Bell Bottoms and Bride Prices

– aka my friend trying to sell me for a dowry to a guy with pants I wish I was cool enough to own in 1998.

This is my friend Khaled on the left (in the green) – He’s Canadian but also from Syria where he has family and has worked and lived in the past. He and I, like Rasha, live in the same city and are working on our doctorates at the same university, in the same department, with the same advisor. We met during coursework before I first went to Syria and he told me all about it before we left. The good and the awkwardly funny, but that’s a whole other blog post. He’s actually lived a bunch of places in the States, Canada, Europe, and the Middle East so he’s well versed in different cultures and different languages. While on the dig, he always included me in Arabic conversations or would lean over to tell me in English what some of the others were talking about, which I really appreciated. I usually zone out conversations in other languages when I’m abroad and I don’t worry about what other people are talking about, unless I hear my name, but it felt nice to be included. Khaled is pretty awesome. He smokes like a chimney but for some reason it fits. I never feel like he should be lectured on the health hazards. He seems immune somehow and I wouldn’t be surprised if he has some kind of magic immunity in his lungs. I’ve never known anyone in my life, other than maybe my aunt, who loves a good cigarette while in the bathtub as much as him.

Anyway, this photo is Khaled and one of the workers from his trench, Falah, my would-be husband …

Falah ‘took a fancy’ to me during our excavations and developed a little crush. He’s one of the locals that lives in the village at the site. I still don’t quite understand this since I wear unflattering man clothes to dig and try to portray myself as an equal, and friend, not anyone datable. I always feel so frumpy compared to my adorably dressed Syrian or Turkish or Italian colleagues – never dig with Italians if you don’t want to feel unfashionable. I will never get how they are so trendy looking even when covered in dirt. I digress. So, apparently in the small remote village in Syria pale, freckled skin covered in dirt and an awkward farmer’s tan is considered ‘exotic’ to some. Khaled translated for Falah and let me know that he was interested in me, and often teased me about it. One day I found out I was destined to be Falah’s second wife. What?! I am NOBODY’s second wife! Uh uh. First maybe, but definitely not second. 😉

I suspect that Khaled was making deals with Falah negotiating a bride price for me during much of the excavations. When I would go over to use the total station (survey type equipment for measuring distances) which was in between our trenches I’d hear “Trace! Hey Trace! Tracy! Traaaaccccyyyy! Falah’s here! Say hi to Falah, Tracy! Tracy! Your husband’s here!” I’d look over and Falah would be waving ecstatically at me grinning from ear to ear and Khaled would have the biggest smile on his face, trying not to laugh.


One day Falah came up to me and gestured for me to put the sole of my foot against his foot. My feet were bigger. I was also taller I think, but that’s not surprising in some areas of the Middle East. I think 5’8” is pretty average for most men around the village. To this day I don’t know why we had to compare feet. I’m sure there was a reason, but I never found out. I’d already realized that I had good birthing hips and am strong so I’d be useful around the village. Both popular traits in wives. I think those have been popular female mate traits since Lucy stepped out of that tree carrying a baby and walked across the savanna. During afternoon tea time, Falah would often sit near me and just smile. We didn’t speak much – I guess words aren’t always necessary when it comes to love.

Despite my being insulted at the offer of lowly second wife status, I must say, Falah, god I love your pants. Homemade bell bottoms. With purple inserts. Wonderful. High school junior Tracy has never been so jealous of anyone in her life! I had the same ones in 9th grade although instead of purple material mine were extra jean and I embroidered them with an elephant and flowers. That was sophomore year before Mudd started manufactured their super bells with the 30” leg openings in ‘98. Anyone who knew high school Tracy knows this was the epitome of me. Hey, let’s be honest, it still is.

Thinking back on the whole experience, I remember it fondly. I wonder how Falah is doing now and if he ever found that 2nd wife. He was a pretty nice guy and obviously super smart if he could see what a fantastic catch of a wife I’d be. Perhaps if we’d worked out the dowry to be a never-ending supply of homemade bell bottoms I would have considered the marriage.


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