Alternate title: “Situations you work up in your mind until you’re really anxious but once you do them you’re totally fine and wondered what you ever had to worry about in the first place.” My life, everybody.
Last Friday I got a text from an old coworker of mine who I hadn’t gotten to see yet. He was having his birthday at our old workplace and I was invited along, huzzah! Claire (who also used to work with us) was unable to join as she had to work the next day, and I invited a friend of mine so that I wouldn’t have to walk into my old workplace by myself.
I’ve been back to this particular restaurant since I worked there a year and a half ago. It isn’t a big deal and most of my coworkers have moved on to bigger and better things (yay!). But going back to the place where my greatest identity was ‘the American waitress’ isn’t my favorite, even if the environment (Middle Eastern gay bar) is hysterical.
My friend was late and I walked in, nervous about being by myself. I was instantly greeted by the two Egyptian arguileh men who knew me from before (they bring the hookahs, or arguilahs, to each table and bring around the hot coals to keep them going. Our common denominator is the fact that we were all technically migrant workers of questionable legality). I chatted with them for a bit and then had to run the gamut of managers, brothers of managers, and other ‘important people’ who I worked for and, quite frankly, didn’t like all that well. I saw many customers I recognized and study abroad student that I knew from Denver- small world.
The birthday boy and his entourage of fabulous friends finally showed up and, although I was definitely an oddity (being female and white) I was greeted with hugs and cheek kisses all around. My frail grasp of the Arabic language allowed me to keep up with the conversation even as it strayed into discussions of things we definitely didn’t ever learn in class! I don’t even need to tell you that keeping up with discussions of gender, heteronormativity and other issues in Arabic is hard but SUPER interesting, at least to me.
Whatever your opinions are of gay, lesbian, queer, questioning, transgender individuals are, I will stand here and tell you that my dear friend and the community of people you see at this bar are extraordinary. It is not something I can put into words (my use of ‘fabulous’ can only go so far) nor will I try. All I can say is, it is an experience and I am very glad to know that this culture exists even in Jordan.
I saw another old coworker friend, an artist from Jordan University and felt better that I wasn’t the only one still coming back to this silly bar. It is the site of some of my greatest friendships, funniest stories, and most memorable nights I have from my first time here and I have a feeling I will continue to go back (however reluctantly!) for a long time to come.