jdeena

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

Sexism and Misogyny Have No Place Here

“Can you cook?”

That was the opening line a guy sent me on an online dating site this week. I had to blink a few times and rub my eyes to make sure I was reading it correctly. But yes, there it was- those three words constituted his start to our conversation.

Of course, as a feminist, I did not appreciate the question. I replied, “Can you?” to which he replied, “It’s not my job.” Well, that did it; I was officially pissed off. I went off on him in a calm but aggressive manner. He didn’t reply.

You might think this is a one-time occurrence, but it seems that there are many males who feel that it is a woman’s responsibility to excel at domestic tasks in a relationship. Just look at all the memes that suggest women should be good cooks in order to be desirable to a man. Unfortunately, many don’t realize the danger in doing so.

We have just started 2016, and women are still being held hostage by the gender roles of more than a century ago. You would think that in an election year that has a viable female candidate, outdated gender roles would have no place in society. Yet it seems that we are regressing. Because women finally have a voice, many have been trying to hold us back from pursuing any societal accomplishment that will leave us on equal footing with the men in our lives.

Can I be honest with you? I am so sick and tired of having to fight off sexist, misogynistic comments from guys who think it’s funny to provoke me. People wonder why I’m not married yet. Chances are, if he is accomplished, intelligent, and funny, he doesn’t want someone like me who is more ambitious and driven. So many men want a woman who will stay a few steps behind him, or at the very most be right next to him. But what I need is a man not afraid to let me go far ahead- way far ahead of him- and what’s more, he’ll be proud to watch me go.

When people ask me what I want in a man, I tell them it’s simple: I want someone who will support me in all my endeavors, just as I will support him. Long gone are the days where a woman gives up her career to move where the man lives. Gone are the days where she abandons her future goals to tend to her husband’s career. No, nowadays there needs to be mutual respect on both parties in order to have a successful relationship.

Being able to have a relationship with someone who supports you is one of the best feelings (or so I’ve heard!). In a way, it’s like living two separate, single lives- but together. Yes that probably won’t make much sense to you, but think about it. Each person will live their life in a carefree way, but with the love and emotional support from someone like-minded.

Some people may call me selfish. Actually, many people do. Yet no one ever calls the male selfish when he wants to focus on his goals and provide for his family. Why not extend the same respect to women who have the same goals? I’ll tell you why. Because society is afraid of progression. They are afraid that if they let women do what they want- which we deserve- then society will crumble. Yet the solution is so simple. Men should carry some of the weight off women’s shoulders in order to create a balance.

Give it up people- this is the future. It’s easier to just give in at this point. And women will never truly progress without the support of our male allies.

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Forced to Marry

I see it every day, all over my newsfeed and social media: girls are forced into marriage. No, I’m not talking about overseas in some remote country. I am talking about here in the US.  You might be thinking “Jinan, you are CRAZY!” but let me explain what I mean.

I know women have the right to choose their partner in Islam. I know no one can actually force you to get married. However, culturally, I feel that we are still bound by the obligations passed down from one generation to another. Think about it: when a woman says she doesn’t want to get married, what is your first reaction? Probably horror. Or, let me put it this way: when you meet a woman and ask her age, what is your reaction if she is over 30 and still single?

I am not singling myself out in this post, although I do face both scenarios quite often. But I am trying to open your eyes to a bigger issue in our society- one where a woman’s marital status and her ability to bear children is valued more than anything else she can offer. Just scrolling though social media and seeing how many comments a woman gets when she posts an engagement or wedding picture versus one of her new promotion or a solo trip she’s taken is enough to prove my point. However, it doesn’t seem to be enough for people to be convinced that we- as a society- are obsessed with marriage.

That point alone could have been enough to push me away from that institution; yet I chose to still become a part of it at the age of 27, when I first got engaged. To be honest (and I didn’t admit this at the time), I didn’t want to get married. I did it because my parents were becoming more and more frustrated with me, I was close to thirty, and the guy seemed decent enough. Everyone I knew would always tell me they thought something was wrong with me because I just wasn’t jumping to get married. What can I say? I just felt like I wanted to be on my own, and that I’d never find a guy who could tear me away from my singleness.

