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 It's not the abaya that bothers me about the LoL.

I mean, I'd figured this out already. I've mentioned it once or twice or a dozen times in various online discussions. I seriously don't mind wearing the abaya - but I'm also the first to admit that my experience in wearing an abaya is also very much a product of me being a non-Muslim expat. I'm not subjected to the same expectations that local LoLian women face. My abaya is cream-colored. I usually don't fasten the snaps below my thighs. I don't wear a hijab, much less a veil. And so far, I haven't been challenged about wearing a headscarf - most of the expats I know have been confronted about wearing it at one point, though most of them have also been here longer so there's been more time in which to be challenged. (I also have no doubt I'll be challenged before I leave the LoL for good.)

So my abaya experience - both in what's expected and what I experience - is fairly atypical, and I know it. It's the idea that I am required to wear ANYTHING to conform to a religious standard that isn't my own which probably bothers people. The idea of it definitely bothered me a little bit, at first, and yeah, there are days I defy it or think, "I do not give a hoot that you think I should wear this thing." (Like this morning at the airport, when I deliberately did not fasten my snaps, but left my abaya open. Something I'd never dare to do anywhere else in town.) 

Now, I couldn't care less. Grabbing my abaya from the hook on the back of my office door is second-nature now. I finally remember to put my phone and keys anywhere but my jeans pockets (since I can't access them once the abaya is fastened). And I've gotten pretty good at putting the abaya on in the backseat of a car. I'm actually grateful for the abaya sometimes, because man, those stores are seriously over-air-conditioned, and it's nice to have that extra layer to keep me comfortable.

Nope. I joke about not wearing it... but I don't actually mind it so much.

What bothers me the most is not being able to drive. Not so much for me, but....

Okay, so for spring break we took the kids to London, because it's London and I love London, and Andrew has good memories of London, and they speak English and I can get around without needing to call for help and there's a ton of things to do and it's cold and and and and. They're probably stupid reasons, but whatever, they're ours. So we're in London, and because my life has its own trials and tribulations, the boys and I got there a day before Bill did. Anyway, we land at the airport and the company who rented us the house sent a car to meet us at the airport, and we get in and get to our house and it's fine and about an hour after we've settled in, I turn to the boys and say:

Me: Okay, kids, we're going grocery shopping.
Andrew: Yay! Who's driving us?
Me: Um. No one. We're walking.
Andrew: But... we're WALKING? Why isn't someone driving us?
Me: Because it's just around the corner, and we can walk here.
Andrew: ARE YOU SURE?

So we walk to the grocery store, and it's a Waitrose and it's fine and we find lots of funny flavors of things and walk home and unload our stuff and it's all good. 

The next day:

Me: Okay, kids, we're going to the Aquarium.
Andrew: Yay! Who's driving us?

(This is when I started to get worried.)

Me: Um. No one. We're taking the Tube.
Andrew: But who's taking us to the Tube?
Me: No one. We're walking.
Andrew: We can walk to the Tube?!?!?

Later that afternoon:

Me: Okay, kids, we're going to the pirate ship playground.*
Andrew: Yay! Who's driving us?

*AKA the Princess Diana Memorial Playground, but Andrew knows it as the Pirate Ship Playground

It took another day before Andrew finally stopped asking who was driving us every time we said we were going somewhere. (Which, incidentally, is when Bill finally joined us and I'm not going to think about the implications of that right now, though it probably only proves the point.)

And that scares me. I've driven this boy everywhere, his entire life, for seven years - and in a few short months, he is so used to me not being able to take him somewhere without some kind of escort that he expects one as a matter of course.

He knows I can't drive in the LoL, and he even knows that the law here prohibits me and any other woman to drive. And yes, he thinks it's silly and weird. But the idea that he's accepted it as the status quo and even tries to implement its ramifications (that I therefore need someone else to escort me where I want to go) is scary.

Momma cannot drive herself; she needs someone to do it for her. Therefore, Momma always needs someone to be with us when we go anywhere. Momma always needs an escort. Momma cannot go anywhere by herself.

It took a full 24 hours of me going where we wanted to go, just the three of us, before he stopped worrying about who would come with us. What will happen when we've been here for three years?

What would happen if he were older, and less quick to rewrite what he believes is the status quo?

(And then there's Charlie: who is too young now, but will be four when we leave for good. And will have spent the majority of his young life not being driven around by me. Is he going to be aware of the seismic shift? Or will it not worry him so much?)

The abaya doesn't bother me. It's a layer. I can shed it. It's not a big deal.

It's the things that aren't so easily shed that worry me, the things that burrow down without me even realizing, that pop up when we least expect them, but in the most obvious places. 

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