That’s how long it has taken for everyone to forget I’m wearing a scarf and interactions to go back to normal. True, there are still a few double takes – it’s a big Institute, and I haven’t crossed paths with everyone yet, but in my lab, everyone’s basically used to the idea and has moved on. Which is nice.
As for me, it turns out that it’s taken about four days for me to reach the point where I can go for long periods of time without remembering that I’m wearing a scarf. It’s not that I’ve been wandering around feeling self-conscious at all times up until now – though for the first three days, and especially on Monday, I was certainly self-conscious pretty often – but today I found that I’d become so used to the feel of my scarf that I had to check visually several times that I was still wearing it and wasn’t leaving hair or neck exposed (the horror!). My brain is now tuning out all those nerve endings that were jumping up and down going “Something on my head! Something on my cheek! Something on my neck!” for the last few days, and this is apparently the new normal.
This does, of course, lead to random moments of confusion when someone reacts to my scarf and at first I don’t know what they are reacting to – or moments of fear when I realise that I have forgotten what I’m wearing and have thus also forgotten to think about where I am, and have to do a quick “Is this somewhere I feel safe wearing a scarf” analysis. Because the thing that hasn’t stopped is the constant, low-level anxiety about being out in public and looking Non-White. Even though, I have to say, the worst I’ve had to deal with since Saturday is people moving away from me on public transport or glaring at me at tram stops.
(And I’d just like to add that while this is really very low-grade stuff, I can imagine that it’s the sort of thing that could really build up and start to weigh on one’s psyche over time. I was bullied at school, and it took me years to walk into a room and not expect everyone to hate me on sight – I still expect this sometimes – and I must admit, getting onto public transport in Hijab does feel a lot like walking into my year nine classroom.)
This is going to be a bit of a pot-pourri post, because today was much the same as yesterday – the only difference was that I went to my singing lesson after work, which meant actually going into the city briefly, but I’m pleased to say that I seemed to blend into the crowd about as much as I usually do.
This is not the case at work, of course.
One thing I’m finding fascinating is the different responses of men and women I work with. Don’t get me wrong, people of both genders are still being lovely. But there are definitely gender-based differences in how men and women interact with me. The women I work with who know why I’m wearing the scarf are treating it more or less like a new haircut – I’m getting the sorts of friendly, complimentary comments about colour, style and maintenance that I got when I died my hair a bright colour a few months back. And then, invariably, talk turns to the convenience of bad hair days and a scarf.
(For the record, I washed my hair last night. I re-did the colour. I made my hair beautiful. And then today? I had a Bad Scarf Day, in which my hair was continually escaping, my scarf was randomly bunching up by my ear, the folds wouldn’t sit flat, my pins persisted in attacking me, everything itched – you name it, if it was annoying, my scarf was doing it.
But underneath it, I was having a great hair day. I can tell, because I took my scarf off when I got home, and my hair looked awesome.)
Today I wore my Hijab at work.
I set my alarm nice and early, just in case I had a repeat of yesterday’s Hijab debacle, but the stars aligned in my favour, and I had my Hijab pinned and looking lovely in under five minutes. Yay, I’m getting the hang of the Hijab thing! Also, I could get to work early and sneak in before anyone saw me!
Of course, halfway down the road, my scarf started coming un-pinned. Guess who pinned her scarf to her hair again? So I ducked into the bathroom at the railway station to re-pin myself, hoping that a woman wearing a scarf going to hide in the bathroom immediately on arriving at a station wouldn’t look like I was trying to plant a bomb or something. (Yes, I was feeling a bit paranoid.)
Anyway, I got to work very early, and got a full-body double-take from the receptionist, which was fairly hilarious, so I gave her my spiel: No, I haven’t converted, this is in solidarity with Muslim women who have been attacked for wearing Hijab, etc. And then I went straight up to my desk, and posted an email to everyone on my floor:
No, I haven’t converted. I’m wearing a headscarf this week because a woman was beaten up on my train line recently for wearing hijab. In response to this, and some similar incidents, a number of non-Muslim women have decided to wear a scarf in solidarity.
(so you don’t have to look at me strangely and wonder if you should say anything…)
Have a good week!