In Lebanon, the most ‘westernized’ country of the Middle East, the once-called Pearl of the Middle East, Mental Health and Intimacy are almost entirely unspoken of.
In 2016, yes, still nothing, or at least barely in my circle. I cannot stand it anymore; my friends as i recently discover, are hurting because of that. Men and Women indeed. What about yours? and yourself?
I am not comfortable:
Can you imagine being with friends, going out, clubbing, drinking, and end up losing a friend at the end of the evening who chose to spend the night with someone, only you or your company end up harshly “judging” her for doing so, OR, “blaming” her why has she not done so given she has the freedom of choice in this era, where standards of interaction vary so much but almost everything is acceptable (as it seems the case is with both genders now)?
This is probably the first time i feel my blog needs to voice a particular national topic, rather than a personal one that each of you usually relates to, to raise awareness on the issue, and be the voice of all those unspoken opinions, especially ladies’ and gents’ involved today.
I would love to hear/read on this platform, if this issue below is the same in your country, society, family, or life?
I had noticed this when i first came back from the UK in July 2015, but ever since, to-date, i realized i have not been able to initiate any one conversation with family or friends (even close ones) about either topics: intimacy or mental health.
I was sat with a friend Friday evening, we had went out for drinks, but then from one topic to the next and throughout a heart-to-heart chat, it hit me:
Ladies, in Lebanon, including myself, are living some form of repression. Men, on their end, well God help them too! :
these last, if they approach a lady who’s having a blast and looking super inviting, she may end up slapping them in the face or making a scene that leads to a bunch of men-“bodyguards” kicking his ass for flirting with her, knowing she was indeed flirting, with probably a super provocative outfit too.
In contrast, when i was in the UK, (in my eyes at least, humbly) with Europeans particularly i.e. then Brits and EU-citizens, it was more transparent for men to pick up ladies (and vice versa) looking to have fun, or others looking for something serious, and even others who are looking for nothing at all, except some fun, dancing, and a good laugh before returning to their own cocoon of a different kind of goals and life.
Also, if men mistaken one type of woman for another, both were as transparent about it, saying “no”, or “yes” to whatever unfolds and they’d knowingly make the decision because they are more equipped with the thorough input on what they get themselves into.
There was this mutual, implicit understanding and synchronized behaviour between men and women;
they both knew what they wanted the minute they left the flat to party, and stuck by it throughout the pub crawling and the alcohol, peer pressure or not, and the all of it ..
The way the ladies dress up, flirt, or don’t, their overall behaviour and confidence in what they want did attract the right type of men. In the eyes of a Lebanese lady, it was perfect because here, back home:
Either the ladies are hypocrites; they play dress up, act so unlike themselves (knowingly most of the times) and end up making a scene if a guy dares to go as far as kiss them, when in reality, they wanted more out of that evening or out of that guy they had met and perhaps even truly liked.
Or, the ladies are forced to be hypocrites, by the repression within their family and their Lebanese culture (which i admit are engraved in your blood usually), lead on men, get what they wan out of the encounter, evening, or relationship, but then in front of friends and family they act like they were assaulted or had their rights violated, or had not agreed to however far it all went and play victim.
Alternately too, the women may be pretty confident in what they want, how they want it, and have the courage to put themselves out there and they remain feeling happy and/or confident, in charge of their own lives and bodies,
BUT then BOOM: to what expense did their behaviour and their desires add up in a country like Lebanon? The dad disowns them, the mother stops being the loving, supporting mother, family whispers behind their backs or slowly withdraw their warmth and loosen family ties, as they render the relationship colder and colder; last but not least, society, from the hotel clerk to the concierge of the building, to the neighbours, colleagues, “once-close” friends spread rumors, harsh comments, that make living here unbearable since..all of it.
Or, some women so repressed by the “do not talk about intimacy or mention it, or you-must-remain-ignorant about it” mentalities just go for it, they choose the relationship and boundary they feel most comfortable with,
but then, they end up so deeply broken, alone, lost, with psychological issues they cannot in turn even voice or talk about. So, they fall in the category of NO-NOs in the Lebanese Society, dangerously still closed and resistant to publicly admit therapy, guided socialization, or that an expert’s help in relationships may help restore mental health, for saner , healthier relationships in the future.
Ladies, including myself, find difficulty talking about their intimate lives. Why? Is it fair? What about to our partners, who know not what to expect of the entire relationship or if we dare speak about certain issues?Does not ignorance and induced ignorance engender mistakes, bigger ones, and ones a little too late to cure?
And what about those of us who do find this 1/30 friend who may understand we need to or have the courage to vent about our intimate lives and little adventures, or need to exchange experiences or learn more about how far things go and from each others’ experiences; well, we end up not really trusting even our 1/30 choice, fear they might not be as honest or as frank as they seem and they might hold the key to destroying our lives and relationships with family, friends, and chosen partners.
And so, our dilemma goes on. Our ignorance or fake acts enhanced, and men’s ways would turn more brutal, understandably, knowing they may as well take advantage of whatever comes their way and deal with the repercussions, when/if they come.. if stories like that ever make it to the kitchen tables of every home in Lebanon, rather than remain ‘masked’ inside the family room.
This needs to change, and i choose my platform beginning tonight to host your opinions, please, on the issues raised.
Mental health in a country as challenging to live in as Lebanon in all respects (minimum or no government support basically) needs to be detected in citizens, talked about in families, even gay people in Lebanon are still being bullied and suppressed by parents and this, as linked to mental health of both: parents and children, affects the relationships built among people.
Why does my friend feel the need to attend mental health tests, seminars, or diagnoses halfway across the globe, when Lebanon is so westernized in all social, technological, and world trends??
Why can’t he or she do it here, close to family, close to their culture, environment, and the people who just get them in their own context?
Why do women need to say, like i heard last night from two acquaintances, “i need to go for abroad for a year, learn and come back” , when they could talk openly about any relationships and boundaries and being psychologically alright in choosing partners here, in Lebanon, their home country.
I have been abroad and seen; my friend K.B. too, from the UK did also tell me about mental health and about how many women per year lose their virginity because they were too drunk one night, or end up raped or pregnant or, or , or…
I have also observed some of the nontraditional relationships and the different kind of affection exerted in Europe between partners especially.. but not everyone has got the chance to understand or learn more about a dangerously-camouflaged aspect of their life in Lebanon.
Also, not everyone has got the chance to experience “abroad” and not hurt themselves in the process or stand their grounds and values. Do these have to commit a mistake? Do they have to be ill-equipped and ignorant about the directions of their personal lives?
Thank you so much for listening, and understanding how dangerous and critical these two issues are becoming in Lebanon, as well as abroad, in your home countries too.
Everyone is indeed free to choose their partner and the depth of their relationships knowingly; are we not?
Oct. 31, 2016; 1.02am