Romance with low-interest rates

Cousin Mildred [of course not her real name but you will agree that even ridiculous names are better than initials] is making vague and half-hearted attempts to set me up with a man. Aware of my impending return to Cairo she has apparently taken upon herself to rescue me from falling into the abyss of blue-stockinged singledom by telling me about her hot – but intelligent- male friends. The description of this latest one came accompanied by a photo, so I can even try before I buy.

This is the latest in a succession of random attempts by the mafia the family to end the collective public humiliation of having a 29- year old unmarried leper in their midst. The fact that I am a mongrel half-breed raised in The West, with a British father (and therefore not actually Egyptian at all because as we all know the Immutable Laws of Bollocks say that Egyptian-ness can only be passed on through the superior male genes) usually relegates me to the foreigner-beyond-redemption category, and exempts me from such things as: belly-dancing well, having sound morals, and really understanding, no ya Amnesiac, really feeling the meaning of Um Kulthoum songs – amongst other things.

So apparently the pain of the single woman is a scourge which must be combated globally – like terrorism, or rabies – and means that I am not spared the efforts of their take it or take it dating services.

The first time a potential suitor was hoisted on me the situation was this: I was opening a bank account, and an aunt who uses the same bank, and who herself is an incorrigible flirt, put me in touch with – guess what! – a young single guy with swimmer’s shoulders. Fearing that Cupid’s inevitable magic would not take it’s course without her mystical presence, she accompanied me to the bank and presented me to the helpful young man, before proceeding to inform him in the loudest voice she could muster ‘this is the one I told you about’ *wink wink* while the poor boy shuffled papers. The bank actually happened to be in one of Cairo’s omnipresent posing sports clubs, and the next time I went, I happened to run into the helpful young bank clerk who chivalrously invited me for a platonic coffee (auntie’s mystical matchmaking powers having curiously deserted her). I cannot tell you how my soul died a little when, looking up at the balcony above the café where bank boy and I were discussing our respective partners, I saw my auntie, waving wildly, STILL WINKING and, worst of all, needlessly calling me up on my mobile to wax lyrical about the wonder of romance – when in fact I and the entire club could hear her already. It was like some grotesque David Lynch interpretation of Romeo and Juliet.

The next target also worked in a bank funnily enough, but this one I refused to meet because, not requiring yet another bank account and not wishing to enquire about low-interest loans, I could think of no pretext to present myself at his window. This is an addition to the fact that I totally object to these manufactured encounters of course. I did briefly consider scandalising my family by appearing at his window in thigh length boots and asking him whether he’d like to make a deposit in my checking account *WINK BLOODY WINK* but realised that even this gesture would be put down to Western eccentricity and interpreted as a sign of interest.

I got an insight into the criteria el familia use to gauge a man’s husband suitability when one of the aunties – who just happened to be looking out of the window/was doing her Alfred Hitchcock Rear Window impression – spotted me alighting from the car of a very platonic rugby friend. Her keen eyesight/binoculars/satellite imagery had provided her with the intelligence that rugby friend was Wearing a Suit, and Driving a Good Car. When I was later interrogated about who he was, I attempted to burst her balloon by telling her firstly; that he was slightly younger than me, secondly; that he was kind but dull, thirdly; that we had nothing in common, fourthly; that he was probably moving abroad anyway (stupid me, this only made him even more desirable) fifthly; that he liked Celine Dion and (the killer argument I thought) sixthly; that he wore his stripy jumper nonchalantly slung round his shoulders in a ‘going on my yacht’ style – unforgivable surely! Apparently infinitely forgivable when it’s slung over a suit! I eventually resorted to besmirching the poor boy’s character through mild fabrications such as claiming that he wore women’s underwear while forcing cats to break-dance at gunpoint, but even this elicited the memorable reply ‘but ya Amnesiac! He drives an Opel!’

As a result of these experiences I now have an unreasonable and almost visceral aversion to bank tellers, and force male acquaintances to give me lifts home in donkey carts whilst wearing prison garb.

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