I don’t like to lie. It complicates life and kills something beautiful inside me; the comfort and relaxation of just being me. However, there is one super delicious lie that set me and my dad free. It still makes me proud when I think about it. You see, my dad was very religious. He believed that his God would punish him if I, his daughter, didn’t follow suit. Somewhere in his holy books, there is a godly decree that said: “teach your children to pray at 7 years old, and by 10, beat them if they don’t”. In Islam, “pray” is not something you do once a week in church, or even once a day before you go to bed, but 5 times every single friggin’ day. My Dad was a doctor, highly educated, very compassionate and relatively open minded, except for one blind spot called religion. I would be playing with my friends in the street. My dad would come home from work, call me out of the game to ask: did you do your prayer? If I said no, he would ask me to leave my game to go pray. He obviously didn’t know how games worked. We’d argue, sometimes he’d let me finish the game, sometimes not, but it was always very frustrating. One time, I obliged, left the game to pray, by the time I came back, all my friends were gone. As an 8 year old, the message started forming in my mind “God is no fun”. Winters are very cold in Egypt because the houses are not well insulated. We used space heaters and only one of the 2 bathrooms in our house had a butane water heater which was turned on on demand. Typically for showers. Winter evenings were especially torturous because I had to do my ablution with cold water, which left my hands and feet cold for a long time. If I wanted to use the water heater, I would get ridiculed as being a sissy. Besides, God would give me more browny points for using cold water, I was told. Another mental note: “God likes us to suffer”. One cold winter night, I think I was 12 or 13, my Dad came home from work and asked his usual question: “did you pray?”. I was tired of the back and forth, so I said “No. It’s too cold”. He asked me to put my book down, pulled me by the arm to the nearest bathroom, the one without the heater, and said: “do your ablution”. I said: “the water is too cold”. Next thing I know, there was a slap on my face. Mind you, my Dad never beat anyone. It just never happened in my family, never before and never after. That one slip of a slap sealed the deal for me. I went through the motions of praying that night, for the VERY LAST TIME in my life! You see, my logical mind kept churning and came up with the perfect solution: whenever dad asked about praying, there is always only one answer: “yes, I did”. He was hardly ever home, working all the time, and had no way of knowing the truth. That one slap, albeit emotionally very painful, set me free: I never had to leave my friends, interrupt my games or reading, never had to be cold at night and most importantly, never had to disappoint my Dad. I was actually surprised by how easy it was to lie. No shame, no guilt, just pure sweet relief. If obeying God turned my kind compassionate Dad into an aggressive monster, then it’s not worth obeying, I figured. I would often see the surprise on my Dad’s face when he heard my confident “yes”, but he didn’t question it. I think he was so happy to get the “yeses”, that he didn’t argue. Later on, I moved to the USA, freed my inner atheist and lived happily ever after. I didn’t tell my family until 10 years later. But that’s a different story.
2 thoughts on “Eat, Play, Love”
I remember playing in the street and I remember your bicycle well …
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Those were the days my friend!