Summer Love

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Summer in Lebanon means two things: an already overcrowded population gets even more crowded with tourists (and all the hype that comes with the money-making tourism season) and weddings (the money-spending season). Every year the weddings get more extravagant and more expensive. Every few weeks, someone in our family was getting married and I had to go into the same old argument with my parents over attending. I managed to negotiate my way out of a few, until it was the wedding of one of the cousins I actually liked. So I disguised my dyke self in a dress and high heels and make-up and joined my parents in the wedding mawkab.

By the dinner party, I was actually enjoying myself. The ceremony was beautiful. My cousin was having the time of her life. I took my seat at the large round crimson table with dimly-lit lanterns as the bride and groom made their way into the center amidst roaring applause to have their first dance. My cousin looked like she was going to faint with happiness, fighting back her tears lest they ruin her expensive make-up. The groom was blushing like a little boy, making awkward, lame jokes to help his new wife relax. I don’t remember what the song was, but everybody went silent as the newlyweds moved not-so-gracefully across the floor, in nervous, rehearsed steps. To me, they looked perfect and my heart was overcome with a deep sadness as I suddenly realized: I will never have this.

What I wouldn’t give to have my first dance with my lesbian partner, in a ballroom packed with my friends, my parents watching me with tears in their eyes. Traditional, I know. Heteronormative, I know. “Who needs big fancy weddings that are evil consumerist ceremonies,” I know. But right there, at that moment, I felt incredibly angry that I didn’t even have the choice. I wanted to flaunt my partner to everyone I knew. I wanted to celebrate my love with everyone that was dear to me. I wanted a special day we could remember together forever. I wanted my first dance.

The happy couple had finished theirs and my little dream was interrupted by another round of applause. I clapped and slouched back into my chair, my mood now ruined by my sense of injustice. It wasn’t fair, I thought. Just because we are gay, we are banned from everything. Our love, and any expression of it, is forbidden. It wasn’t fair at all, I thought.

Again, my self-wallowing victimhood was interrupted, this time by my mother.

Layki cousinetik,” she said, pointing with a nudge of her head to a relative of mine sitting on a table across from us. “Her father did not allow her to bring her boyfriend to the wedding.”

“Why not?” I said.

Manno min moustawena

Moustawa meen?

Moustwena ni7na bil 3ayli!” She replied confidently.

Oh, I thought to myself, someone else is feeling exactly what I’m feeling here tonight.

“But she should be allowed to bring anyone she loves,” I said to my mother. “Isn’t her love for him enough?”

My mother looked at me like I was speaking a language incomprehensible to her, that famous motherly look that screams out: “Yehh? Ma32oul??

I looked over at my cousin, sitting amidst 20 other people. The rest of the picture blurred out and I could only see her, in my own private spotlight, sitting back in her chair, defeated, clenching onto her cell phone, checking it repetitively for a message from her lover. She smiled politely at all the men who came over to say hello and then looked away into the distance, her expensive dress drooping, like her, from her thin shoulders. Little did she know, nor did I choose to tell her, that I shared her pain that night, that I know what it felt like to be so incredibly lonely in a crowd that was 300 of your closest family and friends. Her love, forbidden because of class, and my love, forbidden because of sexuality, were both checked out at the entrance of the wedding party that night. I looked around me and wondered who else among us was wishing they were somewhere else, who else was in love with someone of the wrong gender, wrong religion, wrong ethnicity, wrong age, wrong family, wrong anything. And I wondered if they too understood what was never so clear to me as it was that night: that the quest for all justice is one.


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