After asking her some questions I started to feel less and less camaraderie. She was not like me at all. I asked her what her favorite Arabic food was, and she said she hated them all and that her body would convulse at the thought. I asked her if she knew the language and she shook her head “no,” like this concept of learning Arabic was strange.
This made me think that maybe it’s different for us half-Arabs to have a mother that is Arab than a father that is Arab. So I did some research. I googled all kinds of things that would help me figure out why some of my cousins with one Arab parent seemed more immersed in the culture. I didn’t find anything on the internet, but I did my own study with a huge test demographic: my own family!
Here’s what I found out:
Some of my cousins that were raised by an Arab dad and American mom felt that they didn’t get the full Arab experience because their dads were busy working and their moms were at home. They didn’t eat the food growing up as much as they would have liked because their moms did most of the cooking. As much as the moms would have loved to learn how to make Arabic food, it’s a hard thing to learn mainly because Arabic mother-in-laws didn’t write down the recipes. That might change now that everything is on YouTube! (Watch out, teitas everywhere!)
My “half-half” cousins felt that they would have learned more Arabic at home if they had more time with their Arab dads teaching them the language. Since Arab dads worked all the time and spent little time at home with their children, it was a lot of work to train their kids on how to speak, read and write Arabic, unless he brought them to work with him at the store and taught them throughout the day, but this was a near impossible task.
Some of my cousins were lucky enough to have Arab dads that knew how to cook and raised them on the customs. They felt that they were really immersed in the culture. They were not lacking in knowing more about the Arab culture at all.
Well, that just blew apart my whole theory! So, what makes us feel like we are more Arab than other half-Arab people? If it’s not our moms versus our dads raising us up in a mixed home, then what is it?
I think the more cousins I asked, the more I started to realize than it all depends on the individual. I was given a choice to embrace the customs and culture the older I got. If someone is not interested, then I think he will not gravitate towards the Arab side of his heritage.
I have always leaned towards learning more Arab traditions and language, and I teach them to my own children. I thought it was because my mom was Arab, and if I had had an Arab dad, it would not be this way. Now, I’m thinking that it really has nothing to do with it all, and that it’s only up to me.
It’s not a competition, and there is no trophy for winning the “Most Arab” award. We can all be proud that we have inherited a culture rich with great music, food and traditions. Besides, we all know I would totally kick my cousin Joy’s butt if there were an award for Arabic karaoke singing!