Dear World

He would fall silent, his face crumpling in consternation as he realizes his idea of what I am is fast disappearing along with my drink. How did a girl with parents like mine get her toe cut off?

Dear World-

I’m sitting on my bed with my old friends of the week- anti bacterial ointment and a bandage- and examining the ugly cut on my toe. I wasn’t exactly being smart when I got it, not unless you call running across the hay meadow at dusk in foam soled shoes smart. (Old hay stalks are sharper than you think!) To be honest, I have no real idea what I stepped on,and what if it was metal or something like that? And I get gangrene? Darn!

I picture my toe falling off. Carefully putting on the bandage, I imagine me in five years sitting across from a suitor and lifting a nonchalant shoe under the table.

“I thought I’d better tell you before we get too serious- I’m missing a big toe.”

 He would fall silent, his face crumpling in consternation as he realizes his idea of what I am is fast disappearing along with my drink. How did a girl with parents like mine get her toe cut off?

 “Oh- uh- how did that happen?”

It makes me laugh, but it brought to mind how little Muslim couples actually know each other sometimes. I’d heard way too many stories of people getting married in a flush of nuptial bliss, only to face nasty reality when their dowry never shows up- or the Perfect Dude suddenly won’t let them out of the house- or he already has a wife he didn’t mention- or a toe missing! And chances are a kid is on the way.

I like to think I’m far too suspicious for this to happen, and definitely not the trusting type. I tell my sister that a definite clause in my contract is the No Second Wife Rule….i.e.’if you get a second wife I get a divorce’.

“Maybe you shouldn’t put it in the contract, just get it across that you trust him to understand that it isn’t okay with you.”

“He’d probably do it anyhow. This way it’s crystal clear that if he wants a second wife she won’t be my second.”

Misery is what comes to mind when I think of that scenario. Freaking messy misery. And I wonder if I’m being too distrustful.

But honestly, I think that as women we should avail ourselves of all the Islamic rights we have in marriage and be sure to follow up on them. We hear a lot about the women we should be, the wives and sisters we should be like, our husband’s rights, but not so much about our own rights. In the end, our parents and friends can’t always protect us. I have to look out for myself in some things, and that’s where dictating the terms of the contract come in. If he refuses to fulfill them I’d have to seriously think about whether I wanted this to be the rest of my life with him- and I feel like I’d probably decide not to.

But then, I reason, there’s love, which is messy. What if he disregards the rules and does what he likes but I love him too much to leave him? The idea leaves me feeling rather helpless.

“You know, I don’t plan on having kids for at least three years so I can be really sure he’s the father I want for my kids.”

My sister just looks at me.

Sameness Of Days

I have to say it annoys me when people get too personal with their poetry. Perhaps unreasonably, it feels almost as if they’re forcing the burden of their emotion on you, like that person who you meet once and they tell you every tragedy in their life. It becomes, for me, unrelatable- but that isn’t the entire point, is it?? Just one of my pet peeves. Which is why I don’t like posting poems that are too personal to me.(I guess I’m very private, and if I start complaining it means I’m really really worked up. No one in family knows or ever knew that at one point in time I was suicidally depressive, and that’s how confiding I am.) There is something very freeing about anonymity. This is about depression.

Sameness Of Days

into another and
into another and
into another and
into…….
sameness of days
grimy grey bright hot
whimpering medley
sameness of days and
into another…..
sameness of work and
sameness of leisure
words swim before my eyes
under fingers
no pleasure
and into another and
into-
waiting for someone
white hot rose
to break the momentum
of unfelt blows
and into another and
into another and
into……..

Calling Home

on the back stoop

bright hot sunshine warms my head

golden breeze whips my skirt

I sit dreaming

Dreams of a hotter place than this

Brighter.

In my head, all the way across the sea-

stuccoed houses, brighter skies,

dark haired children, darker eyes.

I squint

At blue and clouded sky . I see another sky-

Darker. Stars are out- adornments of the heavens, bright

Pinpricks on an indigo sky.

The adhan echoes through the night

Silver as the stars-

My heart sings-

Over lands, across the sea,

Call to the faithful, calling me,

Home, they say

Is where your heart is.

I find my heart in Yemen.

stuccoed houses ,brighter skies,

dark haired children, darker eyes.

Brighter, and yet darker. I sit quiet, try to see-

Yemen’s stars are calling me.

