Girls Who Wear Hijab

August 13, 2012

Girls who wear hijab, as opposed to girls who don’t, are more likely to make me feel self-conscious, insecure, and critical of myself. Generally, they are composed, polite, widely accomplished, and (most importantly) articulate, of which I’m particularly jealous.

They are usually (generalizing again here) successful human beings, and the fact that they possess the extra grace and security to express it visibly with hijab fills me with envy. It might be surprising and in some cases totally inaccurate for me to say this, but a lot of hijab-wearers I know exude a “devil-may-care” attitude about society’s demands on their lives and bodies. It’s very attractive.

The running theme here is self-confidence. In my limited experience of friends, family and acquaintances, girls who wear hijab value themselves more highly than their similar-aged counterparts. Sometimes this translates as arrogance, which is an unfortunate byproduct, but usually that’s not the case, because these self-confident hijabis are also—incredibly and unbelievably—good people.

Girls who wear hijab love their parents and their siblings, and they show it in ways I could never imagine. They serve their communities while everyone else is too busy running around; they’re running around, too, meaning they get more done than the rest of us. They can be shortsighted and judgmental, but more often they’re generous, forgiving and kind. They are effortlessly sincere.

Girls who wear hijab are by no means perfect and, like I said, they do sometimes make me feel inadequate. But a few that I know are some of my favorite people in the whole world, and I’m grateful to have every one of them in my life.

Alcoholics Anonymous and the Importance of Mentors

March 15, 2012

I’m not an alcoholic, but I find [what little I know of] the Alcoholics Anonymous story, and its model in general, to be very compelling.

I didn’t know how important within AA the concept of sponsorship was until just now (when web surfing got the best of me). When you’re newly abstinent under AA, your sponsor—a longtime abstinent mentor—is supposed to be a huge source of support. Sponsors take on the social responsibility to help you and, on a larger scale, fortify the AA structure.

Here are some things I learned (all from here):

  • AA strongly prefers same-sex sponsor pairs. I think it’s interesting that this is blatant.
  • Moral duty is highly implicated in the language around sponsorships. (All the AA literature I stumbled on is like this; it’s just really different from stuff I’m used to reading these days.)
  • Sponsorship is a one-way street. You need an AA sponsor to be a tower of strength so should not think that they will unburden themselves to you as you can freely do with them.” (Ibid.)

That last line jumped out when I saw it. It’s a type of relationship I’m becoming only newly re-acquainted with, even though the most people’s initial quarter-centuries are predominated by authority figures.

Two contradictions exist in the modern era. (How stuffy am I? Did I eat a couch cushion for lunch?)

A, the idea that parents can be friends, a style of parenting that a lot of people adopt (and that I don’t fully disagree with). However you feel about it, it’s definitely not styled to be like a one-way street.

B has two parts in itself. First, with social media etc., it’s becoming increasingly effortless to gain access to the smallest, sometimes unsavory aspects of people’s lives. That is, a flaw-exposing Facebook photo can change your delusions about a person forever. My celebrity role models have Twitter, and sometimes they say dumb things. Second, since it’s easier than ever to communicate (not with quality but in quantity, anyway), it could mean even more ways to break those same delusions.

What I’m getting at: I think the idea of an AA sponsor, the way it’s described above, is very honorable and romantic, but becoming much harder to sustain.

Oh yeah, why do I wear hijab? Haha. My original idea was to tie in this random research to a post about how it’s been crucial for me to have fellow hijabis to look up to (noted complications and all), but I’ll save that for another day.

One more poignant thing AA served up this evening:

#4 of Alcoholics Anonymous’ Twelve Steps [that its founders went through and wrote down]:

“Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”

Ulterior Motives

March 4, 2012

My friend, a man from work*, told me recently that he has me all figured out. He tells me all the time that I remind him of him when he was younger, which usually wins me over.

He said he didn’t believe that I wore my headscarf for “all the normal reasons,” for religion or anything like that. (Me: what the?) I just like being an outlier, he said, and I delight in outlying in all the different identifiable categories. Surprisingly liberal hijabi, e.g., or surprisingly conservative feminist.

Not too far off, I guess. Rebel Without a Keffiyeh, how does that sound?

*New job and new city since the time I really wrote last. More to come (I hope).


October 27, 2011

I have some internet idols, and one of them is this guy. He makes me want to blog more.

Exploring the Hijab as a Limit

September 7, 2011

I’m very interested in the concept of limits, and the idea of leaning into them rather than working against them.

Most of us don’t realize how much we’re the products of our limits. For example: eating only what’s in your pantry (and cooking only from your personal repertoire of recipes), paying visits only where you’re invited, consuming only media that’s readily available to you, becoming friends with and marrying only people you physically encounter. We resign a lot of ourselves to fate and coincidence.

I can’t decide, however, whether that’s a bad thing. For sure, sticking only to what you know is bad—exploring possibilities into the tenth dimension is crucial! At the same time, merely knowing about the existence of those possibilities can be insidious, because it always leaves you wondering.

