jdeena

Never settle for what is…come tomorrow it will be what was

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World Hijab Day, and Why I’m Against It

So this past Sunday was the 2nd World Hijab Day, a day where non-Muslim women are encouraged to don the hijab to “see what it’s like wearing hijab.” This even was started in 2013, and as noble the idea is, I can’t help but have a few reservations about those celebrating it; Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

What is the premise behind this event? So a non-Muslim woman can wear hijab and see what we, hijabis, go through on a daily basis. Now, I know that some girls do get comments and are harassed sometimes. I will not say it doesn’t happen. However, having worn hijab for 18 years now, my incidents have been far and few between. Yes, some people will stare, some will make a comment (I’ve been called terrorist and oppressed), but you will find those incidents in any social interaction in society. If I didn’t wear hijab, I’d be harassed as a woman. If I wasn’t a woman, I’d be harassed for the way I look….and on and on it goes. Because you will NEVER be fully accepted in society, no matter who you are.

So let’s say the woman wearing hijab for a day DOES get harassed. Now she will feel pity at the women who do wear it daily. She will also feel some resentment towards a religion that mandates a woman to succumb to that type of ridicule. No, she will not understand that the struggles we face will be rewarded. It might seem like a sweet idea to believe she will, but because she does not understand Islam, she really won’t see it that way.

That leads me to the second point; the women wearing the hijab for a day do not understand Islam, nor do they have the emotional connection to hijab and what it truly means. They have it on for a day- not a lifetime- so they will not truly respect the idea as someone who knows they have to wear it for years to come. It takes a certain type of person to understand that when you wear hijab, you are preparing yourself for a lifetime of possible hardships. To wear it for one day and then go back to your old self will not give you the full experience.

But here I am talking about IF they DO have an experience. Because honestly, most will not. If you wear for hijab for one day, you most likely will not experience harassment. I go out every day to the gym, grocery store, shopping areas, etc….and I never get harassed. I get looked at yes- but I like to think it’s because of the smile on my face, or something I’m wearing. We can’t always assume someone is looking at us because of our hijab. How self-centered can you be? I travel a lot for work, and the last time I flew, I had two flights each way to my destination, and on each flight, the person I was seated next to was welcoming and asked me lots of questions. There was no fear and no ignorance.

So assume these non-Muslims wear hijab for a day- AND NOTHING HAPPENS. No one looks at them, no one says anything to them….they are treated as a regular person. And again the possibility of this is much higher than the opposite reaction. So now these non-Muslims will wonder “what the heck are hijabis complaining about all the time- they don’t get harassed! No one views them differently. So why all the fuss? This is what you wanted me to experience? Hijabis don’t have it harder than anyone else.”

Also, whatever happened to hijab making women feel empowered? Why do we want people to wear it to feel how oppressed we feel in it? It’s like asking someone to dress in blackface to see how it feels to be black. One, that would never work; there would be such an uproar on how disrespectful it is. Black people know that if a white person donned blackface for a day, their experiences will never measure to the ones they face daily. Suffering for one day with someone will not alleviate the overall suffering of that people. Hijab is not meant to be used as a method to get people to sympathize with you, because just like I mentioned above, they will not be able to fully comprehend the notion.

So let’s assume they wear the hijab, and they somewhat get harassed, and now they sort of understand it. This is the best case scenario. Now, what happens when someone bashes hijab and the idea of it in front of this person? Of course, this is the reason why we want them to wear it- so they can defend us! So they will bring up their experience, and say how for one day they wore it and it was hard and awful and people looked at them funny….so now more people will pity us? COME ON PEOPLE. We do’t want that, do we? When people used to ask me about hijab, I never whined. I never complained, nor did I throw out the “woe is me” card. I replied with strength and courage, and said it empowered me and gave me experiences that shaped me into the person I am. I don’t want people to pity me. You shouldn’t either.

The last point I want to bring up is about Muslim women who support Hijab Day. I honestly do not understand how the SAME women who wear hijab and judge other Muslim women in hijab, are supportive of non-Muslims wearing the hijab. Because they are not wearing it up to “your standards” yet you are applauding them for taking the chance to wear it to see what it’s like. So it doesn’t matter if these non-Muslims in hijab have nail polish on, wear skinny jeans- heck, even have short sleeves on in hijab- because hey, they’re just trying to empathize with us!

HYPOCRITES.

