Fame and Your Family

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s been a while. I won’t lie to you, I’ve wanted to write more, but I’ve been busy basking in the fame and celebrity status I have earned in my family, thanks to my post I’m an Egyptian Woman and I Like Being Sexually Harassed.

Me: Baba, 3000 people read my blog about sexual harassment!

Baba: What’s a blog?

Me: it’s a note you write online.

Baba: Ah, so it’s not real.

Me: Why?

Baba: It doesn’t count if it’s not in a newspaper.

Me: 3000 people is a big deal!

Baba: I have 1000 names on my phone; does that make me a big deal?

Me: (sulking) This is not a competition.

Baba: She writes a note on Facebook and calls herself a writer.

Me: It’s not on Facebook!

Baba: Even worse.

Me: It’s a blog! Bloggers are writers, you know!

Baba: Does Naguib Mahfouz have a blog? Does Alaa Al Aswany have a blog?

Me: (sulking) No.

Mama: Are you sure the 3000 people are even real?

Me: What?

Mama: How do we know you didn’t click on it 3000 times?

Me: For God’s sake, people read my blog! When am I going to get some respect around here?

Mama: When you clean your room.

Baba: Let’s look at the newspapers today. Is your name in El Sherouk? No. What about Al Masry Al Youm? Bardo no. What about Magalet El Shabab? Ha? Ha?

Me: You people are terrorists.

Mama: Stop being so mean to her, Abdalla. She looks tired, she must have been up all night clicking on her note.

Baba: HAHAHAHAA!

Me: I’ll have you know that writing online is very cool. Alaa El Aswany tweets all the time.

Baba: He does what?

Me: He tweets. He sends messages on Twitter.

Baba: Mashy, so Alaa has tweetar. Hayel. How many books did he write?

Me: Many.

Baba: How many books did he sell?

Me: I’ll go clean my room.

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Suzeeinthecity: Cairo Street Art- Downtown Cairo

Mr. X by Keizer next to Chessboard by El Teneen on Yousef El Guindy Street

If you’re interested in the rising graffiti trend in Cairo, check out my other blog SuzeeintheCity as I scramble around Cairo searching for the latest graffiti pieces.

[‘Excuse me,’ he walks up to me as I hesitantly put my camera down, ‘What does this picture mean?’

He points at the Keizer stencil of Mickey Mouse on the grey wall. Mahmoud Bassiouny Street on a Saturday afternoon is crowded, and people seem still wary of any snap-happy camera-toting thug like me. Who knows, I could be another Facebook-loving Zionist spy.

‘I think that’s Mickey Mouse,’ I say helpfully.

‘Yes but what does it mean? And who is that man next to him?’

He’s bald with a graying walrus moustache, probably in his mid-forties, his full cheeks sweating as he fans at his pin-striped pink shirt.

‘I’m not quite sure,’ I say politely, wishing I could go back to my camera, but he appears adamant for an answer. ‘Maybe it’s a president? It could be George Bush.’

‘Yes but what is George Bush doing with Mickey Mouse? I like this picture, I walk past it every day, but I wish there’d be some writing explaining it so that I could understand.’

How do I explain dichotomy or irony in Arabic? My mind goes blank.

‘Err… maybe the guy who made this wants you to think about it and come up with your own idea?’ I offer weakly.]

To read more and check out the graffiti of Downtown Cairo in all its glory, click here.

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I’m an Egyptian Woman and I Like Being Sexually Harrassed

I wake up every morning looking forward to getting sexually harassed in Cairo. Because a day gone by without being whistled at like cattle or groped like a melon at a vegetable store is a day unlived in this city. Right?

I even dress according to how often I’d like to get harassed that day. Tight white t-shirt? That’s the number one sign that I’m asking for it. Skinny jeans are obviously worn to highlight my butt so men know what to grab (some short-sighted idiots completely miss and grab my hip instead, which is just plain insulting).

And since I don’t cover my hair, then obviously I know what shit I’m getting myself into by walking on the streets of the city I call home as an equal citizen to the men that lurk on corners, outside shops, dangling from microbuses, waiting happily.

