02/28/2012 04:17 pm ET Updated Apr 29, 2012

Ways My Arab Family Screws With My Head

Sure, they are the most loving, caring family who often stay close, which means you can never escape them. They are like capitalism where greed is good. They keep moving the goal posts as you approach them. At times, it seems that your own family is never happy with what you have accomplished, and thus they always set the next milestone for you. Like if you tell someone here in America that you got a new job, they just say "Congratulations," but Arab families in some twisted ways would rain on your parade. It turns out that my family are masters of the back-handed compliments. Here's a sample:

  1. "Mom, I met a cool girl!" "Good for you," she says, "Is she from a good family or does she watch MTV all day?"
  2. "I got married!" She says, "Cool, I look forward to the day you will have kids and they will fill the house for us." -- you live in a refugee camp
  3. "Dad, I have a baby girl!" He replies, "Cool, I look forward to the day you have a boy who will protect that princess."
  4. "Brother, I got accepted into the master's program!" "Cool," he says, "I look forward to the day you get your PhD."
  5. "Sister, I got offered a job I have been wanting for a long time!" "Congrats, I look forward to the day you will have your own business."
  6. "Grandpa, I bought a new car." "Cool! I look forward to seeing this car trashed as it gives you joy and utility."
  7. "Honey... I hit my head!" "Sorry to hear that, I look forward to you living longer and hitting your head a few more times."
  8. On Facebook, you put a picture of a nice dish you made, and your cousin writes you this comment, "I look forward to the day you have kids who will savor their mother's cooking!"
  9. "Mom, I just got accepted into Harvard!" "Congratulations, one day you will make a nice doctor" -- what she refuses to believe is that you will be studying fashion design.

If the first thought on your mind is "WTF!" then we are on the same page.

Such comments are sometimes innocent and mean no harm, but sometimes, they are meant to zing you. Bringing one some humility, as a reminder they still have a long way to go. They are rarely meant to make the case that you are not good enough!

My issue with such comments is that they are no longer about you. The family members hijack your news and write on it all their own wishes and dreams -- all the things they think you would like because they themselves value them. It's tiring, really, to keep up with those games. I just keep a low profile and don't tell my family much.

I personally know many Arab immigrants here in the States who would rather live in America (and sometimes make less money) and not have to live close to chatty relatives with back-handed compliment syndrome.

On a positive note, such wishes keep me going, marching toward the next big thing in life; they give me goals and purpose. A drive that fuels your career and your life. I am sure Arabs are not the only ones who do that. Thank goodness there are the Italians.

[Hat Tip: Kellee]