This Guy is Cool or Why I Want to Be Religious

His name is Dante. He's 18 and he converted to Islam four years ago. He is also rocking the most killer tennis shoes ever.

Sep 2, 2011 at 3:00pm | Leave a comment

The first article I got published in The New York Times was about Muslim women. "The hijab, or head scarf, and burqa," I wrote, "...seen by some Westerners as tools of oppression, were never mentioned in the women's answers to open-ended questions." 

I wrote that as a news assistant in 2005. My primary duties back then were answering phones and knowing exactly where all the plastic forks were. Gallup had just released a poll that basically said most Muslim women didn't see themselves the way others saw them -- as victims. I thought making note of that in the paper of record was important, even though one editor told me it wasn't news.

This time last year, I was in Morocco for my best friend's birthday. Seeing as how we were two single women alone, we dressed insanely conservatively in the 1,000-degree heat. It's not like we thought people were going to throw stones at us (which is not me making light of stoning) but it was Ramadan and we wanted to be respectful.

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What surprised me most about wearing an ankle-length BLACK skirt with a long sleeved shirt wasn't my apparently high threshold for sweat, but how low my tolerance for trashy tourists became. We saw a woman, who sounded British when she asked the waiter if he could write, in 6-inch Chinos and were sufficiently scandalized. Who does that? Well, I do when I'm not in Morocco. 

Conservely I was shocked -- despite knowing better -- by how fashionable the women were in their abayays and thobes. Women in burqas and Chanel glasses were perusing the cheap crap in the sooks like everybody else. Young women with even their hands covered in gloves were still driving Vespas. I wanted to take pictures but that felt too on safari for me. Then yesterday I ran into this guy on the metro. 

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His name is Dante. He's 18 and he converted to Islam four years ago. He is also rocking the most killer tennis shoes ever. 

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In a foreign country, I rarely take pictures of people because it makes me feel icky. I don't know. In France, I was dying to photograph these little kids listening so intently at a museum and then thought, "If some crazy lady was taking pictures of my daughter she's like to get punched -- or a very stern talking to." Anyway, in my own country I have little to no problem approaching strangers and asking to trap a bit of their souls in my iPhone.

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This kid has style, man. Electric light blue with black trim? Hot pink laces? Cuffed jeans to show off your stuff? I don't care who you're praying to, that's god-given talent. Dante told me these were LeBron James sneakers. I believe they are the Nike Air Max LeBron VII's to be exact. And now I want a pair.