When Fairy Tales Fail Us

Fatima M. Jaffer

When a daughter is born into a loving family, she is cherished and treated like a princess and dressed up like pretty little doll with colorful plastic bangles and trinkets.

The beautiful princess is told fairy tales before being tucked into bed. Her mother speaks about the knights that saved Cinderella, Rapunzel and Snow White. Then, this little girl begins to dream of her very own Prince Charming and she starts looking for him as soon as she turns sixteen years old. Some girls get lucky and bump into him without trying. Others have to face mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts and cousins who love them as single women —  until they hit a certain age. Then, some princesses find themselves unmarried or maybe divorced and still without children.

At that point, the fairy tales are over — unless you consider the types of mothers/aunties/cousins who are metaphors for trickster witches; it is often women who make girls feel miserable about the state of their lives. No matter how educated, talented and beautiful a single woman may be, she is always sidelined and frequently humiliated because she is unmarried. It seems that some women can’t imagine alternative realities for themselves or for their daughters.

I’m tired of fairy tales. We need new stories about our future that go beyond marriage saving us from a life of ruin and despair.

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The Hunger to Be Seen

huda

A titanic and towering swell of love lodged inside my chest after the birth of my first child. Here I was, just an ordinary woman of 25 years of age, but I had been entrusted with the world’s very best baby. In my eyes, he was perfection, the realization of my every dream. For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why adoring someone so much left me feeling so destroyed. After I’d wrestled my baby to bed, I’d stand around our small high-rise apartment in Queens not knowing which of my needs or wants I had time to address before he woke up again. Could I get in a shower? Some exercise? Reading? Or should I give up and watch television, or maybe plant my face into the floor and cry?

In those small evening reprieves from childcare, I felt no relief, just heaviness. I’d imagined becoming a mother would endow me with the disposition of the sweetest, most energetic preschool teacher. I was going to be the kind of mom who crouched down to talk to my little one in an even and calm voice. I was going to be brimming with ideas for creative play and projects. But when my beautiful baby grew into an energetic toddler, I didn’t grow into the mom I thought I’d become. I didn’t get down on the floor and play enough. I raised my voice too much. I let him eat too many processed foods and watch too much television. And where was all the early education I had planned on—the language instruction and flashcards? Where were the crafts? I didn’t do nearly enough crafts.

At the time, my husband was in the midst of his first residency and his call schedule was brutal. A sense of urgency surrounded the nights when he was home. I only had a few hours to make him understand what a failure I was as a mother, how he didn’t know who he was leaving his child with everyday. Read the rest of this entry »


Coming Out in the Muslim Community

Ramy Eletreby

Ramy Eletreby

To mark the end of Pride Month and the beginning of Ramadan, Salaam, Love contributor Ramy Eletreby writes for the Huffington Post about the greatest heartbreak of his life – losing his Muslim community:

One of the greatest heartbreaks in my life occurred after coming out at the age of 24: I lost my Muslim community. After my public coming out, via an article in The Los Angeles Times, and the backlash that came with it, I retreated. I distanced myself from the people I cared about, the people I’d been raised with in the masjidin Los Angeles, those whom I viewed as extended members of my own family. I was certain that they had stopped caring about me. It took me years to take responsibility for my part in that break rather than only see myself as a victim of circumstance.

Read the rest, here.

To read more about Ramy, check out Salaam, Love: American Muslim Men on Love, Sex & Intimacy.


To the Father Who Tried

Mahmoud Tahir Haj Adam circa 1973

Mahmoud Tahir Haj Adam circa 1973

He came here full of hope.

It was 1981 and he was a twenty four year old graduate student sent from his home country of Sudan. He was told to make his country proud so he packed his belongings along with his dreams for a better life.

The ultimate dream of any person living in a poor country. He was starting a new life in America.

A land of endless opportunity and a place where anyone could make it.

My mom said women were always taken aback because he was exceptionally handsome. His nubian almond shaped eyes, strong jawline, and chocolate skin made women, from all ethnicities, gravitate towards him. His solid frame had him shy of 6’5. I always thanked Allah that I inherited his eyes and not his height.

He didn’t know it though. He didn’t realize how good looking he truly was because back in Africa he resembled any other tall and lanky East African guy walking around Khartoum.
 
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Press PAUSE

summer pic

Sometimes it’s hard to make sense of everything around you, until it all stops.

That’s where I found myself eight months ago when I fell ill and it forced me to take a medical leave of absence. In and out of the hospital for months, doctors sent me home with painkillers and without answers.

Eventually, my health reached a point where I could no longer work or do everyday activities like exercise, cook, or even drive.  This was a struggle for me, as I’ve been a busybody for as long as I can remember. For the first time in my life, everything came to a standstill–my high-pressure job, bustling social life, and most importantly for me–my ambitions as a young journalist just beginning my career.

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