HIJABS, TIGHTS AND THEIR BATTLES
Her: “These pants aren’t too tight, and they cover my legs.”
Mom: “They are not pants, they are actually tights that cannot be disguised as pants unless the viewer is visually challenged aka blind”.
Her: “The shirt is knee length, and it does cover properly.”
Mom: “The shirt is barely thigh length. It cannot humanly reach your knees unless it is constructed of bubblegum material.”
Her: “I don’t want to wear the hijab, nobody wears it at school. Kids make fun of me. They call me towel-head, terrorist.”
Mom: “You have to wear it. You don’t have a choice. It’s mandatory for Muslim women to cover their hair. You cannot go to school if you do not wear it.”
Another mom line that I absolutely do not care for goes something like this, “God will do such and such”. Any argument along those lines is a priceless gem because it only makes your teenager dislike you, her faith and God. Talk about killing two birds with one stone, in this case three.
How many moms have had these dialogues or similar ones with their teenage daughters. I am pretty sure many of us have had conversations resembling the ones above with their energetic teenagers. I really wanted to write about this particular topic because not only does this issue affect a large number of families , but if not handled correctly, it can give birth to a pattern of behavior that is harmful for everyone involved. A friend pointed out to me that many girls will cover their heads before leaving home, but take it off at school. It is the same concept with clothing too. Girls will wear something to please mom and dad, but change at school. It is not an uncommon practice for kids living in primarily western societies. I know I argue with my teenager about tights versus pants and other articles of clothing. However, one thing I do is that I will stop the argument at an earlier point, and let her have her way even if I find her choice in clothing distasteful. This is painful for me, but unless her choice is absolutely unacceptable, I’ll give in. I give in because I do not want her to go to school, and put on the same offending garment without my knowledge. I have learned that I would much rather change her ideology than engage in pointless and fruitless arguments. These arguments can never be won, and more importantly can never win their minds. I know for a fact that we cannot change a person’s mind by verbal argument, no matter how convincing the argument is. The momentary submission is worthless, and it encourages a pattern of deceit that the child will perfect over time. Some parents might say, “I check on my teenager at school too. I make sure that they don’t do things behind my back.” Again, the parent will get the teenager to do their bidding temporarily, but how long can a parent keep checking. Surely, not while they are in college, and college offers a choice of many other activities, few of them not very acceptable for many Muslim parents.
In my opinion, the most important part of raising teenagers is to make sure their ideology matches the parents’. I am certainly not suggesting that parents should let the kids do and wear whatever their heart desires, but a give and take should be established. Talking to your teenager as a friend, and establishing a positive relationship will go a long way in building a strong and long-lasting ideology. In the end, away from home and parents, that permanent ideology is what your child will follow. Yes, lines must be drawn, and boundaries should be established, but please do not get hung up on hijabs, tights, half-sleeves, sleeveless and all that jazz. All these are temporary aberrations, but if not handled correctly, one pattern that they will surely perfect is that of deception and lies.
Really old people obsess about moot points such as coverings, retributions and halal/haram. Intelligent people work on what’s going on inside their teenagers’ minds, and how to shape their thinking processes. Please, please establish a comfortable relationship with them, change their beliefs. If you are trying to change their choices by using examples of punishments that seem worlds and ages away, you are failing them. Try and teach them that when no one is watching, a higher being is still there. They should have a firm grasp on the concept that even though the higher power cannot be seen but does exist, if that’s what the parents would like for them to hang onto.
I have lost ten kilos since November of last year. An eighteen month baby can be created with the pudge I have lost, not that I’d like to have an eighteen month old baby. Babies are so miraculous, but I would prefer not to have this miracle right now. I already have three which started as miracles, but later morphed into something else entirely. I think I am getting off the topic here. I apologize, I have a tendency to veering off the subject. I’ve been told many times that my attention span is that of a gold fish.
I have struggled with an extra twenty kg for as long as I can remember. I can’t blame it on pregnancy because those offending kilograms were there long before I became a baby carrier. If I really put my brain to the root cause of it, I think it was those deceptively light Krispy Kreme donuts, (8-10 at a time), I consumed when I was pulling all-nighters as an undergrad. Or maybe those fish fillets that I had to devour as twos, (one was such a lonely number), or those salt drenched fries that simply had to be downed in a super-size. The list of culprits doesn’t stop there. There were many, many other foods that I simply couldn’t imagine my existence without. There was the smorgasbord of candy bars, the chocolate chip cookies, the potato chips. The amount of soda that I drank could have filled a swimming pool. I even loved cake covered with that hideous culinary shame called butter-cream icing. I think it’s called butt-r cream because it goes directly to the part it’s named for. When you are twenty something and in college, food is practically your best friend, especially bad food, just like those friends that you shouldn’t hang around but love anyway for absolutely no reason except to drive your parents crazy.
