I have survived another Egyptian engagement party. One thing we can allllll be grateful for is that it wasn't mine. It was for my brother-in-law. If I never have another engagement party, I'll be a very happy woman.
This heavily laddened table pictured above was for the women of our family. Like truly modest people, the men had their time of eating and the women had theirs. We did not eat together nor socialize together. I'm fine with that.
There was some question from my husband whether or not I could handle myself in such a foreign setting. Would I know what to do?
"YES, OF COURSE! HOW DARE YOU EVEN SUGGEST I CAN'T!"
Let's just say that the actual words were much worse and the actual fight was much longer.
Later, I begin to doubt myself. Being American, means that I have deeply ingrained beliefs and behaviors which Islam and Egypt can't erase no matter how hard they try. As the night grew darker, I started to feel sick to my stomach from nerves. I had completely rebuffed my husband's fears but the truth was that I was nervous. Would I be be all right come seven o'clock?
I figured out how I could deal with the situation. I brought my "little friend" to shoot everyone. No, I didn't do a "Scarface" and bring my gun. I brought my camera. I have used my camera many times to hide behind while interacting:
- when my son met his father's twins
- when my kindergartners arrived for the first day
- when the sheep was slaughtered on Eid
This would be equally tough. I was meeting the woman I would live with whether I liked her or not. Living in our family house means that we all have our individual space but we're communal. We eat together at mealtimes. We come together in times of happiness and sadness. We bond as we protect each other and support one other reach their goals. We are a family. She would be my family. At the same time, it was going to be tough because I was almost left at home for being not quite Egyptian enough. I did have to prove myself a bit.
Alhumdulillah, that camera came along. My husband was right. I couldn't sit still for very long just staring at the ladies lining the four walls. I'm not sure what joy Egyptian women find in that moment. I find none. I have to talk and laugh and joke. I have to be active. Being so inanimate is an antithesis to my nature.
I started with my little niece, the former rent-a-baby now known as rent-a-girlie. She was standing at the ornate marble table lovingly touching the bouquet of flowers she would present to her future auntie. Carefully, oh-so-carefully, she would pinch one tiny petal off and enclose it within her tiny fist. Being three means you can't stop yourself from capturing beauty.
Maybe there's a three or four-year-old part of me which never left me. I had to capture her. She was my first photo. After that, the party was easy. I could be a participator from behind my lens. I could get smiles because the camera was eliciting happy responses. It is a blessing to find such a helpful coping mechanism.
The funny thing is that eventually you remember to breathe and enjoy. You realize that your fears were unfounded. You are happy. You are part of the party. You are not anyone's focus. You are simply a participator in the night's festivities because you live a really nice life. Subhanallah.