Tuesday, April 10, 2007

It's not easy being green

Yesterday, Brigitte and I ended a long Easter weekend with friends at the Beirut Hard Rock Café for their special offer of unlimited chicken wings and beer (or soft drinks). Once again, you couldn’t help but notice how much the Lebanese look alike in terms of latest fashion, clean hair cuts and so on. Nobody here is really out of the ordinary. As a whole, the Lebanese are anxious to fit in and will go to great length to avoid standing out.

The table next to us, however, did have a few youngsters who actually were unconventional. Two boys had wild, unkempt hairdos and were wearing Motörhead t-shirts. Also, they had the necessary tattoos. The two girls who were with them, were quite rebellious, too, with one having multiple nose, chin and lip piercings while the other had colored punk hair.

To Dutch standards, they looked quite modest. The tattoos were the stick-on tattoos and the punk hair, on closer look, turned out to be a removable hair extension...oops! Try walking around like that in Holland and people wouldn’t notice you, but yesterday, they got plenty of attention. Many other people were looking at them as if it was the first time they ever saw real-life piercings, and this could very well be the case.

They are the exception in perfection-driven Beirut and as such they deserve r.e.s.p.e.c.t. Being a rebel in Lebanon seemingly doesn’t take much, a washable tattoo does the trick, but even so hardly anyone has either the courage or desire to even try. Seeing them was a nice break from the otherwise conventionally dressed Lebanese and truly fitting to the Hard Rock Café’s motto: “Love all, serve all”.

Later during the night, the DJ got a second wind and despite various cliché music combinations (Another One Bites the Dust turning into Billy Jean…yawn), he got the crowd dancing. This provided some difficult moments for our Jimmy “Rebels without a Cause” Deans next to us: do you dance to Bon Jovi? Correct answer: no way, their music is for losers. Or what about Greased Lightning? Correct answer: way: this sucks so much it’s cool again. Amazingly, they all made the correct choices.

And that makes sense, in a way: The Lebanese can’t get rid of their obsessive desire for perfection, so even the drop-outs are being so flawlessly. I remember once seeing a Shakespeare play at AUB and you wouldn’t know you were in Lebanon: all the actors and actresses had perfected their British accent beyond imagination, very impressive.

The best part of the night occurred during the Stones' classic I Can’t Get No Satisfaction: for whatever reason people started dancing the traditional dabke: what better way to symbolize Lebanon’s conflicted position between East and West!