Up until recently, I lived in Jordan. I worked. I played. I was in love. I had two cats named Fanty & Mingo. I also got sexually harassed. I got sexually harassed so much that I’d sometimes sit in my apartment after dark and seriously consider not doing an emergency tampon run, because I knew that inevitably, some dudes would wander into my path and have a field-day. Trying to prevent said harassment, I wore hijab for a while. The results of that little experiment were recently published in JO Magazine.
I tried to go for nuance. Hijab, for me, wasn’t a “wonderful cultural experience.” Neither did I emerge from that particular episode screaming about how it’s time to “liberate” Muslims from their headscarves. I tried to apply similar logic to the proposal to ban the burqa in France. I felt I could draw some parallels there, or maybe I was wrong to have done so. You guys can draw your own conclusions.
The saddest part for me today is that while that article hints at a happy ending, the reality is different. I had to leave. I let my ex keep Fanty & Mingo.
Having dealt with assault, I found I wasn’t coping with the aggression too well. It caused too much self-doubt. Like, “wait a minute, for years now, I’ve been telling myself – Natalia, you’re a human being and not a lump of meat, you deserve to breathe the same air as everyone else and walk on the same sidewalks and stuff – but the things in your head that you were running from, they’re now coming out of the mouths of the little kids outside. In the immortal words of Armageddon: ‘Wow, this is a goddamn Greek tragedy.’ ”
I’m in Ukraine right now, and I do miss Jordan. I miss what we had with my ex, I miss my Jordanian friends, I miss the kind of weather that doesn’t give me a hacking cough. I miss the way the people at the mini-market knew me by name. I miss the ancient history beneath my flip-flops. I don’t miss being a fake hijabi – in the end, I simply hated having to pretend to be someone else for a scrap of respect – though I must acknowledge that in Kiev, in the doldrums, it would keep the ears warm.