Priority Period (Lebanese edition)
Serious events call for serious actions. In this opinion piece I reflect on love stories that crashed and those that thrived from the period of October 2019 to present. I call it the Priority Period for the Lebanese middle class and up aged between 25 and 35, living a relatively “open-minded” lifestyle in Hamra and Achrafieh.
Pre-October 2019, the niche of middle class and above frequenting bars and house parties in and around playgrounds like Hamra and Achrafieh were roaming relatively carefree for Lebanese standards. Yes, unemployment was real and so was the warlord-led government.
However, with the systematic problems in the country leading to the large demonstrations calling for change that took off on 17 October 2019, the words accelerated chaos describe accurately what unfolded: the local currency went into a state of free fall reducing salaries, savings and retirements, lifting of subsidies on basic goods without social safety net for vulnerable groups (and they are many), expanded power cuts, neglected infrastructure causing deadly accidents, medicine shortages, pandemic. Add to this the absolute absence of justice and accountability, and you get what Lebanon is today.
The above gives a sliver of the anxiety and stress induced within a relatively short timeframe. A metaphor would be that of a pressure cooker. Steam builds with each crisis headline. Inside, overthinking happens, priority measuring and drastic decisions in the making. Therefore, if you — as a lover — step in the life of the other at his or her full pressure momentum, an unpredictable reaction to the situation is guaranteed. Roughly, three scenarios exist:
Myself and Family First
Perhaps the love is there, but the person has to guarantee their own future and that of their family first. You may have a foreign passport or opportunities out; the person may not. Therefore, a romantic relationship comes second to study or work, whether already abroad or planning to be. Traveling back and forth to visit another could be the money to support your family. The focus is survival and they don’t have the luxury to prioritize a specific country or direction out of love.
Depression and Desperation
Inevitable if the person is to remain in Lebanon. The heavy burden they have to carry with no foresight of improved living standards is a recipe for depression and desperation. Declining mental health is factor that can lead to frictions in a relationship, and encouraging quotes — regardless the intention — such as “don’t worry, be happy” or “you just have to have a little faith” are of no use.
Alternatively, the situation Lebanon spares the person to a certain extent which allows for love and survival to coincide, to coexist. Commitment, in fact, symbolizes a factor of stability and support amidst crises and disasters. A strong bond exists and grows. By now, a plan is set in motion to marry, move together abroad etc. whether in the short-term or long-term.
Certainly, these scenarios are not exhaustive nor mutually exclusive. Moving to Dubai is usually an in-between solution, because of work possibilities for Lebanese. Also, Lebanese communities over the world find each other and love might bloom out of the common background.
The hypothesis in this piece is that the multilayered crises tormenting Lebanon prompted a wake-up call, a shock, to acknowledge the severity of the situation and prioritize plotting a plan to a better future. The plan may or may not include commitment to (potential) love.