Building a new website is a lot like moving house. You wander through the rooms, taking in years of living and then pick out a small closet and start sorting the clothes that no longer fit your personality.
Ok I admit it. I’m not building my new website, someone else is, but I still have to read through a year of writing about belonging and figure out what still fits. What stays and what goes? As I do this, I keep asking myself why?
Why belonging? Why have I latched onto this one idea?
I walked into a local chocolatier the other day. It’s a new shop with delicate-scented displays of brown and dark and light mouthfuls on silver trays. Two women were there before me looking and pointing at the truffles and exclaiming in hushed tones. Their eyes sparkled. I struck up a conversation about the beauty of chocolate and my quest for chocolate I can eat.
”I’m trying to find gluten-free chocolates,’’ I say to one.
She nods and her eyes narrow in an understanding smile.
”It is difficult,’’ she says.
The pale, almost transparent, peach-coloured scarf moves as her lips pronounce the words. I wonder what it is like to breath through material, to talk from behind the niqab, but I do not ask. I watch and read the movement around her eyes for emotions. Her words are slow and careful, made by lips and a tongue that is still focussed on forming this foreign language correctly. And yet she seems genuinely happy to be noticed, to be engaged, to talk with me.
Her friend is taller, with bright red lipstick and a simple head scarf. Sometimes she translates.
I admire their handbags as we wait for the young woman behind the counter to finish at the till. She hands a little bag over to her customer, her pony-tailed hair leaning with the movement of her body.
She turns to us. Her eyes move once between us. Hesitation makes no sound. Only her long brown hair keeps swinging as if it hadn’t noticed how the sweet air of the shop has been punctured by her indecision.
She turns to me, ”Can I help you?”
”These ladies were here first.’’ I motion to the women I’d been chatting with. I want to apologize to the women. I want to say, we’re not all like that. I want to ask, what is it like to live your life? Instead, I smile and step back.
Was the young salesperson behind the counter confused, intimidated or embarrassed by the veil and the niqab? I do not know.
But I do know what it feels like to be on the outside.
This is why I write about belonging.