Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Letting myself go

One of my reasons for wanting to join Peace Corps was so that I would be able to let myself go for a while. Not in a bad way, but in more of a liberating way. I looked forward to being able to wear clothes that were comfortable, not necessarily in with the latest fashion trends. I wanted to be free of vanity for a while and just see clothes as a way to not be naked.

I got placed in a country makes personal appearance a high priority. But I couldn’t be more different. Not that I am walking around with mud on my face, but I defiantly leave the house with the mentality that “there’s no one to impress.” It feels good and yes it feels liberating.

I like to use the excuse that I don’t have a lot of money for the reason that I don’t buy nice clothes. To be honest I like the feeling of not getting everything I want. It has made me very resourceful and more thankful for the few things I do have. Even the 2 or 3 times I have bought clothes here in Morocco I don’t find myself wearing them as much as I thought I would. I always resort back to the same few cozy items day after day. I think of this when I see a top I think is really cute. Plus I don’t need to be making myself any more attractive to Moroccan men. Just the fact that I am a foreigner is enough to give me all the unwanted attention a person can handle. Even when I haven’t showered in days and I am wearing muddy boots somehow they still want to yell catcalls at me.

Slowly you begin to let go of the thought “what will people think of me?” I am different here no matter what I do or wear so it’s something I just cant escape. I felt self conscious the first few times I covered my hair with a scarf. Which is exactly what a Moroccan woman would feel if they did not cover their hair with a scarf in public. Sometimes the irony is so laughable. But then I keep in mind that I would only feel strange covering my hair if I was in America, since American women don’t do that. However, I cover my hair here sometimes to blend in, to be anonymous. But my jeans, Michigan State sweatshirt, and New Balance sneakers can always give me away. But I feel there is pure magic in those few things. Slipping into that green and white hoodie I feel utterly myself. I feel strong, safe, and confident.

When some things are so normal to you but so abnormal to the people around you, you question if what you are doing is right. Again the irony comes in here and sometimes you are so set in your own norms you blow right past the questions and stares. For example, during the rainy season here I got tired of getting my shoes wet everyday and getting the back of my pants all muddy so I decided to invest in a pair of rubber rain boots. My host family who helped me buy them assumed I wanted tall, leather, stylish ones, but as I pointed to the rubber sole of my shoe I hoped they’d get the picture. After much convincing and continuous pointing to anything rubber I finally found what I was looking for. Turns out women don’t wear rubber rain boots here in Morocco much and wearing them apparently makes you look like a farmer. And in the city you don’t see people wearing them except farmers who come into town to sell their vegetables on market day.

I could have cared less if I looked like a farmer, I now had dry shoes and clean pants. While I watched Moroccans dance around puddles and piles of mud in quite possibly the worst rain shoes on the planet I splashed right through them.

I wear less makeup that I ever did. Before all of this the most I might do without makeup on is run to Target and dodge anyone I might see there that I knew. But here I have learned that people are going to look at me the same no matter what and that they will most likely be far less judgmental. And the thing is I don’t necessarily believe that any American would judge me differently if I were not wearing mascara but it was something that I had to find out by coming to a different place being forced to find a more natural beauty. (Here in Peace Corps we call that Peace Corps pretty)