Tuesday, August 8, 2023

"Why don't you...." people know how to live my life better than me.

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly

Well, there you go. Everyone knows how to live my life better than me, especially in Lebanon.

Every day I am met with questions that start with "why don't you...?" and end with anything related to my personal life, my professional life, the way I care for my elderly mother, the way I do this, that, or what not. Because obviously, those administering these questions, already figured out a better way for me to live my life, since - obviously - their own life is perfect.

Note that I usually do not intrude on people's lives. Whether they are single, married, divorced or what not - some are in unhappy marriages and I still give no direct advices unless solicited. 

I remember one specific case, I was lunching at the ad agency with a beautiful and talented art director, she mentioned by hinting several times during the meal that she wanted a family while her husband wanted to remain away in Africa for his career. Oddly when I got back to my cubicle, as I was reading my monthly horoscope a specific section said that now was the time of make-or-break should I be in a relation. Since we shared the same horoscope, I emailed her the link. Ten minutes later she was standing at the door of my office, we interlocked in sight for a few seconds but I knew she was still observing me with a smile as I pretended to get busy with my computer. The next day her office was empty. Apparently she had travelled to the US to ask for a divorce. I know what you are thinking, this is counter-intuitive to what I was saying. Actually this is not true, what happened is that she hinted several times, and I "innocently" sent her our monthly horoscope. An 8 page horoscope. She just picked up the passage that she knew I was winking at.

If I am saying this story it is because, out of nowhere a relative looks at me says "leich ma bitjeblak we7de to2dik?" (why don't you get one (woman) to serve you). I very politely told her that if I was to marry it is not for the woman to "serve" me but rather she ought to be cherished and pampered. But this is just a sample of how people as I said prior - know how I "should" conduct my life. "Why don't you go to work daily?" - again, a veiled way for people to understand what exactly I do for a living. "Why don't you replace the househelp that left?" - "why don't you do your blood tests?" - "why don't you own a car?" (I heard someone say, while literally looking at me, "the measure of a man is his car" and I understood perfectly what he was saying to and about me) - "why don't you travel to do Dubai there's plenty of work there?". Need I go on?

I remember in her wonderful book "Beirut, fragments." author Jean Said Makdessi wrote that whenever the question was "have you heard?" it was always followed by a bad news. And I myself know that whatever question starts with "why don't you" it is followed by an intrusive ignorant statement. No one realizes that, as an educated and smart man, I have taken all the options and basically decided on the best course of action accordingly. Because again, the people "advising" me have a much smarter outcome figured out and I am too idiotic to realize it.

Of course, apps like Instagram and Tiktok are making things more complicated with their armchair psychiatrists/coaches/self-help guides and so on - "the most important 5 minutes of your day are those before you sleep", "this woman explains why the truth behind the banking system", "a former salesperson explains how to make everyone agree with you". And the list goes on and on. A dumbing down of questions usually convoluted and difficult, but made palatable and easily-digestible for those with a very limited span of attention. 

On all accounts, I certainly shrug when given advice by those who don't have the data, I truly smile dismissively when someone tries to outsmart me when they have a limited scope of the image or when they are trying to replicate something that worked with them not realizing that not all lives are the same and not circumstances are identical.

So "why don't you" just meddle in your own life thank you very much.