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Party Intro

Foreword Written By,
Cheri Bryan

The first time that I met Jean my initial thought was, “That’s what a fairy would look like if they were blown up to normal proportions and didn’t have wings.” With her long blonde hair, pale skin, and petite frame she resembled something not quite part of this world. I had the sensation that I was only being allowed to see a wisp of her and that at any given moment she would fly away, leaving one to wonder if they had only imagined her. Later I would discover that while Jean may not have been a fairy, I was correct in assuming that I was only seeing a glimpse of her.

Jean Marie quickly became one of my best friends in college. We pretty much did everything together. I was a typical college kid interested in everything but actual education while Jean had a plan, a plan she did not share! I remember dragging her into more risky things than I should have. One particular night I made her convince the police that my friends and I were model human beings and therefore should not be arrested (but that is a whole other story). Thankfully, Jean has always had a way with words and she once again managed to pull me out of a bad situation, unscathed. I had always assumed that Jean was just along for the ride and truly enjoyed seeing how many crazy things I could get us into. Later on I would discover that Jean was game for all of it, but it was solely so she could study me along with the other unruly college kids. Jean is a watcher. She watches all the mistakes that other people make and has become quite adept at avoiding most of those mistakes. What others might perceive as mistakes on her part are viewed as stepping stones to Jean. As I said before, no one ever saw more of her then she allowed. So I had no idea of what was to happen in the future.

At first glimpse I don’t believe anyone would be able to guess how opinionated and idealistic Jean can be, as she appears to be so fragile and aloof. For example, to this day, she is still trying to convince me of two things. That Michael Jackson is quite possibly the greatest human being that has ever lived and that being a Vegan is the only possible moral way to live. Not a day goes by that I don’t receive a post or a comment about one, or sometimes both, of the previously mentioned ideas. As obnoxious as it is, I admire her convictions and never-ending campaign to change the views of the world.

Some of the views that Jean has completely baffle me, along with her actions in her attempts to prove her moral agendas. Case in point: The Mousetrap. During our freshman year, in one of the college dorm rooms, I found a mouse trap. The details of this event are a little hazy, but the gist of it is that Jean swears she was trying to make a point regarding animal welfare by sticking her pinkie in the set mouse trap! At the time, I remember I was trying to convince her that it wouldn’t hurt (for my own entertainment), but that’s where details start to escape me. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that Jean, who is not stupid, would actually do such a thing! So whatever she was trying to prove is still lost on me, but she was determined at great cost to her pinkie to prove her point! While some may call it stupid, I prefer to think of it as a strong sense of conviction.

I have many college memories of Jean, but hands down my favorite memory shows her true character. We used to go to a dance club a state away every Thursday night. While we had a blast at this club, looking back, it was probably not the safest club to frequent. However, youth and adventure-seeking normally exclude clear thinking so off to the club we traipsed every Thursday night. On one of these excursions we encountered a fight in the bathroom. Now this wasn’t your typical scratching, hair pulling girl fight. On the contrary, these girls had come prepared. One girl had pulled a razor blade from her cheek while the other girl was in the process of breaking her beer bottle to use as a weapon, when Jean decided to step in between the two girls so she could wash her hands! At that point I was frantically trying to get Jean to leave the bathroom as quickly as possible and slip away unnoticed, leaving the two vengeful females to cut each other to pieces. All I cared about was not being in the middle of them when things started to go down. Well, Jean does not condone acts of violence and the fact that these girls were out for blood was not going to deter her from condemning the viciousness that was brewing. Jean looked at the girl with the soon-to-be-broken beer bottle and calmly stated (in her best valley girl voice), “Come on now, at least wait for us to leave! If you break that you are going to get beer on my shoes! I know you know how hard it is to get beer out of shoes!” The ladies (a term I’m using loosely) looked at her in bewilderment and promptly froze mid-fight. They both started laughing so hard as Jean continued to ramble on about over-the-top conversation pieces, that neither one of them considered to continue their quest in slicing each other to shreds. This experience is typical Jean Marie. She isn’t afraid to get involved; she isn’t afraid to make a scene; and she definitely is not afraid to speak her mind!

Throughout college Jean showed little interest in dating. This definitely made her stand out as different, but in a world of constantly wondering if your friends are hitting on your boyfriend I was completely grateful for her inattention to dating and sex. So when a few years later Jean announced that she had fallen in love with someone, I think I went into shock. As if Jean Marie actually dating someone was not mind-blowing enough, she upped the ante by calmly announcing that she was engaged to Mjeed (her out-of-the-blue Arab fiancé). I cannot even begin to describe what emotions I felt when I heard this! I immediately asked her to repeat what she had said; because I was positive my phone connection had gone haywire. It was only after hours of intense questioning that I finally accepted the reality that Jean was still coming up with new and shocking ways to make me feel like I would never completely know her. I, personally, was not overly fond of her new fiancé. I suppose he thought he would be the one to tame Jean Marie and her weird ways; however, he was unable to do so. Their relationship revolved around the basis that the angrier or more stupid Mjeed became, the louder and more destructive Jean became (a tad comedic to witness); and let me tell you, Jean can be extremely loud! She also has a penchant for throwing things and slapping when she gets angry. Basically, unless you are wearing protective clothing and ear plugs, it is best not to tangle with her!

During our first semester of college Jean became friends with the Khans, a Muslim family from Pakistan. By association I became friends with them too. Jean seemed to be more at home with them than she did with anyone else. This struck me as odd, but I enjoyed watching her interact with the family. Keep in mind that we lived in an area that was predominately white. Therefore, it was quite shocking to me that she fit in so nicely with the Pakistani/Islamic culture. At times I got the distinct feeling that she was just waiting to see how far she could push the envelope with them before moving on to another interest. Still, I never would have imagined that her relationship with the Khans was just a small step in accomplishing her goals.

I don’t think anyone was more shocked than I was to learn of Jean’s trip to Pakistan upon what seemed to be a gracious invite from the Khan family; though Jean had actually planned out the entire trip in her head and insisted that she must go. This trip to Pakistan would not only soon become a reality, but it would also be the start of Jean Marie’s many global adventures to come. When she finally did take her trip, I was genuinely concerned for her safety, because it was a mere fifteen months after 9/11. In retrospect I think my worry for her had more to do with a gut feeling that she would cross the line experimenting with the boundaries of established social norms in a foreign land, simply to create chaos with her antics! Jean Marie is an extremely sarcastic individual who tends to expresses herself through unfiltered words and indecent humor. She enjoys stirring the pot until it overflows! I feared that these attributes of hers would surely be unwelcome in a culture that seems to oppress women. By the way, I was right; she did create the expected chaos!

Over the years Jean and I have gone our separate ways living very different lives but one thing remains constant, she never ceases to amaze me! Jean is a bit of a wanderer and has managed to live out her dreams despite many obstacles. In a conversation I had with Jean, before she took her first trip to Saudi Arabia, I realized something that had previously eluded my attention; Jean Marie has always had a plan and this book was always part of that plan! I am very proud of Jean and hope she continues to be fearless in all of her pursuits while conquering this one.