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Play the Game.

The best place to start any story is always at the beginning. In my case, I’m not quite sure where the beginning is to be honest. So, how about I get the ball rolling with my earliest memory of when I first moved to Alexandria, from Saudi Arabia. We left my childhood home of Dhahran, the year of the Gulf War in 1991. I wasn’t at all happy to be moving to Egypt. I felt like a prisoner in the confines of our large family apartment. I was used to opening the front door of my house once I had done my homework and would hop on my bike and go for a bike ride around the compound, or play outside in the playground with the neighbors until my parents called me in for dinner time. I had been used to certain freedoms and it was very hard getting used to only going out on weekends. I was not at all pleased about the new school, I had been enrolled in. It wasn’t close to resembling the International Schools, I had been accustomed to. The structure of the Language School was jerry built,the classrooms were small and cramped, poor lighting, windows that didn’t shut well, some windows had missing glass, the room was crammed with poorly built desks that splintered and chairs that had nails that stuck out and tore your tights. The chalkboard was so old that it had grooves in them and the paint was so cheap it would rub off on our uniforms if we lent against it.The greatest irony was, that it was at this school, where some of Alexandria’s high society attended. The lessons in  the classroom, were not the ones I remembered or the ones I took with me when I left. It was the hard lessons of how to ‘play the game’, that I learned from the masters of the game, that have remained with me. They weren’t lying when they said, that some of the greatest lessons a person learns are NOT in the classroom.

I was raised to be honest and to tell the truth, no matter what. However, those were not the set of rules that governed the social circles there. There were two core rules that any newbie would be grateful to know, if they wanted to get by and not fall victim to the flock of popular girl harpies. Rule 1- “Do as I say, not as I do”. For example, if you’re invited to someone’s house for a gathering or a birthday party and they order you not to eat the food, then you don’t eat the food, even if they do. If they decide that someone is ‘Persona Non Grata’ because they aren’t respectable enough, then you don’t speak to them, but if they do, that’s o.k. If they say it isn’t o.k to slow dance with a boy, then you don’t do it, but it’s o.k if they do. In today’s world, it’s called ‘Double Standards”

Rule 2- ‘Being two faced is an art form” You LOVE everyone to their face and introduce everyone as your best friend! When they aren’t in your company, that’s when you can bitch about them to your coven of loyal followers. Never ever, confront someone and tell them what your really think of them to their face. That will just rub people the wrong way, and you will be targeted and become a social outcast, where hardly anyone will talk to you and malicious rumors will start flying around. The silver-lining in this situation is that when you are the target, some other poor soul is being left alone. Over time, the stories will be forgotten and life goes on.

I unfortunately didn’t know those golden rules, and had to learn things the hard way, after the ‘New Girl’ – everyone wanted to be my friend phase came to an end. Which brings me tor Rule 3- “Anything Foreign is Good” Other wise known as the foreigner complex or 3odat el khwaga. I was some what of a rare breed because of my foreign blood, which made me instantly cool. I had lived and been schooled abroad (check), My clothes were all bought abroad (double check), I spoke English fluently (check), I had a foreign passport (check), oh and I had fair skin (with freckles), wavy straight hair, colored eyes, and I didn’t look Egyptian (Triple check). The downside to this upside, is that I was female! Why is that a downer… well thanks to Hollywood and their positive portrayal of women, it meant that I was easy. It apparently goes without saying that any member of the female species with some or non Arab/Middle Easter/ North African blood lines, is game for any kind of ‘sport’. By that I don’t mean the kind of sport you need a coach for! Oh and we are o.k with it. Rule 3 took a little bit longer for me to comprehend and learn to correct guys perception of me.

Rule 4- “Treat them badly”  or ‘Demure, Caring and Alluring” Alexandrian girls and women have the reputation for two things in Egypt. The first is how gorgeous they are ‘A7la Banat, Banat Eskindareya”. The second unfortunately is not as flattering as the first. They are the masters at being the most manipulative, think Scarlet O’Hara from the ‘Gone With The Wind”. Like every rule… there are exceptions. I have been luck enough to meet some very nice, decent and genuine women from my city. I have also had the terrible luck of crossing those who are true to the rule!

When a lad shows interest in a girl, if she is interested in him, then instinctively you reciprocate the feelings, right? WRONG! When a guy likes a girl and let’s his feelings be know, the correct reaction is to ‘Tidilu bil gazma’ treatment (hit/give him the shoe) from the get go. In some odd and twisted way, it is a form of taming. It is a way to get the individual to do your bidding and respect you. The trick is NOT to completely castrate his manhood or humiliate him to the point of breaking him. But, so that he feels like he has won the chase and earned the right to have her on his arm. Knock the guy down, treat him badly, ridicule him and when he’s about to give up be sweet to him in a one to one setting a few times, just to give him hope and not to lose interest. However, when he attempts to interact with you in front of your friends, you go back to the gazma treatment. Many of the girls I know and their mothers before them, have had Egypt’s finest gentry pop the question by this method.

The other skill, is to be a Snow White with a twist. This is perhaps the most deceiving tactic of all. It reminds me of the praying mantis, because the poor chap has no idea, what his fate is, the only difference is he doesn’t get eaten. The girl will act like the sweetest thing ever, gentle, thoughtful, kind, soft spoken, feminine, delicate, sugar and spice and everything nice! :Until she is officially the Mrs. THEN she drops the act and begins to show her true colors.

This skill is either passed down genetically or taught at a very young age. I haven’t quite figured it out yet and I doubt I’ll ever learn how this unspoken skill is acquired. Although, I now know how to crack the gazma whip, it is not something I enjoy practicing. I would never ever like to be on the receiving end of that whip and I know that Karma can be a bitch. As for playing the ‘dream girl’… I have no desire of ever learning or implementing it.

Rule 5- Never put all your eggs in one basket.

Now, this rule is very hard to learn and use and that is why only some of the very skilled and cold hearted are capable of executing the plan without getting caught. If they do get caught, they then play the victim and cut their loses. How? Let me explain; a young man courts a girl for a length of time and she has him under her spell. He thinks the world of her and that she can do no wrong. She likes him, but is aware that there might be better fish in the sea, so when she isn’t with her loyal love, she keeps her keen eyes open for someone who might be better suited for her needs (whatever they maybe, financial, social…etc). If she does find someone, it is best to choose someone, not from the city, someone who lives in a different city or abroad. Alexandria is a small city, and the chances are someone will know either lad or both, which increases the chances of getting caught.

This situation can go three ways;

1- The loyal lover, the knave of Hearts gets dumped for the King of Hearts and she weds him and become the Queen.

2- The Knave of Hearts turns out to be a King after all and keeps him, because no one could trump him.

3- Both knaves find out through a source what is happening and they team up against her. The temptress then plays the victim, the most gullible of the knaves decides to give her a second chance.

I often find myself on the side lines watching and observing people and couples. The more I watch and learn, the more I realize that a majority of people consider dating a game of both mental and emotional skill and NOT an attraction. It’s like a game of cat and mouse or the hunter and the prey.

An important note, is that, the men also play by these rules too. You’ll read more about that in my upcoming posts…So stay tuned!