Date or Therapy Session?
Conversations with strangers, when you know you won’t see each other again, can be surprisingly intimate and quite vulnerable.
A Date in Every Country: A Series
Location: Alexandria, Egypt
Nationality: Egyptian, born and raised in Alexandria
Activity: Citadel, Library
Will see again? Not likely
Connected via: Tinder
Well here we are with what was supposed to be date #3 but turned into...well I don’t know. I spent the last 4 days in Siwa out in the desert with very poor connectivity so I wasn’t able to really chat and connect with people ahead of time. This was a very last minute decision to meet up. I panicked because I thought I accidentally booked a doubleheader. That’s bound to happen at some point.
So I’m walking towards where we are meeting and he pulls up next to me on the road in his flashy red car. Apparently being the only blonde on the entire promenade makes you easy to spot. We head to the Citadel which is awesome by the way. You should definitely take time to visit if you find yourself in Alexandria. It's Ramadan and he asks if it's ok to stop and pray so he heads into the mosque right there and I wander a bit taking photos. He finds me again and we head inside. I offer to pay (which I always do) but he responds differently than my previous Egyptian experience. Says it’s cheap so he will treat but if we do something expensive then I can pay my part. (I’m totally ok with this btw.) We wander and chat and are getting to know each other as we climb castle stairs and explore turrets.
Conversations with strangers, when you know you won’t see each other again, can be surprisingly intimate and quite vulnerable. We both shared that we lost a parent recently and this forged an oddly comfortable connection. We headed outside to walk the castle walls and continue chatting when suddenly I hear “…well I’m engaged.” WHAT?!?! Now to say I’m shocked is an understatement. I immediately question myself, did I miss something on his profile? No, I swear I did not. He did not mention this and while my typical reaction stateside would be to chew him out, I found myself pausing.
I try so hard not to jump to conclusions and travel reminds me time and time again that my normal is not THE normal.
So I listened. I asked questions. The man proceeded to share alllll the things. He clearly needed someone to listen and I was a safe space and dare I say, someone to give advice. So here’s the scoop: he dated a woman for 3 years that was not someone people generally would approve of. She was 8 years older than him, divorced and had kids. He clearly loved this woman but he described their relationship as dramatic. Lots of fighting but also 3 years was a long time. He ended it. Downloaded tinder to distract himself…and clearly never deleted it. Thennnn he dated his sister’s friend for 2 months before they got engaged. Now they’ll likely get married next year.
Interesting things I’ve learned: Both men and women live at home until they are married. It’s considered a red flag if you moved out of your parents home before that. They value family immensely here in Egypt. Additionally you don’t get married until the man has bought a house or apartment. The interests rates are insane over here as well as a common religious belief against it so when I say buy, it means save up and pay in cash. I asked for ballpark prices here in Alexandria and a 2 bedroom apartment runs about 22k. Be it that the wages here are significantly lower as is cost of living, men start working at a young age to save up so they can get married by 25/28ish. He mentioned that he was already late to the game at 30 and was being pressured to settle down. So he’s set to get married to this new woman who he describes as very kind, loves him deeply and is a good choice. BUTTTT he can’t stop thinking about the first one. In fact he randomly ran into her 3 times this last week and it was messing with his head. He looked at me and just said, “What do I do?!” My brain was torn between wanting to admonish him for being on Tinder but also knowing how confusing it can be when someone from the past is still lingering in your thoughts.
While there had been zero flirting, I asked specific questions to understand why he was on Tinder. I expressed my discomfort for going out with him when I didn’t know he was engaged. By the way - the men wear engagement rings here! It is on their right hand then moves to their left when they marry. After listening to my side, he apologized and said he understood from my perspective that it was not ok and that I would not have said yes if I had known. I don’t think he thought this was a date to begin with so we discussed the different perspectives of who is on apps and what they are looking for. I encouraged him to delete it for himself and out of respect to his fiancé who sounds just lovely by the way. I made sure to ask who makes him laugh and he was instantly adamant that his fiancé brings a smile to his face. I reminded him that passion can fade as will looks but sitting across from your partner in 40 years while you’re still laughing is of immeasurable value. (I’m secretly a romantic.)
He insisted on driving me to the famous library here (which was closed) then kindly took me to the train station to help me purchase my ticket. All this time, he’s going round and round on what to do. How does he forget this woman from his past?! My best advice to him was to not try to forget. You simply cannot make yourself forget someone. They are a part of your past, albeit an important part where you learned things about love, about yourself and about how to be in a relationship. Ultimately I told him to try to change his perspective. When she pops up, to be grateful for their time together but also remind himself why it didn’t work and what he learned so he can have a better relationship with his fiancé, one with less fighting and less dramatics.
Date #3 was really a therapy session and not a date at all. Didn’t plan on that but I can’t really plan on anything anymore. I’m just along for the ride seeking to learn every step of the way.
Teaser: Going out with Date #2 for a second time! He was quite insistent that we had to go out again before I left the country. He already sent me a map with all the locations(!) Talk about organized. Oh and he sent me a picture of a box saying my gift arrived. WHAT?!?! Who knows what it is but I sure hope it fits in my backpack lol. Stay tuned!
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