I want to share a surprising insight I got from an unexpected place.
All covered up
by Ruth Neuwald Falcon, Seattle, WA
Yesterday, on my way out the door for my afternoon walk in the neighborhood, I was stopped by the sight of myself in the entry mirror. A hat covered my hair, sunglasses my eyes, a mask my nose and mouth. A scarf was wrapped around my neck.
I don’t pass a lot of people when I walk (which is one of the reasons I still feel relatively safe doing so, though it is a question I ask myself every day) but the ones I do usually smile and wave as we make our socially distant way past each other. Yesterday, hardly anyone waved at me. Most of them, even those wearing masks, pretended I wasn’t there.
While it was somewhat uncomfortable to be so alienated from everyone I passed, it was also strangely freeing to be so covered up. I could sing beneath my mask, or talk to myself. I could make faces. No one could tell how old I was, or if I was wearing makeup. It reminded me a little of walking the streets of New York, where one could pretty much do whatever one wanted with one’s face and be relatively sure of going unnoticed or, at least, unremarked upon.
It wasn’t until late in the evening that I thought, This is why some women choose to wear burkas or niqabs. A couple of years ago, I read an article online, by Hani Sidow, in which a young woman, Khansa Abdul Jaleel, shared why she chose to wear a burqa. She talked about how she has “always felt so much freedom wearing it,” how things that would be perceived by others as flaws, like skin problems, were not exposed. She felt “liberated” by the choice.
I got it intellectually, but it had never made sense in my gut until yesterday. And now I wonder, What else will I learn that will bring me closer to others over these weeks of isolation?