I have a stripper name.
Not as porn-ish as Chocolate Delight or Twilight Sparkle (Fun fact- those are My Little Pony names- There goes your innocent childhood); But you will find "Crystal" right between "Cookie" and "Cuddles" on many a "Top Stripper Names" list.
Why do I know this? Because my sister's names are always right behind mine... "Amber", "Tiffany" and "Holly". So between the four of us... we know.
Contrary to my racy 1980's name I'm the kind of gal you would find full moo-moo and parka at the beach long before I'd take the stage in my skimpies.
So how did I end up sans top in a conservative Muslim country?
Kind of by accident.
My friend and I decided to check out a local bathhouse (Hammam). I entered those doors with an iron clad grip on both parts of my bikini; but upon arriving a nice lady handed me a caddie that, along with shower shoes and scrubby tools, included a nice a wrap top.
The top was cute so I wore it instead.
My friend and I were led down a tiled hallway and I was feeling really good about this whole bathing in public bit.... Until a matronly and somewhat formidable woman named Fatima unceremoniously ripped off my top and flung me into a steam room with a group of startled looking tourists.
They were also topless. They were also uncomfortable.
(Especially the girl who had to give up her bottoms for some unknown reason... She sat awkwardly, full Garden of Eden on a marble stool while the rest of us got doused in hot mud and wrapped in crime scene plastic.)
But here's the thing. We were the only ones who felt weird about it.
The women running the Hammam would normally be wearing a head scarf and be covered wrists to ankles. Here, they were dressed in tank tops and shorts while happily chatting and scrubbing down naked women. It was a beautiful thing.
Sometimes coming from a conservative (western) religion (as I do) we have a hard time with the distinction between nudity and sexuality.
My experience with nudity as an artist and as a newly inducted member of the "travel to exotic places and end up naked in public" club, has in fact been one of reverence. While drawing or painting from the nude form isn't a worship of the subject, it feels like a worship of the God who created it. It can be a humbling and spiritually intimate experience.
As for my Moroccan adventure, I will forever love those women who could have cared less what our bodies look like or that we were naked; Women who show respect for the human body and compassion for the woman that goes with it.
p.s. Mom and Dad- I love you and my stripper name.
p.s.s. Stick around and I'll eventually tell you about the first time I accidentally ended up topless while traveling with the same friend. (Hint.. it involved small Chinese women and a "No Hanky Panky" Sign.
Mannequins in Rabbat, Morocco