Dynamo, short for dynamite. Dynamo lights up any room he walks into, bringing with him a lively energy that makes everybody smile and wake up. He has an irreverent sense of humor, and loves to gently stir up trouble, inviting everyone to enjoy the absurdity of his creation. Dynamo manages to cause earthquakes wherever he goes; somebody is always going through an emotional upheaval while he sits back, looking suspiciously angelic. He has many other virtues, but for the sake of entertainment, I will forgo listing most of them.
Dynamo is a talented, hard-working accountant, and does not fit the stereotype at all, other than his love of a well-cut suit. He flatters himself that I consider him to be the ideal against which I compare all men, which is not far from the truth, apart from the minor detail that he is Muslim and I am Christian, and a modern-day Romeo and Juliet we most definitely are not. Dynamo perpetually impresses me with his willingness and grace in remaining true to the behavioral constraints imposed by his faith, whilst mingling and thriving in Montreal’s predominantly secular society -something I’ve struggled with for years; and for lack of a working Christian model, Dynamo continues to inspire me and help me along my bumpy journey. Dynamo has been one of my besties since my sophomore year in university.
An unexpected charming invitation
A few weeks ago, Dynamo called me up, inviting me to supper a few days hence. When I hesitated, he calmly stated, “No worries, I’ll just tell my mother you didn’t feel like seeing her.”
As a result of Dynamo and I both being very busy the past several months, only managing to see each other twice during the summer months, his mother had gotten tired of asking him for stories of me, and had decided to take matters into her own hands: she would invite me to supper, and Dynamo could attend if he liked.
If that isn’t charming, I do not know what is; of course I accepted.
What I’ve learned to expect at a Dynamo family supper
Over the years, Dynamo has introduced me to most of his immediate family. His Arab family suppers are so very similar to my Russian family suppers: moments of lapsing into the mother tongue, as I sit there amused, waiting for someone to notice and translate, the older generation reminiscing about Mother Land, and the younger generation soaking up stories of How Things Used To Be. (I wouldn’t normally think this worth mentioning, but given the hysterical anti-Arab/Muslim vibe that perpetually bubbles up in Quebec, and all of North-America, I thought I’d do my part to highlight our mundane similarities.)
Enter new players
When I arrived at Dynamo’s mother’s supper I was introduced to her step-son and step-daughter, both my age or older, from her husband’s first marriage. I was flattered to meet yet another facet of Dynamo’s private life. As the supper progressed, the thought crossed my mind that I quite enjoyed Dynamo’s step-bro, followed almost immediately by the dread of that being noticed by any of the family members. I could almost hear my Baba dissecting the behavior her guests after they left one of her suppers, and the lowest of comments was to consider any of them vulgar. I could imagine Dynamo’s teasing, “what, are you so desperately single now, you have to scout out your prey at family dinners?” No. That would never do. Nobody was to notice that I found Step-Bro even remotely interesting.
And so, throughout supper I played the exhausting act of the Well-Behaved Non Vulgar guest. This role did not come naturally to me, requiring all of my attention. I barely registered the part of the conversation when Dynamo’s step-father explained he had raised his children and had been himself Christian before he converted to Islam many years ago – an interesting story, nothing more.
Unexpected outcome #1
As I’d anticipated, as Dynamo was driving me home afterwards, he asked me my opinion of Step-Bro. Attempting to delay the inevitable teasing, I blandly said he’d seemed nice. Dynamo kept pressing for details. “Well, umm, he is tall, that’s something.” It’s not for nothing that I have suffered through all those Russian dinners, I have mad skillz at deflecting unwanted inquiries.
That’s when Dynamo admitted that his mother had invited me to see if there was any matchmaking potential. Suddenly the mention of Dynamo’s stepfather’s conversion from Christianity to Islam made sense, not just an interesting story, but a pertinent piece of information.
My brain could not handle the sudden change in circumstances: I managed to mutter few more times how nice Step-Bro was, before lapsing into an awkward silence, punctuated by giggles. An enthusiastic statement, if there ever was one.
Unexpected outcome #2
I later told my father this amusing story. He was shocked. “Matchmaking is weird, I have never heard of it being attempted before.” I kindly reminded him of his Russian background, and how prying into people’s private life is par for the course both at church and at our family dinners. He claimed to have never ever witnessed it. So I reminded him of the time when my mother and the wife of my father’s BFF had tried to matchmake me with the parish bachelor. My father claimed my mother had been joking, so that episode didn’t count as real matchmaking. Not willing to let my point drop, I compared this story to setting up 2 people on a blind date – not weird at all, right? Nope, my father disagreed, blind dates were definitely weird, and he’d “never heard of anyone going on a blind date except for you, but then again, you’re weird.”
I did mention, n’est-ce-pas, that Dynamo tends to produce emotional upheavals wherever he goes? I rest my case.