This post comes in two parts because I think it is too long for one. This is part one, part two is coming soon!
A suit of armor can be worn literally or figuratively. In this case, I am obviously talking about the figurative sense… Recently I have been thinking about women and their similarities/differences from culture to culture. I am of the opinion that women in many cultures are very very similar. I think the inner nature of women is relatively universal but the way this inner nature presents itself outwardly is what varies from house to house, city to city, state to state, country to country, etc. Much like a vanilla flavored cake is still a vanilla flavored cake whether the frosting is red or blue, thin or thick, simple or fancy.
The purpose of a suit of armor is to protect one’s vulnerabilities from one’s enemies. One can appear strong and impervious while wearing a suit of armor. One can put on the air of confidence in a suit of armor. One can hide one’s weaknesses behind a suit of armor. A warrior heading into battle obviously needs the armor for many reasons. His enemies cannot see that his right arm is wounded from yesterday’s fight, or that he has a few cracked ribs that never healed properly. His enemies only see the strong, well-polished, ready-for-battle warrior that he wants them to see.
Women are a lot like this warrior. We have our various vulnerabilities and weaknesses that we try diligently to hide from the people we come into contact with every day. Maybe these people aren’t quite “enemies” necessarily, but we do often see them as people we must guard ourselves against because they have the potential to harm us. They have the potential to harm us, if not physically, then emotionally. In all honesty, maybe this applies to all people, not only women. But since I am a woman, I will only share my thoughts on how my fellow women that I’ve seen cope with hiding their vulnerabilities.
Again, every woman and every situation is different. I am only sharing my view. If your view is different, please share it with me!
Example 1: My Grandmother and Her Makeup
This example is one about the same grandmother featured in my last post. She has been on my mind lately, and this is a classic example of a woman and her armor. I would spend the night with her frequently when I was growing up and we were very close. But one thing about my grandmother was that she never let anyone see her in the morning before she put on her makeup. The first thing she would do in the morning would be to close the door to the bathroom in the hall, sit on a chair in front of the mirror and apply her makeup. As soon as she was finished, she would come out and continue her morning schedule. We would read in the Bible together and talk about the daily devotional from the book “Streams in the Desert” and then head out to Hardee’s or a locally owned restaurant for breakfast. But never, ever could we accomplish these things without her putting on her makeup. Today, I can only speculate as to if she felt the need to hide anything, if she simply needed the confidence boost, or if it had just become her habit.
Example 2: An Indian Lady and Her Sari
This example is one I only know about because of my trip to India. I already knew that a lot of women in India wear saris, as you can read in this post, but I had not really seen the sari “in its natural habitat” until our trip. I saw so many saris in B’s hometown and in the city of Kolkata. Women wore them basically in one style of draping where we went, but utilized them in many different ways. A sari, surprisingly to some, is a great multipurpose garment. As I saw, many women wear a sari and only a sari on a day to day basis. B’s mother wears a sari to cook, to clean, to eat, to do laundry, to go shopping, to sleep, to do everything! I was amazed. When B’s mother and aunt wrapped me in my first sari, I couldn’t believe that these women can handle the layers of fabric and the pleats all day long, during so many different tasks so gracefully. I realized that a sari can be considered a suit of armor for these women because, when worn in a conservative style, can cover a woman’s entire figure, shielding her from unwanted looks. It can be worn long to protect the legs and feet from those pesky, bird-sized mosquitoes. It can be worn over the head and neck to protect one from the sun and heat. It can be worn in a pressed, perfectly pleated way to keep one from being judged by other women. It can even be used to provide modesty to a new mother nursing her baby in a public place. I learned to respect the sari and the women who wear them everyday while I was in India. I’ll admit that I don’t wear my saris as often here in the US as I would like, but I am learning! I have worn my saris a few times and plan to be bold enough to wear them more frequently. Every time I am missing B’s family or have them on my mind, I wear a sari that day. It helps me feel connected to them a little bit extra that day. 🙂
Also, I will include the other popular style of Indian clothes in this armor. I also think that the salwar kameez suit with the dupatta can be utilized in many ways as well, but I just think the sari is more recognizably Indian.