A few days ago I was at a school talking to the librarian about some of the nominees for a local reader’s choice award and when I mentioned a particular author she said, “Oh he’s so arrogant.”

Just like that.

And it was a bit jarring for me.

And it reminded me of a moment in England, talking to a friend of mine, telling her about this author I’d met in Saskatchewan, a science fiction author who was arrogant like anything, and she immediate guessed who it was!

And then I couldn’t help it. I wondered what people were saying about me.

Mostly I never ever think of that!

I think if I dwelt on that it would be paralyzing!

I’ve got so many things they could comment on, and thinking about all of them sure would destroy my confidence. How could I get up in front of people?

And yet it’s funny. In my ever running quest to lose weight, one of the biggest things weight loss groups say is that losing weight will increase your confidence.

Somehow the weight doesn’t impact mine at all. I’m pretty sure of that.

Sure I’d look sleeker and better if I lost the weight. Sure I’d like to do that, but somehow I get up there and do my speaking gigs just fine as is and I honestly can’t imagine losing weight improving that in any way.

But getting back to the comments, I was wondering, for a brief instant, what people might be saying about me.

I did hear, third hand, a comment.

It was from a teacher who was quoting another teacher on a private listserve, and apparently they said something like, “Oh yeah, she dresses that way, but really…she’s good.”

I’m really paraphrasing.

And it was one of those weird moments where I’m slammed up against a wall as to how odd I must be.

I probably already said this in a blog post way back, but I made a deliberate choice to wear Pakistani clothes in my presentations. Firstly because I find them more flattering and modest than western clothes on my bulky person, and secondly the style of clothes is relevant in some of my presentations, especially when I’m doing Ruler of the Courtyard with primary children. It’s important that the girl in the story is wearing a shalwar kameez and it helps for the kids to see me wearing one.

The third reason I wear Pakistani clothes is because it’s a form of community validation.

When I first started, you should have seen the looks on the teachers’ and kids’ faces when I started my presentation wearing such traditional clothes and yet what comes out of me is a hip Canadian accent.

One equity officer for the Toronto District School Board at the time called me a ‘stereotype buster’. And I thought, yup. That’s me.

I often come across highly educated South Asians, and it always seems the more highly educated they are, the more they dress in assimilated garb.

Anyway, it is a definite choice I make and yet it still jars me to be reminded of it.

Like when I look in a dark store front window and see that I’m dressed Islamically, and for a moment I forget I’m any different at all, and think, “Oh, who’s that plump foreign-looking woman there?” and immediately I answer myself, “Oh yeah, that’s me!”

I do forget some times.

Just like most of the times I don’t worry about what people might be saying because there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it. It’s completely beyond my control, and I always try to focus only on things that are within my control.

Oh well.

Whatever it is, good or bad, it won’t stop me. I will continue, insha Allah. Keep on keeping on, that’s my motto.

Over and out.