The Muslim Observer
May 5, 2011
Recently, I found myself sewing an old purse that my best friend gave me when I was 15. I’m really glad I still have it. When I was in my twenties, I took up sewing to help myself quit smoking, to give my fingers something to do. Sewing is more difficult with small children, as they are very attracted to the thread and the needles. I had to put my creative life on hold for a while.
Still, I love being forty. I finally feel like I am pretty. I know it sounds dumb, but it means a lot to women. I told my ten year old daughter some advice that I wish someone had given me when I was young.
Save everything you purchase. When you are a teen or in your twenties, money seems plentiful because mother and father are paying all your basic expenses. You begin to collect things like clothes, purses, shoes, scarves, and hats. Winter boots, gloves, towels, sheets and blankets. Keep all of these things. Do not give them away. Never underestimate your future needs.
When people are young, it often seems like the comforts of daily life will last forever. Trust me, they will not. By the time you are forty, the used sofa you inherited from your uncle at age 20 will have taken the final assault from your latest toddler’s pee or kids jumping on it, and it will be on the curb. Then you will not have a sofa. So even now, when you are 20, you should realize that there will come a day when sofas do not grow on trees, believe it or not. Neither do paper towels, though they are indeed made of trees. But you still have to pay for them. It will be embarrassing if you are still “liberating” rolls of toilet paper from your parents’ bathroom or God forbid the chiropractor’s office at 40.
The clothes are important. I stopped growing when I was 15. Blame it on caffeine, but I can still wear clothes that I bought in the 1980s. God praise polyester. It will outlive the human race. When you wear vintage clothing, people assume you must be a poet. This comes with its own rewards. Never throw or give away a beautiful dress or a comfortable pair of pants.
There is nothing more important in America than a good haircut. Where social acceptance is concerned, you cannot show any weakness! The key to classic beauty is to have the most socially acceptable haircut at the most expensive price. I am not entirely sure why this is true, but this rule of thumb applies even if you wear hijab. Maybe even especially if you wear hijab.
One time, I was walking through Times Square and some people from MTV interviewed me, asking me what is my advice for the youth?
I said: Give people a chance to believe you are normal. Don’t wear trendy clothes that will look stupid in a few years. Wear classic styles, and t-shirts without slogans.”
The MTV journalist was baffled that I didn’t say, “Just be yourself.”
Yet I have learned the hard way that anybody hoping to succeed in high school should at least at first strive to appear normal. If you wear hijab, combine it with loose clothing. Otherwise you will look strange.
Don’t let people label you as ‘weird’ before they have even talked to you. You can express your individuality in so many other ways. Your clothes should communicate respect for yourself and others.
And never, ever kiss a boy unless you are ready to get married. Otherwise it’s a complete waste of time. Don’t bother “falling in love”
in high school because the statistical probability of you marrying your high school sweetheart in this day and age is practically zero. If there is someone you really like, and he is a truly worthy human being, maintain a friendship with his entire family until you are old enough to discuss marriage. The longer you stay away from romantic drama, the more time you will have to concentrate on your dreams without wasting precious energy healing from the emotional traumas that are inevitable in a love relationship.
If you choose a career and go forward on that path, even if you change your mind later, you will still be way ahead of those who had no goal.
Train for a job such as Beautician or Electrician while you are still in high school. This will enable you to earn a real income immediately upon graduation, which will help you pay for college. Anything you want to do in your life, such as travel the world to see the sights, learn how to shoot a bow and arrow, or volunteer for Food Not Bombs, do it now, before you have children. Your life will never be the same again after you have children, so if there is anything you long to do or see, now is the time to start planning. When you live spiritually, you will be surprised how little travel can cost. Start saving as soon as you are old enough to earn money doing teen jobs, then invest the money wisely. My mother told me when I was a girl, which fortified me against the anxiety of facing the unknown:
“Everywhere you go, God is there. Nothing can happen to you without God knowing.”
Hold on tight to your faith, because God guides those who listen to the best path. Your path might be a little bit different from someone else’s path. Listen to your heart, pray, and choose wisely.
Beyond that, I would say, keep your hair clean. You may have to shampoo more often, once you have reached a certain age. Keep your nose clean, especially if you are a tall person (short people can see straight up your nostrils)! Keep your bottom clean, of course. Keep your clothes on.
You will know when you cannot delay marriage any longer without becoming distracted. If you are still in college, do not let this prevent you from marriage. You will have an easier time concentrating on your homework and job if you have a stable married life than those young adults who are single. Just use birth control. When you are ready to have children, you will know it.