So, I got engaged. I went through the motions, made everyone happy -and then just as quickly- disappointed everyone when I took off the ring and left it on the bathroom sink before work one day. It was just two months shy of our wedding day. Yet I felt freer than I ever had that day.

Of course, everyone told me that I shouldn’t give up, and that I needed to keep an open mind. So I did, and I entered into yet another serious relationship that would be the beginning of the demise of my character.

Our culture fails to understand that we of this generation are looking for more than just a man to support us. We want a partner, someone we can love and respect and build an empire with. This second relationship chipped away at my self-confidence over 9 months. By the end of it, when he decided he wasn’t ready to get married, I was the shell of a human being. I was devastated and went into a depression so deep it consumed me. I felt lost, confused, and unmotivated. I was sure no one would ever love me, and spent my days crying and wondering what was so wrong with me that no one wanted to marry me.

And that was it- the breaking point. I went to therapy, and she asked me “why do you feel you need a man to love you to make you feel valid?” And it was such a simple question. Yet all my life, I was taught that marriage is half my faith and my culture made me feel that without a man I was nothing. I mean, just look at the questions we are asked when we meet people: How old are you? Oh, are you married? Oh, why not? I mean, are we seriously validating a woman by her marital status?

So since that day in my therapist’s office, I have vowed to work on loving myself. I have thrown myself into work and activities, focused on my writing and activism, and learned to be alone. I have a great circle of friends, but they are all married. So to count on their company proved fruitless. I go to movies alone, I go to restaurants alone; hell, I even travel alone! It’s empowering and liberating, but even more so, it shows that a woman does not need a man in order to enjoy life. I am not saying I will never get married; but I will definitely be enjoying the journey until that happens.

Do I get questions from my family and friends? Always. Everyone is scared of the “single girl” especially when she is so content in her singleness. But no matter; I don’t let it bother me. I have learned to laugh it off, and to focus on what is important to me. The way I look at it is, this is my life. Not theirs. To live your life for others will mean you will never truly live. So be content in your choices, as I have become.

They won’t like it, but then again, who cares?

The Trip That Changed Me

It’s been a month. And I am changed forever.
On November 14th, 2015 I embarked upon a mission like no other. I traveled to the country of Jordan for a medical mission with the organization I work for, the Syrian American Medical Society. My position in SAMS is to coordinate the medical missions from the US side, and to communicate with our Jordan office to set up the logistics. I’ve done this countless times over the past year and half that I’ve worked, but I wanted to gain real insight into our missions to better help the volunteers. And so I went.

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A side street in Zaatari. Photo taken by me.

 

I’ve spent time in refugee camps before. Growing up Palestinian, we used to travel to Palestine every summer to visit our family and reconnect with our homeland. I have seen the devastation that is a refugee camp; the run-down homes, the sense of resignation, the hopefulness of the people. Yet nothing could have prepared me for the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.
I am the type of person who likes to stand strong in times of crisis. I am the one holding everyone together. I rarely cry in public, and sometimes even find myself holding back tears in private so as not to fall weak to my emotions. I know it’s not healthy, and one needs to express emotions, but this is why I write. So when I entered the refugee camp, I felt strong. I reminded myself that I was there to do a job, and that I needed to focus on my duties as a SAMS employee.
However, that went out the door as soon as we saw the first patient: an 18 year old girl who had a 6 month old child and was afraid she was pregnant again.
Those of you who know me well, know that I am a huge advocate for women all around the world. My goal is to run a nonprofit someday that focuses on empowering women through education and microfinance. So to see such a young girl already married with a child…well, it tore me apart. But it didn’t stop there. I saw women my age on their 7th or 8th child; women who were younger than me who looked 20 years older. I saw women who had hope in their eyes for a future outside the walls of the camp, but who knew realistically that may never happen.

