Sunday, October 31, 2010

I'm So Little


I'm sitting here, reading for my Program Planning and Design course, one of the courses that I felt I most needed and was most excited about taking in my public health curriculum, and at the end of the chapter about needs assessments, which is the only thing I'm used to doing in the realm of public health, I found myself suddenly saying, "I'm so little."

I am so little.

I'm 25. I'm starting a relationship that I realize, and startlingly so, may become serious enough to end in marriage. Or maybe he won't (a la Andre 3000, "if not, you are the prototype.") He's not Muslim, but he's not any religion, but he gives charity regularly, volunteers, doesn't drink and says grace over his food. He believes in God and he doesn't try to convert me. But I don't know what it all means. At my 25 years, I feel foolishly young when it comes to this whole relationship thing.

And I'll be 26 in February.

But in the face of all I will be...insha'Allah someday a wife, a mother, a physician...I'm so young. That over which I will feel the greatest sense of productivity is into the future and indeed, not guaranteed. And yet I feel like I've lived so much life, so many different lives...I've been a musician, a newspaper editor, a lab tech, a tutor, a Spanish-speaker, a researcher, a medical student, a junior clinician, and now I'm about to be a junior public health practitioner. So many different ways of unpaid life...and yet my goals lie before me, not even realized yet. And that's why I'm so young.

And I think of what I want to do with those three things that I'll be...a wife, a mother, a physician. As a physician, I want to be one who is involved in my community, able to assess the needs of the community I work in and perhaps help to roll-out programs for the benefit of my community in addition to being a practitioner for the families in these communities. It's simple. I don't want or need necessarily to be a part of my city or state public health department, but I don't exclude that as a possibility for my future. But there are so many things, so many determinants that will lead to this, my future, that I haven't even touched yet. I've not even finished my fourth year of medical school. I'm not even in my intern year of residency. What will make me the physician I will come to be is at least four years away from me right now. I have little idea about it. I have little idea how I will make my dreams in my career come true. I'm trying to affect a community that I don't yet know exists, and it's just a community but it is so much larger as magnified by future possibilities. I am so small.

Not even to speak of my potential as a wife and mother. I don't even know about these anymore, other than my wanting to be both, not so much out of sense of duty but out of want of challenge, to realize my emotional and physical capabilities as so many women before me have done, but I know it has to be more than that. It has to be more, but I've grown enough to recognize that this will happen along the way. I feel so naive, still, because I want what I don't know. O povo sabe o que quer, mas o povo também quer o que não sabe...

So this all comes together with me being so little. I will graduate from medical and public health schools with debt to pay, not just monetary, but an expectation that I'll somehow affect change. My aspirations as a college student entering into professional school were absent and fanciful. We all come into medical school wanting to help people, many of us with dreams to change the world on the low. But this is really hard, and not all of us have the innate ability or natural skill set to do what we want to do.

But we make due, because we have to. Whether we succeed or not, we have a debt to pay.

I'm so young, so much life insha'Allah ahead of me. I'm so small, in the grand scheme of life and in light of all I want to impact. I'm so naive, in that I want what I know little about. I'm so little.

But Allah (swt) is infinite in His expanse.

So I walk along on my merry way, so little, but not insignificant, at liberty to dream and aspire, rightfully hoping and praying for a meaningful future, the one that I intend and the one that is best for me, when the two aren't mutually exclusive.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Rose Much Desired is Almost Done!

As salaam alaikum,

After getting stuck on a chapter that turned out to be more important than I thought, to preserve a character that was more critical than I at first expected...I am a chapter and a half away from finishing the first full-length story that I've written as an adult. Yay!

B wants to read it. I've already given him hints, but he doesn't want to be spoiled. That's exciting, but I'm also a little nervous for him to read it, because if he only knew how much of it (especially the Desirée narration) was thinly veiled fiction, then he would instantly know tons of stuff about me.

At the same time, I'm not too concerned. I'm not worried about him knowing tons of stuff about me.

I think I'm going to go back to samba today after a two week hiatus after I twisted my ankle three weeks ago. It was a mild twist that just exacerbated an old injury, but samba for sure would have killed it. I think I'll wrap my ankle just in case, but I need to get moving again. I've also had a two week hiatus from the gym, and although I've been good at maintaining my weight so far, this week I've been a little bit of a lazy eater so it's time to get back to moving, now.

B at this time should be in DC, heading toward the rally. I would have gone, but none of my friends are going, and I figured it'd be too much if we rode the 10 hours roundtrip together, then I'd cramp his style as he was hanging out with one of his old friends. I mean, we're friends-ish, but I'm still a girl he's trying to impress, kind of, and it wouldn't be as comfortable, maybe. I don't know, I make excuses, but also I'm tired and I need to clean up my life. Tons of papers from fall 1 quarter are all around my room and I need to go ahead and put them into the binders I bought two months ago.

Yes, but RMD is almost done! Alhamdulillah! I'm going to proof it once more (because I'm OCD like that) before I give it to a couple of family members to read through. I'm nervous about this...I'm nervous that they'll say certain aspects aren't realistic, are over-the-top, or ask me why I would write about such material. We'll see. I, personally, like it a lot, but then again, I'm me.

And from there, I'm going to figure out how to get it published. A couple of my cousins are self-publishing, but I kind of want to find an agent and go from there.

But preview! I can only preview the first 120 pages or so, because around that time, the twist (!!) happens, so I don't want to give that away. But man, it's been a while since I read the first part...even though I wrote it, I forget exactly what happens. So I'm providing an excerpt. This is when Mo, very upset because he's not yet gotten into medical school, among other things, ventures over to Nisreen's apartment during her spring break, desiring to talk to somebody while all his friends are away during the break:

Nisreen steps forward, pulling the door behind her, as if ready to dismiss him. “I said, what can I do for you, Mahmud?” Mo’s scratching his head and running his fingers through his hair. He remembers he needs more gel; he didn’t have enough this morning. “You kind of caught me at a bad time. I was cleaning and didn’t expect anybody…”

“Well, you did call me a couple of days ago, telling me I should stop by, right?” He leans against the wall, supporting himself with his left arm. He watches as Nisreen gazes at this arm.

“A couple of days ago?” Nisreen chuckles curtly. “I called you a couple of weeks ago.”

Mo’s confused. Exactly how much time has passed? He did run his last gel in lab a while ago…she’s probably right. “Damn, you’re probably right. Sorry.”

Mo notices Nisreen flinch at the damn. She waves it off, though. “No need to apologize.” She’s opening the door wider and beckoning Mo inside. “What’s time, anyway, but an artificial construct to make us more comfortable in this elusive existence?” Mo doesn’t pay enough attention to Nisreen’s statement to become confused. Instead, he finds himself tracing her curves with his pupils again. Her long-sleeved shirt is clingy enough to outline the flare of her hips. He shakes himself out of it again. This is Nisreen, this is a Muslimah, a hijabi at that…if she caught him looking her up, she’d shuttle him straight out of the house and probably toss out an astaghfirullah for good measure. He’s desperate for company, so he guesses he needs to behave himself.

