Before I wrote this post I had to convince myself that addressing my experience would be useful not only to me but to someone else. It took me more than a year to get over the shame. I did not talk about the things that went on in my relationship for many years even though I was (and am) surrounded by an incredibly supportive family and circles of strong and understanding feminist women. Maybe that was it… how could I, as a so-called feminist and strong woman, come forward with my story of emotional control?
I met my partner while in university; I was 18 at the time. Despite the fact that we were from different cultures, we clicked and managed to build a promising relationship. At the time, I was not Muslim, and I had been raised in a pretty liberal household. On the other hand, he had been raised as a conservative Muslim.
The cultural differences are something that people still ask me about because we were from radically different backgrounds. I would like to think that we were successful at negotiating all sorts of things. I quickly learned that pork was a no-no, and that alcohol, including baking vanilla, was something to avoid. After a few years, he became aware of the importance I placed on my language and my traditions, and he made an effort to study these cultural referents. While I was overly aware of his religion and culture from the very beginning, it took him a few years to understand that being in an inter-cultural and inter-religious relationship requires a lot of work. Part of me assumes that he expected me to be the one to compromise from the very beginning.
You fold yourself, shrinking for decades.
Starting questions with “sorry.”
You don’t want to stay lonely,
But solitude feels so good.
like a small animal, i rage.
why so apologetic?
slowly folding until you are a tiny faded flag
Read more by Nashwa, here.
Nashwa Khan identifies as South Asian/African Diaspora and is currently studying creative writing at University of Toronto and Addictions Counselling at McMaster University. She holds a strong interest in narrative medicine and cultural competency. You can usually find her ranting on Twitter on the intersections of pop culture, health and race. Connect with her @nashwakay.
Eds. Note: Please welcome comedian, playwright and Love InshAllah anthology contributor Zahra Noorbakhsh! You can find her column, My Infidel Husband, here every fourth Thursday of the month.
On my 26th birthday, I shot awake with the realization that I was in my mother’s relationship.
My then boyfriend (now husband), Dylan, and I had just moved in together, shortly after celebrating our two-year anniversary. In all this time, he had never bought me a present. I looked over at him snoring sweetly with our two cats at his feet. Lying on our fluffy bed with twinkle lights from our housewarming still dangling above, I recalled my parents’ gift-giving turmoil like a once dormant, posttraumatic flashback.
Dad rarely bought mom presents but, when he did, he missed the mark every time. Mom claimed the role of victim, lonely and unseen. Dad avoided the conversation altogether. How had I, an outspoken, confident Feminist, wound up the overlooked partner just two years into my relationship?
I remember being three, face deep in a mango, my mosquito legs poking out from the shade of a palm tree, the Caribbean sun hot and deliberate. One of my Aunties came around the corner, and, with her heavy hand, began beating my legs back into the shade, yelling in her creamy patois (that always sounded more like singing), “You are going to get too dark!”
It was the first time that I ever looked at my skin and realized that people weren’t just black or white.
I remember being eight, riding shotgun in my father’s 1995 silver Acura as he and I cruised around the city on a crisp Saturday afternoon. His window was cracked open, and old school reggae joints flooded the air. The sun had forgotten that it was the middle of February; she was out, kissing everything she touched. I remember watching my father’s dark brown skin glisten in her rays. A yearning filled me: I wanted skin like his.
I was pale and boring I thought, but he was deep and rich, his skin could swallow me up and it would be like I had never existed. I saw power in his complexion.
Portlandia, a popular satirical comedy show, celebrates the quirky culture of Portland, Oregon. One of their most popular ongoing skits features two women who manage a cooperatively- owned feminist bookstore. In these clips, they purposely (and playfully) poke fun at an “old school” approach to feminism. Watch the great clip below, and visit here to learn about the real bookstore that inspired the skits!