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Me and Aseel; one of the most lovable children I met there.

The first night back at the hotel, I cried; in my room, the shades drawn, the lights off. I felt helpless and hopeless. I felt guilty that I lived a good life in the US, and these women had done nothing wrong yet they lived a life of misery. But I knew feeling sorry for them would do nothing to help.
For the rest of my time at Zaatari, I worked on talking to these women as if they were my friends. Many would notice my Arabic and come speak to me candidly about their lives. Some held out their children for me to hold and take pictures with. Many thanked me for just listening to them, and even more sent me home with an abundance of blessings for being there and helping out. I felt so unworthy of all of that praise.
My experience did not end there. The other group that pulled on my heart was the children. Specifically, the girls. In any type of situation where there is war and poverty, the girls suffer the most. When there is a lack of funds, a girl’s education is the first to be sacrificed. Because she cannot be educated, she is then married off young. The reason behind this is to preserve her safety and honor, as unmarried girls are susceptible to kidnapping and rape.
So many of the young girls that I met were bright, energetic, and driven. They had hopes for a future filled with school and careers. Many of them were continuing to learn on their own as the education cuts off for them around high school. Over the course of the week, I began to learn many of them by name. These girls would come up and ask me questions unabashedly- nothing was off limits for them. And I did my best to answer them honestly. Looking into their eyes as they spoke, I wondered what they were thinking. I wondered if they felt their status as a refugee. Many of them were in their early teens- I worried for these girls the most because I knew that unless they had a chance at higher-level education, they would be married off soon.

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Me and some of the beautiful girls I met.

Leaving Zaatari was like cutting out a piece of my heart. Since I’ve been back, there has been a dull ache in my chest. I am not sure what it is I am feeling, but something took a hold of me during my trip, and it won’t let go. I have the amazing opportunity to lead our next medical mission in Jordan in April 2016, so once again I will travel to Zaatari, and I hope to have some educational services to implement by then.
I know my work is far from done. I know I have so much more to do. I have started this journey and will not stop until I have created a lasting impact on the Syrian refugees in Jordan. I am still at the beginning of my legacy, but mark my words- that legacy will change the world.

Get Off Your Soapbox

I encountered one of many internet trolls yesterday when I was online.

I am subscribed to a few “matchmaking” Muslim sites, in the effort to meet someone, as my city offers very little in the dating scene. So last night, after a fun evening out with my coworkers, I came home and was scrolling through my phone in bed and a chat box popped up from one of the sites. I usually never respond to chat requests, but for some reason, I decided to click “accept” and see what this guy was about.

We exchanged hellos, and he asked why I was up so late (it was 12:30). I told him I had just gotten home from an evening out with my friends. He asked where we had gone, and I told him a local hookah bar. He then asked if I smoke, and I said yes. He responded less than enthusiastically, so I asked him if there was a problem, and he proceeded to tell me that smoking hookah is haram (forbidden).

That right there, for me, was a red flag. When someone decides to say something is haram right away, and it in fact IS NOT haram, to me that shows that the person is ignorant to the most basic concepts of what is forbidden and allowed in Islam. So I proceeded to correct him and say it is not forbidden, just not recommended as it can hard your health. He then said that the sheikhs all deem it haram, and their job is to research these things, so their ruling must be right.

He THEN proceeded to tell me that it is also contradicting that I, as a hijabi, smoke hookah, as my hijab represents purity and piety, and by smoking hookah, I am a hypocrite.

Yes. He actually said that.

I didn’t know how to respond, as my instinct was to initially rip him to shreds with an argument about how Muslim women who cover are not to be used as flawless examples of what a Muslim woman should be. We are not without imperfections, and to assume so is setting us up for failure, as we are all human and surely make mistakes. Also, we are individuals, so to categorize all Muslim covered women into one category is unnecessary and harmful to the image of Islam. However, I held my tongue and explained to him that he can have his own opinion of what he would like his Muslim wife to be, but to belittle and criticize a woman who does not fit that image is ridiculous and small-minded.