As an Egyptian woman, I completely understand that my purpose in this life is to serve the sexually frustrated imaginations of these poor men who can’t get it up. My father and mother spent years of sweat, tears and hard-earned cash on educating me into an emancipated woman so that one day I become a walking piece of meat on the street. Obviously.

Then I discovered that all the hours I put into my hair and makeup make no difference whatsoever to my sexual predators; I could walk around with my uncombed hair and a gallabeya; hell, I could wear a black tent from head to toe and still, they’d find something sexual about me. Ever heard Egyptian men talk about how erotic the Niqab is? Yeah, apparently there’s nothing you can do or wear to incite harassment.

Just the plain fact that you have boobs and they don’t means you’re up for grabs, literally.

I could spend what’s left of my pea-sized woman’s brain wondering what I did to deserve this friendly male reception, or analyzing why society has continuously objectified us little women into pigeon-holes of either innocent, doe-eyed girls or rampant whores; but I won’t.It takes too much brain power, and me being the weaker sex, I should stick to what I do best, which according to these men, is nothing.

Which is why I should never talk back, or look back, or yell or ask for help; this is my fate, I must accept it. And not even the veil can protect me from my Muslim brothers.

So I play a little game in my head. It’s like walking through a videogame scene, where every man is a potential predator, and I keep my radar finely tuned, my walk fast and dontmesswithme, my eyes scanning every corner for attackers. Over the years, I’ve acquired a Robocop face that occasionally scares the living shit out of small children and animals, and my middle finger is my videogame weapon that I choose to shoot when the moment comes.

But I only keep it for those who really deserve it; I ask myself ‘Is this the worst line I’ve heard all day? Has he managed to completely annihilate my self-esteem?’ If so, then he gets the finger. If not, I just walk on.

And I defy what my well-intentioned mother and many other kind Egyptians have taught me, and I answer back. Why should men  get all the fun?

Him: Bsssst! Bsssssst! Bssssssst!!

Me: Bsssst dee teb2a ommak.

Him: WELKOM TO EEJIPT!

Me: SANK YOU!

Him: Wat Zis? Wat Zis? Wat Zis? WAT ZIS?

Me: Zis is etnayel yala.

Him: Matgeeb Bosa?

Me: Ma3ak Dettol?

Him: Oh MAI GODD!

Me: Ommak Ar3a.

And as fun as it is to talk back, I’m sure I’m not getting the same kick out of it that they are. And I know that it could only make things worse for me, my predator could easily attack me  in broad daylight or get his friends together to follow me like a pack of rabid dogs, and of course it will be my fault because I talked back, when I should ignore it and accept that this is the price you pay for being a woman in Egypt. Right?

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Ten Steps to Writing a Bestselling Feminist Book in Egypt

Since they make it look so easy, i’ve come up with a few guidelines to follow in case any of us women are planning on publishing a Feminist Egyptian Book soon:

1. Book Title: Sex sells. So do the words Shit, Fuck (or Screw), Relationship and Women. Put any of these in your title and you’ve already done 50% of your work.

2. Book Cover: Sex sells. Put a woman on your cover, preferably one in a short skirt, with luscious red lips or long legs that will have men running for the closest bookstore. If you’re feeling extra cocky, put yourself (or your sister) on the cover, have your brother photoshop it and Tadaaaaaa. If you’re super creative, take a page out of Maria (el3ab el3ab el3ab)’s book and put someone in a tartan mini skirt. Even if it’s a man. Nothing sells like a pair of hairy man legs in a tartan mini-skirt.

3. Don’t Click Spellcheck on Your Word Document. Or have your sister/mother/neighbour/accountant edit it. Be sure to leave in blinding spelling mistakes. Obviously the 1000 friends and relatives that get a free copy of your book won’t mind because they’re only reading it to see if you’ve mentioned them. Make sure your point is clear by USING BLOCK CAPITALS AND QUADRUPLE EXCLAMATION MARKS!!!!!!!!! because God knows we’re not literate enough to get your message unless you hit us on the head with a sledgehammer.

4. Write About How Much You Hate Men. Start off by saying you love men. That will lure naive male readers into reading. Then on page two, reveal that you really hate men because they are responsible for everything wrong in your life. Got dumped by a boyfriend? Take it out on the male race. A man harassed you on the street? All men must pay. Some idiot called you fat (even if it was your dietician)? Write a book and claim that men are a tree full of poison, or something equally catchy.

