Monday, June 19, 2006

Attitude in Shorts

It’s hot outside. It’s summer. I live on a compound with a mix of nationalities. In some respects I wish it wasn’t mixed – as I believe it could and would be more “relaxed.” It would also, no doubt, be a prime target – just paint a huge florescent Bulls eye in the center! So, in that particular respect, a compound of mixed nationalities isn’t a bad thing. Nor is it a bad thing that a compound of mixed nationalities is forced to interact and mingle some… And see how it is that “both sides” live…

I am in a foreign country [yeah, understatement, here!], I am a guest, and as such, I do believe I have a duty –whether I agree or disagree – to be considerate and respectful of the culture around me – and thus keep in mind that a display of too much skin might offend those around me when choosing clothing to wear out of the house. And, more often than not, as my normal “daytime” uniform probably isn’t appropriate, here, in this Country and culture.

My day starts very, very early, and begins with putting on what I refer to as my “leash aerobics” uniform [bike / exercise shorts and a tank top – or a tee shirt when it’s cooler – and “walking” sandals – I used to wear sneakers, but then had a tan line that ended at my ankles which were a stark white]. When the “kids” and I return from our walk, the morning “routine” continues with breakfast, vitamins, etc. Typically once that part of the morning “routine” is complete, I can then get on with my day, showering, donning a clean “daytime” uniform, etc. My “daytime” uniform is the same as my “leash aerobic” uniform, with different sandals. [I also have a “TV watching” uniform – yep – bike / exercise shorts, tee shirt and flip flops.]

All but TWO of a multitude of buildings that house the operations where all the day-to-day functions of a “small community” are administered [i.e., business offices, schools, library, community dining hall, post office] have signs posted at the entrances and in the lobbies regarding “appropriate attire.” The only TWO places where there are no such signs posted are at our commissary and the little 24-hour convenience store. The signs, written in very large English letters and miniscule Arabic script, say this:
Appropriate attire required. Anyone wearing clothing that is to too short, too tight or too revealing will be asked to leave.*
I am of the opinion that a sign that does not specifically say, “No Shorts,” or “No Skirt above the Knees,” is open to interpretation as to what might be considered too short, too tight or too revealing. Yes, an argument could be made that a reasonably intelligent person would understand, regardless of the omitted specifics, what is appropriate. Thus, wearing a pair of Daisy Duke shorts with your butt cheeks partially exposed and a cropped tank top with no bra isn’t - appropriate.

[For the record, I do not own a pair of Daisy Duke’s and, certainly, at this point in my life, would not be caught dead with my butt cheeks partially exposed. I do not believe a cropped tank top is flattering on most women out of their late teens and early twenties – maybe a few, but very few – so, unless you’ve got that flat tummy thing going for you, don’t put that cropped tank top on. And, further, being somewhat naturally endowed, having had a child, and having lost most rounds of an on-going battle with gravity, going braless would just be wrong.]

It would be fair to say that perhaps my attitude of late has been just a wee bit in need of an adjustment, but I just wasn’t in the mood to change clothes. So, about seven-thirty, I leave to do a quick five-minute trip to the commissary to pick up a couple of items in my “daytime” uniform. As I park the truck, I decide at the last minute that before going into the commissary I’m just going to run in to the post office to see if we have any mail [see earlier column; we rarely have mail].

I enter the revolving door into the post office lobby and am just turning the corner to the section where our box is located, and hear a man’s voice,

“Excuse me, Madam.” “Madam.” “Madam, excuse me…”
Assuming this is meant for me – I am the only person in the lobby – I turn to acknowledge the voice – the man – who is dressed in a Security uniform – but continue to our box – and as I am bending to peek into the box I can see this man – wildly gesturing to the “sign,” and calling to me,
“Madam. Do you read this?" "Madam!" "Do you read this!?”
Do I? What is he asking me, “Do I?” Does he mean, “Can I?” or “Did I?” There is, as usual, no mail, and I can continue on to the commissary, and now have to walk directly by this man where he continues to stand, frantically pointing to the sign.

As I walk, purposefully, by him to get to the revolving door we are for just a second but only two feet apart and as I make eye contact with him – oh yes – direct eye contact – with his outstretched arm on the sign – he says, in what he probably thinks is a gruff, authoritarian voice, “Read this!” to which I respond, “Okay” and step into the pie shape of the door to exit and head off to the commissary.