By the time he returns to face Nisreen, though, she’s eyeing him dubiously. Instead of apologizing, he tries to act like he wasn’t just undressing her with his eyes. He focuses on her face instead. Nisreen’s face, usually rounded because of the way she ties her scarf, is more triangular today. Her large forehead seems to shrink as she raises her eyebrows. She’s probably raising her eyebrows because he’s stood at the door to her apartment for nearly two minutes, and he’s still not coming inside.

“Mo, is there anything wrong?” Nisreen inquires, cocking her head to the side.

She called him Mo. He likes the way her O sounded, the way her lips rounded as she breathed it out. “Naw, I’m cool,” he manages to say. He swallows.

Nisreen shakes her head. “No, this isn’t right. You don’t look good at all. Come in, sit down and rest for a little bit.” Before he has the chance to protest, Nisreen grabs his left arm and drags him into her apartment and guides him to a sofa in the center of the room. Mo watches as she closes and locks the door to her apartment. She then runs into her kitchen, crashes around for a bit, and returns with two glasses of water. “I didn’t know if you prefer room temp or ice water. I’ll take whatever you don’t.”
Insha'Allah, I'll be done by this weekend!

I have tons of reading to do this weekend, and biostats homework. I plan to do the bulk of those tomorrow, returning home in time to get all spiffed up for the Djavan concert (!!) on Sunday. I'm taking B...literally, because I bought the tickets with my WorldMusic membership. Unlike two years ago, I know a few more of Djavan's songs by heart, so it will be even more of a fun concert-going experience. B is going to be surrounded by Brazilians, artsy Berklee college world music lovers, and me, the Brazil lover.

I'm also going to convince him that we should plan to have Africa Night sometime this month. He's busy a few weekends, then his birthday is coming up, then there's I'm thinking late November we can pull something together. Either that, or next weekend. I'm not sure if my roommate's parents are coming up for her birthday or not, but then next weekend wouldn't be the greatest. Then I figure he may have stuff to catch up on, as he's in DC for the rally this weekend. I also figure he needs to be back in time to do tutoring tomorrow. I feel like he just might fall asleep during the concert. I'll have to poke him.

So, I'm happy! Yay! Not because of B, or Djavan coming this weekend, insha'Allah, or being done with RMD, insha'Allah, or having two engaging new (but reading heavy!) courses this program planning and design course and my Sexuality and Public Health course. It's the sum of all of these!

I guess I should do more work today than I thought...I forgot I'm retwisting my hair tomorrow. That will take some time.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


As salaam alaikum,

{Currently Listening: "Visions" - Stevie Wonder}

"People hand in hand. Have I lived to see the milk and honey land where hate's a dream and love forever stands, or is this a vision in my mind?" - Stevie Wonder, "Visions."

Never more has there been a more prolific artist and musical genius as there was Stevland Morris.

As my life unfolds in front of me, decisions yet to make, some of them good ones, some of them mistakes, the both of them formative for my future self, I think to what would be the ideal. What would be the ideal existence for my future self? What would be the existence in which I wouldn't feel for want of anything, an existence in which I would never wonder about the other side of things? It would be a veritable utopia, except not utopia, because that place can't it would be mytopia. My own Visions.

I see myself living in a community, tight-knit though diverse. Diverse how? Ethnically diverse. I actually see myself living in at least two communities simultaneously. One is ethnically and religiously diverse, but homogeneous in the sense that everyone is accepting (not tolerant...I dislike that word and its connotations) of each other. I also see myself being part of an ummah within my community, also ethnically diverse and not only accepting of this diversity, but enamored of it...embracing it with open arms, purposefully promoting it, not to the exclusion of those who would tend to cling to their home countries and all that is familiar, but opening them gently to a broader view of what it means to be Muslim. I see that.

I will be one of the physicians of the community. I will care for families, mainly women and their children. I will deliver some of their children, insha'Allah, help to promote health. Insha'Allah, I will be married, to whomever. I will have children, however they are. I'm not as concerned about how my children will be, in terms of their ethnicities, as it may be. I just grew up in a diverse place and I want my kids to, as well. I don't want to shelter them to a world of difference...a world of different faiths, beliefs, worldviews, perspectives. I want to shelter them from danger and preserve their childhood as much as I can, but I also want to school them such that when it is time to go out on their own, they go forth as tranquilly as I did. All insha'Allah.

I've already arrived so they don't have to. No one has to be a doctor or an engineer or go into law or business. I will, however, make sure that they are the best at whatever they want to do. Although I'm the child of an immigrant, I'm afraid I lack that immigrant perspective that caused our parents to have such staunch expectations. If I didn't become a physician, I could have done something else. The choice was never between education and carrying sacks of rice, as my father's reality was, or so he says.

Visions. It's a simple thing. I don't want anything magical. I just want safety, security to be as I am, to practice Islam as I see fit, practice medicine to the best of my ability...

I laugh on the inside. My husband, whoever. I lie a little bit. I've always seen my husband as Muslim, from the time I was a teenager when I first imagined my husband, that's what I see. After B asked me out, actually, I had a dream where I got married and could not have a nikah, which is what I've wanted since I first became more practicing in 2003 and learned more about Islam. And I was so sad in the dream, because then the marriage didn't mean as much to me. I didn't know who I was marrying (as with the dream I had in 2002, at 17, when I dreamt I got married in my high school building), and I didn't see him at the end of the dream, either. I didn't care.

I've been examining this week, these past couple of days, why I was so intent on marrying a Muslim. I mean, besides the obvious reasons, my being Muslim, my being a Muslimah, wanting to please Allah (swt), not wanting to end up like my mother who is isolated in Islam (though she has me, I don't want to count on giving birth to my best friend), all that jazz. But I realize...

Part of mytopia (which is reminding me of eye, diplopia) has always been wanting to raise children in Islam. It's never mattered to me the ethnicity of my husband. In fact, I've always been attracted to people who were racially or ethnically different from me, not at the exclusion of black or Nigerian men, but in addition to, I guess. Islam is overarching. In fact, I almost preferred to blur racial, ethnic and cultural lines so that Islam was the strongest, so there was nothing to compete, unlike me, the Muslim Igbo girl, the oxymoron.

And I guess it still is part of my vision for myself, my future...but prayerfully, I tuck that away. Not because I've given up, but because it's irrelevant right now. I'm just setting myself up to be disappointed. I don't doubt that I could still marry a Muslim man, but children, as I tell my roommate, will burn your house down! I was talking literally, but also figuratively.

I would be silly to have not learned that lesson from my relationship with my father. Though my father taught me nothing about Christianity as I was growing up and somehow expects me to learn about it at my age, after a lifetime of being exposed to Islam and after doing my own study in college, I would plan to immerse my children in Islam while exposing them to other faiths positively (unlike how I was exposed to Christianity by my mother, which probably unnecessarily polarized my parents and the faiths in my mind at a young age). But...there is always the possibility that one of my children would come to me, tearfully as I did to my father, and tell me that they will never be Muslim, as my I told my father in 2005 (shortly after I started my xanga) that I would never be Christian.

So that's why I tuck mytopia away, prayerfully. With each step I go in life, including my life now as I agree to meet B for coffee, I will step forward prayerfully. The farthest I'm thinking forward is going to the Djavan concert with B. I do want to raise my children Muslim, knowing that whatever they do in life, they'll always have my love. I do want to have a nikah. I want to marry for the sake of Allah (swt), go forward in my life that way in the name of Allah (swt)...I shouldn't have told my father that I'd never be Christian. It was ugly, I was crying, and it was a negative way to go about things.