5. Call yourself a Feminist. Because obviously women who hate men are feminists, right? And writing a book about the big bad evil men is a revolutionary book and will liberate women all over Egypt and around the world. Because no independently thinking woman can come to her own conclusion on feminism without a book that explains Hate+Man=feminist.

6. Sex Really Does Sell. Talk about sex like a guy would, but then explain that women shouldn’t try to act like men or be equal to men because they’ll fail miserably and they’re better off in their designer shoes and perfect red lipstick. Equate independent, successful women with how many designer shoes and bags they own.Got that? Right, moving on.

7. Use Google as a Credible Citation Source. Call yourself an expert. Who needs a degree in psychology or feminist literature when all you have to do is remember a few Madonna lyrics or watch a few chick flicks? That’s education! To justify all your claims about the psychology of men, just google ‘psychology men bad’ and cite your first result. Even if it’s a blog. Or a porn site. Or a shoe shop. We don’t care. If it’s online, it must be true.

8. Self-Love. Nothing sells like a big ego (well, apart from sex). Badger your friends/colleagues/siblings/MSN buddies to wax lyrical about how desirable, intelligent, sexy, fabulous, sexy, talented, and revolutionary (revolutionary sells these days…apart from sex and egos of course) you are. Act totally modestly by having their testimonials printed in your book. Surely women will gain self-confidence and relate to you by reading about how many material possessions you’ve acquired as a result of being feminist and fabulous. Fabufeminist.

9. Add some Poetry for Good Measure. Feel inspired by Dr. Seuss’ Cat in The Hat?  Write about how you feel mad, then sad, then bad about feeling mad and sad. This is art. you are an artist. Keats ain’t got nothin on you. Don’t know Keats? Google him and choose your first result. Assume that your readers haven’t read since third grade and appreciate the same level of literature back when they needed to follow pictures to get the plot.

10. Forget content. Who needs a plot, characters, an actual theory or conclusion when you have all those surefire guaranteed moneymaking points mentioned above? You don’t need to entertain or enlighten your readers, you need to make a point. By completely missing it. At the end of the day, women will thank you. And men will thank you. We’re sure they never knew how evil they were until you wasted 200 pages of their reading lives to explain that. Your next marketing step should be to launch a rehab for men or male workshops so that they can learn from your wisdom and be better…. oh wait, you say you love them just the way they are? Oh. Right. Then.What. Was. The. Point.Of.Your. Book?

And there you have it. Ay khedma.

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On Being A Cruslim

Aside from the aforementioned dreaded birthday, the other time of the year that makes me neurotic (well a lot more than the usual neurotic) is Christmas and the end of the year. While many consider this to be a time of celebration and giving, I consider it one of loss, nostalgia and regret, but also one of gratitude and a sneaky, unshakable hope that I’m going to wake up to a pile of presents under the plastic Made-in-China Christmas tree.

This (like pretty much everything in my life) can be blamed entirely on my parents, who, up until I was ten (or four, depending on which parent you choose to believe) led me to believe that Santa Clause (and the tooth fairy) existed purely to buy me presents.

I remember every Christmas Eve being a festive, happy, gift-filled party, usually thanks to my unofficial godfathers, Uncle Mohi and Uncle Victor buying me excellent choices (for a ten/four/28-year old) such as a yellow tea tray set with beautiful tea cups, a quaint tea pot and even a sugar jar (it baffles me how my usually pea-brain-sized memory can still recollect these obscure little experiences when I fail to remember more important things such as why I left my car keys in the fridge again, most of my friends’ names and my sister’s birthday- thank god for facebook reminders). Singing in the Rain would be playing on TV, my friend Maya and her sisters, my sister and I would huddle in front of the fire and ladle generous spoons of brandy cream into our mouths (which led me to recently observe to my mother: “Have you ever thought that maybe I wasn’t sugar high as a kid, I was just drunk?”) and sing all the Christmas songs that my German kindergarten had hammered into my head.

