Monday, July 21, 2008

I Hate American "Policies" and May Be Ready to Skeedaddle

Begin rant: Americans and their stupid "policies."

I took my kids to this new waterpark by my parents' house. I was so excited to show them, as we discovered together the zero-depth wade-in pool that is 18" max, with slides, fountains, and generally a fun time.

A few days ago, I brought them to another kiddie pool, and felt bad because I didn't bring my own Islamic swimsuit (I wanted to test the environment first), but then when S. - my 14 mo. old - wanted SO BADLY to go in and I couldn't, we had to go (this was after about an hour, when she finally realized that she would like to go in there).

So today, I went to this new little waterpark fully prepared, wearing my Islamic swimsuit. I was pretty nervous about how people would react, but I took a deep breathe and walked in the play area.

First thing that happens when I'm just standing with S. in the less-than-ankle-deep water is, the lifeguard approaches me and says, "I'm sorry but we have a new policy. There's no clothes in the pool."

"This is swimsuit material."

"Well, even so - it's our new policy. Because the pool has drains that could suck your clothes. Could you just roll up your pants a little bit?"

I'm thinking, okay, she doesn't get it. But I say okay, and I just tie the pants in a knot at the ankle - not rolling them up, but they're not loose at the ankle, then.

I felt really anxious after that, but she left me alone. So then I eased myself into playing with my kids, all the while slightly on edge but trying to relax as I kept the lifeguards in my peripheral vision to see if they had any more problems with me.

After about 2 hours, when I felt more comfortable, the manager comes up to me.

"I'm sorry," she says, and she looks embarrassed and apologetic. "We have this new policy...we can't allow any clothing in the pool at all."

"Even if it's swimsuit material?"

"No....I don't know if you've been watching the news-" [I have - about the fluke accident with the 6 yr. old girl] "-but there's these drains. Your clothes could get sucked by them, with all that......material."

I stare at her.

She continues, "Don't you have anything else you can wear?"


"Not even like, some shorts, or a little tank top?"

I look at her, completely amazed. Does she really not get why I'm dressed like this???


"Well...." she was getting uncomfortable now, but - not as uncomfortable as me. Still I gave her an out.

I said, "Well, if it's policy, I understand."

"Okay!" she said, immediately perking up, glad to be able to get out of there, out of this terrible, awkward conversation. "Thank you! I'm sorry!"


I was so mad/embarrassed, I just got the kids together and left. I thought about approaching her, and asking her nicely, because I was genuinely confused about why she thought I was dressed like this, "You know I'm wearing this for religious reasons, right?"

But I didn't. I didn't want to face more awkwardness, plus I was too mad - at America. I was getting shaky again.


Did you see the news story, with the 6 year old girl? Weird thing happened - what are the odds of this? A 6 yr old girl sat on a drain for an hour in a kiddie pool, and it sucked out her intestines. She went to the hospital, and died a few weeks later from complications due to the injury.

Tragic. But. In how many ways does that NOT apply to me and my situation? At least 5.

1. I am not 6. I am an adult.
2. I was not sitting on a drain.
3. The drain accident did not involve clothing.
4. The likelihood of my clothes getting sucked by these small yet clearly visible drains near the perimeter of the pool is microscopic.
5. Even if my clothes got sucked by the drain, how likely is it that this would injure me?

Having a pool AT ALL is a risk! So if they're looking to avoid all possible risks to innocent civilians, why have a pool at all????

The manager also told me, "We can't allow some people to wear clothes, and not others. It wouldn't be fair."

How lame is that argument? Just WHY can't they allow some people to do some things, and not others? Where does it say that in the Life Instruction Manual?

Fairness is NOT treating everyone exactly the same. It's giving different individuals what they need.

I am wearing these clothes FOR RELIGIOUS REASONS. Didn't they just break some other policy about freedom to practice religion?

Why don't they just put a sign on the front door that says, "Muslims Not Allowed?"

This "policy" business has p'od me off since even before I was muslim. It's blanket statements, blanket thinking that is lazy. Changing, adapting to unique circumstances would require too much thinking, too much interacting. Too much room for disagreement - which is what they are trying to avoid. "They" are incommunicado about "issues" in life. They put a period at the end of their Rules, so that there is no further discussion.

What this does is complicate life, instead of simplifying it. I have always thought so. It's not allowing people to just LIVE, free, and make their own judgements.

The business of "policies" has fostered a culture that is highly judgemental of others (oooh, spooky others), highly critical of anyone who IS different, anyone who DOESN'T follow lock-step into line and follow The Rules without blinking once or thinking twice.


Then. On the way home, I was at a stoplight when a giant pickup truck with 2 men pulled up next to me. We both had our windows rolled down, and my sunglasses were on.

"Hey!" yelled one man to the other. "Is that one of those"

I whipped my head in their direction, whipped off my sunglasses, and looked them square in the eye.

"Whoa!" they exclaimed to each other. "....Hey! Are you one of those somali religions?"

"A MUSLIM?" I ask, impatiently. (I was in a bad mood by now.)

"Whoa!!!! You a muslim???" says one. The other says, "Whoaa!!!! You REALLY went deep, huh? Being a muslim?"

I shrug, completely bewildered by what THAT'S supposed to mean. The light changes, and I put the pedal down.


Things like this.

I feel sick of America, lately.

As much as I love my parents, and the green trees and green grass and general appreciation and awareness of a clean environment, I'm thinking, wouldn't it just make life a lot easier for us if we lived in a muslim country????

I am sick of sticking out like a sore thumb every where I go. Of ALWAYS being the odd one.

I'm sick of every time I turn on what should be an innocently educational show for my kid, he's bombarded with stuff about birthdays and other philosophical things/attitudes I don't support.

