Monday, November 29, 2010

Beyond Sin

As salaam alaikum,

So, there comes a time in a young Muslim(ah)'s life when logic loses its voice and when thinking about haram, it can no longer be thought of logically but must be taken for granted.

This young Muslim(ah), who has always prided his/herself for being able to rationalize the halal and haram of everyday life and live harmoniously, finds his/herself in a moral conundrum about which (s)he recognizes that (s)he may have been too lax in the past.

But there comes a time when (s)he has to put his/her foot down and not be ashamed! There comes a time when, as much as (s)he decried it in the past, (s)he must forgo logic in its blaring absence. Logic's lost its voice, remember?

(S)he must declare, "It's haram...because God says so!" either aloud or within, and be satisfied with that, because nothing else makes sense.

Never mind relative morality.

And don't get so comfortable relying on the vast mercy of Allah (swt).

This is not meant to be preachy. This is just me making this realization and being like, aahh, okay.

The Qur'an is the book for people who think, but in those times when we aren't thinking...or don't want to has just enough absolute values and dictates to keep us from straying.

Keep me in your du'as at any rate.

I'm fine, and nothing sketchy has happened, but I realize that I've been sewing the seeds of a too-lax morality for a while and while I don't have the capacity to reason myself back to a tighter moral standing, I recognize the value of keeping in mind what is lawful and what is forbidden as absolutes when one's logic is temporarily or permanently impaired.

There is wisdom in things that young people don't least not this young person.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Loneliness's Dance / Dança da Solidão

As salaam alaikum,

Solidão é lava
Que cobre tudo
Amargura na minha boca
Sorri seus dentes de chumbo

Solidão, palavra
Cavada no coração
Resignado e mudo
No compasso da desilusão

Loneliness is lava that covers everything. Bitterness in my mouth. I smiled its leaden teeth. Loneliness, a word burrowed in my heart, resigned and mute, to the beat of disillusion.

I just met a man who is unreal. Like, I seriously didn't think I could be surprised anymore. I thought that that time was over, reserved for me at 19, not at 25 almost 26. I didn't know I'd be amazed anymore that someone could exist in a realm in which I also exist, and I less thought that it would be him, who on the surface is just like the rest of them, who on the surface I thought I could predict from his name, his face.

Never did I think that someone so much like me could exist, and that I wouldn't know him well enough to not have to get to know him. I thought I was it, but I am not. Muslims may disbelieve because of the circumstances in which this is all coming together but more than anything it seems like God made us for each other, three months apart, hundreds of miles away.

Prayerfully, I go forward.

Because I cannot let this pass me by. Because just like Paulinho Viola wrote, loneliness is lava that covers everything. Everything, everything, everything. It's molten and it stings, then it cools but it still covers and colors everything. It's heavy, it weighs you down, it obscures beauty and obfuscates emotion. It was bitterness in my mouth, unrelenting, all imaginings of love made bittersweet at best. "Nothing had the chance to be good, 'cause nothing ever could." I knew what was up, but I couldn't get past it. I tried to be happy in spite of it, loneliness. I smiled it's leaden teeth.

I personify it, but really, it's just a word. Loneliness is a word burrowed in my heart. It's still there. It still marks most of my early adulthood in which I found myself all alone, and I only felt like I'd only be alone for the rest of my life. Nothing seemed promising but loneliness for another day, and then another. And there it was, resigned, mute, hidden, inaccessible, irretrievable, in beat with my disillusion.

My disillusion, my growing disillusion, every day nothing happened, every month someone else got married and I was still single, every year that was the same old thing. My disillusion grew but I smiled loneliness's leaden teeth, grinned and bore it through.

I learned how to be through loneliness. I became a practicing Muslimah through this loneliness. It covered and colored everything, my desires, my prayers, my reason for being, my aspirations, my conception of my purpose of life. Through loneliness I've become the person I am today, trilingual, writing this novel, in love with Soul music, the latter because it gave me access to something that I thought I'd never feel.

Loneliness is, but with me it's no more.

No more loneliness. I just met someone who I didn't know could exist, which is something I've always wanted but something I never thought I could have. I didn't know that I couldn't know that he'd exist even while knowing him during this time.

So I'm sitting in my apartment, my roommates gone, and stopped by and saw me but he's also gone, and I'm alone, but I'm not lonely because insha'Allah I'll see him another day.

Loneliness no more. Now music sounds different. Pop was always hackneyed but now it sounds cheap compared to the real feelings. The more poetic of the lyrics sung by people like the Brazilians is exactly what I feel. The days feel different. The taste in my mouth, different.

