With parents remaining overprotective long into our adult lives, members of society judging us every step of the way, and not to mention the financial burdens that Instagram influencers fail to highlight, living our "best life" can be challenging for young Arab women.
If you're an Arab woman, and unless you were lucky enough to grow up among a progressive family and community, odds are you have at some point been conflicted between living your life to the fullest and abiding by social norms and expectations. You probably roll your eyes at quotes encouraging you to go wild and freely explore what life has to offer... Come on, have you met my oh-so-lovely Arab parents?
Due to the constraints imposed by our societies and families, expressing our genuine selves and leading the kind of lives we truly desire often come at a price so hefty it leaves us in a constant battle with ourselves and the people around us.
"Being an Arab girl pretty much means living a double life. At home, you are one person, and when you leave the house, you can be whoever you want to be," a female Lebanese psychology student, who comes from a Muslim family, told StepFeed.
"Your clothing, beliefs, actions, and the values you stand for all differ. You are pressured to pretend to comply with your parents' standards because, otherwise, you would give them a reason to doubt you and impose more restrictions when you go out," she added.
Many Arab parents have two arguments they religiously resort to while discussing matters they don't approve of with their daughters: "3ayb" and "You'll do that with your future husband." Yep, their arguments are so ironclad they give lawyers a run for their money.
Obsessively paranoid about how we are perceived by society, many parents try to impose restrictions on us, particularly when it comes to partying, staying out late, sleeping out, and of course, the greatest of all social sins: traveling with friends. Mind you, such restrictions know no age limit and sometimes remain in full effect for women in their late twenties or even older.
We are constantly treated like we represent an extension of some man, be it a father, brother, or husband. No matter how old we grow, society continues to view our actions as dependent on the approval of the men in our lives. As a result, choices that are supposed to be matters of personal freedom are out of the question until we get such approval.
Most frustratingly, these heightened restrictions on women are met with minimal limitations on men, who get to go on with their lives as they please and are rarely held accountable for their shortcomings.
Such constraints make it hard for us to be spontaneous and go through the wild experiences that living one's "best life" often entails. Instead, we unwillingly miss out on many potentially momentous experiences that could greatly shape our character and contribute to the development of our sense of identity.
Even if we successfully manage to join some "wild" experience, we are bound to micromanage our plan, thoroughly think of our every move, and sometimes even lie to our families — which pretty much sucks the fun out of it and leaves us with a creeping sense of guilt and paranoia.
"You live a life your parents are completely oblivious of because you don't want to upset them. In this situation, ignorance is bliss. You always feel like you are hiding something shameful and like you should constantly feel guilty, when in reality, it's just a lifestyle," the psychology student added.
Plus, many parents fail to understand that acts, like staying out late or sleeping out, do not necessarily mean you will be involved in "3ayb" or "haram" (socially or religiously frowned upon) activities. I mean, sometimes we simply want to study at the library overnight because it would boost our productivity.
Another go-to argument parents often rely on is, "What will people say about you?" This comes as people always seem to have plenty to talk about when it comes to young women.
Arab women are often thoroughly judged based on a deeply patriarchal microscope. People scrutinize every aspect of our lives, from what we wear, to where we go and who we spend time with, and they have the audacity to spread any remotely significant observation left, right and center. Of course, they don't simply relay the information but, instead, they spice things up with their own exaggerations and hypotheses.
Privacy seems to be a foreign concept in this regard, causing our entire lives to be put up on display for the public to mercilessly discuss and impose derogatory labels on.
Naturally, this makes it increasingly difficult to "go wild" without thinking about the social repercussions and sometimes forces us to either tone down our lifestyles or go above and beyond to live in crippling discretion.
Some might say we should fearlessly do what we please regardless of family and societal pressure but, frankly, not all of us have it in us to adopt a "f*ck it" attitude and remain deeply at odds with our parents.
Just like men are extended a sense of freedom and flexibility, we demand the autonomy to make our own decisions and lead the lives we feel are most compatible with our standards and beliefs, without risking our relationships with the people we love. Thanks to the women who have dared to challenge the status quo, we are slowly getting there.