At that point, a couple swept past me, chattering happily. The man was looking down into his wife's face with warm brown eyes full of laughter; she was holding their baby - a child who looked to be about 18 months old - and she was in the midst of telling him something in a foreign language - my guess was that it was about something the child had done - there was so much affection both in his look and her voice. This was the university Clinic, so there was no surprise at all in hearing the foreign language - but this was the first time I'd ever actually seen someone close up, in a burka. And in every way, at that moment, my preconceived ideas about it were shattered.
First thought - I always presumed a woman would wear a burka because it was required by her cold, demanding husband who considered her his property. I even imagined a much older man, not this attractive and friendly young guy. And, clearly this husband and wife had a close and warm relationship.
Second thought - A burka would make you feel conspicuous, at least in this country. NO! At that moment, actually even before I began to notice the couple's relationship - what I thought was how relieved I'd be if I could be wearing a burka! I envied her with every fiber. To just be there. Not worrying about how you look, being judged "unattractive". No guilty anxiety about not "keeping up appearances", of being found "odd looking" "inappropriate" "disheveled". Everything in me cried out "Give me the burka!"
Third thought - in this country women are always judged by appearance. Hair, figure, clothing, shoes, makeup. I'm really sick of it. Wouldn't it be interesting to be judged by what you say and do???
And when I saw how happy this woman was, evident by her quick and light step, and her smiling eyes - well, I envied that, too. Her husband came with her to the doctor's office! She didn't even have to drive!!!!!
And, what about driving? That seems like quite a mixed blessing to me. There was one week, when I was driving so much that my legs ached miserably and non-stop from sitting in the car with no time for even a quick walk. (Well, that week, if I wasn't in my car I was at my desk revising lesson plans. Sometimes I'd kneel at my desk, or stand, hunched over, just to change the quality of the ache a bit.) Those women in Saudi Arabia might have a chat with me before they agitate for this "privilege" too loudly, or like me, they'll be running themselves ragged every waking moment, a slave to their automobiles and all the possibilities they allow.
In a conversation about the Sabbath a few weeks ago, I actually found myself arguing that housework certainly should be appropriate activity for the sabbath, if it was the thing you never got to do, and longed to do. So, you can see where I'm at - actually longing for a Sabbath of housework, since my Sabbath (and every other day the last few weeks) is filled with churchwork and driving, and an infinite number of trips to the store. I was at the store last night at bedtime...and I am just hearing Craig, at 6:45 a.m. say "There is no milk!" Criminey. There was milk left last night after dinner!
Where is the milkman when you need him? They have milk delivery in England! And in Saudi Arabia the women have their day free to go to the market. What the heck is with this country?