Put that cheeky grin to the side, ladies! This entry isn’t quite as exciting as the title suggests . . .
October 12th, 2010 – 7:35pm in Ruwais City, UAE
I haven’t seen so many Filipino men in one place since the last time I went to Arakawas with my mom in Waipahu! And they weren’t spotted here at the sporting goods store, the computer shop or the bank. There they were, fifty men, all in their twenties and thirties, buying baskets full of food and cigarettes at my local grocery store. Nothing unusual about the hours, just some after-work shopping to be done. They were decked out in construction clothes, dusty boots and jeans, some in rubber slippers and wife beaters. None of them accompanied by lady friends or wives, no children to speak of. Just straight, unadulterated man vibe.
It’d be wishful thinking to imagine my being the only woman in the joint woulda sent these dudes into a gentlemanly air. On the other hand, I wasn’t completely intimidated, either. But it was rather … strange.
Perusing the aisles, biding my time until the bus picked me up in an hour, the last thing I expected that night was to get any attention. I didn’t have any time to change out of my frumpy work clothes, and my face looked a fright from the virus scare on my computer earlier that night. They must be desperate, I muttered to myself, because despite looking exactly as I felt after a long day of kindergarten mayhem, I got the full on check out, from head to toe, the strategic bump passing in the aisle, and a semi-blockade in the nuts aisle. Yes, the nuts aisle.
Sweaty and stanky in my semi-professional long sleeved kurta, I thought I’d avoid eye contact to discourage misinterpretations – in India, an eye-lock could translate to marriage. Then I realized a lowered gaze could be seen as coy, diminutive, or even vulnerable from a SE Asian perspective. My 5’ 3” stature doesn’t exactly help.
Standing in line at the checkout stand, the Arabian men paid me no attention. Since women are usually protected by abayas and hajibs in their society, it’d be most rude to stare, even if I was a harlot Westerner. I appreciated their restraint, even if it was only ingrained from generations of aesthetic abstinence.
Of course, all was well and I paid for my chocolate and fruits without a hitch. I can’t say I enjoyed the walk to the bus stop up the dimly lit road, smells of clove cigarettes and sounds of men laughing clouding the humid desert air. My first unaccompanied evening jaunt into town (impromptu and emergency, of course), and the first time I’ve ever taken solace in the presence of security guards -even if they too were male.