Soon after I was married I went on a medical mission to Morocco. At 5’10,” with my fair skin, blond hair, and air of American independence, I turned heads wherever I went. I was constantly approached, called to, whistled at, and admired by people on the street. The team decided that I should always walk next to one of my male colleagues to avoid getting stopped on every block.
I was interviewed for Moroccan TV about the medical mission, even though my role as child life specialist was far less important than say a life transforming plastic surgeon who had done hundreds of reconstructive surgeries. I’ll admit it was was strangely flattering to be the object of such attention. In light of this, my fellow team members affectionately dubbed me…Moroccan Dream Date Barbie (camel and Bedouin tent sold separately).
It was two weeks of sweet vindication for the many Friday nights spent hanging out at my apartment when it seemed like everyone else was out on a date. (Where was Morocco when I needed it?) I had never been a person known for the way I looked. I was never the girl with the great hair, or the really stylish clothes, or the one the whose phone number got jotted down on slips of paper at the end of a party or dance. I was known for being the smart girl (aka “the brain child” to my HS classmates) or the good girl, or the Mormon girl, but not the pretty girl.
While I have occasionally been hit on in airports, that is purely circumstantial and I do not consider it a compliment. Although I have been on the news twice in the US, it had everything to do with being in the right place at the right time and nothing to do with my face catching viewers attention. (Once because I happened to be at my local Exxon when they were doing a story on rising gas prices and the other time for having a baby right before Christmas and the hospital liked to stick them in stockings for a folksy holiday human interest story).
In Morocco, somewhere between the couscous and tasty tagines, and exquisitely rich pottery and rugs in the souk, I learned something about context and perspective. We tend to look at things only one way. We look at our friends one way, our spouse in one way, our children one way. We get comfortable with our clearly defined expectations of people. We rarely change our perspective. Others look through a different lens and see something totally different. There is something important, something empowering in getting beyond a singular label, in opening your eyes to view yourself and others in a new light. Even if it’s just the flattering light of a Moroccan lantern on a breezy desert evening.