Last week when I was visiting the family in Chicago, I realized all these things that happen each and every time I see them. It's too long for one blog, so I'm dividing it up into a few. Here's the first one:
Let's just get one thing straight. I know my family very, very well. It's not that they're predictable at all...they just have, well, tendencies, I guess. Sometimes these tendencies lean towards hilarity, other times they lean towards being over-the-top, and occasionally the tendencies include screaming at each other in public. I may not always predict the stuff that happens when I spend time with my family, but when it does happen, it's rarely a surprise. In fact, there are certain things that I think are bound to happen on a weekend trip to Chicago. Allow me to expand upon this...
Last weekend, I traveled to Chicago to see Tina Turner with my mother. In terms of family time, it was a pretty efficiently handled weekend; within about 48 hours, I got to see ten different family members, plus Mladenka (Emil's girlfriend) and Josh (Laith's "wife." Long story...). Saturday night, all the cousins got together at Emil and Mladenka's apartment to hang out and get dinner and drinks. After complaining about how starving they all were for about 30 minutes, arguing over what kind of food everybody wanted for another 15, and then aimlessly walking down Division St. for about 10 minutes, we settled on a bar/Chinese restaurant.
It was at this establishment that a couple of the inevitable events occurred. The first of these events was that somebody broke something. In this case, it was the floorboard of the restaurant. Whoops a daisy...I'm not exactly sure how it happened, but all I remember is seeing Luai scooting over on his bar stool, and then Luai and the bar stool together shifting downward. Surely enough, the leg of the barstool cracked through the floor. I have no other explanation about that. The floor just broke.
The second thing that happened that I should have expected was in regards to meat. Meat is a big deal in the family; it's like in that movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding when she tells her parents that her fiance is a vegetarian and doesn't eat meat, the mom says "No problem, I make lamb." For awhile when we were teenagers and my sister was eating vegetarian, I honestly think my aunts didn't know what to do with that. They'd stare at her, confused, asking "What about chicken? Chicken isn't a meat." I don't know how she got through that. Even my cousins, who are all about my age, are puzzled by the idea of not eating meat. Selam, for example, had his mind boggled, apparently, when he found out I was eating broccoli and tofu for dinner. It started by Laith asking me what I'd ordered...
Laith: What did you order?
Me: This broccoli and tofu stir fry thing
Laith: Tofu, eh? Hippie.
Imagine a sly smile on his face.
A few minutes later...
Luai: What did you order, Reem?
Reem: Um...just this broccoli sitr fry thing
Luai: Broccoli? With what?
Reem: You know, just the regular stuff
Luai: You got tofu, didn't you. Hippie.
Please refer back to the previous sly smile.
Then after my food arrived, my cousin Selam, who is 18 and just started college, looks at my plate, bewildered.
Selam: What IS that?
Reem: Broccoli and tofu dude. Everybody give it a rest.
Selam: What is it? What does it do?
Layla: It's a soy product that picks up the flavor of whatever it's cooked in (Thanks Layla!)
Reem: Do you want to try some?
Selam: Ugh...I don't know about that. It looks pretty weird.
He reluctantly tries some, chews it for awhile, looking thoughtful, then bothered.
Selam: What is this even supposed to taste like? Why didn't you just get meat? It's like...a waste of food!
Also later in the night, after telling Luai that I get 6 regular channels on my television, plus two god channels, he says "You've really assimilated to the Madison lifestyle, Reem. What happened to you?"
The fact that I am the person in my family who is looked at as being the hippie is hilarious to me. I watch a shit ton of television! I just don't have a giant TV that's bigger than most pieces of furniture and takes 4 burly men to carry. And once in awhile I get grossed out by the idea of chicken, and tofu tastes good, so I eat it. Totally regular, right? And don't forget the fact that I'm deathly afraid of snakes and bats, and I've been camping like three whole times in my life, and this summer, every time I visited Genia's garden with her, I would just happen to have my cell phone and giant sunglasses and an effing latte or something with me. And I'd stand there, watching her till the ground, and I'd complain about bugs. What kind of hippie is that?
But the meat thing. This is a big deal. This means something in my family. I bet if I were a dude, they'd call me "Sissy Boy."
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