I should have told him, I am Muslim, and I will always be Muslim.

But thinking too far into the future, I've found, has always made me worry unnecessarily. It makes me cry sometimes, gives me a headache, makes me withdraw within myself. So I tuck my visions away until they become more relevant, until I am to marry, until I have my first child, until it's time to decide where I am to live...until...

"I'm not one who makes believe. I know that leaves are green. They only change to brown when autumn comes around. I know just what I say, today's not yesterday and all things have an ending..."


Saturday, October 23, 2010


As salaam alaikum,

This is what I live saying...people are foolishly afraid of Muslims, not realizing that not all of us are identifiable by "garb" or by name...and some of them may be your favorite people. Like Dave Chappelle and Mos Def.

So people afraid of Muslims now should be very afraid...there are a whole lot of us, and some of us are black, too. Double trouble!

Pictures of Muslims Wearing Things.

My profile picture is also a picture of a Muslim wearing something. My name is Chinyere. I like striped shirts and sometimes large teddy bears. That one is named Hughbert. I call him Huggy for short.

Hmm, true facts...if you search "Hughbert" on google image, you get a lot of teddy bears. I must admit, I did name that one based on the name given on the tag...a little lazy of me? Yes.

By the way, G. Willow Wilson? I like her style.

This link has been courtesy my facebook friends.

That is all.

Friday, October 22, 2010


As salaam alaikum,

I don't know what it was about today...maybe it's Friday and maybe I'm tired and after a week of studying for finals that required silly memorization of things I wasn't ready for the assault that was the last lecture in my Gender and Health class today. The speaker basically said that the DSM-IV (and previous editions) and therefore much of the field of psychiatry is based on poor evidence and cannot be trusted as a diagnostic tool for...anything, essentially.

And while I speak candidly about religion (sometimes), some things that I do not discuss so candidly are my clinical opinions because, like with Islam, I am unconventional in the way I think of things and realize these thoughts. All I will say is that there is a reason that I did not choice to specialize in any particular field of medicine, and that's because I understand the limitations of the research within each field, and while being a physician means taking on the challenge of functioning within an sometimes unstable, ever-changing evidence-based paradigm, I felt more secure going into a field where the need is less questioned (at least in my mind) and obviously needed...and that is, being a primary care physician, concerned with the health of families, providing a medical home in a sense for people who need their care translated from the specialists.

Okay, but the end. That's more than I wanted to say about that.

Well...maybe that's not all I want to say about it. I also want to say that seeing that woman so adamant about what she believed, in summary, that the DSM is complete garbage, that I remembered something that I remember sometimes in my most desolate of moments...the realities in which we live on this earth are subjective. She lives in a reality in which most mental disorder diagnoses are bogus, and my classmate lives in a world where, acknowledging the limitations of psychiatric medicine, those diagnoses are founded and absolutely necessary. Neither left the classroom convinced of the other's argument. Meanwhile, I didn't participate at all during the lecture.

Not that it insulted my sensibilities...I live in a world where people usually don't agree with my viewpoint. But it's pointless for me at this point to contribute my perspective, except for the fact that someone who lives in the same realm of thought that I do may agree with my take and nod. It doesn't matter. Reality is subjective. Physicians have to live within a very specific realm oftentimes that precludes the possibility of doubt beyond what is reasonable to continue clinical practice. I exist in that realm, too...the difference for me is that I've been learning, in the past three years now that I've been in medical school, to operate in that realm while not believing in its absolute right without paralyzing cognitive dissonance.

So while others were invigorated, I was drained by the end of the lecture.

And mark my words, at the end of that lecture, I felt a sense of impending doom. This happens from time to time, but I felt suddenly like my shuttle was going to be in an accident, that we were going to crash somewhere in the middle of Downtown Boston between the Pru and the State House. Alhamdulillah, nothing ever comes of these feelings, but I usually have these sentiments when a positive change will come about in my life. I may actually be tapping into a sixth sense that I've not yet homed. I write it down so I can't deny it later if nothing comes of it. We'll see.

But I'm tired of more than just class this week. I'm tired of...this world, essentially. This existence is exhausting. People not doing unto others as they would have done onto them, essentially. And one of my biggest pet peeves is people acting like nothing's wrong when there is so much wrong, or people minimizing or brushing aside wrong when the wrong is so blatant. Maybe they can brush aside the wrong because they're not affected by it, but as a person who is the personal recipient of some of these wrongs, I can't just brush it off.

I'm getting cryptic now, but it's because I'm tired. I'm tired, and I'm reaction to this now diminishing impending sense of doom. If this is the way I can tell that something good is about to happen, it sure is a funny premonition. And by funny, I mean strange. It's not amusing at all.

I'm so tired, I'm not planning on going to the HLM social Saturday night. Sometimes it's fine because I could just exist. Among my classmates and those under me, I could just exist. I never had to explain to them why I was Muslim. Now that we're all dispersed, I'm finding myself socializing with Muslims and ending up explaining my life story too often...abbreviated version, of course. I'm tired of that. Some of us seek attention and I must admit, I do like attention sometimes, but sometimes I just want to be, do salat, eat, laugh and go home.

If my first name weren't Chinyere and were some more identifiable (though not characteristically black) Muslim name, no one would question. But then, I wouldn't be me, because having to pronounce my name to every teacher since preschool has, at the very least, built character.

But I'm tired, so I'm ending this week with happiness. Happy thoughts and happy times with happy people who don't remind me of all that I'm tired of. Heh.

I'll post later when I'm in a better mood...

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Magic Engagements

As salaam alaikum,

I just ran into one of the med school Muslims in the hallway...found out he was engaged.

Because of B, I could be really happy for him without the pang that so often existed when I learned that a Muslim my age was engaged or getting married...the pang of the ever-more present realization that I could not have that.

Heh, as soon as B told me that we should hang out, I forgot that not two weeks before I had essentially given up on all relationships, Muslim or non-Muslim. I made an exception for him, but I've found recently that I have a background overall disillusion with the whole Muslim courtship thing such that I'm convinced that me ending up with a Muslim who actually matches me would require nothing short of a miracle and the hand of God.

So yeah, I've effectively given up on that. Not because I think I'm going to end up with B or a non-Muslim in general, but...that expectation was no longer healthy for me, and I don't think it ever has been. B, like MQ, may be an agent in my life more than a permanent fixture to get me to another place, I don't know.

Things can't happen until they happen, and if you expect them every morning and are disappointed every evening when nothing happens, then life becomes a two-dimensional misery, reduced to happen and not happen, and you miss out on the richness and wonderful experience that is actually your life.

Being with B so far has widened my world back to three dimensions. I've been better at realizing my blessings because my worldview, perspective, vantage point...all three are less blunted because for all intents and purposes, something has happened that could in fact be the it I was waiting for. Everything is open, anything could happen, opportunity is ripe, I don't know.

