I can still be juvenile with the best

Posted on April 26, 2007


Monday evening M and I went to the Italian Club, for no particular reason. I was feeling joyful (read: drunk) when I was informed by the waiter that Monday was the only day that the chef who prepared their heavenly apple cake didn’t come. This substance is easily the best thing I have ever placed into my mouth. I was much more irate than usual, I think. I believe I tried to trap him into saying that the poor man really was there, and he was just wrong the first time. I kept repeating the word apple, loudly and clearly, but nothing was produced. M quickly ordered Tiramisu, of which he knows not, to rescue the waiter and remove him from the range of my spittle.

At this point I noticed that a party of people next to us mentioned, audibly, the words “Facebook” and “SS” (referring to the Social Sciences courtyard at the American University of Cairo) making me feel hugely bummed out for being a walking Cairo cliché. All I need is a pair of Puma sneakers (I have a pair, but they’re knock-offs. They make my feet super hot).

Having somehow fallen out with M later that night, I was in the mood to be cheered up, and braved a long walk down dark Brazil St. at 11 pm to go to a party to which I was not, particularly, invited. Amnesiac invited me, even though she herself was the guest of one of her colleagues, who had actually been invited by the host. Amnesiac called me from there and said it was my kind of party, based on the fact that there were “loads of hash, fit blokes and fun-coloured drinks”. Fair enough.

When I arrived I was greeted by an American chick who offered me birthday cake and punch made in a bucket. 99% of the other attendees of the party were study abroad students, and I was reminded forcefully of those law school events where I felt like I was positively bubbling with “ethnicity”. I took some cake and punch and found myself in conversation with some of these persons, who I had met before and who were distinctly of the I’m-so-cultured-I’m-studying-in-the-Arab-world-can-you- believe-how-enlightened-I-am?-and-I-drape-myself-with-lots-of-scarves-and-wear-
linen-pants people. OK, not all of them. But a lot of the party-goers were of what Amnesiac refers to as the Sandals and Ryvita type. There were four guitars. In fairness, I believe the invitation stated that people should bring musical
instruments. Having concluded a gossipy conversation with some of the I’m-so-cultured crowd, which was actually interrupted a lot by me plucking bits of mint leaves from the punch off the roof of my mouth, I sat down next to Amnesiac and together we engaged in many speculations about the other people at the party. There were two chicks I insisted, randomly, must be Nepalese; a guy whose “bum was at a ninety-degree angle” but who had an engagement ring; and a guy with tapered skinny pants that Amnesiac warned me stringently not to look directly at lest my retinas be scarred. Eventually we were joined by her colleague, a person who differs from her very little in appearance and is identical in name, which must make for confusion at her workplace. “Do you mean foreign Amnesiac? Or slightly less foreign Amnesiac?”

This chicka (who had the requisite number of scarves for the season, namely none) had recently been robbed of her pet peeve by me. She had alleged that something that was nauseous made you feel sick, while you felt nauseated. Obviously I spent part of my work day looking this up, and even took the measure of asking my friend, who is a book editor, to look it up in her giant super-official dictionary. Anyway, it turns out that current usage dictates that things are nauseating, but people feel nauseous. So she was robbed of her righteous anger, and so I suggested my own pet peeve instead: People Whose Mothers Made Up Their Names, with the corollary peeve People Who Have Names That Sound Like They Might Be Arabic Names, But Aren’t. This, effectively, covers a lot of Americans, and some non-Arabic-speaking Muslims. Of course I was then accused of being racist etc. But I can’t control the rage I feel when I come across someone called Jabari or something. Woman, that does not mean anything! And LaQuisha? Lurleen? Please. Of course I’ve discussed my issue with names at length before here. But if a blog isn’t for pet peeves what is it for? Although parties, admittedly, are not.

Anyway my suggestion was not accepted on the grounds of racism (which is so not true) but I was mollified by More Foreign Amnesiac actually grabbing a guitar and composing a song about me, her, and Jabari. It went something like this:

“How can Jabari not drive me crazy,

It’s a made-up name

It doesn’t mean anything, except maybe my Jabar…”

I was delighted. Of course, then all the guitar players got together and played Knocking on Heaven’s Door and the like, making guitar faces of the sort most usually associated with bathroom or bedroom pursuits. (Note: research showed that there are in fact magazine articles requesting that readers examine their slide show and distinguish between “who’s nailing a solo and who’s straining to deliver a big finish”). More Foreign Amnesiac had a normal guitar face, mostly, as did our host, who looked a bit like one of the Beatles/Oasis, depending on which of us was opining. I left much cheered, having actually sung along to some middle-class-white-boy angsty ballad and made fun of lots of people.