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.
My parents were visiting. My mother and I had previously discussed love and relationships while traveling together to a conference because surprisingly (not really) Indigenous activist/academic women in their late 20s and early 30s are very likely to be single. In fact, there were presentations on decolonizing love and dating while Indigenous. The conference, which featured hundreds of Indigenous academics, activists and students, made it obvious to my mother that I would have a very hard time finding a partner.
Why? Because being an Indigenous woman who has an education, a job and anti-colonial feminist views is not popular these days, even among Indigenous men with the same qualifications and opinions. Then, throw Islam and the immigrant experience into the mix.
As we finished dinner my stepfather asked me if I was seeing someone. Well, yes, I had been seeing a few people. Serious? No. Potential? Who knows. Both my parents cringed a little as I described some of my dating experiences. Sometimes my stepfather was incredulous. Sometimes my mom showed hints of pain.
“I just want you to be with someone who is good enough for you,” my mother said.
This post addresses heterosexual and cissexual dating and sexuality.
There is a lot of talk about the first sexual experience in the context of Muslim marriage. From advice on what to do, the halal and the haram and first-night etiquette to attempts to making Muslims feel at ease with the concept of the wedding night. There are columns encouraging Muslim women to relax and not getting stressed about their first time. There are also media articles about Muslim sexuality, halal sex shops and its respective critiques. But the reality of things is that the focus remains towards that first interaction in the context of marriage.
But what happens if, as a Muslim woman, you are not in that place, time or mindset?
I will be honest with you. I am not a virgin, and I absolutely hate the label. Sexuality is not divided in two. It is not about the virgin state and the rest. It is not about good and bad, and it definitely cannot be defined through the experience of the first time.
I must admit. I am angry… angry at God. I know… not very orthodox of me. But why in the world would I be put through this? I already lost the partner I had planned to spend the rest of my life with; I already had to work my way through people’s pity after that happened; I am still recovering from the emotional trauma, which has slowed down my intellectual productivity in a world that does not appreciate delays or people’s mental health; and I am just getting myself back into regular worship mode after being put in a position to question the very purpose of my life.
So what is the lesson to be learned from being incapable to fulfill a relationship, of any kind, with someone you really like? I don’t know. This is still a mystery to me. For the past year, I have tried to convince myself that God really has a plan for me… but I still do not see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I have the feeling I won’t see it for a while.
You know, it took me a lot to let myself fall for someone. I am, generally speaking, all brain no heart. I overthink, I overanalyze and I am completely skeptical of my feelings and my desires. This goes against my Indigenous family’s ways of understanding the world and their efforts to teach me that it is okay to feel.
Eds. Note: This post deals with heterosexual abuse focusing on violence against women in online dating.
He started off aggressively. I got the sense that he felt threatened for some reason. It was only the first date and he asked many questions, only to dismiss my answers and making a point to tell me that I had no idea what I was talking about. He was also the fourth guy within a span of five months who had told me – during a first date – that women often lie about rape and abuse.
Scary isn’t it?
When I tell this story, people ask me if the guy in question was either Muslim or “brown,” because you know, this is a “Muslim/brown man’s problem” (*eye roll*). However, these experiences demonstrate that this issue transcends race, culture, religion and citizenship status.
I keep telling myself that Allah has a plan for me. I don’t doubt it… but that human instinct that drives me towards impatience is quite prominent these days. I was 16 when I had my first experience with death. My grandfather, whom I barely knew, passed away after years of battling cancer. I felt sad for my mother, who had a strong connection to him, but I was not overwhelmed with emotion. Then, 10 years later, Saad passed away.
I can’t really explain to you what I felt. I was numb, I was anxious, and I felt betrayed and abandoned. I barely slept for the first three weeks, and then I overslept for several months. I dreaded the uncertainty that had suddenly befallen my life. A year later, I still do. My life is, as I often say, “up in the air” right now.
June 19th will always be a dark day for me. The day that I not only lost my life partner, but that I truly had to rethink the whole notion of “Allah’s plan.” I am convinced Allah wants to teach me something. How, when, why and what are still a mystery to me.
Dating is like a blank page. One that, as a writer, I have to contemplate for a little while before beginning.
Apparently, one also has to be “trained” in dating. A friend of mine told me that it takes a few dates with different men, to get back into the “dating mode.” As I replay the events that led to my first dating experience after my partner passed away, I can’t help but also remember my teenage dating days.
See, my teenage years were full of love and drama. I had a few different boyfriends, and I can honestly tell you that I felt totally in love every single time. To this day I keep boxes with every single love letter I ever received (this was way before texting), plus all the little gifts that I was given.