We’re going away for the weekend to what has been dubbed the wedding of the century. My parents are in some way responsible for the union, and now, after three successful matches under their belt, they’re convinced they’re experts on love.
Their attempts to play cupid with their own daughter, however, have been slow and unsuccessful – and a little annoying. Whilst bachelor X may be good enough for person Y’s daughter, he’ll require a great deal more vetting, a strenuous grilling, and a very thorough (read: invasive) background check, before he’s approved for me. And that’s just Stage 1.
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Just before they take her away for her MRI, my mother removes her rings and asks me to wear them. They won’t allow metal in the room, and she gets four of her rings off easily, but there’s a set of three that are stuck. She frets with them as the orderly situates her in her stretcher.
“The tech will figure it out when you get downstairs,” he says soothingly.
She sits back on the pillows, looking tiny and forlorn in her hospital gown, and asks for her dupatta so she can cover her head. She hasn’t been out in public without her hijab for almost seven years now, ever since my brother was admitted into the hospital he never left. I know she thinks of this as they wheel her away. I know the beeps of the machine bring back memories we’ve all tried to bury. I watch her til the end of the hallway and try to quell all the fears a hospital brings while I wait an hour a half for her return.
I stare at my hands. I’m wearing my mother’s rings and they feel too big for me – not because of their size, but due to the weight of their history. Here are the two rings my father gave her all those years ago: the tiny diamond engagement and wedding rings that he could afford as a Naval officer in Pakistan. They commemorate struggle, sacrifice, the strangeness of a new life in a foreign country. The two other rings are bigger – the diamond circlet he gave her just before my brother got sick, the year we moved into a new house and were happy, the year things came together before blowing spectacularly apart. The princess-cut diamond he gave her this year, to celebrate their 35th year together and all they have endured. I know the permanence of these rings on her fingers is linked to what they commemorate: survival coupled with faith, faith coupled with love.
Wearing her rings still makes me feel like a little girl playing dress up in her mother’s closet. This, despite the fact that I am already ten years older than she was when my father first put the engagement and wedding rings on her finger, already older than when she had her first child and older than when, many years later, her twin boys were born. Younger, though, than the other two rings. Younger than when she lost her child.
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.
“Brown girls don’t get to be sad,” she said, her face marked by disgust and disbelief.
I put my head head down, looking at my hands, too ashamed to make eye contact with her again. She was a woman who was beautiful, but not pretty: strong jaw, long, thick jet black hair falling loose over her shoulders, eyes so dark you wondered what might be lurking in them, skin deep and rich like sweet dates. She wasn’t a small woman by any means – tall and full, her delicate green and gold sari juxtaposed the boldness of her outlines.
When she got onto the southbound train heading for downtown, everyone stared at her. She was the kind of person you want to understand as soon as you see her, she draws you in simply by existing. You find yourself wondering where she is coming from and where she is going.
A reminder to be a part of our crowdsourced project #TheFirstTime, a platform to anonymously ask your most pressing questions about sex:
The survey closes on Monday, August 17th, so get your questions in today!
Some background about the project:
When we started this website three years ago, we were inundated with questions from our readers about love, sex, and relationships – issues covered in our book, Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women. We realized that, for many of us, there isn’t a safe space to voice our most intimate concerns without fear of shame, humiliation, or judgment.
Recognizing that we all have questions – but not all of us have someone to turn to for answers – we launched an advice column. We enlisted the help of two thoughtful and wise friends – Miss Sunshine and Shy Desi Boy – who, over the years, have answered our readers’ burning questions about love and sex and everything in between.
Two years ago, our columnists answered a question from a young man who was “Clueless About [His] Wedding Night.” He wrote that he was at a loss as to what he should do once he and his wife were alone, but had no one he could turn to for advice. Our columnists answered his question with grace and honesty.
Since then, “Clueless About My Wedding Night” has become the single most viewed post onLoveInshAllah.com. It’s clear from the way in which this column has gone viral that there are many others out there who are also looking for answers about having sex for the first time.
We want to help.
Today marks the launch of our newest project, #TheFirstTime, an attempt to make sure you’re not clueless on your wedding night. We want to know: what questions do you have (or did you have) about having sex for the first time? What advice would you give your best friend on his/her wedding night? And, what resources do you wish you had before you had sex for the first time?
This is a crowd-sourced project so we need your help to complete this survey. This is an anonymous survey and we do not want identifying information.
We are excited to partner with HEART Women & Girls, a non-profit organization that seeks to promote the reproductive health and mental well-being of faith-based communities.
For more information, please contact us at email@example.com
Sometimes you barricade yourself so securely into a safe space that you forget how to take the walls down again. Sometimes you close yourself up so tightly against being hurt that you forget how to open up again. Sometimes you hold on to a shape you were bent into so long that you don’t notice when you can straighten out again.
Even as a child, I was never one to have a lot of friends. The people I bonded with were loners like me, or on the fringes.
Still, I always had a best friend in those simpler days. Someone I shared the most important parts of myself and my life with, and was entrusted with the same by them. Carrie was my best friend in elementary school and Jenny saw me through junior high and high school.
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.