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Awkward Sex in the City by E. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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Friday, May 24, 2013

The Second Encounter - اللقاء الثاني

He walked past me, and I immediately sensed the very air around me transform. It was not visible. Nothing physically moved. There was no sudden gust of wind, no autumns leaves drifting by the window, no violins lamenting suddenly. Yet the very 'reality' around me seem to disintegrate and unravel.
It broke open and let him out from the very recesses of my memory.

I looked at him, to the face that was forever engraved in my mind, created and recreated endlessly, the face that I idolized, searchingly, for that fleeting moment of recognition. But it never came.

I was 16. He had the softest brown eyes I have ever seen. An angelic face that the horrors of reality only left with a look of certain melancholy and visible gravity. His skin glowed with this iridescent light, that shook hearts to their very sinews. He spoke little, sometimes smiled and and I worshipped the quicksand he walked on.
I never allowed myself to think of how much he moves me. My very viscera hummed with torturous tunes and ecstatic song, every time he stood next to me.
If he wished to cut my chest open and wrench my heart out, I would have let him, even if to just throw it at his feet.
But my self-preservation instinct would not allow my mind to be fully cognizant of what my heart and viscera were singing for. I would always slip into this metaphysical state every time we talked. The few moments where I was in his presence were atemporal experiences that can not be explained by any connection or bearing on reality. Out of Nowhere they come and into the great Unknown they go.

The fortune of having him never lasted more than a few months. After which he transferred to another university and we never stayed in touch. He, out of being a heterosexual man, and me out of self-preservation.

Until that moment of the 'second-encounter'. There he was, in all his heterosexual glory. His father, his mother, his brother, and a child, clutching his shoulders and a plain-looking, not-so-very-intelligent wife. Patriarchy was alive and well, and his father passed down his legacy and he is creating his own.
But gone is the iridescent light, the pleading brown eyes, the angelic face, all gone. There was only a harassed look, and an overwhelming feeling of disappointment that left no space for anything else.
Was having a child not an extraordinary blessing? Was having a wife not the ultimate reassurance of this virile masculinity? Was heading a family not the true exulted position for a man like him?
Did he not find joy in fulfilling his destiny as a man?
Was being ensnared by patriarchy the final death of his innocence? Was it not a source of endless pride that he was a living-giving, perfectly "functioning" man? Were not the values of bourgeois respectability what they promised to be?

I was always consoled by the idea, that somewhere in the world, there is someone like him. He would not cross my mind very often and I never tried to conjure his memory on purpose. In certain moments, when 'heart', 'love' or 'destiny' were mentioned the image of him found its way to my consciousness. And my body remembered what it was like to experience his presence and to have occupied the same physical space as he did.
He was an ideal, and shall remain as such.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Whats Your Profile?

Being 30, gaining weight by the minute, alarmed by the sense of anxiety that seems to come out of nowhere, I found no harm to go with the girls and sit in a cafe; smoke Shisha, and blend in the grand tapestry that is Cairo, like all Egyptian mortals. Each one of them took her iPhone out and started checking the endless iPhone applications for social networking websites. There was an application for men who like hairy men, there is an application for men who like young men, there is an application for sexually-ambiguous men, there is an application for anything and everything.
Our conversation was punctuated with those interludes of fingers gracefully gliding over luminescent screens for about 20 seconds at 15 minutes intervals. The more restless they became, the more the screens flickered, and fingers glided.
My stillness and pensive pose prompted one of them to ask me: 'Whats your profile?'
And I innocently answered him by listing my profile on the two social networking that we have been using for almost a decade. He shook his head dismissively and clarified his question by asking what is my profile on the 'iPhone apps'.
Well, there is none.
As I don't have an iPhone.
And instantly an outpouring of sympathy and compassion was directed at me. For I will never become part of this self-elected community of iPhone users who have distinguished themselves many times over, by their access not just to technology but the way in which we would use such technology. If the term social engineering ever sounded sinister to you, then this is one maleficent manifestation of it.
Not just social engineering. It is a reinvention of the notion of 'class' through 'technological innovation'. At the heart of it, is the 'filtering' of society by purchasing power - those who can actually afford to buy an iPhone, and it progresses to exclude those not completely attuned to the "social" application of such ingenious gadget.
I personally find the idea of poking a screen with your finger distasteful. Not to mention not completely hygenic.
But taste aside, my lack of accessibility to this technological device meant my own personal exclusion from this remarkable world that held them captive to it, unable to resist summoning their 'profiles' every 15 minutes for the fear of missing a potential mate.
One of them even had two phones, not just one.
And in this case of perpetual anticipation I found myself forced to witness it, as they checked one application after the other, exchanged tips on which application is better suited to the taste of the other, which application works best in Cairo and so on and so on.
While I sat there next to my less 'smart' phone, silent and alienated.

Scenes from the film Gattaca 1997, kept coming to my mind, in the (not-so-distant) future people will be able to selectively take out parts of their DNA or even introduce new traits. Only those who can afford to will be able to control the future of their offspring. It felt that only those who have access to this technology can take control of their 'social profile' and how they 'connect' to others and what kind of relationships they are able to have.
In a hyper-connected world, with complex gadgets and an irrational state of consumerism the notions of 'socialization' and 'relationships' become painfully problematic.
'The world at your finger tips' is one thing, but the world and its 'inhabitants' as well, is one form of illusion I don't think I can deal with very well.
But what is at the heart of this emancipated sense of control and connectivity? And what does it mean for an oppressed community like ours in Cairo?
It reinforces the notion of 'social distinction' through crude consumerism and access to technology. And this is not the rant of a broke queen whining about not being able to buy an iPhone. It terms of poverty and financial means they are many who live in the slums and walk around with iPhones. This is not where the problem lies.
The problem is this certain aptness and 'skill' in knowing how to "creatively" expand one's social capital via these technologies and their use. And not only expand but advance as well.
For the flimsy gay community in Cairo, the impact of such 'innovations' is perhaps to isolate further any chance of inter-connectivity. Or worse reinforce any existent biases and social restrictions.
One can argue that Facebook has been doing a wonderful job in democratizing these social processes and that is true to a great extent. But there is one thing that Facebook can not democratize, and that is Grindr. Or Growlr. Or Scruff.
It can not democratize any of those.
The anxiety it created in me, is not the anxiety of financial means, but the anxiety of a specific use of a certain technological device that has become a social gateway for an immediate way of getting to know people or 'hooking up'. Not that there are many users on Grindr anyway. But to add one more item to the list of things one must do to be able to find interesting potential dates or friends, makes one a little bit more than paranoid or obsessed.
But this is the future. The hyper-connected, super-transient and ephemeral social reality that we are part of. Where everything feels like one big commercial, and everyone is posing like they are trying to sell you something.
Madonna had it right all along.

'There's no love like the future love

Come with me'
Future Lovers by Madonna and Mirwais Ahmadzaï, Confessions on a Dance Floor, 2005