There are some people that upon meeting them for the first time, you’re just unbelievably taken by them. You just want to talk to them all day; you get their number, you talk for hours on end. You gradually acquire something of a reverie for this individual you’ve just met. At first, you’re talking to him/her day and night, wanting to know absolutely everything about them. You think, “Man, this kid’s definitely going to be one of my best friends”. You feel this strange connection that you think is genuinely special. He/she has this almost tyrannical charisma about them, it’s invasive and you almost covet it in a way. You grow closer and closer and within weeks you’re like… wait a minute, FUCK! This person’s actually a low-down, good for nothing scumbag piece of shit who’s got less personality than my pinky toe(nail).
Crossing the Border in a Hijab (is fun)
Crossing the border is loads of fun; especially if you’re hijabi! Boy oh boy, too fun. I love it. I think you’d really enjoy it. Even if you’re not a hijabi (or even a woman), I suggest throwing a scarf over your head and trying to get across. I don’t care if your name is Jonathan or Janice, you WILL have a hard time. It’ll be a blast! No matter how sequined or pansy-filled your scarf is, you will get shit. Man, you could be wearing an American flag and I pinky-promise, you’ll still be interrogated. Actually, strangely enough, I think you might be making matters worse if you creep into Good Ol’ America with the red white and blue covering your hair.
Anyway, you can expect a few things to happen; (1) you will be asked a series of stupid-ass (relatively self-explanatory) questions and (2) YOU yourself will feel like a terrorist. I assure you. I’m a Canadian citizen living in Canada. I was born in Egypt and have actually lived in the States longer than Canada and Egypt combined. I still get treated like some illegal immigrant trying to harbour either weapons of mass destruction, or in this case, strange alien vegetation meant to destroy the homeland’s agriculture. Anyway, let me tell you about my most recent excursion across the border.
I was crossing the border with a friend, who is also Egyptian. This friend is actually an American citizen as well, she had just been in Canada to visit me. We were driving into the States together. About an hour before we hit the border, I started getting nervous.
"Yo, they won’t give us a hard time right?" I asked with a mixture of frustration and anxiety.
"Naw, we should be good… You didn’t bring any weed with you, right?" My friend asks.
"Wait, no actually. I left that behind". I joke nervously; I begin to freak out. Do you think they’ll confuse white sage for weed?
About half an hour to the border, I start to rack my memory; “Hey, what did we actually bring with us? WHERE’S THE BAKLAVA? Do you think they’ll take it?”
"No, girl. Relax. We’ll be fine"
"I just don’t want them to give us shit! UGH." I was anticipating a 3-hour Wire-esque interrogation regarding what I do as a living and how often I think about blowing things up.
We start to see signs, the Peace Bridge is coming up in a few metres.
"SHIT! Here it is!" We can see it, cars lined up. Some pass quickly, some lag and others drive over to the side to have the living daylights scrutinized out of them. It’s our turn. I fix my hijab, pull out my passport and try not to smile too hard. I overanalyze the situation; if I’m too nonchalant, I might look suspicious. If I smile too much and ask the officer how her day’s going , I might look suspicious. If I look out the window or fake-text someone while my phone is out of service, I might look like I’m calling in the troops or I’m telling Bin Laden about how our covert operation is going so far. Then I remember Bin Laden is dead and I figure, maybe I should go on my phone.
We drive into the checkpoint, “IDs, please.” We give up our passports/driver’s licenses. “Okay, you’re coming from?”
"Ahem, Toronto" I say quickly and fucking nervously. But I still try to be casual, like "Pfft, Toronto, nigga. What uppppp?!" Actually, no. I sort of mumble it.
"Okay, but you aren’t Canadian." The officer says to my friend. My friend replies that she was just coming to visit me and is travelling back home to the States. "So, what were you doing in Canada?", the officer asks me.
"Um, well, officer. Um, I was living" The officer looks at me suspiciously. Like I’m up to no good.
"What do you do in Canada?"
"Um, I go to school"
"Okay, so you won’t be staying in the States, then?"
"Uh, no. Well, yes. But for three days. That’s all"
"Where are you going?"
