jdeena

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

Tag: image

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.

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.

 

 

The Reality of “Beautiful”

Last week while scrolling through Instagram, a male friend of mine had posted a picture of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit model with the hashtag “WCW” which translates to “woman crush Wednesday.” The picture was all glossy hair, shiny tan skin, and perfectly sculpted body underneath her bathing suit. The overall appearance was striking; she looked amazing. However, upon closer inspection, she (like almost every other cover model) had clearly been airbrushed. I’m not naive; I knew she was initially. I was just shocked at how obvious it was after looking at the picture for more than 10 seconds.

I commented that his so-called “crush” on this woman was based on her falseness. He replied that I was a “hater.” So I had to reply that no, I wasn’t a hater, but that his posting this picture continues to perpetuate the idea that men prefer women who look this way, and it continues to add to the insecurity and unattainable body image that women struggle to achieve everyday. In a private message later on, he admitted to me that he knew she was airbrushed, but that it didn’t stop him from admiring her.

So what does that say, then? That men know the women they see in magazines or in movies are glossed up and photoshopped, yet, they still find them attractive? Where does that leave us regular ladies at?

I personally have never been influenced by magazines to the point of forcing myself to diet, or buying every makeup trick to contour and sculpt my face to perfection. Maybe I’m lucky genetically, so I haven’t had to deal with acne or wrinkles, even at my older age. I’m taller than the average female, so even when I gain weight I can hide it well. And I am blessed with the gift of dressing for my body type, which means I can accentuate certain features while hiding the flaws. But I have never been told I’m unattractive or fat by a guy.

Wait, what?

Am I saying that I am attractive to guys, even without the photoshop? YES! Here is what I don’t understand ladies: why do you put yourself through all these hoops in order to look like the women in magazines, when the men around you actually don’t care? I have asked my guy friends over and over again whether or not they like super skinny girls, and the answer is always no. They like curves; they want softness. They don’t want to feel like when they hug you, you’re going to break. But what really turns guys on is when you are comfortable in that body. When you dress to flatter your figure, and walk around with your head held high.

If you are so easily influenced by magazines, don’t read them. Learn to see yourself for who you are; trust me, you’ll be much happier! And when you are happy, guys see that happiness and they are pulled towards you. What we all need to realize is that we could ALL look like the models in the magazines with photoshop, special lighting, and a makeup and hair team. Strip all that away and the woman on the cover is just like you and me.

Now, with all of that said, does this excuse men for continuing to post photos such as the one my friend did? I don’t think it should be a habit, because we all know how much social media influences people. When women see men posting their ideal woman in this way, it makes them feel inadequate. And while many men think that it’s not their problem and women need to get over it….well, it’s very unfair to say that when you throw it in our face every day. Yet if a woman posted a picture of a shirtless guy with a perfectly sculpted body, she’s deemed unrealistic and superficial. Men and women both need to share in the responsibility of proper representation. We now live in the world of selfies and filters; it is hard to figure out what is underneath all that makeup. I promise you, there is nothing more liberating than being comfortable without makeup, your heels, and all those hair products. Strip it all away, and get comfortable with the person inside.

She’s beautiful.

Age IS Just a Number

Everyone has heard the saying “age is just a number.” Usually it’s someone younger saying it to justify their actions that are deemed too adult. Or an older women uses it as a defense when dating a younger man. Or, in my case, when a guy who is ten years younger than me tries to pursue me. But this post isn’t about me; not entirely.

One of my guy friends turned 40 this past Saturday. Granted, in most people’s lives, this would be cause for celebration. You have established a career, you have a great circle of friends and family, and you are content. I was browsing Instagram and Facebook and noticed no one had wished him a happy birthday. So I text him wishing him a wonderful birthday and many more healthy years to come. His response was less than enthusiastic. And I knew it would be, because I knew he felt he was missing something he should have had by his 40th birthday: a wife and kids.

