I think like a lot of Western reverts, I struggle with Islamic standards of modesty. I don’t wear hijab and inshallah that will happen one day, but I am just not comfortable wearing it yet.
Part of the hesitation – and sisters, I realize this is silly – I don’t feel pretty enough to wear hijab.
When you look at photos of women in hijab, they’re all so glamorous. They have fantastic wardrobes and perfect makeup. Their eyebrows are stellar, their skin is CoverGirl worthy, and they have perfect teeth. Me? I’m a full time working mom of two – this means my wardrobe is small because much of my money goes to my children; my teeth are covered in braces at 26 years old; I have thick glasses, acne-prone skin, and so-so makeup skills (also – don’t you wash your makeup off for salat?! You’re telling me you reapply it multiple times a day, or is there some secret trick I am not aware of?)
All that to say, feeling pretty is still important to me. I barely feel pretty most days, wi th my under eye circles and softer, mother figure. The few things that make me feel pretty are dressing in clothes like pencil skirts that accentuate my waistline and slim legs, wearing makeup and showing off my pretty curly hair. I can’t imagine being completely covered, no makeup, with my ugly glasses and uglier braces. I feel like I would walk around feeling so dumpy and ugly, and I am not sure why that matters to me so much.
As religious women, we are reminding ourselves that beauty is fickle and created by man. We serve a higher King than that. As a radical woman, I remind myself that the idea of thin-as-pretty and long-hair-as-pretty is created by capitalism, and anything created by capitalism is an unsustainable, harmful lie. So how can I hold both of these things to be true?
I guess I am struggling with the way hijab is presented to the West. Maybe it’s made to be so glamorous so that it is more palatable to Westerners, who otherwise think Muslim women are oppressed. They think that us putting on makeup underneath our hijabs makes us more free, somehow, when really, I am struggling to understand how that could ever be the case.
How do I reconcile these thoughts? I tell myself I’ll wear hijab when my braces come off – 12 more months. Or when I can get Lasik, so I don’t have to wear glasses. Or when I lose the last 15 pounds of baby weight.
And I know that I don’t have to be pretty by these capitalist, patriarchal standards to don the crown of hijab. I know it is downright foolish to think these are requirements for adorning myself the way Allah has commanded believing women to do. But how do I erase two decades of conditioning to get myself there?