I cannot STAND that idea. How about you first learn to respect your other Muslim hijabis, and not judge them, before you applaud someone for trying it out for a day. How about, instead of focusing on a World Hijab Day, you focus on becoming closer with other Muslims that you know first? I love how we as Muslims are so excited to get non-Muslims to learn about us, yet we create such divisions within our selves. So what if your fellow hijabi is not wearing hijab the “right way?” Did you ever stop to think that maybe your constant judgement is making them feel so far from their community that they will no longer listen to you? I see it all the time- there is even a page on Facebook that was leaked recently where Muslim women take pictures of hijabis in public and then bash them with comments. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Then these same women want to encourage World Hijab Day? PLEASE.

You want people to learn about hijab, write something. Speak at a conference or woman’s event. Get involved at your university or in your community. Talk to people you meet in public. Be approachable. I don’t know how many times I’ve been approached by someone wanting to ask me about hijab but they are too scared because the last hijabi they asked was mean-spirited and disrespectful. Having someone wear the hijab may get them to see how hot it is maybe underneath it on a summer day. Or see how warm it keeps you in the midst of winter. But it will not give them the full idea of hijab- not even a small idea. To them it is a costume they will wear for a day- “oh look, I’m Muslim!”- and then discard the next day and return to their life of detachment.

Feminism and Islam: Does it Mix?

The other day I posted the blog of the Christian woman who wrote about her decision to stop wearing yoga pants in order to respect her husband and the sanctity of their relationship. If she would have left her sentiments at that, I could have accepted it. After all, a woman has the right to save for husband what she wishes. However, she included in her post that before coming to this decision, she asked her female friends and her husband about what they thought of women who wear yoga pants, and her husband admitted that it would be hard for him “not to look” if a woman walked by in them.

Um, what? So your husband openly admits he might sneak a look now and then, and instead of telling him to avert his gaze, you make the decision to stop wearing them so other guys don’t look at you- because it’s disrespectful for your husband? What about all those other women still walking around in yoga pants? And now you will only wear yoga pants at home for your husband, but he is still out there looking at other woman in them. Seems like a useless decision.

This is what I have a problem with. Women who choose to stop wearing something “because men” something: can’t help themselves, might be tempted, might get the wrong idea about you. How about, men control their mouths, their hands, their thoughts? Don’t tell me men are animalistic by nature. Don’t tell me they are primal beings that have the gene of provider and pro-creator. We’ve come a long way from the Dark Ages.

As much as this topic is interesting, what I really wanted to get into was the debate that ensued after I posted this article. My point in posting it was obviously from a societal standpoint- that as women, we continue to be blamed for men’s reactions to what we wear. And that in order to get them to stop, WE have to change. As a feminist, that doesn’t sit well with me.

A few people came on to the post and told me that from an Islamic point of view, this is why we women cover- to avert mens’ gaze. However, I don’t believe that should be reason enough. And really, it is not meant to avert a man’s gaze, but more so to keep hidden the things you should only want to show your husband (which is subjective in my eyes, since I have many friends and family who have lived their life uncovered and are by no means bad people). Ok, so back to the comments. I was told that is a woman PROPERLY covers (meaning that I do not), she will not have men harassing her or looking at her in a lewd way. So basically, if I don’t want to be harassed, cover up.

BIG ISSUE HERE. Because I have had friends overseas who will cover completely, and men will still harass them. Men will cat-call a plastic bag if it has the right curves, okay? Regardless of what you wear, you will get harassed. I was wearing no makeup one morning, barely awake, and filling up gas. It was sunny so I had sunglasses on, and the guy at the pump next to me said “Hey ma, why don’t you take off those sunglasses so I can see your pretty face?” I’ve had guys hit on me at the gym (insert lame “let’s workout together” comment here) as I was red-faced, sweaty and panting for air. Some guys will just harass because they can. And yes…it IS harassment. It is unwanted attention, it is not a compliment. See previous post for rant on that.

Once I got everything out of my system on why men should not harass a woman regardless of what she wears, and once I advocated why women should be allowed to dress any way they choose without harassment, I was told that as a Muslim covered woman, I cannot support that ideal. Because my religion encourages women to cover, I cannot advocate on behalf of women who want to dress provocatively.

Wait, what?

So because I am a Muslim woman, I cannot fight for women to be able to wear what they want without fear of retaliation? I was told yes, because fighting for that goes against the very ideals that Islam instills in us. Which is that women should be covered and therefore will be protected. Of course, this did not sit well with me, as I feel a woman should be able to do whatever the hell she wants to do. I have many friends and family who are not covered, and so I will fight for their right to be uncovered and not harassed. It has nothing to do with religion, it has to do with the fact that women are HUMAN beings, not animals, and they deserve to walk out of their homes without worrying if a skirt above the knee will warrant unnecessary comments. Or that a pair of heels will not invite men to make disgusting comments about where else they can wear them.

