“Hey, are you Egyptian?” I was standing at a table on the side of the post office, filling out a shipping label, when a Hispanic woman walked up and asked the girl next to me that question. I glanced over at the girl and saw she had Middle Eastern features and she was wearing a hijab (the head scarf, if you’re not familiar with the word). Oddly enough, the woman had guessed right. The girl replied that she was half Egyptian and was born in the US.
“You’re a Muslim right?” At this point, I was considering moving to another part of the post office, because I was expecting this Hispanic woman to go nuts and start haranguing this girl for being a Muslim, which she obviously was, since she was wearing a hijab. New York City has a reputation for being filled with lunatics and you really never know if you’re talking to one until it’s too late. The girl looked a little hesitant, but again she answered yes.
‘Here it comes,’ I thought. But, instead of what I was expecting, the Hispanic woman asked, “What do you think about marrying more than one woman? If you were married to a man, would you be ok with him marrying a woman in another country?”
“No, I wouldn’t be ok with that.”
“Ok, because I know Muslims believe in marrying more than one wife.”
“Well, not all Muslims do that,” the girl replied. “That’s mostly something that happened a long time ago, because it’s too hard to handle more than one wife, since the guy has to take care of them equally. It’s a lot of trouble, but I wouldn’t do it myself.”
“Oh, well you’re mostly American since you were born here, but do you know if Egyptians do that?” I imagine she was trying to fish for another answer, perhaps to justify the problem she was about to lay out to this girl.
“Well, yes, but I just don’t think it’s ok and I don’t think many people would do that.”
“My husband was here, and he married me, but then he went back to Egypt and he married another woman. If you were the other woman and you knew the man was married, would you do that? Would you marry a man that was already married? What kind of woman does such a thing?”
The above conversation is paraphrased, of course. I don’t remember exactly what they said to each other, but it went along those lines. At that point, I stopped following the conversation completely because I was just about done with filling out my shipping label and sealing the envelope, but the Hispanic woman kept pressing this girl about why her husband, who had been deported, would find a new wife in Egypt instead of being faithful to her. The girl told her it sounds like a personal problem. She was probably trying to separate the issue from religion, before it devolved into something ugly. She told the woman that if she wasn’t satisfied with the situation she should divorce her husband, but the Hispanic woman told her something about losing benefits.
Then I walked away to get my postage for my envelope.
I wonder if that happens often? I doubt that girl expected to have a conversation quite as bizarre as that when she put on her hijab that morning and left her house.