shameless?

I was at the textile market in Kuwait city this evening and I saw something that made my blood boil. A couple of Western women (most probably wives of diplomats) and their chauffeur were crowding a small tailor’s shop. The younger of the two women, a brunette, had a dress made at that shop and I guess the measurements weren’t right, because when we got to the shop we witnessed her pulling her shirt right up. You know, so that the tailor can get his measurements right.

My mother, aunt and I stared in disbelief. Talk about clueless! I mean, you’re in the Middle East! Women don’t have to abide by a strict dress code in Kuwait but a little modesty is expected, right? Especially at a tiny tailor’s shop with glass windows in a busy old complex. I mean, use your common sense, woman.

We stood outside the shop as the mortified tailor negotiated with the women. She decided that he needs to see the new dress on her to make the alterations. So he suggested the bathroom or the ladies prayer room – an empty room right across from his shop. But no, that’s too much of an inconvenience for her Ladyship. She informed him that she’ll be changing right here. Our jaws dropped.

Her Indian chauffeur quickly stepped back and away from the shop, the two tailors who worked in the shop stepped outside and tried to lower the blinds. She told them it’s not necessary. Her friend quickly moved forward grabbing a piece of cloth and holding it as a curtain. It was barely the size of a towel, not to mention they were standing right in front of a mirror. And sure enough, we all watched her step out of her clothes and into a dress, her friend’s body barely covering her.

I could tell that the men were really uncomfortable. Their limited English and their soft demeanor left them speechless. She was being pushy and exercising her implicit higher status as a western woman. If someone had passed by and reported what they saw, the tailors would have been held responsible. Newspaper headlines would probably read, “Two Pakistani Tailors Watch Western Woman Change.” The men would be fined and deported.

I can’t believe I didn’t speak to her, but something told me to hold my tongue; if she had no shame in the first place, what could I have possibly said to her? I did mutter (in English) and loud enough for her to hear that she was being incredibly rude. We walked away in disgust before she could change back into her clothes. I doubt she would have taken her clothes off in full view back wherever she’s from. So why do it here? Why is it that when people travel they feel like they can get away with everything?

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