What else could I have said? “Okay, sure. Let me read it right now.” I suppose I could have said, “Not now,” as I was leaving anyway. Instead, I simply said, “Okay.” I think I’ve responded “appropriately” even if I was, by Mr. Security’s interpretation, “inappropriately attired.”

*If this is not the exact wording, it is pretty damn close – I have not ever written it down, verbatim – and of course, as no cameras are permitted in any of the buildings, I’ve never taken a photo of one of these signs. I will make it a point to get the exact wording and add an addendum at my next opportunity.


  1. sounds like they're sticklers for making sure that you wear what is posted! there are prob reasons for that and they may go deeper than some realize. there are no shorts here. i sometimes wear them in my front yard, but since all the dwellers of the apts across the street can see down into our yard, i always feel very uncomfortable wearing anything revealing, but... i still sometimes do it. my hubby says to let them stare... they're all Saudi anyway! ;)

    so, i have been known to go out in a dress or my pajamas, but not often.. and it's usually at night. and hey, it is my yard after all. but.. the thought of someone looking when i don't know it or watching us is almost more than i can stand.

    but... when you're in a compound such as yours, i don't understand the problem, unless there are Muslims living there. are there?

  2. Appropriate attire required. Anyone wearing clothing that is to too short, too tight or too revealing will be asked to leave.

    These signs always miss out the sub-text, of course. Like "Anyone female wearing....". I don't see the security guy getting worked up over the grossly overweight man whose T-shirt is too short, tight and revealing.

    (What a horrible thought. Mind switches to Daisy Duke instead).

  3. Remember those cartoon characters wearing barrels or cardboard boxes with shoulder straps? Pick halloween for instance, wear a t-shirt and shorts as per your usual attire, and on top the box with straps. I would pay money to see the look on their faces. And what could they say? It is decent indeed, plus you are honoring an American holiday!!!
    I have a talent for real absurd ideas, so feel free to query anytime you need a way out suggestion; I am your girl!

  4. Tooners - Yes, about fifty-fifty - fifty percent Muslim and fifty percent Americans, Canadians, Brittish, Australians, and a few Asians - in that order. Not including, of course the TCN's.

    Yes, shorts were a problem when we got here. I worked in the States - didn't have time to be out playing in shorts - only had like two pairs there. Figured I'd get some here. Sooo funny! Not. Did get some at the Gap in Dubai the first year we were here, thankfully, or I'd still have no shorts - but for my "uniform" shorts. And, I am quite sure, that I am the ONLY woman on this street who has carried her trash out in a purple bathrobe! I'm sure, if I was the only one wearing "shorts" on this compound - especially in the morning while out with the "kids," I would be quite uncomfortable. But, because there are a lot of "westerners" here, lots of women out with their kids in shorts...

    Alhamedi - You won't take "personal" offense at this - because I know you would never allow this to happen if you had a thobe on, but... Quite frankly I've seen some thobes that are pretty damn tight on men that could use a good support "man bra" [was that what it was called on Seinfeld? Kramer invented it?], and it wouldn't hurt if they'd let the hem down a bit to cover that nine inches of leg hair and those hideous black socks which do not match their brown "slip ons!" Nope, have never seen one of these had the "sign" pointed out to them for "too short, too tight, and too revealing." [It is clearly directed at women! There is a big problem in the summer with the "returning students" who are all Britney Spears look-a-likes or wannabes.]

    And, Shewolf - Where were you last night when I was caught in bike shorts at the post office?!?

    Oh, and Angie - "y i i p w z b k" and a second one, too! "n e r s b x e."

  5. 'Mansière' it was! I will never forget it since we had a rotund male guest the night this episode ran...Excruciatingly difficult moment to live down I assure you.

    And bufrpby to you too!

  6. No offense taken, Sabra.

    In fact I know some men whose appearance would be improved by the addition of a veil. ;-)

  7. To make things equal...there should be a law banning walking into the wind while wearing a thobe. Teehehee! Perhaps that is why some women cover even their they can sneak a peek!

  8. "I don't see the security guy getting worked up over the grossly overweight man whose T-shirt is too short, tight and revealing."

    My ears were burning...


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