One of the main miscommunicated things teens and parents struggle with is the idea that a parent’s needs as a child are not the same as their own child’s needs. Times change, traditions are uplifted or enforced, trends come in and fall out, and beliefs rapidly switch; growing up in the 70s is entirely different than growing up in the 2000s. The differences are so extreme. It’s quite scary for some of us really, growing up with no internet, social media, mobile phones, or even Britney Spears and Beyoncé is just unfathomable to us, just like all of these things and our attitudes towards them are unfathomable to a lot of parents.
Back in the day – 20 to 50 years ago – the world was slipping into capitalism. While this is not an economics centered article, economics is vital to it. Slipping into capitalism meant the introduction and the indoctrination of capitalism. Suddenly, everything was about money, especially to those who grew up in the Gulf and lived through the birth of the UAE. Your parents (our grandparents) offered lots of borders and traditions and focused a lot on what it meant like to be a family. However, they did not focus on the material things as much, the things that made you feel loved as per your societal socialization. If your parents sent you to a private school in the 80s, that was big. If not, especially when they couldn’t afford to, that made many feel unloved. This was the start of the extreme classism we face today. It started with the saying “when the son of the gardener married the daughter of the pasha”. This probably seems pointless so far, but it’s the buildup to what we’re trying to say.
Growing up with the internet gave our generation and the ones below us a ton of unsupervised accessibility, to anything and everything that can cross your mind. Thus, we faced many many many things that our parents and their parents before them even haven’t. Cyberbullying, discrimination, impossible beauty standards, the spreading of misogynistic ideas and values, and the absence of morality and ethics, and instead of being exposed to love, all we faced was hate. That sounds a bit extreme and dramatic, but all you have to do is open the archives of Cosmopolitan, Vogue, or Harper’s Bazaar to realize how extreme everything was.
Our parents weren’t wholly nutritious either, a lot of us were exposed to material love, not emotional love, where everything became about what you could get or what you were deprived of based on your behavior. Thus enforcing the dichotomies of what was and wasn’t acceptable through material love. We’re not saying that unconditional love was not there, because it was. But it was also about the way the love was wrapped, for yes, the wrapping matters very much. It was telling your daughter “you’re gorgeous” and buying her that dress she liked when she got good grades, it was telling your son “you’re all grown up” when he kept in the tears and buying him that new video game when he scored a medal in his swimming championship. There was no acceptance of humanity, there was no mercy on friends, it was all about judging people around us, there was so much pressure on being a “ragel” and a “banoota” – the product of our grandparents really, and so much pressure on showing off your material possessions as if they determined your worth as a human being – the product of inherited capitalism.
What we call emotional nutrition is a need for us. Something that many don’t acknowledge, is our need for raw human love. Our need for hugs and kisses without having done something to “earn” them, for positive affirmations without having gotten those A+s, for someone to listen to us without being cynical and undermining our problems, for anyone to offer advice without having to scathingly point out our mistakes, for someone to offer raw unconditional love without expecting anything in return. It is to accept us wholly and fully as we are, as human beings.
Nayyirah Waheed summed this all up in one poem:
“I will tell you, my daughter
Of your worth
Not your beauty
Every day. (your beauty is a given. Every being is
Knowing your worth
Can save your life.
Raising you on beauty alone
You will be starved.
You will be raw.
You will be weak.
An easy stomach.
Always in need of someone telling you how
Beautiful you are.
– Emotional Nutrition”