People ask why I choose to cover my hair or wear an abaya or a shiid once in a while. They often ask what an American non-Muslim woman in an abaya and scarf communicates.

Today I pulled on an abaya and draped a pink and gray scarf over my hair.

I haven’t worn the abaya since being back except once to a funeral and when I slipped it over my head I felt comfortable and hidden. I love the swirling black cloth, the mystery of a robe, like I was a secret. Then I wound the scarf around my head and looked in the mirror.

I cringed.

The number one reason I love my curly hair is that it distracts from my face. From the Dumbo-sized honker right smack in the middle of my face. From the hook-nose I broke my senior year of high school. Yes, I wore a cast. Yes, it was awful.

Wrapping all that distracting hair under a scarf accentuates this family inheritance (from both sides, was there ever any hope?). And in that moment, each time I cover, it becomes glaringly obvious what my headscarf communicates.

Rachel has a big nose.

I got stares all the way through town. People pointed and waved. Saluted. Laughed. Begged. Looked and tripped.

It could have been the car with the woman they’d all seen before, now looking mysteriously like an Arab. It could have been the covered woman who kept checking the mirror and readjusting (and swerving dangerously).

But probably, it was the nose.

I’d love to know: If you cover, what is the first thing you notice in the mirror?

Here is a great blog post by a Muslim woman about coming to terms with her face. I know the feeling.