No more leaden teeth.

And the disillusion is melting away.

Desilusão, desilusão.
Danço eu, dança você
Na dança da solidão

Disillusion, disillusion. I dance, you dance loneliness's dance.

We both danced it. And then we danced it with each other for a while but then we stopped and we looked at each other. We see each other.

Now, it's okay.

So, I guess it's time to sing a new song now.

E eu que era triste, descrente nesse mundo, ao encontrar você eu conheci o que felicidade, meu amor. - Corcovado

Sunday, November 21, 2010


As salaam alaikum,

So yes. B has to meet my friends, because they're starting to say ridiculous things. People are demanding pictures of him, and I'm like, I supposed to carry around pictures of him? Are we supposed to have taken pictures together? People really want to meet him. In due time...sometime after Thanksgiving, I'll invite him to a gathering of friends.

The most ridiculous thing ever was said by my classmate and friend, my roommate's best friend, yesterday morning:

"Isn't that, like, against the law in their country of origin?" Aaaaahahahahahahaha!

Poor B. His friends are all normal people. My friends are all crazy.

My friends my scare him a little, actually. That's okay. It'll build character...especially when he meets my ex-roommate.

...she'll probably think he's gay.

(I told you my friends were crazy!)

Thursday, November 18, 2010



Então, rolou! B e eu somos agora um casal oficial...

Why did I say that in Portuguese? Saying it in English would have been too mushy.

Não posso compartilhar as detalhes dessa relação ou como a gente entrou na relação por causa da minha privacidade relativa, então...

I'll leave it at that.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I Still Will Choose You First

As salaam alaikum,

And Eid Mubarak to my Muslim lovelies.

I got into a fairly sentimental mood here, putting this paper together about adolescent condom use in the context of relationship characteristics and dynamics. Yes, it's my sexuality class again. I've pretty much ODed on adolescent sex, teen pregnancy, and everything else.

My reading also convinced me that a lot of serious teen relationships are actually just like children playing house, but sex is involved. Teen girls also have the tendency to think that the relationships will last forever. As one who was convinced that I was in love at 12, I can attest that this is actually what goes through a young girl's head.

Me and my boo (unrequited, which would be the only type of love that I'd know for the next 13 years, little did I know) were going to get married after high school, maybe when I was 20, move to Detroit, where I'd have my first child at 21, and yes, it would be awesome.


But anyway, the title of this entry is uncreatively inspired by my listening to Musiq Soulchild - Love, for which this is a lyric in which the author professes to love (not professes love, but professes to Love itself, as if personified). It's a great, pretty classic neo-soul ballad.

I haven't really listened to Musiq after his sophomore album, so I have no idea what he's up to these days.

But I just am using it to describe this situation, this happening, this thing that reminded me...that life is crazy.

I was sitting in the cafe at school today with my roommate (who is also my classmate), and I was working on my paper. People stopped by our table to chat for a short while, seeing that we were both busy at work. It was getting closer to lunchtime, and people had already started purchasing food. I looked toward the lunch line to gauge how much time I had before the lines became crazy and I saw this guy looking in my direction. He was looking at me.

Usually, whenever I accidentally catch someone's eye, I look away, so I did. I knew who it was in retrospect. It was this Muslim guy, also a classmate, who I'd met during Ramadan because of HLM's iftars. He's a two-year master student in health policy and management, I think. The thing I remember about him was that his roommate was a Muslim woman from Turkey. I thought that was fairly progressive of him and gutsy of him to mention that at a table of Muslims. At a time when I had four roommates, and the fourth roommate's boyfriend pretty much lived here, I tried to ignore the situation as much as possible and certainly wouldn't have brought it up among Muslims. But I remembered that about him.

He was in my epidemiology class together...we reintroduced each other, I added him on facebook, the rest is history.

Except, after looking away, I looked back towards him. He was still staring at me. I looked away, and looked back again, and he was still staring at me!

At this point, I looked down. That felt really awkward and I didn't know what to do about it. I mean, it is entirely possible that he was actually looking past me, especially since he was far away and I didn't have my glasses on to actually make good eye contact, made me think about things.

I went down the what if road. What if someone like him, this Muslim man, were to express interest in me, like, now? I've messed around and I'm in a relationship now. This guy was just staring at me...that doesn't mean anything. But what if someone actually had strong feelings for me and wanted to go forward with the road towards marriage? And I kind of liked him at baseline? What would happen to B?

