While walking to my car after work this afternoon, I saw a group of women standing at the corner of one of the streets downtown, waiting for the light to change:
Initially it was the apparel of these five ladies that caught my immediate attention; I adored the vibrancy of their garments, the boldness and richness of the colors. For a very long time my wardrobe consisted of black, navy, and dark brown suits. Then I slowly branched out to black and navy dresses; that evolved into black skirts with a pastel-colored camisole covered with a black or brown sweater; and only recently (i.e., the past 2-3 years) have I gone all out with color. I now wear fun clothes that really pop (bright pinks, and coral blues, and deep purples, and printed patterns, and on and on) – and I love it. And I love seeing other women wearing bold, rich colors, too.
After admiring the various dresses and head scarves for a few moments, another facet of this group began to enter my awareness. This second level of perception was more subtle, but also more meaningful to me: these women were having a lot of fun together. They authentically appreciated each other’s presence and company, and were genuinely having a very good time with one another.
I sometimes feel sorry for women that I see wearing head-to-toe coverings (particularly on very sunny, warm summer days); I can’t imagine what it might be like to be told I have to hide my body beneath lengths and lengths of fabric. And I then wonder about how the women are treated in other facets of their lives, too: do they receive any respect from their fathers/brothers/husbands/community? Are they allowed to make any choices for themselves? What might it feel like to live this way? Having been born and raised a very independent Yankee girl who was allowed to speak her mind, question society, and pursue any activity that seemed interesting, I can’t imagine what not being able to do these things might be like. And so, when I see people whom I suspect might not be receiving the freedoms that I usually don’t even think about, I begin to wonder… and I often feel sad for those individuals.
But today, I got to see that actually, these women are enjoying themselves. They are delighting in the presence of fellow women (something I think many American women struggle with), and they re having fun. They are experiencing joy. They really are living life.
So what began for me as an admiration of cloth quickly developed into an appreciation of individual and collective character. Talk about a power outfit.