My new favorite dress is one my dear Emirati friend (called Sunshine here) picked out for me. Actually Sunshine picked it out for herself, but it "needs a taller person," she said as she handed it to me in a shop in Abu Dhabi the other day.
It is a clingy, short-sleeved, knit dress in pink, black, and white. It has a deep v-neck in front and back, and it goes to the knee. Much sexier than my usual style. I could easily imagine an Emirati lady wearing this dress with her female friends; the women of the Gulf whom I've met are deeply feminine and stylish and love to dress up. But I wasn't sure I had the nerve to wear this kind of dress in my mixed-gender social gatherings.
Now our cultural style differences were confronting me head-on.
"I think it's too small," I said.
"Try it on," she said. Sunshine was covered -as usual when in public - in one of her elegant black abayas and shaylas.
I did. The dress was lovely, but I couldn't see wearing it further than my living room: it hugged my torso like a super-long girdle. The deep v-neck seemed to show more of me than any bathing suit I'd ever owned.
I opened the dressing-room door just a crack to show Sunshine, who was waiting patiently. She looked me over with her lovely dark eyes.
"Beautiful. Buy it," she said.
I bought it, not wanting to hurt Sunshine's feelings. But I'm glad I did: I wore it last night, to a fancy cocktail party on the water at a beautiful Abu Dhabi hotel. It was a perfect evening, weatherwise, and noone seemed scandalized by my attire, be he Emirati or westerner.
In the end, it seemed the perfect dress for a party in a cosmopolitan city.
Perhaps I'm advancing from merely admiring the stylish people around me to gaining the confidence to be stylish myself. The Abu Dhabi adventure continues.