Privacy May Be a Joke to You Mama and Baba, But We Need to Talk About It

By: Danielle Bechara

“Knock, Knock” 

-Who’s there? 


One of the most classic jokes that we’ve all heard over a million times from our parents. I highly doubt any of us have ever laughed at their knock-knock jokes, but whenever they crack them they suddenly feel like Kevin Hart. You know what’s also a big joke to Arab parents? Our privacy. 

Our privacy is a complete joke to them. Here, let’s play a fun game of 2 truths and a lie:

  1. I have a dog. 
  2. I can spend an hour sitting with my Arab parents without being asked about personal info that I’d rather keep private. 
  3. I’ve gotten surgery 3 times. 

The lie is pretty obvious, anyone would win this game. If you guessed number two as the lie, then you win 10 points. Congratulations! 

Let’s try to set certain imagery here, you’re sitting in your room (with the door closed), video calling your friends while sitting on your bed, and enjoying some quiet music. Sounds like a dream doesn’t it? Ahhh but you’re Arab, have you forgotten how things work in the households? Your mom/dad suddenly barges into your room as if a zombie apocalypse was happening, they blast open the door like a ninja, and they throw questions at you like weapons. Let’s face it, we’ve all been bombarded with these phrases:

“Who are you talking to?” 

“Who’s that boy/girl?” 

“Do I know them?” 

“What’s your phone password?” 

“Don’t close the bedroom door.”

“Give me your phone, let me see who you’re talking to.” 

I mean come on, just call the Kardashian’s camera crew on me, won’t you?

 Privacy, as defined by the Oxford dictionary: “A state in which one is not observed or disturbed by other people” 


Shall we compare it to the meaning in the “Arab Parents” Dictionary? Oh, we certainly shall, Danielle. 

Privacy: “A state in which my child has to tell me everything going on in their life, and I mean EVERYTHING.” Let’s talk about how messed up that is. Privacy should be a given. I mean, it’s a human right in over 80 countries. They take away our phones to check who we’re talking to, they limit our screen time, they don’t give us personal space, we can’t sit in our rooms with the door closed. We literally can’t do anything without them disturbing us and invading our privacy. Shout-out to all of the people who have dealt with this, how are you guys holding up? How are your trust issues? Not only do they strip us from our personal alone time, but they also supply us with trust issues. And the best part about it is, they get mad when we act so defensive. They become furious when we try so hard to defend ourselves. It’s crazy to think that we’re arguing with our parents about basic human rights that should already be a given to us. It’s time we imagine another scenario, you’re sitting on the sofa in the living room with your parents on the couch in front of you, and you say:

“Mama, Baba, I think it’s time we have a little talk” 

-Sure, talk about what? 

(Here’s where we remind them how much we love them before we ask them for something, so they don’t get all heated up) 

“You know how much I love you guys, right? I would never want to disappoint you. But, I just need some time to myself. You know, like private alone time with no distractions. I don’t like it when you snoop around my phone or my room, or when you don’t allow me to close the door. It bothers me. I would appreciate it if you stop asking me personal questions all the time, and if you’d let me keep things to myself. I don’t mean to come off as rude, I hope you understand. “

Okay, the scenario stops here because honestly, they’re a bunch of reactions that could explode in seconds, for instance, they could:

  1. Be understanding and won’t invade your privacy again
  2. Say they understand and promise they won’t do it again, but they’d never fulfill their promises
  3. Completely lash out at you and ignore everything you just said and they’d call you ungrateful 

“A” is most probably the least likely option to happen. What’s weird is that they get offended when we try to ask them to stop interfering with everything. I should be able to keep certain things to myself that I don’t feel comfortable sharing aloud, without my parents’ guilt-tripping me or taking my privacy as a complete joke. I mean do they expect me to have the world’s greatest secrets hidden in me? My privacy isn’t a joke, I don’t think anyone is laughing but them. Way to go, you just unlocked the secret to superior humor, Mama and Baba! 

What I’m trying to say with this article is, you don’t have to feel guilty for keeping things to yourself, and our parents shouldn’t invade our privacy and know everything about us. Most of the time, they guilt trip us into telling them, or they make us feel like we’re in the wrong. I doubt they even know my favorite color, it’s purple by the way. Invasion of privacy is normalized in Arab households and it shouldn’t be. More people should be speaking up about this. If you have dealt with this before, and are continuing to deal with this now, you are not alone and trust me it’ll get better by time. 

Sending lots of love your way, 


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