Eds. Note: Please welcome Salaam, Love anthology contributor and LoveinshAllah.com’s newest writer Ramy Eletreby with his column 99 Names (and Queer is One)
I have a confession to make: I LOVE being single.
I really do. This is not some mantra I repeat to convince myself. I really, really love it.
That is my unadulterated truth, and I am swimming in it. Take a picture.
Many of my friends, usually the straight ones, ask me if I’m dating anyone and when I’m going to settle down.
My response is, “Why do you want to condemn me to that life sentence?”
That shuts them up, for a little while. I’m a constant reminder that people need to check their assumptions. We do not all desire to be in relationships.
I started this column a few months ago with a reflection on a failed shot at romance. That post told you everything you need to know about my life in the last few years: new convert unable to stop dating or shake off commitment issues, barely repentant scumbag, honest to a fault and confused about what Romance While Muslim may mean.
Since then, I’ve explored these issues in more depth, wandering through my psyche without a clue of where I was heading. And yet, suddenly I’m here, and it seems my destination was inevitable all along.
I met someone.
In my last column, Welcome to Heartbreak, I wrote about my dilemma in seeing a woman who I know likes me more than I like her.
This situation is not new for me, and was only worth writing about in this case because the woman in question is brand new to the dating game. Otherwise, the story is relatively unremarkable in my experience. I’ve been involved in similar situations many times before, with more experienced women, and my response is to make sure I never patronize them. If they tell me they can handle being with me without me being fully with them, I believe them. Until they tell me they can’t.
The genuinely noteworthy aspect of my last column then is the block I briefly described that prevents me from actually committing to these women.
Since writing my short story for the anthology Salaam, Love: American Muslim Men on Love, Sex, & Intimacy – I have been asked many times what my story has become and how things have developed. It has been a hard road, but also one laden with lessons, hardships, and, finally, beauty.
It is bemusing to my family and friends how confused I get about how old I am. This may seem like a simple thing, but honestly I have lost the number. Why? When my wife Joan went into the hospital for the last time it was on my birthday. Obviously there was no celebration or acknowledgement of it. She passed away a week and a half later.
The year after her death I was numb. I do not remember anything from that year. I have pictures of my son during 8th grade, as well as of some other things we did that year – but it is a lot like looking at someone else’s life. Sure, I am in the photographs, but I don’t remember being there.
Flying into Detroit to see Sara and Nabil’s new home, it’s my annual visit to catch up with my now 5-year-old neice, Lina. She who gave birth to me 35 years ago today will be there. We haven’t spent my birthday together for about a decade. All the warm greetings I receive today are for my mother.
This birthday is special in a few other ways too.
I’ve been blessed to have attended about a thousand births professionally, as a pediatrician. From the 1-pounder to the nearly 11 pounds. From Bulawayo, Zimbabwe to San Francisco, California. From the celebrity mothers to the orphans who were HIV+. They’ve all taught me something, and each birth was life changing for their families.
Just a few weeks away now is the one birth that will change my life.
Last night, before heading to the airport, I knelt down before the swollen belly pushing out in all directions. I have been singing “You are My Sunshine” to our growing girl throughout my wife Nadeah’s pregnancy.
Some time around October 8th I will get the chance, God willing, to sing directly to her in my arms.
On that day I’ll gain a new title: Daddy.
Read the rest of this entry »
Give me a child until he is seven, and I will show you the man.
People never approach their first, true romance with a clean slate. Life is too turbulent for that. Still, the first romance is experienced with a certain naïveté that can be forever lost after it ends, but remains necessary for a future love to work.
This is certainly true in my case. My first real connection came at 18 and I fell quickly. I did the sort of cheesy cringe-inducing things for her that I frown upon so much now that I can’t even bring myself to list them. She was constantly on my mind, and everything I did seemed better as a result. I was hooked after I lost my virginity to her, fully comitted to taking her ride no matter where I’d end up.
I gave up a lot of things I enjoyed when I became Muslim, including alcohol, drugs and pork. I gave those things up because they’re haram, but also because I personally believed giving them up would lead to beneficial changes in my life. I also gave them up because I think it’s good to give up something you enjoy each year, in order to not become too dependent on any one thing. I was convinced that leaving them behind was the right thing to do, and I haven’t been disappointed.
Dating, however, has still been a feature of my Muslim life. This is true not because I’m powerless to give it up, but because I think it’s beneficial for me in the long run. The more halal paths to marriage, in my eyes, won’t work for me.
The fact that I’ve basically given in to pursuing a haram (at least to some degree) path to marriage has been a constant source of reflection and concern. It’s also been a useful dilemma to have, however, as it has allowed me to realize just how drastically my conception of dating and relationships has changed in the last few years.