So can I, as a Muslim woman, be a feminist? Well, I say yes, because here I am! I am fighting for women’s rights all over the world and I wear hijab and identify as a Muslim. Now, many people seem to have a problem with that, but guess what? I don’t care! Regardless of whether or not you think my ideals coincide with Islam, I am content with still upholding my traditional Islamic values while also fighting for female equality and proper treatment. I recently read an article about a woman who identified as a feminist while being Christian, and she spoke of many of the same issues I have discussed here as well (although she went a bit further). Here is a link to her post: http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/worldview/christian-cleavage-probably-isnt-problem#o97qZSH5dpz14m3H.01.

It does stem a bit further than just Muslim women, so really, can we say organized religion and feminism cannot mix? As far as I can tell, yes, it can….it is those who doubt the power of the feminist movement and have yet to believe in its cause that seem to think it cannot. If you want to seemingly hide behind your scarf and use that as your shield against the “harassment” you go right ahead. But I will have no problem continuing to prove you wrong.

Hot and Cold

So, something that I experience regularly with guys that I meet is this “hot and cold” relationship. You know what I’m talking about. When the guy seeks you out, pursues you relentlessly, makes you take down those walls you’ve built from the last jerk who broke your heart….and then once he’s done ALLLLL that work, he flips. He disappears-POOF!

I can never know what the heck happens at that point. It’s usually about a month or so into the relationship, and I will have just become used to the idea that, yes- maybe I can get married! Maybe there is a guy who really gets me after all! Oh happy day!

But all that is short-lived, because once the guy sees me give in, he changes his mind. This always happens to me, and it is so frustrating. I even ask the guy to PLEASE just be honest with me and let me know if things don’t seem to go the way he was expecting, just so I have the courtesy of a proper breaking-up. No such luck. Maybe because I am so outgoing and opinionated, they fear a really bad confrontation. Either way, they do me the favor of trying to weed out the cowards myself. So thank you.

However, recently, I had a guy actually come back after a month or so and actually apologize- and get this- EXPLAIN why he did what he did! Woah. That’s a bit much to take in. But it was refreshing nonetheless. So here is what happened:

I get a Facebook message of “sorry” and a picture of a bouquet of flowers. I tell him “not accepted.” We go back and forth, and I tell him how hurt I was. I mean, he was showing he was head over heels for me, and then when I was in his city visiting and texted him, he ignored me. It was pretty shocking and disappointing.

So finally, finally, after asking him what happened, he admits it. He was scared. Now, I know we women think of this excuse as a cop-out with most guys. But I am going to give this guy the benefit of the doubt. He said that he was afraid of me coming into town, him falling even harder for me, and then me leaving. We live about a 7-hour drive apart. We have known each other for about 2 years now. We have stayed in touch this whole time, and he always told me I was the perfect woman for him, but I never believed it. But since I was going to be visiting his city, I wanted to see what was really there, so we made plans. But the plans never happened, because he bailed.

That got me thinking; is this what happened with all the other guys? Did they realize something and were just too afraid to tell me? And if so, why did they feel they couldn’t talk to me about it? Am I a big scary monster? Maybe, and I just don’t know it. However, I still don’t believe that as an excuse. I mean, one of my ex fiances did this same exact thing- no explanation, nothing. But this has become such a habit with guys that I meet that it has started to really grate on me. I mean, give me the courtesy of an explanation at the very least. Don’t I deserve that as a human being?

I don’t usually like to speculate, but sometimes I can figure out why a guy has disappeared, and it’s not always favorable. I just wish I could know what goes on in their head. Do they just wake up one day and say “yea…not in the mood to talk to Jinan. EVER.”? I mean, one guy went from skyping me 3 times a day for 2 weeks straight to not responding to my texts, and deleting me off of social media (which I figure is because he posted a pic with a girl shortly after haha). Another guy went from forcing me to talk on the phone (which I hate) twice a day to not answering my calls the day he didn’t call me on his way to work as usual. Literally: hot and cold.

So, what is it then? Is it me? Or are they not yet ready for a commitment? And if it IS that, then why do they force me to break down my walls and open my mind to a relationship, when they themselves don’t want it? Is it a game then? Do they want to see how many girls they fool into falling for them?

Whatever the case, I now know what could be the excuse, thanks to this latest revelation. Quite possible the guy was scared. Which is a lame excuse, but an excuse nonetheless.

Or, quite possibly (and more believable), he was an ass. Either way, I learned my lesson. The next time a “hot” guy comes charging at me, I’ll be sure to extinguish him with my “cold” heart.

