We are different, you see


LAST week at a beach resort northwest of the city a group of middle-aged men was seated on loungers by the shore as the cool waters of the Red Sea ebbed and flowed just a few meters beyond. The sun had set some time ago, Maghreb prayers were over, and the faint glow of the setting sun still graced the far horizons. As is customary when a group of overweight and out of shape men get together, conversations ranged from health to sport, food, exercise, and beyond.

Hamza was complaining of feeling lethargic for the last few days. This immediately prompted several remedial solutions. Badr started by advising Hamza to drink lots of carrot juice, partake of parsley daily. Ishaaq cautioned Hamza to go easy on the juice, as excessive carotene could be toxic. Dr. Jaber, who surprised the group by his presence, as he shuns socializing and prefers solitude at the beach by puffing away at his water pipe on the porch of his cabin, interrupted by advising Hamza to listen to jazz music. That always seemed to pep him up, said the doctor. A degree of credence was given to the doctor albeit with some reluctance. After all, he was the only Ph.D. in the circle!

Hamza seemed to take all these remedies seriously. Ishaaq suggested scented candles in a darkened room. Candles, one wondered...? What would they be thinking of next? Ribhi, who loves to get in the last word, suggested a series of steps that always worked for him. First, he volunteered, stay in the company of those who do not aggravate you. Then take a couple of aspirins, followed by half a glass of vinegar. Follow that with an aromatic tobacco filled pipe. The combination should do wonders, he added. The aspirin for an impending headache, the vinegar for the blood pressure, and the pipe for serenity.

Soon, the women folk joined the group, no doubt attracted by the intense and animated conversation. Naturally, with their presence, the topics shifted from health to relationships. Somewhere in the conversation, the tragedy that befell Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed came up. Badr wondered what attracted Diana to Dodi. That led to a discussion on what substance people admire in those of the opposite gender.

Dr. Jaber, after some hesitation, replied that green eyes were what was very attractive to him, while Badr blurted out rather blushingly that vital statistics are what set women apart. Rabah added that ankles were very important to him. A stocky or too thin set of ankles would just not do. I could spot a couple of the women folk slyly sneaking glances at their own ankles. Ishaaq muttered an inaudible reply, most likely fearing the wrath of his stout wife who just shot him a wicked glare. I think it had something to do with a slender neck.

“And what about you, Esmat,?” asked Badr. His reply was a healthy head of hair. Thin mousy hair or the boyish style of the cut was not very feminine. While the men continued pontificating, I could notice the impatience on the faces of the women, who were bursting to say their piece. Curious about perspectives from a woman’s point of view, I offered the floor to the ladies present.

Lulu demurred in the beginning, but then blurted out that gentleness was very important. Asma, usually the most talkative in the group, was silent at first but then added that wealth was a positive factor. Dr. Jaber’s wife retaliated by saying that character, rather than wealth was the key. Lerna, on the other hand, countered by asserting that a man’s religious commitments were the most engaging of qualities. That seemed to be a very profound statement, coming from a lady who favored diamonds and lots of them!

On the way home, it re-forged in me the realization that men can see only a few feet beyond their nose, while women view what is not always apparent. We are different, you see.

The author can be reached at talmaeena@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena