We went to the same school, this one girl and I
We were both Muslim, but had never said ‘hi’
She hung out with a different crowd, the ones that were cool
The ones that were popular and had the attention at school
They had the clothes, the hair and the television smiles
That cars and the boys, and all the best styles
And her life from mine seemed so faraway
We had nothing in common, and nothing to say
But one day, after class, I saw her alone in the hall
Her shoulders were slumped and she looked ready to bawl
I was going to leave and almost walked right past
But then I thought about it again, started to ask
“Hey, is everything all right, do you need to talk?
Come outside with me, and maybe go for a walk?”
She looked surprised for a minute, but then started to speak
And told me the story of a boy and how he left her that week
And although her friends tried to sympathize and care
It wasn’t enough to shake her misery and despair,
And from where this feeling came she couldn’t explain
But only knew it left her heart heavy and her soul in pain.
I looked at her face and worked up the courage to say
That maybe it was time to change and try a different way.
“Girl,” she said, her brow was furrowed and her lips pursed
“How can I do that, can’t you see hijab is the worst!
I could wear it and walk down these halls
Only to be ignored and blend into the walls
Or worse still, be the object of ridicule and laughter,
Mocked and rejected, and no longer sought after!
You should see their eyes, when they watch how I walk
I strut down the block, and they gather and flock
And they look at me with such admiration and desire
I swear to you, I feel like I couldn’t get any higher
If I’ve got it I should flaunt it, isn’t that what they say?
Why hide, it’s not like I’m fat or have bad hair, anyway.”
So said this girl, looking defiant and sure
Trying to conceal how shaky and insecure
She was behind that carefully constructed face,
And then I leaned forward and made my case:
“See those eyes, the ones that watch your showy display?
I’m sorry, but it’s not in the most complimentary of ways
They look at you like a hunter looks at his prey
To be caught and consumed for a personal buffet
And even the rabbit runs when it senses those eyes
It won’t turn around, and hasten towards its demise!
The thing about appetites is that they’re not about food
The meal itself that is so ravenously chewed
Appetites are about the wanting and the yearning
Of the person themselves who is hungry and burning
And when that eye strikes you, that hard glinting jewel
Do you want to see yourself reflected as merely the fuel?
As nothing but that which slakes and is fed to the fire
Only to become ash in the wake of waning desire?
They don’t see you as a person whom they ought to respect
Or anything other than a decorative consumer object
Those clothes you wear and those bags you buy
The only thing they have to see is that you actually try
And so by buying all that, now you’re branded for real
Like cattle, right before it is prepared for a meal.
Now girl, don’t think of me as being vile and crude
Comparing you and I to barbequed food
I’m not saying it’s right to be treated like meat
To be catcalled and abused when we walk down the street
We should be able to look our best and walk as we wish
And not have to fear being treated like some kind of dish
We should be able to carry diamonds in Gladware
And rubies and pearls in Ziploc, with nary a care
And not have to think about provoking envious stares
Or feel threatened by any possessive, thieving glares
But reality remains, and truthfully it’s silly to reveal
Your precious ornaments to those who will steal
Your worth and your honor with a wink and a leer
Those people who will watch, and debase and jeer
People who have become slaves of their covetous eyes
These people whom Satan lures and deceives with his lies
Who try to own you and I with a presumptuous gaze
Undermining our worth in the subtlest of ways.
No, we are Muslim women, we are free, honored and proud,
Not to be owned by even one wayward eye, let alone the crowd!
It’s VIP only, the privacy settings here are restricted
Move along, what you get is exactly how it’s depicted
We’re not interested in being used for a rebellious gaze
Nor do we need superficial compliments or empty praise
And we’re not going to throw away our dignity and disappoint
Our Loving Creator just to prove a senseless, lost point.
And trust me sister, when you leave that lifestyle behind
You will feel your burden eased and find peace of mind
It’s something I can’t describe or find words to explain
But the Mercy that comes is sweeter than rain,
And the hurdles you thought you just couldn’t bear
Suddenly evaporate and become lighter than air!
And I want you to remember, and from now on to know
That you always have your sisters to help soften the blow.”
She looked at me then, her eyes luminous and bright
And I could feel a warmness, a suffusion of light
And when we left arm in arm, that deserted hall
It was a cold night, but we didn’t feel it at all.