Saturday, December 21, 2013

Ya Filus! Rich American

shopping at The Pearl
 
She sits at a desk deep inside the secured ladies' area.  She wears abaya and sheyla and when she leaves the protected space she covers her face and hands too.  Her job is to answer the phone, maintain lists, help visitors.  She's from France.
 
She greets me this way:  "Ya, filus!"
 
Hello, Money.
 
"She's crazy," say the other ladies.  "Ignore her."
 
But I'm puzzled.  The greeting is negative, assumptive and mean; a slur:  fatty, ugly, rich.
 
"Why do you say this?" I ask.  "It's very rude."
 
"But it is true, yes?"  eet eez troo.  "You are American.  You are rich."
 
I shake my head.  Not that it's not a bad thing like stealing bread from babies but No I'm Not Rich.  I tell her about layoffs, old cars, raising three children in a small house.  Joint bank accounts, family budgets.  Hard earned achievement realized through years of education, planning, sacrifice.
 
I don't own excessive "stuff."  I shop at Walmart, not Hermes.  I cook, clean and do laundry.  I work.  I'm in Doha because my husband is good at what he does - and win or lose, we operate as a team.
 
She purses her lips, waves the back of one hand in my direction.
 
She's not impressed by my college degree, professional experience, stories sold to Highlights for Children.  She's not interested in my job in Doha and efforts to volunteer in local schools.  She's more curious about why I don't have a maid to wash my husband's socks than understanding how everyday American women balance work and family obligations without the aid of a full time, live in nanny.
 
…it is the man's duty to take full responsibility for the care and maintenance of his wife and family. He must provide a safe home, food, clothing and all material needs. Indeed, Muslim men are responsible for all financial matters.  A Muslim woman may contribute financially if she wishes, but she is under no obligation to do so…
(Link)
 
In America, "rich" makes more money than she spends.  She drives a truck, Toyota, BMW, lives in a tract house or mansion.  She's every nationality, color, shape, size, orientation, gender, religion.  She has savings to care for herself and her family and maintain her lifestyle without working, if necessary.  And according to sociologist Leonard Beeghley, she has a net worth of at least $1 million.
 
Hermes at The Pearl
 
Qataris enjoy one of the highest living standards in the world.
(Link)
 
In Qatar, the country's oil and gas revenues are shared with minority population Qatari citizens.  Here, "rich" drives a Lamborghini, Rolls or SUV, lives in a sprawling family compound/beautifully appointed villa/The Pearl.  "Rich" summers in a cool climate, sends his children to university abroad, spends holidays in Las Vegas.  Most households engage a nanny and maid but "rich" boasts one helper per child and two, three or more maids.  "Rich" is employed, but doesn't necessarily work; is conservative and religious - and generally unavailable to outsiders.
 
"Rich" is relative, political, desirable, shameful - and achievable in some places more than others.
 
She raises her chin, lifts an eyebrow.  "I want to go to America."
 
Oh.
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