jdeena

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

Tag: love

Muslim Women, Stand Your Ground

Some people might argue that being a covered Muslim woman in America right now is just about the worse thing that could happen to me. With the heightened Islamaphobia and the attacks on Muslim at an all-time high, it is normal that any time I go out, I am told to be careful and watch my surroundings. Call me careless or irresponsible, but I haven’t taken heed of their warnings. Why? Because I don’t want to. In doing so, I will no longer be the carefree, fearless woman that I am. And because just like the islamaphobes don’t want the “terrorists to win”, I don’t want their ignorance to win either.

In wearing the hijab for twenty years now, I have become so comfortable in my identity that no amount of hate will make me second-guess my worth as an American. Yes, I am different. So is everyone else. To allow the fear instilled in me by my family and friends to take over my life would be counterproductive to my mission as a Muslim woman in this country. Instead of fading into the background of society, I feel more empowered to wear my hijab and venture out into the world. More than ever, we need to be visible and become the voice for Muslims, to speak out against bigotry and hate in order to educate the ignorant masses that surround us.

I know that there are many legitimate instances where Muslims have been targeted. I will not discount those. However, what bothers me lately are the Muslims who have decided to retreat into safer waters by blending into society. For example, some people have suggested that women in hijab should not make their hijab so apparent- such as wearing a hat or hoodie instead so as not to be a target. Or having men shave their beards so as not to appear menacing. To those people I say: you are a part of the problem. What we need now more than ever is to be ourselves. Changing and becoming less visibly Muslim will not change the conversation around Islam in America.

When it comes to Muslim women in hijab, another thing we need is support from our Muslim male allies. Instead of voicing your concerns for us after every terror attack, how about you voice your admiration for us being unapologetically ourselves. You know that after 9-11, my father suggested to my sister an I to take off our hijabs if we felt scared for our lives. We both looked at each other and had the same answer: never. To take it off would allow hate to win. And for me, that decision became the gateway to years of advocacy where I was invited to speak in non-Muslim communities and all around my college campus to teach people about Islam. THAT is what we need now.

Let me give you a real example. Yesterday, my sister called me and told me she finally got a job in her new city, Knoxville, Tennessee. She wears hijab, so we were worried that she would face discrimination. It was her second day on the job, and a client apparently was upset that she was working there, and he voiced his concerns to a manager. My sister overheard the strained conversation and after the client left, she asked the manager what the conversation was about. Her manager seemed hesitant to relay the information, but my sister assured her there was nothing she hadn’t heard before. So the manager told her that the client was saying that “her kind doesn’t belong here” and that she needed to “go back to where she came from.” And then the manager burst into tears.

My sister asked her why she was crying, and she said she just doesn’t like how hateful people are. My sister consoled her and told her it was okay- that most people say these things because they are uneducated. And from that incident, my sister was able to start a conversation with her manager about Muslims and hijab. She showed her a picture from her wedding and told the woman that wearing hijab on her wedding day made her feel like the most beautiful woman in the world. And that in wearing the hijab for the last 20 years, she has become so much more secure in herself and her identity. The manager was impressed by how my sister turned an awful situation into a teachable moment, and did so with grace and compassion.

It is so easy for us to get upset when someone makes a hateful remark about our hijab. It takes a very strong woman to turn a bad situation into a good one. My sister is one of the strongest women I know, and I admire her for her ability to act with grace under pressure. And now, she has the opportunity to teach her colleagues at her new job about Islam, which never would have happened if not for the reaction of that client.

So, to all my fellow Muslims out there: do not be frightened by the sensationalization of the hate you see online. Yes, we are experiencing the highest instances of Islamophobia since 9-11, but that does not mean that we cannot rise above and use this time to teach others about who we are. Do not cower in fear. Be strong and humble, and while it is smart to stay aware of these issues, do not let it diminish your identity. After all, America is the land of the free, where freedom of religion is a right. So use your voice and make yourself visible. It’s the only way we can stand united against hate.