Several years of jovial brandy cream and tea set gifts later, my dad one day decided to burst my Santa bubble by telling me that Mr. Clause doesn’t exist, and I should no longer get presents; as I’m Muslim and Muslims don’t have Santas. This I found to be extremely offensive, especially since it meant no more presents; but I was happily reminded of not one but two Muslim feasts where I get brand-new clothes and clean-smelling cash from all adults (including unfortunate guests who happened to drop by at the wrong time and couldn’t handle my thug-like ten year old attitude of ‘Yo! I’m Muslim! Gimme money!”

Still, the cash was usually a few pounds at the most and always ran out with one trip to the nearest grocers and a pile of Magic Gum, Bimbo, Rocket and bonbon Sima, or it got confiscated by the same Santa-ruining father who put it all away in a precious bank account “for savings.” Two decades later, we’ve forgotten entirely about those bank accounts, but I’m pretty sure there’s a few valuable twenties locked away somewhere with my name on them.
Today, the cash is no longer forked out, as I am rudely reminded that I am an independent, cash-earning career woman and new clothes are no longer necessary since I need two wardrobes in two different cities to contain my collection (and several suitcases and a few boxes under beds). But I’ve always thought that it’s the thought that counts, especially when it’s a well-thought-out wad of cash on Christmas or either of the eids or a new pair of shoes, but hey, I’m just saying. Not dropping hints or anything, Dad.

The whole why-don’t-I-get-Christmas-too debate recently came into question when my last boss decided to split work holidays according to religions; i.e. if you’re Christian, you get Christmas off, but if you’re Muslim, you have to work, etc. I understand that the man was a workaholic and wanted to keep the company running throughout the year, but I smelled religious discrimination and considered reporting him to some workers’ union until I remembered that, like most of my friends working in Egypt, I didn’t have a contract or any legit workers’ papers, and thus did not have a single (nicely shoed) leg to stand in.
Then I came up with the genius decision that I am a Cruslim. Yes, a Christian Muslim. A person of both faiths that gets both the Christian and the Muslim New Year’s Eves off and expects presents whenever possible. My poor boss blinked at me for a good five minutes, and then huffed off and threatened to throw his Café Greco double espresso at someone else instead.

He then got into trouble when Thanksgiving rolled around and the American colleagues got that off but I had to work, whereupon I pointed out that I should get Egyptian Labor Day, Sinai Liberation Day, National Victory Day, Sham El Neseem, May 15th, 26th of July, Father’s and Mother’s Day off. Suffice it to say that I don’t work there anymore.
Still, my closeted religious righteousness is appeased with every Christmas, as I get invited to many generous dinners, where people feed me for a change and I don’t have to raise a finger except to go for seconds, and sometimes thirds ( I eat for a living. I have the stomach capacity to prove it).

That, however, cannot always shake the sense of foreboding and regret that I feel around this time of year when I remember the people that I have lost and the opportunities that I have missed on this strange path that I have taken.
It’s always around this time of year when I look at what I’ve become and what I was supposed to be, and measure the drastic gap of difference between the two. When I was six (or eight or twelve) I had my life excellently planned out. I was going to be an astronaut. A champion tennis player, the grand dame of a ballet school, a dog breeder, the president of the world; all admirable and realistic aspirations that got lost along the way of growing taller and wider, saner and more responsible.

