Am I Too Azeri for the TikTok Dance Generation?
Standing like that, with no inhibitions, not at all intimidated or worried about looking ridiculous- which in fact, she for sure did – who can do this
Image: Ilya Morozov/Shutterstock
I was talking around our compound (typically, expats dwell in compounds here in Doha, consistent of maybe around sixty or so villas.) and noticed a what to me, looked beyond weird.
A little girl, probably around my daughter’s age, so maybe nine or ten, was standing in front of a slightly older boy. He was about to go into his house and was finishing chatting to her. In his hands he held up a speaker, which was playing some popular hip-hop tune. The girl stood there, facing him, and suddenly started moving in a slow dance motion, staring right into his face in what I can only describe as a comical, caricature seductive fashion. Only she was dead serious and meant business.
Her lips puckered, she touched her long blond hair, her hands sliding down her front, her little backside sticking out.
To say I was shocked is an understatement.
Standing like that, with no inhibitions, not at all intimidated or worried about looking ridiculous- which in fact, she for sure did – who can do this?
I was wondering whether I considered the girl’s actions so shocking because of my background. I often think about this. At times I witness some expat women chase men in a way that, in my opinion, should be pushing them away rather than attracting them. But is it just me? Is it the Azeri in me talking?
Cultural differences is a topic I always found particularly fascinating. It amuses me how some things, such as social norms and etiquette, can translate easily across borders and into completely different cultures, whereas some things can be so dramatically different.
My background and upbringing must, for sure,be playing a role in my reaction to that girl’s behaviour.
When people ask me where I am from and I reply “Azerbaijan,” they always, without fail, ask if it is a Muslim country.
My background and upbringing must, for sure, be playing a role in my reaction to that girl’s behaviour. When people ask me where I am from and I reply “Azerbaijan,” they always, without fail, ask if it is a Muslim country. I always pause and almost wince before I say yes, because that simple one-word answer could paint a completely distorted image. Just as I find it impossible to explain where I come from in one simple sentence; I also find it impossible to explain what Azerbaijan is really like by labeling it a Muslim country. Only someone who, like myself, lived in Baku and now lives in Doha, can explain all the major differences of these two Muslim countries.
One thing is for sure. Azeri girls don’t grow up thinking it is okay to dance seductively on the street at the age of nine, with heavy-lidded eyes fixed on the face of a confused and embarrassed boy. In fact, I grew up believing that boys should chase me, while I walked past proudly, pretending to ignore them. Even if I fancied a boy, I would still say no at first when asked on a date, which, of course, didn’t always mean no. Sometimes a “no” was a definite “yes,” but hey - he has got to exert some effort and ask again, doesn’t he?!
Simultaneously, Azeri guys were brought up not getting the message in cases when the “no” was, in fact, a definite no. They would keep trying, just in case we actually meant yes.
So, growing up in Baku, I spent years being harassed on the streets, in the park, on my way to and from school. It was a stressful experience but looking back, I am not surprised. In a culture where a no is not always a no but sometimes a maybe, and sometimes a yes – how are those poor guys supposed to know?
In a culture where a no is not always a no but sometimes a maybe, and sometimes a yes – how are those poor guys supposed to know?
I guess if a girl is dancing for you from the innocent age of nine, your dating life gets a lot simpler and easier. If you are the kind of man that wants “simple and easy,” that is.
I told my teenage daughter about the seductive dancing scene. “Eww!!!” she cringed. “Stop, just stop it now!”
“So, you also think it’s gross?” I asked her, curious. “Of course!” she said.
Well, so maybe is not just a cultural thing. Maybe it is a generational thing. Would today’s nine-year old girls do things that my fifteen-year-old considers bizarre and embarrassing? But my other girl, who is also nine, had the exact same reaction. Of course, there is always a chance that their reaction was to my demonstration of the dance, rather than the actual situation, but let’s not overthink this.
My daughters didn’t grow up in Azerbaijan, and not by any stretch of imagination could I be called a conservative mother. Also, with their English father and an international circle of friends, watching all sorts of dodgy stuff on YouTube and Tik Tok, they are probably growing up with their own standards for what is appropriate behaviour. And yet, secretly, I was pleased to see their reactions to my dancing girl story.
Deep inside, I will always be that girl who pretended to ignore the boy I fancied, if only for a little while.