If you missed my last blog about a Syrian woman Member of Parliament, check it out here.
There was another MP who made a lasting impression on me during that workshop. Most Syrian women who have reached a sufficient age of maturity to consider themselves remotely successful somehow seem to be short and chubby, and they all seem to wear black skirts that come right past the knees. Don’t ask me why this is, but picture a stout woman in a straight-lined black skirt with shoulder-length hair (or a tad shorter) and you are probably picturing a middle-aged Syrian woman. She may be a housewife, or she may be a Member of Parliament.
There was one woman at the workshop for women members of parliament who brazenly challenged the stereotype. She was not short at all. In fact, she was model-tall and her figure was that of a model who hadn’t worked out for a couple of weeks: still very fit if not perfect. Her dyed-blond hair was tied up in a tight high ponytail. I don’t think she was younger than the other MPs present, but she acted like she was. While the others all seemed to be in their 50s, she came across as barely in her 30s.
I call her “Big” MP, because she had the baddest of all awesome ringtones on her phone. Have you heard this song before?
It was a hit in the 90s, I think. So… just imagine you’re at some stuffy workshop for women politicians in a room with orange tablecloths and dark blinds, trying really hard to concentrate on a lecture about governance or management or something like that, and then you hear that ringtone go off all of a sudden (yeah, Syrians never were much for turning off their phones during meetings. Once I was in a cinema with a friend and her phone rang; she answered and said, over and over again, ‘I can’t talk, I’m in the cinema!’ To which I thought it would have been much easier if she’d not even let the phone ring, but whatever. Oh yeah, and the film was Passion of the Christ – talk about ruining a moment!)
Anyway, when that particular song starts playing, you are inevitably more interested in the owner of the phone than you are in the workshop. So besides her striking appearance, her ringtone meant she fascinated me so much that you would have thought I had a crush on her (except I actually had a crush on one of the guys organising the event, but that’s a story for another day).
So one evening, we were all gathering to go out to dinner together. There is little in life that is more awkward than sitting in straight-backed armchairs in a room with a dozen stout self-important women in knee-length black skirts. For half an hour, as we waited for the rest of the group to arrive, we sat quietly and stared at each other. “Big” MP was one of the latecomers. By then the room was full, I was seated on a two-person sofa next to another MP. She saw us sitting there and came over and planted her self firmly in between us, as if by so doing she was showing that she, too, was a skinny girl and we could all fit there. We smiled at each other awkwardly for a minute, then, desperate for some common ground upon which to start a conversation, I said, “I like your ringtone!”
“Really?” she exclaimed. “I’ll give it to you!”
“You can do that?”, I asked.
“Sure! I don’t know how to do it, but I bet he does! Young guys know this sort of thing.” And she pointed across the room at the only male figure present (yes, the one I had a crush on). Sure enough, he did know how to do it, and for years after that, “Big” was my ringtone. I loved it and copied it over whenever I got a new phone. Oh, how gutted I was when my only phone was stolen! I so miss my “Big” ringtone… maybe I’ll go figure out how to download it again.
So yes, she was one of a kind, and I don’t know her story, but I liked the thought of her sitting in that big old room with all those stuffy parliamentarians.