Gender & Identity, Life

My marriage is a Tupac vs. Dashboard Confessional showdown

"Um, can we change the song?" my husband asks.

“My hopes are so high that your kiss might kill me
So won’t you kill me
So that I die happy
My heart is yours to fill or bu –”

“Um, can we change the song?” my husband asks with the twitchy-eyed look of someone who was forced to listen to a compilation of “Fingernails on a Chalkboard: Greatest Hits!”

“What, you don’t like it?” I ask, doubly offended. Once personally offended and a second time, of course, for Chris Carrabba.

“It’s just a little, um, whiney? And the lyrics are…just a bit…cheesy,” my husband confesses after only a minute and a half of listening to my high school anthem.

“Okay, what do you want to listen to?” I say, consoling the sobbing sixteen-year-old me curled in a fetal position in the recesses of my mind.

“Slick Rick,” he says confidently. “I love his flow.”

After only thirty seconds of the car stereo blaring with Slick Rick’s supposedly sick flow, I begin to zone out.

“Wasn’t that verse amazing?” my husband says happily, increasing the volume as the next Slick Rick songs plays. “What a genius.”

“Uh. I guess. Yes?” I am not as blunt as my husband.

This is how many of our encounters with each others’ pop culture tastes play out. I’m the type of person that doesn’t mind watching Mean Girls or Dodgeball over and over again and he’s the type who’s appalled that I’ve never watched Shawshank Redemption and baffled that I’m still not quite sure what the plot to The Matrix is about. I don’t know what NWA stands for or who its members are, save for Ice Cube who rose to fame in my eyes when I watched Are We There Yet.

Meanwhile, he calls the music that raised me through adolescence as “whiny white boy music.” He’s got a point, but that’s not the point.

I remember in high school insisting that I would never marry someone who was born and raised in Egypt because they wouldn’t understand my culture. And at the time, the most important culture to me was pop culture. Any man born and raised in Egypt couldn’t relate to my 8th grade obsession with 80s classics. He definitely wouldn’t be able to fully comprehend the haunting lyrics that Death Cab for Cutie are able to put together in a two and a half minute song. And would a FOB ever be able appreciate the massive void left in my being after I finished reading the final page of the final book in the Harry Potter series?

Now, here I am 10 years later from making those ignorant statements married to a man who is also a first generation American-Arab born and raised only 35 miles away from my hometown. Turns out he’s never read Harry Potter or ever got into Boy Meets World.

But we’re trying to keep each other culturally competent. He plays Tupac Pandora on long car drives and I made him watch Mean Girls while I explained when each quote could be used in real life. We’re both still learning.