Segment 1 of 4: woman, women, woah man.

In recognition of International Women’s day, and all the associated feels, I am reflecting on the importance of women in my life, how women are involved in my life, how women interact with each other and probably much more.

 


 

As I get older, I find myself yearning for deeper relationships with women around me. Women have so much power and strength.  There can also be so much tension between women. Mostly recently, I have been conflicted with the concept of feminism–what it means, what it means to me and who it is for (then I came across the concept of inter-sectional feminism and my Facebook comments got lit.)

Storytime!

I moved to US from Saudi Arabia. When I came to America in 2005, my first desire was to set my tits free. I went to Forever21(finally!) and found a top that would serve as a non-verbal proclamation of my freedom in this new found, liberal, accepting society. I felt so empowered. No one could tell me what to wear, no one would judge me for showing ‘too much skin’.

Nah.

That didn’t happen. I received enough judgmental looks to feel very uncomfortable in my own skin (again).  Isn’t that what America was about? Why were women giving me these looks? I expected it from men…but not women…Maybe I was doing it wrong.

I tried to strike a balance between showing some skin and being covered. For example, a group of college women and I went to a lake. I wore a sleeveless top (first time!) and a skirt that fell below my knees. “Why is your skirt so long? You know you’re not in Saudi Arabia anymore”.

How did that work? Tits out and I got disapproving stares. Attempt to strike a balance and I’m encouraged to be less conservative.

Fast forward a decade and some change and here is what I think I have learned and a question or two that I may have:

  1. White feminism is an actual thing and it is dangerous. DANGEROUS.
  2. Feminism is more than reproductive rights and equal pay.
  3. Black women are paid 63 cents for every dollar white men earn. For white women, it’s 78 cents. Write that on a poster.
  4. Black women and black girls are overly sexualized and this can be traced back to slavery and the treatment of black women and girls during slavery.
  5. Related to 4: If historical references are triggers for you because you think that we should “move forward”, “get along” you won’t get any sympathy from me.
  6. I am a conservative dresser. This is not because I lived in Saudi Arabia, it is just who I am. Once I accepted myself, I dressed for myself and no one else.
  7. There is absolutely no correlation between clothes and morality, or purity or anything else. Have you seen a witch in shorts ? —Ya.
  8. It is important to build deep relationships with women from all walks of life.
  9. It is dangerous to be offended by someone’s offense to the offensive comment you made. Stop that.
  10. Those shirts/posters/paraphernalia that say, “The future is female”–what does that mean? Who does that include? Who does that exclude? Think about it.
  11. You won’t find me praising Susan B. Anthony. Not here for it.
  12. I do not like being called a lady. Get away from me with your social prescriptions.
  13. If I ask you if you are a feminist and you tell me that you prefer ‘humanist’, I will verbally execute you.
  14. Politics is human. If you can put politics aside, acknowledge that as privilege.
  15. I need to better equip myself with the vocabulary to better advocate around LGBTQ issues.

 

A reassuring decade

I turned 30 in January. Unmarried, no children, no dog, no mortgage, no boyfriend. This is not the 30 I had planned for myself.

Two months into 30, what I do have is  an incredible sense of self, confidence, an unapologetic attitude, a willingness to say no, and much more. With certainty, I am the best version of myself so far.

The past creeps in, sure. The triggers trigger. But the tools have been tested, the repair is more efficient and the recovery is quicker. I have taken myself apart and put myself back together so many times, so, so many times. I know how I work and I have a better idea of what works.

I don’t feel like ‘it’s all downhill from here’–I feel the exact opposite. I am being positioned to do exactly what it is I was put on earth for –whatever that will be, and I am confident even though I have no clear idea what my purpose is.

I’m a confident 30. I’m not worried at all. My time will come and when it comes, I will be ready.

 

Area Code (347)

“I like talking to you and I like sharing silence with you”.

That was my response to him asking me if I would be upset if he fell asleep on the phone. That unintentionally poetic response did several things for me; It grounded me, provided clarity, bolstered my confidence–I felt unapologetic and I felt safe.

Several moments into meaningful silence, he asked me if I had put him on mute. I had. Why?  I was waiting for my food to be delivered. I did not want the obnoxiously loud buzzer to disrupt his sleep or the silence we had built. He said, thank you. And I muted the call once more.

Of course I cared.

And with that, I felt an urgency to return, to write. Not to write because of hopelessness, and not to romanticize with darkness.

He woke up again. He asked me what I was doing. I told him I was doing something I hadn’t done in a long time. I was writing for my blog. Are you in a dark place, he asked me. I smiled healthily. No, I’m not.

Can you tell me what it’s about? Yes, it’s about a phone call.

And I muted him again. I did not want the clickity clacks of the keyboard to disrupt his sleep.

Of course I care.

 

 

 

 

Shared Vocabulary

I am halfway through When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.

His writing supplies the reader with lesson after lesson, carefully and eloquently embedded in his narrative. In fact, you must read slowly or risk overlooking his wisdom.

One theme, so far, centers on the essentiality of vocabulary:

“I began to see all disciplines as creating a vocabulary, a set of tools for understanding human life in a particular way”.

