Friday, February 22, 2008

The Grass is Always…Fatter

The house was bursting at the seams with women who'd come to pay their respects in the days after my father-in-law passed away. Some stayed for only a matter of minutes, enough time to greet the other women present and drink a cup of coffee while expressing their condolences to the family, as is in good taste and is the Sunnah. Others, some close friends of the family but mostly unwanted lingerers, sat and chatted about all manners of goings-on as my grieving sister-in-laws turned into waitresses by refreshing bottomless cups of coffee and tea. The men had rented a farm to accommodate the onslaught of mourners but the womenfolk came to the small, old-style house since my mother-in-law is not able to exit her home during the mourning period for widows of four months and 10 days.

Since I actively avoid weddings, I don't often encounter large groups of women like what was present during the 3 days following my father-in-laws death. As women filed in and out of the house, all types of discussion were taking place; gossip, recent events, more gossip. Feeling a bit like Typhoid Daisy, I stood and greeted every woman that entered with the mandatory handshake and kisses on the cheek despite my 1o2°F fever then returned to shivering quietly, curled up under my abaya and layers of clothing while seated on a sofa in the corner of the room. Not up to participating in the topic-du-jour, I listened-in as the chatty women resumed whatever issue was being hashed out before disruption of greeting the latest batch of mourners.

"Are you still looking for a house?", one of the older women enquired of a younger woman who'd come with her mother, whose tight off-the-shoulder "bad-girl" abaya barely contained her girth and made her the topic of discussion after her departure.

"I found one next to so-and-so's house in such-and-such neighborhood", she responded as a group of old, toothless women across the room began paying attention to the information she was giving.

"For rent?", the older woman continued her inquiry. "Who owns it?"

"I can't remember the exact family name, my husband knows it, but he's got two wives and…", Miss Tight Abaya was cut-off before she could finish by one of the old toothless women.

"That's my son's house", she exclaimed, taking a proactive approach to the conversation before the women went too far into the "two wives" issue.

"When did he marry again?" another older woman asked with a surprised expression, obviously an old friend who'd lost touch with the polygamist's toothless mother.

"Last year" she answered her friend as more and more of the two dozen women in the room dropped whatever lines of meaningless discourse were taking place to substitute it with eavesdropping on this meatier topic , "I don't know why though, his wife is a good wife" the toothless mom added.

"So why'd he get married again?" a previously uninterested middle-aged woman interjected as the room began to go silent to listen in to the reason.

There are a number of supposed certains in a woman's life here regarding marriage. Some of which are as follows; if you do x,y,z for your husband, he won't get married again. If you are a good wife, you're husband won't have a reason to get married again on you. Being a "good wife" is of course a very subjective matter but some of the general qualities of a good wife are: your house is clean, you make plenty of babies, you cook well, you don't get fat, you don't look old, you take care of your appearance, you are not demanding, etc. If a man marries again, it is assumed for certain it's because his first wife was lacking in some way which forced him to go forth and seek greener pastures. When people hear a man has married a second wife, the question which immediately follows is: "why?" Everyone wants to know what was wrong with the first wife.

The entire room of mainly middle-aged women eagerly awaited the toothless mom's answer. Every woman wants to avoid the pitfalls of other women who've inadvertently forced their men into the arms of a second wife and even if this isn't their main motivation for paying attention, having dirt on the first wife is reason enough to listen intently.

"She's a good wife", the toothless polygamist's mom said again. "She's a good cook, her house is clean, she has three kids, she's not ugly…", she went on extolling the virtues of her seemingly infallible daughter-in-law.

"So what's his problem with her then", another woman impatiently enquired of the toothless mom?

"He says she's too skinny and he wants to be married to a fat woman", the old woman announced to a silent room which was instantly transformed into a sea of confused faces. For a few moments, the women in the room pondered the grammar and word order of the sentence with which the evidently confused old woman perplexed them.

"You mean she's too fat and he wants to be married to a skinny one", one of the eavesdroppers corrected her after concluding that the senile woman had inadvertently switched adjectives. After all, this order makes sense to everyone as they nodded their heads in agreement with the semantic correction.

