Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Miss Understood

I feel the tingling sensation of a budding "personality complex". FOr once it has nothing to do with my weight, my skin or the fact that my towels in my linen cupboard (yes I have a linen cupboard..don't you?) are not uniformly folded.

It has to do with my marital status.

When I first arrived in Doha there were some problems processesing my visa. HR would send my papers (including a photo where I am clearly wearing lipstick) but looking at my managerial designation, the Ministry officials clearly remained unconvinced I was a woman. And so, it was sent back pointing our the "gender error".

Being more family-oriented than the chavtastic party capital of Dubai, many people assume a woman of a certain age (ahem...) must clearly be with her husband. I encounter this on a small scale when attempting to squeeze appointments into my lunch break. I am forever haggling with receptionists.

"9am madam," they say firmly.

"No sorry can't do mornings, " I reply.


"I can't do mornings. 1pm til 3pm maximum."

"Hmmmm...oh do you have to pick up your children from school?"


"So 2.30pm?"

"Yessssssss. Thankyou"

However, this being Doha setting the appointment does not necessarily ensure all will go according to plan.

Once, at a salon, I waited more than an hour to be seen. Then something bright and shiny distracted the stylist and I was left to wait another 30 minutes. At the end of my tether, I left, informing the owner of my decision. She replied that most of her clients had a "flexible schedule".

I politely informed said owner that while it would be lovely to be a "Lady of Leisure" dividing my time between coffee at Starbucks, lunch at Le Notre and scrapbooking classes on the compound, I indeed had to work for a living.

Don't get me wrong. I have a great life. having to defend and explain my personal choices is a small irritant and sometimes plain amusing.

A few weeks ago while in the changing rooms of my gym, a Qatari lady approached me and asked where I was from. I told her.

"You live in Doha or just visiting?"

"I live here...almost a year now!"

"With your husband?"


(sharp intake of breath) "You leave him at home!!!!?????"


"He's dead? Sorry sorry."

"No I am unmarried."

"Not married?"


With that...she patted my shoulder, smiled and said "Inshallah, enjoy!"


Lee said...

Honey, I told you, my kids and husband can be yours anytime you like.

Oh and I have found rolling the towels hotel style looks much neater in the linen press than folding.... you could try that. If I start on my oven cleaning hints you can shoot me! :)

Nigel said...

Similar cultual differences here. I think there are probably many more unmarried working women in Doha than married, unemployed expat men.

It's sad really. The reactions I see are usually of disbelief that my wife has been allowed to sponsor me, when most people have great trouble getting their wives and kids into the country.