jdeena

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

Tag: single

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?

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Emotional Stalemate

What happens when you find yourself at an emotional stalemate?

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

So now what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baby Steps

The other day I was talking to my friends about my take on relationships. Apparently, I’m cold and unromantic because I think that certain things guy do are stifling and obnoxious. For instance, I don’t like it when a guy is completely adoring in the first few weeks of meeting me. I have my own life going on and can’t drop everything to talk on the phone multiple times a day. A guy who constantly praises my looks turns me off because I feel like after the first 20 or 400 times….I get it, ok? You think I’m pretty or whatever other generic term you like to use. I also find it odd when a guy is ready to spend money on me from the first time we meet or hang out….like, shouldn’t you know if I am worth the $50 you’re about to spend on dinner? I don’t mind if we go dutch the first few times until you’re positive you like me.

So is there something wrong with me thinking that way? My friends tell me over and over again that I push guys away with this type of thinking, but I really don’t know how to be that other type of girl. I can’t let a guy just wine and dine me because- let’s face it- this ain’t no movie and we’re not characters in The Notebook. (Excuse my English there, I just had to let that out)

The problem is, when a guy showers me with gifts and adoration, I feel that it isn’t genuine. Why? Maybe because I never experienced that before in any relationship and I feel like it’s just a ploy to get me to let me guard down and then break my heart. Maybe. I haven’t really thought about it that much. Haha. But seriously. I just feel like it’s so fake and just a show. But a lot of these guys are truly genuine, because once they realize I’m a cold bitch, they move on to wine and dine another girl I know and live happily ever after. So what I have realized is that I need to let go some of the previous relationship trepidation and allow a guy to treat me in the way he feels I deserve.

This isn’t to say that I will turn mushy and clingy and expect a dozen roses every month (I hate roses, such a typical choice. Surprise me with Casablanca lilies and we’ll talk). Or that I will let him pay every time we go out (and I won’t because I work too so why not?). Or that I will decalre my love for him on social media and stamp our date with those annoying marriage emoticons on my IG profile (seriously, just stop it girls. We know you’re engaged/married. We saw the bajillion pics you posted for the past 4 years.)

What I WILL do is allow a guy to tell me he likes me, call me, pay for me…on occasion. I will be charming and sweet, until he touches on one of my hot-button topics (like misogyny or hijab) or he says something that truly offends me (then the gloves come off). I guess it’s like I have reverted to my pre-adolescent stage and I need to start off the next relationship with baby steps until I feel I am ready to run right into his arms (which is SO cheesy that I’d never do it.) The truth of the matter is, I just turned 32, and honestly, I have too much potential as an amazing partner to let it go to waste being single. Call me arrogant, but hey, it’s the truth.

So, here’s to a new change in my life. Let’s pray that I don’t overdose on this and become one of those annoying girls we’ve all come to hate.

Online Dating Woes

So I have dabbled a bit in online dating here and there for the past 8 years. I initially joined one site just to network and meet people, and that proved to be fruitful. I am still great friends with a lot of the guys and girls I’ve met. Recently however, I activated my profile on Arab Lounge. Ok, so yes; you can tell just from the name of the site what kinds of people I will deal with. The thing is, this is not a social networking site; it’s strictly for dating. You can’t post blogs, you can’t friend people, and as a female, I am only accessible to males and vice versa.

So I am constantly getting messages from guys who find my profile “interesting.” Such a vague term. And when I click to see their profile, we have so much NOT in common that I wonder what it is that they find so interesting. I kept my profile short and sweet after a male friend read my previous profile and deemed it too aggressive. (There it is again, I’m “too” something. Sigh). So my profile just says that I want to meet someone, get to know each other, and see where it goes. Casual. Down-to-earth. Simple.

So please explain to me why I get marriage proposals within the first message I’m sent?

Can someone please explain to me where all the normal guys are? The following are excerpts from messages I have received:

 

“You are my goddess, please let me marry you.”

“I am your slave.”

“Can we marry? I make you much happy.”

“You’re face is like the moon.” (So, pasty and round?)

