take up space. It was easier to just be invisible.
A news reporter couldn’t appear on the screen without the entire room judging her beauty — or lack of—and how much skin she was showing. Whereas we’ll get the Arab version of Colonel Sanders on TV, only his beard came through the screen and into the living room, but no one would be like, fuck, what an atrocious-looking guy. No, they would just listen to what he was saying.
Misogyny was filed under the guise of “protection,” but the only thing it ever protected was men’s fragile demands. Here is an example of the kind of “protection” it provided:
I started a blog during my marriage out of sheer loneliness; it became my favourite outlet. I never really felt like I could express myself freely, though, so I kept it pretty kosher and discussed things like celebrity gossip and breaking news. Then one day, I was totally inspired by something I saw and wrote about it from my heart.
It was that summer when the paparazzi caught Beiber with his pants down. So as a self-proclaimed gossip columnist, I reported on the hot topic and decided to use my unfiltered humour. I titled the post: Who Knew Bieber Was Carrying A Missile The Whole Time.
I caused a tsunami.
A tsunami of fragile men taking turns slut-shaming me and crying over the comment. I offended them for some reason on a gossip post, one I had no clue they were avidly following (I wrote for women only back then), especially that one family member. The guy literally lost his mind over a title. It was such an insult to his honour and masculinity that I spoke of what my eyes saw. He called my parents and husband to complain. Imagine, I was a whole thirty-year-old.
Guys, I’m a reporter, I report on what I see, and it’s huge!
That was the end of my blog and me. I quit writing in 2016. I was shamed out of it, over some humour. Apparently, it was for my own good. Was it for my own good? Who did it protect? Or, did it serve someone’s ego? You know, self-righteous men with a superiority complex. Ones who hurl degrading comments at women whenever they appear on the screen but can’t handle a little humour when it comes from a woman.
Not being able to write felt like my identity was stripped from me. I suppose you can say not having that outlet during my marriage jump-started my personal rebellion.
I walked into the courtroom with my middle finger up in one hand and a smoke in the other. It was filled with honourable men. I slithered to the bench and looked the judge straight in the eye, banged my fist on the table, and said, “Your honour, fuck your honour.” Then giggled, like any lady would.
That was the dream I had the night before I got divorced. What actually happened was the exact opposite. There was no giggling whatsoever. Man, I shat my pants and everything the first time I had to meet the judge. I had to go through three different gaslighting sessions with him to decide if I had a good enough reason to leave my husband. Anyways, he judged me just like his title said it would. It was so humiliating. I was surrounded by random men who were so triggered I decided to leave my husband, not the other way around.
The way it works in that region is a man can divorce you over text; he just has to DM you, “You are divorced,” whereas if a woman decided she wanted to leave her husband, it was considered a crime against humanity and a pardon from the entire community is required; evidence, proof, a whole posse to back you up and I had non, just my will.
I didn’t know what to expect on my fourth gruelling visit to court. But as my mother parked in front of the courthouse (she finally decided to support me in the end), some random man appeared in front of her car to help her reverse into the spot. He then proceeded to ask her what we were doing at the courthouse, and she hastily replied that we were there to finalize my divorce, inshallah.
You won’t believe what the guy did next; he fucking proposed. Yeah, he actually said that he didn’t see me as used goods — like it was a favour—and would be happy to make me an honourable woman . Mind you, I didn’t even get divorced yet, and there he was, my knight in a full-length beard ready to sweep me off my feet before the papers were even signed. This dude was convinced I wanted to go from one asshole to another.
I just wanted to be free.
Of course, my mom was ecstatic. She couldn’t wait to run back to my aunties to tell them some rando proposed in front of the courthouse before she even got divorced! Like it was a competition. Anyway, she told the guy, “You won’t like my daughter, she is es-sportif, but I can find you someone else.”
Sportif is used as a man-deterrent. It’s a French word that Arabs use to refer to someone who is open-minded. In other words, my daughter eats too much, laughs loud, and smokes. It works like a charm most of the time. And while we cracked up at the ridiculousness of it all, I couldn’t help but think how my worth was always tied to some man— single, spinster, divorced, spinster again.
