At the end of her shift, our 50-something-year-old cleaner comes out of the bathroom with a huge grin on her face and says to me, “I go to church now. Do you like my shirt?” Being a bright and bubbly woman, she was near to bouncing around the kitchen, proud to be wearing a shirt her now-deceased, and well-loved, sister used to own.
She’s sporting a new blouse, patterned in reds and browns, a waved collar adorning her neck – not nearly as gruesome as most fashion here, and obviously a blouse for special occasions. That said, this particular top is transparent enough to showcase her black bra beneath it.
Entirely reflective of the constant paradox that is Vietnam: the current 30-40ish generation is devoutly abstinent and yet the women will wear what I can only call club attire to work, church, the grocery store, everywhere..
I’d have said this was only to be seductive, but it seems more of a commonplace absent-minded decision than the former. This, especially if my genuinely sweet, and rather religious, cleaner will wear a transparent top to church. Surely she isn’t trying to be seductive.
..Unless she’s planning on seducing her Pastor/Priest/Whatever.
Written by Bisha K. Ali, this is an accurate record of the life-long inundation of opposing ideas we are asked to fulfil/not fulfil. It is, very literally, a wonder we aren’t all diagnosed with schizophrenia and/or heavily self-medicating.
“You’re so adorable! You’re gonna be a heartbreaker one day. Your daughter’s so well behaved. Aren’t you pretty? If you give me a smile I’ll give you an extra one too. Do you like princesses? Girls aren’t ghostbusters, they’re princesses! You don’t like princesses? Aah you’re a tomboy, that’s cool too. Tomboys are always popular with the boys, but for the wrong reasons. If you want to get a boyfriend you’re better off not being a tomboy. Aren’t you a little young to be dating? Are you really going to wear that outfit? You’ll give people the wrong idea.
Why don’t you show off some skin? Dress a little nicer, that way you’ll be able to find someone. No one’s gonna notice you dressed like that. Never on a first date. What do you mean you don’t feel ready, this is the third date? Frigid bitch.
You fucked him on a first date? What a slut. Have you seen how she dresses? She’s begging for attention. You read comics? You must like all the attention you get from the guys. Oh you like videogames? It’s not gonna score you any points you know.
You can’t dress like that for work, too much leg and too much cleavage. You’re dressed inappropriately. “Aaah I’m so hungover, I got wasted last night and went home with this fit bird but I didn’t even get her name, haha.” Your outfit is distracting in the workplace. You’re gorgeous, I can’t believe you don’t have a boyfriend! You don’t have a boyfriend because you don’t take care of yourself. If you don’t love yourself, how will anyone ever love you?
I can’t date someone who has been with more people than me, or who makes more money than me. Are you taking contraception? I don’t want to deal with all of that, so you should take care of it. Why are you taking contraception? Is it cause you’re sleeping around? He’s not good enough for you, you’re way out of his league. Why are you so stuck up? You should care more about what’s on the inside. He’s stunning, he’s way out of your league. When are you going to settle down?
Congratulations on your engagement, do you think you’ll take his name? It’s traditional, some traditions are just nice to keep up. You’re not changing your name to his, are you? Aren’t you an independent, free thinking woman?
You don’t want kids? But being a mother is part of being a woman. A family isn’t complete without children, I have no idea why you wouldn’t want kids. You’re pregnant! That’s amazing. Did you plan it? Are you going to carry on working? So you’re going to be a stay at home Mum, huh? A housekeeper? Yeah they say it’s a “full time job.” You’re having a kid but you’re going to carry on with your career? Yeah, good luck with that. How can you abandon your children and let someone else raise them while you carry on working? People shouldn’t have kids if they can’t care for them.
Oh wow, she’s so adorable! She’s gonna be a heartbreaker some day.”