I’m currently working on a book about my experiences growing up an Iraqi-Muslim immigrant in Kentucky. It’s called, “THE WRONG END OF THE TABLE: A Mostly Comic Memoir of a Muslim Arab American Woman Just Trying to Fit In.”
And of course, as I do with most everything in my life, I engage my mother in conversation about my progress. For better or worse…
The following is one such recent conversation:
ME: My agent wants me to make the book more edgy and less PG-rated.
MOM: That’s easy. Put more cursing words in there.
ME: I might have to delve into dating and things that Arabs aren’t used to talking about openly.
MOM: Why don’t you just make up a fake cousin and give her all the sex stories?
ME: Because that would be lying. And this book is supposed to be about me, not some random cousin.
MOM: (covers the phone and yells to my father) Baba! Talk to your daughter. She wants to spill all of our family secrets to sell this book.
I hear the muffled grumblings of my father in the background. A beat later my other line rings.
ME: Hold on Mom, my other line’s ringing.
MOM: It’s your father. I told him to talk to you.
ME: But I’m on the phone with you.
MOM: You know your father. He does what he likes. (covers the phone and yells) Baba! I’m on the phone with her right now. Try later.
My other line stops ringing.
ME: …okay anyway, it’s not just about sex. I need to get into current events.
MOM: Finally, you listen to me! I always wanted you to follow in the footsteps of Christiane Amanpour.
ME: Well it won’t exactly be that important. But I need to write about what it’s like for me as a Muslim living in this country right now.
MOM: Good. Not everyone likes a funny Muslim. You need to talk about deep things that are important to people.
ME: But I can do it with humor.
MOM: Try not to…
ME: I’m a little nervous… about pissing off the Muslim fanatics.
MOM: Just don’t attack the Prophet.
ME: I don’t plan to… But what about terrorist groups like NAMEREDACTED They hate moderate Muslims.
MOM: I’m sure terrorists have bigger concerns than whether or not you pray five times a day.
ME: But NAMEREDACTED hates people like me who aren’t religious. They hate us even more than they hate ‘infidel’ non-Muslims.
MOM: First of all, stop talking about NAMEREDACTED. Don’t even mention that name.
ME: See??? You’re worried too?!
MOM: I’m not worried.
ME: But you just said don’t say the name of… that group… who ‘Shall Not Be Named.’
MOM: (getting impatient) I’m saying it’s not productive to mention them. Why even talk about them? Just stay away from it. And stop being so paranoid… Are you still taking your Lexapro?
ME: Stuff like this is all over the news! Look what happened to Salman Rushdie.
MOM: You’re Salman Rushdie now?!
ME: I’m just saying Salman Rushdie has a life-long fatwa on his head and he has to go into hiding.
MOM: That didn’t prevent him from getting married. To that beautiful lady from Top Chef.
ME: Padma Lakshmi?
MOM: Your father likes her. But not as much as he likes Catherine Zeta-Jones.
ME: Well he’s not married anymore… Salman Rushdie. To Padma at least.
I hear Mom tapping on a keyboard.
ME: What are you doing?
MOM: Googling Salman Rushdie… He’s been married four times! Four marriages! Wow.
I brace myself for what I know is about to come…
MOM: …So Salman Rushdie has a fatwa on his head and has been married four times. You have no fatwa on your head…
ME: (resigned) Mom…
MOM: I’m just saying. If you’re going to compare yourself to Salman Rushdie, you have to do it fully. When are you going to be married? (A beat) Ayser, can I ask you something..?
ME: (deep inhale) …Mom. I’m not a lesbian.
MOM: I’m just saying it’s okay. Your father and I have discussed it and have decided we will accept you.
ME: Thanks, Mom. But I’m not gay. Though now I really wish I were.
MOM: It doesn’t make sense that you’re still single. What went wrong? I think it’s because you have cats.
ME: Seriously, Mom!?
MOM: I’m not saying get rid of them. Just get a dog, too. You can meet so many men while walking your dog in the park.
ME: Great, another thing to piss off NAMEREDACTED… !
MOM: Why would your dog piss off NAMEREDACTED??
ME: Because strict Muslims think dogs are dirty.
MOM: Ayser, NAMEREDACTED aren’t considered Muslim. They’re terrorists. And can we please stop talking about them?
ME: Good point… Okay Mom. I’ll consider a dog.
MOM: You’re just being polite… Anyway, if you have a fatwa on your head then you will have something in common with Salman Rushdie (she taps on the computer) Oh, he’s a Sir now… Well if he’s single…
ME: Mom! I’m not gonna marry Salman Rushdie.
She suddenly starts laughing.
MOM: Yeah. You would be Mrs. Ayser Salman Rushdie. That would be too confusing!
This sends us both into peals of laughter.
…And that’s how I realized I will never have a future with Salman Rushdie.
 Name redacted because my mother is concerned that in online searches, my name will forever be associated with NAMEREDACTED .