two homes.

October 8, 2014

I hate the movie Juno.

I liked it when I first saw it in the theater. Or at least, I didn’t hate it. I found it quirky and charming, exactly what it was intended to be. I liked the sweet, simple soundtrack songs by Kimya Dawson. I liked Juno’s cheeseburger phone. I loved the retro-esque (and subtly subversive) window art at Bren’s nail shop. I had to blink back a tear when (spoiler alert, but not really, because if you’ve even seen a preview for the movie, you know that Juno does not get an abortion) Juno goes running out of the abortion clinic and Su-Chin calls after her, “God appreciates your miracle!” (And I’m pro-choice.)

But when I watched the movie a second and a third time, I noticed something that I hadn’t paid too much attention to when I saw it for the first time, and it really stuck under my craw. (Again, spoiler alert, but you know what, this movie is like, eight years old or something. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can’t hold me responsible for spoiling it for you.)

No one tells Paulie’s parents anything.

This kills me. I cannot stomach the way the movie is basically like, “Well, Paulie’s mom is fat and ugly and doesn’t like Juno, so it’s okay that no one tells her that her son knocked up his friend and now they’re giving the baby away and she will never know that she has a grandchild out there.”

Am I the only one who thinks that this is just terrible? I mean, I’m fat. I’m probably going to get fatter. I’m probably not going to like all of my kids’ friends. Does that mean I don’t deserve to be informed if (God forbid) my child has impregnated or has been impregnated? There’s this one scene where Juno comes over to Paulie’s house, is basically a rude little snot to Paulie’s mother–because remember, Paulie’s mother is fat and ugly and does not like Juno, although I can’t say that I blame her, given how completely entitled Juno acts when she comes over to visit Paulie. If you totally disregard what I say to you and then dart past me and run up the stairs in my home, damn straight I’m going to chase you, you little brat. Who the hell do you think you are? And quite frankly, I think Paulie’s mom was much too nice when she didn’t knock down the door to Paulie’s room after Juno slammed it in her face. I would have dragged that girl out of my house by the belt loops of her edgy army surplus cargo pants.

And then, after Juno slams the door in Paulie’s mother’s face, she sits down and actually tells Paulie that her parents have agreed not to “rat him out” to his parents! Because, you know, Juno’s parents are cool.

No, Juno’s parents are horrible. Horrible.

I mean, I’m all for privacy rights for teenagers. I don’t think that I am entitled to read everything teenage Lavender writes on her computer. I don’t think that I am entitled to scour teenage Lavender’s phone for evidence of transgression. People, including teenagers, are entitled to private thoughts, private communication, private feelings, and private lives.

But I do draw lines. Pending reproduction and trouble with the law are deal-breakers. I want to know about those things, especially when my children are teenagers. Yep, I am entitled to know about those things. Paulie’s mom was certainly entitled to know about those things–especially since Paulie was still living in her house, eating the Hot Pockets that she bought for him, and wearing the running shorts that she laundered in color-safe bleach for him.

But there’s this one line in the movie that redeems it for me. Just one. It’s when Juno says, “I never realize how much I like being home until I’ve been someplace really different for awhile.”

And when Juno says this, I just want to hug her and cry and say, “Oh, little Juno! I know how you feel, spirit sister!”

We’re back in Missouri for a few weeks, and it feels so great to be home. Because Riyadh is undoubtedly someplace really different that I’ve been for awhile. It’s not inherently better or worse. It’s just…well, really different.

It’s strange how some of the superficial things I always said I missed when I was back in Riyadh are the things that I don’t care so much about now that I’m here. But there are other things that I didn’t even realize I was living without.

Like fresh Ozarks morning air. No desert dust. No city traffic exhaust. Just air. Heavy with dew. Clean. It’s so weird how you can almost taste the air when you breathe it. And it’s even weirder how delicious it is.

As if the universe is trying to really hammer home how much I am missing when I am away, I have had almost no issues with allergies, asthma, or migraines while home on this trip. Generally, I’m so busy self-medicating here that a return to Riyadh is at least a relief on that front. But this time, it seems I won’t have that ease to cushion the blow of having to leave my home.

My home.

I’m so deeply conflicted.

When we landed in New York, I had an interesting little conversation with the passport control officer at the window where we got our passports stamped. He thumbed through our passports, looked at our border declaration form, and then looked up at us, confused by where I had written “USA” as our country of residence. Yes, I know that sounds nuts. Obviously, we live in Saudi Arabia. But identifying Saudi Arabia as my country of residence felt so…final. Like I was somehow permanently discarding my American identity (which, of course, is ridiculous).

“So…” the officer said. “Which of you live here?” He looked at Saleh and said, “Do you have a green card?”

“I’m a citizen. So is our daughter,” I said. I pointed to our (American) address on the form. “That’s our house. It belongs to us.”

“But…you’re not residents?”

I froze. I must have looked like a deer caught in the headlights, because the officer said to me gently, “It’s okay. You can say that your home is in Saudi Arabia.”

I let out a deep breath. “Yeah, I guess technically, we do live in Saudi Arabia.”