These are the things that I still regret.
1. I regret listening to my ballet teacher when I was twelve, who told me I was too tall and too heavy to ever become a ballerina. After eight years of loving ballet, I quit cold turkey. I still tear up when I watch ballet, and my feet always twitch whenever I watch So You Think You Can Dance. I could have been something.
2. I regret all the amazing trips and job offers that I passed up on, like the free trips to Cyprus, Sharm El Sheikh, Beirut and Damascus, or the job offer at AP, the exchange program in the US, or the writers’ program in Gouna. All these opportunities I relinquished because I was committed to a person or a job, and time has proven neither to be worthy.
3. I regret the friends that I’m no longer friends with, whether because words were spoken and pride got in the way, or we drifted apart because my life was filled with other (more temporarily interesting) people. I’ve found out the hard way that you don’t choose your best friends; they’re the ones that stay when the smoke clears and the glitter fades.
4. I regret the advice that I never took, the people that I never listened to, and as a result, let myself get hurt by people who didn’t deserve my trust. Since then, I’m borderline anal about taking my friends’ advice on who I should date, what I should eat, and does that haircut really suit me even if the hot Lebanese/Italian/French hair stylist tells me I look fabulous.
5. I regret the people that I’ve hurt, whether through carelessness or not being able to control my car or foresee the future.
6. I regret never telling the people I lost how much I love them. Mohab believed in me more than I did in myself, and wouldn’t stop calling me, no matter how often I ignored his phone calls. Roba insisted on cooing at me down the phone, even when I begged her not to sing Hammaki or Tamer Hosny off-key to me, but she was charming and she loved me.
7. And the biggest regret I will always have is the fact that I never answered Vanessa’s calls. She called me every day for five days when I was mourning Roba, and I was too stuck in my bubble to call her back, or even just text her. The day she stopped calling, I decided to call her back, and it was too late. And that’s something I have to deal with for the rest of my life.
My very wise grandmother once said that you don’t regret the things that you do, you regret the things that you don’t. With all the mistakes that I’ve made in my rather short twenty eight years of life, I rarely have pangs of regret other than the next morning of what-the-hell-did-do-last-night-and-how-did-I-end-up-singing-karaoke-on-the-bar-table-and-why-did-my-stupid-friends-take-photos-and-post-them-on-facebook.

At this time of year, I weigh my list of regrets versus all the little milestones that I’ve achieved, and try and spin something positive out of them. I’m young, I’m loved, I have several talents that should channeled into something more productive than feeding a few friends (sorry, guys) or writing a blog that possibly thirty people (including my mother) know about.
So this year, I resolve to stop whining about nostalgia and regret, and start doing something about it. Starting with presents. You know what I want.

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On Birthdays And Other Scary Things

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I hate my birthdays. Not in the cute Hollywood I-Will-Not-Be-Defined-By-My-Birthdate-I-Am-At-One-With-Nature-In-My-Flowing-White-Dress-And-Flowers-In-My-Hair-Along-The-Beach kind of way.

No, I’m talking the heaving, hyperventilating, curling into fetus position while mentally dictating my obituary under the bed covers type of hate.

Drama queen? A little, I suppose; yet for as long as I can remember I have always been a nervous wreck around the time of my birthday. Why? Perhaps we could trace it all the way back to when I was three and I had a fit about the pink dress my poor mother was trying to make me wear -yes, even then I had a sense of style and didn’t listen to my mother’s advice.

Mother: Put it on.

3-year-old Me: No.

Mother: Go on, it will look pretty on you.

3-year-old Me: No.

Mother: Your friends are all outside waiting for you and this pretty pink dress will look nice. Don’t you want to go out and play?

Me: (stubbornly) No.

Mother: There’s pink cake too. With sugar icing.

Me: (less confident) No.

Mother: Look, just try the thing on.

Me: It’s ITCHY.

Mother: (exasperatedly) How would you know? you haven’t tried it on!

Me: It LOOKS itchy.

Mother: (Losing it) Look, you either try on the dress now or I’ll put you to bed and your friends can have your cake without you.

Me: (sniffling). Ookay. (Put Dress on) Oooh, it’s prittee!

Mother: (rolling eyes) Oh, don’t you look pretty in that!

But no, that couldn’t be it; I cannot blame a lifelong neurosis on a pink dress and a toddler’s attitude problem.

It’s not that I hate birthday parties; on the contrary, I’ve had many wonderful celebrations full of food, music, games and the people  I love.

It’s never been about the gifts either: as much as I love the shiny, superficial things in life; the experiences are even more valuable, which is why one of my all-time favourite birthdays was when I travelled alone to the Red Sea coast for a long weekend. With just three CDs (Pink Floyd, Dave Mathews and a mixed CD) and the third part of Lord Of The Rings, I spent my days sunbathing and reading, and my nights writing and sleeping. It was simple and relaxed. It was awesome.

