It’s a Sister Thing

An evening like so many others at a random Geneva party on a wooden boat a couple of years ago. I remember a guy asking my friend and I who was the eldest of us two, thinking we were sisters.

Let me get this straight.

My friend Myriam is Moroccan, she’s slender, has hazel eyes and her legs go all the way up to her armpits (Yes, I know, I should hate her, but somehow I can’t seem to be able to bring myself to it).

I’m Lebanese, slender is not a word I would use to describe myself, have deep pitch black eyes and legs, which, oh well, go more or less up to where people’s ankles seem to be (Mind you, I’m not really complaining, after all women DO come in all shapes and sizes).

The only resemblance Myriam and I might bear is our semitic nose (I might start complaingning here) and our common struggle for hair ( Moan Moan Moan).

Not really twins then.

Faced with our bewilderment, the poor (Syrian) guy went on to explain that we had a very “oriental” friendship, which apparently is supposed to mean that we act and seem very close to one another, linking arms whispering secrets, adjusting each other’s hair (essential when you’re an Arab, the frizziness being so all over the place it might actually block people on their way), in a word behaving like sisters might.Off he went, but the thought stayed with me, all the more because he same comment befell me again at university, when our international criminal law teacher took to calling another (tunisian) friend and I “The Two Sisters”.

Is it? I mean, Is building friendships on the model of sisterhoods really an oriental trait, or is more of a womanly thing to do, or is it simply something to do with specific personnalities?

The Middle East calls her friends habibti, the French have the glorious Ma Chérie, the North Americans will cajole with Honey or Darling, so no big difference here. The one thing I’ve noticed that might defferentiate oriental friendships from European ones is that we all seem to be members of the “We Like Fussing” gang.

I fuss over Emna’s weight, she fusses over my hypochondria. I badger the nurse (wou yaret the nurse, the receptionist at Myriam’s doctor) with ten thousand different questions about Myriam’s results, health and general state of well being while Samia grows white hair over all of us. Dina pretends she doesn’t fuss, but will call, Gtalk, sms, e-mail and facebook you at the slightest trace of tiredness or sadness or whatever in your voice, all the while pretending she’s not worried. Have you eaten enough habibti? Are you ok habibti? Yalla don’t worry habibti, it will pass. We can’t seem to be able to rest until we’ve habibtied each other’s blue in the face.

Acute shared anxiety disorders or extreme affection? Let us not answer that (ok yeah, probably both).

Thinking on our friendships, I realise we really are like sisters, but the nice ones you know, not the kind that grows green with envy watching your new pair of boots that you probably didn’t need (everyone knowing the sane attitude to binge shopping is encouraging it, the person indulging probably having her own reasons). Us? We’d probably go: Oh habibti I got them on Asos, did you like them, khalas next time I’m online I’ll get a pair for you, or even better d’you want me to send you the link now? We’re not saints, take it from me, we can be unpleasant to lots of people, we just love each other very, very much, to the point where we can have endless dinner conversations swapping subjects from new shades of lipstick, to clothes, to personal issues to shaping eyebrows to the quest of the ultimate anti frizz serum to Dina’s job in a security Think Tank to empowerment sessions to new finance products at Thomson Reuters to female condoms to the International Criminal Court and the last Lumumba’s case.

However, I don’t think it’s an Oriental thing, I don’t even think it’s a women’s thing. I think this is only about several people eyeing one another in a classroom at 9 years old or at 20, looking at each eyebrows, caps (seriously, Dina), crazy skirts, blue coloured lenses, lime and purple Vans, and something in our heads going “Ding Ding Ding Kinship”. How could we not end up like sisters?

– For Samia, who’s probably illuminating Morocco at this very moment with her Grace and Smile

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