The officer crossed out “USA” and wrote “Saudi Arabia” in its place. Then he continued with the process of stamping our passports and said in a jovial voice, “I thought so! Because if he doesn’t have a green card, he can’t be a resident, and I’m sure he doesn’t want to live away from his girls. He would miss you too much!”

“That’s true!” Saleh agreed.

The officer finished stamping and handed the stack of passports back to me. Smiling, he said, “Welcome home!”

I wanted to hug him.

Yes, I am home. But on this visit home, my third since I moved to Riyadh, I feel more acutely than ever that Riyadh is home now, too. There are constantly little things that remind me of Riyadh, or make me think about how different Riyadh is. There are moments when I think about how much southern Missouri is a part of me and has shaped me in ways I never even noticed until I left. There are moments when I think about how I don’t know how I will be able to bear having to leave it. And then there are moments when I think about how I wouldn’t be able to bear never going back to Riyadh.

I don’t want to leave.

I don’t want to stay.

I don’t want to leave.

I don’t want to stay.

It’s so hard. But it’s okay. The transition to having two homes is never easy, and like it or not, I have two homes now. And no matter where I am, home is waiting for me. That’s a really nice feeling.

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  • YankeeDoodleSaudi

    <3 I know exactly how you feel!!!!!!!

    Have an amazing time and enjoy the home where your heart (and behind) is :)

  • KSA-Diana-Armanjani Salah

    I always enjoy reading your blogs Nicole and I really liked this post. I don’t know this feeling yet because I just left my home (USA-Arizona) and have only been in Riyadh a few months but im sure I will gain these same feelings as I go home on visits and return to my other home here in Riyadh. Thanks for sharing such an intimate part of being married to Saudi Man, some people don’t see how hard it really is. But very comforting to read this and know that I am not alone when I have those feelings! OH Boy I just started my journey too!

    • Nicole

      <3 best wishes on your own journey, diana!

  • djdfr

    I think of it as having a home where some of the rooms are far away from each other.

    • Nicole

      i love that. i think i’m going to start thinking of it that way. thank you! <3

  • KSA-Diana-Armanjani Salah

    Sounds accurate djdfr!!! And Nicole I can not help my self from posting after seeing the instagram pics {husband wont allow me an intstagram account or I would comment on that account anyhow your daughter is so ADORABLE! MASHALLAH on her Lil Jelly Man Kelly video! she is so, so, so, Cute Nicole words can not even describe! I can not wait until I can have and hold in my own arms soon—-INSHALLAH!! I just moved to KSA and I am getting the hang of life here in Riyadh It is quite the change from y Arizona/Mexican American Life But I do see a lot of similarities of my strict Hispanic Mexican Culture intermix with his strict Saudi Culture and OH BOY WHAT A MIX WE ARE!!!!
    we a PERFECT MIX!!! I CAN NOT BELIEVE how similar cultures are!!

    • Nicole

      awwww, thank you so much, diana! your comment warmed my heart–and i hope that you are able to have your own little ones soon! <3 we need to meet in person when i am back in riyadh!

  • Risi

    Have to say….wow!…Latinos ( Hispanics)are some of the most progressive people around here!
    In the forefront of everything from women’s rights to gay rights to civil rights.
    It’s been that way for decades now.
    When the priest at a local parish put up signs in a church yard supporting anti-gay legislation that was up for a vote, a Mexican-American woman tore them all down and told off the priest ( very publicly) ” It’s MY church,too!”
    I was just in court a while ago filing a declaration supporting a group of them , led mostly by women,who were fighting police brutality.
    They won.
    The most successful demonstrations in the region have been organized by Latinos.
    Good for them.

  • Kate

    What you’re feeling about the home thing is 100% typical of immigrants and/or people who live in between two different countries. I’ve lived between Europe and the US for my whole life. I identify with both cultures, and (at the same time!) also identify with neither. I speak two languages, both of which I learned at the same time. So, I can never answer the “first” language questions. I had two first ones. When I am in one place, I miss the other yet I am still glad to be where I am. I also feel at home in both, but at the same time not quite perfectly at home in both. I am outside of both cultures, which gives me distance, but at the same time I am so close to aspects of both cultures which makes it incredibly hard to choose one over the other. There is a whole body of literature about exile – voluntary or involuntary (including immigration type of “exile”) – that touches on these same feelings. It’s pretty interesting to read.

    • Nicole

      i am guessing that how you feel is exactly how my daughter will feel as she grows up. :)

  • American Girl

    I can totally relate to how you feel. My husband is from Kuwait, me America. We have a home in both. However, I was able to convince my husband that I really ‘need’ to live in America for a few years since I had already lived abroad 10 years when we met. He happily agreed and neither of us have looked back (other than to visit family a few times a year). I’m not sure that he would ever move back to Kuwait though it was the only home he had ever known before. But he’s adapted so well in America and made so many positive connections that it’s just ‘home’ for both of us. We have a small zoo (3 dogs/2 cats) and they’re the love of our lives — neither of us can fathom moving them to Kuwait.

    While we still have our home in Kuwait, and the initial move involved lots of culture shock (more for me than him), it no longer offers the same level of comfort as our life in America.

    Wishing you and your family all the best.