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31 DBBB: Day Two (on day four but who’s counting): the upside of the nanny state

I live in what we might call a nanny state.  In many instances there are limits on internet access, there are very strict rules governing alcohol consumption because it’s a Muslim country, there are signs outside the mall entrances that list the codes of conduct. I don’t have to wear hijab and while it is suggested that you dress respectfully, no one polices the streets measuring hemlines or tells you to cover up your tattoos.

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So I know, I know, what about the loss of personal freedom, what about individual choice, what about all that good stuff?

Look. I am totally a big fan of personal freedom, big fan of choice, never met an institution that I didn’t eventual come to dislike, including every school I’ve ever attended. I think Wendy Davis pretty much rocks it. She–and a few other women in Texas (Wendi Aarons, The Bloggess, the fabulous Erica M)–are the only reasons I can think to move to Texas.

But I digress. I want to point out that if a person were to have a pre-teen, or a teen-ager, raising that child isn’t all bad.  Consider:

1. Limited internet access: thus no porn (although hypothetically if a person had an internet connection and a VPN at a person’s office….well… never mind).

2.  No “inappropriate” youtube videos.

3.  No underage drinking.  And even above-age drinking gets handled differently: because the liquor laws are so serious here, any adult who goes to anywhere and plans to have even one glass of wine doesn’t then get behind the wheel of a car. People drive like lunatics here, but at least they’re sober lunatics.

4.  No drugs. I mean, I suppose there are drugs somewhere, but among the teenagers and college kids I know? Not a thing. Why? Because if you’re caught with drugs you’re deported or thrown in prison. Simple as that. Now, don’t get me wrong: if a responsible adult would like to unwind with recreational pharmaceuticals, hypothetically speaking? Well, then, that person is a grownup and make his own choices. Do I want my almost-thirteen year old to “unwind” in the same way? Nope, no way, no, nada.

5.  The streets are safe and the crime rate is low, so if a kid were to be walking home from somewhere at night, I wouldn’t worry…

6.  Plus taxis are easily available and cheap. Darling Husband, who grew up in Manhattan in the dark years of the 1970s, remembers that when he was a teen-ager, he spent almost his entire allowance on cabfare back from friends’ houses at night, because to walk the streets of New York alone was to take your life in your hands.

7. Malls. Okay, malls aren’t entirely the “nanny state,”and mostly I hate malls because they make me feel like an overstimulated rat in a maze. But consider this fact: when it’s 120F in the shade (as it was today), where are your kids going to go when they need to get out of the house?  The malls are huge and kids can roam at will, leaving you free to spy on them do your errands. It’s a win-win!

So there you have it. The nanny state ain’t all bad.

And now, by virtue of this list, I’ve accomplished Day Two of the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Challenge. Granted, it’s Day Four of the challenge, but at least it’s done.  It’s Independence Day in the States and we’re celebrating a version of that here, too: today was (finally) the last day of school for my kids. Which means that, yes, their British school set them free on Independence Day. I love irony, don’t you?

 

 

Continue Reading · on July 4, 2013 in Abu Dhabi, expat, Kids, UAE

Day 1: Pitching

To pitch implies that someone will catch, don’t you think? So to pitch, from the very get-go, is itself a hopeful act.

And yet of course–as thousands of Hollywood wannabes could tell you–the hope of “pitch” almost always ends in despair, with the “not for us at the moment,” or “mmmm…we were thinking of going more with a JosswhedonjjabramsNOTYOU type” …

Or the plain “nope, hated it, don’t turn in your waitressing apron just yet, toots.”

To write a pitch for a piece of writing–to take alllll those words and boil them down to some kind of nugget–a nugget that someone will want to catch? Brutally hard.  You try it. Distill something you wrote into a sentence. Or take the sentence and boil it into three words.

I’ve embarked on the yeahwrite 31 Days to Build a Better Blog: at the end of July, this blog will be bionic, I swear, leaping tall buildings, ripping phone books in half with its bare hands; it’s going to be a lean, mean, blogging machine.

