This Thursday I had to dress myself and body in a way that I don’t necessarily agree with. I am originally from Iran and this week I was invited to go to NYC to participate at a dinner party that was hosted for the president of Iran. Going there itself was a little controversial but I decided to go and explore my surroundings. In order to get in to the event or maybe I should say “fit in” I had to dresses within Islamic rules.
This means wearing a head scarf, a long and loose dress, pants or a very long skirt and a close shoe ( so my skin is not showing or wearing socks with it) .
I had to dress this way since I was nine years old until I was 17 and that was when I left the country. So you might think this process was something easy and normal for me, but I do not like dressing this way. Also I don’t dress this way in United States, because I don’t have to. The problem for me this time was faking it and putting my body through something that I don’ enjoy and agree with. Also that this was happening because I had to do it, in order to get in a place inside of U.S. This reminded me of how you sometimes have to represent your body and yourself at clubs in order to get in. There you need to look as beautiful as possible and show as much as skin as you can, and here you had to cover most of your skin. I should mention that I have done this before; just fallowing the Islamic dress code in U.S in order to get something done Like voting or going to our embassy for office work. But this was more serious because of several reasons: the duration of it was longer, it’s usually for a 5-10 minutes, and this time was for a 2-3 hours long dinner event. Also I felt the pressure even more, just by knowing that president of a country will be presented and in return more religious people. That resulted in dressing even more seriously and covering my body and the real way that I like to represent it even more. I saw this process as several different stages: picking the dress, in what distance of the hotel to put it on, taking it off and my overall felling.
My body and the way is constructed makes it hard for me to find a form fitting dress, and I have no problem with it. And making an Islamic dress code out of my regular dresses was such a hard and complicated process . In my eyes it was fine but in their eyes: too short, too fitting, not right on the back, and NEVER prefect. I always found it interesting that the government of a country tells you how to represent your body. And most importantly even to people who are visiting the country that are not Muslim, that is always a big question for me. I understand that, that is one of the laws of the country and the visitors have to fallow it as well, but in general it’s always an interesting point for me. I think I should mention that I did not have to make the way I dress stream, I knew that people will come with short coats and scarfs. But I am one of those people who likes to fallow some rules fully, and also I wanted to be on the safe side and making sure my return to the country will be as easy as always. Finally I choose a dress and I made that dress and my body “kind of” within their standards.
Thursday afternoon my friend and I got ready, dress ourselves and walked to the hotel, where the event was going to be. One or two blocks to the hotel we stooped and started to cover our bodies. Doing that was kind of wired for me, and I was not sure exactly why. Yes! It was something that I did not like to do, but I felt like it’s something else. When we got to the hotel my friend said” are we at the right place?” and immediately after that she said “Do you see anyone with Hijab (scarf)?” I see this sentence as a way that this community is repressing themselves. The ladies of this community are all dressing their bodies in the same way, in order to fit in and also because of laws and their own believe.
When we walked in and went inside I immediately felt like I am in Iran, and waiting in a hotel to get in to a program. Everyone were dressed almost the same, and a lot of dark colors was used. My body started shaking, it was reacting to the situation and my brain and body were both traveling to the past. Thinking of all the “not fun times” back at home. I had to hold my hands together and pressing them against one another so I look normal, and not like someone who is shaking for no reason. I defiantly did felt like my body is over reacting to the situation but I saw it this way: it felt like I am back home, under pressure , and making my body doing something that IT HAS BEEN TOLD TO DO AND FALLOW. This reminded me of our talk in class, about invisible disabilities, and scars. I felt like there are invisible scars inside of me, my brain, and body that are acting now. Things that people and even sometimes I don’t know about myself. And now with the knowledge I have about bodies, I was paying attention to it and actually recognizing it, or even maybe overreacting.
After we went in and I sat down for a while things got better. We sat in front and there were cameras near me the whole time. I noticed that how my hands would go up to my scarf once in a while and fix the scarf! It was a normal act that my body was just used to do, when I have the Hijab on and I am in an environment that everyone are wearing it as well.
When we walked out of the hotel and walked several blocks I just let the scarf come down my head itself. It was an instant relieve and I was me again!
This whole process was very interesting, I thought my body was over reacting, and I was over reading it. But I thought this process was interesting to me because it was something that I forced myself to do. I put my body through something that is not enjoyable for it, in order to get something that would like to do. I have to say this was a learning experience for me!