Thursday, February 26, 2009

The other day I spent some time with a French acquaintance. I noticed that as soon as we sat down, we both crossed our legs, and I wondered if she had had to think about it for a minute like I had. In Cameroon, it is rude to cross your legs (knee on knee or especially ankle on knee) in most situations. As I understand it, only the most important person in the room has the right to do so. This would only be a woman if there were no men present. (Yes, it galls me, but it would do me no good to give offense.) As a White male, Paul is usually pretty safe and doesn’t have to think about it much. (Yes, that’s upsetting, too, but we have somewhat adapted to the automatic status that our skin color gives us here.) I could do it when only women were in the room, but as a courtesy I try to do so only with good friends. The real problem for both of us is in Church. No one is greater than God, goes the thinking, so it is very rude – sacrilegious, even – to cross your legs in church. If that doesn’t sound so bad, remember that we are often sitting for hours on low, backless benches. Knowing that we can’t cross our legs makes the urge to do so almost unbearable.

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