I am finding that being woman in my 40s a peculiar and rather obtuse and dysmorphic endeavor. I would say that its like standing in the middle of a very noisy, flashing room, as I tower over a tiny, little hole in the floor that reveals an abyss of nothing just under the ground we all stand to shatter if regular movement is resumed. As if cohabitating, hormones, cellulite, career and covid were not enough. There is also this.
The peculiarity of it all is evident in the choice of what I’ve been watching, listening to or reading in the second year of the pandemic. There are definite themes of escapism, existentialism and emotional connectedness. But I have been rather consumed by questions pertaining to all of these topics, that really, I have found it rather difficult to conjure a clear idea of what I wish to express.
So much so in fact, that it’s taken me over a year to write anything about anything at all. That happens sometimes. Months, years, even decades go by when I can’t put down any words. (And, no, it’s not lost on me that only someone past a certain age has the privilege of listing ‘decades’ as a unit of time used passingly.)
I sincerely honor that I possess that privilege – that I am of an age, where a lot of time has passed in my life, and in hopes that more is to come. But, I don’t want to waste any of it listing my genealogy; something I had to spend most of my 20s and 30s talking through with strangers and acquaintances as they became friends in foreign lands. Suffice to say that in the last decade as I arrived into my 40s, many things I attribute to my history/background and foreground/life have in fact died a death in one way or the other; and perhaps not enough mourning took place. But either way, here I am lucky to find myself among the living. And yet, as I live longer on this planet, that hole that started off as a speck of dust is now ever expanding into a mass that my foot inches closer toward ever so slightly.
Maybe it all began when my father died a few weeks shy of eight years ago. I know I am not alone in feeling that jab of melancholy, that very particular one. Nearly half my friends have now lost a parent (predominantly fathers actually). I know that many people, irregardless of the relationship they had with said parent, relate. No matter how old we were when it happened, and that we know that while this invariably happens to everyone; nothing feels more personal and improbable that it leaves us feeling like foundlings, like strays.
I felt completely lost when my father died. Granted, I did always meander and the things of life happen: loving and losing the idleness and idealism of childhood against the waves of a family breakup, loving and losing some of my favourite people to the tides of life, loving and losing all of the two grandmothers I had and adored to the weathering of age, loving and losing many of my beloved cities and countries to the storms of war – that all took its toll. Tiny, compounding, and at the time inconspicuous wallops. But my father falling ill, and a few years later, his death, felt lambasting. Never was my noisy mind jolted into momentary deafening silence of nothingness like that. Jolted into absolute nothingness.
It’s the palpable nothingness of it all that has perhaps been growing aghast ever since. All the elements and aspects of regular life, the usual unassuming things that consume the day to day feel like they’re ever so slightly off. Life elbows and shoves, and I always feel like I step on my own toes and like I am getting in my own way, but, losing a parent is a catapult to hyper-reality and I don’t seem to have landed yet. Ever since, but particularly the last couple of years, it’s felt like the debris of daily life against the backdrop of the eye-sore that is the nothingness has just become more and more ostentatious.
That palpable nothingness amidst intensely experiencing everything-ness all at once is probably an outcome of living in a pandemic as well. Whatever it is, that is how I would describe being a 40 something. A juxtaposition of being constantly simultaneously aware of the fullness and emptiness of living ALL. THE. TIME. And that may explain why my viewing, listening and reading listings of the last year are a little all over the place, but, that is what started this post after a long hiatus, so I will share some of my indulgences:
FAMILY DRAMA AT ITS BEST / WORST
1- Scenes From A Marriage: When I first watched the first episode of This is US some years ago, I found Jack’s overt optimism full-blown infuriating; I felt like he was being over zealous and minimizing to overcompensate for something he majorly lacked. I was wrong. I love Jack. But all is not wasted as it turns out that is exactly how Jonathan is in Scenes From a Marriage, though.
2- This is Us
3- Euphoria: It’s not marketed to be about family per se, but in everything that it is and everything that it mourns and sets up as causality (dead fathers or so-absent-they-may-as-well-be-dead everywhere), it very much is one. Season One is very distinct, so are the the stand alone short films that came out during the height of the pandemic, as Part 1 and Part 2. They were beautiful, especially the Part 2. As for the show’s Season Two, it is a scripting and producing mess but there are aspects so truthful it hurt.
LONG TIME: CAN’T STOP/WON’T STOP
1- Succession (kind of a family drama too)
2- Top Boy
3- Peaky Blinders
3- And Just Like That (Well…kind of a long timer…a sequel of sorts)
FUNNY (and strangely all female leads)
1- The Chair
2- Call My Agent (French but cant’t wait for the British rendition – 10 Precent – to start end of April!)
3- Better Things
4- Never Have I Ever
5- Jameel Jiddan (Arabic on Shahid VIP – first of it’s kind, if imperfect)
6- Searching for Ola (Arabic on Netflix – fun and entertaining)
MIND NUMBING (Wouldn’t be caught dead before but can’t care less now)
1- Emily in Paris
2- Bridgerton: I like the period facelift a la Shonda and while Season One was more “compact”, Season Two meddles with far more interesting themes, but does it unevenly and superficially. Some of the newcomers, particularly Chandrithra Chandran, are very promising.
3- The Home Edit (Literally calms my nerves)
ARABIC FILMS NOT TO BE MISSED
1- Warsha (Short film, Lebanese)
2- Perfect Strangers (Yes, I am biased but still! Pan Arab)
3- Death of a Virgin (Lebanese)
4- Memory Box (Lebanese)
5- The Alleys (Jordanian)
5- Banat Abdel Rahman (Jordanian)
COMEDIANS ON NETFLIX
1- Janelle James
2- Taylor Tomlinson
3- Mo Amer
1- Good for You (Whiney Cummings)
2- Everything Brene Brown
3- Everything Kerning Cultures
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Teaching To Transgress by bell hooks
Love’s Executioner by Irvin D Yalom
A lot of content – more than I want to admit to scrolling. That is a list for another post.