"We’re both going to visit a friend… Um, you see she just got into NYU so like—"
"Where are you staying?"
"Um, we’re staying at her place. She’s got a house big enough to—"
"So why did you decide to visit now? It looks that you haven’t been back to the States in a while?"
"Well, um, you know. I didn’t get a chance to. Also, she just got into NYU so we just wanted to—-"
"What are kjyygsfkljsdfg seeds?"
"Uh, excuse me?"
"What are SKDJSHDFSHD SEEDS?"
"What do you mean?" I didn’t know what the hell she was talking about. She looks over to my friend in the driver’s seat and says "You were fined in Italy for bringing in ksjdfsd seeds. What are they?" My friend, about a year back, was travelling from Egypt to the US. She brought back with her "LIB". Lib, for you non-Egyptians, is just motherfucking roasted watermelon seeds. Like, seriously. She was fined about $300 for bringing in enough lib to feed a family of Egyptians for one night. One Friday night, to be precise. It is literally the equivalent of American sunflower seeds. It’s not an alien seed meant to vegetate and spread some sort of African airborne illness. It’s a snack.
"OH! LIB! Lib is a snack that we—"
"Well, do you have any of these hkdjfhsdfshdf seeds on you today?"
"No. You can only find the good lib in Egypt, you know? It’s not really—"
"Do you have any food?" (THE BAKLAVA!)
"Um, no just a few snacks. Some Pop-Tarts, bak—"
"Well, because of the 098shdfsdkflu-w seeds, we’re going to have to inspect your car"
SHIT, I KNEW IT.
My buddy drives the car over to where the officers were going to inspect it, we get out and walk into the “holding chamber”. Lo and behold, there’s ANOTHER Muslim family in the death chamber. I wasn’t expecting that. *rolls eyes*
"Looks like we’re a threat to homeland security, yo. Sucks." I say it outloud, like I have street cred for being a suspected terrorist. "They can’t hold us here forever, man. I WANT MY PHONE CALL". We sit like a buncha Gs and wait. After about ten minutes, they call our names (mispronounced) for more questioning.
"So why were you in Egypt last Summer?" Being the smart-ass I am, I was THIS close to saying:
"Al Qaeda training".
But luckily, I controlled myself and said “Just a visit”. He gave us some more shit, more questions about what we study and why we’re dark-skinned and why my favorite color is blue and why I have to eat PB&J with ice cold milk and ONLY ice cold milk. That sort of thing. Stupid questions. Then to my friend, the officer goes, “So were you born in Egypt?”
"Yes, I’m Egyptian"
"No, you’re American. You just handed me an American passport. You’re American" The officer insists.
"Um, I’m Egyptian. I was born and raised in Egypt. I just so happen to possess a dual-citizenship".
"But you’re American. Admit it. You are American". The asshole basically FORCED my buddy to title himself as an American. Shocking. I actually scoffed outloud (nervously). A few minutes later, we were (obviously) let go. Apparently, all they could find was some baklava and Doritos. Real terrorism, right there. Real grounds for interrogation and fucking inspection.
Anyway, on our way BACK into Canada, we experienced something totally different. The guy looked at our ID and said “Ugh, I have to ask you a few questions. I’m sorry about this, unfortunately, since you’re Muslims of North African descent, we basically have to give you a hard time. It’s messed up, you know? It’s a pain for you guys AND for us. It’s just this post-9/11 crap, you know? I apologize.” Seriously. So the moral of the story is, wearing a scarf on your head and moseying on into the States is WILDLY entertaining AND America is just a little lamer than Canada. :)
the “hijabi-at-the-hairdresser phenomenon” explained
I wear a scarf over my head. Atop my head, there is hair. It is covered with said scarf, namely a “hijab”. Since I am, in fact, a woman who has hair, I like to embellish said hair. I like to wash it and cut it and blow dry it and curl it and dye it and braid it and flick it back and forth like normal ladies do. Also, since I’m not really all that skilled when it comes to matters of the hair, I like to go to the hairdresser every now and then. I like to have my hair done professionally; I like to walk out feeling brand-new and hip. Yep, I am a hijabi girl and I visit the hair salon. It happens. You’ll never know I went to the hair salon, but that’s totally fine with me!