“Our relationship was still deep in meaning, a shared and evolving vocabulary about what mattered”.

I am going to attempt to destruct and then apply these truths to a familiar context.

Disciplines create a vocabulary for understanding human life. Chemistry and biology provide us with vocabulary to understand structure and function at a molecular level. Their combined efforts birth the science of life and the vocabulary they introduce, allows us to converse the meaning of life. This is just one example; mathematics, religion, physics and more, provide foundational vocabulary. As an exercise, imagine a world absent of a discipline. How would this distort your conversations, your understanding? I find that removing one discipline from the equation is illustrative of a doomed play in Jenga.

…A shared and evolving vocabulary about what mattered. This is likely the most beautiful summary of a relationship that I have encountered. At the root of misunderstanding, different views, is a vocabulary not shared. If I reflect on a recent relationship, I have a deeper appreciation for Kalanithi and vocabulary.

He and I did not have a shared vocabulary. Because we did not have a shared vocabulary, our understandings diverged, the value we placed on experiences and emotions were not congruent and so our attempts at reaching a middle ground were explicitly doomed.

Where as he would say, Everything will be fine. God will find a way.  I believed, This is a struggle, this is not fine but God has given me the tools to find the way. On the surface, we envisioned a positive outcome. But how we reached this point was unequivocally different. Where he said fine, I said struggle.

When he said fine, he would also say prayertime, believe whereas I was saying, problem, strategy, solution. In our more heated interactions, I would describe him as consciously passive, he countered that I was, overly dramatic.

We did not have a shared vocabulary. We had nearly polar vocabulary, our vocabulary could not evolve, so we could not. So, just as with evolution, because we could not agree on the vocabulary necessary to adapt, we were removed.

Vocabulary is important, not merely because of our reliance on it, but for the fact that it births understanding, and I am no scientist, but it is the output of several iterations of biological and chemical functions, all founded upon physics, that differentiate us as human. The greatest philosophers, in concerning themselves with general and foundational questions laid incredible bedrock, posing super-human questions that birthed most of the vocabulary  on which we depend.

 

 

 

Where I admit that I get lonely

I like long weekends as much as the next person. When I left work on Friday, I was very much looking forward to the three day weekend. What I don’t look forward to is the first day back at work, where co-workers, who likely mean well, interrogate each other in subtle competition to determine who had the best weekend. I rarely have anything delightful or mischievous to share. In fact, in the queue of responses before and after mine, my account of the weekend is probably a joy kill.

I spent the weekend alone in my apartment. I stepped out to do laundry and go to the store. This next part is difficult to confess, even under the protection of an anonymous blog: I didn’t get any invitations and there were no inquiries into how I was spending the long weekend.

As a committed introvert, I require the solitude but sometimes the retreat is not welcomed and is possibly more exhausting than social interaction. I get lonely; more often that not, I do feel lonely. I grow tired of my phone, whether it is Instagram, eBay or Facebook, it’s not too long until I am reminded that the object tiring the palm of my hand actually brings me no joy. Reading is a good use of my time but even then, I’m quietly reminded of my loneliness with each page I turn.

I’ve looking into group activities with strangers, speed dating, outdoor activities, as a cure. But these trigger a sort of social anxiety for me. I am stuck.

The damning thing about loneliness is that it usually comes back to the afflicted person. What I mean is that if I were to tell someone I was lonely, they would look at me like there was something wrong with me, or give me useless advice, you need to get out more! or  a favorite. life is short! live a little!. Not helpful.

Tomorrow I’ll probably say.. I went to a barbecue and did some shopping with friends on Monday. Did you see any good fireworks?

Yes, I’ll lie and then I’ll get them to talk. No one really cares about what you did over the weekend, they either want an opportunity to storytell or to avoid telling you that they did exactly what I did.

 

 

 

 

July 2: Where I resurface

It has been a while since I wrote my last post. I have juggled relief that I no longer felt the need to write with wishing I had something to say. After my last post, I was certain that I had unpacked the bulk of  my thoughts that I had buried for years, decades even. Instead of writing for therapy and expression, I found happiness and adventure in exploring a possible artistic side. And by artistic side, I mean do-it-yourself projects.

My enthusiasm for creativity was encouraged by an article that I had skimmed; the article promised that even for the less artistic, artistic expression was a useful therapy. I understood this to mean that even if I was horrible, it would still be good for me – and I found this to be true. I also learned that my creative spirit was very much alive and wanting of attention.

A few months after moving into my new apartment, I purchased an antique french dresser. For weeks, I debated painting the dresser. It was a gorgeous statement piece. I was afraid that my novice hands coupled with untested creativity would destroy its beauty permanently. I researched various paints and I eventually settled for chalk paint. Painting was therapeutic; I don’t know if it was because my hands enjoyed the unfamiliarity of a new tool or if it was the waltz of the paint stroke, but it was a process I enjoyed thoroughly. The outcome exceeded my expectations. I made a point to share the rebirth of my dresser with anyone willing to wait, as I scrolled excitedly through my camera roll.

