x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Married life: A forgetful hubby can worsen mother's worries

The phenomena of the worrying mother was not confined to mine alone, nor to the Arab mother in general. My husband's own mother is just as bad when worry decides to strike.

Early on in our relationship, I had labelled Mr T as both absent-minded and forgetful. I did not choose those descriptors lightly; they shone as characteristics once proof accumulated against him.

I would ask him to get me something from the corner shop, and he'd rush off, eager to please, only to come back empty-handed.

"Where's the item?" I'd ask.

"Oops." He'd forgotten it in the car.

We have friends who live near the building in which I work. Whenever we intend to go to their place, Mr T ends up taking us to my workplace instead.

"It's just an automatic way of driving; I'm used to coming here," he would excuse himself.

There are some advantages to this. He can never remember the details of a movie we watched together, and I have a tendency to watch movies I like over and over - and over - again. His forgetfulness means I'll always have a repeat movie-watching partner who'll stare at the screen with fresh eyes each time.

Also, his readiness to admit to his absentmindedness means I can get away with a little forgetfulness of my own, without having to suffer any teasing or reprimands. (He, unfortunately, cannot claim the same.)

My inattentiveness is mostly concentrated around one specific area of my life: my cell phone.

My cell phone is really the bane of my existence. It is never there when I need it. It is never charged when I plan to rely on it. It has a tendency to remain behind in the most random of places, instead of joining me as I go about my day. In the past, various versions of it have decided to go off on their own and become lost permanently. One specific version decided to fall out of my back pocket and plop noisily into a toilet bowl. One of the most unfortunate versions made a getaway as I exited my car, landing most inconveniently behind one of the tyres where it remained unnoticed until I backed out of the garage and heard a strange crunch.

Just last week, I gathered my things as my work day came to an end and I headed home, confident that all my belongings were with me. Some time after I got home, however, I realised that was not the case. My stupid phone was nowhere to be found.

I didn't worry. I was sure I had forgotten it in the car and sent Mr T off to investigate. I also asked him to please bring up a few packages I had left in the back seat.

He came back with no phone - it was no where to be found. He also came back with no packages - he had forgotten.

Anyway, I still didn't worry. My phone, I surmised, was still at work, and would be there when I went in the next day.

As soon as I realised that my phone would remain out of my clutches for the remainder of the evening, I decided to give my mother a call and let her know, in case she tried to get a hold of me. Past experiences had proven that parents always try to call their children when said children's phones are lost, forgotten, sporting a dead battery or stuck in an elevator with no reception.

I was right; she said she had tried to get in touch and was just beginning to worry. Our conversation was brief and sweet, no reprimands. I applauded myself for letting her know so quickly, before any worrying had set in.

Except, when I arrived at work the next morning, I had two emails, from two different colleagues, informing me that I had forgotten my phone and that it was ringing continuously.

"I looked at the screen, and it was your mum every time," said both emails.

My colleagues had stashed the phone away in my top desk drawer, hoping, I'd supposed, that it would muffle the incessant ringing.

I'd retrieved it, and stared at the seven missed calls from my mother, all made in the span of 10 minutes. In the course of staring, three different colleagues came up to inform me that I had forgotten my phone, that it had rung and rung and rung, and that each time, it was my mother on the other end.

Embarrassed, I began to form a quick lie, something about a sudden family emergency that had my mother desperate to reach me, and that she wasn't normally like that.

I needn't have worried. Each one of my colleagues had their own stories of 20 missed calls in five minutes from a mother convinced that a brutal murder had occurred, simply because she could not reach her offspring in an instant. I loved hearing the stories of mothers calling distant friends of their children, just because they lived in the same city, begging them to go check on a daughter or son who happened to have misplaced their phone.

"I call my mother to tell her I'll be in Pilates class for an hour so she doesn't panic when I don't answer my phone," said one American colleague.

"I call my mother every time I'm pulled into a meeting and tell her I'll be busy, otherwise she'll work herself up into a frenzy if she can't reach me at the exact minute she decided we have to talk," said a British co-worker.

This phenomena of the worrying mother, it seemed, was not confined to mine alone, nor to the Arab mother in general. I say this because Mr T's own mother is just as bad when worry decides to strike, if not worse. Thanks to a few episodes where Mr T and I left the cinema only to each be met with seven missed calls on our phones, and messages from all his siblings imploring us to "CALL MUM NOW", my husband has learnt his lesson. Now, he always lets his mother know when we head to the cinema, so she refrains from worrying for the following two hours.

She begged us to install a landline when we moved into our apartment, because reception was so bad in our building that she couldn't always reach us on our mobiles. Sometimes, after Mr T pulls into the parking lot, he calls his mother to let her know we arrived home, but we still have a long lift ride up to the 65th floor, so if she can't reach us for the next few minutes, there's no need to worry.

When we come back from a day in Dubai and forget to let her know we arrived safely in Abu Dhabi, we get scolded. Badly.

And because Mr T is the "absent-minded one", and I am supposedly the "responsible one", it is left up to me to ensure our mothers are never left in a position to cause worry.

This is way too much pressure on the shoulders of someone who doesn't even like the phone, let alone can remember where it is half the time.




Hala Khalaf is the deputy Arts & Life editor at The National