A Tale About Stereotypes

Sometimes you don’t need to go on a date to learn an important life  lesson.

I went to my local off-license around midnight to get some food. I gathered courgettes, spring onions, noodles, bananas and yoghurt and went to pay. In the (admittedly short) queue, I yawned while waiting for my turn. The observant shopkeeper asked whether I’d had a long day, and I told him that I had been up since 5am. He wondered whether I was still going to cook tonight, and I confirmed that I hadn’t really had dinner yet. All of a sudden, the dialogue went as follows:

Friendly Shopkeeper: You live on your own?

me: (cautious) No.

FSK: You married?

me: (wary, but honest) No.

FSK: I can come cook for you! I’m a good cook! It’s going to be delicious! (meaningful glance)

me:  Haha, that’s so nice, but no, thank you very much! (nervous laughter)

FSK:  But you don’t have anyone to cook for you! You’re all alone!

me: Oh, but I have a fiancé! (<–desperate  LIE)

FSK: (surprisingly on his feet) But you still have to cook for yourself late at night, poor girl? Why?

The obvious true answer is: while imaginary boyfriends might be good at deterring unwanted male attention, they suck at making late-night snacks. But it was late, and I was tired and couldn’t come up with any great excuses.

me: Urm, ah, my fiancé can’t cook! I do all the cooking! (thinking I was being all clever)

[Just to set the scene: my friendly neighbourhood off license store is plastered with evil eye protection beads and yellowed posters in Arabic that seem to proclaim some deity or other.  Nothing about this store, the majority of thickly veiled female customers or the bearded guy in his twenties doing the night shift says modern or progressive, in fact it all has a distinctly conservative  look. Imagine thus my surprise at the next turn in the conversation.]


FSK: (indignant) He can’t cook? But you deserve someone who can cook for you! Don’t you think that man and woman should be equal in a relationship, and share responsibilities? [insert  surprisingly long gender equality rant here]

me: (astonished face, nervous giggle) Urm, yes, I mean, sure?

FSK: (with fervourNEVER cook for a man who won’t cook for you!!!

So now my local off-license assistant thinks I am in an oppressed relationship with a guy who can’t cook. Also, he single-handedly revised my stereotype that if you’re male, muslim and middle-eastern you know and care little about gender equality and how to achieve it. In fact, the shopkeeper was more progressive than my own fiancé!

Weird, except that my fiancé  is not only very conservative, but also completely imaginary.

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