I was on the treadmill at home, watching an episode of Friends with the scene where Jennifer Aniston is in their hideous bridesmaid outfit, and suddenly she gets up and starts singing Copacabana. And as I watched her, this rush of power and conviction came over me. I pressed the stop button and stood there watching the scene. It was like going from one room to another. When I closed the door behind me, it was all different. Suddenly this courage swept through me, and I knew it was the right thing to do. I was ready to wear the hijab, the head scarf, all the time.
"Full-timers" is what my friends and I call girls who wear the hijab all the time. "Part-timers" like me wear the hijab as part of an Islamic school uniform or when we go to mosque, or just on a bad hair day.
My name's Amal, and I'm Australian-Muslim-Palestinian. I'm in eleventh grade and in four days I'll be starting my third term at the snobby and elitist McClean's Preparatory School, where it's hard enough being an Arab Muslim with my hair down to my shoulders. Shawling up is just plain psychotic. But I'm going to do it.
My mother and I make a trial run to the mall. If you're my age and at the mall on a Thursday night, you're there to make an impression, not to buy socks. I decide to wear a dark blue hijab to go with my jeans and blue sweater. When we get there, my mother walks and talks like she's not wearing a hijab. Her confidence makes me wonder how long it will take for me to feel that way. In the food court I pass three women, all wearing the hijab. One of them smiles and greets me with the universal Islamic greeting of peace. I respond. It's amazing, the bond, the sisterhood I feel, just because of a piece of cloth.
I know I'm experiencing a new sense of identity, and I know I'm not alone. I'm sharing something with millions of women all over the world. It feels so exciting, and so satisfying. I feel free of people judging me on how I look. I feel empowered, and with a strange sense of calm. I know I'm ready.
But being ready and living it are two different things, as I begin to discover the next day.