B's coming over our apartment tomorrow to meet the roommates. That, and I felt uncomfortable discussing "us" in public venues, so we might soon officially be in a relationship, even though we are already, really...essentially. If we were to become official official, though...I feel like I would have to get all Erykah Badu on said Muslim man and say, "I guess I'll see you next lifetime."

I don't know.

I don't like the idea of relationship for relationship sake. If I must be in a relationship as my only means of leading to marriage, then so be it. So it's hard to judge which one I'd choose, even though that sounds horrible, and it is entire human being with feelings is at stake.

But at the same time, what, am I going to avoid this man and hold my breath for assorted Muslim men to decide I'm worth the risk? Because I feel like, as a black Muslimah, I am considered a risk for many Muslim men.

There is a Nigerian Muslim man in my class who I think would be interested in me if I let him be, but I keep my distance because I'm with B right now. This guy who was staring at me, he's a couple of months younger than me, but I still keep him on the radar because he's Muslim.

It's like college admissions that work on a point system. Certain characteristics get more points. I think with 100 points being the threshold for being involved with someone, one being Muslim automatically gets 70 points. Certain ethnicities get more points than others, but that's more an arbitrary whim. Say, being black gets one 20 points, being Brazilian of any race gets one 40 points. That's about right. So a Muslim Brazilian, were I to meet one, regardless of other traits, would beat the threshold.

Wow, this is terrible, but it's true!

So even though B obviously is over 100 points on so many levels, a Muslim who I barely know may just beat him out in terms of points over the threshold simply for the fact that he's Muslim, and that automatically gets him 70 points.

Why is this? I just need to recognize...I don't want to practice Islam alone. I don't want to be Muslim alone for the rest of my life.

So what would happen if I was official with B and all of a sudden a boisterous and initiating Muslim man of certain quality came into my life and said, you must be my wife (yes, fat chance in that happening, but go with me). Would it be bye bye, B?

At this point, I returned to my computer, held my head in my hands, and said to my roommate, "This life is crazy!" She still has no idea why I said that.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hot Panic

As salaam alaikum,

Today is B's birthday. We're supposed to have lunch...we'll see if that pans out.

Yesterday was my father's birthday. It was also my friend's birthday. If the birthday boy weren't so late, I would have spent an hour with him before going to hang out with B, but alas, the birthday boy was at least 47 minutes late to his own event, and we didn't reserve a lane in time to actually bowl...not that I was planning on bowling anyway. I suck pretty badly at it.

But I hadn't seen B in two weeks, so we met up. We watched that Denzel Washington movie that's out right now. It's about a runaway train...I enjoyed it, actually. The cursing cracked me up, though, was a good movie. It disturbed me that his daughters were waitresses at Hooters. I'm like, why do the only black women in this movie have to be waitresses at Hooters? Oh well. I won't give the rest of the movie away. It was a good action flick.

We saw it at 12:10am. I kept looking at my phone so I could tell him happy birthday. I got him a gift. It's not exciting, just Barron's 501 Spanish verbs. I hope he doesn't already have it. He's trying to learn Spanish, and that was a good resource for me...kind of.

I have 501 Portuguese verbs, but I never use it, because I don't write in Portuguese like I wrote in Spanish. I need to review my verbs in Spanish. There's something about Portuguese that wipes out my Spanish conjugation skills really fast.

But there was something he said yesterday that got to me. I was telling him about how my father started out as a typical preacher's kid, not really religious, and in his older age has become more religious, which affects me a lot. I told him that he's always telling me to read Romans (I intend to do so...I do want to learn more about Christianity for the sake of learning about a religion of the book, but I don't want my father to hold out hope of my conversion) and how he's always trying to get members of the African Christian Fellowship to talk to me.

Then B was like, "Oh, well, he must really love me, then." To which I laughed...but then, I had this sinking feeling.

That sinking feeling has now evolved into a hot panic.

So I'm editing RMD, my "novel" right now, right? Part that I'd read just before going out for my friend's birthday, before meeting up with B, reminded me of A, if I may call him that. To not belabor the point, A was a guy I almost dated at a time of my life before I was practicing, and I later turned him down because I realized that I was Muslim, and he was Christian in a way that not only would he not understand me, but he might be taken aback. I didn't want that. And so, in a way, saying no to A solidified my identity as a Muslimah.

That, and, when applying to colleges and they asked me my religion, Islam seemed like the only logical choice. Those two events led to me forrmally identifying as Muslim and the rollercoaster ride that was my time in college.

And now, here I am, nearly 10 years after A, and there is B. He's not religious, but he's Christianoid. Nearly 10 years later, and that's how far I've come. Seven years after my first Ramadan, three years after I stopped hijab, and I'm with someone that I would have potentially turned down for the same reason I turned down A.