Anyway, fast forward many, many years (I wont say how many), and we come to my current weight dilemma. I was always on a weight gain and loss cycle. I would lose a few kilos, and then in joy of losing them, celebrate like crazy. And needless to say, those celebrations were nothing but giant carb parties. Occasionally, the carb fests would last for years, and the result would be those offending kilos creeping up again plus some extra weight for company. However, my recent weight problem started after I stopped feeding the baby, but didn’t stop eating as if I was feeding triplets. When I look back at my food consumption, I am surprised that I didn’t put on more weight instead of the meager twenty kilos.
For me, the straw that broke the camel’s back was when we went to Lahore to spend Eid-ul-Adha with my husband’s family last year. We reached Lahore three days before Eid, and the next day I started shopping for clothes. Well, everyone was outfitted except me. First of all, most major brands were out of my size which happened to be the largest in any maker. At Khaadi, they were pretty much out of everything in size 16. Again, not a problem because I ended up buying a fancy embroidered trouser in a beautiful cream color to pair with a pink and white semi-formal shirt that I already owned. The trouser was in size 16. I have another Khaadi trouser in the same size, and it fit me or so I thought. The shirt fit me, and was very, very pretty.
The day dawned nice and Sunny. When it was time to get ready, I showered and started to put on the trouser. Then the realization came that the trouser wasn’t co-operating, and refusing to ride up my behind, (sorry there’s no other, gentler way to put it). Well, let me tell you the battle that ensued in trying to force the wretched garment onto my person wasn’t pretty. I was rolling on the floor, trying to get that nasty monster on and doing my best not to make a single sound. Remember, it was my sister-in-law’s house, and not my sister’s where I wouldn’t have minded displaying my tattered dignity, and thrown a major temper tantrum replete with water works. In this grand battle between person and pant, (I like to be politically correct), I finally won. It goes without saying that I ended up wearing my abaya throughout the day, even around the ladies because I was afraid the trouser was going to get back at me, and any moment I would hear the sound. You know the one that you hear when two pieces of fabric joined together by stitching part ways with force. I didn’t eat properly, and did my best to hold my stomach in. The whole day was so long and simply excruciating. I cannot describe the relief that I felt when I was in the privacy of the same battleground. This time due to practice and prior knowledge, I got rid of the enemy.
When I returned to Jeddah, I tried all my clothes that had previously looked amazing on me. It was devastating to learn that I was practically exploding out of most of them, as if I had stolen somebody else’s clothes. I wanted to start something in order to get back into some kind of shape, but was at a loss. Then the baby started pre-school at Saudi City Playschool, and I started walking around the compound for about 35-40 minutes a day. five days a week. Again, I wasn’t really watching my food intake. However, at the end of two months I had lost two kilos. This was good, not amazing but not bad either. Gradually, I started watching my food intake, and lost more weight. In April, it became too warm to walk outside, so I started going to the gym. When we moved from Jeddah in early August, I had lost about 9 kilos. Since then I have lost a couple more kilos. After the move, I gained two kilos, but with walking and watching my carb intake, I managed to lose the newly gained weight and then some. I think I am not unique in saying that stress makes us eat more. In times of sadness and tension, food is almost like a friend. Remember those Khaadi trousers, they are not lose but definitely will be after a few more pounds. Skirts, dresses and turtlenecks are beginning to look pretty great on me.
What I would share with all my readers is that some exercise and controlling carbs can produce results, but patience and diligence is the key. Walking is excellent because even if it doesn’t induce weight loss, it’s very good for one’s heart and mental health. Also, be your own judge, what feels good to you. Any information someone else gives you, make sure you cross check it. Finally, never get discouraged and give up. Weight loss is a very long term project, and do not let small set backs bring you down. I have noticed that sometimes when you think you are losing weight, it’s devastating to realize that the weight is not budging. The key is to be persistent in any weight loss approach that you are utilizing. Finally, for me any elaborate weight loss routine couldn’t work because I like to keep things simple. These are the lessons I have learned from my experience, and I hope this can benefit others.