The attire of Jordanian women has always intrigued me. Why, for instance, do bedouin women wear black polyester–in the desert– in summer? The classic answer is they’re afraid of the men. If the guys can’t see it, they won’t bother it.
One day on the bus, I saw a woman with gloves on her hands–in the middle of summer. Now what, I thought. I found out several weeks later when my usual newsstand ran out of my beloved Jordan Times and I had to walk up the street to look for another news vendor. I didn’t like this one. It was inside, and although the door remained open, the clerk’s counter was in the back. Anyone buying a paper was out of sight of the street. In Jordan there is safety in crowds, and danger in privacy.
There is also a body language one learns on the street. In America, you tune out the crowd and pretend it doesn’t exist. If you bump someone you tune that out, too. An American crowd has anonymity.
In Jordan you have to be constantly aware of the distance between your body and the body of every single other person on the street. Bumping is not accidental (well, almost never). The way you walk on the street demonstrates your awareness, and although it can be exhausting to spend so much energy focusing on just walking down the street, it sends a subtle message to any would-be perverts and stops a great deal of potential harrassment. Going into a shop intensifies the need for body-awareness. When you leave a shop, Jordanian men don’t act like you’re invisible, they subtly step to one side as a nonverbal message that they are devout and you do not have to fear them.
So back to the newspaper shop. When I asked for the Jordan Times, the guy’s body language was all wrong. Sure enough, when I held out my palm for the change, he was all over my hand. Eewwwww. I never knew making change could be so creepy. I wanted to wash. I wanted to go home and get off the street. I wanted to wear gloves forever and never take them off.
Some people are saying that Ahmadinejad kissed the (gloved) hand of his elderly teacher as a sign of respect, and some say it was a substitute for actually paying teachers a decent salary. But I’m with the thought police on this one. According to the hard-line newspaper Hezbollah:
“The Muslim Iranian people have no recollection of such acts contrary to sharia law during Islamic rule [since the 1979 revolution],” it said.
“This type of indecency progressively has grave consequences, like violating religious and sacred values.”
Ahmadinejad, leave that teacher alone.
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