TALES FROM AN EGYPTIAN HOUSEHOLD – THE MAN

Date posted: July 11, 2008


I was a 17 year old girl at the time of this tale and my mother and father were still married. It was school time; Thursday evenings were dedicated to my taekwondo sessions and Friday mornings were when I got to dress up, look cute, and try to make ends meet as a good adolescent girl trying to grow into a woman in a conservative Egyptian society. One sunny Friday I went to the club – this was the acceptable hangout for girls my age – and as I made my way through an alley that led to the entrance of the pool, I ran into Ahmed Hosni. Ahmed was a very decent fourth year medical student and we used to chat whenever we ran into one another in the club – of course mobile phones were not an option at the time and good girls did not give boys their numbers at home.

We used to talk about college, what he wanted to achieve as a doctor, and his search for a good wife. I used to share my aspirations of becoming a doctor myself and I helped in his quest. We were friends and we respected one another a lot. I always felt that he was the possessive type and I always had the urge to fly. That Friday morning was not any different than any other time when our paths crossed; we stood in the alley and began talking. We were laughing and exchanging stories when I spotted my father marching towards us taking wide strides; I thought I saw his nostrils widening with every angry breath he inhaled. I looked back at Ahmed not sure how to explain what was coming and he looked back at me wondering if he should run.

My father looked at me angrily, then looked at Ahmed doubtingly, and told me that we had to go. The heaviness of guilt and anticipation subdued me as I followed my dad to the car. I was more concerned with my image in front of my friend; I felt humiliated for no good cause. The frown on my dad's forehead grew deeper creating future wrinkles but he was silent. We arrived home and my mother noticed the tension. She asked what went wrong but he was still silent. I told my mom what happened and my fury took over. Dad walked back into the room and the "good girl" lesson began.

"Good girls who come from good homes do not do what I saw you doing. I am ashamed of you." Said my dad
"Why? What did I do wrong?" I asked unknowingly
"You were talking to a man … in front of everyone … what will they say about you?" My dad explained
"He is my friend" I defended him
"There is no such thing as friendship between men and women … did he hold your hand? Did he try to kiss you? Did he put his hands on your knees?" The images were driving my dad crazier by the minute.
"You have women friends at work" I tried to reason with him
"I am a grown up." This was the reply that put the full stop after many of our conversations.
"They call you at home" I went on.
"It is my home and when you have your own home do whatever you want." This was the other response that put the rest of the punctuation marks in the home-grown soliloquy.

Mom took my dad's side and told me confidently that my father would have never married her had he knew that she talked to guys. My brother was looking, listening, and learning – and I still missed the point as I argued that Ahmed was my friend and that we were standing in a public place in the morning talking about normal stuff. My dad insisted that if I were to talk to anyone from another gender, I should do it in a group. I was grounded for a couple of weeks. When I showed my face in the club again and Ahmed saw me, he hesitantly walked up to me and asked if I was ok. I glanced around like a thief and asked him to follow me to the bushes behind the parking lot where we could talk more privately without the risk of being seen by my parents or neighbors or cousins who frequented the same club!

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