Of course I know I will still stand out in a muslim country, not being from there, originally. But it's in a GOOD WAY. When people see me over there, they do a double-take and they're like, "What? You're a muslim?" and then, "MASHAALLAH!" - they're HAPPY about it!

Whereas here, people are like, "Uh-oh." LOLOLOLOLOL



My last line there made me smile, anyway!


Rayedee said...

wow, that was indeed a rant :-) yeah we all have our days.
One of my bestest friends in the whole wide world is a muslim, and I am sorry that more people don't treat you right, the way you should be treated.
America has its days. The rest of the world has its days too. You lose some and win some. Ya know?

Miss A said...

I'm not trying to make light of your rant, but it reminded me of something somebody said to me a few years ago. One of my coworkers at the time looked at me funny when I said I was muslim (I wear hijab, mind you). She said, "You're muslim? You look more Somali than you do muslim!" Sometimes ignorance is funny! I make one really pasty white Somali... come to think of it, so do you!

Kris said...

salam Piper

I totally get what you are saying, but I feel like I stand out everywhere and I don't feel that great about it when I go to Morocco. Its definitely a challenge and not easy. Inshallah, maybe you can find a different place to take your kids!

UmmLayla said...

I know how you feel. You have my sympathy. It takes gut to step out in a hijab swim-suit... So you don't deserve to be made even more uncomfortable by pool employees. Can I tell you that the first time out in mine a guy was snapping shots of it with his camera phone and DH wasn't sure whether to be embarresed for me or go beat the guy?LOL I'm with you sis.

Umm Travis said...

assalamu alaykum, nice blog ma shaa Allah :)) i just want to point out, that here in egypt, a supposed muslim country, that we have some of the same "policies"... about not allowing clothes into the swimming pool. its disgusting and revolting astaghfiruallah... but unfortunately this is the life today. let us not become too resentful in shaa Allah, and instead use our energy toward doing good for the sake of Allah, ameen :)

Umm Yehiya said...

salaamu alaikum, thanks guys, for showing the love. jazakallahkhairan. I know it's important to keep things in perspective.

umm layla - you're right, it DOES take guts to step out in a hijab swimsuit. weird that it's harder than our everyday hijabiness. why is that?

umm travis - thank you for the compliment! inshaAllah I look forward to checking out your blog, too. i know you're right about Egyptians having problems with the islamic swimsuit, too. a friend told me her story while she was recently there about not being allowed to wear hers in the women's only area!

i think you're totally right, too, and thanks for reminding me - about not becoming too resentful, and instead using our energy toward doing good inshaAllah. it's good to stay positive, and not complain too much.

UmmAbdurRahman said...

salamu alaikum ummyehiya, long time no see. i dont know how to say this and wallahi you know that i mean no harm. inshaAllah this comment will be understood by you and everyone else.

Accomodations MUST be made for practices that are vital to our religion. You cannot be fired becaue of your hijab and must be allowed to pray. These are allowances that must be made and are understandable. Making allowances for someone to swim with their children, which isn't vital to our religius practice, is not the same thing or maybe I just see things differently.

I've never heard that the little girl sat on the drain for an hour before it sucked out her small intestine. She did die from cancer which happens as a complication from some organ transplants. The workers at the pool are just doing their job because laws have changed since the incident with the little girl. If they allowed you to be in the pool with your islamic swimsuit(Which to them is no different than regular clothes) they would have to allow other people with clothing. How do they make a difference between your swimsuit and a somaali woman with a large khimar and abaya--which most of us would say can get sucked in the drain.

They have to protect themselves against possible lawsuits. While I think it took a lot of guts to go out in the islamic swimsuit(more guts than I have mashaAllah)they probably would have acted the same if you were wearing pants, t-shirt, and scarf.

InshaALlah I hope you don't become too untrusting towards all people. I work outside the house and deal with MANY nonmuslims on a daily basis. By far, they are very kind and understanding. I don't know if this is because I work in a professional environment or what. I will make duaa that you can have some peace when you leave your home inshaAllah.

umm abdu

Aayesha said...

Hey Pipo,
I went and got myself a blog too. check it out, insh'Allah. I miss you. Call me when you have some time.
Love ya,

American Muslima Writer said...

The first hting that woulda been out of my mouth in the pool incident waould have bene "i wear these for religeous reasons and if you want me to strip out of them you better order everyone in the pool to take off all their clothes ebcasue that is how I would feel.." Then wait for their reaction.
I WOULD write a cmplaint to their manager or owner though.
If the "law" violates your religeous right, then it should not be a law.

Arg i know how you feel being the odd one out. There wasn'ta muslim on my side of town that wore hijab at ALL. I was IT. I'm so relieved being in UAE/Lebanon as you said everyone notices me in a different way, mashallah a muslim american! Alhamdulliah. Not like in USA an American Weirdo. Do istikhara and talk it over deeply with your hubby. See waht options you have. But remeber you get more reward for living there and battling the shaytans and bieng a walking dawa everytime you go out. I do miss that abou tUSA.

multiculturalmuslimah said...

habibty, we definitely need to chat. Are you coming to egypt to visit still? I really want to see you.

By the way, I do want to mention that I would NOT have hesitated to point out that I was wearing the MODEST SWIMSUIT for religious reasons, that they were swimsuit material and therefore not clothes, and that if they wanted to ask me to leave they would be meeting with the police so I could file a race crimes report and later my lawyer. That type of an attitude is bullshit (pardon my language) and shouldn't be tolerated. When I get back to minnesota armed with my own islamic swimsuit I will definitely be there enjoying what is my right by the US constitution.

Mona said...

Wow, I got annoyed for your just reading that. Sorry you had to put up with that...There are pros and cons on both sides of the world so it's a tough decision.