I am in the midst of saying goodbye and catching up with friends, old and new. This past week has been strange… it’s almost like I have been sitting hunched up in a corner for the past year. Now as I find the strength and will to become a bit more social, I am smiling at my interactions with old friends that just feel the same way they did back in the day.
But this is not one of those waxing philosophical posts, this post is is about something I helped a friend realize. I have a friend who is like a little brother to me… I love him! (and not in that way) a few years my junior, we clicked as two of the few black people traversing a very brown Arab World and white world in terms of the Arabic-language learning community. We would make the conscious decision to not sit together all the time (becuase even when we didn’t, we still got the accusative why are you two [black people] always together?) People would even confuse us with each other! (even though he is Male and I am and female)… but I digress.
My friend thought he had found the ONE… the woman who checked every box on his list: Educated at an elite university, same religious background, similar social views… the list goes on and on. Naturally he pursued her in the respectful way that my little bro knows how. He invited her to events, send her emails and texts… In short he made it known that he was interested.
Unfortunately his lady friend did not respond. She didn’t reject him. But she didn’t really respond in the way he would have liked. My friend pursued this woman for the better part of a year and was still exasperated.
I tried to explain to him that I wish we had been in contact. I could have told him at about month 2 to quit his losses because “she’s just not that into you.” He is getting that now, but was still perturbed at the way his lady love responded…
“Why didn’t she just tell me she is not interested,” he wondered.
I had to break it down for him: Women have no in-between. When fending off a suitor whom we would rather not deal with, we always have to walk a fine line. We can either be very direct and say “NO, I DO NOT WANT TO DATE YOU!” or bust.
what is bust? bust is the problem that silence equals consent, even here in Western society (I am surprised at times at how people talk about the phenomenon elsewhere, without acknowledging its real existence here). Bust is that women are socialized to be calm, demure, and intensely aware of other people’s (read: men’s) feelings.
My mind went to two situations in particular when I was stuck. When I was Egypt, I blogged about this issue, how men just assumed I was striving for the shy girl ideal when I didn’t return their advances.
Just a few weeks ago, I blogged about how I had to be firm with a Romeo from the past.
Interestingly, when I relayed these events to a male friend, his reaction was this: Ouch! … what?…I felt like I had to be direct or else this guy would not get the picture. But somehow, I ended up looking like a mean girl? ha ha…At any rate, I explained these situations to my friend and he got it. It clicked for him and he thanked me for helping him see why this lady reacted the way she did.
I was happy to hep bring some of my elucidated perspectives to a friend in need of some. The conversation got me thinking on personal level as well. I am headed back to a place where silence is akin to consent in many situations. It’s going to be interesting to navigate the male-female dynamics of the Arab World yet again, but this time as grown woman, working woman and member of a sizeable ex-pat community.