Friday, January 12, 2007

Hell Hath No Fury

than a woman scorned? Maybe but what I question is why no mention of a woman whose son you scorned? Because that particular brand is no less scary.

Last time I checked, turning down a marriage proposal was not in violation of any treaty.

This particular story is fairly old. A few years back, I was in Dubai for training and a Belgian friend invited me to dinner to meet her fiance, a Moroccan. During the course of the evening, we discovered that he was from Casa., my hometown & our families back home were connected through several intermarriages - which is not uncommon among North African Arabs. They tend to approach marriage like that sometimes. We married into that family & we had no problems so let's do it again. Or sometimes it's even done out of a sense of obligation - one of their men took one woman off our hands so now that one of our men has reached marriageable age, let's return the favor. Needless to say, it's all very bizzare to me.

Anyway, the evening went quite well, I thought. And then I went back to Abu Dhabi & forgot all about it. Then my friend calls me up & explains that the company her fiance works for is looking for an IT solution provider & can he meet me & talk about it? I said sure. If true, it would have been the first time I manage to bring a new client to my company. I was still a fairly new employee & felt called upon to prove my usefulness all the time.

But he didn't want to talk to me about business at all. It was just an excuse. Instead, he started explaining how he'd been having second thoughts about marrying a foreigner because Western girls were all too wild & easy - especially now that he'd met me & noticed the difference between me & my friend(from one meeting) & felt I would understand his culture more than her. And also my friend had apparently refused to convert to Islam & he had concerns about the mother of his future children not being Muslim. But that he'd asked around about me & it was confirmed that am from a good, Morrocan Arab family but at the same time, I was educated & cultured & best of all, I had the looks of a European girl since all the Morrocan girls he'd met before were too dark-skinned for his taste. He said I was even fairer than my friend. So I was perfect & he'd already told his parents who were now in the process of approaching my parents so we can all get to know each other etc....

I was FURIOUS. The initial reaction was being upset for my friend, who was very much in love with him. I started angrily defending her. My friend may not have been very religious but she was not a slut. She was actually very reserved in character & she'd often tell ME off for flirting, being too wild etc.....She is quite shy and didn't date much. It was infuriating to me that anyone would call her either wild or easy just because of her nationality. I remembered her once telling me that he was pressuring her for sex, & if I thought she should do it. And I had explained - at the time - that if he was a typical Arab, then sleeping with him wasn't a good idea if you wanted something long-term with him but it was hard for me to tell without actually meeting the guy. After having met him, I found myself wishing fervently that she'd had too much sense to have sex with a man who clearly respected her so little. He didn't deserve her.

That was the initial reaction. The second action was fury at his presuming that I would stab my friend in the back that way or settle for someone who only wanted me because of my family name & skin color - especially when that same person has revealed himself to be so prejudiced & bigoted in every sense of either word.

All in all, it was not a good evening. I remember walking out on him after having told him what I thought of him in no uncertain terms while he gaped uncomprehendingly. For some reason, my reaction was totally unexpected for him. He thought I'd jump at the chance. And that made me even more angry. People who have these blindspots make me CRAZY. I can't believe there are people who are so wrong but simply cannot see it & actually think they're right.

Once I was a little calmer, I called my friend & told her. I wanted her to dump him before he had a chance to dump her. She was devastated. But she did chuck him. Thank God.

And I thought that was the end of the story. It wasn't. His mother called me a few days later. Apparently he'd interpreted my reaction to mean that being a good, Arab Muslim girl, I just needed to have it confirmed to me that his intentions were honorable to accept him. His mother didn't say anything about marriage. She just went on about how good it always was to meet other 'pure' Moroccan Arabs when living abroad & how much she'd like to get to know my parents etc....I wanted to SCREAM but I had to be polite to his mother who was an older woman. Years of being taught to respect my elders proved to be too inhibiting. When she asked for my mother's number so she could meet her, I couldn't say no.

So she takes the number, calls my mother to say hello & sets up an appointment for them to come over to our house. Then she calls me back & says oh your mother is Berber? You didn't tell me. I'd forgotten that for some Moroccan Arabs, who view themselves as 'ashraf'(descended from the Prophet), Berbers were a lower-life form. I told her very sweetly that yes, Mama was an Algerian Berber, knowing I was making things worse. From the pov of people like her, Morrocan Berbers were low but all Algerians were considerably lower. And Algerian Berber was the lowest of the low. At that point, I just wanted to be rid of this family which appeared to be so full of every, concieveable prejudice. I thought if my mother's ethnicity will drive her away, then well & good.

But the woman coolly replied that oh well, it's ok because what's important is that the father's blood was 'pure'. Upon which I instantly added that my father was actually half-European, that my grandmother was a Frenchwoman.

She sighed and responded that again it was ok because the lineage was pure as long as no non-Arab MEN entered it, that impure, female blood was inconsequential. I got the feeling that she was desperate. She wasn't happy with my set-up but she thought I was far prefereable to the European, non-Muslim woman her son was involved with. It was so sickening to be patronized & patted on the head & told not to feel bad about being a hybrid in that way.