So all of the Muslim men in my class, in fact, may be engaged to be married to Muslim women. Mabrook to them all. There are two of us sisters that are not currently engaged (there are only three of us in the class), and I know for a fact that the other, whenever the time comes, will have people who will help her with the process. She is generally unconcerned, from what I see, because it's not so much of a question as it is for me.

I have no cultural system in place. For marriage, I'm at the mercy of the elements. That we're all at the mercy of Allah (swt), whether arrangements for marriage come easily or hard for us, almost goes without saying, if His remembrance weren't key to everything we do.

I guess, then, more than being at the mercy of the elements, I have more of an absolute uncertainty about how it'll pan out since there is no system in place.

I guess the thing is...I'm very unconventional. I always have been, from the way that my family is Muslim to the way that I am Muslim to the way that I practice. I guess I'm more unconventional than what seems allowable for someone who is almost a revert who wants to still be considered by the masses as Muslim. I guess I've always been sensitive about that in the way that I've presented myself to...everyone, both Muslims and non-Muslims.

But Muslims, those reading, whoever else need to know...we aren't always welcoming, are we? Not nearly as much as we wish we were, as much as we purport, as much as we want to be.

I have to wash my hands of worrying about being accepted. In a certain sense, I rarely will be. Any time another black Muslim sees me at iftar and thinks that I'm just there to support my Muslim friends, after seeing me at iftars for two years, being the same brown that I am, being Nigerian like I am, not knowing me from Eve, really, not knowing my name, not knowing even that I'm Nigerian, not knowing my story...I give up.

There have been few times when Muslims accept I am Muslim just because they are told. Hijab was one of those times, which is part of why that existed, but pretty soon after, I fell back into obscurity. The other time happened right after Ramadan, when I met a friend of a friend, a guy at the business school. If he hadn't kissed me on the cheek at the end, thus ruining the entire memory of the encounter (an act which I recounted in this journal and now I reflect on the irony of my regarding that as an impropriety), it would have been one of the more meaningful encounters of my life, actually.

I thought back to him and I realized...he's one of the few Muslims who accepted that I was Muslim without asking questions about my background, being confused that I didn't have a Muslim name, any of that. I had gone out salsa dancing, and he was there, a friend of a friend. I think my med school friend must have told him I was Muslim. He asked me if I had fasted all of Ramadan, and I said yes. He said he had, too. He told me how he'd come here from Pakistan in 2000 for college, graduating in 2004. I got confused and told him I came out of college in 2003, which I later remembered was when I came out of high school. We talked about what it was like for us to be Muslims at the fringe (we didn't call it that, but both of us, by being out with friends at a salsa dancing establishment, obviously were). And that was that.

I realized how nice it was to not have to constantly explain myself when my name and ethnicity don't predict my religion.

I wash my hands of worrying, because there's nothing I can do. B is awesome right now, life is even better. It's true, I'm not worried about the future right now, not because he'll be in it, but because he's occupying the part of now that was worried about the future. I'm focused more on now, which is a wonderful now, in which I've worked through a constant fog of fret somehow alhamdulillah to be in medical school, public health school, and I have this story that I'm writing and almost done with, it's amazing.

Anyway, I have to get up in 6 hours. I probably should sleep. I get to observe at the developmental disabilities department at Children's should be interesting.

Life is ahead. Life abundant, as promised.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Love Me Nots? Like Him Nots.

As salaam alaikum,

Alas, I'm derailed a bit because Dropbox didn't sync one of the files I needed this morning. I briefly contemplated going back home and getting my computer before I decided that it won't hurt starting all over again with my notes for my paper. I didn't spend that much time reading and compiling what I already had, and since I've already read some of the papers, my work will be streamlined. Whatever. Dropbox has only just now let me down...I'm still not sure why it didn't sync the file.

I was typing up notes about the epidemiology of lupus and suddenly, I thought about B, how we went to see The Town last night (and crap-talked through the whole thing...I will take all of my roommate's movie recommendations with a grain of salt from now on!) and how he's taking me to this MIT dinner party/house warming thing on Sunday. I'll know no one, he'll know some people, so as if the Nigerian conference weren't enough for me to feel like the girlfriend being introduced to the friends (haha, though it was without a title...I was just Chinyere), this is totally going to be one of those situations.

And then I did my usual thing, and I thought. I remember something my other roommate remarked when I talked about him. She said she didn't really feel like I liked him, she couldn't hear it yet.

I told her all sorts of things, like, I've been there, done more liking someone wildly, fancifully, crushing on them absently for years. No more thinking about the person every second of the day (because I don't, actually...not at all like MQ in 2004-2005), no more imagining being together, none of that. Plus, I'm very reserved in the first place when it comes to describing these things...I don't know what she expected me to say.

And I asked her, "What, do you want me to describe how it feels when he touches me?" At which point, I insulted my other roommate's sensibilities. I then started singing "He Loves Me" by Jill Scott.

"When you touch me, I just can't control it...when you touch me, I just can't hold it!"

"Inappropriate," said my other roommate. We were walking to Kendall at the time to the cinema to see...something, I don't remember.

But thinking about what my roommate said, that it doesn't sound yet like I like him...maybe I don't.

Maybe not, I can't say for sure.

But I'm obviously excited to see him, excited to hear from him. I enjoy his (at times awkward) company. We're so remarkably similar that I can't help to feel like some aspect of this was meant to be...but I do come at the whole thing, even my own emotions about the whole thing, in a very practical manner.

I don't think I like him, emotionally speaking.

There's too much background noise, I'm not able to tell. Sometimes I feel like he doesn't like me, either.

I mean, the signs are there...he keeps inviting me to things, we keep "hanging out," he keeps paying for things, there's the proximity, the gestures, the words...but a little bit, I feel like we're just going through this as a matter of course. We're remarkably similar, we're both incredibly intelligent, highly educated Nigerian Americans at two top institutions who happen to be living now within area codes of each other...I feel like maybe we both feel like, well, this is good...we should take advantage of this.

There's something missing, though, something that maybe only time will concede. I feel like, sometimes I talk a lot and he has nothing to say because maybe he's thinking, wow, why am I with this woman right now? And in those times of silence I wonder if maybe I'll end up telling the same stories, and then we'll have nothing left to say in the end.

I considered myself to be coming at this very practically, but maybe it's even too practical for me.

Why do I like him? We have a similar sense of humor...evidenced by the fact that we find each other's comments in a movie amusing. That was the first thing. Sense of humor, that he's well-read, self-educated while also getting his PhD, so institutionally educated as well. He's up on current events, he's conscientious, he's ambitious, has pretty clear aspirations for the future. He's like me in ways that I can't describe because we both have Nigerian parents (or parent for me) and grew up in this country, so we're both in it and not. We're both Igbo and black, we go between both populations seamlessly. He's underground hip hop, I'm neo-soul, which is a nice complement, at least I think.

And like I said before, a big plus for me was the fact that he knows I'm Muslim, respects that, respects me. That's something I've always wanted. I've been with Muslims that didn't respect how I was Muslim before, to the point of wanting to rename me. No, I'm Chinyere, and I'll always be. My mother changed her name but that's my mother. I am different from my mother by at least half.

These are all important things. Like I said before, the fact that we would be together makes all the sense in the world...maybe too much sense?

Ahh...I know.