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Nice Guys Finish Last- Because They Want To

This isn’t going to be a nice post- not like any of mine usually are. But I am pretty wound up, and I’m feeling a rant coming on. So I, of course, want to share it with you, my loyal followers.

Every article about relationships lately seems to focus on the f*ckboys. You know these types of guys- the ones who seemingly use women just for sex, but mask it as a deep interest in her in order to achieve their goal. They act so sweet and understanding, and after they get what they want, they disappear. We hate these guys, right? They’re scum; they don’t deserve our time. So we dial up our girlfriends and rant. We cry and swear we are never going to talk to another guy like that. We promise each other to alert the other when they start to fall under their very effective spells. We take a deep breath, and vow to only go for nice guys from now on.

But…what if the nice guys are just as bad as the f*ckboys?

And trust me on this. They can be. Because while a typical jerk will make it known he only wanted you for the sex, a nice guy will pretend he doesn’t want it. But he does. Yes. He. Does.

The nice guy will try and talk you off the ledge after a jerk has hurt you. He will claim that you are too good for that kind of treatment, and that you need to stick to guys who truly care about you. Like him! He will tell you that you can open up to him, and tell him anything. He is your friend and shoulder to cry on. He will ask you to let down those walls so he can slide in and offer comfort, while secretly plotting his deceiving move. He gets you to trust him. He’s one of the “girls” so “tell me anything.”

So you do. You feel lucky to have someone like him in your life. You thank him and tell him just that. After a while though, the conversations start to shift. They’re starting to sound like the texts you get from f*ckboys. “Send me a pic” he says. And you’re confused because you don’t understand why he’s asking. You ask as much, and he says that he’s different, because obviously he’s spent months putting you back together after the last heartbreak. But when you refuse, he gets mad. He tries to make you feel guilty.

He asks again, and you still refuse. Now he’s angry. He starts accusing you of not trusting him. He points out how you sent pics to other guys who weren’t as deserving as him. You’re shocked at this behavior, and tell him as much. He stops talking to you for a few days, then comes back and asks again. Now you are angry. No longer confused. Because a pattern has started to develop. And the guy whom you thought was nice, is actually a f*uckboy himself.

Except this is worse. Because he played it off like he was a “nice” guy, but nice guys don’t do this. At least I don’t think they do. Right? Well, maybe they do. Maybe there is no such thing as an actual “nice” guy. Because at the end of the day, they all act the same, don’t they?

Nice guys just take a little longer to get there.

 

Married Men Cheat

Oh, I know I am going to get a lot of hate for this post. And it’s probably a subject that most people will shy away from, but it has become so common in my life that I need to address it.

Married men cheat.

Yes, they do. Oh boy, do they! I remember reading a statistic once that about 80% of married men cheat. I laughed at the time, thinking to myself that there is absolutely no way the number could be that high. But after seeing and experiencing advances from many married men, I can see how that number could be true. Now, before you start to blame me for their actions, such as saying that I lead them on, or I manipulate them, read on.

I don’t go out of my way to meet married men. More than half the time I don’t even know they are married. Rings do come off you know. And if the guy does not mention a wife or kids, how am I supposed to know?

By the way, I know married women cheat as well- I’m not going to deny that fact. However, this post is based off my personal experience, which is why I am focusing on married men.

The first time a married man approached me, I was hanging out with friends at a cafe. The guy was seated across the room from me, and he kept looking over. Towards the end of the night, he approached me and made small talk. He seemed nice enough, and he had no wedding ring on. So when he asked for my number, I said ok. We exchanged information, and he said he’d call me so he could take me out to dinner. As soon as he walked out, our waiter (whom I knew) came over and asked me what the guy wanted. I told him, and he looked at me and said “Jinan, he’s married. And he has four kids.”

