If you read one of my first blog posts on here, in response to Mr. Akin’s comments, you know I am fairly open with my experiences. You also know that I came to Cairo with a defense shield around my heart, and my body.
Well, a bit of Culture Shock recently. Not so much shock, more like culture confusion.
I went on a date . Wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to even go in that direction, was determined to be focused on my work here, volunteering, learning, representing my country, being a respected face, a role model, etc. But then I got encouragement on Twitter from one of my heroes and friends Mark Pollock to say yes to new experiences and things that bring me joy. (If you read about Mark you will understand why his perspective and advice mean so much to me, and why he was selected to carry the Olympic flame.)
But after the Egyptian date (which went quite well) I realized I didn’t know the answer to an important question: How does the post-date, goodnight kiss happen in a conservative country like Egypt?
Does a person here kiss in public? I sure haven’t seen anyone doing so. Witnessed a few young couples with a quick peck while cuddling on a park bench. But not many people who do so are my age. I guess those here in their mid-30s are already married, and they wait til they get home for any kissin’.
Although most everyone in Cairo strolls arm-in-arm (men with men, women with women, men with women), what Americans consider PDA doesn’t occur much at all. Yes, I have seen a few couples more wild than I making-out in the clubs, but this is limited. I have my assumptions that this cohort is comparable to the co-eds in American colleges. Or my life 8 years ago.
People do drink here in Cairo. People party here. Mostly indoors; and all the late-night outdoor cafes sell more tea than booze. Islam forbids alcohol, but not everyone is a practicing Muslim. There are all types of folks here. All out at all hours of the night, drinking tea and coffee and cinnamon with milk, smoking sheesha. I don’t think a costumed pub crawl would ever exist here, well not for Egyptians, and not for a good long while.
So, what about the end of a casual date? If you do not want to invite a guy in to your place but you enjoy his company, do you kiss him in front of your building, right in front of the door guy? In front of the police on every corner? And if people already have an “easy” stereotype of foreign women?
Dating in your mid-30s is interesting, my friends, no matter your country or culture.
As I’m writing this, it is International Day of the Girl. I feel very much like a girl. Finding the balance between independence, curiosity, self-protection and romance.
Secretary Hillary Clinton is on my tv speaking about the attack on Malala Yousafzai. Another hero of mine. A child but a role model. “She was attacked and shot by extremists who do not want girls to have an education and do not want girls to speak for themselves and do not want girls to become leaders, who are, for a variety of reasons, threatened by that kind of empowerment,” said Clinton.
We girls fight battles big and small.
We sing about feeling like we’re “the only girl in the world.” But in all corners of this world, we kiss and are kissed. We are each are own. But some girls, like Malala, remind us all to help hold up our corner of half the sky. To fight like a girl. To love like a girl.
Thank you, Malala. Heal soon.
Goodnight Moon. xoxo