Day two in Hijab

Today began with me attempting to get dressed.

Oh, my.

First, of course, the weather was quite hot, so there was the question of what I could wear with my Hijab.  While my Hijab teacher had told me that short sleeves were OK, I don’t think I’ve actually seen short sleeves worn with the Hijab around here, and it felt sort of wrong.  But looking in my wardrobe, I discovered that I could choose between loose, sleeveless tops, or tops with sleeves that were quite tight.  The two tops that I know I own that fall into the category of ‘not too loose but with some sleeve, at least’ were mysteriously missing.

Eventually, I found something that sort of worked – it involved layers – and moved on to attempting my scarf.

And once again, oh my.  Now, part of the problem here is vanity.  I liked how the scarf looked yesterday.  And I wanted to wear something that went with my outfit.  But it turns out that when my Hijab teacher had advised me that cotton scarves are easier, she was, if anything, understating the truth.  I went five rounds with my red, chiffon-ish scarf and three with a silk scarf, before admitting defeat and returning to my original scarf combo.  Which still took me ten minutes to get (mostly) right.  It also required more pins when I did it.

Total time to get dressed this morning?  An hour and fifteen minutes…

Today was mostly a day for pottering around, doing a little washing, a little shopping, finally planting those seeds I’ve been feeling guilty about, and so forth.  I went to my local cafe for lunch, though, which was… strange.  It’s always a very comfortable, friendly place to eat, and it still is, but the waiter evidently wasn’t quite sure how to react to my scarf, and then over-compensated for feeling awkward by being super nice and polite, while carefully not saying anything about it.  I tried to be normal at him, and he eventually calmed down, but it was both sweet and funny and a little bit alienating seeing someone react to the scarf and not to me.  Especially as I’m pretty sure that’s exactly the way I react when I see a woman in a scarf, too.

(I think perhaps the next time someone reacts like that, I might tell them why I’m wearing it.  The reaction is clearly one of awkward good intentions that don’t know how to express themselves, and perhaps that’s exactly the sort of person who might be interested in building community with our Muslim neighbours.)

Nothing else of note, except that gardening in a flowing scarf is not practical – but I didn’t dare take it off, as I had friends coming to dinner, and was a bit worried it would take me half an hour to put it on again!

By the afternoon, I had succumbed to the heat and found a short sleeved T shirt that was loose enough to satisfy my feelings about what went with a veil.  What I found interesting, though, was how aware I suddenly was of my bare arms, and how uncomfortable I was with them.

One of the friends who was visiting us is also wearing Hijab this week (in fact, she was before I was), but can’t get out as easily as I can, so she had asked me to get her a headband and help her with wrapping her scarf.  So we wound up having a Hijab lesson, into which my other female friend was also co-opted.  This was quite amusing, mostly because I have a very good memory for everything my Hijab teacher told me, but am very, very bad at reproducing it.

It was also interesting that I found that I was not comfortable demonstrating Hijab on myself while my friend’s husband was in the room.  Again, it seems that I have somehow internalised the idea that my hair, neck and shoulders are currently private.  I honestly find this very, very strange.

The thing I’m finding most fascinating about this whole Hijab thing is how it feels from the inside.  I started it very definitely out of solidarity, but I’m actually finding that I really, really like being covered like this.  Partly, I like how it looks aesthetically speaking (please, someone, bring headscarves into fashion so that I can wear them without having to explain my politics!).  Partly, I’m the sort of person who likes long skirts and tunics anyway, so, with the exception of my hot weather clothing, there is little adjustment in my way of dressing.  But I think the main reason is that I’ve always lived more in my head than in my body, so dressing in a way that really emphasises my face, and leaves the rest as a blur of surrounding colour actually feels very congruent with who I am.

I’m going to have to think about that a bit more.

In the meantime, I’ve decided that I will wear my Hijab to work tomorrow.  Two reasons, really.  One is that so many of my colleagues expressed support on Facebook when I posted my picture that I feel as though it was almost be cheating not to (I have believed for a long time that I have the best colleagues in the world, and this is nice confirmatory evidence).  And the other?  I’ve spoken in person to six Muslim women about what I’m doing.  In every case, when I first said I was wearing it out of solidarity, their eyes lit up – and then when I said that I really didn’t think I could wear it to work, there was a definite look of sadness before they said all the right, supportive things.  It seems that this means a lot to people.

Of course, I’m already tensing at the idea of having to explain to so many people why I’m doing this.  It’s rather ironic that a mode of dress that I find so comfortable precisely because it feels so private and safe also makes one so incredibly, painfully visible.

“No, I haven’t converted to Islam.  I’m wearing this scarf because a woman was beaten up on my train line recently because she was wearing Hijab, and so a number of us have decided to wear Hijab for a week to express our solidarity with Muslim women.  There’s a Facebook page about it if you are interested.”

Not the full story, perhaps, but concise enough that I can hopefully repeat it without stammering.

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