Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Profile in...something

Today is Mother's Day, well at least in America- over here it was yesterday. I swear I thought it was on the 12th- anyways, i don't celebrate it and not because I think every day should be mother's day but more because its just weird to me. I actually wanted to write a post about a woman i've only met 5 months ago, when i first moved to Dubai. This is not someone I particularly like but someone I do admire. And since she's a mother, i'm doing it on Mother's Day.

I meet very few Muslims that inspire me, which is horrible to say- but i'm just disillusioned by the preaching and not much of any doing. This woman is not at all a conventional Muslim, wait let me introduce her first before philosophizing about her.

I started working in my uncle's hotel 4 months ago, it was new and exciting and I was just sooo enthralled by the whole idea. Then I met the receptionist. She was not, whats the word...nice? Yeah. She was not nice. I mean she didn't go out of her way to make me feel bad, but to my sensitive American feelings, she did- make me feel bad, that is. It started with the touching- actually more like grabbing. She used to grab my sides and was like "what is this?!" "Come on(she says this allot, I blame it on the bad re-runs), this is not attractive!" For those who have not seen me, I am chubby- and I have love handles, which I had made peace with a few years ago but I swear to god when this woman touched- no grabbed- me, all those issues just came flooding back. But then I came to accept that since this woman is of Russian background, bluntness is a national sport for her. So I let it go. And then found out that she was with my uncle. Yes, in that order. I actually complained to him- that this woman, this random stranger that worked for him- grabbed me. And he was like yeah, you should lose weight. This was not helpful.
I'm thinking ok move on snake charmer, this middle aged woman has got nothing on you. Turns out not so middle aged, although she looks like a soccer mom(well a soccer mom that looks like a hooker ), she's 8 months older than me. Celebrated her birthday on Valentine's day of all days. Anyways, yes this woman is very blunt and says whatever's on her mind to whomever she's around- I mean even to guests, in the hotel industry the guest is always right. Not so for her. If a guest pisses her off by asking her to send housekeeping to their rooms she will blast a cap up their respective @##$#. Now one would think, isn't this a conflict of interest? To have your girlfriend work on your staff? I would think so, since he never said anything to her when she lost us clients- or harassed the other staff members (and i'm not just referring to me here). Anyways I let it go. This is not my company, he is entitled to run his businesses how he wants. Its none of my business.
Until it is my business. And that means family. She started hanging out with the family, which I was ok with, my 14 yr old cousin, not so much. Of course any teenager would feel anger towards the young and pretty mistress, she keeps comparing herself to Cinderella- a bit dramatic, but there it is. One day, I was dirty dancing with my cousin, because I like doing that, when the Receptionist walked into the room, the door wasn't locked but this was tantamount to breaking and entering in our minds. But we were polite and civil and pretty soon we started talking and her life story came out- it was more like a really bad soap opera really. She was married off at 15 in her country to an abusive(thats putting it mildly) man, who scarred and battered her to pieces. She got pregnant at 16 and has a 5 yr old girl now.
One day while she was making dinner for her husband he came into the kitchen and she went ape-$^&* on his @## and stabbed him in his gluteus maximus 7 or 8 times. He was hospitalized for 3 months. I guess this is what happens when a woman is pushed and pushed into a corner. Although that story was horrifying, it was also humanizing because this woman we saw as the enemy now is just some sad woman who lived a horrible life. After her divorce from said wife-beater, she was brought here by a woman who should be likened to the DC Madam, if any of you remember that scandal. Yes, she was brought here as a prostitute. And she did it and made money and sent it back home to her daughter and her brothers, of which she has 8 btw.
Prostitution in Dubai is very common, much more common than I would say in Detroit. But over here prostitutes don't work the red light districts, they work the clubs and the restaurants- the ones that sell alcohol. These women are expensive and are not called prostitutes but "Business Ladies", no I did not just make that up. These women spend thousands of dollars at the salons and spas- actually most salons and spas WANT "Business Ladies" because they don't care how much something costs, they just want it all done. But what was I talking about? Right, the Receptionist. She was working at a restaurant as a hostess when my uncle met her or something and he offered her a job at his hotel if she would leave prostitution behind, which she did and started working for him. Anyways he had rules of what she could wear and where she could go and stuff like that. I always used to laugh when she used to tell me about these rules- especially since I kept breaking most of them.
She grew tired of living under his thumb so she decided to go into business for herself. She had land in her home country which she sold and used to open up a salon here. Now people can't open businesses or own homes here, they have to have a sponsor (well the homes part is lifting in some Emirates, but not in Dubai). A sponsor is an Emarati who takes a cut of the shares. Anyways she found one woman, and they opened up this salon and now she started working there and is super happy and wears what she wants and goes where she wants- and my uncle gave her a chauffeur. Apparently his biggest problem was that when she was working here at the hotel, she was representing him and not just herself. One would think that with that logic, he would have enforced better behavior- but one cannot win a logic debate with my uncle, so one would do better not to ever bring up said topic. Wow I feel like I have carpal tunnel now.
Anyways, This woman who just turned 21, who lived an incredibly hard life who had nothing that belonged to her, goes out and does something for herself- everyone else be damned. I've been to her salon, and though it could use some work- it's pretty awesome, and I can't help but feel a little bit jealous that this woman decided that enough was enough and she was finally going to do something that was hers. She wasn't going to live off anyone anymore. Honestly, apart from my mother and grandmother, the ex-Receptionist is one of the strongest women I know. She's only been in Dubai for 2 years, she didn't even have a visa when my uncle met her (he has since rectified that)- and has done very well for herself.

I guess i'm writing mostly for cathartic reasons but also because there really are so many different kinds of Muslims out there. I started out by saying she wasn't conventional, she's not. But religious, she is. In her country Muslim's drink vodka like water- and its completely normal, they date- they do drugs (which is a little frowned upon- but not by much). They pray, they read Quran, They call on Allah in times of need and in times of happiness.
This really puts the whole phrase "good Muslim" into question in my mind, it really is all subjective isn't it?


Constructive Attitude said...

wow. that is some story! good for her for doing something for herself!!!!

is her daughter with her now? or will she be with her anytime soon? and since when did she get out of working for your uncle and start her own business?

Kate said...

Great post. I have love handles too. I'm trying to love them!

Heckety said...

It just goes to show that you never can tell exactly what's going on in other people's lives, can you? I'm glad you wrote about this woman, because you know we all need a shake up sometimes, and to see that there's more to many folks than meets the eye. Its good you've kind of made peace with her, understanding someone a little does that, but I' REALLY glad you shared her story. Thank you!

EmptyWords said...

One of my favorite activities is listening to people talk about their life stories... It really allows me to learn from them and realize that we all are struggling in our own ways... Keep updating us on her success!

PI said...

this is like, one of the best entries i've read on here.

Facta Non Verba said...

Wow. A lot of honesty, sincerity and good head bending thoughts. Good post. Your right.

supreem said...

wow! this was goose-bump inducing. I hope all goes well with her. Thanks for sharing her story. People often forget that you cannot compare people's lives, everyone has different experiences, and how they are now is a result of that life. Also, I've been attempting to embrace my 'love-handles' as well. lol

Little T said...

I am very quick to judge on first impression. I try to remind myself that I don't know how others have lived. This is a shining example of that. I love that you may not have made the same choices that she did but you can still respect them. There is hope for our generation yet! Thanks for sharing.