Fayes T Kantawala is having phone issues

One my least favorite things to wake up to — other than new wrinkles on my forehead from my Resting Bitch Face (RBF) or the sound of car alarms — is the list of notifications on my phone. I don’t know when I became the person that instinctively lunges for the phone before my eyes have even opened, but that’s who I am now and I’m living my truth. It is so dangerous because that split second between sleep and life is the most crucial, delicate part of the day. It’s a twilight zone of sorts, that sweet spot right after one’s dreams have ended but before the mental defenses against the shock of continued existence have kicked in. Whatever happens in those brief, vulnerable moments can change the course of the day.

On rare occasions I wake up seamlessly, feeling neither tired nor bloated, and stretch my limbs in a beam of sunlight as birds and cherubs sing harmoniously in the clouds around my head. I bounce light and happy into my day, looking like the giddy people one sees in hemorrhoid commercials who all seem so genuinely happy with the choices they have made in their life. If one thing goes right then everything else clocks into place: the shower is steaming, work is easy, dinner is delicious. Sadly, this mythic morning has happened to me only five times since 2002 (or six, if we are counting the time I took that hippie potion on a boat in the Mexican mangroves). More often than not, the waking up is more like the second half of Avatar, my subconscious dogding bullets and tanks of negative thoughts in the futile effort to make it to the loo without having everything come crashing down around me. On bad days my bath becomes a stressful experience, a prison housing the irrational paranoia that every time I shut my eyes to shampoo someone is going to kill me.

Drake's version of the RBF

I blame the phone and its notifications for becoming the barometer of my day. Always the phone. Because it’s the phone that tells me first thing in the morning with enthusiasm that I have 19 new emails but fails to mention that 18 of them are from furniture stores,, Etihad Airways, or that airport store that made me sign up to use its free Wifi once. It is the phone that assures me that I am popular and have six text messages but laughs as 4 of them turn out to be from Burger King and the other two from people selling viagra. The same phone that alerts me to 14 new Whatsapp messages that turn out to be in groups that have nothing whatsoever to do with me, and indeed it is the same phone that will urge me to check my 10 red messages on Facebook only to slap me across the face with a “Your ex and that one girl you don’t like are both interested in going to an event that’s nowhere near you but we thought you should know anyway” notification.

It’s too much. Facebook hits me particularly badly. No matter how many privacy settings I turn on and no matter how many notifications I turn off, I can’t seem to keep the lives of others out of my head. Or, for that matter, my own past. Perhaps the most awful digital slaps to wake up to are Memories. “Hi!” Facebook chirps, “Here’s a picture of you from five years ago to the day! We here in cyber hell thought you’d like to see precisely how the youth has slipped off your face right into the spare tire round your waist. Enjoy the rest of your day, you fat loser on the highway to nowhere!”
"Enjoy the rest of your day, you fat loser on the highway to nowhere!"

Cruel markers of time gone by aside, reminders of what one was, up to two or even six years ago can be instructive. For instance, I was recently reminded of something I had posted a few years ago to the day that expressed surprise that I was getting electricity at home and then wishing that every year was election year. I had forgotten that the upside of having to hear political rhetoric ad nauseam is that in the months just before an election, the government of Pakistan begins a pantomime of good governance and for a short but intense period, everyone has electricity and gas. They hope it’ll inspire us to vote for them, and I’m certain that in some cases that works. For what it’s worth I think those of us who survived the near constant loadshedding (that wondering term that is both aspirational weightless mantra and frightening threat of darkness) from the 2000s and teens should get some sort of lightening bolt-shaped pin or something. Because even as another election comes, I’m still bewildered that it’s happening. Remember that it wasn’t too long ago that we still had not had a government complete its term without the military taking over, or someone dying, or the military taking over, or someone being fired, or the military taking over. So hurray for the fact that another government has just about completed its term, and I look forward to watching it happen.

Kanye West displaying the RBF

The other day a frienemy made fun of my RBF, the default mask that conveys meanness without meaning to. This is not the first time someone has said this to me. I admit that because of a downturned mouth and acute fear of BO, my face usually looks like I hate everyone when really all I am doing is thinking about chicken. An RBF can be intimidating, and can push good people in your life away. But if Facebook notifications have taught me anything it’s that you use the face you got. So I expressed to my frienemy the same sentiments we should all hold for this transitional period of government: “Be warned that my bitch face never rests. My bitch face watches, alert and attentive. Always ready to pounce into action at a moment’s notice, my bitch face is ever-vigilant.”

And so should yours be.

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