“I’m moving out of my parents’ house,” said the girl at the office and we all screamed, “Noooo.” A woman in her 20s is a blossoming flower with beautiful potential; she hasn’t been exposed to enough villainy to fully comprehend the ugly routes life takes you. She seeks freedom and independence, she needs to make her own mistakes to learn, and it always seems that the first logical step is to move out.
Then along come the struggling parents, the opposing friends and the gossip. What young women think would be a scene from Risky Business, dancing around in their underwear soon turns into bills, safety issues, preconceived judgments and endless disappointments.
For a more realistic depiction of the situation, we asked four single Egyptian women in their 20s and 30s and from different backgrounds to share with us the ugly reality about living alone in the city.
“I always feel like an easy target for anyone who wants to break into the house. Other than locking the door obsessively all the time, sometimes I can’t sleep at night if I hear any noise or the wind. For a long time, I used to sleep with the TV on.” – N.H. told us.
“I never go out without leaving the lights on, so people think there is someone inside. My doorman was the only person who made me feel safe, especially during the revolution. He would call me to ask when I was coming back so he wouldn’t lock the building gate, then I found out he made copies of my keys and broke into my house.” – L.T. told us.
“I never sleep at home. I will never regret choosing to live alone because the situation at my parents’ place was very toxic at times. However, I only sleep when I’m around friends and they always comment about how much I sleep. They still haven’t guessed why.” – A.A. told us.
“When I first moved out, I would miss paying gas and electricity bills because I was never home. I would spend three weeks without having someone clean the house. It was impossible to meet utility suppliers on weekdays because I work. The fridge was always filled with expired food because I never had time to cook.
Now I have found ways to work around the chaos. I leave post-it notes on the electricity and gas meter saying I left money with the doorman. Unfortunately, my free time during the weekends is mostly spent at home with the cleaning lady. I never buy too much groceries no matter how excited I get in the supermarket. If I manage to take a day off at work, I make sure all the workers I need are available that day.“ – L.T. told us.
“My biggest disappointment was when my friends’ parents stopped feeling comfortable around me. They have known me for years, but the minute I made a bold decision, they cut me out of their lives and they constantly try to turn their kids against me.” – A.A. told us.
“You can be the most conservative woman they know, yet you will always be slut-shamed. It starts with the broker who promises to find you a place where no one will ask questions. You need to be a very tough girl to handle that kind of social stigma.” – S.R. told us.
“Men I have known for five, six years tried to take advantage of me.” – N.H. told us.
“I have been living alone for years and I love it. The only thing I hate is that look on people’s faces the second I mention that I live alone. They start asking why and I start explaining, but sometimes I lie at work and say my aunt lives in the same building. It’s like they are always looking for a reason that makes sense to them. The whole situation is very alien to Egyptians.” – L.T. told us.
“Eating alone every day can get kind of miserable after a while. Ramadan soon becomes your favorite month of the year with all the fetar invitations.” – L.T. told us.
“Sometimes I get too bored at night, so I start sleeping somewhere different, like the couch or another room.” – A.A. told us.
“Starting from scratch is very challenging. There is no messing around; you need to work non-stop so you can afford to furnish your new house and pay all the bills that you never knew existed when you were at your parents’. I spent a very long time with nothing but a mattress.“ – N.H. told us.
“The luxury of wasting money on trips and clothes is long gone. Sometimes, it feels that if I ever ask my parents for money, they will think I failed and they finally proved me wrong, so I make sure I always have money.” – A.A. told us
“My father disowned me when I told him I was moving out. He barged into my new place, attacked me and wanted to call the police. They see how much I’ve grown and how hard I work, yet I will never have their support. “ – S.R. told us.
These courageous women have a million reasons why they will never regret living alone, yet the judgments and harsh preconceived notions are sometimes too hard to handle. If you have been blessed with a living situation with your family that allows you to be a free, self-expressing soul, have mercy on those who aren’t as lucky. A woman who decides to lead her own life and strives for independence is the last kind of person to be slut-shamed by our society.
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