The Curse of Youth

This past weekend, I attended an event in Michigan. It was the 3rd annual Lebanese Student Association gala hosted by the student groups from 4 local universities. It was an extremely impressive event, with over 1000 attendees. The hall was beautiful;  really, it was worthy of a wedding. I was really impressed with the dedication of the students to come together and host such an amazing event.

I was there to support a friend who is on the board of one of the student groups. I was also seated with a some friends of mine who were also in college. So needless to say, I was at least 10 years older than the oldest person there. At first, everything was fine. We laughed and joked and I didn’t feel “old” except when they started asking me if I was still in school and how old I was. I still get a kick every time I see a shocked reaction to my age. One girl even said I looked 21 which is so untrue, but was sweet nonetheless.

When the dancing started, that’s when I started to feel my age. I remember the carefree feeling of not caring who I was dancing with at school events; I could look around and see myself surrounded by all my friends. And even though I knew some people at this event, they were, of course, distracted by being with their friends. Which I completely understand. So I just sat quietly and observed the youth in their element and reminisced about my youth.

And at that moment, it occurred to me that I would never be young again. It’s fine to LOOK young and to FEEL young, but I will never actually BE young again. And that thought depressed me. Because as much as I think that I’m still young, I really am not. I will be 33 in a few short months. And while I still don’t believe that age defines a person, I believe that there comes a time when you outgrow certain things.

Would I have had more fun if I was with people my age? Absolutely. And it wasn’t that my friends there were acting in a way that was unacceptable. They were just being their 20 year old selves.

Sometimes I wish I was still at that age, but would I want to go through my 20s again? I don’t think so, but then again I did make plenty of mistakes so I could always rectify that. But who’s to say I wouldn’t make different mistakes? This is the curse of youth- to never fully awaken and to continue to be surrounded by younger people, attend events with them, while the rest of the friends your age mature and move on with their lives. If I spent more time with people who were married, I’d feel more of an urgency to grow up.

I feel stuck in a place where I am suspended alone, caught between growing up and not wanting to grow up at all. I wonder if I could change my license to say I’m 25….but then again, too many people know me for me to be able to pull it off. So for now, I guess I will just have to live this curse until one day I outgrow it.

A Numbers Game

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of seeing one of my really good friends Nabil. Every time I’m in the DMV area, he makes time to see me, but nothing compared to this time because when he showed up he was so deathly ill, I thought he was going to collapse right in front of me. However, he pulled through (because he’s awesome like that), and we had one of the best 3 hour dinners I have ever experienced with anyone. Forget the fact that he told me some news that shocked me into a frenzied state of mind (still shook up about that FYI). We ended up discussing- which we usually end up doing anyways- relationships.

As a trusted friend of mine, I have always turned to Nabil for advice and a male’s perspective. Even when I was engaged or going through a breakup. Knowing him for ten years has given me the comfort and ease of opening up to him, and he- in turn- is candid in his responses. So at one point during our conversation, I was telling him about my last attempt at a serious relationship, where I gave the guy 3 months to make the commitment. And Nabil told me something I never would have thought about. He told me that 3 months was way too long. Because as short as our life is, we cannot afford to spend 3 months with each person we meet. His theory is that once we meet a person, we know within 10 minutes if we want to see them again. And within 24-48 hours, we know whether or not we like that person. So, at most, we will know whether or not that person is a compatible match for us within a week. And at the end of that week, as a female, we cut the guy off. If he is serious, the guy will come knocking down the door wanting to be with you. If he doesn’t, hey- you only spent a week with that fool.

I stared at him, trying to figure out if he was being serious. (He was.) But as he went on, I realized that his theory made sense. Why do we always drag things out? Yes, it is important to find out each others likes and dislikes, but you will never fully know the person no matter how many months you date. So maybe the idea that we focus on the positives from the start and have pure intentions for a solid commitment are what we need in order to find that partner. Plus, as a female, it helps us weed out the assholes who are just using you.

So all of what he said to me that night resounded in my head all weekend. I kept turning it over and over in my mind, trying to make sense of it. So if I met a guy today, I’d know in a week if I wanted a solid commitment with him? Could I really do that? And if I am doubting whether or not I could, wouldn’t that make ME the problem? Doesn’t that mean that I am the one running from commitment?

It’s true that I was the one who imposed a 3 month limit in my last relationship, but if the tables were turned, and he wanted to commit after a month, would I have agreed? That’s what scares me. Because I think I probably wouldn’t have. Because since then, I have had a few guys show their interest in a commitment, who in fact want to rush into an engagement almost right away, and I admit it scares the hell out of me. How can they be so sure about me? What if they find out my flaws and realize they made a mistake? I admit that I’m not an easy person to love. Not because you need to prove anything to me, but because I am so used to being on my own that I have a hard time letting someone love and care for me.