"No", the toothless mom asserted, "his wife is thin and he wants a fat wife!"

The initial confused silence continued for a few more moments, left over from the toothless mom's first statement and compounded by her second. Logic and reason were turned on their heads, the sun began to rise from the west as the earth reversed rotation on its axis for these women. All of the sudden, in a simultaneous explosion, every last woman in the room burst into an uncontrollable fit of laughter.

Women doubled-over with convulsive laughter while clutching their jiggling belly rolls and crossing their thick thighs as they wiped away tears from their plump cheeks with their sausage-like fingers. Miss Skinny Abaya popped a button in all the commotion. My MIL covered her face with her abaya trying to mask the hilarity, which was completely unbecoming of a grieving widow at the wake. Not one of the women in there was less than 15 kilos overweight and no doubt, the majority had tried many dieting methods and failed. Earlier that same day, DD's female cousin passed out and was having bad stomach pain from taking diet pills on an empty stomach. This laughter continued unabated for several minutes until, after catching their breath, some of the women wanted to clarify the facts of this distinctive second marriage.

"So was the first wife like, chemotherapy skinny?"

The polygamist's toothless mom answered, "No, she has a nice figure, not scrawny or anything. Just thin."

"They're never happy are they", I added my 2 cents to the conversation. "If they have a tall wife they want a short one, if they have a fat wife they want a skinny one, etc."

The old women all nodded their heads in agreement. The grass is always greener on the other side, or is it fatter?


Anonymous said...

Welcome back Daisy. I have been a loyal reader ever since you started, please don't stop blogging. I truly enjoy reading all your posts.

Susan said...

Brilliant post, D. I can just picture the scene...

Mona Zenhom said...

Oh, no they are never happy. Wonderfully written. :)

Molly said...

awesome absolutely hilarious post. sometimes truth is way better than fiction.


Anonymous said...

Finally, all things come full circle in life. That man is okay in my book.

I was so happy to read this post as I am so sick and tired of starving to achieve a look which is not naturally mine and tired of being told that I have such a "pretty face", etc. by women whose idea of a good breakfast is four tiny breadsticks and a glass of tea and that's all they eat all day.

Mostly, though, I am tired of the endless conversations about how terrible it is to be overweight and how that makes you a bad person instead of a just a person who happens to be overweight. The obsession with weight in all its varying stages is part and parcel of women's general insecurity and I, for one, am totally sick of it.

Anonymous said...


Thought you and your readers may like to know that being "fat" is exactly what the women I know from Africa want to be.Most of these women are from Sudan & Chad.It's a really big deal for the men to be "fat" too. The idea behind it is you have the money to sit around and eat anything you desire! The women from Africa actually will sometimes contact female relatives & friends in the U.S. asking if there are any pills they can send that will make them eat more! Guess it just goes to show whatever the body type we're never satisfied with it!


Anonymous said...

Salaam Alaikum,

I've just thoroughly enjoyed getting up to date with your fabulous blog, masha Allah.

Insha Allah I hope all is well with you. :)

Kris said...

Oh my... I'm glad I got on your blog tonight. I think I needed that laugh. I think the best part was when it started I was thinking it'd be a serious topic lol.

& to the comment about women in Africa - that is so true. In Tanzania as well as the countries you mentioned (prob in more too). When I went, there were a couple that went w/ me different years that were bigger & they got hit on a lot. The way I heard it explained was that if a man has a "fat" wife then he can afford to feed her.. wealth symbol. Not too diff from what you said lol.

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

I was just remembering a white woman I used to work with in America. She was very Rubenesque with long auburn hair and alabaster skin...Arab men fell all over themselves as she passed by but to most American men, she was fat trailer trash.

Umyusuf- inshallah I'll continue to deliver with the help of your encouragement...thanks:-)

Cairogal- that reminds me, are you and Organic still doing the weightloss blog? Some of the food posted looked great.

Mona and Molly- don't get me started on my own marriage:-P

Safiya OUtlines- wa alaikum salam and alhumdulillah we're well, thanks for reading up.

