Tuesday, September 18, 2007

THE BURKA


When I was still acting, I was doing a play in London, England. One afternoon, I wandered into Harrods. Their book department included one of the largest magazine displays I’d ever seen and I often dropped by to pick up reading material I'd never encountered before.

This particular afternoon, I stumbled across something far more interesting.

A very wealthy looking Arab guy walked in, followed closely by a woman dressed in the complete burka, veiled and robed so heavily and completely, you could only see her eyes. He said something that I took for “Wait here!” and left her by the magazines as he went off to find a clerk.

He was looking for something apparently hard to find for the clerk had soon taken him deep into the stacks. The woman purused the magazine stand for a moment, looked around to make sure nobody was watching and moved to the Fashion section. Then, making sure she couldn’t be detected, she took the corner of an issue of "Vogue" between two fingers and peeled it back ever so slightly so she could peek inside.

From where I was standing, I could see the utter amazement in her eyes as she stared at the high fashion models visible inside the barely open pages. Taking another glance to make sure she hadn't been seen by her male companion, she cautiously fingered her way onto another page, staring again at images clearly forbidden to her.

A moment later, the guy and the clerk were back, sorting through a number of books, so she had to turn from the magazine and stand around like she wasn’t looking at anything.

As the two men haggled over something or another, I went over, picked up the copy of "Vogue" and stood near the woman, flipped it wide open and slowly turned page after page as if I was studying each photograph in detail, but making sure she could see the pictures.

This went on for about 20 minutes. He glanced at me a couple of times, probably assuming I was gay or some kind of haute couture perv and finally called her over as he bought his book.

I put the magazine back and went back to browsing. A couple of minutes later, they left, with her once again following a few steps behind him. As the woman passed, she turned her eyes toward me with the warmest look I’ve probably ever had from a woman.

I wonder if any of these guys have any idea what’s really going on the heads of their wives, sisters and daughters -- or how much better their marriages and their lives would be if they did.

4 comments:

Callaghan said...

Great story.

Kelly J. Compeau said...

It's astounding to me that men, in this day and age, feel so tragically insecure that they have to hide their significant others behind reams of cloth, lest their beauty be shared with the world. And if any of these women dare show their faces -- or, Allah forbid, even an ankle -- they will be physically punished, raped and/or murdered.

What's even more shocking to me is that I've seen TV interviews and read articles about women who absolutely insist on wearing a hijab, both at home and out on the steet. They say it's "liberating", an honor, proudly paying respect to their culture and their religion.

Sorry, but I'm not buying it. I think they're just terrified of being ostracized -- or beaten to death -- for not wearing it.

KJC

justiceforbernardo said...

Hi Mr. Henshaw!

I just wanted to say: Good for you!

Audree

Mel said...

Such a rare, astounding moment.