August 7, 2014

Dress Me Modest One Day

{wearing Alex & Ani bracelets, Snoozer Loser & Marc by Marc Jacobs necklace, Forever 21 dress, Ray Bans}

I'm planning to go to India later this year. After doing some research on attire to wear in India I have realized that the majority of my closet is too scandalous. It reminded me of the arguments I had with my parents when I was in middle school when they would not let me wear tank tops. Sure, like most teenage girls in the 90's I wanted to dress like I'm from 90210, but my parents also didn't understand that while other females glow like a lady, I sweat like a mofo and sleeves just add to the stickiness and the size of the pit stains.

"Seriously. You need to go shopping if you were to go to India." My East Indian friend AJ said. He has been around me long enough to know what type of clothes I wear. "You have to cover your shoulders and your legs. And loose pants and sleeve tops- don't show off your figure at all." AJ then continued to emphasize the importance of covering everything so I would reduce my chances of being stared at and groped, or worse, raped, even if I was traveling with others.

Within 5 minutes of our conversation, AJ eliminated my entire shorts and skirts collection and the majority of my tops and bottoms. For the next few weeks I tried shopping for "Muslim/Hindu approved" clothing but it just wasn't working out. I have concluded that traveling in 25C to 30C with sleeves and pants will not work for me. And as shallow as it sounds, being groped, having upset stomach amongst other potential issues that I would possibly encounter, my biggest concern is that I don't want a t-shirt tan or giant pit stains in my photos.

"Seriously, they are going to stare at me anyway because I look like a foreigner, and according to various articles I've read they will try to grope me anyway because I am a woman."
"Well, it will reduce your chances."
"If I am going to get stared and groped anyway I'm at least going to wear what I want." That was my final answer.

"Fine Julie. If you get raped don't come crying to me."

Still, I tried. For the last few weeks I have been wearing "conservative wear" to work and asking for my Egyptian college's approval. I figured who better to ask than someone who has lived in a Muslim dominated country. I'd wear stuff I'd consider appropriate to visit a boyfriend's grandparents' house. Every time I thought I'd get a gold star, Mira dampened my enthusiasm and said things such as "The skirt is too short. Your kneecap is showing." or "Those pants are too tight". I have concluded that in a parallel universe with a Muslim me, I would probably have already died of either heat exhaustion or being stoned to death for dressing too scandalous.

Then, out of nowhere, I decided to drop by Forever 21 for the first time in months and I came across this dress. Sure, the slits on the side might be a bit high and the back is... backless. But it could be fixed with a scarf.

"That's modest? Your whole back is showing!!" Mira said.
"Well, stick a fork in me and call me a hoe cuz I'm done." I replied.
"This is as modest as Julie will ever be! I don't care anymore!"

Perhaps I'll get some disapproved stares, but I decided that I'd rather have my kids look at my Taj Mahal pictures and say "Wow mom! You looked pretty back then!" than "Wow mom! Look at the size of your pit stains!"

In times like this, I am grateful to be born and living somewhere where women has the rights to choose what they wear and what they want to be. As much as we complain about the lack of female equality still in our society, we actually have it good compare to others.

It's astonishing the amount of time some culture and religion devote to how women, or people in general, ought to live. They can't imagine any system outside their own, and seem obsessed with silly little things such as showing off your arm and leg is not modest, eating certain meat is a sin, drinking coffee is forbidden (for Mormons), and consuming alcohol is bad (or not, depending on your religion), rather than God's teachings on how you ought to treat others and your own spiritual growth. I guess these religious groups think that everything is that cut and dried, though of course it's not. How is bombing innocent civilian acceptable and meanwhile same sex marriage forbidden? How does wearing something sleeveless make me a whore? Why am I dirty if I eat bacon? If I'm cursing at you in utter religious profanity yet my face and body is covered, does that still make me a modest woman?

I considered these things as I looked at my closet of sleeves shirts and way too short for any religion shorts. I put on a sleeveless blouse, a pair of shorts and grabbed my dog to go for a walk. My arms and legs are showing and I've never appreciated the freedom of dressing however I want so much until now. Maybe I'll stop for a bacon cheeseburger and an ice coffee at McDonalds on my way back too. "Wow, that's at least 3 religions I'm pissing off right now and 3 times I'm going to hell?" I thought, finding it comical and smiling a little on the inside.