Girl's Night Out
Jabel Amman, Amman, Jordan
I was asked to "go out" by two 17 year old bestfriends. The rebellious activity of choice? Shisha. For those who don't know, this is flavored tobacco smoked through a "hubbly bubbly" hookah pipe. In Muslim countries like Jordan drinking is looked down upon, though it does occur. But shisha? People sit in cafes for hours while the waitstaff come around and refill their hookah, replenish their coals, and generally give them no good reason to ever leave. It is legal for the teens to smoke, but we did have conversations about how some keep it secret from their parents, some parents know but don't approve, some parents are only ok with their kids doing it in front of them. Sounds familiar. As I sat with Sophie and Sara I got an inside scoop on being a Muslim teen, on the world of dating, on the intense education they are going through in order to potentially go to school abroad. They face the same challenges as any other teen I have known in America: divorce, boyfriends, crushes, homework, texting. They just look a lot older as they talk about it over a cloud of sexy smoke. Sara's braces might be the only highschool giveaway.
Sophie, the one who picked me up in a cab, has been dating a guy for a while. Though her parents are not very happy about it, they do know. She complained about the same things I have complained about concerning dating back in the states. Why doesn't he just get a job, any job, instead of holding out for the perfect job while he lingers on his couch, penniless? How when she gets him a present for their one year anniversary and he shows up with nothing, she is not enthused. Her friend Sara clearly thinks that she can do better, but they are still in high school and don't need to make these decisions yet. It can just be fun for the time being. They did seem to be quite set on waiting for marriage before getting "further involved," which I think would be quite a different story for their counterparts in America. The pressure here in a largely Muslim country is definitely on keeping things under control until marriage. From talking to different women, it seems to me that this often is a standard that is maintained. If it is broken, however, it brings with it a whole world of secrecy and pretending.
These girls were great company for the evening, and they seemed to be happy with just being teens, getting their studies done, shopping, and listening to Rihanna.