So this week, Nadia El-Awady, respectable wife and mother, embarks on a lingerie-and-sex-toy-filled shopping trip. Embarrassment ensues.
It turns out the day(s) after Christmas in the UK and elsewhere around the Western world is a big time for shopping sales. Over the past few days I’ve been bombarded with messages about the special sales from newspapers, the radio, television, and friends in the UK. Many Egyptians even know about the sales. I know at least two women who are traveling here all the way from Egypt to do some shopping. Even CairoScene’s Dalia Awad emailed me the other day, confident that I was about to hit the post-Christmas sales.
I must admit that this all started freaking me out. If everybody was talking about the sales, maybe I shouldn’t miss out on them. I racked my brain for things that I absolutely needed to buy and couldn’t think of a thing. I had already bought all the winter wear I needed to survive the cold UK winter. I wasn’t going to wait until half the winter was over to warm up, thank you very much! I had also gone a bit crazy with the shopping during a November trip to London and then Paris and bought lots of stuff from there. This included a very embarrassing trip to Paris’ “Red Light District”.
Since I’m newly married, I had been looking for some decent lingerie all over the UK and Egypt. I hadn’t been able to find anything I liked. The lingerie shops I found in the UK all sold nice underwear and bras, but that was it. Where were all the babydolls and the long flowing nightgowns of the 1960s where I had left my brain? I looked all over London and then Paris and couldn’t find anything. And then I had a revelation (I can’t say this one was from God, to tell you the truth). Why not find out where Paris’ Red Light District was and visit their sex shops? Certainly THEY would have cute, sexy nightgowns? This also got me excited about looking for some sex toys to have some fun in the bedroom.
Walking into the Parisian sex shops was the most embarrassing thing in the world. I tried to put on my I-do-this-everyday face. But underneath it all, I wanted the ground to open and just swallow me up. I avoided going to shops in which the salesperson was a man. I walked into other shops where the salesperson was a woman, walked around pretending to understand what I was looking at, and then walked straight out. Eventually I found a small shop that had no other buyers in it and a female salesperson. I decided I’d spend some time here and actually read the instructions on some of the toys. The saleswoman came up to me and then started offering her assistance. She knew everything there was to know about everything in the shop, she assured me. And she began picking up one toy after another and explaining them in lurid detail. My mind was on a constant replay: “Please let this end soon. Please let this end soon.” It only ended when I quickly bought a couple of things to shut the (kind) woman up. As I was standing at the till paying, she then proceeded to tell me of her dreams of owning her own sex shop one day in which she’d have live music playing. “None of this electronic music crap,” she told me. And whenever the men in the band stopped playing, she’d whip them back into submission to start playing again. God, get me out of here fast!
Buying stuff at a sex shop in Paris brought me a new dilemma. I was using my debit card from an Islamic bank in Egypt. Whoever was doing the bank statements would eventually see that one Nadia El-Awady was spending her money in Paris’ sex shops! What if they called me up and started lecturing me on how I was spending my money?? What if I started getting a reputation at the bank as the woman who goes to sex shops?? It took a whole lot of courage on my part to convince myself that I was a married 44-year-old woman and I could spend my money however I pleased. Needless to say, the bank never did call me to lecture me. My bank card did stop working though for a day and I was convinced that the religious guys at the bank did it on purpose to teach me a lesson. At least until it started working again and then I realized I was just being silly.
So I bought a couple of sex toys and LOTS of lingerie from the sex shops in Paris. They put them in shiny gold and silver bags. It’s like you’re walking around the city with a neon sign saying, “I Was at the Sex Shops.” It was so embarrassing that I asked the salesperson at a sports shop I visited only an hour later to give me a large bag so I could place my shiny bags in them. He thankfully obliged. I was relieved. That is until I left the sports shop and I beeped as I passed through the security barrier. My best friend who was with me literally ran out of the shop and as far away from me as possible. She was not going to be part of what happened next.
The security guard in the sports shop asked me to come back into the shop. He took my bags. He started taking each and every item out of the bag and passing them through the security barrier. He did this to find out which one was beeping. He took them all out and waved them in front of the machine for everyone in the world to see. My sex shop purchases were on display for everyone in Paris that day. The salesperson in the shop came to watch. Of course, the very last thing to be swished through the security barrier was the thing that was beeping. Luckily, I had my sex shop receipts. The salesperson told the security guard he could go de-beep my sex shop item at the store’s till. I was finally allowed to leave the sports store and it took several hours before I was willing to speak with my friend again.
It doesn’t stop there. On our trip back to London from Paris via the Eurostar train, the security guy stopped me as my bags were passing through the x-ray machine at Gare du Nord Train Station. “Are you a policewoman?” he asked me, with a smirk on his face. I said no, not understanding why he would ask me that kind of question. “Are you sure you are not a policewoman?” he asked again. No, was the obvious answer. “Well, why then do you have handcuffs in your bag?” he smiled with evilness pouring out of his sweat glands. Somebody just shoot me now, I thought. I attempted a smile and told him they were for my husband. “What color are they?” I was then asked. They are furry, was the answer, my eyes rolling upwards into my skull. The security guard and his buddy both laughed and let me through.
So you see, after going through all that not so long ago, I’m not really up for another shopping spree, even if there are sales. Besides, shopping isn’t half as much fun unless the stuff I buy is properly expensive. No. I’ll just wait until my ego is healed and the prices have hiked again before I do any more shopping.