Meeting Muslims in Philadelphia or When When All of Your Workarounds Fail

A few months back, I talked about the methods I used to combat my social anxiety.What happens though, when for some reason I cannot use most of my methods. Do I become a big ball of stress and run naked through the street screaming about Big Bird?

Unfortunately for you, I do not. What I try to do is push through all of my fears and just go for it.

Last Tuesday, Kunafa, a former internet-buddy whom I had never met invited me to grab some dessert with a group of Muslims. The hang-out session was to take place at 11 PM at one of the nicer restaurants in Philadelphia. It was raining, and I was dressed in my usual: jeans, t-shirts, flip flops.

My first hurdle, as I was driving back to the city from my parents’ house, was to actually drive to the restaurant. Several thoughts plagued me: 1. I was late. 2. My own perception that I was under-dressed for a shi-shi restaurant 3. Didn’t know anyone. 4. Didn’t have a job, or duty. 5. No way of contacting Kunafa. Her phone was dead.

Basically, I was walking into an already established posse of unknown size and make-up. Or so my brain was telling me.

Okay, if I find a parking spot. Then I’ll go in, but otherwise, I’m going home!

Of course, a parking spot was available right outside the restaurant. After I parked, it took me a few minutes to actually walk inside the restaurant. Once inside, I smiled one of those what-I’m-about-to-ask-is-gonna-sound-kinda-silly smiles.

“Umm, have you seated a group of Muslims? It may be under the name Kunafa. Possibly a couple women wearing a headscarf?”

The hostess smiled back and responded that while she hadn’t seen any women wearing headscarves, there was indeed a man wearing one.

Whabba? There is only room for one hijab-man in this town!

The hostess walked me up some stairs and led me to a large table with several well-dressed Arab men and women. I immediately felt out of place, but I asked if they knew Kunafa. They gave me some confused looks, no smiles, and a generally unwelcoming vibe…

So I left.

You may be wondering if I felt sad or disappointed. Nope.
I felt great. I conquered the fear. No, I smashed it. And I know that if I hadn’t tried, I would’ve regretted it. I was VICTORIOUS!

The next day, Kunafa sent me a message apologizing. Apparently, they had rescheduled for the next day.

I ended up meeting the group and had a lovely time. A few days later, some of the women I met had a brunch. Fifty people showed up. I pushed myself to attend and while awkward for the first few minutes, I met (and re-met) some great people, including my Sunday school teacher of 14 years ago. She reminded me about how much of an ass I was.

But the story of how I cursed out my Sunday “Islamic School” teacher is another story. Maybe I’ll let her tell it. Whaddya say, Neelo?