In Saudi Arabia the latest craze is “numbering”. Cars full of young men chase cars in which young women are being driven and get close enough to bluetooth their mobile number and email address. This is from a fascinating piece in the New York Times this morning about the hormonally challenged young people of Saudi Arabia.
Though it is as near to hand as the offices they pass each morning on the way to college, or the majlis, a traditional home reception room, where their fathers and brothers entertain friends, the men’s world is so remote from them that some Saudi girls resort to disguise in order to venture into it.
At Prince Sultan University, where Atheer Jassem al-Othman, 18, is a first-year law student, a pair of second-year students recently spent a mid-morning break between classes showing off photographs of themselves dressed as boys.
In the pictures, the girls wore thobes, the ankle-length white garments traditionally worn by Saudi men, and had covered their hair with the male headdresses called shmaghs. One of the girls had used an eyeliner pencil to give herself a grayish, stubble-like mist along her jaw line. Displayed on the screens of the two girls’ cellphones, the photographs evoked little exclamations of congratulation as they were passed around.
Could it be that sex is the chink in the armor of the fundamentalist faith of the Saudis? Although the girls in the article make lip service to the importance of the religious police, they are clearly spending a lot of time and psychic energy trying to be like normal hormonal teenagers.