What's the difference? I'm not 16 anymore, I'm 25. I'm not a sophomore going on junior in high school, I'm a year and a half away from getting my MD/MPH, insha'Allah. In almost ten years I've seen the reality of my mating prospects as a Muslimah, as a black Muslimah, as a black woman, and honestly, the best thing that's ever happened to me is happening right now. I can't deny that. I can't let this pass by.

But it was sinking because I feel like in 10 years, I've maybe failed at achieving the vision I had for myself.

Don't get me wrong, I'll be a Muslim, always and forever...not that there's anything wrong with being otherwise. That's how God made us, into different nations, so that we may learn to know each's one of the challenges and purposes of life that so many of us fail at...and when I say us, I mean human beings in general. I just...when I turned down A, from that point onward, I began to form a vision of myself as a Muslim woman...

The height of that was in my hijab days. I saw myself doing something humanitarian, medicine related of course, wearing a black shayla with a matching black jilbab, stylishly so, (I don't know why I was in all black...I never got to the point of wearing all black), with my baby son on my hip, my husband, also engaged in some humanitarian effort, holding our daughter's hand. In my minds' eye we were both Muslim. We were traveling through life together, living out our dream and what we felt was the purpose of life...together.

We weren't going to save the world, but we would do our part to make it better for our brothers and sisters in humanity. And we'd be there for our children. That's the picture I saw.

Later, I saw myself in an all white kitchen in all white pajamas, reading a paper in Spanish while my husband read in another language about the happenings of the world over toast with jam and orange juice for breakfast. Something simple and light. It'd be the weekend, and we'd lounge on each other, enjoying our company, talking about world events and having discussions before we started our day. We had similar beliefs in some ways, but our differences are what stimulated the conversation. And that's how we'd start the day, ending breakfast with one of those we've-been-married-so-this-is-old-hat kisses.

So the first vision of myself in life has been slowly dying, though I hold out hope for the second, makes me feel a little bit sad.

A little bit sad, and a little bit panicky. Hot, stingy panic like post-nasal drip surprising you as it drains down your throat and you choke.

Have I failed? Or rather, am I failing?

...maybe I'm not. I have no idea what Allah (swt) has in store for me. I'm 25, not 16, but I have the same difficulty perceiving how young I am as I did then. Insha'Allah, I have a lot of life left. Insha'Allah, this is not over.

But I am panicking. I'm panicking because I see myself ending up isolated, the same lonely Muslimah I was for so long, lonely because I'd have no one to talk to about Islam, no one to pray with...because once you marry someone, what? I'd relinquish some of my community in favor of a shared community between us. What kind of marriage would that be, where I'd sometimes leave him alone and go enter a world he's not at all privy to, with acquaintances that he'd never really know of, that I live in a realm and in a life that he can't understand...Islam is my way of life, marriage is half of it. Come what may, it would not make sense for me to marry someone who does not fit in my way of life.

Not for the sake of children, the very I wanted to raise in an Islamic home. I'd just be going from one type of lonely to another.

...but no one said I was marrying B.

So what am I doing? Reagindo. Tomando uma atitude. I'm doing something.

We may have lunch today, I don't know. He wants to read RMD. When he reads RMD, he'll understand.

I'm panicking because...if you've read Namesake, we're kind of like Gogol and Moushumi, except we didn't actually grow up together. But we're two second-generation Nigerians who, if we lived in proximity of each other, we would have called each other cousin, and our parents would be our respective aunts and uncles. Gogol and Moushumi got married kind of by default, because when you come from the same ethnic group, your parents were immigrants, there's a lot of things that you automatically have in common that you don't have to discuss.

And there's automatic acceptance from your parents. It's just how things are supposed to be. No one questions it.

It's not just that...well, you're a black man, so I don't have to explain to you what twisting my hair means and why it takes 5 hours. It's, you're a second generation Igbo Nigerian, so you automatically know so much about me that I have to take time to explain to other, you knew that as soon as you heard my name. It's an automatic, assumed, knowing...but then, I'm also black, and I'm also Muslim, and I'm also a hispanohablante and a lusófona, a writer and a (future) physician, so there's still a lot to learn about me. But...

I've never been so close to someone like him in which so much of my identity is automatically known.

But then, you know what happened to Gogol and Moushumi...

Hot panic, because I'm afraid, because I've never wanted this for myself, and actually kind of actively avoided it, and now it's falling into place, but at the same time this is the best thing that's ever happened to me, so I don't want to give it up, because I can't tell the future and every chance I get is my last chance...

