Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Letter [Part II]

So I get this letter and am kind of laughing, but wonder how serious I should take it. In a world where men and women don’t really interact, I was already pushing the limits. Some of my American female peers judged me to be “too friendly” and “too comfortable” with these men already. I immediately fell into a “shame” structure of thinking—that it was my fault that he even thought to write me, that I brought this on myself because I smile and briefly visit with the guys downstairs.

Clearly, he’s not romantically interested in me. I’m not so into myself that romance would be my concern. I got proposed to and told I was beautiful and that it was a shame I wasn’t married and making babies nearly every day. The line that made me laugh was the, “…and I have the ability to do what ever you order, anything…” My response to that was, “Oh! Like ‘I ORDER you to MARRY ME so we can steal away TO AMERICA and live happily ever after!!!! Pretty please!!!’No. My concern was his reaction to my declining his requests. And the guys downstairs, who watch me every day, were waiting to see how I’d respond.

So I made the quick decision to… show them just how Arab I was.

I gathered my… male representation. I would never have received this letter if I was married. To men, I was a little lamb—I had to go get my owner, who does business, speaks for and protects me. They already knew that I wouldn’t marry an Arab, that my dad “only wants an American for me.” [That was settled months before this happened.] But my dad’s a million miles away and I’m a sitting duck. I went straight to the foreigners. I emailed them the letter and they, in the excitement of the drama, drew up Plans A & B.

Plan A: Write him back and ask him to meet me in front of the dukan. I could see who he was and then, suddenly, “John” [my “brother”] would emerge from the shadows and scold him for making this proposition to me. [Made for Lifetime TV drama. Here, I would play myself.]

Plan B: Ignore him.

I didn’t like either plan, but Plan A sounded kind of fun. As I spent an hour at their home the next afternoon, we just talked about it. It may sound silly to you, but as funny and harmless as this letter was, it required some attention. Of course he wanted money and probably to get to the States. He must really be desperate, and I’m sorry for that, but he shouldn’t ask me. I’m sure he thought he was taking the most respectful and discreet approach, and I’m glad he didn’t approach me in person or come to my door.

And as John and “Susie” walked me home, all the guys were hanging out on the steps. Susie and I went inside to buy some juice and John stood outside, talking with the landlords. Dukan Boy leaned forward and whispered to me, “What do you say about the letter?” I pretended not to understand him as I handed him some money. Susie went to the door and called out, “John, here’s your chance—he’s asking her about the letter.” I kept quiet and worried that Dukan Boy was going to get in trouble.

John, who has had a relationship with them of over three years, talked with them about how disappointed he was. That it was shameful for a man to contact me through a letter, that it wasn’t respectful and how I would never entertain such requests. The men immediately agreed with him and claimed that the guy is “meskeen”—a poor-charactered fellow. They knew I’d never marry him, they assured me. Susie and I just stood there, as the men discussed me. [For those few minutes, I didn’t feel like a person.] They raved at what a “good girl” I was and how they missed my cheer and saw that I was troubled by this.

Really, I was disappointed in myself. After nearly a year of being there, I was surprised to find myself cognitively changing, ever so slightly, taking on the very posture that made me steam for the women around me: [in my opinion] their skewed sense of self-worth. Many will tell you that they cover because they are responsible for the men’s lust and sin. If a man sees her hair, it’s the woman’s fault that he approaches her or maybe acts distastefully towards her—not his. And his behavior towards her reflects on the honor of the family—again: her fault.

But this is what I was doing…

I was blaming myself because some guy had written me a dumb letter.

[This picture is… inexplicable… but I’ll try.
You bite down hard on your forefinger
and shake out your other hand
when something is just…
“unbelievable” or “out of control” or “a cryin’ shame.”
It’s an acted out: “OH MY GOODNESS!!!”
That’s what this is
(And please excuse my short sleeves…)]

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your struggles as a single young lady in a cross cultural situation. I enjoy your blog very much.


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