Now, my friend is handsome (despite his protests that he isn’t), he’s VERY smart, accomplished, involved in the community, and respected by many. I have know him for ten years and he has always been there for me. Seeing him upset by this upset me as well. Why? Well, because I know where he is coming from. For males, it is more accepted that they get married and start a family later. For females…not so much. But my friend feels that even he has pushed the limit. The thing is, he is SO amazing that it boggles my mind as to why no girl has snatched him up yet. Granted, he is a bit picky, but so is everyone.

After our brief text exchange, I concluded by telling him he has so much to be thankful for. His life is fulfilling and rich with purpose. If nothing else, he should be proud of those accomplishments that most people need a lifetime to achieve.

Later on in the day, I started thinking. It seems that my friend was feeling that he was missing something, but only because of his age. Had the two not been linked, I’m sure he would have been happy to celebrate his birthday. (He actually deactivated his Facebook so no one would know, and ignored all his friends’ phone calls and texts). The fact that he was 40, an age which most guys would have a family established, and was still single himself must have tugged at his heart. If there was anything I could do to convince him of his worth, I would have. What bothered me the most was the fact that he was consumed with the one thing missing in his life to appreciate all that he DID have.

If society doesn’t place an emphasis on age in regards to anything we accomplish, then no one would ever feel inadequate. People expect you to graduate college by 22, get married at 24, and have a child shortly after. When you don’t follow this timeline you are now viewed as a pariah. When I quit school 8 years ago to pursue my work in sales, everyone gave me the “that’s so sad” look when they heard I didn’t graduate college. But what we all need to remember is that life isn’t so perfect all the time. Sometimes the career comes before the degree. Sometimes marriage comes after 30. Sometimes kids come after 40. To me, whatever makes YOU happy should determine when you do things.

Right now I’m 31, bordering on 32. When I turned 30, I was single. I was working my hourly sales job after stepping down as a manager. As much as I wanted to sulk, I didn’t. Because at 30, I had been afforded opportunities most hadn’t experienced yet. I was loved. I had a wonderful family and group of friends supporting me. So what if I was 30 and didn’t have a husband or kids?

Am I the only one who sees no importance in being married? To be so accomplished across the board and then be missing just that last puzzle piece should not make you feel incomplete. Focus on what you DO have going for you. Don’t dwell on the one thing that is taking a little longer to make its way to you. If you do, you’re going to miss out on all the great things life has handed you. Enjoy your life now.

Too Attractive?

The other day while I was browsing Facebook, I came across a status one of my friend’s had posted. It was a quiz she had taken titled: “Why am I still single?” Her results concluded that she was still single because she was “too perfect.” Out of curiosity, I clicked on the link to see what it would say. The questions were easy to manipulate; that is, if you want it to conclude that you are “too” something or other, you answer it the way you think it should be answered. I was honest in my answers because I really was curious to see what my outcome would be.

The result was: “You are too attractive.”

I laughed.

Not because I don’t think I’m attractive (and I am not conceited by any means but I know I am not ugly), but because how could that be a reason as to why I am still single? I see plenty of pretty people get married or are in a relationship. But then, when I discussed this with a friend of mine the other day, she agreed with the quiz. She told me that many guys are usually intimidated by just ONE of the following: beauty, brains, and independence. The fact that I carry all three intimidates men so that they are afraid to approach me, feeling that they aren’t good enough. I started at her in shock; is that really true? Can a guy be THAT intimidated by my looks? I am constantly getting compliments on my skin, my figure, my smile, my eyes…from both men and women. But to be honest, I get tired of all that attention. It might seem like I am tooting my own horn, but I honestly have never seen myself in that way. Until recently, I always had to win guys over with my personality. They’d tell me I was cute, but that was the extent of it. So what changed?

I’m not sure when it happened, but in the last few years I’ve started not to care. I don’t care about having the perfect figure, I don’t care about looking like the actresses in Hollywood, and I don’t care whether or not people like my style. What I do now is for me, and me alone. I have never changed anything about myself for a guy. And when a guy came along and tried to do that, I kicked him to the curb. So maybe it’s my confidence that has made me so attractive. Maybe it’s the fact that I have fallen in love with myself and I make myself happy that attracts guys to me. I don’t shy away from my imperfections; I embrace them. I treat myself right, I take care of my body, and I find hobbies and interests that stimulate my mind.