So, since Nabil told me I have nothing to lose, I plan on trying this new method. I just need to force myself into this state of mind that not every person will meet all my standards, but that I can overlook the not-so-important ones and focus on what really matters, which is (according to Nabil): physicality, religiousness, and character. All the other things are just minor.

After I made it back home from my vacation, I texted Nabil and he told me something that I will end with. He said: “It’s a numbers game. Just don’t hold on to one ticket too long. Keep swapping them out for newer tickets until one fits the bill.”

So that’s what I’ll do.

The Price of Feminism

I’ve had quite a few conversations lately about the status of women in society- ranging from street harassment to body image. It seems that the internet has helped launch a campaign to showcase all the terrible things women face daily. From death threats for refusing advances to hateful comments being posted under Instagram pictures, women are facing the biggest battle of the century.

It comes as no surprise to my friends and social circles that I am an advocate for women’s rights. I abhor anything that resembles objectification of women. Women are not commodities, so for men to feel that they have the right to harass them verbally or physically builds a rage in me so strong that any objection to my view can result in a very severe tongue-lashing, no matter who you are. I actually have been in many heated debates with my best friend, who has the view that women should be objectified if they so desire. She thinks that if women have the assets and men find them attractive, that we should feel pride and accept it. Which obviously doesn’t sit well with me. She also claims that women who push for feminism shouldn’t be hypocritical and allow women who want to pose nude to do so, as it is ultimately their choice. I can understand that part, but from MY perspective, WHY does a woman feel she should be nude at all?

So the purpose of today’s post- while it can go many ways- is going to focus on the much talked-about picture of Kim K and what it means for feminism.

I, of course, am disgusted by her display of her body in such a classless way. Forget that she is a mother. Forget that she is clearly photoshopped and covered in oil (gag). The first emotion that rose in my chest was shame. I was embarrassed for her.

How desperate must a female feel to be accepted by society to stoop so low as to bare it all in a magazine. And before everyone jumps down my throat to claim “it’s her choice, her body,” let’s discuss that. Is it REALLY her choice? Did she dream of growing up and posing naked for magazines, or was it just a product of her fame? And while we are on that subject, what is she famous for exactly? Being naked and engaging in sexual acts on camera. I’m not saying she can’t have sex, but to have a video released for all to see? Classless.

So, back to the objectification of women. Yes, Kim K is an adult. Yes, it was “her choice.” But why is this even a choice for women? Why is it that we view nudity as empowering? Is it because society has taught us that as women we should embrace our bodies and not be ashamed? I can contend to that idea, however, I feel that most women who flaunt their bodies (and IG is FULL of them) are really just seeking for approval from society, and from men specifically. I’ve read the comments under some of these pictures, and they are so degrading they make me cringe. What woman with any self-respect would allow a man to say those things to her? And on top of that, claim she ENJOYS it?

The women who are standing up defending Kim K and these other women are contributing to the larger issue at hand, which is allowing men to continue to see women as objects. Although many women object to it, there are some who approve of it. So men are not seeing this as being a real issue since some women are accepting it.

This doesn’t only stop at the nudity issue, although it is a big part of it. The other part of objectification includes women who are fully clothed as well, yet are still seen as an object. Take the street harassment video that was recently released. I don’t know how many guys I personally know who saw nothing wrong with the video. According to them, women should take those comments as a compliment as it means they are beautiful enough to be noticed. Which is a load of crap.

It doesn’t matter if I am beautiful; that does not give anyone the right to harass me. And YES, it IS harassment. Because most often, it is unwanted attention. I don’t leave my house every day wishing for men to notice and compliment me. Yet I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had comments directed at me that are unwanted and uncomfortably inappropriate. Don’t tell me God gave me these looks so I should embrace it. Don’t tell me to feel flattered. Don’t presume that I want the attention- THAT I SHOULD EXPECT IT- because I’m wearing heels, makeup, skinny jeans, etc. What I wear and how I look give you NO RIGHT to comment. NONE.

So to all the guys who think it’s funny or cute, let me just say this: the more you continue to act this way, the more women as a whole will continue to be guarded. Guys wonder why women act so defensive when they first meet; well, how am I supposed to let my guard down when there are guys out there making a living on teaching men to emotionally and mentally manipulate women to sleep with them, degrade them, harass them? You want us women to stop being so “bitchy” and “prudish?” Teach your fellow brothers to respect women, and to give us the space we deserve while out walking the streets.

I know many think feminism means women being treated better than men. It’s not. It means women receiving the rights that are due to them. But feminism is not just for women. Men who also want to fight for the respectful treatment of women are also feminists. That doesn’t make you less of a man. In fact, I feel it’d make you MORE of a man, to help stop the mistreatment of women. I know there are plenty of guys out there who have started this campaign, but in truth, we need so many more.

