11.11.12

A Not So Cinderella Story

Every little girl dreams of being a princess.
The idea of attending a ball to find your Prince Charming is so alluring. Who doesn't want to live a fairytale?
Well.
A few weeks ago Phil, one of the other teachers here, was contacted by his cousin who is the consult general for the ambassador at the American Embassy in Cairo. His cousin wanted to know if he would be interested in attending the Marine's Birthday Ball being held at the embassy. I think the idea of a ball probably wasn't as attractive to him, but he agreed to attend alongside his cousins. But, clearly he needed a date for the evening.
This is the part I enter in.
Now, to be clear for those of you who don't know both of us personally, Phil and I are certainly not a couple. Nor are we interested in being one. However, bringing me as a date does have certain positive benefits: I am really talkative. AKA, I can entertain/be entertained by a table of rich strangers at a ball with a date who doesn't like to talk. Plus, I like getting dressed up. Everybody wins.
So once it was decided that I would attend the ball with Phil, certain preparations had to be made.
I needed a dress.
One does not simply, find a ball gown in Gabel Asfar.
And, assuming most of you who are reading this know me personally, you understand that I am pretty particular in terms of the style of things I wear.
The style of any type of formal gown in Egypt is - and this is not an exaggeration - a variation of the hoop-skirt-puffy-sleeved-80's-prom dress. Mostly in shades of pink, but you may find some other colors. And, if it isn't coated in hot-glued on giant gaudy rhinestones, it simply won't exist.
Not exactly my style...
But I wouldn't let that stop me.
So, Mrs. Peggy - the school nurse/owner of the only car on campus - an alumni of the high school and myself set out to hunt down the perfect dress. We spent all day searching through dress shop after dress shop, looking simply for a dress that lacked a hoop.
Well, I finally found one.
The dress I got, well... wasn't ideal. It was reminiscent of something I would have worn freshman year to homecoming. However, it was by far the best available option. And I was determined to make it work.
SO.
Yesterday was the big night out.
Phil's cousin emailed him to say that there was some protesting near the embassy, and that they would like us to go to their house in the afternoon to get ready so that we could all leave together with their private driver.
We set out at three in the afternoon to make our way across town to the cousins' residence to get ready. Neither of us were dressed for the ball, and I had done my hair but was otherwise bare-faced and unprepared to enter the festivities.
Well.
Somebody could have warned us that we would get lost and hit the world's all time worst traffic.
The ball was supposed to start at six in the evening. The cousins' house is supposed to be an hour away from  campus.
Three and a half hours later, we practically run into the cousin's place and rush to the embassy.
That's right.
At 6:30pm, we got to the cousins' HOUSE, and then had to travel to the embassy.
Still not dressed or in any way ready.
Nothing makes you feel like a princess like doing your makeup in the car amidst Cairo traffic.
And then subsequently walking through the ball to find the nearest bathroom to change into your gown, just as the ceremony for the evening began.
We were so smooth.
Any tact or respect I thought we might have was immediately thrown out the window.
So, to recap, the evening started with angrily driving for hours through Cairo, anxiously rushing to finish my makeup in the car, and then awkwardly walking through the ball in civilian clothes to finish getting ready inside an embassy bathroom.
Such a fairytale, huh?
When we finally found our seats, I was reminded of something I should have studied up on before attending a ball with the ambassador.
Proper rich people dinner etiquette.
What does one do with four forks of slightly differing size? Is finger-esq food actually to be eaten with fingers, or do I use a knife to awkwardly cut it? How on earth can I spit out this horrible bite of food without increasing my public humiliation tenfold?
Any sophistication I previously thought I had, I now know simply doesn't exist.
Well, at least not when your audience is the ambassador and other high ranking government officials, and you are the volunteer teacher making $40 a month.
And Phil thought I would be helpful in this situation... showed him wrong! Ha!
The dinner was formal to a fault. I felt so out of place, I stuck out like a sore thumb, and I just kept thinking as I looked at the grandiose display, "have these people ever actually been to the real Egypt?
Now, don't get me wrong.
The people at our table were very courteous  and excelled at extended small talk. Which I myself am not horrible at. But I was also so harried by my rush to get there and my lack of grace wherein, that I am sure they were put-off by us. At least slightly. Phil's cousins were very kind and helpful, but sitting at a stuffy dinner table for three hours lends to running out of conversation about the weather.
But kindness aside, I was astounded by the amount of money they had and their seeming lack of regard of the complete absence of it in most other places in Egypt.
Phil's cousin is a wonderful woman, but... was the epitome of high-class rich lady. People kept calling her during the ball, and at the end of every phone call she would end with 'alright dear, alright. I'll see you soon. Muah! Muah!"
That's right.
She ends all her phone calls with a doubly kissy noise. Every. Single. Time.
It was so hard to take seriously.
Anyways.
After sitting uncomfortably making conversation with the rich people at my table, one of them proceeded to ask Phil and I some questions.
"So how long have you two be married?"
Umm.. WHAT
Haha!
Our response "oh, we aren't married... we've only known each other since August."
"Oh, and you have been in a relationship since then?"
Internally, I responded with "Oh yes! It was love at first sight."
Hope you all picked up on the sarcasm.
Is it so crazy that two volunteers in a platonic friendship could make their way to a government ball?
Yes. The answer is apparently, yes.
At this point, I decided "what the heck. Might as well stop trying to fit in and just be my awkward old self."
Oh, whoops. Did I say "old self?"
I was, through eavesdropping, alerted that anyone born in the 90's is too young to attend the ball.
And strike three! I'm out.
Year of '92 suckas!
By this time, I could care less what people thought about me.
Or so I thought.
Turns out, the only way to properly celebrate a ball is with a dance.
What'll it be? An open-air Waltz, perhaps?
Nope. Try a conference room converted dance floor covered in streamers and balloons.
And a music playlist consisting of "Baby Got Back," and "Sexy and I Know it."
Why is it that the most formal dinner I have ever attended, was juxtaposed with a strange prom-esq drunken dance parade of old people?
I'm not kidding.
I've never laughed so hard at a dance.
All of these aging diplomats out on the dance floor with their fancy drinks and gowns, trying to "get down" to this "hip new music."
Well, for those of you who know Phil, he couldn't possibly witness such an event without joining in.
And there goes the last of my dignity. Goodbye! See you some other time, perhaps at another ball that I am better prepared for!
Probably acting like an idiot - grudgingly - on the dancefloor in a combination let-loose/mock-the-old-people activity was the most fun part of the night.
However, as Phil so politely stated "You have too much shame. I don't." After which he promptly joined in a rendition of "dancing through the ages" to the delight of onlookers.
I'm fairly certain at this point that Phil is sadistic. He was having too much fun as I stood, horrified, watching the last of my reputation run across the dance floor. So glad everyone thought we were married.
Honestly though, it was fun.
I much preferred the awkward dancing to the formal dining.
Plus, there was so much good people watching and subsequent mocking to do.
I can't lie though, it certainly wasn't the ball I had hoped for.
But, who wants a fairytale that follows the same old tropes? We had to mix it up.

I manage to get ONE photo before my camera decided to die. Not horrible for the initial rush to get ready, huh?

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