But back to my annoying dilemma (I say annoying only because I’ve noticed how my friends get increasingly  wary of me as my birthday approaches, and my parents gently inform me that they will call me in a few days once my wave of pre-birthday neurosis has ended and I’ve stopped yelling at the phone that has imbedded itself into the concrete wall after I threw it)-

Perhaps all this fear, panic and self-indulgent whining have something to do with that time when I was twelve and a strange man came up to me at a Christmas bazaar. Without a word, he took my palm, proceeded to readthe lines on my hand, and then told me that I was going to die at the age of twenty four.

I tried to shake his words off, after all; how would he know? But what if he was right and I only had life till I was 24? That gloomy prospect stayed in my mind until that dreaded birthday finally arrived twelve years later.

Surprisingly enough, I didn’t die; but I did lose my best friend, a death that was quite difficult to bear and unfortunately not the last one to endure. I didn’t die at 23, nor did I die at 25 or even at 27, but that’s how old my friends were when I lost them. It’s always around my birthday when their deaths strike close to home again, when I remember their faces and wonder at the fact that I will never see them grow past those ages; and only they will remain forever young.

I also look back at my own life and question what exactly I’ve made of myself in all these years. I have yet to climb a mountain, yet to write a bestselling novel, yet to make a name of myself that will be remembered long after I’m gone. And when will I be gone? All these are tough questions to face on a day that should involve cake, balloons and glitter; which is probably why I retreat into my three-year-old skin every year and demand a loud party. Bring on the joy, laughter, and the pink icing cake. And my favourite meal of grilled chicken liver, peas and carrots and mashed potatoes; the same I’ve had every birthday since I was five.

This results in an argument with the same mother every year along the same lines:

Mother: I really don’t want to cook chicken liver this year. Can’t we just have a nice dinner at a civilized restaurant instead?

27-Year-Old Me: (Stubbornly) No.

Mother: (Sighing) Look, you’re too old to be this stubborn. Can’t I just take you to Abu El Sid and you order the liver there?

27-Year-Old Me: (Stubbornly) No. It’s my birthday. I want chicken liver. And pink icing cake.

Mother: Does it have to be pink? There’s no pink icing colour available at the supermarket. Can’t I just buy you a cake from Pumpkin?

Me: (lip trembling) Make some. Use rose petals. Or hibiscus flower. Be creative.

Mother: You know you don’t HAVE to have a pink birthday cake every single birthday.

Me: (stubbornly) Yes I do.

Mother: (sighs) I wish I’d had a boy.

Perhaps my fraught nerves stem from a fear of aging, which could probably explain the borderline fanatical obsession with my childhood traditions of pink birthday cakes, chicken liver meals and a big birthday party.

Lately, the aspect of aging has become a lot easier. I’ve begrudgingly come to accept that I will never look twelve again (though I occasionally act it), that cellulite and laugh lines are inevitable (in fact, i’m secretly rather pleased about the laugh lines appearing before the frown lines) and that turning thirty doesn’t necessarily mean the end of life: I have several friends who have survived the big 3-0 and are still cool; so it can’t be that bad.

I’ve also managed to cut back on the fetus-position/howling-at-the-moon-if-I-don’t-get-a-birthday-cake drama.

So, if you catch me scowling on my birthday or failing to smile when you burst into song or wish me a Happy Birthday; please don’t take it personally. I’m probably just fretting over the years of it raining on my birthday and resisting the urge to stamp my foot, have a tantrum and be sent to my room for acting all camp and drama queen-like. But then again, when the lip begins to tremble and the clouds threaten to cover the skies, I am comforted by the memory of that itchy pink dress that turned out to be a lot of fun, just like all of my birthdays and the years that I’ve lived through so far. So far, so good. No?

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For The Love of Paris

As with most major events or mishaps in my life, I like to blame my mother for my love for Paris. Thanks to her and her iron fist of TV censorship, I spent much of my childhood ogling happy musicals, many of which were about Paris.

There was Gene Kelly in American in Paris (whom I would also like to blame for ruining my taste in men- I will never find a suave tap-dancing painter who can pull off a red necktie while dangling off a lamppost) and Leslie Caron in Gigi, a film that I later on discovered was actually about a woman training her granddaughter to become a ho. A high-class ho, but a ho nonetheless. Why my mother allowed her seven- and five-year-olds to watch Gigi and yet banned Pretty Woman still baffles me to this day. The only difference between Julia and Gigi is, as far as I can see, the hot pants.

