A Proverb on Mustaches and Backwards Hospitality

Do you put my own oil on my own mustache?

Local Oral Tradition

This proverb appeared last week as Darius* was over at our place, helping me with sermon checking, right around the time where I tried to make a point saying “that doesn’t mean it’s destiny!” and instead said, “That doesn’t mean it’s a nut!”

Yes, if you ever preach in another language, I highly recommend checking your sermons beforehand to catch these foot-in-mouth sentences. It just may save your life – or at least your face.

Anyway, around this point Darius offered me some of the cookies my wife had set out for him. Then he started laughing and told me that he was offering me my own oil for my own mustache. As is usually the case when I hear a local proverb for the first time, I responded with a “What?”

This proverb is apparently used when a guest offers the host food or drink that actually belong to the host. Or other similar situations where a person is offered assistance by means of his own resources. It’s the sort of ironic hospitality situation that locals get a kick out of because usually such grandiose and over the top offers of hospitality are made. Another equivalent saying is, “I would like to invite you… for falafel!” Falafel being the very cheapest sandwich you can purchase in the bazaar. Delicious, yes, but costing the host practically nothing. Hence the joke.

Mustaches are a traditional sign of manhood in this culture that carry a respect of their own. And apparently oiling your mustache was/is a thing, though I have not gone deep enough yet into the local facial hair culture – or my Western peers’ for that matter – to know much about mustache oil. I either need to spend some more time with some old men in the tea houses or do more reading on the Art of Manliness website.

Some proverbs are used for tactful rebukes. And this one may be useful in that way, given the right situation. But I anticipate it being much more useful for the art of relationship building and the kind of banter that communicates friendship and trust are indeed growing – growing as surely as a Central Asian man’s mustache.

*names changed for security

Photo by Shoeib Abolhassani on Unsplash

One thought on “A Proverb on Mustaches and Backwards Hospitality

  1. I’m thankful for the manner in which the Lord prepared you during your younger years for the work you are now doing to reach this particular culture with the gospel. I’m also profoundly grateful for your writing which gives a window into this culture and increases my understanding. I jotted down, for future reference, your analogy of biblical manhood and womanhood being like 2 huge oak trees and your 3 subsequent points. In building relationships to make Christ known, I must prepare for God to adjust my viewpoint of myself and my viewpoint of others. Your writing is so helpful for that

    Liked by 1 person

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