So before you argue that women need to stop acting or dressing a certain way to receive respect, know that this mentally is what is ultimately holding back feminism. We aren’t looking for special treatment; in fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Emotional Stalemate

What happens when you find yourself at an emotional stalemate?

A lot of times, we are so guarded that we don’t recognize a good thing when it comes. Then, when we see how amazing it can be, we dive deep into the welcoming, warm water without any thought to safety. And we float on for a while,  enjoying this amazing feeling. Until one day, we are tossed so violently from this pool of happiness into the murky darkness of our worst imagination.

So now what?

I always talk about being secure with yourself as a female. Because we cannot expect a man to come and “save us,” nor to “complete us.” But I also feel that we need to be open to new experiences, and not let past experiences prevent us from feeling those amazing emotions that can be so addicting.

This presents a problem, though. How do you find the right balance between guarding your heart, but opening it enough to allow someone in? Is it all or none? Can you really still be guarded but open to a relationship?

As women, we are programmed to be more emotional. Yet when we try and hold back these emotions, we are seen as unfeeling and cold. I myself try to limit the strength of emotions that I share with the opposite sex. Because it isn’t fair in my eyes for a man to use those emotions to take advantage of you. However, what do you do when the guy has let HIS guard down, and now expects you to do the same?

From experience, I can tell you that you can do two things: you can also let your guard down, and expose your heart to the possibility of being hurt. Or, you can continue to hold your ground until you know the guy is being sincere. The latter option may create some problems, as the guy might feel you aren’t taking the same risk he is, and therefore he might not think you are serious about him. That’s a bit tricky, so you’ll need to play it as it comes. The first option often ends in heartbreak (at least for me).

So what do you do? It’s honestly hard to predict. I guess it depends on the guy. All I know is, I almost had my heart broken recently, but I was able to catch it just in time. The reason being, I gave myself a time limit on when I could emotionally “let go.” I bet that sounds odd, and you’re thinking “how can you place a time on emotions?” Well, it’s simple. I told myself that if I did not receive a promise of an engagement in the future by the three month limit, then clearly this guy was not serious. And it isn’t like I didn’t tell him my plan. He knew. It was our agreement when we first started talking. I made sure to remind him (but not too often), and genuinely enjoyed our time together.

But I was starting to fall for him, and I knew that unless I placed an ultimatum, I would have my heart broken. So I did. And my answer was what I expected, so I am glad that I forced him into an answer. Because I am too good of a person to be dragged around for months while he made his choice. I want to move on, and this way it is so much easier to bounce back because really, the emotions I invested were very minimal. While I enjoyed his company, a serious future would not have materialized, and I need more than that.

So, I guess my lesson here is this: don’t be afraid to experience life and love. But, as females, we have to be smart about it. Especially those of us in our 30’s. We don’t have the same time to bounce back as we did in our 20’s, and so play it smart. Have fun. And, depending on who you are, YOU set the time limit you need to figure out if he is the one. Always remember though to stay true to yourself, because that is who will always be there, even after he is gone.

The Cost of Abuse

This subject is a bit more heavy than what I usually write about, but it needs to be said. With all that has been going around in the media and social networks about Ray Rice’s video showing his assault on his then-fiancee, there has been a lot of victim-blaming. And it needs to STOP.

It is so easy for those who have no experience with any type of abuse to judge the woman and say she could have left, or that she allowed him to continue to abuse her so it’s her fault. But what many people don’t know is, it is not that easy to walk away. Lately, there has been a hashtag on social media, #WhyIStayed that has been trending. Women have been telling their stories on why they ultimately stayed in an abusive relationship.

It is easy to read these accounts of physical, mental, and financial abuse and blame the women. It is easy to stand on the outside, looking in, and wonder how weak these women must be to not walk away the first time they were mistreated. We can judge and say “I’d never be that stupid; I’d fight back or walk away the first time.” But really, without being in that situation, can you really say these things?

When I was younger, I was taught that men abusing women was NOT okay. I grew up in a home where my dad never laid a finger on my mom. My parents came from families where the men never hit the women. So I was lucky. I was shown a way of life free of physical abuse. However, many of my friends were not as lucky. They came from families where the mother was abused by the father, the sons hit their sisters, and ultimately, the girls were married to men who would hit them as well.

The first time I encountered a friend who was physically abused, I was shocked. It didn’t seem real; yet her bruises told me another story. I felt helpless; what could be done? She would run away to her family, and they would send her back to her husband. She had children; her husband threatened to take them away. He of course would buy her gifts as an apology, but just like clockwork, he would abuse her yet again. It was a vicious cycle.

