All my life, I’ve attended fairly exclusive private schools, and as a result, my classmates have always been bright, capable, and talented individuals. Yet, some of these privileged young men and women ask ignorant and often tactless questions of me because I fail to fit in with their perception of normality.
This proves that academic intelligence, unfortunately, is not always coupled with awareness of other cultures, religions, or even a general knowledge of the world beyond their little bubble. I know that I, too, live in a bubble and have been guilty of ignorance concerning subjects I should be more informed about.
Though some of the lines below may come across as harmless or laughable, they are strong indicators of the problematic lack of exposure to diversity, even among those who are well-educated.
Here are some of the weirdest questions I’ve been asked:
#1 – “Why do you have blue hair?”
This question was earnestly asked of me by a classmate in seventh grade. I was wearing a blue hijab with a zebra pattern on it. This kid genuinely thought it was my hair. Had this inquiry come from a toddler, it would have been unsurprising and endearing. A thirteen-year-old, however, needs to be held to some sort of standard of logic, and this kid just wasn’t making the cut.
#2 – “Aren’t you hot in that?”
Ok, this question isn’t weird. In fact, it’s probably the most common thing asked of covering Muslim women. Nevertheless, it’s always come off as slightly absurd and unnecessary to me. The thing is, if I’m wearing a long-sleeved shirt, jeans, and a scarf on my head while everyone else prances around in their tank tops and shorts, chances are I’m pretty warm. People still feel obliged to hear me say it, which I don’t understand. Anyone with a drop of common sense can come to that conclusion without my help.
This question is always rhetorical; it’s basically the equivalent of saying: “Why would you do this to yourself?” Often accompanied by a look of pity, this question used to aggravate me. The reason it got to me more than other questions is that those asking (depending on the context) were looking down on my faith and seemed to gain a strange satisfaction from hearing me admit that I was warmer than everyone around me.
#3 – “Can you even get hot anymore?”
Fortunately, this was only asked of me once. Were this a regular occurance, I would fear for future generations. Apparently, one can develop a complete immunity to feeling heat if one endures it for long enough. When I replied, laughing, my classmate looked at my dubiously. A lengthy (and distinctly one-sided) debate ensued in which he insisted that “If you feel it enough, you’ll just eventually stop feeling it.”
#4 – “Is there anything under there?”
Just a week ago, a 12th grader asked me this, the trepidation in her voice evident. This was someone I’d just met approximately one minute prior to her probing. I can only assume (and desperately hope) that she was referring to hair with her use of the word “anything.” Regardless, this question is rude. Out of all the inquiries mentioned, this is by far the most intrusive and alienating. No one likes to be treated like they’re an anomaly.
All this being said, I don’t usually care when people ask me questions about my scarf so long as they’re not wildly inappropriate or offensive. I’ve gotten used to it over the years, and learned to laugh most things off. I just wish that sometimes, people would think before speaking.
First published: January 2019