A few weeks ago, after working together one evening, J invited me to have dinner at her family’s home. Continued.
(If you missed the 1st part, just click here for it.)
J arrived with niece & daughter in tow and I got in the car. It was already dark, so I didn’t see what anyone looked like until we got to the house. J’s daughter asked where I was from, and as soon as those 3 words came out of my mouth, I regretted them.
Me: “New York City.”
Here we go…..
Oh my goodness! I’ve always wanted to go there. What’s it like? What part are you from? I just wanna go there and shop! How much does it cost to go there? What was it like growing up there? Oh, this is great! I can’t wait to go there one day. What’s their fashion like? (Sidenote: I, Spinster, am the wrong person to ask about any kind of fashion.) I’m sure there’s tons of stuff to do there! And I gotta try the make-up there too! There are probably so many things there that we don’t have here!
And on and on for most of the ride back to the home. 😐 I only answered 1 or 2 of her questions before J told her to calm down a bit. Thank goodness. The anxiety was in full swing.
We got back to the home and J’s husband, a Frenchman (non-English-speaking except a few basic words), greeted me while a couple of female family members put the finishing touches on dinner. The rest of the kids were upstairs until J beckoned them to come downstairs and greet me. (The boys, who are the oldest and in their 20s, didn’t come down; that didn’t surprise me one bit.) She told them to give me hugs & kisses, which was adorable, and they did. Nice warm family. It calmed me down a bit. And wouldn’t you know it? All of the girls who were teens & adults were wearing skinny jeans along with their hijab! They didn’t think I was a whore after all! 😐
I took off my coat & sat down, staring into space whilst waiting for dinner. I felt like an exotic animal because the kids stared at me. The older ones asked me more questions while offering me food & drink. Since I was late, they’d already eaten so the food was just for me. It was strange eating alone while they talked, but at least they were talking instead of staring at me. The food was good & filling. (sampling of typical Mauritian cuisine)
After I finished, I sat back on the couch & twiddled my thumbs. One of J’s older daughters (the one in the car) asked me some more questions that made me groan inside, and then she asked me something I considered strange:
Do you like make-up?
Again, wrong person to ask.
I own some but I’m not into it like most women. I keep it pretty simple when I wear it, if at all.
She asked about different make-up brands and their possible existence back home. I told her about Sephora (my usual go-to for make-up) & offered to show her the website. We wound up looking at the site for a while. This excited her because, unbeknownst to me, she studies cosmetology in college. See, J’s ancestors are from India. Mauritius (detailed Wikipedia entry – Mauritius) has a sizeable Indian-origin population, and so does the United Kingdom. In general, when Indian women get married (or have other milestone events), they sometimes require intricate make-up application, which can only be done by someone who knows their stuff. Since J’s daughter is learning, the Sephora website is perfect for her. It was as if I found some hidden pot o’ gold and gave it to her.
Although her question was strange to me, it did something to me: it decreased the anxiety, relaxing me little by little. I don’t know what it was – maybe having the focus on make-up instead of me? Whatever it was, I felt a little more at ease. I asked them questions about Mauritius, how J met her husband, their religion (born or converted), etc. As an aside, the younger children are at different levels of learning the Qur’an (online version here – Qur’an), and the younger ones had to wake up early the next morning to learn their next sura. Although I’m agnostic, I can appreciate, to a small extent, the positive role that religion can have on people. I think the family is a little relaxed when it comes to Islam (detailed Wikipedia entry – Islam) despite being orthodox; as mentioned earlier, the girls/women in the home wore skinny jeans and watched different TV shows & etc. (Please pardon me if this seems like major generalizing; this isn’t what my intent is, nor should it be taken as such.) Basically, American media doesn’t know what they’re talking about.
Time flew by. We didn’t know it was so late, so I decided to get going. I got up, put on my coat, and held out my hand for a handshake. J’s daughter said
No, we don’t do that here. Give me a hug.
I gladly obliged. Younger daughter also gave me a big warm hug. My world lacks hugs, so I appreciate the few that I can get. They said “Don’t be a stranger, come back soon.”
J & her husband put on their coats and readied themselves to drop me to the overground train station. This time they used the family van. As we drove though, I noticed that we drove past the station, and that’s when J asked me for my address. It kinda caught me off guard.
Me: “Wait, you’re not taking me all the way home, are you?”
Yes. We can’t let you go home this late by yourself on the train. We’re taking you home.
Caught off guard again. Me: “Oh wow, thank you so much. You really don’t have to do this. I really appreciate it.”
And they dropped me all the way home, straight to my front door. I walked in the house, satisfied with the evening’s events. I felt the fear and did it anyway, which is 1 step forward for me. It’s hard to push past uneasy feelings, very hard, but it’s possible.
I was, and still am, overwhelmed by the unconditional acceptance given to me by certain people since being here. Sadly, it’s not something that I’m used to. Or maybe I’m looking into this too deeply, I don’t know. But in a world where one has to have certain qualities & characteristics to “fit in”, where everything about a person gets questioned, picked apart even….. Usually in a negative way, as if one isn’t good enough just the way one is….. it’s overwhelming (but nice) being welcomed with open arms.
I’ll be visiting them again, and they even offered for me to spend the night (I’ll likely accept the invitation). It’s nice to escape every once in a while, even if it’s just to another part of town, and just relax, knowing that all you have to do is just be.