Preparing to Meet Mr. (Maybe) Right


Sunlight streamed thick and heavy through the fifth floor windows onto the dark wooden floors of our apartment; illuminating even the tiniest specks of dust.  The particles swarmed around Catherine like a luminescent whirlwind as she frantically waved her hands to direct Victoria and her feather duster across the curtain rail to dislodge the bunnies of dust perched on top. Victoria was frazzled and off balance. The bunnies clung to the wild mass of her curly hair. Her slender but muscular arms bulged with the effort of reaching each nook and cranny as if the result of the evening would depend on it. I stood and watched with fascination as Catherine stood, warrior-like, amidst the flowing dust storm, shoulders broad and feet planted firmly on the ground, mop held in one had like a staff; eyes strained on her target while issuing orders about the movement of troops.

Victoria perched very precariously on the edge of the window seat, tried to reach the top of the doorway diagonally across. With all her concentration (and mine and Catherine’s) she stretched herself as gracefully as she could, extending her torso and arms and legs towards the door. It seemed as if the feather duster had become a natural extension of her arm as she guided it to the ledge above the doorway. We watched in silent anticipation as her tiny toes clenched the end of the window seat anchoring herself, and her back leg raised to give her balance. Raised leg, back, straightened arm and feather duster lined up in immaculate form. Breath was held. And then the duster made contact and with two gentle taps and swishes, the dust settled on top of the door began to spiral down and was thrown into utter disarray as Victoria jumped up into the air, off the window seat spiraling gracefully for a grand total of three seconds before breaking into an ungainly and seemingly dangerous fall. Catherine and I galvanized into action and began pushing the large bean bag below victoria to break her fall. She landed in a heap of curls, arms and legs. We collapsed on top; in a heap of fits and giggles.

Vanessa burst into the room, golden brown tendrils of hair clinging to her sweaty forehead, carrying a tray of baked chocolaty goodness. If it hadn’t been for her running shorts, the scruffy sneakers and the butterfly tattooed across her left shoulder blade, she could have been a 60’s suburban housewife, scolding her laughing children in her lilting southern accent, slapping their greedy hands away as they reached for the soft baked cupcakes with grubby fingers.

She could have been my mother, my grandmother, my aunt or my elder sister. They would have done the same. As I sank deeper into my bean bag, observing Vanessa artfully arrange the cupcakes while Cat and Vic looked on, I smiled at my motley crew who despite not having an ounce of Pakistaniat in their blood or bones would have done even my very proper  and very Pakistani family proud.

In an ivy covered tower at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut; we the Lovely Ladies of L (that’s what we called ourselves that year since we lived in Entryway L) were busy creating a little bit of Pakistan, preparing for our very first arranged date leading possibly/hopefully to marriage. It wasn’t really “our” date; it was just mine. But arranged marriages are never a solitary endeavor. This was no different. My blonde-blue-eyed-runner-rower-aspiring rapper roommates, who had never done this before, took to the idea like fish to water. ( Or Lahori aunties to bleach-blonde hair). Maybe there is some weight in the idea that certain traits are genetically predetermined. Looking at my Caucasian crew, you would have to believe that women are somehow hardwired to excel at preparing for meeting a potential mate.  

It was odd that a million miles away from home and culture and tradition I was caught in the same familiar flurry of activity that happens before the groom’s scouting party comes to visit. A year ago, when my sister Zara’s in-laws came to visit the first time; I had been dragged from my bed at some ungodly hour in the morning and made to do the “dusting.” Inane. Usually, the maid does a spectacular job of it but given the importance of the occasion she could not be trusted with this most important and sensitive task. It had to be executed with the care and precision that my mother had taught me which replicated the care and precision she had been taught by hers. Infuriating. Reinforcements were called in from my Uncle’s house to help with the preparations. I was made to inspect the finest china, supervise its washing and then undertake its arrangement on the freshly washed, starched and pressed pristine white table cloth. A fork out of place could result in disaster. Or that’s what my mother made it seem like. I did not want to be responsible for disaster. Neither did anyone else.  An army of siblings, aunts and cousins toiled throughout the day to ensure perfection.  We slaved away like our lives depended on it. They kind of did. If my mother or aunt were to catch any of us not taking this matrimonial matter seriously, it would have been a painful end to our short lives.

