It’s Thursday night in Beirut, Lebanon: the beginning of the weekend. Or maybe just another day of the never-ending weekend we live in. I’m at a pub in Mar Mkhayel catching up with a friend. While inhaling three packets of cigarettes, none of which I inhale by choice (Did the ban on smoking in public pass? And if it did, are we abiding by it?), I notice the usual crowd. The same faces, and if not the same faces, then definitely the same types of people. Mostly foreigners, the NGO-working/article-writing/third-world-saving/cigarette-smoking/scarf-wearing foreigners who, of course, enjoy the “authentic” experience they’re having in a country that’s not quite as dangerous as Syria, but not as safe and sterile as the UAE. The foreign men dance in flip flops, backpacks on their shoulders, either exoticizing the Lebanese women or considering them beneath them.
Of course, there’s the Lebanese crowd as well. The men who live for this kind of experience, hoping to charm a foreign woman by showing her how “liberal” they can be. If the gods are not generous that night, they would settle for a Lebanese woman to dance and flirt with. The story is the same, told by my friends, heard in restaurants, witnessed in bars and experienced with anger. The ladies dance with the men, closer and closer as the night passes and the drinks accumulate. The man is encouraged, he leans in for a kiss, and the time passes. He thinks there is a good chance to take this woman home, but the woman might either be uninterested, unable to stay out till morning that particular night, or just not a fan of going home with a man she barely knows or doesn’t know at all. Of course, he is offended, but really, he is just frustrated, and out comes the typical response: “You’re so Lebanese.”
There it is, everyone, the insult of the bar scene in this country. We, Lebanese women, how dare we be so Lebanese? How could we be so conservative? Suddenly, we’re in the grade school of pubs, with a flag pinned to our shirt, backs turned to the class, and punished in the corner for being so Lebanese. We turned them down because WE’RE Lebanese, not because THEY’RE not interesting. Who can dispute this logic? Later, these men will meet at the “Chauvinist Convention of Lebanon” and pat each other on the back for such sharp observations and comments, they will applaud each other for discovering the reason behind the lack of sex in their lives, which of course, is not them.
Good job guys, you really pinned the tail on the donkey on this one.
Dima Mikhayel Matta