Before we walked into the courthouse, my mom quickly recited a prayer into her hands and blew it in my face. I hate it when she does that. It’s like a Hadouken but with prayers. It’s supposed to protect you from the enemy. I immediately knew what was going to happen; I travelled to England on a whim, almost got fired for it, fought the community, got shunned, sat through three gaslighting sessions filled with men, only for my mom to come in at the last second to gloat that it all went in my favour because of her prayer!
The judge was stunned I had no shits to give, again. But, by the end of him sitting with my husband for the same amount of time, he actually agreed with me—something that rarely happens. No, seriously, the entire community couldn’t believe the judge granted me a divorce so “easily.” It was supposed to take 100 sessions, not 4. My husband was that annoying; the judge couldn’t deny it. So was my mom by the way. She judged the judge back and gaslit him mid-sentence. She gaslit the gaslighter. He was so frustrated that she kept explaining his mansplaining back to him, he let us go.
Signed, stamped, divorced. I looked up to the sky and made a promise: It would be the last time I ever acted like an honourable woman.
Judgments? Bring it.
I’m not sure why I got married. It’s not like I was in a rush or anything. I waited till thirty. I actually dated the dude for two years before I tied the knot. I chose to ignore every red flag that slapped me across the face because I spent years normalizing bad behaviour. The bar was so low. It was what I was supposed to do, and that conditioning manifested in many decisions I made throughout my life.
I wish society applauded women for leaving toxic situationships instead of gaslighting them into sticking it out just to be tossed like garbage in the end anyway. So, while I love celebrating good relationships, I also don’t believe dragging around dead weight should be considered an accomplishment. I wish society would focus on women’s actual accomplishments rather than praising them for their relationship status, like ending up single and alone is worse than being with an asshole.
It’s funny, my favorite part of getting married was my bachelorette party because my husband wasn’t there. You won’t believe it; no one’s ego got hurt, no one needed to flex their muscles or be condescending either. I just danced around all my bitches for one night.
The community wanted me to be ashamed of my divorce, and I was trying to be, but my besties seriously wouldn’t let me. I threatened to block them and tell all their secrets to the world if they didn’t remove the photos from that night off social media, and they still didn’t. Man, they were ruthless. So, they sent my friend Tamara, the voice of reason, to knock some sense into me. She said, but these are our memories together, fuck him!
They were gaslighting me over some pictures, but that's good gaslighting. We finally went out into town and claimed what big bitches we were, almost got arrested for it too, but they weren't about to un-claim it. If there is one thing we love being, it’s shameless. Oh, we were so good at it too. Just like our aunties when they wanted to be.
In the beginning, I did feel loads of shame. And then one day, around three months after my divorce, I came out of my burrow. I looked shame straight in the eye and laughed at it. I grabbed it by its patriarchal balls and threw it right back at the perpetrators. This is what it felt like. I had a massive stomach ache and laid an egg, no two. My ovaries dropped, and I became a real woman. They’re so fucking big now they need their own seat at the table. All that shaming backfired. Now, I live to be a dangerous kind of woman.
A dangerous kind of woman understands that the world is for her and is unafraid to claim her birthright. She searches for things that nourish her soul. She speaks her mind, follows no rules, and chews up negative connotations like “cat lady” for lunch and wears the word spinster as a badge of honour. She doesn’t idolize marriage. She has goals, travels the world, and contributes to her community. She doesn’t put other women down to appear more valuable. She has needs, preferences, standards, and she is anything but invisible.
So be dangerous as fuck.
The big bamboozle is that life is quite dandy on the other side. There is no right way to live, only your way, and on your terms. There’s no such thing as shame when you realize it’s a tool used by the patriarchy to keep women in place. There is no imaginary “wall” that women reach and disintegrate into dust. It was all fuck-boi-fiction to cover up their own lackluster.
Today, I write from my heart. My goal is to live authentically, shamelessly, and as fabulously as hell. My passion is not up for discussion nor will I ever quit writing to accommodate a man-fit, again. I won’t tone down my humorous assaults on patriarchy either until we’ve completely smashed them.
And you best believe I’m gonna fly out of anything toxic.