I always feel self conscious around Muslim girls who wear headscarves. Am I seen as not modest to them? Am I seen as not religious enough? Or am I once again making up stories about what people think?
When I go to the pool at the Y I sometimes see Muslim moms watching their children swim. The average American swimsuit attire goes way past the Muslim idea of modesty. Everything shows, and what isn’t covered up leaves nothing to the imagination because it is skin tight. These moms sit on the sidelines while their young daughters play in the pool. At a certain age the daughters will be equally swathed in fabric, but not yet. The moms can’t get in the pool in standard swimsuits and still be observant with their faith.
I think it is unfair that these moms have to sit on the sidelines because they can’t get in the pool. I’ve found out that there are companies that sell “modest” swimsuits. They look a little like the swimsuits you would see in a photograph from the turn of the century. Everything is covered from head to toe, especially the head. The material is a little thicker and loose so it doesn’t show curves. They can be bought online, but they aren’t cheap.
I’ve told some of the moms about this. I’m a big proponent of people staying healthy through exercise. I also am a big proponent of parents modeling good behavior for their children. If the child sees mom exercising as well, she will learn that exercise is for everyone, not just kids.
But I still feel weird. I’m standing there telling this woman who has something like 12 yards of fabric on her about modest swimsuits so she can swim too, and I’m wearing almost nothing. And I have tattoos. Lots of tattoos. There is no hiding tattoos while in swimsuit.
This is when I’m the most self conscious. But I’m also self conscious at work. We have a lot of Muslim families who use our library. Many are from Somalia and the women wear amazingly beautiful coverings. The fabric is patterned and bright, and sometimes has sparkly bits sewn into it. If I had to wear a hardcover, I’d want to do it the Somali way. But I still feel under dressed and not quite acceptable.
My faith doesn’t require that I cover myself. Modesty is part of being observant as a Christian in some denominations, but the definition is rather open to debate. Sometimes it means that women can’t wear pants, or short skirts. Rarely does it mean that women cover their heads, but sometimes it does. I wonder why all these modesty rules have to do with women being modest and not men, but that is a topic for another day.
But maybe my problem is that I think I’m not being observant enough. Maybe I think that when I see these women who are wearing fabric all over, in the heat, all day long, I think that maybe I’m not doing it right. Maybe I’m not suffering enough. Maybe I’m not being a good witness for my faith.
Maybe that is just old-fashioned Christian guilt rearing its ugly head.