So maybe that’s what being attractive means? I’m really not sure. All I know is that this can’t be the excuse for guys to not approach me. How insecure must you feel to be intimidated by looks? I am friendly to everyone; you have an open door to get to know me. I don’t have a “type;” whatever guy matches me intellectually and emotionally is good enough for me. I know there are girls out there who ruin it for the rest of us. A guy has a bad experience with one of them and he is forever scarred. Still, if I’m willing to get back on the proverbial horse, the guy should put forth the same effort.

I’m not sure what else to say. Guys, if you’re waiting for me to become less attractive, you’re going to wait for a while. I am at the peak of my life right now. I am healthy, happy, and loving the relationship I have with myself. They always say if you want to find love, you must first love yourself. So now that I have that accomplished, I’m waiting for the right guy to show up and love me for who I am. And if you think that because I know you are intimidated I will let myself go now, you are sadly mistaken.

This is who I am. Take it or leave it.

Personification of a Female

I’m obsessed with social media. At any point of the day, you can find me with my phone in my hand, scrolling through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Some may call is obsessive, but I hardly ever watch TV and so I get all my news from articles posted by the local police, weather, and news stations.

So it’s no surprise that on a daily basis, I see posts made by friends on these sites that tend to irk me a little. For instance, the other day I was scrolling through Instagram and saw a mother post a picture of her daughter baking a cake and then washing the dishes. Underneath the picture was the caption: “future housewife in training.” My stomach roiled at the phrase. The girl was no more that 7 or 8 years old. Already, her mother was conditioning her to be a housewife. It unsettled me.

Why? Because we are still, as a society, giving girls the impression that they need to be good at cooking and cleaning so that they can be a good wife and mother, or else she is worth very little. Why not teach her to be an entrepreneur and give her the encouragement to start a lemonade stand? Or teach her about leadership and give her the tools to start a group with her friends that comes up with ways to help in society? Maybe you think I’m being dramatic, but it seems that all we do from the time a girl is born, is mold her into the future wife and mother you expect her to become.

Not all girls are meant to get married. Some may not have kids. Yet if this is what we continue to drill into their young, impressionable minds as they grow, they will reach adulthood and feel that if they do not adhere to these roles, they must be defective somehow. Women are meant to be more than just mothers and wives. They can contribute so much more to society if you would just let them. And while women can have a family and work, the stigma that surrounds a working mother makes her feel that she is selfish for wanting to do something for herself by working when she has children at home. I have heard it time and time again from a multitude of people: society and the values we used to hold dear have gone downhill because there is no mother at home, cementing these values and making sure the kids are brought up right. However, the blame should not be placed on the women; men have just as much responsibility in raising the kids as women do.

Too often we blame the woman for all that is wrong in society. Take rape for example. Women are taught to dress a certain way to fit into society, and when they are attacked by a rapist, they are told it is because the way they dress. Society has yet to take a stand against men and tell them that it doesn’t matter how a woman dresses; it gives them no right to rape them. The woman is told that she was raped because she brought it on, which leads to years of self-doubt and loathing. Men are now the superior gender in her eyes because as a female, she brought this upon herself. Just look at women overseas who are used as pawns in mens’ patriarchal games. A woman in India is raped by a man who was cheated by her brother as a punishment to the brother for his unprofessional business etiquette. Now that the woman is deemed impure by society’s standards, her brother will kill her in order to save the family’s honor. It is devastating and atrocious to see women used like this all over the world. And here we are in America, holding our daughters back from advancing by teaching them at a young age to be good housewives.

There is a balance. A woman can be successful and a great mother/wife. I will never think that any of my married friends are less than intelligent or accomplished. I can only imagine how hard being a mother is. I have seen enough glimpses of that life to know that it is not for me. But please, mothers, teach your daughters to be strong, independent, and successful women. It is the only way to truly secure their future. While marrying a great guy can give security, that security is fleeting. What will stay with a girl throughout her life will be the value that you invest her; value that no one will ever be able to take away.