How my kneecaps drove the Arab World insane

Academic Term Abroad: 
Spring 2014

So I wore a skirt last night, and here's what happened:Last weekend I played it safe and dressed very conservatively under the assumption that Jordanians remain covered even when at the clubs. To my surprise, however, I saw girls in miniskirts, high heels, and spaghetti strap tops. So this weekend I ditched the jeans and switched it up a bit. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that the comparatively uber-lax dress code hidden within Amman's secret nightlife is strictly limited to the interior of the club—and nowhere else. I learned last night that hailing a cab and walking down Rainbow Street—the "Strip" of Amman (but filled mostly with hookah cafés rather than bars)—are not activities to be done in a skirt.I stepped out of my apartment gate with dignity. I was looking great: blue silk blouse, leather (almost) knee-length skirt, black semi-sheer tights, black pointy pumps, and a big open peacoat to cover the flashy stuff while en route to the club. Before I had time to look down and realize that my kneecaps were peeking out from the bottom of my coat, I was abruptly informed of the fact by two strangers in a van who plowed alongside us screaming, "Allah yinaal abuuk!"—literally: "May God curse your father." I quickly clenched both sides of my peacoat together and kept walking toward the corner where we catch cabs. My knees were still showing.My friends desperately hailed a cab while I snuck behind them into the shadows. I hurried into the car and hoped there were no creepy bystanders who might have spotted my knees in the process. When we arrived at Rainbow Street, the driver refused to drop us off any further than the traffic circle at the entrance of Rainbow. “Why...why here?” I pleaded. “Traffic.” So there we stood, dumped onto the cobblestone sidewalk that would become an eternal battle not only for my pointy stilettos but also for my kneecaps as we would make the arduous trek down what is supposed to be Amman’s most enjoyable thoroughfare.Unsurprisingly, we had company. I took a few steps forward, trying to block out the whispers and snickers that kept buzzing in my ear. At one point, though, I could hardly walk any further because several groups of men had stopped in front of me to examine my kneecaps!! My friend Torey came to my rescue and told them off in Arabic while I ducked into a corner to zip and fasten my peacoat. Still, the kneecaps were visible through my tights and tormenting me with every step.I held my head up high and stormed ahead. Where was this club anyway?? The harassment continued, complete with horns honking and men yelling through their open car windows. I knew without having to look behind me that we were being followed. A large group of young Jordanian men was trailing right behind us and, despite my being strategically sandwiched between two of my friends, it was no secret that they were infatuated with the backs of my legs. Then they started singing. And clapping to the beat... According to my friend Torey, the Arabic song is called "El Tannoura" (translation: The Skirt). Here are a few of its charming lyrics: Why does she shorten her skirt?The boys follow her.She is in love with herself.The boys go crazy when they see her.The shortness doesn’t worry her.Myself, myself, myself.The lower they go, the higher she gets.Three quarters of it is off.La lel la lel la.I laugh and blame the August heat.It’s not the skirt’s fault.Thankfully we survived this nonsense and made it to the club. I was getting worried my hands were going to break the seams of my coat pockets given how firmly I’d been pushing my coat down to conceal those provocative kneecaps. It’s safe to say I won’t be wearing a skirt again for a long time.