Sunset

One of our beautiful Missouri sunsets….shot on my phone. Next to writing, I love photography………….translation, walking around shooting picture on my mini Galaxy Samsung phone. I’ve actually found I like it better then my mother’s camera, partly because I can get on my stomach and climb up onto things without worrying about breaking it too much!20151025_182513

(Funny Incident of the Day: When my eleven year-old sister opened my door a crack and peered crossly in. ME: “What?” HER: “I don’t think everyone has brothers like this. One of them is lying on his stomach yelling at fake German soldiers under the couch.”)

Liebster Award Thingy

A few days ago I was nominated for The Liebster Award by bintabdillah  (who has a lovely blog on her life as a Muslim mum!) and since it sounds like fun-! I have to tell eleven facts about myself- yikes- and answer eleven questions before nominating eleven other bloggers for the award. So here goes for the eleven facts (double yikes)-

(1). I once had a narrow escape with a coyote while I was walking in the woods. We kind of ran into each other- and I ran all the way home. I still can’t believe I didn’t have a heart attack.

(2). Hotdogs make me sick but I eat them anyway. Because I like them- and no, I don’t usually apply this rule to my life.

(3). I’ve lived in- to date- seventeen different houses in different countries and states. One was a one-bedroom mud house.

(4). I’ve never sent a phone text in my life. No phone- then once I get a phone, no reception!

(5). I hate guns.

(6). One of our houses was so bad (No heating! No cooling! Full of cracks!) that I got mild frostbite while cooking in the kitchen in January. I used to have to go and warm my pale toes under hot water to thaw them. (Kansas City, looking at you.)

(7). I. Will. Not. Wear. Scratchy. Clothes. Not for a party. Not to look cute. No.

(8). Or pants, unless I feel like Today I Should Maybe Wear A Cute Dress With Pants! Which is not most days.

(9). My proudest accomplishment is teaching my little sister to read. She read on a second grade level when she was five.

(10). Ahh…..running out of facts here. I……..am not really a fan of makeup. Like to my sister’s wedding I honestly wore mascara and lip gloss, done.

(11). Thinking……..thinking….okay, when I was little I refused to talk to people. Refused. Period. I think I’ve improved since then. I mean, I say hello to the cashier!

Sigh. That’s eleven facts about me- which were pretty hard to come up with! I mean, not to get too confidential on the World Wide Web is kind of hard. Now to answer the eleven question bintabdillah put for me.

(1). Would you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert?

(Oh my gosh, why is someone talking to me!?!)  Lol, introvert, I’m pretty sure- but now that I have no people around I get really depressed. So I don’t know- maybe I’m taking my introversion part time now?

(2). What is one of your favorite memories?

I don’t have a great memory, but I think playing on the beach in Hadhramout just after Fajr, with the seabirds wheeling above and the sun glowing on the waves, smelling the salt and running in the water- I think that’s one of my favorite memories. I was so happy then, and when we got home my sister had to cook breakfast. (Cue evil laughter.)

(3). Who is someone who inspires you to do and be better?

I would have to say the Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu alayhi wa salam. I mean, I used to look up to a lot of people in my life, but I learned that ordinary people always fail you somehow. Not to sound bitter at eighteen.

(4). If you could describe yourself in five words, what would they be?

Um……… right now I’m not really on top of the world! Persevering. Emotional. Stubborn. Loyal. And……….Dreamer, maybe? Do those even match up?!?

(5). What is your favorite thing to do in your spare time?

Read, eat potato chips, read, eat more potato chips!

(6). What is one of the craziest things you’ve done and would you do it again?

That’s a hard question. I’ve had a kind of crazy life, but not through any interference of mine. I kind of feel like I haven’t done anything crazy, which is boring. Gotten in the river in my full hijab and played? I do that, and I probably look crazy, lol. Still do it.

(7). What’s the one thing that people always misunderstand about you?

My mood? I tend to hide my feelings unless they’re too strong to hide.

(8). If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Either Kentucky Fried Chicken or Yemeni grilled chicken with rice. And cake for dessert…mmm..( I feel like if I ate everything I wanted to eat, I would be very fat.)

(9). What are two pet peeves that you have?

People chewing noisily and hypocrisy. I can’t stand either one.

(10). Would you rather trade intelligence for looks, or looks for intelligence?

