Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I Love Love

I’ve never looked at romantic love so differently as I have in the last year and a half. I saw a lot of confusing “romantic” relationships, heard a lot of crazy ideas about attraction and was even approached myself by men [and boys] who told me they “loved” me. [Bless their hearts.]

For Valentine’s Day, I made valentines and pink cupcakes and heart-shaped cookies for my friends. My friends loved to be kissed, hugged, remembered and fed. And, again, it’s largely an American holiday, so it’s my job to educate, right? So a showering of cookies and ridiculous paper hearts was in order. And after all, aren’t we here to love and show Love? [www.education.com has some awesome ideas for decorations, cards and homemade crafts if you want to throw a party for adults or children.] I think Valentine’s Day is an excellent opportunity to have conversations [and throw parties] about love. And any conversation can turn into one about the Great Love of your life. Always remember that. Ugh, I love love. [Talk about women’s ministry: cookies and stories.]

Something that I think is genuinely beautiful and also pretty silly about Arab culture is how lyrical and whimsical the language of love is. In a world of traditional match-making and arranged marriages, and now secret, on-line “habibi”s [loves], things can get a little scandalous. If you have just one Arab friend in all the world, I promise, you will hear soap opera-like love dramas amongst families. That are true. Sometimes they’ll even draw pictures so you can keep all the “Mohammads” and “Fatimas” straight in the story. The pick-up lines on the streets alone are unheard of in America: “Oh, my moon, my moon! You light my way. You are the only light I see.” Or, “There are twenty angels in the world. Ten are sleeping, nine are playing, and one is walking right before me.” One thing I can say about Arab guys: they are romantic and they are persistent.

A total bummer about romance and love while living in the Arab world as a “beautiful, American girl” is that you get hit on. All the time. A favorite ploy from the young men in the area would be to dial your number. Over and over and over again. It is quite a risk to answer an unknown number, thinking it might be that college girl you met at the park last week, because you might answer to find that it’s some man. Who has misdialed. And is now enjoying the happenchance of speaking with you on the phone. He hears that nice, female, native-English “Hello?”and… you’re done for. He will call relentlessly.

And when I say relentlessly I mean it. I’ve blocked numbers. I’ve handed the phone to other Arab men and they yell at them and shame them and demand their family names. I’ve answered and immediately hung up. I’ve answered and let the phone just lie on the counter while I did dishes, hoping he’d worry about his phone credit running out. [Note: whomever makes the call pays for the call—there’s no charge to a recipient.] I’ve told them that I’m married to the police [???] and I’m going to have “my husband hunt him.”

One night was a night to remember. Roommate and I were battling the harassing calls of what seemed to be a group of guys, shebab. For TWO HOURS they called over and over again. Finally, I grabbed her phone, put it up to my ear and just listened to them: “My love, my love, listen to me. I love you. Where are you? I love you. Oh, God, I love you. You are my love.”

At this point in time, I had been perfecting my camel noises and so… since they didn’t hang up in response to my silence, I started in on them. And I just didn’t stop. They listened to me for about four minutes. [Do you know how much that costs in phone credit??] Roommate, doubling over in laughter, grabbed my Flip and recorded our side of the call.

The men who need to get a hold of me know how. These guys who just harass for entertainment… well, I can appreciate their go-get-‘em attitude and persistent ways. [They could teach some American guys I know a thing or two in that department.] Regardless, I’m sure they’ll have some romantic, fantastical love-match one day. Just not with me.

They didn’t call back after this—they were too mortified, I think. [I would hope.]

But in other romantic news: These two fellows almost got into an actual fight as they bid for my hand in marriage. The bargaining chips were fancy cars, trips to Spain to watch futbol, and their mothers cooking and cleaning for me.

They were dumbfounded when I said all I wanted was a camel.

Happy [early] Valentine’s Day.


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