A few days before the magazine went to print, I felt a deep urge to write out of anger and disappointment about what we have turned into.
Sadly, I realized that I have been living in an environment where I have kind of obligation to spend my Sundays at “La Plage” not only pressing the flesh with the who’s who in Botox society, but also helplessly overhearing “the young and the restless” crowd (a.k.a the “4pm-ers” or the “happy nation”) complain about how much they hated “White” the night before (knowing that deep inside – trust me - they had an amazing time!). In other words, classic Lebanese “Je l'aime, mais je ne peux pas montrer.”
But the topic du jour revolved around – as always – status symbolism in Lebanon. I listened in to two guys argue over how much one should pay a valet at “Al Mandaloun” in order to get his car parked at the entrance and guarantee an evening full of stares and endless “oohs!” and “ahhs!” by the unfortunate ones who - God forbid - have to “wait” for their cars. It is not enough that valets have become more powerful than the President – it seems like every 10 meters one pops out of nowhere to prevent you from parking because they have confiscated that space earlier and claimed it as their own; but they are also the most tipped. So,I couldn’t help but be intrigued to hear the ending of this intense two hour conversation. Apparently, “the head of valets” classifies people into two categories named after famous Lebanese family names: “Shehade” (translates into “beggers”) are those who pay 20,000 L.L max, and “Karam” (or “generosity”) that pay up to - gasp - $100 to get their exclusive spot near the entrance.
I did not know what bothered me the most: the fact that two well educated men spend their precious Sunday lunchtime mingling over a valet’s worth like watching a lousy episode of “Gossip Girl,” or the fact that their story is unfortunately true. And then it hit me: if every single Lebanese were born with a survival manual of the city in hand, we would not spend our times trying to decipher the codes of status and prestige, or even worse, abide by them.
When will we stop buying into this “purchased” joy, and find genuine happiness in simple matters? Who are we trying to impress?
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