For my alto ego project I was thinking about doing something different from what I usually wear and especially different from my culture. I grow up in a tropical weather where is hot the entire year and you basically wear flip flop, shorts, tank top and bikini underneath. So, I thought doing something where I had to cover my whole body. That was when I had the idea to be a middle east women. As far as I researched and talked to some friends I realized that are different dress codes for different countries. There are some places where you can cover your entire face others, you cover your hair and still some where the hair can show a little bit.
I wore black pants, black shoes, and long sleeves black shirt underneath my black sweater. The only thing that I bought was a black veil. Also, I wore make up. When I interviewed my friend from Iran, she said women love to wear makeup, since their face is the only thing they can show. I used black eye shadow, black eye liner, black mascara and a very light pink lipstick. All my clothes were very loosing fit and comfortable.
How I usually look:
Day 1: Saturday November 24, 2012
Location: Santa Monica Promenade
My reaction: I was super nervous and did not want to go out dressing all black and all covered up. When I left home I was just hoping that any of my neighbors would see me dressing like that. Well, if they saw me I think they would not recognize me anyway. I was lucky that they did not see me. Another thing that I thought it was interesting was the moment that I covered my head with the veil I couldn’t smile anymore, I felt like I was another person.
People’s reactions: For my first day I went to Santa Monica Promenade. I told my friend what I was doing and she was my photographer for the entire afternoon.
First, I walked to Ocean Ave, to warm up and start feeling more comfortable with my outfit. I took a couple pictures there and finally sat on a bench where a couple was sitting. The moment that I sat there they just stare at me. I ignored them and pretended that I was admiring the ocean view. My friend was behind of us with the camera. The couple did not say anything when I was there and I noticed that they were very uncomfortable with my presence. After that I went to walk on promenade and visit the stores.
The first store I went it was Banana Republic, the sales person said:
Hi, let me know if you need anything and left. Most of the time when I go to the stores people talk to me, ask how my day is going, some sort of small talk, but this one just said hi and left right away. I try to show that I was interested in the clothes but no one else came to help me. People that was there shopping would look at me and turned away.
Walking on the streets I noticed that everyone was looking at me, and every time that I tried to get close to someone they would just leave. After visiting Banana Republic, I went to Victoria’s Secret store. Most of the sales person looked at me weird. They said hi and turned away. At the moment that I was on the line to pay for a lotion that I bought I just received looks from everyone that was there. The guy that was on the register did not say hi. I felt he was scary. The only thing he said is swipe your card. I did not even receive the tissue paper in the bag. He tried to help me as fast as he could. I felt I was not welcome there.
Later, I went to Sephora and again people were looking at me weird. The lady that works there was fixing something on the display and I noticed she felt uncomfortable with me standing up next to her side. She was looking at me every 2 seconds.
After visiting all these stores, I walked a little bit more on the streets. I asked to a guy who works for the city to take a picture of me. He said okay, but he was so scary of me wearing the veil on my entire face that he could not take a picture that was not blurry. He was shaking his hands and he kept looking at me when I was leaving.
Day 2: Sunday, November 25, 2012
Location: Cabo Cantina, Marina Del Rey
My reaction: I think this was the day that I felt the most uncomfortable person in the world. The fact that I went to a bar and everyone stare at me was horrible. I could not look to people sitting around me. I was just wanted hide under that veil and get out of there as soon as possible. It was a weird felling.
People’s reaction: The next day I went to a bar with my boyfriend. When he saw me he could not believe what he was seeing. He was like wow, you look really scary. The only thing he said that was nice is that I should wear more make up that way. He said my eyes were beautiful. I think it was a little too much for me, since I only wear make-up when I go out and even though is not as black as this one. For the entire time that I was at home, he was like I can’t believe you are going out like that. He was kidding but at the same time I felt that I was brave. He said I was a great actress, because I was not just dressing different, but I was like another person.
As soon as we got to the bar, they asked for my id. It was funny because on my id I don’t have my head covered up, so the guy looked the picture and look at me like three times, to make sure I was that one on the ID.
When we were at the door, he was telling me that everyone was looking at me. I could look up; I was so embarrassed that day that I was looking down. I felt so uncomfortable. I just wanted leave that place as soon as possible, but since it was happy hour, we had to stay a little bit to enjoy the margaritas. lol
When I asked for a drink, the waitress look at me and repeated what I said. She said: “Did you say margaritas?”, and I said yes, balancing my head.
At that time we were there, there was this deal, when you order one drink and get the second one for free. When she came back there were four drinks on our table, all in front of me.
I noticed that a lot of people was looking at me to see if I was going to drink and I did. I had one margarita and a half. We also ordered some appetizers and stayed there for a while. Our friend went there to see us and we ended up staying there for about four hours.
Day 3: Monday, November 26, 2012
Location: At my friend’s house and talking to my parents on skype
For the last day I went to visit my friend. She had no idea of what I was doing, and when she opened the door she looked at me and did not recognize for a second. When I said hi, it’s me. She asked me where I was going and I told her that I just came to visit her. She started laughing and said ok Aline, you can take out your costume, and you look so weird wearing this outfit. I just said not today. She thought I was kidding, but when she realized that I was not going to change, she was a little worry about me. When I noticed that she was treating me different I had to tell her about the projct.
Later at the same day when I went back home I decided to go back home, I call my parents on skype. I usually talk to them every week. When they saw me on the camera, they could not believe.
The first thing my dad said was:
“ Wow! What is this Aline?! You became vegetarian not too long ago and now you are telling me that you are changing religion too? What is going on with you. OMG! And then my mom on the other side, she was just hearing and when she saw me, she was like why are you dressing like that? And blah blah blah…
I liked the idea of “changing religion” and I started telling them that I how important is covering yourself and how much society respect you and everything else you can imagine. I was definitely having fun.
My mom said I was crazy and she could not believe in what I was saying.
After 30 minutes, she called my brother to tell what was going on with me. And my brother saw me; he started laughing so much and I could not lie anymore. I started laughing with him. I had to say that I had a lot of fun talking to them that day.
I realize that depending how you dress society will treat you different. It’s was weird being rejected and avoid by society. I really did not like the felling of being a middle east women, especially because I could not be who I really am.