But first I need a pitch.

The tagline for this blog is “perpetually ambivalent New Yorker…now living in Abu Dhabi, UAE.”  I’m going to drop the UAE because let’s face it, no one really knows what the hell those letters stand for anyway, and everyone already thinks that Abu Dhabi is Dubai, so whatever.  I can’t drop “ambivalent” because that pretty much structures my entire psyche and while, yes okay, maybe I should work on that, July is about blogwork, not selfwork. So hands off my ambivalence.

But then we get to the whole “yeah, but what the hell is a mannahattamamma, anyway?”  No one wants to hear the story of finding the name for this blog, which involves long detours into Walt Whitman’s poetry (the opening lines from his beautiful poem “Mannahatta” were originally on the masthead of the blog), so that’s out. (Yes, originally I wanted Manhattanmamma, but someone had already bought the domain name, dammit.)

Okay, so I have sort of a tagline (perpetually ambivalent New Yorker … now living in Abu Dhabi) but I need that nugget-y bit.  Gist, pith, boiled-down essence,whatever you want to call it.

How about this:

Just after Arab Spring, a Manhattan mom left New York with her two young sons, her husband, several soccer balls, and eight thousand lego pieces in order to work as a literature professor in Abu Dhabi, on the edge of the Arabian Gulf.  As a New Yorker, Mannahattamamma chronicled the complications and comedy that emerged as she and her husband negotiated jobs, children, and New York’s public schools. In Abu Dhabi, Mannahattamamma still writes about family, politics,culture, and education, but her observations are filtered through the frequently absurdist lens of expat life in in a desert city where gold-plated cars and camels are equally common sights. Lawrence of Arabia it ain’t…but even so, life here still sometimes borders on epic.

That’s about 110 words. Might not be grabby enough, or funny enough. Might not be…enough enough.

What do you think? Comments in comments please? Be nice but be tough. And if your eyes have glazed over somewhere in the second paragraph…let me know (when you wake up).

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 man at a festival a few months ago

Continue Reading · on July 2, 2013 in Abu Dhabi, expat, NYC, Travel, Uncategorized, writing

Where I’ve Been

It’s July 1 today, which means that our summer holiday official starts in five days. Yes, America, my children are still in school and will be until July 4, when, with a touch of utterly unintentional irony, their British school officially ends for the year and sets them free.  I’ve spent much of the last month preparing to move, then moving, then recovering from the move and I’ve realized one thing:

Dante Aligheri never moved house, because if he had, at least one of the rings of hell in The Inferno would have been covered in bubble-wrap, cardboard, and packing tape.

In the meantime, although the pages and pages of the novel bouncing around in my head are…still in my head, I’ve written something for The National about the ridiculous driving here (an endless source of fear and amusement); posted a few times on BlogHer; written something for the World Mom’s Blog that should be out in a few days (and in the meantime you should go read the other stuff that’s posted there now); and written this short piece for the Yeah Write page. The amazing Erica, who also writes at freefringes, created the yeahwrite space as a place for good writing to thrive on the interwebz and this summer, she’s hosting something called “31 Days to Build a Better Blog.”  Some of the advice will be blog-specific, but some (like this piece by moi), is good advice for all writers.

I’m going to work through this 31 days thing; I figure if I can’t trim my actual physique, maybe I can whip this blog page into shape.  Stay tuned (I know, you can’t wait) for the daily blog exercises.  First up? I have to describe this blog in 100-150 words. I hate brevity. Brief is brutal. What did Mark Twain? You can have a three-page report on something in two weeks, or a ten-page report in three days.  If you’ve got suggestions, leave ’em in comments. Be nice.

In the meantime, two photos about moving. For Caleb, the upside of this:

boxes

Is that there are boxes to play with.  I think it’s a version of when life gives you lemons…  (And for those of you with small children in your lives, if you don’t know the two fabulous picture books Not A Box and Not a Stick, you need to find them & read them with your small fry.)

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Continue Reading · on July 1, 2013 in Abu Dhabi, writing

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