“Why do you only want tall guys?” (From a guy who was 5’4″. I’m 5’9″)

 

I get a few guys that just send “hi.” And a few that write me their life story. But I never get the guy who is nonchalant, collected, and just NORMAL. Is it that these guys online have no social graces that they resort to online dating because they can hide behind a screen? Look, people. I’m trying to keep an open mind that I will meet a great guy. But these idiots are making it very hard for me to keep that faith alive.

I know that at 32 I’m not going to get the pick of the gene pool lottery. That’s my punishment for waiting so long I guess. Although, in all fairness not meeting the right guy earlier is definitely not my fault. I did try; it just wasn’t meant to be I guess. So now the question is, do I continue this madness, or do I delete my online account and wish for someone to cross my path someday? On the one hand, it is amusing to receive these messages. On the other, it is discouraging and a waste of my time.

I guess only time will tell. On another unrelated note, last night I hung out with my coworker. Yes, the same one from last week. Just so you know, I am a very ethical and moral person. I would never act in a way that is inappropriate with someone who is engaged. I made sure his fiance knew we would be hanging out before we went out. I don’t ever want to be in a position where the guy lies to his girl just to hang out with me.

So anyways, we went to Pittsburgh yesterday because he’s never been and he wanted to see the stadium and all that hype. The weather was nice and we ended up having dinner by the water. Perfect setting…except I was with an unavailable guy. But he seemed genuinely interested in talking and getting to know me. We got on the subject of relationships and I asked him, from his POV as a male, why he thinks I have not had any success in relationships. He told me that my personality was great- I am fun, lively, bold, independent….but that when I meet a guy, I shouldn’t show that all at once. He said, and I quote, “don’t show too much of that right away. It’ll scare some guys.”

There it is again. That phrase, “too much.” Always too much of this, too much of that. I will never escape it! Of course, once he said that, I became defensive and combative. He told me that for a guy like him (meaning a coworker and friend) my behaving that way is fine. But for someone who I am in a relationship with it may come off as being aggressive. So basically I need to change myself when I meet someone, and lay it on them slowly, over time.

Is that right? Should I do that? I’m asking all you guys out there. If I did take his advice, won’t the guy later on realize that I was maybe hiding or holding back a big part of who I am? I don’t think that I could do that. Plus, I’d feel really awkward trying to hold back a part of me as I’m getting to know someone. Sounds cliche, but if he can’t appreciate all of me upfront, he doesn’t deserve me.

But that is exactly what I’ve done online. To the virtual world, I am not my typical self. I have scaled my profile way back so that I can appear as normal (relative term) as the other females online. Is that right? Should I showcase all of me right away, or should I take my friend’s advice and wait to show it?

I am so confused. Sigh.

Friend-zoned

So lately there have been blogs and posts about how guys get friend-zoned by their gal pals. “Friend-zoned” basically means that a guy wants to be more than just friends with a girl, but the girl treats him, well….basically like her best gay friend. But no one ever talks about the girl who gets friend-zoned. I never really thought about it until last week, when I asked a guy friend of mine why he never pursued anything with me. His answer: there was never a spark. Or, actually, there WAS a spark initially, but then it faded. In his words, he “tried to make it happen” but it never did.

That got me thinking. I experience this a lot more than I should. So it made me think about all the relationships I’ve had with guys over the years, mostly friendships. All my female friends find it so weird that I know so many single, good-looking guys, and have yet to start a relationship with one. So I asked them, one by one, why they won’t date me. They all said the same thing: there is no spark, no chemistry. When I ask them what they like about me, it’s always the same: cool, chill, no drama, funny, down-to-earth. They find me cute, adorable, sexy….never beautiful or pretty. That’s when it hit me.

I’ve been friend-zoned.

Everyone thinks it’s just the guys who get pushed aside to the “friend” area; not so. Apparently my carefree, fun, happy single self is a recipe for friendship, and not much else. While all these guys find me to be a great friend, they can’t see a future with me. Is it because my single lifestyle has them guessing whether or not I’d make room for them? (See previous blog post Making Room for a Man). Or maybe I’m too much for them (and I’ve heard this before as well). Too involved, too confident, too outgoing, too social, etc….I’m just “too much” of everything that I am proud of.

