How Looking for the Perfect Wedding Ring Got Me Handcuffed in Lebanon

In hindsight, getting arrested overseas with my fiancé was an appropriate initiation to marriage

Chloé Caldwell
Human Parts
Published in
24 min readJan 27, 2020

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Illustrations: Clémence Gouy

BBefore going to Beirut — the Paris of the Middle East — I wasn’t sure what to expect, but you better believe I didn’t anticipate being in my birthday suit on Saturday night, face to face with a female cop (with a really nice butt), my pubic hair on full display, doing squat thrusts to the ground in the Gemmayze Police Station. Down and up. Down and up.

“Go lower,” she said, and showed me how it’s done. For a moment, I felt like I was in a cardio boot camp class, and not one of the most corrupt police stations in Lebanon. We were just two chicks doing squat thrusts. At the time, it was a blessing and a curse that I hadn’t read the article “Lebanon: Police Torturing Vulnerable People.” A woman with the pseudonym “Gharam” is quoted:

“I stayed in Gemmayze station for three days and they treated me and my daughter very badly…. During my time there one of the officers came to me at night and told me that if I didn’t let him sleep with me, I’d go to jail for 10 years and my daughter for even longer. I was so scared that I let him.”

When I finished the squats, she had me stand with my legs apart as she stood behind me and searched my hair. It felt good, like a head massage. After she slammed my clog boots down on the floor and searched my clothes, she said I could put them back on. I had to piss like a racehorse and asked if I could use the bathroom. She stood outside the door as I did so. I didn’t have any underwear on because after a week of travel I’d run out. I’d hand-washed a few pairs in the sink that morning but they were hanging to dry back at my hostel. I kept thinking of them as I peed what felt like the longest and strangest pee of my life.

TThe language in Beirut is Arabic and French and I found that pretty sexy. My fiancé, Tony, arrived a week earlier than me, so when I arrived I knew more of what to expect: the mosques, the bullet holes, the Khalil Gibran Garden. Our hostel was superhero-themed, and one day an employee creepily whispered to Tony as he exited the elevator, “You can be a superhero too.” The hotel served the foamy-est, milky-est…

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Chloé Caldwell
Human Parts

Author of 3 books: WOMEN, I’ll Tell You in Person, and Legs Get Led Astray. Currently working on a memoir about PMDD, & living in Hudson, New York with her fam.