Because she had no support from her family or the community, she was stuck in this circle for a while before she finally summoned up enough courage to walk away. Of course, the community saw it as defiance of her husband and blamed her. But she stayed strong, got a job, and found a place to live. Today, she is finally free from that life.

Over the years, I have seen other types of abuse. Emotional abuse can be just as scarring, since the man can strip you of your identity and self-worth. What we need to realize when blaming the victim is that if they already have low self-esteem (which men who abuse try to find from the start), then it is easy for them to be sucked into a whirlwind of emotional abuse. And since these women are afraid to speak up, the continue to let their abuser proceed with the torment.

Financial abuse occurs when a woman doesn’t work, or if she does, he money is managed and controlled by her husband. This makes sure that she always relies on him for anything she needs, and also secures the idea that she cannot leave as she will have to financial means to do so. Her husband will control where she goes, what she buys, and anything she wants to do. Along with emotional abuse, this will result in the woman feeling helpless to try and leave as she does not know how she will survive on her own, especially if she has no family or friends to stay with to get her on her feet.

I have seen all these types of abuse in my life. The one thing that I can tell you, is that women in these relationships often will hide what is happening to them for fear of humiliation. They do not want their closest friends and families to know that they are victims of these lifestyles. A lot of times, since they see the victim being blamed for not walking away, they are embarrassed to share their story. But, not anymore. It is time we stopped judging and blaming them for staying. We need more dialogue. We need conversation and understanding.

The reason women don’t walk away is not because of the power of their abuser; it is because they are afraid that when they turn for help, they will be greeted with a mob, pointing accusing fingers at them.

Let’s change that.

Hijabis are Women Too

So for the past month, I have challenged myself to a no-makeup rule. I do not apply ANYTHING on my face in my day-to-day tasks such as work, errands, gym, etc. I will wear it for special outings and occasions only. So far, I have loved the feeling of nothing on my face but skin, sun, and air. It’s given me more confidence in myself, and when people look at me, they are seeing the real me.

I am always pleasantly surprised when people compliment my looks. It takes me a few seconds to realize they are complimenting the real me, and not the made-up version. I was never big on heavy makeup application before, but even so, it is nice to see people appreciate my true beauty. Some people have said it makes me looks years younger. And while I always have been told I look young for my age, the no-makeup takes it a step further.

I have also been complimented and approached by members of the opposite sex as well, which is truly (to me) the test of this whole challenge. Women, for centuries, have done crazy things in order to make themselves more attractive to the opposite sex. From makeup, hair extensions, plastic surgery, and body-controlling items such as corsets, women have made themselves uncomfortable and stressed out in order to make themselves look a certain way. Why? Because that’s what we are taught from the time we are little (think Disney princesses) to the time we are adults (think magazine covers, actresses, models, etc.).

So you can imagine my surprise when in this last week, I was approached by two guys who complimented me on my beauty and asked me out. One was at the gym, so I was even sweaty and out of breath when that happened haha. To me, I was a bit taken aback when they approached me, because- duh!- I wasn’t wearing makeup or even a cute outfit. But clearly, something caught their attention. And while they both said I was beautiful, I took it to mean a little more than just the outer beauty. Now, I have seen plenty of shows where guys overlook the outer shell of a woman because her confidence outshines her looks. So I know it is possible that these guys saw something that I don’t usually see in myself. Nonetheless, it was a breath of fresh air.

I had to share my observations with someone, so I told one of my guy friends about it. I was excited to talk about my revelations of the no-makeup challenge. However, when I told him about it, his first reaction was that of shock. How dare a non-Muslim guy approach a Muslim woman, and one who is covered at that?! I was confused. Why was that shocking?

His response was that non-Muslim men should know to respect a Muslim covered woman. Approaching her is dishonorable, so how could he just ask her out? It’s outrageous! I had to almost laugh at his reaction. What was so bad about a guy approaching what he seemingly thinks is just another girl? Even if she is covered? So I had to defend the guys and explain why I, as a covered Muslim woman, was not offended.

We all know most Americans get their news from the media. And the perceptions they have about Muslims, especially the women, is skewed. However, all they see is the surface. So they really don’t know what is allowed and not allowed. And when they see a hijabi, what they really see is a woman, just covered up. And actually, because they don’t know much, after they initiate the first conversation, they tread lightly. They are hesitant to touch you, say inappropriate things, or ask questions. It’s sweet, really.

