Monday, March 15, 2010

Dancing on the Ladder

There is an Arabic saying which is transliterated as 'danced on the ladder' (ra'ast 'al sillim). The English equivalent would be 'straddled the fence'. I've often been told that this describes my Identity (with a capital I) situation aptly. I am neither from here nor there (I feel a Dr. Seuss rhyme coming along. Oh, oh wait... Nah, over it).

I do not fit in in Cairo. I do not fit in with the general population. I do not fit in with my social circles - not if we're being completely truthful. I get along with people; I am friendly and socially intelligent enough to know how to be in my society. That doesn't mean I necessarily enjoy it.

I remember hanging out with Roonies and here then-new (now-ex) boyfriend and his friends for the first time a few years ago. We went to some cafe and everyone sat around joking. As usual, I was the only Christian in the group. Inevitably, the best way to become the life of the party is to crack Christian jokes - how Christians are referred to as 'blue boned' ('adma zar'a) and 'four feathered' (arba'a reesha), etc... Little things that aren't exactly offensive but are unlikely to come out of a Christian's mouth in mixed company. And are certainly unlikely to come out of my 'Americanized' mouth as such phrases aren't commonly known the upper class.

On our way home Roonies applauded me on getting along with them so well and having such a good time. I explained to her that I in fact did not like her (repeated for current boyfriend's benefit: now-ex) boyfriend's friends and did not intend to repeat the outing. She found it strange that I could seem to have such a good time but not have actually enjoyed myself. I found it strange that she found it strange. What was wrong with me that I had to pretend to have a good time? I seem to do that very often.

I think differently to most Egyptians. I do not understand some of the social intricacies and have a bit of an elitist attitude (Roonies and Cheb Khaled would call this the understatement of the year). Fine. I'm a snob. I was brought up to believe, in Daddy's words, that 'we are a breed apart'. Copyright Eureka's Dad. Copyright underscored one million and nine times. He raised us to believe this wholeheartedly. And I do believe this. Purely based on the fact that I have not met anyone else who thinks or was raised quite like me.

This is doubly evidenced by the fact that I do not fit in abroad either. Hence the 'straddling' of the 'fence' and the 'dancing' on the 'ladder'. I don't see myself being a normal 23-year-old in NYC or London. I've spent enough time in major American and European cities with metropolitan peers to have a solid sense of their Identity (again, capital I). It isn't quite mine, either.

Even amongst my friends, I am told that I am not quite the same. Cheb Khaled says I'm an Excellance (stress placed on the second syllable for pronunciation). In Cheb Khaled vernacular, that means of nobility. Over dinner on Wednesday, an old school friend was assessing my tiny dating pool and declared that I had it much harder because I needed a specific type of person within a tiny Christian minority. So basically, I have 2 and a quarter people to choose from.

Oh, joy.

Hey, at least you folks got a blog post out of this. Maybe this straddling the fence business can be of use, after all.


Anonymous said...

many tines i feel the same way
i think not fitting in is the best way to be in this world
and faking having a good time is genius
only the very talented can do that

i am sure great writers didn't always fit in

u say u have only a small percentage as an option for u of the people in egypt i see it differently i think you have so many chances most of the first world is an option

so many chances waiting for you and you will enjoy the company of a non egyptian i promise

why limit urself to the three here?

thingsonmymindgrapes said...

Eureka, if I was a well-off, Christian male I'd marry you in a heartbeat. Not for your forward thinking or anything, though. Purely for 'the girls.'

I kid. I think 'fitting in' is the hardest thing to do, and completely understand how you feel. I take solace in the fact that I don't think anyone truly fits in with each other - no matter how much they try (to force it). Pickings here are so slim that people make do with what they have.

(Also, the ex-boyfriend's group of friends blew.)

Kaz said...

Although I don't have a bita2a or an Egyptian passport, I still don't get all the jokes and my Arabic writing skills are that of an 8 year old, I've forced my way into being Egyptian.

My dad is from Pakistan, my mum is Egyptian, we lived in England. I have a half Danish sister, a half Lebanese niece, and a Syrian brother-in-law who was raised by Chinese people. Can u imagine what a family get together is like? It's a real benetton ad I tell u.

What I'm trying to say is your Identity will change according to where u feel more at home. In the end it's what you make of it. Me, maybe I don't fit in here, but right now this is where I feel at home.

I don't know if that made any sense, I hope it did. Also, u really need to get laid..

Forsoothsayer said...

every time i read this blog i think, girl needs to relax.
also, you'll change your mind about pretty much everything in here in a few years, trust thw wise 27 year olds :)

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