He then proceeded to tell me that I was wrong for assuming he was small-minded, and that as a Muslim woman, if I was not to cover “properly” why cover at all? He said my hijab was “showy” and that it defeated the purpose of hijab (which, by the way, my photo on that site was a simple photo from everyday- no jeweled headbands or heavy makeup present).

The thing that really bothered me was not the fact that he said these things- in fact, at some point in my life most of the guy friends I have have brought up these points- but, it was how comfortable he felt in saying these things to me so bluntly, and so soon into our conversation. The whole conversation lasted less than 5 minutes. And in that short time he felt comfortable enough to disrespect and discount my knowledge about Islam and my experience in hijab.

To me, this presents a very real problem among the guys in our community. Let me explain something to you: YOU do not wear hijab. YOU do not understand the day-to-day experiences of a woman who wears hijab. YOU don’t know what it’s like to be a very prominent representation of Islam, and have to watch your every move for fear someone will misrepresent your personal actions with those of all Muslim women. So YOU do not have the right to tell me how I should and should not be wearing hijab.

Wearing hijab in the US is a challenge. But to me, the biggest obstacle I face is not from those in the non-Muslim community. It is from those within my own community. The ones who deem it haram to do one thing or another just because they can. I have seen Muslim women ripped to shreds on social media, by men and women alike, who judge their every move. I have seen great examples of successful, intelligent Muslim women who have taken off the hijab permanently because they could not take any more criticism. What are we doing to ourselves? Why are we placing the blame on others, when our biggest problems come from within?

Get off your soapbox. You are not better than another. And if you truly want to help someone, you will find a kind and respectful way to do so. Throwing accusations at someone, calling them a hypocrite and telling them their hijab is wrong will not support your cause. It is people like that who push others away from Islam. Our religion is supposed to be beautiful, welcoming, and understanding. It is not demeaning, harsh, or oppressive. So next time you feel like you want to point out the “faults” of others, be sure you are standing in front of a mirror.

Blissfully Unaware

I always wonder what it would be like for me to live a life where I was blissfully unaware.

Don’t get me wrong; I love that my mind dissects every single thing I hear and see. However, sometimes I look at how easily people float through life and think to myself, “hey, that life doesn’t look so bad.”

You might want to know what brought this up. Well, after a long hiatus from writing (I was very busy with work and just returned from a trip to Turkey), I figured I’d jump back into writing, and this subject has been on my mind for a while.

I feel that sometimes my mind over thinks things, and it would be easier for me if I didn’t over-analyze everything I came across. For instance, any time I see an article about rape, feminism, or oppression, I have to respond. I just have to. I can’t just let the post go, and move on to the next article. Something in me just rises (usually disgust) and I feel that I have to give my opinion. I know I have alienated a lot of people in this way, but frankly, I don’t care. I have passion for certain subjects, and I feel that it is my duty to combat a lot of those subjects.

However, I also am referring to being unaware in relationships. At this point in my life, any time I meet a guy I can very easily dissect the things he says and does- to the point that I will no longer be interested. You know how some people have family and friends who point out the faults of their partner? I do that all on my own. Because I know precisely what I want in a guy, it is easy for me to pick him apart when one wrong thing is said.

I know I should be more understanding. I know I shouldn’t dismiss someone so quickly; after all I wouldn’t want that done to me, right? However, I feel that the things I get most upset about are things that are extremely important to me, and so if that is the point where I start to break him down, then he can’t be the right person for me. There are certain things in my life that I am unwilling to bend on, and it isn’t enough for me for him to be indifferent. No….he must share the same passion for them as I do.

Let me explain why. I am a very motivated, outgoing, and opinionated person. I know what I like, and what I want from life. It isn’t enough for me to have someone along for the ride. I need him to be there as my co-pilot. I don’t want him to just agree with me, or change his opinion for me. I want him to be just as passionate and filled with fire as I am. I don’t need someone to tell me to “calm down” when I get heated; I want him standing by me, supporting me and telling me I have every right to be upset.