I was appalled. Seriously? He came up to me that casually, asked me for my number with the intent to take me out and he was MARRIED? What the hell! So I thanked my friend, and decided to see if the guy would even contact me. He did, later that night. In order to not assume anything about him upfront, I played along, not wanting to unfairly accuse him of something until I was sure. Maybe he was looking to offer a business opportunity, or something else along those lines. However, the conversation was anything but professional. When I hinted at the fact that I knew he was married, he got upset and said it wasn’t true. I told him I knew for a fact that he was, and that he was lying, and he finally admitted he was but he was unhappy and looking for companionship. I told him that if this was true, he would need to tell his wife, get divorced, and then contact me. He did not like that, and I ended the conversation by asking him to never contact me again.

The next time it happened, a guy messaged me on Facebook. I didn’t know who he was, but we had one mutual friend in common. As the conversation became inappropriate (from his end, not mine) I felt so repulsed that I texted our mutual friend (who was a close friend of mine) and asked him what this guy’s deal was. He asked me why and I told him. That’s when he said “Jinan, he’s married.” WHAT THE HELL! I went back to the guy, told him I knew he was married, and he gave me the excuse that he was “separated.” I asked my friend, and he said no, he is definitely still married. I told this guy as much and he got upset, saying that he knows his life better than anyone, and if he says he is separated, then he is. I told him that may be, but I wouldn’t consider talking to him until he was fully divorced, or had a legal separation notice. He didn’t like that. Our conversation was over at that point, and I blocked him.

I could probably go on and on with similar stories, some of them worse than others, but I won’t. I’m sure you get the idea. Unfortunately, I do not have friends who know all the married men who have approached me, so I don’t find out until after we have gone out. I mean really, how am I supposed to know? I’m sure there have been times when I have never found out. That is the part that really pisses me off. If you are that good at hiding your marriage, what else are you capable of?

Here’s my take on men like that: you are all cowards. You live a life where you lie, constantly. You lie to your wife, to your kids, to me- and most importantly, to yourself. You claim you are unhappy in your marriage. Well, guess what? You can get a divorce. You claim you are trapped, and can’t divorce because you love your kids and you’d lose them. Well then, pick a side. You cannot have the fun without facing the responsibility as well. You feel tied down? Then don’t get married! It really drives me crazy when guys will get married- because duh, it’s what they are supposed to do- and still expect to have the fun of a single guy. If you are not ready to uphold the values of a married man, it’s simple- DO NOT GET MARRIED.

You may think these guys are random men, but let me explain something to you. These men are my friends’ husbands. They are prominent men in the community. They are men who sit on boards of reputable charities. Men who seem like the most religious type on the outside, but have the sickest, most twisted thoughts swarming around their head. You may want to blame me at this point, and ask me why I engage with these men. Do you know what it takes to get an unhappily married man to spill these things? Pretty much nothing. If you even engage in a conversation, and you are a single female like I am, married men will start dropping hints in the conversation early on to gauge your interest. They will throw in winking and heart emojis after you’ve answered a basic question about work or an event. They will want to “drop by” your hotel room to help you with conference materials, or ask you to stop by theirs to look over their speech.

Don’t tell me that married men are innocent. Maybe a small percentage are, but the majority need to realize that some of us won’t keep it quiet. They use their power and authority to intimidate, but let me tell you something: I WILL reveal names if it continues. I WILL send screenshots to your wives and fellow board and community members. I have no problem being seen in a negative light for a moment, if only to reveal the HYPOCRISY of the married men in our community.

I know a lot of women want to have the ideal marriage where they feel they can trust their partner. That is so admirable. I applaud you. But just remember that your husband is not perfect, and at some point he will be tempted, just like I am sure you will be. I am not saying monogamy doesn’t work. I am just saying that as humans, we cannot expect people to be without faults. I have come to terms with that, and if I ever get married, I will realistically recognize that my husband may step outside the marriage at some point. It doesn’t make me naive. It makes me smart. But to you married men out there who think YOU are smart, I have to tell you that you are sorely mistaken. You may cheat on your wives and try to justify it any way you can- she doesn’t appreciate me, we don’t have sex anymore, we drifted apart- but the truth will always be there when you look at yourself in the mirror.

