Dubai loves a drink. Or two. Or five. Even more so when they are free for girls on ladies’ night. But beware of making trouble once the alcohol hits: things that are completely prohibited and will lead you to an unpleasant encounter with a huge African Bouncer or two (and sometimes the embarrassing laser pointer just to single you out): fighting, making out – sometimes even dancing too close qualifies, my date got told off once for grabbing my ass as few too many times in a club. Once at Sandance, the notorious beach concert with 15,000 people on a sold out show, I was making out heavily with my date (a different one) and I kid you not, Big African Bouncer, a full head taller than my already tall self and upper arms twice the size of my thighs came out of nowhere, tapped me a few times on the shoulder and when I looked back at him he sternly reprimanded me: “not allowed!”. Ok, ok, I’ll keep my tongue in my mouth.
Their patience is commendable, really. A good French girlfriend of mine who grew up barefoot at the beach in the South of France could not handle heels. She would enter the club with her heels on and after half an hour and her second drink, take her shoes off, kick them under the nearest table and attempt to remain barefoot for the rest of the night. Bouncers would chase her around and ask her repeatedly to put her shoes back on. Frenchie was a playful drunk, she had that little flirty smirk on her face and her big blue eyes could fool anyone, she’d disappear into the crowd running away from them. Or she would agree to put her shoes back on then remove them as soon as they looked away. Frenchie got herself blacklisted from a few places due to annoying shoeless behavior.
Big Black Bouncer – I am not trying to stereotype, but there is an overwhelmingly high number of Nigerian and Kenyan guys two meters tall, 130 kilos of muscle who do a fine bouncer job in the city. They usually also look great in a suit and carry that convincing “don’t mess with me” look. I can count the number of times that a bouncer actually beat up a guy in the middle of a bar or club on one hand. If anything, everywhere I went always felt particularly safe because there was no playing around and the guys in the club always knew they did not stand a chance against Mr. Muscles scattered around the venue. The guys were easier to deal with from a bouncer’s perspective because they could always get a little physical with them and carry them out of the bar by the neck.
Drunk women on the other hand were a different job and some girls were a whole other league: I’ve seen girls passed out face down in the sand at 9PM at Barasti beach bar. A bouncer once threatened to call the police on two girls who were so drunk they would not stop bumping into people and were refusing to leave. A friend of mine who did not know them told the bouncer he did just to keep them out of trouble. If the police came, they would be locked up and charged with an offence “consuming alcohol”, which would definitely be a 5,000 dollars fine and if a tough judge ruled against them in court, they could get deported. My friend coincidentally lived around the corner from Barasti and managed to first convince the bouncer that there was no need to call anyone, he would take care of them and managed to get the girls in a cab back to his place, no small task. His plan was to let them pass out and sleep it off safely while he would go back to us at Barasti where we were waiting and continue his night. An hour went by as we waited for him, then two, then we stopped waiting for him. Apparently, the girls did pass out for a while but then woke up. One left, the other one stayed and was allegedly very, very grateful to my very sweet and very good looking friend for helping them out and insisted on compensating him for his trouble with a little dis and dat. Wink, wink. Obviously, he never made it back to the bar that night.
Just like alcohol, sex was a two-geared concept: you were not supposed to have it other than with your spouse, but if you were, better make sure not to leave any fingerprints at the murder scene. Pregnancies outside of wedlock resulted in deportation and if you needed an abortion, better pray you came from Europe or some place where you could jet off for a weekend and have it taken care of because it was not going to happen in Dubai. On the other hand, there were about twelve different types of condoms sold in every supermarket next to toothpaste and deodorant so it it not like sex was out of reach. It was at the doctor’s when they asked point blank if you were sexually active, I never knew how to answer. It was an important question and I would not lie to my doctor, but on the other hand, answering yes could get you in trouble. It took me a long time to find a doctor I was confortable with because it happened that I needed my non existent husband to sign a consent form for a doctor to inspect my vagina. That was just the call to make the appointment. Once the shock passed, my response was “ok thanks.” Click. Dial tone. Crossed out that number never to call it again.
The whole concept of being a single woman in her prime procreating years and not doing her duty of having babies didn’t make sense for a lot of people in this part of the world. Many of my Asian and Arab colleagues at work over the years asked me “so, when are you having kids?” and if unmarried by the age of 23, they started thinking there was something wrong with you. It took me a while to understand that marriage in the West means something different than marriage in the East: the entire concept of romantic marriage, where you fell in love, dated for a couple of years and then chose to get married for love was an entirely Western concept. I used to be downright scandalized when my colleagues were announcing that they were going back home to India for a month to get married and that they were finally going to meet their bride. Traditionally, Indian parents would pick a partner for their child, they had to be from a good family and be able to keep a household and give healthy children. In most cases, the bride and groom met on or a few days before the wedding. The kids would not have much say in the decision. And like clockwork, nine to twelve months after the wedding, bam, baby.
I gave the example of an Indian wedding, but the practice was common across the Middle and Far-East. I was downright heartbroken when a colleague once said he had to get married but the girl his family had chosen was too short for his liking, he always dreamt of a tall wife. He also did not find her very pretty. “Pray for me” he said. The look on his face was that of a soldier who was leaving for war. I had absolutely no idea what to tell him other than promising I would indeed say a prayer and I hoped that at least she’d be kind and funny. Some families were a bit more lenient and children would be allowed to disagree with their parents’ choice and choose a mate for themselves. Love was completely optional. You got married because this is what you did, you had a few kids and did your part to contribute to mankind. Over time, as I got used to the idea, I found out there were benefits. First of all, if you didn’t marry for love, you had no real reason to divorce: kids grew up in a traditional household with two parents. Furthermore, these marriages actually yielded children unlike unmarried couples in the West. Very few families seemed barren, few women seemed to have miscarriages and complicated pregnancies. Or maybe we just didn’t hear about it. In that same way, I was always amazed how, as common as peanut allergies and lactose intolerance was in the West, it was almost unheard of in Asia. Ultimately, in the West, the death of marriage meant the death of the traditional family. Obviously, things were changing in India and Asia in general but the generation of my work colleagues was the traditional one. Their kids and their kids more so, would probably feel entitled to make their own decisions, marry later or maybe even marry less.
As for me, I still want to marry for love. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, I’d much rather have a fabulous single life than a loveless marriage.