Hassan Hassan takes a moment to thank his mom for saving him from a life of inevitable awkwardness and embarrassment...
Mother’s day is right around the corner. This means I have to gear myself up for the onslaught of vintage pictures of everyone’s mothers on Facebook, try to get an actual present, then caving in and posting my own vintage picture of my mother. Then I would be like, “Look, your picture got 18 likes! Happy Mother’s Day!’ and she’d put on a shut-up-I’m-busy smile and carry on talking on the phone.
This year, I’m thinking I’m going to go a step further by being super cheesy about my mother on a decidedly more public forum. This makes me think of social suicide. But then I’m like, I don’t go out anyway. Then I think of actual suicide, then I tell myself stop; imagine what it would do to your mother.
Then I see other mothers, specifically Egyptian ones, and I really thank god her brand of psycho is far-less-psycho than the average. Sometimes,I get a little annoyed when I hear of all of these people whose mothers cook or make chicken soup for them when they are sick. Or those mothers who wrapped up food in Tupperware for them to take to the office when they are well into their twenties. Or one of those mothers who bought me clothes. While my mother has literally cooked once every five years (we’re talking like scrambled eggs or foul or something), ignores me for the most part and scoffs at my torn jeans the one time in the month she wakes up at 8am, she has passed on a wisdom far greater than tabekh. I am forever indebted for the following life lessons:
It is easier to apologise than to ask for permission. In bleaker times, when I was like 15 and screaming irrationally about something, she turned to me calmly, told me ‘e3mel el enta 3azo we ba3den etkalem.’ She said this way before Robert Downey Jr. said it on the internet. She backed this up by telling me to limit fuck ups to once, or twice. In reverse, this has also made me really good at taking responsibility for my fuck ups. One of my major life skills is fucking up royally and being able to talk my way out of it. I once made a university professor delete 13 absences off my record and brought up my grade from a D- to a B+.
Drink Slowly. At the age of 13 or 14 I got wasted, came home and managed to walk a straight line from the door to my bedroom (made far less impressive by the fact that I then puked). She figured it was pivotal to teach me the basics of drinking, probably because she had an inkling that she had an alcoholic on her hands. So she sat me down and told me all about what drinks to mix with what, how “clear drinks like Vodka are for tacky people,” (she said the same thing about my first tattoo) and “your first drink should last you for at least an hour.” She explained my aim should never be to get drunk and once my feet were moving too much as I danced, it was time to go home. I have paid attention to this for the past 14 years. Once you’re dancing like an idiot – or puking behind a car – it is time to go.
Work. I was never good with maths. So much so she was forced to sit with me and help me study. I would sit at the desk sullenly counting on my fingers under the table, sharpening my pencils, underlining everything and asking her if I could just eat instead. She was patient, my mother, but looking back at this as an adult, I’m 100% certain I would have choked little Hassan. Obviously driven to despair, she punched my shoulder really fucking hard once and told me to just finish it. Shocked by her outrageous abuse, I finished it in 10 minutes. Then she sat me down and explained the sooner I was done with work, the more fun I would be able to have. This has served me well ever since. Once you were done with everything, you were free. You could just have nothing to do. She also lost all hope of Little Hassan becoming a stockbroker that day.
Honesty works. At 14 I decided I was going to be a pop star. This meant I had to spend my life perfecting my craft, which meant watching MTV – they played music back then – endlessly and recording videos on VHS to learn all of the words and the dance moves. I gave up on school, I gave up on friends, gave up on fucking everything and dedicated my entire life to performing/buying CDS/making mixtapes. One day as I was practicing and singing this, she burst into my room and screamed “Sotak KHARA. Khosh zaker aw e3mel haga mofeda fe hayatak. BAS!” While it upset me at the time, numerous American Idol auditions later, I saw the light. Incidentally, I totally blamed the mothers for their children’s shame, standing outside embarrassed with Ryan Seacrest with beleaguered looks on their faces, struggling not to kill their kids dreams because Oprah said something or other. Know your fucking strengths.
Be Selfish. My mother moved to Egypt a year or two (or six I have no idea) before me. So when I was finally about to move here, I called her to let her know that I would be arriving. “Are you picking me up at the airport? I arrive at 10.” To which she replied, “Of course we’ll be there habibi… in the morning or bellel?” When I said “AM mom,” she swiftly instructed me how to take a cab and said “I could come, but I would be mitnarfiza.” I wouldn’t have to wait and I could just get there with little emotions at the airport. It made sense. Mish na2es narfaza 3al sobh. Gestures are meaningless if you’re going to be an asshole while you do it.
Be nice to your sister. And women. And everyone. Just do your best to be a pleasant person. It was important to her that both my sister and I be pleasant as humans. She’s super cordial and proper, but without being anal, which is a tricky balance to strike. Which makes my looking like a hobo difficult for her, but that’s ok because, for the most part, I don’t act like one. She was also a real stickler for me and my sister being treated fairly; in terms of money, freedom and rules. I assume she had seen the downside of Egyptian prodigal sons in her lifetime, so a dose of perspective was always in order. She also taught me to open doors for women, carry shopping bags and which fork to use when at dinner parties. All of which have proved useful skills you’d think more people would have.
Laugh. If nothing else, I am most grateful for my mother’s sense of humour. From slapstick to sarcastic, from the mundane to the serious, her reaction has always been laughter. We laughed after her mother’s funeral and ate cheese salad sandwiches. We have made fun of each other, my sister, my father, the maid, the driver, Lindsay Lohan, her friends, my friends, the Kardashians and everyone in between. It is the thing I am most grateful for and more valuable than any amount of tabekh in Tupperware.