I go prayerfully forward. We'll see how it goes...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dony! Doni! Done!

As salaam alaikum!

It's done! It's done! Yes yes yes done done done!

What's done? My story, of course!

A Rose Much Desired is done! Yayayayayayay!

I was kind of dizzy because I haven't eaten all day...not because I spent all day writing this, nor am I fasting right now. It was unwise of me to not eat in my condition wink wink ladies you know what I'm talking about wink, but I had tons of stuff to do, wanted to finish my work for my sexuality class early, cleaned my pigsty of a room while listening to Pandora, all of this stuff...and then I just decided to sit down at about 3:30pm to finish the story, now that I'd come up with an idea for the second-to-last chapter, and I just went for it. The last chapter was very quick to write, because I've known what happens in the last chapter forever, and there it was!

I was finished as of 5pm tonight. After three years (because I started writing it November 1, 2007, right?), 256 pages 10 point Verdana double spaced, 93,000-some words, the first novel that I've ever written as an adult is finished. Alhamdulillah!, for the gargantuan task of editing it...a second time. The first read through of it started in May, as I was starting my family medicine rotation. I've spent the last three or four months writing the last 40 pages or so, and now, it's done!


Editing it will take me a little bit of time, and then after I edit through it once, I'm soliciting my cousins, my mother and B to read it. B...hahaha, we'll see what he thinks of me after he reads it, but he wants to read it, so I'm like, ohhh-kay...

And then, while folks are reading it, I'll look into this publishing thing...I just want to try my hand at getting published, just once!, here's hoping I don't hate it when I read it.

I hope I can get it published so everyone who's known I was writing it can read it! Yayayay!

It's a celebration!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

[uncensored]: Self-(dis)respect

As salaam alaikum,

I don't know much what to say to this. It's a surprising thing. Being with B so far has taught me that...I guess I didn't expect myself to be respected in a relationship with men. In fact, when he didn't disrespect me, I got frustrated.

I wanted him to disrespect me! I expected it and have indeed incorporated into my conception of a man so that being with him didn't feel right, a little bit...

This all sounds very cryptic. Let me expand.

For example, one day he was walking me back to my place (where he very respectfully sees me off from the lobby of my apartment building and then walks away), and he repeatedly censored himself, I noticed. Then he mentioned that he'd started cursing more since he's been in graduate school for some reason, after he hadn't cursed before. I found this intriguing, but I informed him that he could curse if he wanted to, and he said, nah, that he doesn't really curse anyway.

I was a little put off by the fact that he didn't curse. I mean, I don't curse, either...unless no one is around. Little known secret, I can actually curse very well. I learned it from my mother, ironically, who learned it from her mother (my grandmother doesn't believe that ass and shit are curse words...ass is in the Bible and Qur'an, she says...and I guess that shit is ubiquitous). But I cannot find a reason to curse when around others...

But I wanted him to curse. Boys and men used to excuse themselves around me when they cursed around me, and I liked that for a time...then they didn't, and I came used to it. I came to actually believe that cussing around me was kind of hot. Or, if I may, it was kind of hott.

And still, he censors himself so much! He won't curse around me, although I'd almost prefer that he did.

And I was like, shit, what is this? Haha, if I may tongue-in-cheek it right now...

I realize in my expectations of his behavior, to cursing to trying to forge a physical relationship, I expected to be disrespected, and became frustrated when I'm not. I think I wanted to be the gatekeeper to his actor...I wanted to be the one to draw the line, to defend myself, to keep things (relatively) halal...but he seems intent on respecting my face and not forcing anything.

He's keeping things (relatively) halal and he's not even Muslim! What?

I'm trying to figure out where he's coming from. He doesn't curse, doesn't drink, says grace over his food, gives charity, volunteers his time, but he's not "religious?" Say what now?

And he respects me apparently more than I respect myself.

My friend, whom I talked to, said, "Yes, you deserve the best."

I was like, oh, wow, I forgot that this was supposed to be good.

It reminds me of this conversation that these older girls were having when I was in the band in high school. I was maybe 16, they were 17. They were both Catholic. The 17-year-old was saying that she didn't really aspire to marry a virgin, because she felt like guys weren't really virgins anymore. Her friend, also 17, told her that she shouldn't sell herself short, that she'd marry a virgin.

Of course, me at 16 was thinking, why would you want to marry a virgin? Wouldn't you rather have someone with experience so you wouldn't be both inexperienced people? In my mind, I actually preferred that the guy wasn't a virgin.

