The month of Ramazan is upon us - good luck to all those observing it.

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"Don't worry about it; buy something for your mother", I suggested as I slipped the money back over to her side of the table. I cannot recall a having experienced a silence quite like the one that followed, not for a while at least. In curiosity as to why everybody had stopped talking, I looked up; two of the horrified faces staring at me opted to snigger into their hands, everybody else's gapping mug waited until after they'd given me a look of disgust before they looked at one another in disbelief. "Daveed!", exclaimed another, under her breath, as I started to grasp how what I'd said might have sounded. The very small English one-penny-piece had then dropped as I read the face of another colleague, "you idiot!", it said, almost reveling in my slip up.

Having survived the episode, I later consulted my informant colleague for clarity, "you are suggesting that her mum is in need of charity!", she laughed, displaying a face not unlike those at the lunch table. "But I followed this by clarifying; saying that I meant she should buy something like flowers", I fruitlessly protested, "I was trying to be complimentary while deflecting the subject - you know, 'if you won't take, and I won't take it, then let somebody else have it', for example – In this case her mother". I had indicated as much during lunch, but I fear it looked like too much backtracking; certainly too little, too late.

I should have paid more attention to my father's advice, "never mention or ask after wives or sisters – or generally any female relative"

I should have presented the deflection in English – the usual language I talk with this particular colleague – at least I would have limited the damage. Yet, simply, I should have said nothing and paid more attention to my father's advice, "never mention or ask after wives or sisters – or generally any female relative", he's warned me after having escape previous such moments.

"So, how's the wife?", I've occasionally asked, having exhausted most other pleasantries. My expectation is to hear, "she's fine; switched jobs; better hours you know; she's happy, yeah", but I rather feel that this question is like asking about a man's locked-away possession or asking, "have you still got that lawnmower?", a questions that implies a follow up, "can I borrow it this weekend, I've a lawn that needs a good seeing to".

My father had helpfully explained; that this comes across like I'm asking with intention: what exactly do I want to do with her? Maybe the mention of flowers then, didn't make things any better. Like with similar such 'protection' over women in this country, I find it projects an inadequacy. The whole awkward episode certainly presented an inadequacy on my part.

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  • Sounds to me like a classic David Y moment. You capture very well the awkwardness of being your acquaintance.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:03 AM  

  • maybe if you had said that about her father, she would have reacted the same way.

    By Anonymous azadeh, at 9:47 AM  

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