- “You need to be careful.”
- “Think this through, it could be dangerous.”
- “Be careful where you go.”
- “This might not be a good idea.”
The words played on shuffle in my mind, as I did what women have done daily for thousands of years.
I carefully veiled myself. I covered my head in reverence and modesty. Finally.
After weeks of research and preparation- (and maybe some avoidance) It’s time to move into the chapter about the religious differences that separate us. First up: Muslims and Christians.
Bummer: Shoes are pretty much a free for all in Muslim tradition. There are no “Muslim Shoes” to step into. (I looked. Since you’re suppose to be covered the ankle- shoes don’t so much matter, I suppose. Recommendation from Muslim friends: keep heels under 3″. So my platforms are out. Got it. If you have suggestions- post them in comments, unless of course, you’re a spammer.) Instead of shoes– I’ve chose to wear a hijab for this part of the project.
There are wide familial and cultural variances here, as well. So, I settled on a fairly traditional style: Hair and neck covered completely. Body covered to wrists and ankles. Nothing revealing or,tight. I went with a black maxi-skirt, long sleeved round neck t shirt with a floral dress over it for color, black headscarf and well- Uggs- because it was a bazillion degrees below zero here in Michigan yesterday.
Since I live in a very diverse area- I decided to first wear the Hijab in the rural town, near where our cottage is. I think it’s a little more representational of most of the US. (The area I live in is very close to one of the largest Muslim communities outside of the Middle East.
I also figured it would be a pretty good place to bump into the prejudices commonly held against Muslims in America. Let’s just say- camouflage isn’t just for hunting out there. It’s a lifestyle and political statement. (? I just made that up.)
Thoughts before I left the cottage:
“Yes, I know it’s dumb to style my hair then smoosh it under a veil. I’m doing it anyway. Because: Me.”
“I better research ways to make my ears look less Ross Perot in a Hijab-like.” (Just keeping it real. FYI: Pinterest has loads of ideas for Hijab styling.)
“What if people are nasty? Could I actually be attacked?”
“What if people are offended?”
Instead of going back online to figure out a solution to the radar dish ear problem, I headed to Walmart. For pepper spray. Because people who love me were concerned for my safety. And maybe because I thought it would hold a high concentration of people who might not like the idea of a woman in a Hijab in their community.
Interesting fact: pepper spray is kept in the vicinity of the gun section at Walmart. So, not only did I go in in a Hijab. I also went straight back to the gun section. Oops.
I set out committed to being my normal- I talk to everyone- self as a test to see if people would respond differently while I was veiled. (Once in a while I get a cold shoulder- but, I generally find people are usually as friendly to me as I am to them.)
So-I talked to every outdoorsman and woman shopping at Walmart. And they talked back. I asked the fishermen how the fish were biting. Dudes in camo with fishing lures on their hats are a pretty safe bet to be fishermen. (FYI: It’s too cold. They’re waiting for the weather to play nice before they hit the ice.) I talked to every momma with a little one in her cart- fussing or happy- like always. And: they responded as per the norm.
Honestly? I was a little disappointed. No confrontations.
There were a few not so nice sideways glances from youngish guys. But honestly? They could have been motivated by anything from my Uggs to the Hijab. Who knows?
As I paid for my pretty in pink pepper spray, I realized I’d already run into my first prejudice.
I fully expected my “redneck and proud” neighbors to be angry and mean to a woman in a Hijab. I was quite possibly the most prejudiced woman at Walmart yesterday. I hate that.
Next- I went to lunch. Interesting fact? There were NO halal friendly restaurants. I went to Applebees. Because: I’m not actually Muslim. I experienced: not even a funny look.
So I headed to the mall. Where I did get a few mean looks. But nothing more than that. However, I honestly can’t remember the last time I went to a mall and didn’t. Malls are kind of mean-girl electro-magnets. I’m a middle aged over-weight chick. Nasty looks happen at the mall. I ignore them. However- These felt like they were more about the Hijab- than just the standard-me looking like a dork- looks.
I wish I had a mind reading device.
Interesting fact: the looks were mostly from men- not mean-girls. (They were probably all in school. Duh. I just realized middle of the day on a week day- not so much high mall traffic time.)
Finally- I headed to a yarn shop. (Because: yarn.) I was so warmly welcomed and the owner was so helpful and friendly that realized this shop will be my cottage- yarn shop.
Moral Dilemma: After 20 minutes of random chatting- I felt like they’d feel misled when I come in next time without a Hijab.
So I outed myself.
This project isn’t about misleading people or setting them up. It’s about finding out what it’s really like to walk a few miles in the shoes of Hijabista momma. The women there were gracious and interested. They were also honest- there are probably places where I’d run into some prejudice (Walmart being a strong possibility- sorry, Walmart.) but that the area has changed over the years to be more diverse.
I thanked them for their candid sharing and happily took my yarn good back to the cottage.
Interesting first day facts: ( Yes- first day-I’ll be repeating this in other situations and areas to get a more rounded experience.)
- While veiled, as I was yesterday- I noticed that people really look at your face when talking to them. Apparently cleavage and even neckage and hair can be quite distracting. Who knew?
- Hijab’s are rather toasty and considerably prettier than a ski mask on -15 degree days.
- Not all red necks are bigots. (Duh. I know. I’m slow.)
- Some people are.
- Like me. I’m still a bigot. (sigh. seriously- bigotry is like an onion- you uncover one layer and find another. At least I’m working on it- who knew the layer I’d uncover yesterday would be one about rednecks? Not me.)
- Moms love to be complimented on their babies regardless of what you’re wearing.
- When looking to uncover bigotries and prejudices- starting in the mirror is a good place.
Dear Lord- You know how complicated these issues are. You know how deeply seated prejudices can be. I ask you to continue to uncover and confront mine. Forgive me for all the assumptions and prejudices I’ve allowed to become walls to keep others out- others you’ve called me to love. My neighbors. All of them. From the mommy-hood to the neighborhood. I love you lord- and will continue to text the next steps-in the shoes of others.
In Jesus name- amen.
What really struck me day 1:
Many people cautioned me to be careful- hence the pepper spray. I’m not sure if their cautioning or my own fear made me nervous- but I was.
What if every day- I felt at risk of attack or persecution because of my faith? (I know this IS a fact in many areas for Christians. Not so much for me, at least not on a daily basis. I wear my faith in my heart and in my words and actions because it’s part of who I am. But- walking past me in Walmart in my typical wardrobe? It would be hard to see.
Along with reverence and modesty- it must require a certain amount of bravery to veil in the US. Especially on certain- horrifying news days. 🙁
Do Muslim women feel this way? Or, is it just me?
Do they feel the need to carry pepper spray for their own safety?
And: finally-How sad is that- in America.
A country that set out to be a place of [religious] freedom and respite.
For new readers: Welcome. Please click the tab that says “A Mile In Her Shoes” To find out more about my book project. This is about ending the Mommy Wars- they happen on so many fronts. This is just one aspect I’m covering. (No pun intended;)