I just finished a 2-hour workout in Aspire Ladies’ Gym one morning and as per my normal schedule, I headed towards Villagio Mall which is just opposite the gym to buy some groceries and an avocado shake. Just as I entered the mall, I saw a woman walking towards me – dressed quite inappropriately considering that we’re in a Muslim country. When I was but a few feet away from her, she asked “Are you the maid?”, I didn’t hear her clearly or maybe I just wanted to make sure that she asked what she asked so I replied “I’m sorry, what?”. She asked once again, “Are you the maid? Did you just call me now?” I told her I wasn’t, wished her a good day and walked away.
It was only when I entered the supermarket did I realize what really happened there. The lady was obviously waiting for the maid who she was to meet for the first time that day. And being a Filipino, she thought that I was the maid that she’s waiting for. You see, there’s a stereotype for each nationalities here in the Middle East and being a Filipino – I belong to the nanny/housemaid category. I can see all of you cringing right now as you read that last sentence but it’s the truth and you don’t have to pretend that the stereotyping doesn’t exist. It does exist and to tell you honestly, it’s not the first time that it has happened to me.
Once in Dubai, I just finished a quick run in a park near our house and went to a nearby grocery store to do a bit of shopping. A man held the elevator door open for me as I sprinted across the building lobby with my bag of groceries. He asked me “which apartment do you work for?”. Again, I didn’t understand or maybe wasn’t sure if he asked what he asked so I asked him to repeat the question. I can tell by his facial reaction that he realized his mistake as he hesitated for a moment to repeat it, when he did – I just mentioned my apartment number and bid him a good evening. The very next day, as luck would have it for him, we met once again as I was on my way to work – wearing my airline uniform complete with the famous red hat and red lipstick (no, I wasn’t a cabin crew then). He couldn’t look me in the eye and I could see the drops of sweat forming on his forehead for the entire duration of our elevator ride.
The stereotype and racism is alive and well not only in this region but everywhere in the world. Do I get offended when I’m mistaken to be a nanny or a maid? To be honest, I was at first but then I realized that it’s not actually a bad thing. Why would I be offended to be mistaken as a nanny or a maid? It’s a legal job and there’s nothing to be ashamed of it. In fact, it’s probably one of the hardest jobs one can have and to be able to do it properly is something to be very proud of.
I don’t know about you but I definitely wouldn’t hire just anyone to take care of my house or my child. There is more to it than being skilled or being smart. You don’t need a college degree to do it but what it requires is much more than what a 4-year course can teach you – it’s an emotionally and physically draining job that only those who are extremely passionate can perform well. I myself can’t be both – for starters, I’m not very fond of kids and I have an attention span much shorter than theirs. I’d probably throw a tantrum quicker than a 2-year old would if I’m left with them by myself. Both job requires a lot patience, attention, energy, understanding and most specially – trustworthiness. Having said that, I don’t think it’s not at all that bad to be mistaken as a housemaid or a nanny because I don’t have most of what the job requires (specially the patience part) and be presumed that I have all of those is something that I should be proud of.
Yes I know and am perfectly aware that it’s probably because of the way I looked (I just finished working out both times) why I was mistaken for a maid. Still, I don’t take offense on it because maids aren’t ugly. They just look exhausted all the time because they’re too busy taking care of somebody else’s house or child that they don’t have time to take care of themselves. They have sacrificed their time for their job and that, my friends, is dedication.
So here’s my message to to the lady in Villagio, I’m not the maid but thank you for thinking that I am one. And to all the maids and nannies out there, kudos and hats off to all of you.