I said my next post would be about Ilimoskus. Quite evidently, this post is not about Ilimoskus. I am getting to it, though – honest! It’s just this matter took precedence for me on a personal level, and getting this post out the way means that I am now free to run through Ilimoskus Valley (there is such a place, by the way – the elementals told me so 😉 ). So. My next post will be about Ilimoskus (promise!), and I shall tell you something I should have mentioned like two months ago. I’m being my classic blue whale self again. But! Down to business.
This post is the product of something I have been thinking more about over the past few weeks or so. They are thoughts I would like to voice for one reason or another. Perhaps, it is merely a way for me to clarify and/or organise these very thoughts in my mind.
But this is also a rather personal post. I am going to be sharing things I have never really shared with people before. Gosh, aren’t you lucky folk 😉
The last thing I want to do is offend anyone who happens to read this, so please know that I am purely expressing my thoughts and opinions as fairly as I may, and, truly, I always refrain from judgement on the matter. You will find out why if you read on.
Now, where to start? This is surprisingly challenging to express. I shall start with this question: How many of you out there know a woman who wears a headscarf? To be honest, I am expecting most of you to say “None”, or at the very least, “A few”. I myself personally know two women who wear headscarves. They were old friends of mine. One was called Andrea; the other, Nadia. But why did they wear headscarves? And, if you do not know a woman who wears a headscarf, and thus cannot ask her, why do you think women wear headscarves? I believe it is fair to say that most people would link headscarves to religious connotations, no? Indeed, the women I have spoken to/seen who cover their hair, be it with a hijab or scarf or headband, do so for religious reasons. My old friend Nadia was a Muslim, and although she never wore a hijab to school, she did in her home life, and her sisters were also wearers of it. My old friend Andrea was a Plymouth Brethren who I never saw not wearing a headscarf. For those of you who don’t know, the Plymouth Brethren are a sect of Christians, and the women wear headscarves. There happened to be several families of Plymouth Brethren in the city I used to live in, and indeed, in my old house a family of Plymouth Brethren moved in opposite me, and I saw them going to and fro always in their headscarves. And, actually, when I moved farther west in the country, I had only been here for a few months when I travelled to a place called Snowdrop Valley, and on the hideously steep and muddy walk there I saw some Plymouth Brethren (would you believe it!) also making the journey. The women were wearing their headscarves and long skirts (not ideal when walking amongst nature at the best of times, I can assure you, but I imagine it is even less ideal in the mud) accompanied with walking boots. Good on them, though, I say! I feel I have digressed somewhat…
But, it is safe to say the vast majority of women don’t wear headscarves. And so, inevitably, those who do wear headscarves tend to stand out amongst others, purely because of a piece of fabric upon their heads. How do you feel about that? Does it matter? It matters if people judge them for it, most certainly. Or make assumptions.
One thing my mother always said to me when I was growing up was, “Never assume.”
I find it quite sad, in a way, how everyone makes the assumption that a woman wearing a full head covering must be a Muslim, no matter other external factors. Does it matter if she is wearing a headscarf, really? And, more importantly, does it matter if she’s a Muslim? But, of course, due to society’s warped perceptions of Islam, we wrongly judge or condemn the religion and culture. Perhaps, instead of judging from a distance, we should ask a Muslim woman why she covers and let her explain her reasoning. In this world, we seem to believe that we can know all the answers without ever asking a question. Okay, maybe a woman wears a headscarf for religious reasons. But maybe – just maybe – a woman wears a headscarf because she’s had hair loss due to illness. Or maybe – just maybe – a woman wears a headscarf because she wants to, because she likes it. Do any of those reasons matter? Do any of those reasons affect us in our day to day lives? Are any of those reasons more significant than the other? I’ll let you answer those.
But Muslims aren’t the only religious women to wear headscarves, you know. Clearly, some denominations of Christianity do, as I mentioned the Plymouth Brethren, and indeed, it was very commonplace for Christian women to cover their heads in some form in times gone by. Why did that change, I wonder? It stopped completely in the 1960s, I believe. I would love to know what happened there. There is a passage in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, that speaks of head coverings. I would like to know why Christians these days seem to conveniently skip over that part. And Jewish women wear headscarves too, don’t you know, called tichels. But headscarves are not a common sight in the western world, are they? No.