This phenomenon is not unheard of or even something that has come about as of late; no, it’s common and has been happening since, well… the beginning of time, really. I could go into the intricacies of the hijab and what it actually means but that’s not the purpose of this piece.
I would like to discuss the “hijabi-at-the-hairdresser phenomenon” and how effin’ funny it is.
There are several actors in this phenomenon:
1. The hijabi girl: She just wants to get her hair done for her man, a special occasion, a get-together, or just the hell of it. She goes in with her hijab on, asks if there’s a secret little spot where she can be concealed from men and waits patiently for the hairdresser to hook her up. Obviously, she’s seated and ready to take on all the funny looks and inevitable inquries.
2. The lady at the front desk or whatever it’s called: “Oh, you want to make sure no men come in? Um, let me see if any men are scheduled for a hair appointment today…” She gives the hijabi girl one of those classic “funny looks” and types a few things on her computer. “No hun, you should be good to go. But I can’t ensure you that no men will be coming in…” She tells you to have a seat as politely as she can while trying to fight off the questions going through her head. She simply doesn’t get it.
3. The girls waiting along with the hijabi girl; they see her before she takes her hijab off: They sit and watch for a moment or two. They’re waiting to see what happens. Also, they think it’s bizarre that there’s a hijabi girl sitting amidst them. “What does she plan on doing?”, they wonder silently. They also, simply don’t get it. They don’t get that hijabis have hair, too and that just because we don’t show it off to the rest of the world doesn’t mean we don’t like it nice and sexy-looking.
4. The hairdresser: After the hijabi takes off her hijab, she comments on how GORGEOUS her hair is. “GIRL! Why don’t you go out with your hair?! It’s beautifullll”. Throughout the entire appointment she asks you questions about who can and cannot see your hair and why why why. She also comments on how “hot” you look without it on and how you should consider not wearing it out after she’s done doing her magic. When she’s done, she will oftentimes say “So you’re going to wear it today? How about you just don’t?” And no matter how close you’ve become with her or how often you guys have talked about soul music and how it’s the best shit in the world, she will still think you’re bizarre for concealing your aforementioned “hotness”.
5. The girls who walk in and see you getting your hair done, assuming you’re just a regular non-hijabi: The real shock happens to these girls. They walk in as the hijabi is getting her hair done, so they assume she’s just a regular non-hijabi. Then when they watch her walk out with her scarf on, they do a double-take. Mass confusion ensues from there on out.
So the phenomenon is namely this: a hijabi girl who shows her hair to VERY few people goes into a salon, pays a good sum of money to get her hair done, then leaves the salon with her hair completely covered, appearing as if nothing was even done to her hair. Now, I understand that like, 75% of the appeal of going to the salon is the beloved “walk out of the salon”. You walk out feeling like a million bucks, with your fancy looking hair, sweetly scented with expensive styling products; it makes you feel high and mighty. You feel great having undergone this beautifying transformation, the rest of your day is instantly made. However, the hijabi girl does not undergo this experience. Her exterior is exactly the same before and after the the hair appointment. Some think that it’s pointless for a hijabi to go to the salon if she’s just going to end up walking out with the same scraggly green hijab on. Right? Wrong.
Just because I cover my hair to the outside world; strange men, to be precise, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t care about it. It reminds me of the time when this girl asked me “Naira, if you don’t show your hair in public, why not just shave it off all together?” Really? Completely rid myself of a significant element of my femininity and sexuality just because, to you, it’s not being utilized properly or to it’s fullest extent? No. I am not more or less a woman because I show or cover my hair. I am a beautiful woman regardless of how much hair I show. I don’t need to show off my styled hair to others to feel pretty. I also don’t need to neglect my hair, my legs, or my arms because they are being covered… They are still parts of who I am and what makes me a woman; it’s just that I choose to share these parts exclusively with special people. That’s all.
A hijabi girl at the hairdresser is not a phenomenal occurance. It’s a normal thing that happens. If you have questions about it or don’t understand it; ask. And when the questions are being answered, listen. It’s that simple, really.