What, exactly, am I doing to push these guys away, or dim that spark? Should I be more demure, more mysterious, more subdued? Is my outgoing personality and confidence such a turnoff that guys can’t see past it to build a relationship with me? What, exactly, am I doing wrong???

I’m closing in on straight hysteria at this point. I don’t play games. I’m not going to act one way to please the male species because that’s what they want. I’m not going to act shy when I meet a guy for the first time. I’m not afraid to be the first one to initiate a meeting. I don’t shy away from the tough or taboo subjects. If this makes me a “friend” then maybe the guys I’m meeting are not strong enough to handle this version of me. Maybe I need to find a guy who welcomes a bright, lively, funny girl. I would never want a guy to pretend to be something he is not to impress me. The best version of you is when you are yourself. Playing games and putting on a facade are child’s play. We are too grown up for all that.

My friends and family wonder why I never tell them when I meet a guy. It’s because I know that after a few weeks of talking, he’ll disappear. I should start my own magic show. POOF! He’s gone, ladies and gentlemen. I never know why though. They just disappear, and I am left wondering- yet again- what I did to make him vanish as quickly as he had appeared. Some may think that all this rejection might wear on my confidence, but to be honest, I don’t care. Why? Because I don’t even know what I did wrong! If they attacked my character somehow, maybe I’d hurt a little. But I don’t even know what sends them running, so all I can do is laugh, keep an open mind, and move on.

The guy for me is out there, I know he is…and if he’s too afraid of me to approach me, then maybe I should just face up to my partner-less future now. There are worse things that could happen to me than me dying alone, right?

At least I’ll have a bunch of friends at my funeral.

Making Room for a Man

I was talking to a guy the other day, and he said something to me that has stayed on my mind for the last week or so. I’m getting to know this guy as someone I’d possibly date, and while we were having the normal getting-to-know-you conversation, I mentioned everything I am involved in. I talked about my classes, work, involvement in the community, babysitting my cousin, writing my blog, social gatherings, etc. I talked about my weekly lunches alone to read and have 2 hours to myself at my favorite lunch spots, getting my nails done once a month, taking myself out shopping. I mentioned that after work every night, I come home, have dinner, and read or watch Friends until sleep overtakes me. Then this guy said something that got me thinking; he said that it sounded like I was happy with how my life was going, and that it seemed fulfilled and including a guy into that lifestyle would be inconvenient.

I paused mid-answer. Was he right? I was ready to defend myself and say that I could easily accommodate another person in this life I had cultivated over the past 3 years of being single, but would I have been lying?

It’s true that since my last engagement fell through, I have struggled to find my own happiness- one that doesn’t include a guy. So I have done something most people don’t think of doing while single: I have courted myself. I found out what motivates me, makes me happy, and brings me joy. I have wooed myself with presents, dinners, and travel. I have spent many long hours having conversations with myself about life and love. I have allowed myself to be selfish and focused on my own happiness, rather than finding someone to make me happy. Is that wrong?

In order to love someone, you must first love yourself. For the longest time, I felt that without a man in my life, I was incomplete. Most of what I come across in social media daily tries to coerce me to feel inadequate without a man. Quotes that I read, pictures I see, events that go on…they all make you feel that as a single woman, you are wrong, and you cannot enjoy life without a man. So because I have been unlucky in love, I must be miserable so that society can feel more at ease? No way; not going to happen.

So could I allow a man into my life right now? Or am I so set in my ways that I’d be hard to compromise with? To be honest, I can’t really say. I am so happy with my life right now, that for the first time in my life I enjoy being single. Even the comments from friends and family don’t bother me anymore. I laugh it off. To me, the one thing I am missing (someone to fill my intimate and emotional desires) isn’t as big as all the other great things that fill my life. And honestly, isn’t that what is more important? We always place such an emphasis on finding that special someone that we lose sight of our own needs and happiness.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I am not looking for someone to complete me. I am complete within myself. However, when I do meet the right guy, I will be sure to share myself with him. I still expect to have my own life and interests, as I hope he will too. What I want is a companion, someone to share great moments with, but not someone who will expect me to drop my life for him. To be single for so long makes it much harder to change from that mindset when you do meet that special person. That doesn’t mean I won’t change; I was engaged and made time for fiancee. But when you suddenly find yourself as the lone single friend in your group, and you have no one to go to movies or dinner with, you learn to adapt. So maybe I have gotten used to being alone. Maybe I do relish the quiet hours at a bookstore, browsing titles and sipping coffee. Maybe takeout sushi and bad TV make up the perfect Friday night for me….now. That doesn’t mean that if the guy is wonderful I’d turn him away.

