Eds note: Welcome our newest LoveInshAllah.com columnist, Huda Al-Marashi! Keep an eye out for Huda’s column, “Things I Wish I’d Known” the second Tuesday of every month!
When I was growing up, my Iraqi-born mother responded to my requests to travel alone, consider schools out-of-state, or stay out late with friends with the same answer, “When you get married.” Once I got married, I’d be somebody else’s problem. Then, it wouldn’t be her place to tell me no. Then, it would be my husband’s job to worry about me.
Marriage, in my adolescent mind, was the only way to an independent adulthood. Western culture may have referred to marriage as settling down, but I associated it with freedom. Marriage would sanction my first relationship with a man. It would transition me from my parents’ authority to my husband’s, and I was convinced my future husband would do whatever I wanted. He was not an individual with his own goals and desires; he was the supporting actor in my life’s script.
“Do you have any children?” a nice woman making small talk asks me.
I reply pleasantly, “No, I don’t,” but my inner monologue is racing.
“Children? I don’t have children because I don’t have a husband. I don’t have a husband because I never had a romantic relationship with a guy. I never had a boyfriend, I’ve never even been kissed and I’m way older than Drew Barrymore was when she was in that movie with Michael Vartan! I’m older than Jesus ( AS) when he was on this earth! Oh God, what if it’s too late for me to have children?“
My inner monologue hysterically wonders about how hot hot flashes actually are, as I smile at the nice lady who’d innocently assumed that a Muslim woman my age is almost certainly married and almost certainly a mother.
I am an unmarried Muslim woman of a certain age. To be honest with you, I’m not surprised that I’m in this demographic.
When K turned on the new show Cosmos, I was hesitant. A show about the infinite universe? With cartoons? And the opening sequence. Something about it took me back to middle school when my science teacher, too busy grading to bother with teaching, stuck in a Bill Nye video. I picked up my moleskine and pen, prepared for boredom, except the show wasn’t boring at all. Neil deGrasse Tyson delved into time, the nature of the universe, and our place within it. And it was fascinating. If we look at time as one calendar year, he said, we as known humanity comprise one second.
It made me feel small. Very small.
Of course I always knew that. I’m one among billions alive today, and one among unknowable bajillions to have ever walked the earth. When it comes to time, when it comes to the size of the Universe [or multiverse!] what am I beyond an atom, if that, in the context of it all?
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The first time I walked up the sidewalk to the front door after “it” happened, I was surprised. I had expected my house to be covered by gloom, and fear of the oozing grief had pushed me away.
Through the shadow wrapping around my hung head, my eyes caught the bright orange nasturtium flowers lining the flowerbed in front of my parents’ rundown California ranch house. They were lush, ballooning into the green grass. I paused, feeling the stark contrast between what was going on inside my head and what was happening outside. How could the flowers be so bright? Didn’t they know what had happened? Didn’t they know it was time to shade their vibrancy, to bow their blooms? Why were they still blooming? How were they able to bloom if she was not here to nurture them anymore?
I looked up at the bright blue skies, the hummingbirds, the nasturtium, and the breezy trees. It was early June with that perfect Southern Californian weather that people write songs about. Oh, that’s right, I thought numbly to myself. It was the shock of real life. And life goes on. It just hadn’t for my mother.
Oakland/SF Bay Area: Catch the fantastic Dis/Orient/ed Comedy show this Saturday, April 5th!
Our readers get a special discount code “LOVELOVE” for $12 tickets (reg., $20). Code valid till 11:59 pm tomorrow (Tues)!
Shows at 7 pm/9:30 pm, Oakland. Tickets at: http://disorientedcomedy.weebly.com/