Friday, June 25, 2010

Femininity and the Kingdom

Today, I went grocery shopping. I think I could write a whooole post about how buying groceries here is like buying groceries on Mars compared to the USA. The products, the marketing, and the store itself is so different. This time, I won't be talking about that because there is something else I'd rather write about. It has to do with the idea of femininity.

Look, I'm a lady. I'm very comfortable with this fact. I like my boobs, and I have enough curves for 3 other women (and I am proud!). However, I'm not usually the ultra-feminine type. When I was little, like around 5 or 6, I'd wear little shorts and t-shirts and my hair would be cut very short in a no-fuss hairstyle. I could comfortably run around and do "boy" things like climb rock formations and play football (soccer, not American football - I was brought up in the British school system). The mothers of the other children all thought I was a boy, and my Mom would get a big kick out of it. It was hilarious. As I grew up, jeans and t-shirts stayed my thing, and rarely did I wear dresses and skirts.

When I was about 13 or 14, I started to wear lots of skirts and dresses. All of a sudden, I was this...girl. It kinda came out of nowhere, but it stuck. Compared to my two older sisters, I was the most feminine of them all. I LOVE perfume, makeup, creams, lotions, whatevers. I love wearing stylish, awesome things that show off my figure - when I can afford it, of course. During my time in upstate NY, my style kind of...fell flat. I was in the middle of nowhere, so fashion wasn't readily available. It was back to my jeans and t-shirts again, and I looked like butt. Really stinky, college butt. I gained a lot of weight, especially on my face.

However, every time I came back to Riyadh for the summer, I went shopping. I'd buy these beautiful, feminine clothes all over again and underneath the abayah that I wore every day like every other woman, I had on really beautiful clothes. I also wore GREAT shoes! I only wore sneakers to the gym, never to go out anywhere. When I went out anywhere, mostly to go shopping to buy even more clothes, I got dressed to the nines.

Also, when living in Saudi, I noticed myself buying toiletries that I would never use in the USA. I wax my eyebrows and upper lip at home, and wear moisturisers and body lotions and make-up...oh Lord, I wear make-up! I use perfumes and body sprays, and wash with body scrubs and gels and Lord knows what else. I buy the girliest body washes that exist. I could buy them in the US too, but I never feel like it. I go with the utilitarian stuff over there, like Arm & Hammer or Irish Spring (or whatever it's called). Here, I buy this fruity flowery creamy girly stuff that my friends back at college would never believe.

What is it about Saudi Arabia that makes me want to present myself like this? I really don't care as much when I go to the US. Saudi Arabia, without much prodding, brings out this stereotype in me and I think it is weird. I don't feel like stopping it, though, because it is so much fun. I feel really good, taking care of myself. Why should I stop if it actually feels good?

Today is my first real day back in Saudi and I did one of the girliest things ever. I took silly pictures of myself in Photo Booth because I had nothing better to do! I've been doing this since I first came to Saudi. I usually take these pictures of myself with random objects that I feel belong in the pictures. Here are a couple of me wearing a headpiece that my parents brought to me from their holiday in Turkey:

This is me "modelling" my new shower gel. It is "Creme delice" shower gel. It says the following on it: "Berry Sorbet - leaving your skin feeling silky with tasty aroma." Ugh. Can't get more girly than that - also, it's PINK AND PURPLE.

This is me showing a sweet thing I just ate. It's called "Bon Sweet." Good sweet? Well, it was delicious, so I guess it was! It's like a chocolate mousse thing with whipped cream on top. Mmmmm! Another girl thing, I guess, is chocolate, so this is fitting.

Finally, this is just me smirking at the camera. I've been pretty negative in my first two posts, so let this be SOME proof that I know how to lighten up a little! And boy, did I need it.

I asked myself earlier why Saudi Arabia brings this side out from within me. Well, I think I know one of the many answers: no matter what country I am in, I always feel like I am playing some kind of part. You'd think that in the US, I'd be able to be myself more because of the way the culture works...well I am sorry to say that that is not really true. Here in Saudi I have to cover my hair and body, in the US I have to cover up some of my personality. I don't really know why I don't pamper myself the way I do here in Saudi, but it might have to do with fitting in within American culture, or perhaps the culture of my friends. Although my friends in the US accept me as I am, most of them are male, so maybe their ways just rubbed off on me. I also know that here in Saudi a tomboy my age isn't really seen as a "real" woman. Yet, no one can even see me here, so why should it matter?

I think that is another answer altogether. In Saudi, I am not visible underneath the physical layers of the abayah and scarf, so I am making up for it. My shoes are usually fantastic (not AS fantastic as some of the other women, though! They have more money), my make-up when I wake up early enough is usually good, and I smell awesome. So what if people cannot see my hair or body? They can notice other things about me. And even so, I STILL wear great clothes underneath, because even if they can't see it, it gives me confidence and people can certainly see that, no matter what you are wearing.

For now, I totally embrace this feminine thing. I'm enjoying it now, so I'll just stop it when it gets less enjoyable. Up to this point, it has not done me any harm whatsoever.

Sidenote: I am totally still wearing that awesome headdress thing. It's GORGEOUS!


  1. whats with this crown on the head?

  2. It is a Turkish headdress thing. My parents bought it for me on a trip to Turkey. I love it!

  3. I don't know if this is going to work, since I don't have a Blogspot account or anything, but I first of all wanted to say that I have always thought you are gorgeous. I don't know why you insist that you looked like butt, although a lot of us did from time to time due to lack of sleep and the occasional Wells plague. Plus if Molly ever tells you that you look like a butt, it's probably a compliment. But anyway, I digress. I didn't know that you felt you were hiding some part of yourself in the US (and, by extension, at Wells), but I assure you that I love every part of you that you have introduced, and I'm sure I would love whatever else you've got in there. (I know this probably sounds like I'm hitting on you, but I promise you I'm not.) For some reason I'm just imagining that when you come back to the states for grad school, you're going to hide part of yourself again, and I encourage you not to. I mean, be whoever you are, whoever you feel comfortable being, but real friends appreciate you for all of you, not just parts of you. If you remember nothing else that I have said in this ridiculously long comment that I'm not even sure will post properly, remember that. Phew! Also, I dig the headdress.

  4. Ms. Banana, thank you so much for everything you have said. Hearing you say that I am gorgeous makes me feel good, it really does. But what really makes me happy is that you are encouraging me to be myself and to be genuine, which is what I really want to do in the next stages of my life. Being who you are should be easy, but sometimes it isn't..I'm struggling, but I am going to do it! :) Thanks, lovely.