Sarah, Tina and Mamma Kalila- MaryJo is going to be tall and willowy but EttaMae might be Saudi's first female power-lifter! Mashallah, she's built shorter and VERY powerful but I can tell that once she hits puberty, she'll have a tendency to gain weight quickly because of her body-type and the fact she's a voracious eater. This is the way God made them and no amount of dieting will ever make EttaMae thin, nor should she be thin.

Back in "the days", fat was in here too and for exactly the same reasons...fat=wealth. My general impression is that the ideal for most Saudi men is heavier than in American media, but outright fat isn't in vogue anymore.

I remember seeing a Somalian supermodel on Oprah discussing how ideals are changing where she comes from and although she's revered in the west, no one would give her a second look back home (and have you seen some of the drop-dead gorgeous women in Somalia/Eritrea and the rest of the "horn" of Africa for that matter!). But...she did mention that due to globalization, views of beauty are becoming homogenized worldwide and that's exactly what's happened here.

My husband's kinda old school on the weight issue and wishes me to be fatter too. Then on the other hand, my friends husband was offered gifts galore if he succeeded in finding a bride for a wealthy man who'd been searching for a woman who, "was guaranteed NEVER to get fat".

Anonymous said...

Now,if we only turned the tables on the guys! :D
I would have joined in the laughter, this is so funny but sad as this was the only reason he had to marry a second wife, he should just own up and just say he just wants another wife and shouldn't use his first wife as a scapegoat, what a loser! sf

Kris said...

Btw... My husband got home & saw your post up.. and told me to leave a comment from him. I'm assuming DD is darling daughter (or else I'm very confused) but his responce when seeing it was that DD has a very bad conotation - especially when reading this subject! LOL

Kris said...

Ignore my guess to who DD is - I just read your list on the side.. lol..

Ann Tamimi said...

My MIL who has a lot of junk in her trunk was very happy to note that is how she got her man :) The notion of being death skinny here (along with white) is mainly a media image they feel they have to compete with (like so much of the world) and it is the younger generation that tends to feed into it.

It is a shame though, the man could have saved a lot (financially and so on) if he would have just fed his wife some good chocolate cake. Or taken her out for nice dinners during the weekends. He could have plumped her up in no time rather than take on another wife.

PM said...

You have a great talent for writing, Maash'Allah! And an even greater talent for exposing the truth ;-)))

They're never happy, it's true.

Love you,

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

sf- didn't you know, it's ALWAYS because we're wrong/lacking somehow. Get that straight woman!

Mama Kalila- All cleared up?

Nzingha- but then he wouldn't get to have sex with two women!

PM- I'd love to see what I could produce on a full nights sleep, something I haven't seen in 2+ years!Thanks for the compliment:-)

G said...

Mourning etiquette is apparently varied across the GCC. I'm surprised that you serve coffee to mourners.

I hate the justifications made for a second-wife by women; if he's gonna marry again, a dude's gonna do it regardless of how "perfect" his wife is.

Glad to see you posting again :)

G said...

Mourning etiquette is apparently varied across the GCC. I'm surprised that you serve coffee to mourners.

I hate the justifications made for a second-wife by women; if he's gonna marry again, a dude's gonna do it regardless of how "perfect" his wife is.

Glad to see you posting again :)

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

G.E.&B.- Not just coffee, they stick around to be fed some of them!!!! BIDA'A if you ever did see it. People are supposed to come, give their condolences and COMFORT the family, then get the hell out. I can't remember how many thousand riyals this mourning cost us!!!

Anonymous said...

A hilarious story. It's interesting how most men around the world prefer thin women, but in my experience, Middle Eastern men seem to prefer women with a little more meat on their bones. Lucky for me!
Glad to have you back in the Blogosphere!

Anonymous said...