But for now, I will continue to love myself. I will spoil myself. I will do all those things that my friends have a spouse to do for them, for myself. After all, just because I’m single, it doesn’t mean I have to miss out on all that.

I deserve it, too.

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.

Understanding Love

A couple of weeks ago I came across an account on Twitter called “Love, Inshallah.” I think one of my friends retweeted one of their tweets. Anyways, it seemed interesting and so I clicked on it. Turns out, it was a good thing I did. “Love, Inshallah” is actually a book written by two talented authors: Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi. They took the stories of 25 American Muslim women and published them in one book. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading the book, but I know that I had never expected to relate so much to the women in it.

I had expected the usually sugar-coated versions of love stories. However, these stories were so raw in the sense that they delved into the subject of sex and cross-religious relationships openly. For the first time in my life I felt like I was not alone in my struggle to find love. Some of the stories mirrored my own so specifically that I found myself crying without realizing I was doing so. The women in this book (as well as the authors) risked a lot in order to honestly tell their stories, and I appreciate it so much.

It’s not a secret that I have refused the idea of marriage. I was raised in a typical Muslim household, with the emphasis on no dating and allowing my parents to help me choose my mate. As I grew more independent, the idea of a traditional courtship held no appeal to me, and I couldn’t imagine meeting my husband in such a controlled and formalized setting. I wanted to be able to meet the guy on my own and then fall in love. It’s what every girl dreams of, right?

However, I have not been lucky in love. It may be that I am a difficult person in the way that I demand things done a certain way. I am not traditional by any means when it comes to relationships, whether you are Muslim or not. I believe both the man and woman need to still retain an independent life away from the other while married so as not to lose themselves in each other. I see too many women who give up their hobbies and goals in order to be someone’s “wife” and I cannot bring myself to do the same. It may be selfish, but to me, my hobbies and interests are who I am; they make me the person that I am and to take them away will strip me of my identity.

Because of my non-traditional views, I have always been seen as the rebellious one. Everyone has a comment to contribute when I bring up my ideas. I sometimes feel so much like a pariah that I try and convince myself to just get married and do what everyone else did…that it won’t be so bad. But then my mind thinks of the unforeseen obstacles down the line and I recoil as quickly as I approached the idea. I just don’t see it for me…at least not in the traditional sense. So I’ve floated along, alone in my thoughts, until I read “Love, Inshallah”.

The fact that there are 25 different women in the book is great because it gives you 25 different stories on love. We all know that love is not the same for every person. Each of us values something different. Some may want an unconditional love. Some may want an all-consuming love. Even some may want less love- such as an arrangement as a second wife. I used to judge the women who were second, third, or fourth wives, but now I know that some of them simply want a marriage- just not everyday lol. Being a second wife gives you the freedom to still be independent while married (although I still don’t think I’d ever do it myself.)

So stop trying to fit women and their love into a box. Society places such emphasis on the “right” kinds of love: chasteness, reserved, shy, etc….when in reality Muslim women are just like any other woman out there. We all want to be swept off our feet; we want romantic nights and special dinners. Being Muslim does not mean the absence of emotion. Yet when we admit that we feel these things we are labeled and made to feel ashamed. Why?

Reading this book has given me a perspective that I now feel more comfortable and confident in expressing my beliefs. Whereas I was once leery of being the outcast, I can now proudly hold true to my beliefs without fear of being categorized as a bitter, lonely singleton. I am a smart, driven woman who just happens to be single. It’s not a crime. And when my love is ready to find me, it’ll know where to look.