Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Not Very Lady Like

Modesty is a big part of Uyghur culture. Dressing in such a way that is considered appropriate. Down south in our province most women wear long skirts, long sleeves and head scarves. Not much actual skin is visible. While I was studying Uyghur at the University I had one teacher comment to me that my shirt was to ‘open’, meaning I had a large bare neckline that showed off too much skin. But these rules are all for show. If for some reason an older lady needs to rest these same modest women will hike up their skirt, around there waist ( or higher) and squat on the sidewalk, hardly the most lady like of positions. It isn’t as bad as it sounds since most of them have two or three layers of leggings to keep them warm.

It is one of my best kept secrets/ well known facts that I never wear long underwear or have a second layer on. My bare legs under my skirt are a disgrace to any Uyghur friend who gets a glimpse of them. It is not so much that they think it is indecent, but rather they think I must be crazy – everyone is so afraid of the cold here.

One day as we were traveling I knew we were going to be outside for several long hours walking around town, I also did knew totally what the weather was like, so in a very abnormal move for me I actually put on a pair of tights. I was very thankful for this forethought as we were climbing on a truck with a bunch of older ladies. My skirt was getting in my way and I tried to discreetly lift the edge of it so that I could have more room to swing my legs. One of the ladies saw me grab a handful of material and offered to help. The next thing I knew she was hiking my skirt up so it was almost under my armpits. Immodesty aside, my legs were suddenly on display for all to see. All I could do was stand there and laugh at the random situations I find myself in. Where else in the world does a complete stranger feel free to take the liberty of lifting your skirt up for you. Thank goodness I was covered. She didn’t seem to think anything odd or inappropriate about the situation, even in light of the fact that some of my travel companions were male. She just kept asking why I was laughing and why I wasn’t crawling on to the back of the truck.

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