Good headscarf day
By Shelina Zahra Janmohamed
This is the first time that my family and I are to be formally introduced to a suitor. Choosing what to wear has been a struggle. I have to be attractive enough for the man in question, yet modest and demure enough for his family. The contents of my headscarf drawer are strewn colorfully across my bedroom floor in molehills of pink, purple, blue, and green. Each scarf has been carefully draped and pinned in turn, and then analyzed for aesthetics and impact. I choose one in dusky pink silk. The color is soft and welcoming, feminine but not girly. I fold the square silk in half and place the triangle over my hair, pinning it invisibly under my chin and throwing the ends loosely in opposite directions. The fabric delicately swathes itself over my hair and shoulders. Fortunately, I am having a Good Headscarf Day.
My blouse, in the same shade of pink, long-sleeved with ruffles on the cuffs, contrasts with my sweeping cream skirt with frills that trails gently on the floor. The whole family is fussing about what to wear. The first meeting is a compulsory rite of passage. It might be my only meeting. I listen in vain for a deep booming voice to announce: "Now you are a woman." Nobody says: "Good luck." Nor does any one glance proudly and parentally at me, recording my transition from child to adult. I am no different from thousands, millions of young women on the threshold of marriage around the world.
I stand in front of the mirror, staring nervously into my own eyes, trying hard to control my torrential pulse. I inhale then exhale. Breathe in, breathe out. What will he be like? What will I say to him?
I am nineteen and about to step into a world that I have been prepared for since I was a young girl. The weight of tradition, which has rested so pleasantly on my South Asian Muslim shoulders since my birth, has been no less powerful than the innocent delicious wait for Love. Hollywood rom-coms, children's fairy tales, and Islamic teachings too talk of passion, partnership, and completion, all of them with love at the very center.
The fact that I am meeting my suitor to see if we like each other is considered by some to be unspeakably modern. I always knew that I would meet my husband-to-be this way. Why, then, does my heart pound so violently? The man and his chaperones are coming
to Check Me Out, and I, of course, am going to Check Him Out.
The balance of Checking Out does nothing to ease my nerves. This is not just Blind Date, but Family Blind Date.
Cilla Black, the longstanding host of the popular show Blind Date, which sets up dates for hundreds of hapless singles, smirks back at me from my bedroom mirror. "Will you go for Family Number One, the accountants from London? Or Family Number Two, the clan of doctors from Gloucester? Or will it be Family Number Three, the import exporters from Birmingham?"
He might be the only Prince Charming I will ever meet, will ever need to meet. And what is wrong with that? I long for my own prince and dream of being part of a loving, "in love" couple. In reality I will most likely meet him through the formal introduction process.
On his visit to our home, he will be accompanied by at least one, if not more, "grown-ups." Getting to know his family and understanding his background is just as critical as assessing his ratings on the tall, dark, and handsome scales. He and his family will be evaluating me in the same way: a communal date hinging on communal decision-making, and he and I will be the focus of attention.
I look at myself again in the mirror and practice my smile. Mona Lisa or Julia Roberts? I squirt myself with perfume and then collapse in a nervous puff on the floor. I recite some verses from the Qur'an, which will help to steel my nerves and restore me to normal working order. The rhythmic melody and the wisdom of the words make me feel calm. I put a few coins in a special charity box we keep at home, called sadaqa, and then straighten my clothes. Putting money toward those who need it is like chaos theory: a small flutter grows and magnifies until the positive energy comes back around to
you. I need the good karma at this moment.
The front door opens; my breathing stops. Mr. Right has arrived.
Reprinted from Love in a Headscarf by Shelina Zahra Janmohamed. Copyright © 2010 by Shelina Zahra Janmohamed. Reprinted by permission of Beacon Press.
By Shelina Zahra Janmohamed |
November 24, 2010; 3:50 PM ET
Save & Share:
Previous: Gay adoption vs. the morality police | Next: Thanksgiving en Suisse: Does love for family mean letting go?
Posted by: abulhawa89 | November 30, 2010 4:16 PM
Report Offensive Comment