I remember going home & telling my father, playing up the insults against Mama as much as I could. In addition to the fact that I'd actually met the guy as a friend's fiance.I didn't want my parents to start hounding me about marrying him. They also had a tendency to see it as an opportunity whenever I met an educated, Morrocan boy from a good family while living abroad. But I knew my father would never tolerate any disrespect to my mother.

And it worked. I managed to cut that story much shorter than it could otherwise have turned out to be.

Except a few months later, the same guy proposed to my cousin. I could see why. My cousin didn't have a Berber mother. She was much purer than me. She was also younger than me & much, much younger than the guy. So her parents refused him on the grounds that she was too young to get married.

And his mother decided that the first refusal was an insult. The second was a declaration of war. She started a family feud against me & my cousin. Gossiping, starting rumors, abusing either one of us whenever she runs into us in public.

For years, everytime I'd meet her at social events(usually weddings), she'd ask me snidely if there was anything on the way - meaning an engagement or a marriage, that she wanted to 'tifra7 feeni'(congratulate me). She'd make unpleasant - although perfectly polite - comments about my clothes, the way I danced, the way I ate & subtly suggest maybe these could be reasons - in addition to my polluted blood - for my spinster status. All in this cloying, laughing manner that women have. She never failed to hug & kiss me when we met. Or to inject the words 'ya binti'(my daughter) or 'habibti' & other terms of affection an older woman would use to a younger one who was like a daughter to her. As I got older, I lived in dread of her. There's no end to the humiliations a woman her age could inflict on you. And you could never be rude to her because then you'd be demonstrating a deficient upbringing & humiliating yourself & your parents more.

My mother could respond to her & usually handled her beautifully. But she was rarely nasty to me infront of my mother. She would wait to catch me alone.

Last night, we met at a wedding. When I saw her, I unconsciously found myself edging closer to my husband. Then I told myself I was being stupid. I was a grown woman, I had no business to be hiding behind him. Or to be scared of her. But I was. Afraid of her. She hates me so much. To hold a grudge and be so spiteful for all these years. It's scary. What does she WANT? I mean, her son is already married. Has been for some years. I heard that in the end, he went home to Casa & had an arranged marriage there & was now living with his wife in Dubai.

I stayed close to my husband all evening. And she still made sure I caught a comment she whispered to another woman while we were standing by the buffet. Something about silly girls having to settle for foreigners because they're getting old & can no longer get good Morrocan boys to look at them.

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7 Comments:

Blogger Jane said...

What a bitch, in every sense of the word. People like her thrive on making others as miserable as possible. You don't deserve that treatment. It is fortunate that I am not a good Muslim girl and that she has never had the misfortune of coming across me. I too was taught to respect my elders and I do. But I was also taught to respect myself and frankly I am not the kind to let shit like that woman is pulling to pass by without striking back. And believe me I have quite the nasty mouth when called upon. You have far more dignity in that situation than I could manage. I don't even know this woman but her behavior towards you pisses me off.

1/12/2007 08:42:00 PM  
Blogger Safiya said...

Jane has pretty much said exactly what I was going to say.

That woman's attitude is disgusting especially all the stuff about "pure blood"

You are indeed a true lady to have kept calm and not started dishing out slaps or insults.

1/12/2007 10:05:00 PM  
Blogger doshar said...

eh ya benty elly khallaky testa7mely dah kolloh! well... I know what you mean... sometimes the age thing keeps you from replying... you feel that you would be letting your parents down somehow.

The pure blood thing is bizzare.. reminds me of Slytherin in Harry Potter!

1/13/2007 12:49:00 AM  
Blogger Insomniac said...

she proved that she with her "pure blood" is not half as good as ur "mixed blood".. screw her

1/13/2007 03:33:00 AM  
Blogger Zed said...

Beautifully written! You've explained quite well the tension between wanting to answer back such a rude woman vs how it reflects back on you and your family for any deviation from politeness towards elders. I've felt the same thing so many times and never been able to articulate it adequately. Nice to know that in the end you ended up with the husband of your dreams and she's still sore about her loss (otherwise there would be no snarky comments).

1/13/2007 05:38:00 AM  
Blogger tooners said...

i agree w/ jane completely. i can't stand women like this... and have even met a few myself who liked to make sly comments on the fact that i wasn't pregnant, and then brag about how their son's wife had IVF and had 4 children, etc. it all makes me sick. even tho i'm american, i've held my tongue. i only wish i could come up w/ some type of comeback that would insult her but be polite at the same time.

i feel for you... for i don't go to all these weddings and such, but for arabs, it's pretty much a necessity and such. i think rising above her, like you've done, is the best solution. she'll get what's coming to her and probably already is. what goes around, comes around, i believe. her whole family is probably a miserable lot... that's why she makes trouble for others.

1/14/2007 08:35:00 PM  
Blogger INDICAN said...

I agree with Jane. And Insomniac too - screw the old hag!

1/17/2007 09:07:00 AM  

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