Is there such a thing as normal?

In the short story My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears, Mohja Khaf describes the process of a Muslim woman preparing herself for the prayer wudu, which she prays five times a day, in the bathroom of a Sears retail store. As the story progresses, we see Americans in the store are angered that she is putting her feet in the sink of the bathroom as a means of cleansing them. My question is this, what is the true, fundamental reason the Americans become so irritated with the grandmothers actions? Khaf writes, “a contamination of American Standards by something foreign and unhygienic” (Khaf, 1). Although it may seem gross to put your feet in a pubic bathroom sink, is it truly unhygienic? Is it any different than putting your hands that have touched the germs of hundreds of surfaces within a given day in the sink? Not to mention the grandmother also stated,”We wash our feet five times a day, my grandmother declares hotly in Arabic. My feet are cleaner than their sink. Worried about their sink, are they? I should worry about my feet!” (Khaf, 2). It is also safe to assume the Americans in the store rattled by this aren’t even going to touch the sink, use the sink, or even let alone, use the bathroom at all. No, the Americans are infuriated purely because a woman of foreign decent is practicing a religion not of their own in a place where they are. Although I don’t believe we can presume these Americans as racists or Muslim haters, we can say that they don’t view these actions as “normal” and therefore they are made uncomfortable by them. However, to the Arabic grandma she is doing nothing wrong and her actions are normal to her. After all, she prayers like this five times a day everyday. This leads me to my final statement that what is normal to one person, may not be normal to the other. Especially in a day and age were globalization and cultural diversity is bigger than ever, we must be more open to change and respect others perspectives.

2 thoughts on “Is there such a thing as normal?

  1. I agree with Jack’s statement that what is normal to one person may not be normal to another. I find it interesting that the idea of washing feet is found unappealing by the Americans in the bathroom because the United States is a nation made up of many different cultural backgrounds. The land we currently live in is a location meant for different nationalities to share their different traditions and respect one another. The short story, My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears, truly conveys Jack’s idea that Americans do not like things that do not follow the ordinary custom. People in the United States have this mentality that everything must be normal or else you are considered too bizarre to the point it seems weird. The quote “an affront to American porcelain” demonstrates that Americans are so strict about their standards that they care so much to go out of their way to frown at someone who is not harming anyone and simply just washing their feet for prayer. We, citizens of America, should challenge this idea that society should follow every standard and instead be ourselves. Not each and every one of us is the same and we must respect the idea of being different and unique.

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