Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Normal Life

What does normal life feel like?

K and I recently took a trip to Europe where there seem to be many more devout Muslims than in Iran. The Islamic women wore a range of clothing from complete veil to simple scarf. Islamic dress seems to be more a matter of culture than religion. For instance, Moroccan women use tight black scarves to tie their hair back behind their head. The scarves are form-fitted to their own hair and have interesting knots in them. Turkish women wear their scarves pinned in some complex way on their heads. Their scarves are mainly drab with the occasional drab flower printed onto the scarf. Many of these devout women wear clothes that could get them arrested in Iran. (No wonder devout Iranian women chafe at the restrictions on dress.) Despite this, none of the devout women we saw in Europe showed even a strand of hair.

This is not the case here. I have seen women in chadors with fringe showing. The newest fashion is to wear a scarf that covers neither the front nor the back of the hair. This means that women with long hair let it hang down out of the back of the scarf.

When K and his family and I went out to eat the other night, I was wearing one of the longest manteaus to be seen that evening. Mine reaches my knees. It's last year's model. The newest fashions just cover the ass. I don't really feel like keeping up with manteau fashion myself. I'll just wear mine until it falls apart.

Why do I write this? Because I want to tell you what normal feels like. Normal is that religious and devout women have friends who are secular. Normal is having observant cousins and atheist cousins. Normal is a Republican woman married to a Democratic man.

My great aunt kept kosher, my grandmother (her sister) loved bacon (the other kosher meat), my grandfather's sister shaved her head and wore a wig. K's mother never took off her headscarf. He has a photo of me in a swimming suit sitting next to his mother in her scarf and long shirt. We are both happy. That's normal.

We recently had dinner with some friends in a hidden restaurant with actual atmosphere and professional service. There were all sorts of people there: families with all of the women in chadors and families with women barely wearing headscarves. Our host managed to procure whiskey for us, which meant that we were actually eating and drinking in a nice restaurant. It all felt so frigging normal.

Normal is such a simple thing.

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