My daughter told me I looked stupid walking around in an Abaya and having someone take pictures of me. “Everybody knows you’re up to something,” she said. We were in the car. I dropped her off for an appointment and then went out on the street to wander around by myself.
I decided to go into a Lebanese Market, because Wafaa, the woman who had given me the Abaya, said I looked like a Lebanese, or a Syrian. Although the Abaya itself, she said, because of the style clearly marked me as a woman from Saudi Arabia or perhaps Kuwait or Dubai. Or, I could be, like her, a Syrian Saudi.
I picked up a plastic basket and then an eggplant still feeling a bit like an interloper because of my daughter’s comment and reminded myself I was executing an experience of Self, a re-mythologizing of Self within a garment that many wearers consider to be a walking jailhouse. So I might as well get with the program.
I looked at the sesame studded cookies, put a container of dry mulberries in my basket, and moved to the next aisle to check out the Halva. It was the same aisle where people stood in line to get to the sandwich counter. A thin woman in a printed dress with very neat hair and glasses nodded to me. “Aswan,” she politely said and squeezed past me.
Then another woman smiled, nodded and said the same, ”Aswan.”
I am a person with only cursory insight into the spiritual values of the tradition of Islam, but the women’s polite, expressed respect, and kindness made me cowgirl-up, shifted my mood.
Driving home, I remembered being in Italy one summer when everyone, absolutely everyone, insisted in greeting me in German. Curious, isn’t it, how easy it is to assume a complete identity about a person because of how they are dressed or the features of their face, color of their skin? And the other side of the coin– how we can brand and broadcast who we might want to be by wearing Hermes, driving a Tesla, or showing a body laden with tattoos. In any case what’s most important and for us to cherish is the unseen, what’s under our skin, what we hold dear inside and our closeness to the Absolute Being, Absolute Love, Absolute Void.