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Aida Speaks OutAida Speaks Out

She's Indonesian, Beware!

It was a hectic day. I had three left hours to prepare for a birthday party at my house that evening. Lucky me, I ended up spending my whole morning at a supermarket in Kemang. Great, I just love to be pushed around by some ignorant person who is struggling to get the best-looking eggplant from the vegetable shelf. Navigating the narrow aisle with my overloaded shopping trolley, I was trying to figure out what other fat-saturated party junk food I had forgotten (forget your body weight, the blubbery food is supposed to combat the hangover).

Long queues of white people (a common sight at supermarkets in Kemang, an area known as the 'kampung' of the foreigners) already packed the checkout counters. After a brief calculation, I chose to merge into the middle queue. I am such a loser when it involves queues; I always wind up at the tardiest one - full of courteous people who make noises with their shopping carts while passing gas.

A battery-operated cigar shape toothbrush displayed at the counter beside me caught my attention. I had been looking for something like that for ages. It was the right size and ridged for easy grip as well. What a useful device! A Nobel Prize should have been given to the inventor.

I left my trolley and walked toward the display to get a closer view. While I was inspecting it, trying to ascertain the price I became aware of a male Caucasian with his trolley queuing beside me. I was standing about half a meter away from the displayed object, when suddenly a huge white female came; pushed me backward and stopped just between the shelf and myself. I was furious! All I could see was the back of her faded flowery top.

As a well-bred easterner, I politely told her that she was blocking my view. She just shrugged, moved toward her husband, I guess, and held his arm tightly. I asked myself; was she trying to send some kind of message or something?

It's common knowledge that some female foreigners living in this country are very suspicious toward local women. I can't blame them really. Before coming to Indonesia, their friends probably had told them a lot of horror marriage-wrecking stories contributed to by the non-ethical local females in our society. But there's no reason to be paranoid; as probably local women who fit that dreadful criteria number only 0.001% of the whole Indonesian female population? Otherwise as guests in this country, they might miss the opportunity to get to know the real humble, down to earth, smart and respectful Indonesian ladies. Like me. Huh?

When I happen to be in the same room as those weary white ladies, I get really annoyed by the way they look at me as if I was a bad smelling alien. Sometimes their behaviour makes me feel like there's a sign stuck on my forehead that says: "Look out ladies, a local female is coming! Quick, grab your spouses before I steal them from you!" Gee... do I look that intimidating? Hope not, it's a scary thought.

A good friend of mine, Lynn, is the marketing manager for a huge security company. She is married to an American guy in his mid-thirties who is a teacher at an international school. One day she was invited to a party organised by her husband's colleagues. Apparently these teachers throw huge parties every now and again for no particular reason but to get away from the accumulating daily frustrations caused by their jaw-dropping ferocious students. Hey, I would do the same, maybe even a weekly party, if I were to be dealing with a bunch of teenagers who are more interested in talking about newly invented latex underwear than calculus everyday.

Anyway, when Lynn walked into the party house, almost everybody said hi to her husband. She was completely ignored. One classic incident was when one female teacher came to greet Lynn's husband, gave him a warm kiss on both cheeks, looked at Lynn from head to toe for a few seconds - then left speechless - just like that. On the other hand the male conversation - lip service was like: " Hi Lynn, nice to see you. You look pretty tonight. Nice dress, is it new?" And that's it. The conversations didn't expand from there.

"What do they think I am? Some mute dim-witted chick who knows nothing but matching the right colour shoes with the highlights in my hair?" she yelled into the phone to me afterward.

According to her, the party area seemed to be divided by transparent tape down the middle of the room. Not so much for the males (there were no Indonesian males to be found, strangely), but the local females were sitting on the left and the Caucasian females on the right. There was no pre-seating arrangement. It was pure basic instinct. Da! Is it about racism, or within-gender mistrusts?

That's not it. Have you ever been to a party hosted by a local wife and her foreign husband? Did you notice that in most of those parties you don't find any blond females amongst the guests? I wonder why.

Two nights ago, I was having a girl's night out at a hot club in the heart of Jl. Sudirman with my friend Jane; she is very English with very blond hair. We sat down, enjoying our drinks and company. We talked about the fate of the world we share; as two human beings making intelligent conversation despite the difference in colour of our lipsticks (I hate the fact that soft pink always look gorgeous on her pale face and not on me!).

I almost choked on my wine when we overheard one middle-aged local guy who sat behind us whispered to his friend: "Those two must be lesbians."

Good lord, can't we all just be friends?

First published in Kem Chicks World.