And I think that was just the beginning of this curious pattern of what I guess is self-disrespect.

I guess I expect a guy to be loud and boisterous, curse a lot, have happy hands that I have to bat away, someone I have to physically push away, repeatedly tell no...someone who is stubborn, who has his own agenda, his own direction, and expects me to come along for the ride, with me being the regulator...

But I guess I'm supposed to want a man to be even mannered, to censor himself around me, to restrain himself around me and respect my space and my pace, someone who is considerate and takes my opinion into account as we travel together though this part of life, both of us actors and self-regulators...

I have to get used to this!

...seriously, it's hard for me. It's not that I have any doubt about how he feels about me, but...I think I'm just the product of a society in which women are disrespected on the regular, and some of us have come to anticipate it and enjoy it. Is it adaptive? I don't know.

I don't know...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Realization and Sexuality

As salaam alaikum,

First, this, the translation I remember my mother reciting:

By (the token of) time (through the ages),
Verily man is in loss,
Except for such as have faith, do righteous deeds,
and (join together) in the mutual teaching of truth
and of patience and constancy.
- Al-'Asr, A. Yusuf Ali

I made a realization that I've made many times before. I can't live this life alone. I can't live Islam as I see fit without a partner at least, without a community. The Qur'an and Sunnah provided us information on how to live together as Muslims, not on how to be an isolated Musilm in a secular community and society. I've stressed so much about this and wonder why things were so hard sometimes, but this is it. The nature of our realities on this earth is that we are products of our environment arriving to Allah (swt) at the end of it all by his grace alone, but there are means and agents of this process. Why else is it important for us to build strong communities except for us to come together and help guide each other? Because looking out at the world of Muslims today, a lot of us need guidance...and I'm not talking about guidance on frivolous things on which so many of us are unfortunately fixated. There are bigger fish to fry!

I often feared that I wasn't being a proper Muslimah, that I wasn't living up to a proper moral standard within Islam, but I realize that if I'm not interacting with other Muslims, many of those standards are virtually meaningless (not before Allah (swt), of course, but in social dealings). I realized that in the Dominican Republic, when I was the only Muslim in the region I lived in. I wore hijab. When I walked down the street, it meant nothing to the men. I was cat-called or harassed as much as the women in my group who wore their capri pants and tank tops, although I was also called Maria on occasion because of the misperception that I was a nun.

This is not me resigning myself or anything, it's just a realization. Islam makes the most sense in at least a partnership or a community context, as a means of governance of human relationships. It encourages faith as a group enterprise. It's not a magical thing that jammah salat is important...praying in a community of like-minded individuals, coming together united like that takes on greater meaning than always praying alone. I know...I usually pray alone.

Where did this come from? I was reading for my Sexuality and Public Health class (hundreds of pages of reading weekly, ladies and gents!), and I just made a realization. I was reading about social constructionism, that operates on the assumption that reality is a social construct. Extrapolating that to attraction and sexual orientation as the article was, it is impossible to segregate whatever biological meanings these two elements may have because they take on distinct meanings depending on one's culture. While an evolutionary theorist (or an essentialist) would posit that there are natural forms of attraction or sexual orientation (very Platonic of them), a social constructionist would argue that these two things are influenced by social circumstance.

For example, in some cultures, romantic love does not exist. They also gave the example of a culture where males are initiated into sexual activity with men only, get married and continue sexual activity with men while having sex with their wife, but are expected to only have sex with their wife after the birth of their first child. In this culture, there is no conception of homosexuality (which I tend to shy away from such declarative statements of what does and does not exist in one culture unless I am actually a part of said culture).

Anyway, with all of this...I thought of something I often say. I often say that our reality on this earth is actually our realities, and they are subjective. Even so, I believe in a singular reality of things, which is reflected in my belief in Islam. I believe that we each live separate realities in our heads, though these realities may be close matches in certain contexts (cultural and religious), they're all unique. There is a singular reality, a singular truth to all things. Some approach this Truth with theory, some with worship, some with both. Some ignore it for the sake of the reality of this life.

The article was trying to argue that an essentialist view and a social constructionist view were mutually exclusive, but I think it depends on how you define these terms and what elements of life you apply them to. For example, I am essentialist in the sense that I believe that elements of sentiment on this earth, such as mercy, truth, etc. are reflections of the more perfect forms of these attributes that are Allah (swt). Do I apply essentialism to attraction? No. I am social constructionist when it comes to those things.