In the absence of writing, I have read a lot. At the beginning of the year, I committed to reading one book per month. This went well for a month. But instead of wailing in my failure, I allowed myself to explore other options and I binged on online articles. I liked the variety, and the fact that I did not have to commit to an author. In many ways, this freedom mimicked my new dating life. I had tumbled out of a long term, long distance relationship, with a new found appreciation for commitment, interestingly enough. I went on a several dates. This experience is what gave birth to my last post, A Letter to my Imaginary Daughter: Love What you Wear.

I have a history of prematurely committing to people. I don’t believe this was out of desperation but rather a firm belief that God would put people into my life for a reason. The lesson for me wasn’t in scrubbing myself of this belief, rather, it was in understanding that just as He would give, He would take away. It was up to me to identify the lesson and move on. Humorously, where that relationship is concerned, I am not confident of the lesson or maybe I am still expecting it to be something more complicated. At the very least, I learned that I, too often, commit too quickly and many times, to the wrong person.

So  with dating, I kept a very opened mind. I went in with curiosity about people’s motivations and fluctuations. I also refined my preferences for a partner. I relied more on what the person was showing me with their words and actions, and less on my mental creations. I gave more points to someone for whom I did not have to self-revolutionize-even if it was to my benefit. Someone who kept me laughing earned many brownie points. I assigned a lot of weight to emotional intelligence.

To end, I have picked up a new book. I think it is the book that brought me back here. The authors writes with an elegance I have never come across. He is both passionate and technical. He writes as doctor and patient with lung cancer.

When Breath becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

 

 

 

 

 

A letter to my imaginary daughter : Love what you wear

*I wrote this one month ago.

Dear Zara,

You are not in my womb yet. In fact, I am yet to find the person who will co-create you.

But this is the name he and I picked for you. He being the person I hoped would help me, create you. We picked your name because I may or may not have had an obsession with the Spanish retailer Zara. In addition to loving their clothing, I thought it was a pretty name. We had a Pinterest board dedicated to the idea of you–given the story behind your name, it’s only right that we planned and prepared your cutest outfits very far in advance.

Like your mother, you will probably waste large amounts of time picking an outfit. Your style will change drastically through time. You might even obsess over certain colors like I have (navy blue, Zara, navy blue). Zara you will change your mind and at some point, you will get tired of what originally seemed like fun. You might wish that you could dedicate yourself to one style. But if you are anything like me Zara, that will be impossible, and you will come to learn that this will actually go against who you are.

I want you to become frustrated with your outfits. I want you to have a closet full of clothes that you never wear. I want there to be a special place in your closet for these items. I want you to try different styles and play with patterns and color. I want you to have closet favorites and staple items. I  want you to be comfortable in your clothing, no matter what you choose. And I hope that your clothing makes you happy.

Zara, become frustrated with your outfits. If they aren’t working for you, if they don’t make you feel your best, baby, go change.

CLOSET-Full-of-clothes

Let yourself have choice. Be overwhelmed by the choices Zara, but never feel like you are above them. Acknowledge the choices, respect them for what they are, but if you don’t love it, don’t wear it. I don’t want you to ever feel like you have to wear something. Make choices, Zara. Learn how to be happy saying yes, and be confident when you say no. With time, you will learn what make you look and feel great.

Remember that the best deals are not always on the sale rack. Be cautious of fast fashion.

28830731-Messy-rack-of-clothes-and-hangers-after-a-big-sale-Sale-sign-for-summer-clothes-on-a-clearance-rack--Stock-Photo

Understand that as you grow and change, some of your clothes might not fit you the way they used to. Your favorites will change. That’s okay, baby girl. It can be in your closet but it doesn’t have to go on your body. Eventually, when the time is right you clean your closet. You might have to do this more than once but don’t be afraid; you will love results. I promise.

I pray that you know who you are, I pray that you are confident. But be open to the new things, because I bet, you’ll find something you didn’t know you could love. When you find items Zara, you might also find your best self. Experiment and learn.

Don’t wear anything that doesn’t make you feel like the best version of yourself. Change as you need to. Change the moment you feel uncomfortable but if possible make sure that when you leave the house Zara, you like what you are wearing. Sometimes it will be difficult to come home and change. Difficult but never impossible.

I don’t know at what age you’ll read this, but you’ll come to see that what I am telling you Zara, is to date. Avoid premature commitment, Zara. Try not to commit to anybody that does not commit to you. If your goal is marriage, don’t feel that it is running towards you. As you grow, you will approach the goal. Don’t be haste. Be cautious of the honeymoon phase, Zara – avoid fast fashion.

Watch your clothes for holes, be sure to check for fabric content, inspect your clothes after you wear them, after you wash them…how do they hold?

Know that many of your clothes will be tossed in the washing machine on Sundays. Be careful of the piles of clothes on the floor my dear, if you must dig through them, be discerning. Take note of what you dry clean, pay attention to the clothes you hang carefully–these are your key pieces.

I love navy blue baby, but everything in my closet has been navy blue. This color holds stains well.  Allow yourself some color Zara, if for no other reason than to see the stains as they are.