Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Refugee Love Story

Today's advice was requested by a man from Lebanon who we'll refer to henceforth as D. D asks:

"Hello Inari!

I've seen enough of your posts to know you are very down to earth about a lot of things. I'm not trying to sugar coat it, I really think you are a voice of reason.
I'd like your opinion on something that happened to me a while ago. A feminine opinion at that!

OK so here goes:

In July 2006, the Israelis where bombarding Lebanon, and a lot of countries where evacuating their citizens from the country. Since I happened to have both the Lebanese and French passports, I was allowed to evacuate with the French. The plan was to meet up at the capital, board a ship to Cyprus, and from there take a plane to Paris (because the Lebanese airport was badly damaged). I was 18 at the time, and it was my first time leaving my parents for good, and when my mother dropped me off at the High School (which was the meeting point), she was crying.
As it happens, a French mother saw the whole thing, and promised my mom that she would take care of me during the travel. So here I was, staying with that very nice woman and her family. I met her husband, her son, and most importantly, her daughter!
She was a pretty little thing, and after one look, she never left my side during the whole day waiting for the the boat to arrive. Always smiling, always laughing at everything I said, always staying close to me wherever I went (she was 17, and her name was M). Her parents saw she was interested, and curiously, did everything they could to leave us alone together! Always sending us to do errands, just the two of us. So anyway, I had a great time with her, and I was starting to like her as much as she liked me.
Night came, and so did the boat. We boarded, left our stuff in a cabin, and climbed on the deck! It was amazing, it was a bright starry sky, Lebanon was all in lights and slowly fading away as the boat advanced. We went to the back of the boat where we could see everything. And that's where she started crying. I asked her what was wrong, and she said she was sad because of all the people dying, because of the country getting bombed, and because everything was unfair. I wanted to kiss her, but seeing her crying stopped me. If I kissed her now, that would be taking advantage of her, and that would be a horrible thing to do. So instead, I hugged her, comforted her, told her everything was going to be all right.
So everything's fine, she's better, we go down to have a bite to eat. I find some of my friends and I hang out with them for about half an hour (I was REALLY happy to see them on that boat alive).
I come back to see M, and I see her talking to someone. I go to meet the guy, and it turns out she just met him too. At first, I didn't get what was going on, but as time went by, I understood that she was FLIRTING with this random other dude.
I tried to do something about it, because I couldn't accept it, but then I could feel I wasn't wanted, and I left then alone and went back to my friends, broken, confused and angry. They spend the whole night trying to cheer me up. At 5 AM, I went to bed, slept about 2 hours, and when I woke up, I went back on the deck, and saw M kissing that guy in the sun... (what I originally had planned).
Then when we docked, boarded the plane, arrived at Paris, and I left the nice family to meet my uncle. She didn't say a word to me during the whole trip...

To this day, I'm still wondering what happened. What I did wrong, why she changed her mind all of a sudden.
I'm hoping you could have an idea about it.

The reason I'm bringing this up, is because I'm meeting her tomorrow, after 5 years without seeing her, and completely forgetting her. I'm a bit stressed, a lot of emotions are coming back. What should I do?

Thank you if you ever answer.

Love, D

Wow, talk about database error. The sent date on this message claims it was sent to my inbox exactly one month ago, on November 15th. I check my inbox regularly however, and this morning is the first I've seen of it. So please accept my apologies if you indeed sent this a whole month ago. It does not normally take me that long to respond to people, especially not to people in need of advice.

First of all, I'm glad you managed to get out of there. That was a sticky situation. Leaving home for the first time is always a stressful experience, I can only imagine how much more tense it was with the bombardment going on. It sounds to me like you had amazing luck that day, having not only both passports available to you but also that kind French family to look after you during the journey. It must've been a huge relief to your mother especially, knowing there would be someone on the boat to keep an eye you.

Her parents more-than-likely saw your relationship as a good thing -- a well needed distraction from the current events. Which is probably why they not only didn't mind your hanging out but also encouraged it.

She opened up to you on deck that night and was probably hoping you'd do the same. She felt a deep connection to you at the time, and wanted or needed that connection to extend beyond its current level. You offered her comfort in her time of need, but she was probably hoping that you would cry with her. I know many men are raised to think crying in public will make them look bad... but in situations like this, where you're being ousted from your home and forced to flee into another country, a few tears are to be expected even of the manliest men. When instead you played the strong role and comforted her, she likely felt that the connection she felt to you wasn't reciprocated. At least not to the same degree.

When you returned below deck to eat and went to hang out with your friends, glad to see they were alive, it only reassured her that your connection wasn't as she thought it was. Which isn't fair of her to assume, but she can't really be blamed for being unreasonable at a time like this. She was probably an emotional wreck on the inside. A lot of the time when a girl feels spurned by her love interest she'll act out, try to capture his attention by making him jealous. This is accomplished primarily by, you guessed it, openly flirting with other guys.

What you perceived as her pushing you away may have actually been her final attempt to draw you closer. When you gave up and went away, she gave up too. Likely thinking you never liked her in the first place and were only hanging out with her until someone better came along (in this case your friends). When you went to bed, she sought comfort in the new stranger, culminating in a kiss that you happened to stumble upon when you woke up.

She may have realized that you actually did like her when she saw you as she was kissing the other guy. This may have made her feel too guilty to bring herself to speak to you on the plane. Another possibility is that she had wanted you to be that guy kissing her but since you didn't she was felt resentful and thus didn't speak to you because she was angry. It may even be as simple as her perceiving you as too young or too old for the long term relationship she wanted, whereas the other guy was just a fling. Regardless of which reason, it seems to me that the entire thing was a misunderstanding and it is unfortunate that you've only gotten in contact with her now. It's clear to me that the two of you shared a connection and whether it was romantic or platonic, it seems to me like it would've been good. Hopefully you can pick up where you left off that handful of years ago.

So what should you do? Keep an open mind. I doubt very seriously that she ever intended to hurt you on purpose. It seems to me that you both inadvertently hurt each other that night. The mistakes of youth. Test the waters with casual conversation, "How've you been?" and things such as that and if you feel any hint of that old connection -- confess to her your feelings of that night. How you had hoped to pursue a relationship but were afraid you'd be taking advantage of her. In return she'll probably confess why she did what she did. Even if this doesn't result in picking up where you left off, at least you'll both have closure. Closure is very important.

I hope it all works out.

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