For example, for my roommate, romantic love is not romantic love but sexual desire given the name love. For me, romantic love is not romantic love but the elation of imagining oneself married to a potential spouse, spending the rest of your life with them, having children, what the children will be like, etc. My roommate has no schema for this.

My view of romantic love is a reality for me, a subjective reality but a reality. It was formed by living in a society in which romantic love exists, and I'm influenced by that. But, being a Muslimah, it is unacceptable to me to place the cognitive meaning of romantic love on sexual desire as my roommate did. I wouldn't, after all, want to marry someone if I was influenced by that type of romantic love! So instead, I placed romantic love on another cognitive attribute...the desire to marry, spend the rest of my life with, and raise children with...whomever. It is not sexual desire...I've heard Muslims before equate sexual desire with the desire to marry, which I think is just as problematic (though not inherently wrong, just problematic) as equating romantic love with sexual desire.

I think what people define as love is different. It may be a mainstream US thing to equate some part of sexual desire with romantic love. As an American Muslim, I took my two paradigms (or three paradigms, if you include my black subculture) and that is how I define romantic love. It's based on finding one who understands, who you can talk to about anything, who is caring, compassionate...basically a bunch of characteristics that would also make a good husband. Romantic love for me is this growing realization that you could marry this person and the wonder of spending the rest of your life with another person, growing to know them and fit your life with them.

Sex...I usually have a hard time imagining sex. My roommates find this perplexing. Social constructionist theory also argues that sexuality is a social construct. Since my social influence is not strictly US culture, but also draws from my upbringing and my immersion in Islam...yeah, I can see that. People in my class would see my state as unnatural (abstinence), but really, sexuality as one experiences it is not a universal experience. People are interestingly egocentric when it comes to that...but I never assumed my sexuality was universally experienced by most other women, so it's surprising to me that other people believe so...

Anyway...I'm taking this class because sexual and reproductive health are my favorite topics ever, so yes...the theory behind these things is interesting. We'll see if I'm able to apply anything back to the clinic and wards...

Time to catch the shuttle in the midst of this Nor'easter!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

And now, for something completely different...


And it's not a man with three buttocks!

Only my favorite cartoon when I was a kid (about 6-8 years old). Having a major saudade fest right now! Disney used to make quality children's programming. I don't even know what kids watch these days.

Sound Off! and In Other News

As salaam alaikum,

In my Sexuality and Public Health class, there are a couple of people intent on bashing Islam. One of my friends, also Muslim (and Nigerian!) had to stand up and defend. We have a new addition to our class, an Arab Christian lady who was the main culprit...the ridiculous things that she said were in the Qur'an! I mean, come on! You want to talk about the evil things that Musilms have done in the communities you know of, fine. I don't deny these things, I condemn them along with you. Am I comfortable with only negative examples of Muslims being shared in this faux-liberal class? No, but I'm also not comfortable with the fact that Muslims around the world are doing ignorant things, not only to others but to themselves and within their own communities, own homes such that those who will have things to voice about, noise about, fodder to bash an entire group of people based on the activities of a loud minority...

Terrorism is the obvious thing to condemn, and I believe most of us here (in the US) condemn it readily. People who say that we don't obviously do not personally know Muslims or follow any Muslim media sources, and don't care to. Others of us recognize and condemn other things. My pet issue to noise about in the past has been racism, but there are others...women's rights, for example. With the racism argument, I've encountered the defense that Muslims are humans, too, and make mistakes. I mean, obviously, but I believe that we have as much of a duty to speak out against and to inform ourself about injustices within our physical and imagined umam as we have a duty to defend injustice against us, to be chartible to one another, and all else. I believe that without the former the latter is incomplete.

People who will would find a way to bash Muslims even if evil and ignorance were being committed by 100 Muslims. There are upwards of 1.7 billion of us on this earth right now, and if as many of us were backwards as they want the public to believe, this whole place would be a greater chaos state than it is now...if I may reduce the world to a state. I despise those who, in the name of Islam, perpetuate ignorance and spread their evil works and besmirch the image of my religion, who massacre my brothers and sisters in Islam and otherwise make it harder for other Muslims to live on this earth. I despise them more, actually, than most of those in my faux-liberal class who so readily speak ill of my religion while knowing nothing about it.

Activists are sometimes funny people. They are very reactionary and use the word agency a lot. They think they are liberal but really they can be as narrow-minded as conservatives are, just on the other side of the argument. Oh liberal actvitist, you don't have the market cornered on the best way to live life and conceptualize future. To believe that you do is a type of cultural imperalism not unlike that which you would decry in the history classes about the various European colonization efforts that you may have taken in your liberal arts institutions.