That’s a really hard question. I mean, even if we don’t think about it a lot, we all value our beauty a lot and our intelligence. Is it cheating to say I honestly can’t decide, and hope I never have to?

(11). If you could have a conversation with someone over lunch, whether living or dead, who would it be?

Would it be disrespectful to say, again, Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessing be upon him?

And for bloggers I nominate- and I know not all of you will be able to do this, but it might be fun if you have the time! Assalamu Alaykum- just a notice that I’ve nominated you for the Liebster Award!- which is really just a way from bloggers for bloggers to spread your blog around the community. All you have to do is download the logo, tell eleven facts about yourself, answer my eleven questions, then nominate five (or eleven, if you can manage it!) other bloggers, whose blogs you want to draw attention to, for the award.

Oklahoma Niqabi

A Creative Mom in Dubai

Hijabi on Bay Street

Confessions of a Hijabi

Aren’t you hot in that?

Soul Hijabified

Under a Veil

In The Kingdom, Not A Princess

The ramblings of a Saudi wife

Veils and Vanity

(I couldn’t find another one! Do I still get the award? :))

My eleven questions:

(1). Tell us one quirky thing about you that nobody would guess!

(2). When you feel really down, what keeps you going?

(3). What’s your comfort food?

(5). If you had to wear one outfit for a week, what would it be?

(6). If you could be someone else for a day who would it be?

(7). What is the one makeup you can’t do without?

(8). What are you absolutely worst at?

(9). What is something you feel really strongly about?

(10). Name something that really makes your heart warm.

(11). Name one thing you really hate (my example- sweatpants!)

Whew!

 

 

 

 

Little Strengths

“What bothers you most when we go out?”

I turned from stirring to look over at my eleven-year-old sister. She was sorting out plates for lunch, seemingly calm, but I couldn’t help wondering if someone had bothered her.

“People following us around,” I said mischievously, referring to a neighbor of ours who practically follows us everywhere we go.

“I mean, rude things.”

“I think that counts as rude. To some of us.”

“Like, people making nasty comments and stuff. Staring.” (She wasn’t about to be deflected from a deep conversation.)

I had to consider this for a moment, but before I go on, let me tell you how sad it is that my little sisters and brother have to worry about this. That it’s honestly something they think about, and worry about sometimes, when we go out- not kid-on-kid abuse, but grownups saying these things to them. They don’t go to public school and worry about being picked on. For them, it’s as simple as going shopping and having the woman across the aisle make a ‘nasty comment.’

My little sister- this particular little sister- is sensitive. She broods over things she hears. During times of disturbance or emotional distress, she washes her hands compulsively, again and again until they’re chapped and cracked, as painful as her soul.

Even my five-year-old sister has silently absorbed- without being told- that some people, people we walk past in the grocery store and have little girls like her, hate us for being Muslim. She knows, but as far as I know it is just part of her world, a little inconvenience like a rainstorm on grocery day. She plays every day with her friend- a blond little girl who goes to a Baptist church and said once we were ‘kind of like we’re cousins’. She puts on her little peach silk beaded khimar and pink cowboy boots and sashays out to face the world. She doesn’t absorb the snatches of alarming conversation yet, and often, I like to think, is a little ambassador in bright small scarves.

They’re on different planes, and I am on yet another.

I hear the comments. Catch the stares. I have been told to get out of the way before I am shot, heard the hurled whispers, the incredulous, meaningfully painful exclamations.

But for each ‘holy cow!’ and each threat, and each muttering of insults, I get a little stronger. Like another veneer of strength, and by now I feel like I’ve heard it all- threats, insults, rude questions, the hurled words to break our souls, and each time I hold up my head and keep walking. I have to let it go, forget it, not only for myself but for my little brother and sisters who take it from me. And for some of them, they forget too; for one of them, she remembers and grows nervous, unable to let it go, already wounded.

It comes hard to realize that this hostility is shaping this second generation- the future. I don’t want her to grow up afraid to walk out of the house, to repeat the hurt herself after someone has already wounded her. Like any big sister, I want to spare her the pain- but I know she’ll come through, the way she did since she was little and loyally believed that zucchini was chicken because under siege in Yemen we had no chicken, and ate it. She made the best of the bad then and I hope she always will. And I hope I’ll be there to help her, but if I’m far away she’ll still hold on, because I have learned a lesson from this.

