Adventure Diary of a Muslim-American Hijabi, entry #7

Original entry on May 20, 2014
Last Thursday, after my parents read my 6th entry, my dad called me, very worried, to discuss alternative ways in which I could have handled the situation. I stepped outside of the coffee shop because, like a true Arab, I needed plenty of space to pace back and forth and throw around hand gestures as I calmly spoke to my dad over the phone.
While on the phone, I noticed this elderly women walking towards me. I kept trying to step aside thinking she needed to get into the shop behind me. Instead, she kept positioning herself in front of me. I instinctively expected the worst. From experience, I waited, thinking she was going to make some “not-so-nice” remark to me. Seeing me pause my end of the conversation, she waved her hand, motioning to what I was wearing.
Her: You look beautiful! That’s very beautiful! You look lovely!
Me: Oh, thank you! You’re so kind!
Her: The dress is beautiful!
Me: Thank you. You’re so sweet.
Her: Where did you get it from?
Me: Oh, umm, JC Penny’s.
Her: You bought this dress here??
Me: Yes.
Her: Here? In America?!
Me: Yes, in San Diego.
Her: Wow! I didn’t know you could buy dresses like that here!
Me: Actually, all my dresses are from here.
Her: I thought it was from overseas.
Me: Nope.
Her: Well, it’s beautiful. You look very beautiful.
Me: Thank you, ma’am. Have a wonderful day!
My dad had gone silent on the other side of the line.
“Sorry, this little old lady just walked up to me to compliment my dress.”
My dad chuckled, “SubhanaAllah, there are wonderful people in this world. There are majaneen (crazy people), too. But, there are more kind people.”
“Yes, AlhamduliAllah.”
She was very sweet, but I still laugh at the thought that she thought it was near impossible to find my dress in the United States. I always get compliments on this specific maxi dress. It’s my favorite. (Hint: It’s the dress I’m wearing in my writer page profile picture.)
To be honest, I don’t think I could easily find a dress like this overseas. When I visited Palestine in 2012, all my family overseas were shocked that my entire wardrobe was all bought in the US. From long, flowing dresses to my long, loose shirts and not skinny jeans. All the malls I stepped into while overseas held tight clothing; I couldn’t find a single item I would want to buy. The only items I came back with for myself and loved ones were the only non-tight abayas I could find and traditional Palestinian thobes.
What this lovely woman said made me think about one of the ways that I am stereotyped as a hijabi. Despite my personal view that the dress I was wearing screamed Western modern attire, she had just assumed that I must have bought it from overseas because I am a Muslim hijabi.

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Stereotype or not, my heart swells with happiness when someone makes the decision to come up to speak to me about my hijab or way of dress, whether it may be compliment or ask questions. It just comes to show that not only is this world still filled with kind people willing to take action to learn something new, but that dressing “differently” holds its own kind of beauty. As long as I confidently dress the way I do for the sake of Allah swt, AlhamduliAllah.

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