He's more like me than anyone I've ever met. Just like that Africa Night where I met the woman who looked like me, I'm now in a relationship with a guy who is almost the male equivalent of me, and while we are obviously not completely the same, we're enough the same that I'm not especially intrigued, except for the fact that this is another human being that I'm relating to.

It took me a while to do this, because there is no comparison between human beings, but I'm comparing him now to MQ. MQ followed a similar pattern...I started liking that individual because he started liking me first. As soon as I saw that he was interested in me, intrigued by my intelligence, wanting to spend time around me, that piqued my interest...I wanted to see what this guy was about.

Why would he, who was so different from me, who was like no one I'd ever met, be interested in me? Is there something about me that I don't know? Who is this boy, and what world is he coming from? He's coming from a world that I don't know, and somehow, here we are, existing in the same realm, having feelings for each other, and it's the most wonderful thing I've ever felt in life...

That was MQ at it's purest. That whole experience inspired me to write A Rose Much Desired. No joke. different. Like I said, it all feels like a matter of course. It's like, well, you're you, and you're here, and we have these things in common...let's go forward.

Which is fine. This is not me backing out. This is just me realizing...we're getting to a critical turning point in which something's got to give.

Too many sitcoms joke about the friend's zone, and if you don't make a move with a female you'll find yourself in the friend's zone. I see it now, and it's really simple as to why it happens. Right now, I have to know if he likes me. If he doesn't let me know in some critical, concrete way (like saying, you know what, Chinyere, I like you), I'm going to assume that he's not that into me, and I will lose interest. I mean, after all, I like you right now because you like me and I'm intrigued by that fact and I'm trying to get to know this man who finds me attractive, right?

I'm not going to "let's just be friends" this guy, though. Why?

I think we're both in the same boat. I can't know for sure, but I feel like neither of us have very much experience in this being in a relationship thing, from the way things are going. Either that, or we have different styles. I think that's the most accurate, the different styles. But anyway, I feel like we're both in this because it's a matter of course...sometimes.

Sometimes, though, from the way he looks at me, I think he really likes me.

Hahahaha, I think the answer is, dude, he needs to let me know! Or else I'm going to be on to the next one!

How do I feel right now? I like him, but at the same time, I don't like just him. I like the idea of being in a relationship. I like not worrying about maybe being incapable of relating to another human being in a way that may someday lead to my reproducing. I like not feeling like I'll be forever single. It's kind of like Ramadan removed the Satan element so you knew what was really in your heart, what were your shortcomings. Removing the element of fear of singleness has helped me tomar uma atitude about so many other things in my life...get things done, realize that apart from that, I really am burned out from medical school and I need to get my crap together.

It makes me more efficient, but less in the joyful way that my short-lived relationship with MQ did. I seriously believed I could fly after that.

Maybe because I was young and fanciful, and if this Pakistani kid liked me, a black Nigerian American girl, then anything was possible.


Whereas now, it's like, yeah...if someone were to like me, B would be the one. Maybe I am not, in fact, incapable of relationships. ...okay, back to studying.

That's what it's like right now. I'm not 19 anymore, though. I'm 25, and nearly done with this year. Four more good months of it, and I'm on to 26. At 27, I'm going to be someone's resident physican. All insha'Allah.

I'll never be 19 again. A lot of life has passed and made me into who I am today.

Yet, no matter how this all ends, I refuse to resign myself to a relationship for a relationship's sake, one that is a matter of course, just because we're two bodies with two spirits that should go together and we're forcing them to fit together. Because if things continue as they are, they'll start to feel forced.

There's a natural progression to things, and we're almost missing the mark.

Sunday. We'll see.

Back to work!

Friday, October 15, 2010

[uncensored]: ...Relationship

As salaam alaikum,

So, I haven't been posting nearly as much as I usually do, yeah? Well...kind of. I last posted on Sunday, and now it's...Friday? Okay, yeah, it's been a while.

It's not because my course load is picking up (we're near the end of our quarter, so finals are next week). I always find time to write. It's not because my roommate and I have been watching Mad Men back to back. It's not because I apparently have broken out into hives because of an unknown allergic reaction and have been prescribed allergy medication that makes me sleepier at night.

No. It's because I have spent up to 4 hours nightly texting B.

Yes, the answer is B. Haha, it sounds like a multiple choice test now. The answer is B.

Even though, as far as seeing someone goes, it's still pretty early, we've seen each other exclusively only three times, twice if you don't count the Nigerian Conference...I've had intuition about this for some time. Even before he declared hurriedly, "We should hang out," I had this feeling back in May that we would have some sort of story together, more specifically, that I'd end up with him... And I still have that feeling.

I mean, I've had prospects before, but I'm usually the party that cuts things off because I chicken out or things don't fit...but everything's fitting, and I'm not the limiting factor for a change, and he seems content, so...

I'm currently in a relationship, and I feel like, shit, man, when did this happen?!

I mean, it's not on the level in which I'll go in and change my facebook relationship status. Even though I feel like that's the direction we're going, it's premature. What's the threshold for changing the facebook status? Engagement.

Catch everyone by surprise. No one has to know my business until things are official, and things aren't official in my book until there's at least a promise to marriage. Putting "in a relationship" on facebook (or, since my facebook is in Portuguese, em uma relação seria) draws unnecessary attention by unnecessary people who will say tactless things.

But yes, in a relationship. Now. Me. I would say I am surprised, but the reality is, I'm not. It did come from a direction I didn't completely expect, but as it played out, it was totally predictable...but there is an unexpected element.

Because, you see, we all have our du'as during Ramadan, right, and we have more faith than usual that these prayers will be answered, thus facilitating our realizing the answers to these prayers, right? Okay. So this was one of my Ramadan prayers. I remember on the final day of Ramadan, running home while my classmates went to a happy hour at a local bar, sitting alone in my room and just consolidating everything that I'd prayed for during Ramadan into one, fluid du'a.

And everything is coming to pass in an amazing way, alhamdulillah.

Another one of my big du'as concerned my brother and his opportunities at life. Alhamdulillah that one is also being answered right now, in my face, in multiple steps...

But yes, relationship. How do I define relationship?

A relationship is defined by when I put tags on things and call them "relationships." I have a relationship with my parents, a relationship with my roommates, my extended family and my friends. I have a relationship with B right now. That's about as much as I can call it.

It's not exactly a friendship, because I do things with him that I don't do with friends...and don't get it twisted, oh my Muslim friends out there! I'm not talking about anything of a sexual nature, just really quickly in the way we associate with each other, the things we share with each other and the way that we carry ourselves around each other, it's different than anything I've ever done with any male person of any religious affiliation.

So, it's not a friendship, really...not the same type of friendship, anyway. And it's not, like, boyfriend and girlfriend. Like, in Portuguese, I wouldn't yet say that we were namorando. What's the threshold for that? Physical contact...haha, it may be my language bias, but when I hear namorar in Portuguese, I translate that roughly to making out, haha, so to have a namorado feels that you make out with.

Spanish is different, because novio is the same word for boyfriend and fiance, so relationships in Spanish feel more formal and the engagements less so, than in Portuguese where you have a difference between namorado and noivo.

Anyway, I'll step away from language for a second.