The littlest people can still be very strong, and hold on even when we assume they won’t. We can learn from them if we let ourselves. Yesterday she decided to start wearing her abayah out in public. ‘Since I know I have to wear it in a little while, I thought I can start now so I don’t have to do it all at once suddenly, you know?’

Even though she worries.

Let us all be that strong.

Since You Know Me.

You decide for me, that I’ll never ride a horse or go skydiving (ambitions of mine). You know me, straitlaced and innocent. You know me better than I know myself.

I’m what a lot of people- too many people-would call extreme. Unfathomable, maybe.

Walking down the street all I uncover is my eyes and my hands. Although I’m not walking like a dying flower, I don’t swing my hips or wear shoes that click super loud. Just eighteen. I get a smile. You’re eighteen? I’ve never even had a crush! Not even from a distance! I’ve never been to prom, never been to a movie! I mean, the closest I’ve gotten to drugs and alcohol is Dramamine and the vanilla in my grandmother’s cake! I’ve never touched a man who wasn’t related to me, never been made a pass at (understandably!) don’t listen to music, and for Pete’s sake I’ve never even taken a selfie!

So I guess people get an image. I must be really demure. Probably nice, at best, and at worst a crusader to get you to be like me. My mother is a religious teacher- wow, I must be the most straitlaced person ever. I have a soft voice unless I’m really lively; my teacher used to laugh at me because I had such a ‘soft little voice’ and people tend to shape up around me. You said a four-letter-word??? See me swoon! You walked past me without…a…shirt???? I’m forever corrupted, tumbling offended in the dirty world of shirtless men! You mentioned sex? Sure, I’m eighteen and think babies come out of a- an incubator! Yeah. Or at least I only have a faint idea!

It can be both amusing and tiresome. I don’t use curse words, and I prefer you don’t, but I’m not eternally offended and condemning you to my blacklist. It’s kind of sweet when people cover more in respect to me, but I don’t expect you to and won’t be offended if you don’t.

But you never think of the side of me that wants to get red streaks in my hair.You think it’s impossible for me to have a (slightly wicked) sense of humor.You wouldn’t guess I’m the one who sometimes says the things that make my sisters gasp.You don’t guess at the girl who plugs in her earbuds and tears it up dancing down the forest trail near my house.You don’t ever imagine that I can be a little wild in my own way, a little crazy, and still stay inside the lines Islam draws for me.

I want to get my nose pierced, but am yet summoning the moxie to charge into the town’s intimidating tat place and demand a piercing.My fashion preferences are crimson and peacock blue and black, silk and denim and cotton, elegant and restrained, but wait. I don’t know fashion, out in my fashionless hijab, and for you there is no other world for me. You decide for me, that I’ll never ride a horse or go skydiving (ambitions of mine). You know me, straitlaced and innocent. You know me better than I know myself. You know my teenage years- but wait.

You don’t. You just don’t. You don’t know the raging storm my teen years have been. They weren’t like yours, but my fight was real and painful, and loving Allah fiercely as my stay the entire time. I wasn’t in agony and rebellion because I wanted to uncover and go out to a bar. I didn’t want to break the boundaries; I wanted to break myself. (But of course, it was probably because I was so strict. Right. Remind me again, you’re the expert on my life while I take notes.)

Tell me again, all I’m missing in life.Tell me it’s so sad I cover, because I’m so beautiful. I’m ruining my life. Tell me that when I leave my mother’s house I’m going to be tearing off my hijab and turning up Beyonce in my car. You haven’t seen me dance, haven’t seen me cry, haven’t seen me love, but you know me and I’m like the others.

You think, because you read a book written by a white middle class journalist about her ‘journey into the fascinating world of Muslim women’-awww– you know me. Or maybe you happen to read Muslim Girl, and I’m the classic millennial feminist they like to portray, railing against patriarchy and bright in the world of fashion with a liberal sense of religion. Perhaps you picture me as a some kind of houri under the flowing cloth. Or I’m a radical, imported straight from the wild Middle East. Or I’m ‘just a normal girl, but covered!’

A little crazy, innocent, strict, so young, just weird, unbreakable,fragile, little, radical, sassy, extreme, unique, boring. I’ve been called nothing and everything, some of those and none of those, again and again and again.

I’m a mystery. You hate that, admit it.

I love it. And that’s what makes all the difference in the world.