Sunday, March 05, 2006

Ya Ba3adhum

Scene One:

Yesterday in my office around 3:00pm. Business meeting with a representative of a prospective client. Said representative coincidentally comes from my country of citizenship.

Having established which part of Morocco both of us are from, which areas/families we know or do not, how terrible everything is in Morocco but how homesick we are etc....I politely steer the conversation back to the issue at hand.

Things get a bit difficult. My manager asked me for a technical evaluation of this client's request i.e. he wants a report on whether or not I think we have the technical resources & people to take it on in the time frame suggested. And it wasn't looking good. The guy was clearly not pleased. And I knew my manager was not going to be pleased either. I don't know why he asks us to do this sort of thing. He's the manager. He should make this type of decision. Instead he makes us conduct these interviews & write reports which he never accepts without a struggle if they happen to be negative & without making you feel he thinks you're only saying no because you don't want to do the work. And of course if you say yes you will be pleasing him & upper management in the short term by bringing in more business but at the same time you have to take responsibility if things don't go according to plan later which you KNOW they won't. He calls it developing our management skills. I call it setting us up. Besides what is all this developing our management skills stuff? Does he want to convince me that he's preparing us to take over his job? Yeah right.

Anyway I digress. So there I was doing my best to negotiate something workable with the client when he sits back, loosens his tie & asks if he can smoke. I say fine & that I think I will have one too. He offers me one & I refuse because I smoke a different brand. I take out my pack & search for my lighter. No lighter. I look up & he's offering me a light. I take it & say thanks. We get back to business. About an hour later I'm feeling the need for another one & I take it out before I remember that I have no lighter with me. Am obviously embarrassed by having to making him offer me a light again. With a 50-megawatt smile he excuses himself, opens his briefcase, takes out an obviously new lighter & hands it to me saying please keep it. I say thank you. Then he adds I just didn't want to give you this one(the one he is using) because it's used.

He just had to blow it didn't he? Up until that point I was thinking what a nice guy. But after that I thought he was so full of it. He didn't want to give me his lighter because it was obviously Cartier & very expensive. So he gave me the cheap Bic lighter. Which is perfectly fine. I mean I can afford to keep myself in lighters & he didn't have to give me anything at all. He chose to offer & I accepted only because I knew the cost was minimal. And I said thanks. He should have said you're welcome & left it at that. Why does he have to ruin it by lying to me & treating me like an imbecile? Is this his idea of a charm offensive? Did he think that this is actually going to make me give him a good evaluation or something?

Scene Two:

This morning at 7:30am, meeting with a prospective vendor & several colleagues at the conference room. Said vendor gives a 20-min presentation on the product he thinks we should buy. Presentation concluded. We start asking questions. He answers one of mine. I'm still sceptical. So I ask him a follow-up question.

Him: Laish ya ba3adhum? Mithil ma kint agoolich....(Why? As I was saying....)

Except he called me 'ya ba3adhum'. That's an endearment used by GCC Arabs to mean basically 'dearest of all'. I kept my face impassive, didn't smile & didn't thank him for the explanation. He must have received some negative vibes because he came up to me after the meeting & apologized saying that he didn't mean anything, I was like a sister to him. In the course of this apology he called me 'Yalghaliya' which means 'precious one' twice. All in the spirit of brotherly love I suppose.

I'm thinking ya ba3adhum? Yalghaliya? You think am going to let you call me that? I mean I have a husband & he doesn't call me ya ba3adhum! You think am going to let YOU do it? Then I got even more worked up. Why doesn't my husband call me ya ba3adhum? Briefly considered calling said husband & telling him 'ya3ni elghareeb yiqool ya ba3adhum winta la?' or 'a perfect stranger calls me his dearest & his precious & you don't?'. But then I thought better of it. I had a feeling he might not see the funny side, that he might call me something other than ya ba3adhum & that I might not like it.

Seriously though what a pain. I'm not this guy's dearest or his precious or his sister. We just met. It's just business. I find it irritating when people suck up to you like that. Can't decide if it's sexism (she's a female so sweettalk her & she'll agree to anything) or just an abundance of social hypocrisy & nauseating, cooing sweetness that is entirely inappropriate in the workplace.

