Holy Cleavage, Batman!

New York, NY, USA

As I’ve written before, reverse culture shock strikes differently every time I come home. I’d been mentally preparing for my return to the United States for months before it happened. This time I thought I was ready for American fashion, tank tops and short skirts. I’d even walked around Cairo with Mohannad in a knee-length skirt on my last night in Egypt. I was even prepped for Daisy Duke’s.

What I wasn’t ready for at all was cleavage! As much as 6 or 8 inches of it sticking out of necklines. Not just teenagers and young adults in full mating plumage, but professionals in pencil skirts and business-like pumps. Even my colleagues at the Teaching Fellows, where we’re all on probation for the summer and “professional dress” is one of our measures of success, sometimes surprise me with the amount of cleavage they see as professional. I realize I’m not in the Middle East anymore, but we’re still teaching teenagers, half of them hormonal boys, the other half girls in search of good role models.

Nor was I prepared for the prevalence of tattoos. Not just the discreet little shoulder blade or ankle tattoo, or the ubiquitous tramp stamp. I’m talking professionals on the train with tattoos on their forearms or the inside of the wrist, on the collarbone, behind the ear, curling around the bicep below the hem of a modest short sleeve.

I feel so out of touch!

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