I've always seemed to attract static generally but that appears to have been magnified since I started wearing a scarf. Now whenever I shake a student's hand for the first time they almost always get a shock! It does work however as a great defense against overly-curious children. I had an incident of a little Italian girl deciding one day that she had had enough and she wanted to see my hair ( "basta! voglio togliere!"). She rushed forward and grabbed my scarf only to find herself being shocked by visible sparks flying everywhere! Now she thinks I'm some supernatural being (I suppose I am partly to blame for the propagation of this myth as I once said to a class of particularly rambunctious pre-teens that, "I actually cover my hair because I'm Medusa. But the snakes only come out when children don't do their homework..."
It's funny that by simply covering my hair, people who meet me for the first time have become unable to place me anywhere on the map. Generally, Brits think I'm 'foreign,' Italians think I'm Arab, and the local community of Muslims think I'm an Italian convert... One Italian lady said to me, "So where are you from?' When I replied, 'England' she looked very confused but responded, 'Oh... yes... in England they have people from everywhere don't they?' She paused, then added, 'but you speak English very well.'
Only last month, I was stood waiting for an airport shuttle bus in Bologna when a confused English tourist passed by trying to work out how to buy tickets. She asked in a loud voice, 'does anyone here speak English?' Before I could answer, she had already looked me in the eye, began to ask 'do you spe...?' but trailed off, shaking her head as if there was no way I could possibly help her. Straight away (and on the defensive) I went into 'posh telephone voice mode' and gave her an overload of information just to prove that I was no less British than her.
Later that day, I arrived back in England and hailed a taxi. Using my official telephone voice once more, I said, 'Good morning! I'd like to go to Ennerdale Road please' and got in. The first thing the driver said was, 'So were are you originally from then eh?' I wasn't sure if he meant my home city (and not really having one) I said, 'my family originally came from Northampton actually.' He continued, 'yeah but where are you originally from?' I realised what he meant and responded, 'I'm English.' 'But you're Muslim,' he said, furrowing his brow in the rear view mirror, 'A British Muslim? That's not right though is it?' I inhaled in anticipation of an awkward journey and squirmed in my seat as he went into a rant about 'Asian Islamics.' He defended his position with the awkwardly phrased, 'I mean, I'm from English yeah? and I'm Christianity. But I don't want no Iraqi law. I can't be a Muslim anyway. I'm an alcoholic me.' So I just smiled at him through the rear view mirror and tried to neutralise his comments in such a way that he would say, 'yeah I agree with you there'. By the end of the journey he seemed slightly calmer, having realised that I wasn't a terrorist and wished me a Merry Christmas.I gave him a tip in good faith that in the future he might remember meeting a friendly Muslim who wasn't "oppressed."
Coming to Terms with my Face
As strange as it sounds, the hardest thing about starting to wear hijab was I didn't have anything to distract from my face and I had to get used to what I actually look like. I've always been a bit paranoid about my appearance (some of us being blessed with more cheek, chin and nose than most!) but I've found that now I feel far more confident in my own skin. I'm far happier with how I look now without worrying about frizz and makeup. I guess I came to the conclusion that a big smile on your face is more than enough.
Finally, just a little side note: My favourite reaction to my hijab so far has been my Grandad who said, 'Well Sarah, you know we love you whatever you wear. But to be honest... I've always thought your hair was a bit strange anyway.' : D