It is a truth universally acknowledged that if you’re a Pakistani male who works at the mall and helps the Nerd and her mom, you will be rewarded with the Nerd’s business card, whether or not she wants you to have said business card. Sure our Nerd’s mother pimps her out with only the best of intentions in mind; the pimping out is always unintentional, a byproduct of our Nerd’s mother’s genuine interest in people, an interest that has been passed down to the Nerd herself.
Let’s take the example of what happened earlier today.
While at Macy’s, our Nerd is purchasing a lovely blush and two lip glosses—who knew lemon and papaya would look so good on her?!—when her mother rushes over, insisting that she MUST take a look at a pair of shoes that she’s found in her size. The Nerd, who loves shoes just as much as the next girl, purchases her makeup, bracing for the beauty clerk to ask her for her number (to be explained in a future post), sighing with relief when she doesn’t, and follows her mother to the shoe department. The shoe salesman, it turns out is a fellow from the motherland. The Nerd’s mother has the gift of charm. With her eyes aglow and a dazzling smile that belies her years, she reels the boy into conversation, discovering that he hails from the Pakistani city of Lahore, has an older brother, has been in the states for just over 4 months and will be starting college in September. His father has some sort of construction business, a home in the same Islamabad sector as my uncle—they MUST be from a decent family if they live so close to your uncle, amma declares, when he heads to the back to look for a pair of shoes our Nerd’s spotted—and he misses home terribly.
The Nerd engages in funniness with the boy, who’s clearly 19.5 years old, because she engages in funniness with everyone; however, she’s much too preoccupied with shoes to take much of an interest in this very decent boy about whom her mom is already concerned. “He’s so young and on his own! Give him a year and he’ll be corrupted!” she tells our Nerd sadly. “What a nice, decent Pakistani boy, tsk tsk tsk. He’ll fall into the clutches of a very fast girl. You mark my words.”
Meanwhile, the Nerd debates whether she wants these terribly cute wedges she’s found in black or tan. “Black or tan? Black or tan? Black or tan?” she struggles.
She goes with the tan. With a boxed pair of shoes under each arm, she marches to the cash register where the nice, decent, Pakistani boy will ring her up. And then her mother goes and pimps her out:
“Sabila, why don’t you give this nice boy your card.” It’s clear that she’s telling more than she’s asking.
The Nerd smiles and pretends to search through her busy wallet.
“Strange,” she says, throwing up a hand in mock confusion, “but I can’t seem to find my business cards. Oh well—“
“Oh, I see them right over here!” amma announces, reaching over to pull out a vertical Penguin card. “Here beyta,” she hands him a card. “If you need anything at all, give us a call. I know how difficult it is to move to a new country.”
The boy thanks them and then rings up the shoes. He puts the boxes in a bag, staples the receipt to the bag, carries the bag around the register to hand them to the Nerd and her mother (as is Macy’s policy); clearly the nice, decent Pakistani boy is also a 19.5-year-old gentleman.
The Nerd doesn't bother giving her mother the silent treatment. There are some battles that one can never win. As they walk out of Macy's, our Nerd's mother is suddenly struck with a thought:“Oh no Sabila! Do you think he’s going to start calling you at night and asking you out like that other boy did?!”
You see, dear reader, this has happened to our Nerd once before. It was two years ago; the store was CVS, located in—you guessed it—the mall. A young, Pakistani employee (he was seriously 18 years old) started talking with the Nerd and her mother. When he rung them up, he insisted that they use his employee discount card, which he had to run to the back of the store to get, and chatted with the mother and daughter in Urdu even as his manager looked on, clearly displeased. The boy was from Islamabad, had moved to the states a year ago; he lived with his brother, was paying his way through college by working two jobs. All of this gave the Nerd’s mother reason for great concern. She thought that the boy needed a surrogate family and that the Nerd’s family could be just that. So, once again, she insisted our Nerd give him her card and plucked it right out of her wallet as the Nerd made a great show of looking for it. And then she made the Nerd write her cell phone number on the back of the card, “Just in case you ever need anything.”
The boy called the Nerd a week later, insisting that they date. She explained that she was six years older than him and that, contrary to what he might believe, she had not given him her card because she was interested in him. She was, in fact, old enough to be CVS clerk’s much older sister. He called three more times before he decided to mack no more. Our Nerd boycotted CVS until her mother reassured her that she hadn’t seen the boy in quite some time. The two of them believe that the young gigolo has moved onto bigger and better shores of part-time mall employment.
“He won’t call you,” the Nerd’s mother continues as the Nerd considers her mom's question. “He comes from a decent family like ours. Decent boys never take advantage of situations like this.” And then, "What a shame. What a nice, decent Pakistani boy. Give him a year on his own and he'll be corrupted."
The Nerd has decided to leave her business cards at home when she goes shopping with her mother.