You know Daisy, we got the same problem, I remember when my grandfather passed about 13 yrs ago, we immediately had to get the house *ready*, remove furniture coz lots of pple would come. People are mourning but you have pple sticking around and they expect not only coffee, but lunch, dinner and for a number of others who would *sleep over* you will need breakfast. Majority of them were not even that *close* and they would just sit around and gossip. And if someone new came in, crying and wailing would *automatically* begin! I was a teen then and I had an *episode* with one of those women. I simply told her to leave(am trying to say it in a good way,lol). It's just too much, the sunnah is that no food is prepared at home but should come from outside. And if you don't serve food, boy o boy, you would be the talk of town until someother poor person/family screws up, lol. sf

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

susie- with the younger generation, who grew up watching western tv, that's all changing now. And if you've notice many Saudi girls are curvier than most "white" women so they'll spend a lot of time trying to attain the unattainable.

sf- sleeping over too!!! good grief.

Amoola said...

assallamu alaikum,

That is hilarious!

أبو سنان said...

Nice to see you back and I loved the story.

I am here to tell you all there is at least one man happy with what he has.



Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

4everhopeful- congratulations on making Hajj!:-)

أبو سنان - Mashallah, and you be sure to TELL her that, especially when she's having a bad/gross day.

Aafke said...

I'm curvy!!!!

I once read a description of an Arab travveler about the touareg of Africa: ''The most beautiful women he had ever seen! no where else had he seen such fat women!''

Ann said...

Assalaamu alaikum,

G.E&B, I thought the same thing - then I went and saw that you're in Kuwait, too. My father-in-law also died recently, and SO many women came through here giving condolences. But the family doesn't put anything out for them except water - and that's just sitting on the tables, not being served to them. No one but the closest family stays for meals, and the meals are sent by neighbors and relatives, so the family doesn't have to worry about cooking during that time. And there's no wailing or loud gossiping, ahamdulillah...

Anonymous said...

This was hilarious!

Ann said...

Assalaamu alaikum,

In Mauritania, they actually force-feed girls to make them fat, although things are changing now, I guess.

Mauritania's 'wife-fattening' farm

I had the same thought as Nzingha, though - did the guy try to encourage his wife to gain some weight before taking another?

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

aafke- I'd be honored to be on your blogroll:-) Interesting quote.

Ann- when my Saudi friends child died in a tragic accident, our Kuwaiti friends were the MOST help. They were the ones sending over food, praying with us in the hospital, and helping with housework. I didn't cook for a week thanks to them, while hosting the grieving parents at my home.

rickshawdiaries- :-)

Ann- I'd heard about this in country's along the west coast of Africa especially, in Togo also. Did you ever see the movie "Phat Girlz". Not too funny, but illustrates the point we're making. Girls who are considered fat in America are doted on by Nigerian doctors.

~UmmAslam~ said...

Miss Tight abayah funny lol

Pearl Morale said...

HIlarious post.
First of all, I'm sorry about your FIL. 3atham Allah Ajrik insha'Allah.
This post made me laugh uncontrollably. You're right, the bottom line is, they're never happy with anything, so might as well just perform your duties, be yourself, and hope for the best? It's all so perplexing.

Umm Aishah said...

Assalam alaikum! I've enjoyed discovered your blog and had a great laugh at this post. I'm in Nigeria now and upon reading this I had to go ask a native...they said maybe 1% of Nigerian men are looking for fat women. It was more common before, but not overly so and is rare now.

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

ummaslam- thanks for stopping by

lulwa- what a lovely name! so true, isn't it? never happy.

um Aishah- I call it the "Gap effect", after the Gap clothing store. The entire world is becoming a bland homogenization, kinda like peeking into the land of beige Khaki dockers, and it's all falling in line with American/western boring! Stop by again!

Anonymous said...

aaaaaaaaah on men and their way of thinking!!

If he wanted to marry an over-weight chick then why didn't he do it from the beginning for God's sake!!

Did that idea pop in his mind after having 3 kids!!

As for the ladies chitchatting during a funeral, it is so common!!

I guess you know all about it since you live in Hassa if I am not mistaken!! It really pisses me off to see a mom crying and grieving over the loss of her only son while in the other side of the room there are wonders!!

You will find women chatting about gold prices these days. Others will be talking about the food they have to prepare for dinner. Some will be just observing the crying ladies there. The worst will be those talking about those who got married, engaged, miscarried, divorced and the upcoming weddings!!