The other day, we were walking through Target. Looking at the various displays. Admiring the exciting temptations that are available. We had the goal of exchanging a piece for our GoPro camera. It was a simple adventure.
We were walking. I thought nothing of it. I was a few paces behind him. He was looking at one display; I another. We continued through the store. After a while, there was a tension. Being the ignorant individual that I can be, I did not notice what was off. I am painfully oblivious sometimes and do not notice stuff immediately.
We finished our exchange at Target. We snapped a smidgen at one another, for I had made a snarky remark that was borderline inappropriate. He was displeased with me. I stormed around (rather childishly, if I do say so myself), following behind him. Once we were back in the car, he expressed his displeasure and explained what was bothering him. (For we are in a relationship where we are very big on communication.)
It was not my attitude. It was not, as I thought, my looking at displays and being too slow. It was not anything I thought. No. He was bothered by the fact that I was following behind him, even when he tried to pause to walk beside me.
In some Arabic cultures, it is customary for women to walk behind their men. He had witnessed it countless times. He gave a vague explanation, which matched some of the research I did later. A woman is to follow her man. He is the leader; she is the follower. He did not like it or approve of that. I was oblivious to this. I did not even realize what I was doing and what it could symbolize. He did not want people to look at us and see an Arabic man with his woman following three paces behind him. He did not want people to place that label on us. He did not want anything negative to come out of it.
I am his equal. I am his partner. I am his supporter. I am not below him or anything of the sort. He is not better than me. I do not need to follow him. That is his request. Do not walk behind me. Walk with me. We are one.