Anyway, right now I’m more interested in the potential of embracing limits than expanding them. I tried to explain this to a friend while shopping over the weekend: sure, it’s a little harder to buy clothes while working with the constraints of hijab, but sometimes the limits feel liberating.

“Artists don’t think outside the box, because outside the box there’s a vacuum. Outside of the box there are no rules, there is no reality. You have nothing to interact with, nothing to work against. If you set out to do something way outside the box (designing a time machine, or using liquid nitrogen to freeze Niagara Falls), then you’ll never be able to do the real work of art. […] Artists think along the edges of the box, because that’s where things get done.”     Seth Godin

Liberal Arts and the Culture of Self-Examination

August 17, 2011

Last week I had the pleasure of a visit from one of my dearest friends from college (to whom I’ll refer as A.). Together we engaged in one of our favorite pastimes in all the world: trying to make sense of our experience at a small northeastern liberal arts college (via much conjecture and conversation).

For four years, our school truly made up our world—”bubble” culture at its most bourgeois-bohemian. But the truth is that our experience as liberal arts students, compared to those of the rest of the world, was unfathomably specific—and learning to reconcile that now (1.25 years out of college) seems to me so daunting a task that it’ll take up the remainder of our lives.

For us, the link between the liberal arts tradition and the pursuit of some greater consciousness of the self (à la Western Enlightenment—thanks A.) appeared to be rock-solid and pretty obvious (though, writing this now, I guess that doesn’t need to be the case).

Under that premise and with my undergraduate experience, endeavoring to write this blog is the most natural thing in the world. I’ve always a) prized the “Know thyself” mentality as valuable in almost every respect; b) shaken off any claims of corrupt narcissism with the self-reflection framework’s implied virtues; and c) lamented other people’s shortcomings when it’s clear that on this point we don’t agree.

How this exposes my own nearsightedness is perfectly ironic. We—A. and I, at the very least—assume that this sustained, unrelieved reflexivity is the highest, most evolved form of existence (placing value like it’s our job, almost as if we have something to compensate for). But is it really the road to happiness? Does less self-reflection really lead to a lower quality of life?

I haven’t changed my mind about it, but A. and I both decided it’s best to try as hard as possible to acknowledge a lifestyle of constant and critical self-examination as just that: a lifestyle, among many others, and not necessarily the best one.

A sketch that developed out of a nerdy mood a few weeks ago.

To follow up:

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” Socrates

cf. “The unexamined life may not be worth living, but the life too closely examined may not be lived at all.” Mark Twain

P.S.: I’m still stumbling around with the vocabulary of this topic, and am 100% sure that there’s many a scintillating essay about it out there. If you have any interesting reading on the aforementioned culture or the liberal arts tradition, I’d love it if you sent it my way! It doesn’t bear repeating that I navel-gaze like it’s the degree on my diploma.

Wisdom from Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

August 7, 2011

An excerpt from Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud (my emphases added in red). I’m only 65 pages into it, but OH MY ALLAH IS IT FREAKING AWESOME. My new favorite book. Please go buy it now, and read it right away.

Quote: as excerpted from “Self-Reliance”

August 6, 2011

“My life is not an apology, but a life.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Video: Dawah Addict’s “I’m Jealous of Hijab”

August 4, 2011

A friend posted this video on Facebook a few days ago. The guy is charming enough to watch:

A pleasant reminder of how my grass is greener, at least some of the time.

His predicament reminded me of a paradox that totally struck me when I came across it in college (before then, I was totally ignorant of the idea):

The context was one of those unsavory “who has it worse” conversations regarding microaggressions of homophobia and racism. While people who identify as gay constantly have to tackle (often painfully) others’ incorrect assumptions that they are straight, people of color find that the assumed stereotypes of their perceived race are often imposed (also incorrectly) upon them. Both ways, it’s a considerable discrepancy between how people think of themselves and how other people think of them (based on their appearance). The former struggle to distinguish themselves; the latter couldn’t “pass” if they tried.

Return from Summer Vacation

August 2, 2011

I’ve been feeling guilty about neglecting this blog; since I don’t have too much else in the way of creativity going on, this would be one worthy project to keep going with.

The problem—and there always is one—is that originally the whole idea was “to lay out the reasons principally for myself,” and then I went and turned it into something for other people to validate. Audience in mind, I focused a lot more energy in coming up with light, interesting, relevant and varied posts (rather than what was actually on my mind). But truthfully, it was also that the hijab (as a concept) just wasn’t ON my mind as often as three to four times a week; I didn’t have to justify it to myself quite that often, and so I had nothing to say.

Finally, the actual goal—laying out an explanation to encapsulate all my feelings on the subject—proved to be MUCH MORE DIFFICULT than I ever imagined, if not totally impossible.

With that challenge presented, though, I guess I’m resigning myself to keep trying for it. I just have to keep developing my vocabulary and the means to explain myself.