I grew up in London, a city where almost 50% of marriages end in divorce.
In fact, by the time I was 12-years-old, most get-togethers were determined by custody agreements and whether or not my friend Charlotte was at her mum’s or dad’s house that particular weekend.
Falling out of love in London was easy.
My parents’ marriage ended after twenty years in London, and it wasn’t because it took that long to realise they weren’t happy.
My parents are Lebanese and even though my mum is half English, she was brought up in a traditional Arab household. For this piece, Lebanon means a small country in the Middle East, but it also implies pride, tradition and honour.
Rather than be seen to have failed or to have given up on their marriage, they spent years living on militant parallel lines. My brother, sister and I lived out our childhood in a volatile Gaza Strip that ran between them.
As children and shared property, we were a favourite territory for conflict; they threw rocks at each other across the abyss, and we would hide in a cupboard in our spare room eating biscuits in the dark.
In war, people call this friendly fire. In marriage, people call this war because you shouldn’t set your friends on fire.
I spent two years in counselling, suffering from crippling panic attacks because I was so disturbed by their arguments.
Why couldn’t we live like Charlotte? Why couldn’t my parents move into two different houses and share us amicably as British people do?
I’m going to say it’s because they are Arabs. I’m also going to say it’s because nine years ago when they stood in court and separated, there was still a waft of familial shame in the air.
Why in the 21st century is it still so difficult for us to acknowledge and talk about divorce amongst Arabs?
My parents own marital problems were like vicious cancer that would go into remission and appear somewhere else, more damaged and tumorous than the last time. Both their families regularly intervened on their behalf and offered up emotherapy that only ever staved off the big D * a little longer.
*I wish this were a Nicki Minaj reference, but it’s just a long-winded cancer analogy.