So I'm in a relationship, but I wouldn't call him my boyfriend yet. ...I'm not sure if I'd call him my boyfriend, ever. If he wanted to call me his girlfriend at a certain point, fine...partner? Nah...for me, partner has a connotation of common law sounds like someone I'm living with. I would only want to use that for husband, and then I'd husband. Husband, fiance, yes...boyfriend, no. This is a grown man!

What will I call him, then? friend, because then he's like, whoa, am I just a friend to you? Umm...hahaha, my SO, B. Hahaha, luckily for him, his name is not actually B, so I'm not introducing my son of a bitch...

I think when the time comes, I'll call him my SO. People will get confused, and that's fine.

But yeah.

So, what's it like, this burgeoning relationship thing? Hmm...thought provoking but probably the easiest and most sensible innovation in my life so far. That's because it's early. It's also very distracting.

I was sitting in class today, discussing occupational hazards for women in the workplace, the paucity of research and what should be done, and I was thinking about us, and how this is a relationship, and how this is pretty much the only word I'm comfortable using for this kind of thing, not only as a Muslimah, but as me, Chinyere.

How do I feel about it? Well, when I breathe shallowly, it's all real, I don't doubt it. When I breathe deeply, all of my fears about being single return.

I breathed deeply during class while we were discussing the risks of motherhood, and I remembered suddenly the pang I used to feel semi-regularly during PMS of wanting to be a mother and the fear that maybe I'd always be single and maybe I wouldn't have the chance to have a child of my own and raise a child with someone else. It's not for Jannah being at the feet of mothers, but wanting to assume this challenge that so many women before me had, even the most beloved, my mother and grandmothers.

But then I breathed shallowly again and I remembered, wait...I'm with B now. Although I don't have it in my head that I'll marry him (nor do I have any idea how far we'll actually go), the fact that I am not a failure of a human being, somehow incapable of human relationships, has set me at ease.

In fact, I don't really think about having my own kids at this point because invariably, I'd be imagining what our kids would be like, and I don't want to do that! Nor do I feel that's necessary. With B right now, I'm focusing on just that...the right now. I wonder about the next time I'll see him, if we'll get further, and at this point in the relationship, it's like, okay, we've been hanging out...what can I do for you? What support can I provide, what do I believe in providing, as a Muslimah now in a relationship with a non-Muslim man (!!)? The farthest into the future I'm thinking is the Djavan concert I invited him to (for which I have to buy tickets still).

Meu bem querer tem um quê de pecado acariciado pela emoção...

Muslims who know me will have a shit-ton of questions, I know. Like, why, probably, are you knowingly seeing  a non-Muslim. Fair question. I mean, all I talk about in this journal is my being Muslim, and my father being Christian, and not wanting to be in a relationship where someone's trying to convert me, and yes, even preferably to absolutely wanting to end up with a Muslim.

Yes, that continues. Does that mean, in the future, if things get more serious, this guy goes bye-bye? No, actually.

Like I said, I'm going on the now. I'm seeing him at the level that I've "seen" Muslim men before (haha, notice there's a higher level of propriety when discussing my interactions with Muslim men), as in...we've always been in public places, we've never been alone, with the exception that we've somehow attained a level of non-physical intimacy really fast, and I think that is a testament to both of our relative inexperiences when it comes to relationships and our willingness (at least mine) to go against the book, if you will...

I'm going on right now. I've talked about being Muslim, about wearing hijab, about being more conservative not 3 years ago--he hasn't told me anything about religion, clues that tells me that he's maybe Agnostic.

And no, I'm not out to convert him. No. That was my mother's mistake, and it shall not be mine.


Umm...I guess saying that I'm going for the now is a cop-out. Let me be entirely realistic right now. My chances of meeting someone with the specs that B has who is also Muslim who is actually willing to go forward with me in some type of trajectory ending in marriage is slim to none...not because of a shortage of Muslim men of these specs, but because it's an artifact of the way we Muslims socialize between genders in this country. B is awesome, I like him, we're so similar, we're almost, like, the same person of opposite genders. He accepts and respects my being Muslim and was still interested in spite of knowing my whole backstory (he knows everything, just because I talked about it once during Africa Night). This is the best thing that has ever come my way, and even better in ways than I could imagine. He's Igbo! I mean, wow...

And maybe it's not fair, but I assume he's Agnostic because Christians usually would have let me know by now about their Christianity, even if Christianoid, after the mention of religion.

There's a lot going on in this entry...maybe I should have written before...

Anyway, I think it's okay for right now. I'm not talking about marrying this guy... why, Muslimah, are you in a relationship with him!

Okay, so you know what? There are going to be people here, lurkers and what not, who take extreme issue to this. It's like, oh Lord, first, she hasn't worn hijab in three years and now she's in a relationship with a non-Muslim.

Maybe I'm trying my robe on at the gates of Hell, but I am constant in prayer, and insha'Allah I will continue to be, no one can take that away from me. I'm keeping my hand on the plow (imagine this all Mahalia Jackson style).

Hah, talk about mixing traditions here...insha'Allah in the same sentence quoting a Christian spiritual. Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, that's me!

But yeah, I'm in this because this is the best opportunity I've ever had to interact with someone, and no, I'm not settling anymore than my interest in MQ was settling just because he was Muslim.

Oh, but this is so jumbled, I think I'll end it here. This is the last time I'm going to be defensive about this. The fact of the matter is, I have had suitors who were both Muslim and non-Muslim since I was 16. This is just the first one that has promised to go forward. I am in a relationship with this guy, B, for better or for worse.

Keep me in your du'as, for sure, as I move forward prayerfully.

...later on, I'll actually post about why I think B is so awesome and why we're so similar and work so well.

We need to have the conversation, though, to make this official. I'll let him do that. I'm actually quite comfortable being nebulous for a time while I sort things out...

Hahaha, wasalaam.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Thanks, Dad!

As salaam alaikum,

Hahaha, I'm talking to my father right now. He's telling me that I should marry a Christian man (nothing new). But, I found this part of the conversation hilarious:

Dad: "I mean, you've been a good girl...quote, unquote."
Me: "Quote, unquote, huh? Gee, thanks, Daddy."
Dad: "Well, you know, I had to, as your mother says, rip it like that."


Why you gonna rip it like that, Dad?

EDIT: Whoa, too much Nigeria! I'm going to have to take a break from SaharaReporters (too much, too little that I can do!). Back to another site that I was taking a break from, AltMuslimah. I like this: Should Muslim women be able to marry non-Muslim Men? I dedicate that one to my mommy!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Random Update

As salaam alaikum,

Yep, deleted my last post. It wasn't charitable, so I kept it to myself.

Other than that, life is good. There's nothing more really to say about that right now. I saw this film, Budrus, with B, and though we were some of the youngest people there (it reminds me of Saturdays at Kendall Cinema), it was still a good...thing.

We got Chinese food after wandering into Chinatown. We had a really random conversation, and then he walked me home...well, we took the T home, and then he walked me home.

I realize that this is really devoid of details and therefore the antithesis of exciting, but I find myself somehow distracted by hunger this morning...

