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Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Dysfunctional Family Outings
Last weekend was my uncle's birthday and I thought it would be a nice treat to take the entire family out for dinner. I had been working a lot this past week and spent very little time with the visiting family from Toronto.

The tough part was deciding where to go. It would be nine of us, seven (alleged) adults and two kids. Our usual outings often consist of visits to the Cheesecake Factory or TGIF (remember, there's a devil's spawn in our midst...we've got to make sure we're in a place that doesn't frown upon the devil's mischief--one day I took them all to an Indian restaurant and had to hide my flushed face because the spawn kept whining about how much it smelled) but I wasn't in the mood for for those big-portioned family places. I assumed that since we were all adults and that the spawn had grown up a year or two, maybe we were ready for something more refined.

With the assumption that all would behave accordingly, I took my family to a quaint French restaurant at the tip of Long Island City. There's an amazing pier there with a view of the city that's to die for, and I thought it would be nice to take a walk afterwards and just chill for a little bit.

Getting nine Egyptians to be ready at a certain time is close to an impossible feat. We were supposed to leave at 7pm but didn't even get into the cars till 8. Thankfully, this restaurant is fairly empty on Saturday evenings so by the time we got there we were actually able to find tables to accommodate our herd.

The waitress came to our table and gave us menus. One of the things I was worried about was my father's fastidious appetite; the man HATES eating outside the house and very rarely (if ever) eats food cooked by anyone other than my mom. So I was surprised and actually quite touched when, after receiving his menu, he looked at me and said, "Ya S, you did a really great job. This is a wonderful restaurant!"

Beaming, I told him that I would never take him anywhere that wasn't great.

My mother smiled at me and said, "Enti mish fahma. Howa mish beyekalam 3al makan, howa asdo haga tania khales."
(You don't understand. He's not talking about the place, he means something completely different).

I was a little confused until my uncle started smiling and all of them started staring at the waitress.

Goodness. I don't want my father to check women out in front of me. I don't want my father to mention checking women out in front of me. I don't want my mother to play along. It's just too much for my brain to handle.

I sighed and told the gentleman to behave, which they did. Until she came again to take our drink orders. Shameless.

It took us nearly twenty minutes to finally decide on what we wanted to eat. The kids were unhappy that the place didn't serve any burgers or chicken fingers, the adults kept complaining about the menu being limited:

"There's no spaghetti? What kind of place doesn't have spaghetti? How can there be no pasta? EVERY restaurant serves spaghetti!"

To which I replied, "Do you want to eat spaghetti?"

"No, but it should at least be on the menu."


My father was the first to decide on something, spicy sausage sandwich. "You can't have that", I said. "Sausage is pork".

Uncle: "Not all sausage is pork".

Me: "Maybe in Egypt or Arab restaurants. But I guarantee you that this sausage is pork".

Uncle: "La'a ya S. Hat shoofee" (No S, you'll see).

He calls the waitress over and asks her if the sausage on the menu is pork. She stares at him, confused. "Sausage is pork sir".

Uncle: "No, not all sausage is pork".

Fuck me. What was so wrong with TGIF???

Waitress: "The sausage sandwich you're talking about, sir, is pork".

Uncle: "Ah. Well, what about this sandwich. Is this sausage pork?"

He pointed at a sandwich whose listed ingredient was LAMB sausage.

Waitress (confused look still on her face): "No, sir. That sandwich has LAMB sausage."

Uncle: "Ah, ok. Very good."

Waitress: "Would you like to order that sandwich?"

Uncle: "No, thank you."

I looked at the waitress and asked her to give us another second and demanded that people make decisions.

In the end, my father ordered the chicken special and everyone else ordered either omelettes or crepes, with the exception of the kids who got the french fries.

When we finished our dinner (which managed to pass without any embarrassing incidents) my mother, my uncle's wife, and the kids went to stand outside while my brother got the check. The waitress came with the check and was clearly flirting with my brother. I told my father he was out of luck, that only my brother was getting any play tonight. Then I mentioned how everytime we go out, the ladies are always flirting with my brother and he's always flirting back. We went to Starbucks earlier that day and the minute we walked in the barista was all giggly. "You're back!" hee hee hee. Gross.

My father proudly sat up in his seat and said, "My son!"

Me: "Your son what? What are you so happy about?"

Dad: "My son beyet3akes!" (My son's getting flirted with!)

Me: "Um, okay. Next time we go out I will make sure to flirt with the waiter and I would LOVE to see you react the same way."

Dad: "No, no, it's different."

Me: "No, there's no difference."

My uncle starts laughing and jumps in with, "es'alee ba'alo kam sana bara Misr" (ask him how long he's been out of Egypt). Would LOVE to see how he reacts when his spawn starts talking about boys.

My father then maintains that that doesn't matter at all, "el basic yefdal el basic" (The basic stays basic).

Me: "What 'basic' exactly are you talking about?? Because if you apply one set of rules to him and one to me, then there is no basic. Watch it old man. That double-standard used to work when I was younger, but it don't work anymore."

My father sighed that sigh he always does whenever he thinks I'm about to become polemic. My brother pays the check and we quickly make our way out.

Although the pier was only four blocks away, no one wanted to walk. So we get in the car, drive to the pier, and stop the cars. They're in love with the view. I ask them if they'd like to get out of the cars and sit by the boardwalk. No one wanted to. I asked them what they wanted to do. They wanted to just go home. And pass by McDonald's.

Family time is always fun.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 7:57 AM
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Who: Carmen

xx-something egyptia-yorker who's spent over half her life stuck in two worlds not of her own making. unable and unwilling to fully embrace one identity over the other, she created (is trying to create) her own place in the world where people love each other unconditionally, irrespective of artificial boundaries, and where dancing merengue is as necessary to life as breathing air.

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