Who moved my hijab?
Do I write too much about the hijab? For most of my life, my hair flowed wild and free. Growing up in New York City I donned a hat during cold, frigid winters when going out uncovered was risky. Hats keep in body heat, or so it is said. In temperate weather, wearing a hat added to my stylish, cool look. I wore thrift shop specials but no one seemed to notice. As a jogger, a hat with a brim shielded my face from the sun or sometimes rain. Biking through the maddening streets of Manhattan was always precarious. A helmet, despite squishing my hairdo, offered a modicum of protection in the event of a collision with a kamikaze taxi driver rushing through the streets. My head would be safe even if the rest of my body would be in shreds. Now that I’m a covered woman, the whole hijab remains a learning experience.
Between the 15 minutes it took to drive from my apartment to the Masjid one day, my hijab moved. By itself, I think not. Pushed aside by gust of wind? Hardly the case. I live in Phoenix where it’s summer almost all year round so I drive with the windows shut to enjoy the coolness of air-conditioning. Plus closed windows keep the flies out. I hate driving with a pesky fly buzzing around the car. Talk about distractions. Trying to shoo a fly out the window is more of a distraction than texting while driving. Enough about flies, really. Hijabs are more interesting than flies. What happened to my hijab that day? I’m a new convert so picking up the ins and outs of the hijab is a new and different challenge. Muslim women look cool in hijabs. Wearing one comes easy because their mothers taught them the skill as they grew up. We converts are on our own. I’m at a further disadvantage because of a traumatic brain injury from a pedestrian car accident in 1994. As I walked my two dogs after work one January day, a careless driver whacked me with his car. Ran me over, sending me to a two month hospital stay. Just like that my life changed. Picking up new and different skills often sends me into hissy fits because I just cannot remember what to do. The recall part of my brain took a beating. Long ago I could’ve given up but I didn’t. I made peace with my disability. Now I’ll master the hijab, every aspect of it.
I soon found out the hijab is a two-step process. There is an under-scarf besides the hijab. I thought it had an exotic name. It doesn’t; it’s simply called an under-scarf. A sister gave me two as gifts after my conversion. I wanted more, in different colors. This is the US and under-scarves aren’t a hot selling item like cell phones, shoes or beer. On an unusually brisk, windy day I drove to a recommended store, the African Market. They sold all kinds of Islamic attire in addition to food. As soon as I opened the car door, a gust of wind smacked me, nearly sent my hijab flying off my head. It flapped this way and that. I had to yank the scarf that wrapped around face. Thankfully I wasn’t driving. With my hijab finally under control, I composed myself. I walked into the store looking like the mature Muslim woman I am. The owner, an older Ethiopian sister, proudly showed off her collection. There was an under-scarf for women with long hair that had a pouch on top. Not for me. I don’t have enough hair. I selected the style for ladies with shorter hair; one pink, one blue. After settling my meager bill, we chatted for a while then I left.
Every Friday for prayer service, I arrive early and park at the outer edge of the big, dusty lot, even though I have disabled license plates that allow me to occupy a space closer to the mosque. I prefer the distance so I have time and a little privacy to fix myself. My hijab invariably loosens itself in the short drive from home. Honestly, I don’t know what happens. I see other sisters with pins holding their hijabs in place. Like a dutiful Muslim I purchased a pack of tasteful pins from Joanne Fabrics. So far I’ve only managed to stick myself in the head. Ouch, that hurts. I’ve failed to hold my headscarf in its proper place. InshaAllah one day I’ll celebrate that accomplishment.
Then there are my pesky hairs. Gray hairs. My hair is now gray. I always refused to color it. I still do although hardly anyone sees it. But now and then irksome little hairs stick out despite my efforts to put on the perfect head scarf. I thought of shaving my head but that’s an extreme response. What’ll I look like on a ladies night out? A freak, a weirdo. I ditched that idea and put more effort into mastering the headscarf. I bought hair pins at Sally Beauty Supply. That seems to do the trick. At least so far.
You’ve come a long way baby. That was a signature line for a TV ad years ago for Virginia Slims, a brand of cancer sticks aimed at killing women. From the day I first wore a hijab in 2013, looking like a hapless dork, to now after my conversion in 2015, I’ve come a long way. I own so many hijabs (gifts from sisters) that I have two drawers full. There are prints, soft colors, short and long ones. I probably will never wrap a hijab around my head with the same deftness, speed and skill as a woman born into Islam but I’ve come a long way. At most public events, sisters don’t feel compelled to fix my headwear any more to help me avoid embarrassment. I probably look good, maybe not great but good. I’m OK with that. Maybe next time I drive to the mosque I won’t have to ask, who moved my hijab because it will finally stop moving itself. I can say I’ve finally arrived.