Saturday, July 23, 2005

Belly Rings and Burkahs

I'm at the waterslide park, guarding my friends' wallets. It's 98 degrees. Girls in tiny bikinis with glittering diamonds in their belly buttons are basking in the sun. But it's not just young white flesh that's exposed. The bodies of middle-aged American women, respelendent with Botticelli ripples and bulges, are just as lavishly on display.

And then I see her, buying french fries for her brown-skinned kids, covered from head to toe in her burkah. She's a black beacon of modesty absorbing the full heat of the sun, the shape of her body and texture of her skin mysterious to everybody but her nearest and dearest.

Halfway between the burkah and the belly rings, there I am, wearing a light cotton sun dress over my modest, one-piece bathing suit. My Muslim sister takes in the exposed South Asian flesh on my legs and arms. Does she condemn me as a traitor to decency? Meanwhile, do the American girls glance at both of us, idly wondering how we can stand to be covered on such a hot day?

1 comment:

Abbie said...

Hi, I think you've got it. Well written. I like your descriptions - it's very personal and precise, which is funny because you speak to the place between two cultures. Remember the lass in the black burkah feels she is modestly dressed too. Yet you both are dressed so differently. I like that we don't have to be all the same, I'm an American who dressed modestly (almost prudishly) and then just ignored, deplored, abandoned concern over clothes while working in the mountains of Tennessee where we hauled water from a well and had an out house, rather than inside plumbing and amenities. The working in Washington, DC I had to attend classes given for "support staff" to improve our appearance. :) I made friends, so that is what is important to me. Thanks for your comments. Abbie