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6 Comments:

Blogger Safiya said...

I think it's the latter, that it's over the top for a workplce environment.

In my part of the world, it's common for people, male and female to call you "love", as in "Here's your change love". Sweetheart, hon (short for honey) or my personal favourite, queen are also used. As it said so frequently it doesn't feel like someone is being overly familiar.

Were someone to call me "the sweetest of all" and especially if it was in work, they would definitely get my special stonefaced don't-even-think-about-it look reserved for just such occasions!

3/05/2006 09:04:00 PM  
Blogger Alb Sayed said...

"He calls it developing our management skills. I call it setting us up."

Haha! Classic.

I think I just got set-up about fifteen minutes ago. And I'm about to be set-up in another hour again.

3/06/2006 08:01:00 PM  
Blogger doshar said...

off point... YA ba3adhum? I do not undrerstand the word. literally. it is in arabic right? why do i not undestand it?

I think you handled it well. poeple will keep on doing things like that.. wanna get away with things like that makes them feel thay've scored or something. I feel it is one of the faintest ways of sexual harrasment my self, because it would not be said to a guy.. and it makes you uncomfortable...and you are stuck in a situation where you might have to let it slide.

just brush it off... it just comes with the territory of trying to work in this world. :(

3/07/2006 11:26:00 PM  
Blogger LouLou said...

Safiya,

"Were someone to call me "the sweetest of all" and especially if it was in work, they would definitely get my special stonefaced don't-even-think-about-it look reserved for just such occasions!"

Lol...For real?You too?Good to know am not the only one.

Alb Sayed,

Good luck getting set up.:) Don't feel picked on. It happens ot all of us. Comes with the territory you could say.

Doshar,

" off point... YA ba3adhum? I do not undrerstand the word. literally. it is in arabic right? why do i not undestand it?"

Well I don't have an Arabic keyboard at work. I think you would understand it if I could have typed it in Arabic. Let me try to explain.

The word 'ba3ad' looks funny transliterated. Literally it means 'after'. It's the opposite of 'qabl'. In Egypt I think you pronounce it 'ba3d' - like us. But Khaleegis say 'ba3ad'.

You might have heard Khaleegi people say 'ya ba3ad 3aini/galbi/hali/3omri/roo7i'. Translation is 'you are dearer to me than my eyesight/heart/family/life/soul'. Don't ask me why 'ba3ad' is used to mean 'dearer than'. I asked a lot of them & they couldn't tell me.:)
It's just their slang. Am not sure if Saudis do this. I know Emiratis & Kuwaitis do.

So basically sometimes as 'ikhtisar' someone will say 'ya ba3adhum' to mean 'ya ba3ad kol shi' or 'you are dearer than' everything mentioned above & more or something. Sometimes they might say 'ya ba3adhum kollohum' to mean the same thing.

I hear it in Khaleegi songs & also my Emirati girlfriends say it a lot - sometimes to me - & I think it sounds really sweet & affectionate but definitely too intimate for the workplace. Especially given the fact that I know that they don't have the kind of culture where it's normal to use endearments all over the place like that. Ya3ni if an Iraqi says '3aini' for example I wouldn't care because they say that to everyone - even to other men. But Khaleegis are a very conservative, reserved culture so if one of them is addressing women like that in the workplace you know it's individual behavior. Or misbehavior.

3/08/2006 09:00:00 AM  
Blogger GC said...

"Don't ask me why 'ba3ad' is used to mean 'dearer than'. I asked a lot of them & they couldn't tell me."

I think "Ba3ad Galbi" originally meant, your importance is right after the importance of my heart - i.e. Galbi mohem wenty ba3ad galbi fil ahameyya. This is my theory :)

3/08/2006 06:13:00 PM  
Blogger LouLou said...

Global,

"I think "Ba3ad Galbi" originally meant, your importance is right after the importance of my heart - i.e. Galbi mohem wenty ba3ad galbi fil ahameyya. This is my theory :)"

Yes but then Ya Ba3adhum doesn't sound so flattering anymore does it? It means you come last after everything else no?:))

3/13/2006 01:46:00 PM  

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