Sunday, January 24, 2010

International Fraternity of Fatherhood

While I find many aspects of Arab masculinity mystifying, there are several elements I enjoy quite a bit. Today, I would like to highlight how the social order of parents is significantly different here than in the West. When parents with young children meet in this area, there is an immediate expectation of camaraderie by virtue of their roles as parents. It is almost expected that as soon as you encounter each other, there is an assumed default level of friendship because you are parents.

For example, families in a park will automatically interact with each other's children much more readily that in the West. This takes the form of sharing treats, joining in on group games, and easy conversation. By contrast, in the West, we often expect that there should be some kind of invisible barrier of privacy (even in public places). If a kid gets hurt or scared on a playground in Beirut, the nearest adult parent of any of the kids will step in to comfort or help.

On a family-level basis, this is already different enough, but it is even more divergent when these interactions occur between fathers. For example, between fathers, one might hold a door open for another, or yield a preferential place in a line, to help the other out. It appears to me that among men-who-have-kids, there is a commonality of social group that transforms you from the status of 'other' into a shared clan-like identity.

It's very handy.


  1. I love this. I don't think fatherhood was like that a generation ago. Motherhood might not have been either for that matter.

  2. I also love this. It's why I enjoyed the Middle East more after I had kids - because I was finally allowed into the club :). Well said.