And that truth is: you are a CHEATER.

 

Online Dating Woes, Part 2

So last week I joined another dating website. I figure that I need to try all avenues before truly giving up on ever finding a partner. So, I filled out my profile, writing about my passions, my activism, my writing. I filled out all of the categories. I put together a really great profile, if I do say so myself. Of course, I did add a few pictures, as I personally loathe it when someone has one grainy photo of himself.

Imagine my surprise when almost every single message I received was about my looks. And they weren’t even clever openers. For example:

TypicalGuy1 (not his real screen name): You look gorgeous.

Me: That’s because I am. Anything else in my profile catch your attention?

TypicalGuy1: To be honest your shirt that has your country’s flag.

Me: Ok…anything else you READ in my profile not related to my pictures catch your attention?

TypicalGuy1: Why? Do I have a quiz?

Me: Well, if the only thing that prompted you to contact me was my looks, then I’m not interested. I have more to offer than my looks.

I have yet to hear back from him.

WHY? Why is it that with everything I have to offer, my looks are what drive men to contact me? Oh, I know, initially something has to prompt you to want to talk to someone, but I would hope that after my looks, reading my profile and seeing all that I do would be more of an incentive to want to talk to me. What I really want to say when a guy tells me “you’re so hot” or “wow you’re gorgeous” is “yea, I know.” Because I do know. I am not being conceited. I know I have good looks. And enough people have said it that over the years I’ve started believing it. But that is NOT what I want to be known for.

The other thing that annoys me are the questions about my virginity. Why is it that every single guy just HAS TO ask that within five minutes of conversation? Are we really that regressive that we still judge women by their sexuality? Why does it matter either way? When I bring these points up after being asked, I am told to “calm down” and that I am “overreacting.” Overreacting? Did I ask about your sexual status? Did I try and judge you solely by something that neither is your business nor your right to know?

So here I thought this dating site would be different. Here I thought that I would be able to find some men who were more enlightened. Not to say I haven’t has some decent guys message me. I have. Or I have, somewhat. So many are getting smarter, and will mask their misogyny by pretending to be interested in me, but then once we exchange numbers, turn it all around. Thank God for being able to block numbers.

Lastly are the Muslim guys who will flat out judge me for being on this site. Um, hello- you are as well! Why is ok for you and not me? For example:

TypicalGuy2: Why are you on here? (yes, his opening line)

Me: For the same reason as you, I suppose.

TypicalGuy2: Isn’t that inappropriate for someone like you?

Me: How so? I’m just trying to meet someone.

TypicalGuy2: Well, I’m just looking out for you, I don’t think it’s right.

Me: I don’t need you to lookout for me, I can take care of myself.

TypicalGuy2: So you’re being a bitch to me and I’m trying to help you. Nice.

Me: This conversation is over.

TypicalGuy2: Why? Because I was trying to be nice and you’re a bitch? That’s the thanks I get?

Me: Conversation is over.

He continues to message me, until I finally block and report him. As if I need harassment on top of his judgement. Seriously, what is wrong with you men?

Bottom line: using any online dating site leaves you to be disappointed. People are rarely who they say they are, their pictures are usually not current (or even of them), and every guy feels like a big man behind the screen- meaning he will harass, berate, or judge you if you reject his lame advances. You might ask why I continue to torture myself, and the answer is simple: it’s hard for me to meet people, regardless of all the traveling I do. It’s nice to be able to talk to someone and get to know them, and even meet up once we are both comfortable.

And, if nothing else, all these experiences make for a good blog post. So for now, I will continue to put myself out there, hoping that someday all my efforts and patience will pay off.

 

 

 

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?

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.

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.

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.