Friday, January 22, 2010

Dinner Dance

As I've mentioned previously, my dad, youngest brother Ahmed (not 4 year old Ahmed, but another Ahmed who is still finishing high school) eat dinner together at a table with knives and forks as the rest of my family sits on the floor eating with their hands or spoons. I'm still struggling with this seemingly class based system, but my dad and I are the only people bringing income into the family and Ahmed is still in school. Regardless, this a different topic of discussion and this post is about my nightly dinner dance.

The dance starts as soon as we sit down. One half of the platter the three of us share is unmistakably for my dad and for him only. If he finishes he will push the remnants over to us to signify that he is done eating and we can eat what he did not. This leaves the other half of the platter for Ahmed and I to "fight" over. Since we don't talk at dinner this "fighting" is done passive aggressively, or at least it is on my part. I could be totally making up the dinner dance and Ahmed doesn't notice a thing. I must also state that this is potentially the only thing that I have been passive aggressive about for a long period of time. I usually like to get in a big fight and clear the air.

Because Ahmed is a boy or a member of the family or both he outranks me so the most delicious part of the meal is in front of him, just as it is in front of my dad. Image an oval platter. In the center is some type of meat and onion concoction and on either end is a whole fried fish, tries, or SALAD. Now, Ahmed really likes fried fish and fries so if I want any I feel like I have to sneak my fork across the platter and quickly pull some of the yumminess into my "personal space area," so as to claim it as my own. Does this look incredibly childish and ridiculous and it plays out over a meal. It definitely does in my mind. I have no idea what my dad or Ahmed are thinking. My dad will usually push a few fries my way or a piece of fish so I think I'm reading the situation correctly, but I honestly have no idea.

The dance only gets more complex when we have salad. The salad is not put in front of me even though I'm the only person who eats it. Therefore, I have to spend the majority of the meal slowly picking at the greasy meat/onion mash before me while I wait for Ahmed to be done. Once Ahmed is done I pounce on his salad. Then I pretend that I'm really full and sit there slowly drinking out of my water bottle until my dad is done so I can eat his untouched lettuce before my sisters clear the plates away.

This is my nightly dinner activity. Hope you enjoyed the dance.


  1. Alyssa, you are a lot of things but passive aggressive does not spring to mind when I think of you! YOu certainly air your feelings without reservation or manipulation. This sounds more like an exercise in patience or economics. Wait, wait for the hierarchy to satisfy itself then take your reward....the most nutritious item on the plate. You learned this in b school right? You are very insightful to focus on this lesson. It is an important one for you. You will help so many people by knowing when to be quiet and patient (you are already great when it comes to knowing when to shout out loud because you are a brave one)while keeping your eye on the prize. Be comfortable but compassonate in your place at that table.

  2. Alyssa,

    If you were here in our circle, you would have thoughtfully stabbed one of us in the hand to stake your claim on the remaining food or last bite of creme brulee as this is status quo in our circle.

    Yet, since you are not safely in our pack currently, I agree with your mom. You are doing very well adapting to a new culture and it's very neat to watch this aspect develop. It was also a really good post and I shared it at dinner tonight.

    As such, only Jim, Jeff and I now have forks. Mike and Carol do not. Carol quickly threatened to hurt all of us if we did not give her the fork back. Alas, the social science experiment ended quickly. Carol is the alpha matron of the house.

    Take care,

  3. Alyssa,

    I am just going to McDonalds, its a lot easier.


  4. It sounds as though you do the dance SO well. I'm impressed.

  5. Haha... Uncle Claude I'm going to see your McDonalds and raise you the Mediterranean place across the street from my building. Alyssa I will eat shawarma with lamb in honor of your dinner dance tomorrow