So why I never visited the city of lights in all of my twenty seven years remains a mystery to me. Life tends to get in the way of your plans, you find yourself swayed in unexpected directions. Every birthday, I’d promise myself that I’d see Paris that year (I have tens of journal entries to prove it), but then university/jobs/friends/relationships got in the way; and suddenly, twenty years had passed.

When you find yourself living a somewhat conventional life with a sickeningly responsible work ethic (I turned down free trips to Sharm El Sheikh, Beirut, Dubai and Cyprus for the sake of my work duties- did I mention free trips?), you look back on the opportunities you’ve missed out on with regret. And I hate regret. It’s up there on my list with Nabila Ebeid, snakes and fart jokes.

Maybe it’s the gay man inside of me (I love sequins. I improvise cheesy cabaret songs in the kitchen when I cook- I even have an ‘I Love Butter’ sequence- and I once re-enacted the entire Moulin Rouge duet between Ewan Macgregor and Nicole Kidman on a table- singing both roles), maybe it’s my unabated adoration of French gastronomy; but I’ve held onto my idyllic vision of Paris for years, no matter what people warned me about Parisians being rude, arrogant and smelly.

All I could think of was Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy walking the Rive Gauche in Before Sunset, and all I wanted is one photograph of me sipping my café au lait by the river banks, with a necktie elegantly wrapped around my neck (again, I blame Gene for this). And then I can honestly die happy.

By die happy, I mean that every time I get plane fever and think that the plane will crash (which is, um, every time), instead of screaming out ‘I’m too young to die!’ or think of the unborn children/unpublished books/unclimbed mountains/untasted ice cream flavours that I’ve yet to meet, all I can think of is ‘But I haven’t seen Paris yet!’

And then one day, I finally did. A string of mishaps, coincidences and a sudden bout of bravery led me to book my flight to Paris without a map, itinerary or accommodation (until the very last minute) and very, very little money. I didn’t care.  The trip was a beautiful experience, especially because I knew I deserved it.

Why, you ask me?

Let’s say I was part of a business partnership for a few years that I invested all my time, energy and money into. And let’s say that I woke up one day to find that my business partner had frozen my assets, sold my share of the company and left me penniless and stranded in a foreign country with not even a ticket home.

Fast-forward one year later, and I’d worked my shapely butt off to pay off my debts, and when I sold the only remaining asset I’d managed to hang on to, I did exactly what the logical, sensible me wouldn’t have done- and I bought myself a trip to Paris. After all, I earned it.

Every dream, every musical fantasy I’d had about Paris was true.  The city lights do shimmer, the cobblestone paths do wind, and there are buskers on street corners playing Aznavour classics at sunset. The people do roll their eyes and say ‘Ohlalaaa’ as if they’re having an eyegasm, or ‘Coocoo!’ affectionately instead of Hello when they enter a friend’s home. Charming, witty and extremely Mediterranean, they roll their words off their tongue in such an effortless, musical rhythm; that even ‘Pardon me, where’s the train station?’ sounds like the sexiest thing I’ve ever heard. Drool. Pick. Jaw. Off. Pavement.

And yes, the Parisians can be rude, but they’re rude in general about everything; so it’s nothing personal. They’re as grouchy and aggressive as the average Egyptian taxi driver. All you need is a bright smile, a little skin and a flutter of ze eyelids; and they move swiftly from C’est Quoi Ca? to Mais Oui, ma Cherie!

And the food. Don’t get me started on the food. Parisian portions are small but unbelievably tasty; so good that even a random brasserie in the middle of nowhere can serve up a Croque Madam or crepe or a macaroon that’s so delectable; you may lose the will to cook every again. I know I did.

And I don’t care how cheesy or touristy the Eiffel Tower is; seeing it at night made the seven-year-old in me finally happy, and all the mishaps and misdirections over the past few years seemed worth the journey. Maybe my love for Paris all these years has been more of an idyllic dream that kept me going; knowing that one day I’d have my baguette in one hand and my bike in the other as I rode alongside the quai de la rapée at night.

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