To be blissfully unaware would make my life so much easier. I could get married, have a few kids, and spend my days fitting in things that are important to me- only when my kids and husband were already taken care of, and I had the energy to do so. I often express this sentiment to my friends, and they tell me not to think that way…that my life was meant for more than that. That the way I am is absolute perfection, and that I should never wish to not have my passion.

But sometimes it gets exhausting. I get tired of constantly having to explain myself to those around me. I get frustrated when people assume things about me because I’m a feminist (not to mention 33 and single). I get tired of the battle inside me- the back and forth of two sides, wanting to find that perfect partner for myself but unwilling to bend on my ideals. I wish I could just print out a flyer that lists all my interests and what I am not willing to bend on, and pass it out to everyone I know. That way people will stop sending me or matching me up with guys who I have absolutely nothing in common with.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I am willing to wait for that person. The one guy who will love me for who I am, without making me change a part of myself. At the same time, I am not putting my life on hold for that. I will work, and stay involved, and write my awesome blog and guest pieces for magazines. My life does not revolve around finding a husband. I am pretty sure my life was meant for more than that. At the same time, I want the guy to also have his own passions and ideals. It easier when two people are living their lives apart- yet at the same time- together.

I recently read an article titled “I Want to Be Single- But with You.” And the article made so much sense. The author says “I want to live a single life with you. For our couple life, would be the equivalent of our single lives today, but together.”

That is exactly what I want. As the author said- “One day I will find you.”

And I intend to.

Laughing It Off

This past weekend I attended my good friend’s son’s wedding. It was such a fun wedding and we had a blast dancing and seeing some old friends. It was a traditional Palestinian wedding, so I knew that being single would be cause for conversation with some of the older crowd.

I was sitting at the table with my friends, a young couple, and the husband had brought his mother. She was the typical older Palestinian mom, and I loved hearing her accent because it reminded me of my own family. She had a woman about her age sitting next to her (I assume a lady she knew). After we all had settled in at our table, she asked her son who my friend and I were. He introduced us, and right after that she asked me “Are you married?” I told her no, I wasn’t, and she said that I “looked like” I was married. I asked her if that meant I looked older or what, and she said no, she just thought I was married. I told her no, I wasn’t, and so she asked me how old I was. I told her 33 (I will be in a few weeks anyways), and she jumped. She was so shocked I said that, but not because she thought I looked younger than that.

No….she proceeded to say “no, no, we don’t want someone that old, we want five kids!” I was confused at first, but then it dawned on me: she thought that because I was single, that meant automatically that I wanted to get married. LOL….I literally laughed out loud. I died. I looked at her and told her, no, I actually don’t want to get married, but thank you anyways. She asked me why, and I told her I was happy in my life and had a good job, and it wasn’t something I wanted right now.

She seemed to think I was lying, but the woman next to her told her that it was perfectly okay for me to want that and to be happily single. THANK YOU strange woman sitting at our table!

It wasn’t until I told my mom that story later on (and she laughed until she had tears in her eyes) that I realized something: usually a comment like that would have had me feeling offended. I’d have felt inadequate somehow, like it was my fault to be this old and still single. But I didn’t care. I laughed…and it felt good to not be bound by those thoughts or expectations. For the first time that I can remember, I felt free and happy, even with that comment directed at me.

That made me feel even more confident about the decision I made just 4 years ago. The promise I made to myself after my last major relationship ended was to work on myself and to become confident and independent. There is no validation that feels better than knowing that I am happy with being alone. It doesn’t mean I want to stay that way forever, but in the meantime, I can enjoy my own company and not feel like something is missing.

So that’s today’s lesson, ladies. Get to the point in your life where- as a single woman- you can laugh it off when people call you old, or tell you that you will not be able to have so many kids at your age. Honestly, it is the only way to deal with a situation like that. Besides, who wants to be miserable all time anyways? Laughter really is the best medicine.

