I've been wearing hijab for a few years now, and I don't spend much time contemplating how people will react to it. Everyone I meet, nowadays, sees the hijab as much as they see me. It's just a permanent part of my wardrobe. But the other day I had an interesting experience, where someone met me without hijab and I'd get to see the change in their reaction.
Being unable to sleep at night, I got up early, prayed and went to the gym. I have class at 7:30 so there's not a lot of wiggle room in the mornings, and I'm sure nobody would appreciate my showing up all sweaty, so I typically shower at the gym after morning workouts. So after my shower, I came back to my locker to finish getting dressed (I usually get at least partially dressed in the shower area before walking around.) And just as I got there, another lady had walked in; for some reason or other, she immediately started talking to me, sharing a variety of experiences, non-stop, while I was getting ready.
I have to say, it was pretty embarrassing. I'm not used to a stranger talking to me while I'm putting on my clothes, deodorant, etc. But she kept going, oblivious or unconcerned about my discomfort. She talked about losing her job, interviewing after smoking a joint and trying to detox herself for a drug test, she talked about her friend giving her rides in exchange for "all-natural" wellness advice to deal with her constipation. So I was getting dressed, hoping that soon she would finish talking and just leave, but she kept going. So I kept dressing--socks, and shoes, then I waited a bit before putting on my abaya. I didn't notice any change in her behavior, so then I put on my coat--hopefully that would signal that I needed to go. But she kept going. I had zipped up my bag and put everything back inside but my hijab. In case the abaya hadn't given me away, the scarf surely would.
But time was ticking! So I started putting on the hijab, too--starting with the underscarf. She kept talking. Then the scarf--no change. I had it pinned an everything without anything more than a blink from her. Apparently, she could care less. Finally, I grab my bag and apologize for being unable to stay and chat, as I have class starting in a few moments. And then she released me.
We left the locker room together and wished each other a nice day. Not a single word about Islam, Muslims, my hijab--nothing.
And I have to say, after watching videos like these (Praying man harassed by protesters) (Protest at ICNA Relief dinner), I think I've unfortunately been expecting the worst from people. So it was nice to see someone who really didn't care.