But people asking about my hijab aren’t really concerned about temperature
Summer is upon us, and with the eager anticipation of any new season comes preparation. For many, this usually involves rationalizing new purchases, making travel plans and generally spending money. But for some of us, summer means mentally (and emotionally) preparing for the question we will hear right up until autumn: “Aren’t you hot in that?”
The “that” in question is my hijab — you know, that head covering Muslim women sometimes wear — and over the ten years I’ve been wearing it, this question is one I have come to dread. It’s usually asked with a face of disingenuous concern mixed with pity, and sometimes — aggravatingly — with a slight touch of the hand on a covered arm. Five words, usually with an emphasis on the last: “aren’t you hot in… THAT?”
After so long, it is still the one question about my religious existence that I have no idea how to answer. Mostly because it’s hard to gauge the intent of the question. Are they truly worried I might get heat stroke, or are they just registering disapproval of my clothes? I don’t want to come off as a jerk in most cases, but sometimes I just want people to know how little interest I have in responding.
As a Muslim woman born and raised in Canada, my state of dress is always under scrutiny and frankly, it’s really tiring. I’ve been wearing a hijab since I was twelve years old and there was no ceremony or ritual involved — I just woke up one day and put it on. It was a religious choice I made, and knowing it was my choice gave me an immense amount of confidence during my awkward teen years.
Here’s what I would say, if I thought they were being sincere: yes, I am hot. Because it’s summer and usually that signifies the arrival of warm to hot weather. It’s not that uncommon to sweat a little more between the months of June and August. And to answer your question with another, are you aware Islam started in the largest sand desert on our planet? My people have thousands of years of experience when it comes to dressing for extreme heat, so I doubt you have some kind of insider knowledge. If I do get extra hot, like a lot of people I drink a cool beverage or stay where it is air conditioned. Sometimes if I can’t find either, I sit in the shade. Flowing maxi dresses are also my best friend.
Here’s the answer to the real question: no, I don’t mind wearing this. No, I don’t wish I could be wearing short shorts and crop tops. If I really wanted to, I could easily drop into the nearest Urban Outfitters and buy several of either things because I am a human being with free will. No, I don’t need you to feel badly for me because the way I look makes you feel uncomfortable.
Curiosity in others is a natural part of existence, but it doesn’t give anyone the right to ask such embarrassingly bizarre questions to a complete stranger. There are plenty of avenues to learn about others that don’t require invasive confrontations in public. Here’s a tip: if you really want to start a conversation with the next hijabi you see, just stick to how hot EVERYONE is, because IT IS SUMMER. I guarantee you will get a better response and at least ten times less side eye.
But hey, if you still insist on being concerned, I will gladly accept gift cards to any place where I can get a cold drink.