I Remember

It’s been almost a year.

A year since my parents started the process of their divorce. Divorce….the word still leaves a feeling of confusion and despair every time I say it. It’s hard to explain, and although I know it is for the best, it’s not easy to swallow. It’s like a bitter seed that has been planted in the pit of my stomach. Every time I hear of my father, that seed plants itself a bit deeper, creating waves of pain that reverberate through my body. Numbing my fingers, making it hard to type…these…words.

Because I remember.

It doesn’t happen every day. No, it is when I am least prepared for it that the memories overwhelm me. It can be a simple conversation that turns deadly with the resurrection of the memories I wish to forget. Like how good our life was as children. How I owe my proficiency in Arabic to a father who was adamant that we know our mother tongue fluently. How relentlessly he pursued our religious and Arab education, supplemented with trips overseas yearly. How every Eid, he bought us everything on our list, without every missing a gift (and sometimes including a few not on our list). How every school break he would take us to DC, California, Florida, and Chicago.

I remember.

I remember the feeling of accomplishment when I would take first place in the annual Quran competition at our local masjid. How proud my dad would be of me, the look of happiness lighting up his eyes. I remember my first car that he bought me, and the way he pretended that he would never buy a 16 year old a new car. How he had me test drive it, and the salesman slipped and told me it was for me. I remember my high school graduation, and how my family came from all over, and my dad bought me a brand new laptop and threw me a party with 300 guests.

I can’t forget the countless family dinners, laughing with my siblings around the dinner table for our mandatory Sunday night family dinner. No matter how busy we were, my dad always wanted us to eat together one night out of the week. We all hated it at the time, but now I’d give anything for just one more dinner. I can’t forget the nights of summer where, after dinner, we would make hot mint tea and play old Arabic folk songs and smoke arghila, with nothing but the glow of the candles and coals to light up our night.

And most of all…oh, God…most of all, I will never forget the look of helplessness on my dad’s face the day after my second engagement ended. It was only the second time in my life I had ever seen my father cry, the first being when his father passed away 18 years earlier. He hurt so much for me that day, that my heart broke for him. As he apologized to me, while holding me tight, I could feel his heart breaking for me.

In the last year, he has hurt us all. Mostly my mother. But he hurt his children as well. And as bad as he has been, I mostly feel sorry for him. Because he also has those memories too. I wonder what he feels when he thinks of them. Does he look back with fondness, or regret? Or has he shut that part of the book, and started a new chapter of his life- one that doesn’t include us?

I know that part of my life is over. I know that I should forget. But it’s hard when these memories creep into my every day conversations. How easily it is for me to say “my dad used to…” or “my dad taught me…” I know that he will never be fully erased from my life. That as long as he is alive, there will still be a connection between us, even though we are not a part of each other’s lives.

The hardest part, I think, is the memories. Because no matter how hard I try to forget…I remember.

The Evolution of Gender Roles

So lately I’ve had multiple debates about the roles of men and women in today’s society. Take a step away from cultural roles, because that’s a topic in itself. I am talking about the roles men and women play NOW, in 2015. It may seem that we have come a long way since the early 1900’s, and even towards the end of the 20th century women were starting to rise as powerful, professional members of society. But now, in 2015, with the possibility of a female president in our next election, I have seen many people (men and women alike) who have already started to advocate against Hillary as president. Their reason? She is a female, and therefore she should retreat into the role she was meant to fill: mother, wife, and respectable citizen of society- let the men run society.

It frustrates me when I hear these comments on radio, TV, and scrolling through my timeline on Facebook. Why shouldn’t she be president? Politics aside (because I don’t want to open that can, and I don’t want people assuming I do or do not support her), I think it is unfair to say that today, in 2015, we should not consider it an option to have a female president. Some excuses I’ve heard are: women are too emotional, she won’t be logical in her decisions, she will be neglecting her family, and she will give other women the idea that they can run for politics.

