I never wore a headscarf as a child; however, upon growing up and walking my own spiritual path, I began to find solace in doing so. I more and more frequently found myself covering my hair, and as a result, found myself encountering curious strangers. Many kept their words to themselves, but very obviously stared at me. Of course, several asked questions, the majority of which were not rude, but innocent in nature. My favorite of which being...
1. “So, are you like, a Shaykhah?”
This one made me giggle, because this person sounded really excited about possibly meeting a Shaykhah. For those who don’t know, Shaykhah is the feminized version of Shaikh, which is the title of leaders of some villages in Mideast Europe. They often wear headscarves to signify their position and rank within the village. I also appreciated that they actually knew the feminized version of the word.
2. “Excuse me, miss, do you have hair?”
This one was from a small child in a checkout line at Walmart. Their mother looked absolutely mortified when they heard said child asked me this, out of the blue. I let the child take a peek under the scarf, and they seemed extremely relieved that yes, I did have hair.
3. “Why do you wear that if you’re just going to wear makeup?”
At a glance, this seems a bit rude, although the question was innocent. Many people tend to assume that women wear headscarves for modesty, and wearing makeup generally is not seen as a modest, humble act. While many people do wear scarves and cover their hair for modesty, that is far from the case with me. My headscarf is a part of my spiritual identity, as it helps me feel closer to myself, and therefore my idols who stay with me in spirit.
4. “Don’t you think you’re appropriating culture?”
Cultural appropriation is a sticky topic, because it is most certainly a problem. However, I do not personally feel like my headscarf is culturally appropriative. I stay as far away as I can from turban-style wrapping, as well as traditional African and Romani style bandana/scarf wrapping, so as not to offend. But I also feel wrapping your hair, in and of itself, is not a culturally or religiously exclusive practice. It may be less common of women of my religion and spiritual path to cover their hair, but it is not unheard of.
5. “Why would you cover your hair if you dye it?”
Unbeknownst to most people, I have bright purple streaks in my hair. This question came from a person at a local coffeehouse, when I actually took my scarf off because it was extremely hot outside, even at night. The simple answer is, I dye my streaks because I like the way it looks to me. I don’t dye them because I want to look cool, or hip (although I admit, when I was younger, that was a motivator for me).
I wear my scarf because I love the way I feel when I wear it. I love feeling so close to myself, and it eases my anxiety to feel at peace. Not to say I don’t get stressed or anxious while wearing it, but it reminds me of who I am, and that does make me feel loads better most days. Identity is important, and, put simply, this is mine. No matter how much makeup I wear, or if my hair is green, blue, or rainbow. Maybe it’s placebo, but for me, it works. And that’s all that matters.