Going Ivy Leave and still inhabiting my body in an abaya body and being unapologetic about it.
I spent the afternoon in Harvard Square–mostly in the Ivy Leagued Harvard College quadrangle–hoping I might get smarter by osmosis, just by strolling among the elite, the gifted, and the building that house extraordinary collections of books, and visiting the Out of Town Newsstand.
In the afternoon, at University Place Gallery, I was sitting while local artists came to pick up work. This is the first time a man flirted with me. He passed me at the table 3-4 times, smiling. Each time he walked a bit closer to me at the table where I was sitting. Finally he stopped and asked what organization I was representing. I explained I was with Cambridge Art Association and was closing a show. Later, when I was leaving, the man popped out of an office and said “It looks like you are wearing an abaya from Saudi Arabia. Did you live there?” I looked at the door :he had exited Harvard’s School of Middle Eastern Studies. “Yes,” I answered– to further confuse him and not spill the beans about my art experience. “I lived in the Emeritus,” he said, and then we moved on.
Rubbing John Harvard’s foot is a right of passage for visitors to Harvard’s Quad. I took my turn and rubbed the bronze statue’s polished foot. My husband was taking pictures– and not only that, all the people–Chinese tourists, Hindus, Americans– were waiting for their turn to take photos with John Harvard’s statue. I was surprise to see so many cameras pointed at me. I felt like a celebrity! I thought they must be going to go home and say “Look what I saw at Harvard!!! Even women from the Middle East are wanting to go there!”
Make Art! I spent ten minutes talking to a Harvard Student in an installation area on campus. He was very happy to learn about my 21 Day in Abaya experience. I realized there is Common Good in writing about the so-often misunderstood garment. Most people think it is an ancient garment and not a garment that originated in the late 70s and 80s when religious fundamentalists gained power in the Gulf States and the Middle East. People feel uncomfortable when they are not knowledgeable. I hope that I have shared knowledge as well as experience.
We are blessed to be living in an era when we can witness and recognize women’s stories. On Day 18 I have finished the beginning and middle of the abaya experience and am entering the end. I share the experience as an artist, a woman, and a do-good exercise. We are all so vulnerable. We all deserve love. We are not so different from one another, no matter where we come from, what faith we follow. All religions end up with the most simple and baffling thing of all: direct confrontation of the Absolute Being, Absolute Love, Absolute Mercy and Absolute Forgiveness and by an immediate and fully awakened engagement with the living of everyday life.