Well, DUH!

We need more people like Hillary. We need more women who are willing to step over that “line” that was drawn to segregate the genders. Why shouldn’t a woman be the CEO, the VP, the Senator, the President….if she is, in fact, perfectly qualified to do so? Just because she has certain anatomy that differs from that of a male, she should be punished? I never understand what people are thinking when they say things like “that’s not a role for women.” What is, then?

And, for that matter, who decided what role women should play in society? Who decided that women should be home taking care of the kids? Why is it not seen as masculine when the man stays home to raise the kids while his partner works? Or is that seen as noble and progressive? And if it is, why then when a women steps out of the home to work and pursue a career she is seen as selfish?

Our view of gender roles needs to change if we ever want to progress as a society. The sooner people realize that women are just as capable as men in holding a career and excelling at it, the easier it will be for people to sustain long-lasting, healthy relationships. One of the biggest obstacles I hear from females wanting to meet someone is that their life is unconventional from those who were married ten years ago, and so they are viewed as being unrelenting and difficult. But why? Why can’t the male be seen that way NOW, and for the last 100 years? And yet, when a woman decides to follow her goals, she is now being judged? Seems a bit unfair.

I met a girl who is a doctor, and she said that while she was studying to become a doctor, she was judged by people for being to driven, and not wanting to jump into marriage right after college. They asked her why she bothered with becoming a doctor. Then, when she was finally a doctor, people are now telling her she is arrogant about being a doctor and that she will never get married because men don’t want a woman who is more successful than them. Um…that doesn’t sound like it’s her problem. Sounds like some men are too insecure to be with a woman who has her shit together. That’s your problem guys, not ours.

I am not being unreasonable here. I am not saying men need to start carrying the child, and I am not saying women need to treat men the same way women were treated by men all these years- as second-class citizens and housewives. No, I am suggesting that women stand up and fight for what they believe is best for themselves, and for men to set aside their pride and old traditions to support these women. It is okay for a man to be proud of a woman who is driven, successful, and confident. It does not make you less of a man, I swear! But to continue to demean and degrade women who are making strides and following their dreams WILL make you look like less of a man.

I hope that with the emergence of social media and the plethora of stories and articles showcasing the achievements of great women, there will come a day when the question of gender roles will cease to exist. However, it could very well be that women will continue to make great strides while fighting this gender equality battle.

That, in itself, should show you how determined we will be.

Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Busy

It seems that lately there’s been a pattern in my dating lifestyle. I meet a guy, we start talking, and within a week he’s gone. Reason? I’m too busy for him.

Seriously?

I can’t help it that I have a life filled with family, events, extra-curricular activities, and a consuming job. Now, before you roll your eyes and tell me I sound like a bitch, read on. This is not to say that when I have the time I don’t use it to connect with someone; I do. But to be punished for being busy is completely unfair. I am aware that meeting someone is hard, and I am willing to compromise certain things when the time comes. However, when you ask me to ditch my mom or skip a work call I have at night, I have to say that doesn’t put you in a favorable light.

I think this issue also goes back to the idea that over the years, women have usually had to make themselves available to men. A woman’s role is in society was that of someone who was ready to drop everything to be with a guy. Her career definitely came second, and if she ever tried to fight this role, she was categorized as unyielding and cold-hearted.

I have always tried to figure out why men expect that from women, and I have yet to figure it out. Let’s throw out an example for reference. If we were introduced today, and you wanted to hang out this weekend, I’d say no. I already have plans. But does that make me a bitch because I won’t cancel them? If they are important to me, shouldn’t you be able to understand that? I have a hard time thinking that I should skip an event I’d been planning on going to for months, just because we met today.

Now, you may be thinking “well, would you expect a guy to do that for you?” HELL NO. If a guy dropped everything just to hang out with me for the first time, I’d find it a bit desperate and irrational. And I’d never want someone to ditch their plans they’ve had for a while. If you have something planned, I’d understand. Just like I’d expect you to understand if the tables were turned.

