Madison, Virginia – January 18, 2013
Have to admit, I was more than just a little bit nervous going into Madison wearing hijab. This is a town way out in the country, where keeping track of your neighbors business wasn’t a hobby, it was a profession. Just being from out of town and walking into The Mountaineer Cafe was enough to earn you hard stares and some questions from the locals about where you come from and what you’re doing in Madison. I’d once worked in Madison for a lady insurance agent who divided her work hours between listening to the police scanner and gossiping about everyone in town. Strangers are sometimes treated strangely. Insular little place filled with people who haven’t been past the county line or 12th grade.
Madison is also one of the most beautiful places you can go, the surrounding mountains of the Blue Ridge in lovely shades of lavender blue surround you everywhere you go in the town and county. The downtown is all federal style brick buildings from the early eighteen hundreds. Much of the downtown looks like it belongs in a museum dedicated to pre-Civil War era.
I go to Yoder’s Country Market every month or so but so do a lot of extremely fundamentalist Christians I know so I knew I would not be the only one there perusing the products wearing a head covering. Most of the young ladies manning the registers are Mennonites wearing white caps. It’s a Mennonite owned and run store with great prices on bulk items.
After I’d driven onto the lot and parked my nondescript late model Buick I’d sat for just a moment before another car pulled into the space next to mine. I could see it was an older couple with a elderly lady with them. They were staring at me, the elderly lady’s mouth popped open in a shocked fashion. After a few more moments the man put the car in gear, backed out and parked across the parking lot.
I slunk in through the charming wooden facade of the store very self conscientiously at that point, feeling that I was being still stared at by the trio in the other car. But once I was inside the store I had some of the least reactions I’ve experienced yet. Some staring and immediately looking away but no angry glares, no muttering, no one knocking me down with the bathroom door.
While I was picking out spices one of the young men from the family that owns the store approached me and told me he was happy I’d made the switch to covering my head. I knew him from some of the other times I’ve been in the store. One of the things you can find in there are a stack of tracts about why it is holy and righteous for women to always wear a head covering. He and I had several conversations about head coverings back when I was at my old church trying to figure out if the pro-head covering crowd was right or not. He’d obviously assumed I’m covering for Christian modesty. Which is funny because I’m wearing one of my very Egyptian scarfs.
But the biggest reactions I got were from the lady in the deli section and several of the cashiers. They were all Mennonite ladies and while they’ve always been smiling and thanking you I’ve never experienced them being so friendly and welcoming as they were today. It was such a marked difference to how they usually treat you that I have to believe it was because they believe the same way the young man does, that I’ve finally seen the light on head coverings. Oh, the smiling! Treating me like a bosom pal!
Not at all what I was expecting today!