Guess who’s coming to tea
8 June 2011 § Leave a comment
It was two years ago this week that PG first met my parents “officially”. As I’ve said before, we were friends for many years before any romantic involvement, so my parents had met him once or twice before, but in June 2009 they met him as a suitor (a word which must be said in the voice of Geoffrey from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air).
In the days before I told my parents about us I started a Twitter account (different to the one I use now) for the sole purpose of updating my friends about the situation. I had absolutely no idea how things would go, and I was on some level genuinely worried that my parents would never let me out of the house again or something drastic like that. If this sounds a little paranoid on my part, there was a precedent. A few years prior, during my last year of college, I had gone to Cairo to see my parents for winter break. At the end of the trip I was so wracked by guilt over the changes that were happening to me in terms of thought and attitude toward life (and love) that I decided to start coming clean with them about it all. I barely got past the first statement before my parents started freaking out and saying that they were going to pull me out of school and make me stay in Cairo so I could get my head straight. I was meant to be meeting Artemis in a few hours at the airport so we could head back stateside together, and there they were barring me from leaving. It took several hours of soothing monologue on my part and many tears before they let me go as planned. My father stopped speaking to me for months afterwards.
Throughout that situation what struck me most was that I had no mobile, no computer other than my parent’s laptop to use and basically no way to notify anyone – Artemis or otherwise – about what was going on. I felt trapped. And maybe it sounds like I’m overstating the situation, but actually I’m understating the argument above.
So in 2009 I had my own mobile and laptop and Twitter had been invented, and I started the Twitter account as a guaranteed way of letting my peeps know I was still of this world. (Easier than sending out a text message to each of those friends who felt invested in our situation and who numbered about 6.)
The point in bringing this up is that I kind of live-tweeted PG’s first meeting with my father. Top tweets from that night/the next day:
A few odd things emerged from that evening. My father was totally composed and my mother was an emotional mess, which is usually not how things work in our family. My mother is usually the one who has a good social face and my father the one who has little control over his feelings about a situation. So the meeting was led by my father, not really because this is the traditional thing to do but more because I don’t think my mother was able to bring herself to really sit with PG until the end of the evening.
Having said that, my father acted like PG was not a suitor. They talked about anything and everything other than our relationship to each other. To the point that afterwards my mother wondered if my father was actually aware of PG’s intentions in visiting our house that night. This situation emerged from the fact that PG’s father and my father are kind of in the same line of work, and PG is a somewhat knowledgeable about the topic. Thus, they were able to safely steer clear of any uncomfortable subject matter by instead discussing – in great detail – the history of multi-national accounting firms.
Meanwhile, I fell asleep.
The other thing that emerged was that apparently people in Egypt are obsessed with undershirts (vests for you Brits) as a sign of good taste. Both my mother and sister energetically pointed out that PG had not been wearing one under his dress shirt and it was obvious. I, naturally, told PG this and he promptly went to JIL in Zamalek and bought undershirts in bulk. At first I think he wore them a bit begrudgingly, but now – judging by the contents that spill out of his undershirt drawer and the trips he makes to JIL practically every time he’s in Cairo – I think he’s become a full on undershirt convert.
So the moral of the story is – when introducing a Farangi suitor to your parents make sure that he 1) has a working knowledge of your father’s line of work and 2) wears appropriate undergarments.