It was a sweaty summer night in Brooklyn, but as I walked home the winds lifted my hair and offered a respite from the heat. As wavy strands lifted off of my neck and even into my eyes, I grinned. I recalled the quote:
Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.- Khalil Gibran
It took me back to the first time I read it and the whimsy (whimsical) I felt as a result. In Kentucky, bare feet on the ground was common and grass easy to come by. But my hair, covered in hijab, only toyed with the wind for short periods of time.
It was never something I resented. Hijab was part of my life for 20 years and I had plenty of chances to uncover in privacy outdoors. But sometimes, when I would arrive home at night, I would stand on the driveway of my home and stealthily take off my hijab for a few minutes, letting my hair fly before entering the house. I remember that moment (THOSE MOMENTS) clearly. The only light sources were the outdoor lamps covered in moths, and the stars that shone above me, so unlike Brooklyn. Crickets chirped fanatically and the air buzzed with heat.
It was all I needed, nothing more, nothing less.
Years later, I decided to no longer wear the hijab. For the first few months of my experience, I became highly cognizant of my hair being seen in public, even harboring some guilt that I enjoyed the summer breeze. No one walking past me blinked an eye, but they could not see that I was in disbelief that I (WAS) no longer covered. No one knew my story but me. I found myself looking longingly at strangers who seemed so carefree, unplagued by doubts or a second thought about their hair being displayed for all the world to see.
Soon enough, those thoughts began to dissipate and not wearing hijab became a more normal part of my life, just as it once was normal to wear it. Days would go by and I would often forget to even think about it. After all, I didn’t walk around with a mirror and reflect on what I looked like throughout the day. I would just live, and my outside looks became secondary, allowing me to focus on other aspects of my life.
Still, the Brooklyn breeze today was a re-awakening, a playful reminder to remember my roots and to appreciate the transition from guilt to acceptance. Above all, I’m grateful that both wearing and not wearing hijab has taught me not to take these moments for granted.
As I walk around now, I have a deeper understanding that others may certainly feel carefree about their hair, but that we all have our own longings and mine is not better or worse.