Baking the Egg
by SUMEJA TULIC
The way it goes for not that pretty girls with freckles and wavy hair is to adopt a survivor mode that enables anticipations associated with pretty girls. And that is exactly what I did. I chose rich and to some extent delusional interpretations of my reality and coupled that with curiosity and outspokenness.
Of course, if you are raised in a confused patriarchal family – where your mother is your father and your father is a mother with short outbreaks of bad temper – this will get you into lots of trouble. For instance, the first time I was punished for my curiosity was when I asked why Jews and Muslims wear small hats and should one give it up? Had I not had my own interpretation of the slap that surprised both me and my father, I could have gone through life blaming him for my subsequent lack of courage, sense of adventure and maybe even lack of academic ambition, but I took pride in the fact that I felt fear and anger in my father’s eyes more than the warmth that seared my cheek. I just knew I had to.
Luckily, amongst the decomposed layers of things, ignorance and fear that made my 1990s, fragments of narratives slipped in. I never got the whole story or the accurate chain of events. All I knew was fueled by the excitement that rushed in while realizing that I had nowhere to go with my questions. My mother was a sad beautiful woman trapped in a desert, my father was tired and worried and most he could do was to explain verses from the Quran in a puppeteer sort of a way. Our school textbooks were the well-implemented thoughts of a poorly educated submissive male.
My knowledge on sex came from few completely different formats and sources. My school friends and graffiti could give speculative information on the subject in form of nervously written "Fuck." However, in one of the houses my family lived in, the former attendant left a stash of Van Damme movies and what I later in life figured out was a porn collection. I never got to the porn, but the action films that my parents kept contained a few riddling scenes. Some disturbed me, others – such as the one in which a man literally bakes an egg on women’s chest – made me confused.
Later, while visiting a friend, I stumbled on One Thousand and One Nights. Strangely, my parents didn’t mind me sitting by myself on a green couch in their friend’s house; reading soft erotic tales dipped in a sea of adventures every time we visited. Up to this day I don’t really know how did I learn what sex technically meant. Actually, when I think of knowing about it, it is sort of a memory. A defused and blurred collection of cinematic fragments starring random people I knew, places and walls in dusty towns I lived in.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that intertextuality doesn’t only come to the well read amongst us. Of course, well read people can line up few legitimate footnotes beneath their claim. Others can't. I hope I don’t come off as a completely ignorant and smug, bragging about one's self-credited genius, because, in all honesty, I'm not trying to. If anything, this is inspired by acute depression and envy that I regularly feel when reading and listening to some of you, dear peers from other places.
The drama of it all is that I can divert myself from my own fault by rightfully blaming few dictators and warlords along with my teachers and parents. All those were members of a gang that crippled the education and wider academic upbringing of entire generations. And it was so easy: they took books off shelves and put nothing instead. Literally nothing.
During the lunch breaks at school, I would sneak out and cross the highway. I would run very fast to a newspaper stand. The vendor was used to being confronted by angry fathers demanding a refund, so I lied, telling him my parents gave me money to buy a kids' magazine. Once I was back at school, beneath my blue school uniform, the colorful pages of the magazine would be glued by sweat to my body. I knew I did my part. The rest was up to somebody else.
Coming back to not that pretty girls with freckles and wavy hair: when you grow up to be a not that pretty woman with very cute freckles and God knows what kind of hair, you realize that your survival mode fails you badly when you are talking to that attractive guy who seems very smart. But this is something completely different and I am not comfortable talking about it just yet.
Sumeja Tulic is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer and photographer living in Sarajevo. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here. She last wrote in these pages about her childhood in Libya.
Photographs by the author. You can find more of her photography here.
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