We often sit around the shisha for long conversations. The seven of us blow smoke and think through life together. There are days when the puffing conceals our loud laughter over topics that should probably not be discussed in public; on others, the smoke is a soothing reminder of normalcy in a dating world that is dark and scary. Every time I sit to “shish” (yes, it is a verb) with these women, I am amazed. I feel proud, and I feel stronger.
These women are all different; all colours, flavours, stories and paths to the divine. There is Boots, who is the fearless warrior. She is strong, driven and, above all, extremely open. It is she who challenges my Virgo structure, my need for control. She reads me, and questions my every thought and assumption. We also have Buttercup, always observant and analyzing. She is the archetype of the successful woman: independent, knowledgeable, and settled. She grounds me. She reminds me that there is so much out there in the world and that, despite everything, Allah places little snippets of happiness in the most random places.
Then, there is Puff. She often sits there puffing smoke, like an Alice in Wonderland’s character, presenting us with riddles. You need an astrologer? Someone who can analyze your zodiac character? She is your girl! Extremely sweet and sensitive, she reminds me of everything that is cosmically beautiful. S., is our social butterfly. She is cheery, happy, and has a magnetic personality. I have never met anyone who does not like S. She is always surrounded by people, and she has a beautiful friendly aura protecting her 24/7. All I need to do is sit and listen to her quirky stories and the world seems to smile at me.
Then there is Ring, the newbie. She is my Virgo twin, just a little more vocal about her emotions. We overthink and complain together about the uncertainty of the world and, at the end, we try to convince each other that everything will be okay. And finally there is Hoops. She has Sophia’s impropriety and Lorelai’s wittiness. Inappropriate and loud, she is the embodiment of the challenge to the establishment. But underneath all that there is an undying hopefulness. She is the one who reminds me to keep dreaming.
Dylan and I sat in the well-worn cushions of the black pleather love seat in our counselor’s office, the three of us wondering how I’d respond to Dylan’s marriage proposal.
“Well?” Dylan asked, his gray-green eyes locked on my face.
“Yes! Oh my god, yes,” I said, but my up intonations gave away my uncertainty. “Of course! It’s what we’ve been talking about! Of course I want to get ma-mar—engaged!”
I winced at the shrill sound of my own voice. The pleather groaned as I shifted and sunk into my seat.
The rest of the session I was Woody Allen in “Annie Hall.”
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.
Whenever I accompany my husband to a work dinner, someone invariably asks me, “And what do you do? Are you also a physician?”
Like many writers, I struggle with claiming that title, so I rarely mention it. I almost always quip that I’m employed by our three kids, or simply state that I’m a stay-at-home mom.
The reply is often, “That’s the most important job in the world,” or “Sounds like you have your hands full,” as if I’ve just confessed something that begs for affirmation. I’ve often wondered what it is about mothering that calls out the inner cheerleader in people. I’ve never once regarded one of my husband’s colleagues with wide eyes and said, “I bet that keeps you busy!”
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.
The first time I encountered J, she was tweeting that if President Obama was a secret Muslim, it showed in how he was a good husband and father.
J wasn’t Muslim herself, but her father had converted to Islam when she was young and she bore the West African last name he had adopted after researching his probable family history. It was a tribute to the history of Islam in West Africa and to the probability that his ancestors had been Muslim prior to the Atlantic Slave Trade.
J was proud of her heritage and had a number of Muslim friends both online and offline, primarily Black American Muslims. I came across her on Twitter through a mutual follow. I was intrigued by her rather unconventional take on the president and started following her.
Two years later, perpetually frustrated by the same contrarianism that had once drawn me to J, I ritually unfollowed her across all my social media accounts – modern life, right?! (I should mention that this wasn’t a romance. I don’t fall in love (never have), and I don’t do romance. It was a squish.)