This morning I decided to go for a walk. I wanted to get outside before it got too hot, get some exercise, and figure out if the yoga studio was really within walking distance. So, I put on my knee-length exercise shorts, sneakers, and a t-shirt. I was in traditional, frumpy, workout wear. I headed out the back gate and started walking briskly down the hill.
I'm used to being stared at here. I have blonde hair, blue eyes, and pale skin. None of these things are common in Southern India. However, after passing about a dozen people, I realized my mistake. The neighborhood behind mine is Muslim. Here I was walking around with my arms and legs exposed and my hair in a ponytail while I passed women in Burkhas. EVERYONE stared at me as I pumped my arms and started to sweat.
Did I feel exposed? No, not really. My knees have nothing to hide. But the eyes following me told me otherwise. I cannot explain the odd sensation of feeling completely comfortable and modestly dressed and yet being seen as a woman without morals. I decided to ignore it and continued with my walk, all the while with eyes on me. Nothing about my outfit was immodest by western standards. In fact, it was rather frumpy. However, the stares I got made me feel otherwise. I imagine this is how traditional Muslim women feel when they move to a western country. They're comfortable and happy in their hijab, but people stare at them like they're a freak.
Will I wear something different tomorrow morning for my walk? Yes, I'll probably wear long pants instead of shorts. But there is no way I'm wearing long sleeves in the 90 degree early morning heat on my way to yoga class.