I took this picture on my last trip to California. I was window-shopping and feeling uncomfortable and afraid because I was wearing a midi dress for the first time – not in New York where no one knows me, but in SoCal where I’m bound to see someone I know wherever I go.
I was taking a step towards dressing how I want to, and a step further away from the dress code I was raised to follow. I had willingly (and mostly happily) followed it as an adult, but now I wanted something different.
And I was petrified that I might run into someone who might talk shit about me and pass it along the grapevine. “I hate when hijabis take off their hijab and start dressing all slutty.” I’ve heard that so many times.
As I browsed cute items on a sales rack – do I need this $20 asymmetrical jumpsuit? – I asked myself why I was making this such a big deal.
I found it about 500x harder to commit to wearing a headscarf than to stop wearing it. I was a newly-minted teenager when I chose to wear it, and the only person in my family and family friend circles to do so. I was miserable from the social pressure, though it did build my character.
I had a similar experience when I wanted to stop wearing it, made easier by the fact that it was so hard to wear it in the first place. But it still wasn’t easy and challenging in its own way. I felt like I had more to lose, all while losing this beautiful thing I had so enjoyed wearing.
So there I was clutching a cute pair of overalls in this boutique, on the verge of tears thinking about all of these things, when two women wearing headscarves entered the store. We made eye contact and I wondered if I knew them from somewhere, or if they knew me.
They lingered along the sales rack, evaluating the asymmetrical jumpsuit I had passed on. I was surprised – and worried – when they got my attention and said, “Omg, your dress is SO CUTE! Can we ask where you got it from?”
In that moment, my tears evaporated, and I felt so loved by these rando girls I wanted to hug them, but clutched the overalls instead. “I got it from Zara like two seasons ago… I know… sorry.”
Shoutout to the people we make it more difficult and dangerous just to be themselves.