Besides that, I have a little bit of work to do this weekend, a paper to start writing. I wrote the second to last chapter of RMD, hated it, and will probably rewrite it before I write the ending. I realize my problem in this project is that when I write conservative Muslims, it's somehow hard to flesh them particular two characters, Noor and Jameel. Noor at this point exists in the story as an invisible character who is mentioned a lot but never appears (I eliminated her chapter). Jameel could be the same, but I kind of what to include him. The thing is, when you spend an entire story alluding to a character then they pop up at the end, it needs to be worth the wait...and right now, it's lackluster. It just means that I need to spend more time on that chapter than I will have to the others, that's fine.

Anyway, I end with the trailer for Budrus. It premiered in New York City and Boston last night, coming to an independent theatre near you!

Monday, October 4, 2010

And So It Begins...

As salaam alaikum,

And so, it begins...

What begins? There's something about the promise of a relationship that brings out the worst of my's not just me, I know, but I personally don't like the fact that I'm so neurotic! Ughh...

It's like, I spent almost all Saturday with this dude, body language let me know, okay, this isn't really friendship track, he's interested in me for real. Granted, by the end of Sunday I'd cooled off, into Monday, I was fine...wait, this is still Monday, huh?

...ever since we agreed to hang out, I'm one day ahead at all times. I thought it was Tuesday! Aaahhh...that's better.

Why does it matter what day it is? Because I was counting the days that it's taking him to get back in touch with me.

So I'm forgoing the rules. Like, I was supposed to wait for him to say something back, right? I'm tired of playing those games! He's the one who initiated contact in the first place, and quite well, I might add...maybe he was putting forth an effort, I don't know, maybe I'm in denial and maybe I am really about to go out with a really socially awkward PhD physics student...maybe I'm deluding myself, I don't know...

I mean, I guess this was still only really our first...interaction. I don't want to use the D word. Notice the euphemisms I'm spitting here. Seeing? Going out? Interacting? I'm in denial, once again.

Why? Because I don't want to admit to myself that I'm looking forward to...being with (there's another one) a non-Muslim. Man, I even want to erase that sentence!

But at the same time, I'm...okay, wait, he responded to my text...I'll be right back.



Hahaha, the first emoticon of this journal, as it were!

He asked me to the Palestinian Film Festival. Melt!


I'm such a girl right now.

So yeah, I was going to say...neuroticism. It's like, I was fine all day, but then tonight, I as like, hmm...he's not getting in touch with me, what if something happened and by the end of the night he thought it wasn't worth it to pursue me anymore? What if by going to the gala he saw all of those young Nigerian women and looked at me and thought, ehh, I could do better. What if he thought I was standoffish because [censored]?

(This, after all, is not in my [uncensored] series...)

But, none of that is true, because he asked me to the Palestinian Film Festival! Not a zombie movie, not a shoot-em-up action flick where apparently writers aren't necessary for actual dialogue other than the best string of expletives...but something intellectual.

Can you say, match?

...we have yet to have the religion conversation. I think if things get more serious, though, it will happen. Heh.

But he's cute...and now I get to not be neurotic because he texted me back and we're going to keep hanging out and life is grand, with him in it and independent of him...just, you know, to keep things real.

One artifact of me potentially being involved with someone for the first time (I also refuse to say the R word...really mature of me, I know) is that...for some reason, I'm feeling more at ease to find men attractive.

It's like, the most counter-intuitive and counterproductive thing ever. It's like, uhh, too late now, dude! Like, there was this guy at the gala and he was wearing these pants, like 60s vines, and they are pretty much my favorite pants for a man ever right now, because he, like the late, great Otis Redding, was wearing those pants. This other dude at the gala, good Lord...I was with Obi at the time, or else I would have looked more. Then on Sunday, I was randomly noticing the legs of a bunch of the men running by. I have such a weird, backward psyche!

For so many years, I've effectively repressed my sexuality because I've never had an in, I've never liked someone who liked me back, or was man enough to go forward with it, or time and place was incorrect, whatever. So now that something's actually working out...I think it's that I feel like I still feel it's inappropriate to express myself, heh, with the person I'm involved with, but repression no longer works so I express it to the outside world, not to who should actually be the object. Right?

So I'm experiencing the breakdown of some pretty strong defense mechanisms...anyone who knows me knows that I never talk about men looking good, about body parts, anything. For a long time, I couldn't even say that I was attracted to men. I would talk in terms of a person, what I liked in a person, etc.

So, even though I'm trying to maintain some level of propriety, like putting a lid on it, I feel like it's still boiling over the sides, and it's making the flame go orange...and thus the breakdown of my analogy, kind of.

But man, I never thought I'd be the type of woman who would dress up a man, but if B and I ever got to that stage of comfort...he's going to be buying those pants. The pants will be light colored, he'll wear, like, a pale blue or plum shirt, with these black shoes (aaahh, I don't know men's brands of shoes...I'll have to learn that!), and he'll have to use Aveeno...

See what I mean? I'm completely crazy.

This journal has not seen the likes of MQ. MQ was the last time I liked someone this much, all of 6 years ago. You think this is crazy...this other guy was absolute insanity! That was the first time I discovered that I was neurotic. Before, I was definitely more dysthimic...

So I have matured...I just went crazy this evening, that's all.

He knows just the right things to say to endear me to him, though. He has quiet skill...not quite the skill, but quiet skill...quiet game. I like it!

And so it begins. By the end of this week, I think, I may have officially lost my mind.

And yay, he's going to talk to me tomorrow!

In other news, wow, what a difference doing tricep curls makes! I'm actually using dumbbells now and not just the machine, and yeah, I'm definitely seeing the difference. That, and I've been kind of losing weight more quickly than has been intentional in the last few days. Even though I hadn't been to the gym in four days since Toilet Flood 2010 (I still hurt when I sit down...couldn't really do crunches...), I'm still losing weight. It's pretty awesome.

Okay, so this was a sufficiently disgusting entry. If I weren't trying to keep it real when it comes to what I'm actually going through, I'd be losing my street cred right about now...

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Muslimah Goes Nigerian?

As salaam alaikum,

[The title of this entry is dedicated to my father, and his memories of "Broadway Goes Latin." Heh.]

{Currently Listening: Try a Little Tenderness (Live) - Otis Redding}

So, I didn't end up going to the presentation by the guy from Ta'leef project. I had a full day of class on Friday and while I thought the presentation would have been enlightening, ultimately I wasn't in the right spiritual place.

I reasoned it like this. I've spent the last seven years of my life (the first four more than the last three, lets say) developing my identity as a Muslim. I am also Nigerian. My view of Islam has always been that it's not meant to supplant our cultures but enhance our cultures...enhance in the sense that it brings out more meaning to the positive things embedded in our culture and helps us avoid the deleterious.

Admittedly, while I'm comfortable identifying as both Igbo Nigerian and Muslim, I'm not comfortable identifying as both of them at the same in, in the same breath, in the same sentence, in the same context. Well, taking it a step further...I'm comfortable letting Muslims know that I'm Igbo, but not as comfortable letting Igbos know I'm Muslim.

Case in point: no one of the members of my family in Nigeria know that I'm Muslim, and they just found out that my mother is. I mean, I'm sure it'll be a hump to get over, but once they meet me and see how I live and get to know my values, it shouldn't be an issue. No one in my family is super religious or super proselytizing as I can tell.

