As you walk along the bustling streets of Rabat you can't help but notice all the street side cafes. On second glance, you realize none of those cafes have any women patrons. They are all men gathered in packs sipping their coffee and Moroccan tea imbibed in man talk. This got me to thinking. How much would it shake things up for two business attired women to show up and infiltrate their turf? Better yet, can we get a shoe shine boy to work his magic on our inadequately feminine shoes? Me and my partner in crime, Kim, are about to test the waters. Let the social experiment begin.
Now, I haven't worked in over ten years, so I need to dig into the deep recesses of my closet to find work clothes and dust off my heels. I'm not sure that I can even walk in heels after all these years of comfortable mom shoes and a killer work out yesterday makes me doubt the possibility even more. Although I don’t miss working, I do miss the opportunity to dress nice now and again. Kim, who's on sabbatical from being a bona fide professional in real life, on the other hand, is not so stoked about the dressing up. Because this is her year to wear comfortable mom shoes. I picked her up and we walk in search of just the right testosterone filled cafe. There are just so many to choose from.
We find a bright and sunny spot at the corner of two busy streets and it's absolutely packed with men, about 15 tables worth. Not a woman in sight. We casually sit down at a table. All the men in the cafe are speaking Darija. Kim is positive we are the topic of conversation. But, we have the benefit of not knowing because neither of us speaks the language, but we do get the interminable glares. And really, if you've never been to a country where starring is perfectly acceptable, there is no 3 second rule. They can hold their visual assault as long as they want. I can't even express how acutely uncomfortable it is to be unapologetically stared at and precisely how vulgar and malicious someone can be with their eyes.
We order two coffees from the waiter. Who begrudgingly goes to get them for us. We start catching up on our lives events since we’ve seen each other last. Then Kim mentions that she’s heard knees are the erotic equivalent of boobs in Morocco. Sitting down has made my dress creep up my thighs and inch or two, fully exposing my knees. So as if things weren’t uncomfortable enough, now, I’m sitting at an all male cafe topless, with my knees exposed. Even that isn’t getting us any shoe shine action. Maybe I don’t have big enough knees. Although they are quite perky.
Kim knows of another cafe that she thinks will score us some shoe shine action and we head there. It is smaller more secluded but is packed nonetheless. We order some foo-foo European bubbly water and are briefly distracted from our quest by a guy selling bootleg dvds. It’s the first time I’ve been told a dvd is in English and it actually is. Not that I would know that for sure or anything for those of you who work with the FBI.
Then we see him, crossing the street with his little wooden box. We get an adrenaline surge and make eye contact. He acknowledges us. Unless he’s acknowledging our money. Either way, we negotiate a price and voila Kim is getting her boots shined. Followed by my high heels. I wonder if that's the first time he's shined a stiletto. I know for sure it's the first time I've had my shoes removed by a man who wasn't getting anything else but the shoes. Besides a great view of my knees and the wafting fumes of my very ripe feet.
Kim and I are craving a cigarette after having had shoe shine guy. Oh, you know what I mean. It just seems like the natural accompaniment to spending hours doing nothing but drinking coffee, shooting the shit with shinny shoes and visually assaulting people. When it’s all over, I’m surprised we were successful. I can't help wondering if we would have gotten a different reaction if we were Moroccan women. Who knew Darija and what the men were saying about us. Instead, we were protected by our foreign-ness and cultural irrelativism. Hmmm...would it have been different if I was wearing a burka?