Monday, February 23, 2009
Beauty is ...
Many people say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I never really thought of this line until I came to Beirut. From the moment I stepped foot in the airport until this very day of my life here - I had a feeling that I'm prettier.
All narcissism aside, and all modesty in focus, many people here seem to think i'm beautiful. Women have said this to me in my face, ranging from faculty to friends to acquaintances to the woman down the street. And men, well, let's say they have their ways of expressing admiration. And that's more than bizarre for me. Let me tell you why.
I come from a family of five, three boys and two girls. My sister is two years older than me. Throughout our life, my sister has always been the pretty one - and I've been the ordinary, 'nothing special just a girl' one. She has beautiful dark green eyes, mine are brown. She has a gorgeous little chiselled nose, I have a ... nose.
Or so people have categorized us throughout our lives until our adulthood. Therefore, I've always believed and internalized the fact that i'm okay looking, and my sister is the gorgeous one. The secret is my sister is beautiful both on the inside and the outside -- but not alot of people know that. shhhh, that's our little secret.
Anyway, now I've come to see that beauty changes from country to country. My life in Canada where I used to live has always supported my theory that I'm "okay looking". For example, when I'd walk in a room I'd never turn heads. Those who know me say hi, and those who don't know me don't look my way. Here, in contrast --- if I walk down the street people look, if I walk in a store people look, if I walk on campus students look, if I'm at a sit-in restaurant people look, if I'm on the bus people in and out of the bus look, if I'm in a car the other drivers look. No joke, it's insane like something out of a movie.
At first I thought it was my hijab and that people aren't used to it. Then I realized there are tons of hijabis all around which makes it a common sight to see.
The most troubling part of it is to handle the opposite gender and their 'expressions of admiration'. It's really annoying to be frank about it. What I'm more disturbed of, I guess, is the venomous combination of getting attention and feeling 'valued' which is a positive feeling -- mixed with the state of mind I'm in which is looking for Mr. Right and wanting to find marriage in a halal way.
It's very disturbing to balance out the two as one tries to sift out a decent brother from the masses who are simply annoying and indecent. What if in my frustration I tell off a brother who has good intentions?
The second challenging thing is the test that I feel Allah (swt) is putting me through. I've lived it most my life not feeling like Angelina Jolie walked in when I walk in, you know, and now I'm getting the royal treatment like I'm some model which I totally don't believe I am -- but I get treated that way nonetheless.
I think Allah (swt) is testing my modesty, something I've always liked about myself. By modesty I mean having the ability to stay grounded even when acquiring lots of skills in life that distinguish us from others. By modesty I mean still being able to connect with all sorts of people from all walks of life, no matter how experienced one becomes. I don't want money or profession or skills or whatever to take me away from bonding with people.
I value this quality not only in me but in people around me as well, so it would truly hurt in deep wounding ways to jeopardize this jewel of a quality. What a hard test, may Allah (swt) help me succeed inshAllah. Make du'a for me please. I really need it.
It's not easy rejecting better treatment, for whatever reason. I find myself gazing downwards when I walk down the street. Funny, I used to poke fun at the brothers in Canada who when they see a sister they look downwards almost hitting the pole ahead of them. SubhanAllah.
I also find myself being more "smile-less" especially when having to talk to men. I love smiling, I've always loved it, and now, I fear it because I don't want the guy who's already smiling with shine and glory two sentences into talking to me, to think that I'm reciprocating. In some ways, it's very bizarre to find survival mechanisms for this new challenge I'm facing.
Any tips? .... by the way, the picture with this post is of Tripoli's beaches, about two hours away from Beirut. Now that, my friends, is beauty. Unchallenged. Undisputed. SubhanAllah.