In past generations, no one purchased bread. Bread dough was made at home daily and taken to the village forn (meaning oven) to be baked for a small fee. The expression nisswan al-forn refers to the ladies who sat and talked while they waited for their bread to bake. Today, the term is used to describe women who love to gossip.
I love our Lebanese expressions. I truly do find them hilariously unique. We are a country that strives on gossip. A lot of sentences in our conversations start with “3rifteh shou sar la…” (Did you know what happened to…), or “ya haram, smi3te shou sar bi…” (Poor person, did you hear what happened to…). Being a very small knit community, everyone’s business is our business. Words, news, stories, and especially gossip travels at the speed of lightening with some minor modifications, as expected. That is why I find the expression of nisswan el forn (ladies of the oven) comical. When a man wants to insult another man for his love of gossiping he tells him “ufff, sayir mitil nisswan el forn” (ouf, you’re becoming like the women of the oven). For most of it, I find it funny, because it is harmless gossip and the general understanding of it is that it’s meaningless and mostly practiced by older women.
Gossip spins the whole town in its web. Door to door it collects its prey. Cunningly, it’d score on each stay. Who got married recently, whose cheating on who, who lost his fortune, who gained his fortune, who lost weight and who gained it, are all topics of interest in that little country of ours. Nowadays the expression should be changed to “nisswan el hala’2” (meaning the women of the hairdresser).
Being a more modern country, you will find less women at the oven baking and more women at the hairdresser. The location might have changed but the content is still resilient. Sitting at the hairdresser, hearing the gossip, relaxes a woman and her senses. Nothing outside the door of the salon matters, just the head massage, and gossip. The world has stopped as her locks are chopped. If only a closed door could keep the world at bay. In confidence, they all come clean about some week old drama, or the fresh cooked steam.
As I walk into my hairdresser, he greets me with a big smile and says: “ahlan ahlan bi Karen, 3ideh, kifik? Mitil il a’3deh? Ahwe?A few minutes later… wlek 3’refteh shou sar haram bi…” (Welcome, welcome to Karen, sit down, how are you? The usual? Coffee? A few minutes later… Wlek, did you know, poor thing, what happened to…), to which I have to nod with a courteous smile, meaning I don’t really care, to which he pretends not to comprehend, and continues with his story. Although I do find it annoying as I can never read during my only half hour where I am free, I do find it funny and makes me realize what a funny, twisted, somehow functioning, gossip loving, genuine caring society I live in.
In my country, some tongues are forever wagging. Where it all comes from? I do not know. And how the universe soaks it up word by word and offsets it all balancing with the silence of space vast sump collecting all the chatter storing and dissipating Earths gossip? I do not know. But it makes me laugh.
Because I finally found the perfect hairdresser that balances cosmically, gossiping and giving me enough time to read one chapter of my book, I #livelovelebanon and I will #fighton