Vanessa was threatening to end Victoria and Catherine’s lives if they did not stop trying to eat the cake she had baked. They had asked me for the essential ingredients of such an encounter as I had explained this charming ritual to them. I had told them that a successful meeting must include a clean and beautifully arranged room – testimony to the woman’s housekeeping skills, tasty snacks – a prelude to her culinary skills and engaging conversation – a sneek peak into her intelligence and charm. We had spent all morning cleaning. Vanessa had spent it baking cake and arranging fruits and cheeses artfully on a platter. We had prepped a list of conversation topics and a list of topics to be avoided. We were prepared.

Victoria thought it was like being on a reality TV show. Some version of Blind Date. I had never met this guy. We had spoken on the phone and I had met his family on my last visit home. They seemed nice enough and he sounded fine. Even nice. It was kind of exciting. To imagine that you might just be meeting the man you could possibly spend the rest of your life with gives you a funny feeling in the pit of your stomach. 

Forbidden to eat the fruit, Cat and Vic turned to me.

“Stop being lazy”

“Get your ass off that bean bag”

“ Go try on some clothes. We don’t have all day!”

“Yes Mother!” I smiled, jumped up and skipped into my room.

My three mothers settled themselves on the couch.

“Come on out and show us outfit one”

I came twirling out in a fun summer green dress; halted before the couch and dropped a curtsey.

I stood up smiling, waiting for them to approve.

“Too short!”

“Too scandalous!”

“Too formal!”

“Next!” They chorused together.

I skipped back into my room. I returned in a flowy white skirt and top cinched at the waist with a wide brown bet.

“Too hippy”

“Too daytime”

“I can see too much of your arms”

“Ummm…I’m wearing a tank top. They don’t make those with sleeves.” I said annoyed

“Well maybe you shouldn’t be wearing a tank top. I don’t think your mother would approve”

“Stop being a skank. Go dress like a Muslim child”

“Something with sleeves. And no scooping necklines, missy,” Shouted Catherine at my back.

I put on jeans and a black t-shirt

“Too casual”

“Too disinterested”

“Too usless!” Exclaimed Victoria. Jumped off the couch and into my room. Catherine and Vanessa followed. They crowded around my closet and poked around, debating the merits of various items of clothing as I watched in wonder. I wondered if they knew that despite having never even been in the vicinity of the subcontinent, they were doing an excellent job of being Pakistani women. After 15 minutes of debate, they picked out dark blue jeans and a white top with sheer, flowing full sleeves.  They picked out a chunk aqua-marine necklace to match.

“Shower”

“Blow dry your hair”

“make sure you wash behind your ears!”

I was marched to the bathroom with the voices of my mother, my aunt, my sister echoing in my ears or was it just those of my roommates offering advice and issuing instructions. I couldn’t help but smile and my stomach did tiny somersaults in anticipation. I sang a song in the shower at the top of my voice. Victoria joined inform the common room with her serious lack of melody. Catherine told us to shut up. We all giggled.

Giggling, singing, skipping, jumping and baking we were preparing for an ancient ritual in true 21st century fashion. Most girls, as they prepare for such an encounter, feel like a lamb being fattened for slaughter. I felt nothing like that. I felt like a warrior princess preparing for battle. My vanity was helping, my self-confidence was definitely giving me a boost and the friendly participation of my friends was turning the even into some reality tv production. I love bad reality tv! Especially the blind date kind where I get too be wooed by an eligible bachelor and I get to decide if he is good enough.

And if he turns out to be not good enough then I’ll hold on to the fun memory of today till I find someone who is. After all, wouldn’t every girl rather have a pleasant memory and a funny story to tell than having an unpleasant and (god forbid) unfunny husband?

5 Responses to “Preparing to Meet Mr. (Maybe) Right”

  1. sshaikh89 May 23, 2010 at 2:50 pm #

    ”Most girls, as they prepare for such an encounter, feel like a lamb being fattened for slaughter. I felt nothing like that. I felt like a warrior princess preparing for battle ”- LOLLL i love this line!

  2. Amin Jan Naim May 26, 2010 at 11:04 pm #

    Very well written. I enjoyed it.

  3. oogyx May 28, 2011 at 3:01 pm #

    Then what happened?Did he come or not?

  4. Hina June 16, 2011 at 1:18 am #

    Well, where’s the 2nd part? :s

  5. Summaya Badar July 9, 2011 at 3:15 am #

    Loved it!! It was hilarious! 🙂

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