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Chapter 1

Some events have been manipulated for safety reasons!

While I am still struggling with Sprint to get my international texting service to work, I can’t help but thinking it’s David’s fault! I have unlimited texting included in my plan, yet, it still won’t work. I can’t text my family back in Saudi Arabia. One scenario of many I live on daily basis struggling to make my life work here in the States with the man I’m in love with deeply. The only thought keeping my head in place, and my hopes high is knowing that the hard part is over with. It is the part where I had to fight battles to win David. I had to battle my own demons, fight my own family and stand in the face of two drastically different cultures.

I was born and raised in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, a rapidly developing city. I was born into a somewhat conservative family. However, compared to many other families, mine is considered “open-minded”. It is the typical Saudi family where men are in control and women can’t drive or practice their rights without a male-guardian’s written approval. I had to convince my father to let me accept a full Masters scholarship that the Saudi government provided in the U.S.. After months of convincing, he finally complied under one condition, he will live with me in San Francisco until I graduate. It didn’t make any sense, I am 24, yet he still thinks I need babysitting. Other than the fact that he was genuinely scared about my well being that I’d be living by myself for the first time ever, he also was afraid of what people might say about him leaving his daughter in the most liberal country without any male guardianship! I must be whoring around!

Coming from that background and conditioned to believe my family is a priority over my needs, dating an American man is hard. It is challenging to make him understand the cultural differences. He is patient though, but every now and then, he gets frustrated with the cultural gap. I don’t blame him. I don’t expect anyone to understand the twisted double-life I lead just to be with him. I had to lie to my parents about him. I had to hide our relationship in front of them. He was just a friend. I couldn’t post our adventures together on facebook or instagram like normal couples do. I also asked him not to post anything. My family would have disowned me if I publicly displayed our relationship. A man and a woman are not even allowed to be friends where I come from. Question marks will surround any woman and her family if she’s open about her relationships and friendships with the opposite sex. Religious police will arrest men and women who are not related and hanging out in public places. So I had to explain that repeatedly every once and awhile. The most he got frustrated with is not being able to sleepover. I wasn’t allowed to sleepover and, of course, he wasn’t either. One time when he slashed his hand open, and was lightheaded after the  hospital visit, I had to make up and excuse, and I had him sleeping on the couch. You might think it is easy, so what! Lie my way through a relationship! But no! It gets to you if you’re an honest person. Lies are a burden to the heart. I was torn apart between pleasing the man I love and my family who I deeply love. I always ended up messing up both. When I please him, I’d be nervous the whole time worried about my lies. If I pleased my family, I’d have to deal with him pouting! And it reflected on the way I treated them.

I’d like to think like any other woman in love that I am in the most perfect relationship ever. We agree on a lot of things, like some political views. On the other hand we don’t agree on a lot more, like religion. I am a practicing Muslim, he was agnostic in a sarcastic way, more of a pessimist who’s trying to find the truth.  The fact that our religious views differ created tension whenever we talked about God, or current world events that are religion-related. So we still try to avoid that, but we fail. Especially the one time I had to explain the guilt I would have felt over sexual intercourse. He was offended, thinking that I wouldn’t enjoy it. But all I am thinking about is my own sins. You grow up in a religious society, you can’t help but feeling shameful over the slightest pleasure. They implant you with fear of God. It stressed me out. I was confused. I just couldn’t comprehend why would this beautiful expressive act of love would make someone feel worthless. And where confusion exists, conflict exists, but at the end of the day, we managed. We just realised we’re different. We love one another which was the only thing that mattered at the time.

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