Danielle Capalbo’s Blog

Dirty laundry

Posted in Cultural differences by Quiet Giant on May 12, 2009

Some things are universally embarrassing. Not in the sense that everyone, everywhere, would be embarrassed if they occurred, but that geography and culture are sort of irrelevant when it comes to initially crossing the threshold of humiliation. They’re embarrassing no matter where they happen, or when. Yet geography and culture can determine the degree of embarrassment you’ll suffer thereafter, for sure. So:  always at least level-one embarrassing, but possibly even higher.

For instance, if a middle-aged man rifled through a pile of my intimate apparel in Boston while I stood there, watching, waiting, I’d be freaked out. Boston is home. That man and I would have some vital things in common probably, like an understanding of what’s socially appropriate and acceptable. I’m well-accustomed to how things work there, culturally and otherwise. Doesn’t matter. Underwear crosses the line.

Underwear in the Middle East is even more embarrassing. Unsurprisingly.

Katie and I tried to track down the nearest, cheapest place to get our clothes washed after a week of playing in the sand and stuff, and discovered that washers charge by item count, not by weight. Which made for an awkward couple of minutes while a 40-something-year-old guy dumped my goods onto a small table and sorted them into piles, organized from least mortifying (shirts, pants) to kill-me-now-thanks (undies, of course).

Of course, this was all exponentially more disturbing since completely veiled women were walking down the street outside, and we’ve made such a conscious effort to cover up – no shoulders, three-quarter sleeves, low capris, scarves galore. The juxtaposition of extreme privacy and Islamic conservatism with my striped Gap bottoms in this guys paws made me feel like a cultural offender. Might stick to hand washing from here on out.

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3 Responses

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  1. nickmendez said, on May 12, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    And they stole my g-string too!

    Don’t go the hand-washing way, it’s HELL.

  2. Nancy Giordano said, on May 13, 2009 at 10:38 am

    I told you to bring enough underwear so you would not have to worry about washing them (hahaha)! Nevertheless, I would have been mortified just the same.

  3. Renee Fonseca said, on May 14, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    OMG your mom told me to catch this blog. I would use a river and a stone if I had to. Since when is the laundromat a pornagraphic tourist trap? Wow

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