But why on earth have I been pondering endlessly about headscarves, and their significance (or indeed, lack of significance) recently? Because, my friends, I wear headscarves. But why do I wear them? Well. That is the question, isn’t it.
I have gradually been wearing them more and more frequently over time, hence why the subject has been more on my mind, I suppose. But I think, more than anything, the reason it has been on my mind is because I get so frustrated. About what? Not about wearing the headscarves themselves, not at all, but rather about other people. And then I get even more frustrated because I’m allowing myself to get frustrated with/by other people. Viscous circle. It’s the passing comments, you see, and the looks. I can’t stand it sometimes, and I’m not even a wearing a hijab. It makes me wonder what happened to people following the saying, “Live and let live”. Of course, it is quite possible I am merely being overly sensitive or paranoid about it, but it cannot just be uncanny coincidence. I got looks from people when I lived in my old city, and I get looks here in this town – looks that say, ‘What have you got on your head? Why are you wearing that?’ And the thing is, maybe this isn’t really a problem, but I hate standing out more than anything. I truly do. I don’t want to be noticed when I’m out and about, I just want to get on with my business being ignored, but I know that when I wear a headscarf – something I willingly choose to do – that I am going to be noticed more with it on. It’s hard for me, it really is. But why should I deny myself something I believe is important – and indeed important to me – just because of other people’s looks?
I have had comments on it, too, as I said:
“Have you joined a cult or something?”
“You look like a gypsy.”
“You look like a 50s housewife.”
“You look very… summery… today.” *eyes my outfit and headscarf scrupulously*
“What are you wearing that for?” – said in that tone. I’m sure you know the one.
Usually I just laugh it off, or completely ignore them, but it does hurt when it’s from family and friends, you know? Does it matter why? Must you comment? I wear headscarves for deeply, deeply personal reasons (and yes, entwined with my faith), and so I feel like it is a direct attack on myself as a person when someone makes a comment, or looks at me with eyes of scrutiny. It serves me right for being so sensitive, I guess. But it makes me believe that wearing a headscarf takes some form of bravery. Women who step out their houses wearing full head coverings – or indeed any covering with confidence – are far braver than I. I guess it is just a matter of me learning how to let go of the reservations I have, to let go of what other people may think. Because, really, why should I care what other people think or say? I shouldn’t. Not at all. But I am going through a tough time emotionally, and such sentiments of courage are hard to not only grasp but also apply. I can only pray for guidance on the matter, for enlightenment on the right route to pursue.
I started wearing headscarves after my traumatic accident in August 2013. I’m still not sure what it was about the accident that led me to it, but, as foolish as this may sound, when I had a scarf wrapped around my head, it felt like a hug, and it brought me such solace it occasionally brought me to tears. And, to this day, there is little else that brings me more inner peace. It’s strange, really, for it is just some fabric on my head. Still. I suppose it is what it symbolises. To me.
It is my hope this year to grow more confident in wearing headscarves, not dwelling on what others may think or say in response to it. I am pleased that confidence is slowly coming upon me 🙂 Headscarves bring me comfort, and comfort is something every heart needs. And, most certainly, it is something my heart has been in dire need of for too many years. Why should I deny my heart this?
Let’s share some confidence now, shall we?
My name is Jennifer K. Marsh.
I wear headscarves.
So what if I look like I’m in a cult?
So what if I look like a gypsy?
So what if I look like a 50s housewife?
So what if I maybe dress a little different to other women?
This is me. This is who I am.
Deal with it 😉
If you see a woman out and about wearing a headscarf, leave her be. Treat her like a fellow human being, not as if she is a display at a museum at which you may gawp. Do not assume you know the reasons behind her wearing a headscarf, for even if the reasons seem plainly overt, you will never know the true emotional complexities she has behind it. Do not judge her for it. Do not scrutinise her for perhaps standing out in a crowd purely for some fabric upon her head. Chances are, she is not judging you. She is simply trying to live her life as only she knows how. And, if you must ask about it, do so in an interested and compassionate manner. I say all this as a woman who wears headscarves, as a woman in the western world who knows, to some degree, how challenging it can be to stay true to yourself when others so frequently knock you back.
Why does a woman wear a headscarf? What’s really behind that scarf? Who can say? I don’t think it matters.
Does it matter?
Peace and blessings to you.
I hope your New Year has thus far treated you to joy,
and I hope it continues to do so.