Thursday, May 15, 2008

Why the &#@$ do I know who Jamil Ratib is?

And why do I know a plethora of other Egyptian celebrities, as well?

Life is confusing enough being an Assyrian living in the United States, on top of that I have to feel awkward because I know who Salah El Saadani, Mahmoud El Mileggi, and Mirvat Amin are.

Although many twenty-something Assyrians living in the West have to wrestle with identity crisis and not knowing which culture out of the two polar-opposites to choose, I have a rather extreme case. I not only have the strike against me of having this identity crisis, I was also borne to a set of parents that were much older than the average Assyrian-American my age. My father was born in 1937, my mother was born in 1944, and I was born in 1981. I'll do the math for you: my father is now 71, my mother is 64, and I am 27. This creates not only for a culture gap between my parents and I, but also for a generation gap that is more severe in its unrelatability than the average generation gap.

I also have two older brothers; ages 39 and 36. Eventhough they both lean more to the American side of enculturation than I do, they are also more able to relate to the older culture of my parents being that they have a less severe generation gap, and because they went to school in the middle-east until they were in their mid-teens making the culture gap relativity less than the one I share with my parents as well.

So, you may be wondering: "You're Assyrian, why are you so well-informed on Egyptian celebrities?".

Ah yes. Yet another element in my cultural fucked-upness. Assyrians are the indigenous people of Iraq and parts of modern-day Turkey, Iran, and Syria. After the fall of the Assyrian Empire they remained on those lands as other governances sprang about. Today, the Assyrians stlil living in these countries have their own culture within the surrounding Arab, Turkish, or Iranian cultures. Even so, aspects of those surrounding cultures still influence theirs. My parents were born and raised in Iraq where, like the rest of the Arabic-speaking Middle East, Egyptian entertainment was the most spread-out and successful. Thusly, many Assyrians are still devoted in their fanship of Egyptian movie stars, naturally.

Of course, it does go both ways. Because of my being so much younger and Americanized than my parents they too, have been influenced as a result of their interaction with me. For example, my mother was looking at a magazine where she saw pictures of Christie Brinkley. She said she looked familiar and asked "Didn't she do those commercials with that!" My 64 year-old Assyrian mother knows who Chuck Norris is. Woah.

My family could be put in a lab and studied by anthropologists.

Oh and by the way, my favorite Egyptian actors are Farroukh El Fishawi and Nadia El Jundi.


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