I think it’s great to have these encounters. Because while we won’t actually date them, these guys eventually muster up the courage to ask you questions about why you wear the hijab, what it means, and other things. As a hijabi, I would rather this happen than brush him off initially and have him revert to the media for the answers to his questions. And as a female, it is nice to be noticed for that- being female- just like any other woman. Because underneath the hijab, we are actually just women as well. Just like any other female in society, we like to be flattered. And there is no shame in that.

Next time you want to claim that non-Muslim men should be more respectful to Muslim women and not approach them, ask yourself this question: is it really a question of honor? Because many Muslim and Arab men have no problem approaching a hijabi and asking for a relationship. And what makes that ok, but not the same coming from a non-Muslim? Oh, and keep this in mind as well: not all Muslim and Arab men’s intentions are honorable either. So be sure to factor that in before you answer the question.

 

 

Emotional Rollercoaster

Wow, I can’t believe how long it has been since my last post! I was on a roll there for a while, but life intervened. It’s been absolutely crazy adjusting to my new job, new city, and new life. But thank God for it all. I am loving my new job, and just finished a fundraising campaign that lasted 30 days, included 35 events, and raised over $2.2 million for Syrian refugees. I seriously love my job! It makes me feel good knowing that I have helped so many people in need.

That has always been my life’s goal: to give back to others in any way I can. When I was younger, our mosque used to participate in different acts of kindness around the community. When I got older, I helped organize events in my community to raise money for those less fortunate. And now, I am paid to do what I love to do most. God is good.

Since it’s been a while, a lot has happened in my life. Things have changed drastically. And although I want to divulge these details right now, I think I might have to wait a few more weeks. I know, I know….I’m teasing you. But really, it’s been a very emotional time for my family and I. What I will talk about though is what I have learned from this experience so far.

Life throws you curve balls, and me being the nonathletic person that I am, I had no idea how to hit them so that they sailed far far away from me. So I always took the beating. The most important thing to know about emotional and mental pain, is how you deal with it. And all my life, I have been very bad at expressing my emotions immediately. I suppress them until one day I finally explode. I’m not sure why; I don’t remember anyone telling me it was shameful to express my emotions. But I’ve always felt that women are viewed weaker when they show emotion, and I always wanted to be this strong, independent woman. Men say women use emotions as a weapon to get what they want or to gain sympathy, and I never wanted that to be my reputation. I got things on my own merit.

So, three years ago (when my last engagement exploded in my face), I cracked. Something inside me broke. And it would be very cliche of me to say it was my heart that broke, but it’s true. Not in the way you think though. It didn’t break because I lost a love; a small crack appeared on the surface that, over time, slowly started to spread. Now, every time something sad happened, these things would appear in the corners of my eyes. Wet drops that would sting and burn until I willfully released them so they slid down my face. It wasn’t even anything I could control. Now, any little thing would hurt me, and I’d panic and feel anxious. So, naturally, I went to a therapist and got meds to help suppress those feelings. I just didn’t have time in my life to deal with all these emotions.

Over time, I retrained myself to hold back my emotions (and wean myself off the meds). It took a while. Actually, until this past spring, it was hard for me to not show how I feel. It started showing itself on my face, unwarranted. But then, almost overnight it seemed, I started to feel more in control of myself. So I felt like my old self again. Yay me, right?

Well, then something happened at the beginning of the summer. And I was faced with a huge emotional problem. So naturally what did I do? I shut down. I showed no emotion. I ignored everyone and everything around me and decided to just focus on myself and my new job. Was that selfish? Maybe. But I also knew that if I allowed just an ounce of feeling back into my heart, that crack that had finally been sealed would rip open with such power that I would fall apart. I could not afford that.

So now, two months later, I sit here and wonder if I made the right choice. Because the situation is set to get so much worse, and so will I continue to be cold and unyielding, or will I one day break down and melt into a puddle of emotion? It’s not to say that I don’t have trusted friends to talk to about this situation, because I do. And I thank God for them every day (Love you B!). But I have yet to share my emotions with my family. They are the ones affected the most, so to them I must seem like a cold-hearted bitch. Yet I always wonder, would they have even been supportive if I was in my emotional state?

Looking back over the last three years, as I rebuilt myself after my heartbreak, they were all there for me. Yet not in the way I expected. So it’s safe to say that I learned to never really rely on anyone to help me. The only one I’ve been truly able to rely on, is myself. But that is a whole other story, meant for a different blog post.

So, for now, I will leave you with these thoughts. Maybe it’s the cynic in me, but it seems that the only one who can ever truly help you in a time of need, is yourself. I guess I will see how bad this situation really gets before deciding how much I want to share with my family. I must say though that I feel so relieved that I’m in a different city and don’t have to face it daily. Might seem a bit cowardly to say, but I can’t deny the truth. For that, I am grateful.