“You can’t choose your family!” For many of us, getting along with our family can at times be somewhat of a struggle! How can we be from the same blood line yet have so little in common? Why do we feel like because someone is ‘family’ that we can suddenly speak to each other in a way we’d never dare with our friends or work colleagues? If you could choose your family, can you honestly say you wouldn’t reach for the liquid paper and erase a couple of names swinging off the family tree?
Over the years though most of us find some way to put up with the drama within the family, and just accept them for what they are. Christmas is often the worst time for families pushing each other to the limit. What is traditionally supposed to be a time of ‘giving and receiving’, turns out to be exactly that, only not quite the ‘wrapped in a bow’ variety.
But spare a thought for those out there that not only can’t choose their family, but are forever judged, alienated and ridiculed because of their family! It can’t be easy being born into a family that is known for something that you had nothing to do with. Take for instance Schappelle’s Corby’s family members, not all of which have not been caught up in the whole Balinese drug caper? Unlikely you’d be reeling off that surname these days without getting a raised eyebrow! Or how about introducing yourself as Mr or Mrs Milat? Not exactly the surname that’s going to open any major doors for you, I would imagine.
Whilst travelling overseas recently I met a really lovely girl by the name of Wafah. An unusual first name, with an even more surprising surname! You see, her surname, I found out later, is actually ‘bin Laden’! Her uncle, is in fact, Osama bin Laden.
Her mother Carmen, who wrote the book ‘Inside The Kingdom: My Life In Saudi Arabia’, married one of Osama’s older brother’s, which prior September 11, which meant as a child she grew up within one of the world’s most privileged and wealthy families in the Middle East. For the record, Wafah has never met her terrorist uncle, and although her father is one of his half brothers, there are also another 22 other brothers, and about 400 family members.
Not wanting her daughters (Wafah has two sisters) to grow up as ‘veiled women’. Carmen left Wafah’s father when Wafah was only ten and moved the family back to her homeland of Switzerland. They were immediately disowned by the bin Laden family and have had no contact with them for 15 years.
At the time of the 911 bombings, Wafah was a resident of New York City, which unsurprisingly thrust her into a world where her family name would become something that would affect her life and how she was treated by people forever. Not just that, but she loved New York as much as the next New Yorker, the only difference being that she now shared the enemies name!
After getting to know her briefly, an aspiring singer, she proudly played me some of her music which she’d been working on. It was good, in fact really good! So good that she had got close to getting a deal with one of the major labels in the UK, when the head of the company found out the family name she was born with, he changed his tune dramatically screaming “she’s an F- – ing bin Laden! You think I want a F- –ing bin Laden in our ranks!”
And just like that, thanks to being born into a family she didn’t choose, this aspiring singer’s dreams, once again, sadly and rather ironically, just like the Twin Towers, went up in a huge cloud of smoke!