Shame, sin and a strap

I am walking in the neighbourhood park.
Not for pleasure, but exercise.
I am striding along, trying not to puff and pant.
Thinking of those damn 10,000-steps-a-day that I never seem to do.
Thinking that I must get my cardio rate up, get those endorphins going.
Walking and trying to avoid the others on the path.
The burqa-clad women around me talk noisily,
Some are there to walk seriously, but most are not.
They sit there, like beady-eyed beetles, watching, looking, and to my mind, judging.
So do the men.
No, let me rephrase that.
Many people in the park are there simply because they have nothing else to do.
Or perhaps this is where they see life pass them by.
Where they see what ifs and what might have beens.
Where they see happiness that could have been theirs.
Where they see lives shaped by both circumstance and choice.

In the park, the ones who are not walking desultorily, chat and hang around.
The serious runners impatiently overtake the rest of  us slower mortals.
Suddenly, a voice rings out: Excuse me!
A burqa-clad woman, sitting on a bench.
She looks at me meaningfully, fingers pointing.
What on earth, I wonder. Then I look down at my right shoulder.
My bra strap is showing.
Just a little bit.
My exercise bra is also showing.
But perhaps that is not such a terrible thing.
I stop. I am humiliated, I admit.
This woman has been sitting there, looking me up and down, and she has noticed my BRA STRAP!
Thank you, I tell her quietly.
And quickly slip my strap under my long, loose t-shirt.

I walk away from her, as fast as I can.
In my head, I am furious with myself.
Why didn't I say, "My strap doesn't bother me, the way it obviously bothers you".
Why didn't I ignore her?
Why didn't I just walk on?
I should have, but I didn't.
She made me feel all gauche, not grown up.
Like I did something wrong.
Like I was in the wrong.

No matter. I am going back to that park.
Wearing something tighter, shorter.
I hope my straps will show. 
And I hope that woman will see. 

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