As I was sitting with some family members who were visiting my mother after a recent surgery, the issue of the “help” in Lebanon came up.
I sat and listened as the “grown-ups” spoke about the maids that entered their homes and left. One of my family members, however, had never had a maid. With her turning 40 and an increasing backache, she was considering the idea – especially with one being available at her disposal the moment she says yes to her sister’s offer.
But that woman was worried. The cause of her anxiety? She only had one bathroom at her house and God forbid the maid uses the same bathroom she uses.
I never thought the passages present in the book, The Help, would actually pop up in such dramatic fashion in a Lebanese society. I never thought for a moment the bathroom issue was actually an issue in Lebanon. Aren’t those maids cleaning the bathroom to begin with? Aren’t we, in 2012, at a level of culture and knowledge that is sufficient to know that, unlike popular belief, those maids are not bringing in with them a ton of foreign viruses the like of which Lebanon has never seen before?
I replied to my family member. I was strict and somewhat rude in my reply. I think she was offended but I didn’t care. I knew Lebanese society was racist but you never think it goes on in your family until it actually takes place in front of you.
But that wasn’t the end of it. Flash forward a few days later, I was having dinner with a couple of friends my age. And if you thought the older generation, with its minimal contact early in life with “the help,” may be justified somewhat in the racist ideas that swirl through their heads, then what “excuse” could you come up with when a twenty two year old agrees with my 40 year old family member about the bathroom issue? The justification given was: but they are “dirty.”
And it is then that the need for a Lebanese version of The Help became obvious to me. Many people had spoken about how that book, and movie, were very relevant to our society today. Most of those people had thought about that only fleetingly, for the few moments after having finished the book or the movie. Some had even blogged about its relevance
But then I thought, why not have an online version of The Help, adopted to Lebanese society, that tells stories of the maids that come to our homes, before something bad happens to them and their story becomes top news and activists get outraged at the injustice in our society when it comes to “the help.”
If you have your own maid story you want to share, don’t hesitate to contact me. I’ll start with telling the story of one of the maids that came into our home really soon.