But anyway, these were all things I used to rationalize not going to the young Muslim intensive, but in the end, participating what I will call from here on out the Nigeria conference has been the clear choice.

It was a real conflict for me, though, because I'm funny about a lot of things. Probably in college, the clear choice would have been the intensive because I am, after all, Muslim first. The thing about that attitude now is that I'm not only Muslim first, but Muslim stronger. Because of my fear of being a Muslim Igbo around Nigerians, I have done my fair share of avoiding certain Nigerian events (especially in the days of hijab), and I cannot say that in that time I've not developed some damaging and unfair ideas about Nigerians...and when I say Nigerians, I mean Nigerian men.

Well, heh, actually, my attitudes about Nigerian men have nothing to do with religion and presumptions made about religion. It has more to do with how so many of them I've encountered (usually those born in Nigeria and who lived there for some time) have had negative game, have done stalkerish things, and in general did not know how to act.

But it's not fair to blanket them in this stereotype and I don't think that's fair...not that I think I've ever blanketed them in the stereotype, which is partially why seeing a Nigerian man now.

So, B...I spent most of yesterday with him. The more I get to know him, the cuter he is, seriously. He excused himself, saying he didn't talk a lot. I told him, no...I talk too much. I have this nervous habit of filling empty spaces in conversation with randomness. I'm really outgoing...somehow, after a childhood of shyness I've become an I think people can't tell that when I talk a lot, I'm actually nervous. But he's...interesting. Like, on one hand, he portrays himself as an awkward PhD student, but on the other hand, he doesn't really carry himself like he's that awkward...

...either that, or he's putting up a grand effort and making a great front...he could have fooled me!

So yesterday, we went to two panels. One was on Media and getting messages to Nigerian Youth. That one was excellent. Then we had another one about Nigerian professionals in the diaspora. I joked to my roommate that they didn't really need that panel because Nigerians are already overrepresented as professionals for the less than 0.1% of the US population that we make up, but it was a great panel, including a man who may just be my first role model, Dr. Chidi Achebe (yes, Chinua Achebe's son). Dude has got to be one of the smartest people I've ever encountered and has done amazing things in Boston, like starting up a community health center in Dorchester. I mean, seriously, masha'Allah!

Then we hung out, then I went home to change to look classy classy and go to this gala in the evening. It started about an hour and a half late and ended an hour and a half late, but it was beautiful. I liked it. It was also terribly random, as they opened up the dance floor to dancing to Nigerian music (which I need to listen to more of...I definitely like it more than what's out right now in the US) before the end of the program, which, in favor of leaving on time, I think we didn't have to do.

But man, one thing I have to tell my one eats foo foo with their hands anymore! I was excited to have real foo foo (my father's imitation Cream of Wheat/mashed potato foo foo comes amazingly close to yams, though, bless his heart!) and then, people were just cutting it with knives, spooning the soup onto the fork, and eating it. I was like, exclamation point, dude.

I felt sad for my dad a little at that point...he hasn't been back to Nigeria in so long. He's here all alone in the United States, and hasn't seen any of his family members since 1984 when he completed youth service. Add to that his misunderstanding why I'm Muslim (first him thinking it was my wanting to be South Asian, then thinking it had to do with black nationalism) and it was, before he got in contact with his friends, a very lonely road.

Anyway, the gala was a lot of fun...the most fun I've had in a long time, I don't know since when. I looked around, and I saw my people, some in traditional dress, some not (me included...I've never worn any Nigerian clothing), and I was comfortable. I felt at home, and I felt a greater obligation to my people than I've felt before...especially after the media panel, where I met the founder of SaharaReporters, Omoyele Sowore.

I've never believed in only supporting Muslim causes, because I feel like in doing that, you'll get the majority of Muslims, for sure, but you miss so many more believers. Haha, this journal is not going to change from Invisible Muslimah to...I don't know, Nigerian Chronicles, from Half to Whole or something, haha, I'm just going to work harder to reconcile my culture and my Islam, because ultimately, that will make both stronger. I'll go from Muslim first and stronger to Muslim first and strongest.

With my ethnicity and my religion no longer at odds [which I believe I can do, if I work at it...example, my race and my religion have never been at odds, though they could be with the stigmatization of black Muslims in many communities, black people among non-black Muslims and an ugly history of some early Muslims in the slave trade], I'll no longer feel so conflicted about being an Igbo Muslim, and I'll no longer feel the need to renounce my Nigerianess in favor of being Muslim, which is no doubt a pathway I could have taken, but I think it would ultimately do more hurt than good in this life and yes, the life after, because all of the pain it would cause me and others. That was never an option for me, though...

Subhan'Allah, it's taking me so long to realize that, but I guess I'm on my way may be an unconventional road that I'm taking right now, but since when has anything about me been conventional? Adorei!


Friday, October 1, 2010

The First Conundrum

As salaam alaikum,


So, I met up with my friend, her boyfriend, and this guy who I apparently have to come up with a nickname for because he's going to be in my life for a bit. Let's call him B. Heh.

So B and I are taking over Africa Night while my friend and her boyfriend are in South Africa. I was really tired after Toilet Pipe Flood 2010 in my apartment got us up at 5:50am yesterday morning (more on that later) and a long day at the school of public health.

Anyway, B and I had these really awkward conversations and then he walked me home. I'm going with him to some of the events on Saturday for Harvard's Nigerian group's conference celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Nigerian Independence.

And I just realized this morning that I don't know the words to the national anthem...I mean, I was born here and if Nigeria has been-tos, I'm a never-been. There are several reasons for that. all of a sudden being kind of with a Nigerian (kind of, because we're still just friends, shhhh...) is forcing me to be more Nigerian than I've ever had to be. Now I'm worried about what I'm wearing to this gala and my hair! My roommate, who is also Nigerian, said she would help me out.

In dealing with this guy I realize...this whole burgeoning possible relationship thing is something that I have no idea about, apparently. Either that, or we're both awkward and I'm foolishly thinking it's just me!

Anyway, I need to get ready to go to class in 15 minutes. The first conundrum I feared...

This weekend at IBSCC mosque, the dude who is one of the founders of the Ta'leef Collective in California is running a one-day intensive especially for young Muslims (students and professionals) and reverts. Google Ta'leef to see what it's about, I don't have time to explain it now. I would have loved to go to it, and I think it's about what I need right now, but I've already agreed to go with this guy to the Nigeria thing...

And, faster than I expected, my Muslim identity is butting heads with my Nigerian identity like it hasn't had to in so long. Honestly, the reason I don't do more Nigerian things is because I'm always the paradoxical Igbo Muslim and I don't like to deal with that.

But this guy knows that about me, and still is interested...!

He likes me, I can't self-deny it. He does, and I like him...mainly because he likes me, though, I'm not going to lie.

Okay, I need to finish morning routine, but mannn...I wish I could go to that intensive. I'm going to go to a free lecture insha'Allah tonight instead of the whole day tomorrow thing, which is only $25, but aahhhh...I would pick this weekend to start romancing a Nigerian man!

...oh, and I finally told my roommates about him. They were very upset that I hadn't been sharing, haha! I'm sorry, roommies...

Hahahaha, wasalaam.