Hodan Mohammed was born in the Netherlands and moved to the UK at age 6 where she eventually forgot how to speak Dutch in favour of learning English. She likes to think she is a clear minded and mentally mature 18 year old woman despite the fact she still lives with her parents and has yet to finish secondary school. She is of Somali descent and a devout Muslim who wears something on her head called a “Hijab.” She considers herself to be a timid introvert on the outside but an untamed extrovert on the inside. She aspires to go to university when the time is right to study either Creative Writing or Film Studies in order to become a skilled screenwriter so she can put her unconventional ideas on screen for the whole world to marvel at and enjoy. Currently, she is working on her first original screenplay. For the first time in a long time, she feels confident in her skills as a writer and is trying more each day to show off her work unapologetically. The following story is based on a true conversation she had at the age of 12 with someone who she used to call her best friend. Needless to say, they are no longer friends.
“I dunno why you wear it.”
“What’d you mean?”
“Well, Maria’s Muslim and she doesn’t wear it, so why do you?”
I looked at her for a minute and finally concluded that she must have just been influenced by the wrong crowd of people or perhaps the environment she grew up in. There was no way anyone would be born this stupid. It just seemed unnatural.
“Because it’s my choice and I like wearing it” I said with an assertive tone. Even though I was feeling anything but.
“I get that but I’m just saying, if I were you, I wouldn’t bother. Can’t imagine going to the beach with It.” We continued walking through the broken grey pavement on route to school while the cold, harsh wind nipped at our noses and made our eyes water.
It. That’s what she referred to the black cloth wrapped neatly around my head as. It. Why couldn’t she stop being a coward and just say it? It’s not that hard. It wasn’t just how she chose to dismiss my hijab as an “it” but it was also something else that tugged on my heart uncomfortably. The tone of her voice. She said it with such strong disdain and disapproval, like she just didn’t get why I’d go through with something as unnecessary as wearing a headscarf.
We turned a corner and I stole a glance to see what was on the top of her head. Her hair was bleach blonde and reached her bellybutton but looked so rough and dry, it seemed like it needed a desperate amount of conditioning and an excessive use of coconut oil. I bit my lip to conceal my grin. Maybe she should consider wearing an “It” to hide those god-awful split ends.
“Still, at least you’re not a letterbox” she said but I didn’t understand what she meant.
“A letterbox. You know, those women who wear the…” she pulled up the scarf that was around her neck up to the tip of her nose so only her eyes very visible and started to laugh obnoxiously. I clenched my teeth and my eyes started to water which this time was not the cold air’s doing. We had finally reached school by this time and she quickly said bye to me as she ran to her class. I started to walk to my own class, dragging my feet with my heavy backpack and an equally heavy heart. I arrived to class and sat in my assigned chair. The teacher rambled at the front and I stared at her with vacant, distant eyes.
I pondered the conversation I just had with someone who was supposed to be my best friend and suddenly felt overwhelmed with paranoia. I awkwardly tugged on the long cloth that was delicately draped over my head and travelled down my shoulder. I had so many questions swimming frantically in my mind like wild fish in a claustrophobic fish bowl.
Am I defined by the It that’s currently inhabiting my head? Will It always define me? Am I more than just my It? Or is my It a barrier I have to choose to destroy in order to truly live like everyone else? Questions that at the time seemed to provide no sign of any answers.
6 Years Later
The loud sound of key tapping feels like a rhythm of productivity and drive. Several years after and the sun shines brighter now. The glare of my laptop screen reflects in my black-rimmed glasses as my fingers begin to ache from fast movement. I take a break to breathe as I put my arms over the back of my head and smile. It’s really coming along together. I take a sip from a can of Pepsi (I was never much of a tea or coffee fan) and resume typing. As every minute passes, more words magically appear alongside one another, forming a remarkable sentence that contributes to a bigger, powerful story. A story that not only answers all of my questions but has the courage to finish what I was too afraid to begin.
Now, I’m not planning on telling you what it is or who it’s about. You’ll have to wait and see the final product. What I will tell you though is that it involves a girl. A girl who wears an It. And she’s proud of wearing It. So proud in fact it makes others around her feel uncomfortable. They’re not used to a girl with an It on her head acting so unapologetic and playful and free. Because you see, that’s not the narrative they’re used to. An It Girl is supposed to be oppressed and uninteresting and confined within the boundaries of her religious faith, remember? She isn’t supposed to be a free-thinking individual with creative ideas and a wicked sense of humour.
But I am an It Girl and I define my It. It does not define me. The It supplies me with unimaginable confidence and has assured me that I do not have to change myself for the sake of others’ small minded expectations. I now love myself too much to do so.
I guess that makes me impenetrable now. And dare I say a little dangerous.