So, what is the solution? I think it’s important that both genders realize that the roles have changed over the years. Women have taken on more responsibility and are focusing more on careers and personal interests. That does not make someone a bad person. I honestly would like to think that a guy would be impressed by that, or at least appreciative of it. Women also need to realize that men are not going to automatically drop everything for them, and since the role of women has changed, they have to take the change that comes with it.

There needs to be more dialogue between men and women. And men need to be receptive to listening to women and trying to understand where we come from. Just because a woman is focusing on her career and has established a lifestyle filled with activities, it doesn’t mean she will not welcome a partner when the time is right. But please try and be more understanding. It’s frustrating to us when we are constantly being punished for things not in our control. If you are important to us, we’ll make time for you.

I’m More than My Looks

This is a topic I’ve always wanted to explore, but have had a bit of hesitation as I am afraid of how people will perceive it. Too many times, women are admired for their outer beauty and the overall appearance they present to society…but as soon as they open their mouths and start talking about ambition and independence, people automatically get turned off. And I, for one, am sick of it. And I want to know why that is.

For the last few years, every time I relay my marital status to someone (which is frustrating in of itself that I am constantly being asked to present myself according to that), the very first thing they say (99% of the time) is: “Oh my God how are you still single? You’re so beautiful!” As if being pretty is the only requirement for getting married. As if men only look for outer beauty when looking for a mate. AS IF I, AS A WOMAN, only have my looks to offer someone.

Why is it, that when people hear I am single, they don’t cry: “Oh how is this possible? You are accomplished, intelligent, and ambitious…any man would be lucky to have you!” Why is it, that instead, they use those same traits to create an excuse as to why men DON’T marry me?

I have worked VERY hard to be the person I am today. I have also gone through a lot in life, and I believe it has made me a much stronger person. One who won’t take any bullshit from others. And I pride myself on knowing what type of partner I want in life. Is that so wrong?

Why should I just “let things go” and “not be so picky” just to satisfy the majority? Just because that makes you more comfortable and will safely nestle me into the society-accepted role of “wife” doesn’t mean that it is the best decision for all involved. You are uncomfortable with my singleness? Tough. I am uncomfortable with your single-mindedness; your unwavering ability to look beyond your box to see that there is more to a woman than a status; than her looks.

Maybe I’m not meant to be married. Maybe I think this way so that I can continue to go out there and make a difference in this world. Maybe my ideas about marriage are not conventional, but that just may be because times have changed, and so have the roles of women. Yet both men and women are staying in them because they provide a level of comfort and stability. Maybe living alone presents a fear in you so debilitating that you would rather be joined in matrimony with someone you tolerate, than live alone the rest of your life. Or maybe you truly believe in marriage. Either way, do not push your ideologies on me, and tell me that I am wrong for thinking this way.

The older I get, the more I feel that I truly could not be happy in a “traditional” marriage. And by that, I mean one that is based on dated roles where the wife is the main domestic character, and the male the hunter/gatherer. And while that may work for many, I know for a fact it will not work for me.

I want something bigger; I want something MORE.

I want someone who will look at me and be inspired. I want someone who will be proud of my accomplishments and will boast about them to everyone he knows. I want someone secure enough that he will not feel bad about supporting me in my travels and endeavors. I want someone who will give me the respect I deserve, and not place my life on the back burner as he goes on to live his life. I want an equal partner. 100%.

But most of all, I want someone who will see my heart, the depth of my soul, the kindness in my eyes, and the soft words that flow from my tongue, and believe those to be the most beautiful traits in me. That he will appreciate my delicate hands for the words they type, and my lips for the inspiring words they speak. That he will notice my strong, long legs, and appreciate the way they have held me up as many times as I’ve been knocked down by the trials of life. That he will see, in me, beauty. Beauty as a whole; the mix of emotions, struggles, and success.

That he will notice me- for more than just my looks.