Yes, hello. I am a Muslim woman. I find it funny, oh classmates, that you see abstinence as unnatural and restrictive so universally, but I'll let you have that one. But I also find it funny that you think you're so liberal in your effort to have language inclusive for people of all sexual orientations and gender identifications, but you adopt language and ideals that is not inclusive of those who choose to be more conservative with their sex, for whatever reason.

But I guess inclusivity of more conservative modes of thought is not most people's definition of liberal. I guess I was under the false assumption that being liberal meant being more open-minded, more inclusive, more accepting of differences in thought. Oops!

In other news...

An annonymous donor has contributed $30 million dollars to Harvard Medical School for primary care, and that has gone toward a new center of primary, because there's not been one before, and months ago, the primary care budget was cut at Harvard, leading to an understandable unrest amongst our primary care activists. The announcement came in an email from Dean Flyer shortly after the announcement about the expansion of the immunology program, something that I'm also excited about because, personally, the immune system is my favorite system of the body (yes, actually not the reproductive system!). But this is awesome. I'm excited to see what comes about in my next year and a half at the medical school in terms of primary care and see it's implications for family medicine.

Also, after discussing with the roommates whether "in love" existed [which I think is a moot argument, kind of, in the way that they were having said that the feelings existed, but in love, as in romantic love, doesn't exist, while love for family and friends is the only love that exists...I could write a whole entry about how my conceptions of love have changed over time, but yeah, that's not what this about], I went to sleep and, like a fool, had a dream about B. B, being the man that he is, neglected to tell me that when he was leaving this weekend, he wouldn't be back Friday!

And I didn't see him at all after going to the Djavan concert with him (in which, admittedly, I kind of wish I could have gone alone and pretended I was Brazilian, since I can now speak Portuguese without a sotaque), because he was working on his poster.

But a whole week...d'oh! Why did you think that was okay to tell me at the last minute...we may just be friends+, but my friends tell me their plans, I expect the same of a friends+.

So then, after waxing philosophical about love and the term "romantic love"...I had a dream about him last night. I had a dream that I was in my apartment with friends, and I went to the kitchen where my roommates were, and there he was. And I ran up to him and hugged him, asked him what he was doing here. I excused the place being a sty (which it is right now), and he said that he didn't care. However, there were tampon wrappers and tampons around the living room that I tried to discreetly pick up (okay, so the apartment in real life is not that stray tampons, mainly just papers from school). He told me that for the conference, the hotel cost more than him just commuting back and forth by bus, so he decided to come back home and commute daily (makes no sense in the dream, either, because the hotel room was supposedly only $50 and the commute on the bus was $6 round trip...I've been watching too much "Mad Men.")

So I introduced him to all of my friends, which included one of my roommates friends (who we visited last night in the upstairs boys apartment) and a bunch of other random Asians, including this girl from my sexuality class, an undergraduate at The College (hahaha, if I may). We watched this movie on the small tube television in our living room.

It became late, and one of my roommates suggested that B stay over. She then, as I imagine she would do in real life, suggest that he stay in my room. I objected, which for some reason involved me making acting out an upper case sigma with my body, at which B laughed. That was the part of the dream that made the least making the sigma. That's biostats coming into my head, and the fact that I have an upcoming biostats exam.

I woke up and laughed at myself. That was a perfectly ridiculous dream.

Yesterday was my roommate's birthday. We went out with her parents to Fire and Ice, this restaurant downtown very much like BD's (Mongolian Barbecue) at home. It was fun. It was great seeing her parents...seeing where one comes from makes a lot of sense. And they paid...that was awesome.

But speaking of which, back to working out for me! I've had too much free food in the last month, too little exercise. Time to start it back up before my weight creeps back up.

Anyway...I just remembered a song my mother used to listen to that I haven't thought of in years. Wow...I don't know why I just thought of this. I think I'm in that sentimental mood right now...gah, I forgot how this feels!

{Currently listening: Brandy (I Really Miss You) - O'Jays}

Oh man! Adoro.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

My Cousin in Hijab

As salaam alaikum,

I was just cruising facebook before I went to sleep to see that Deval Patrick was re-elected...then I checked Michigan's results and saw that Bernero was not elected. Although I tend to vote pretty strictly Democrat because I've never been impressed with various Republican's platforms in terms of their stance on poverty and disparities and issues that effect the working class, including black people...I didn't have time to form strong opinions in this election. I think I would have been better off registering to vote in Massachusetts instead of holding on to my Michigan residence.

[I realize that I never vote for the candidate who has my specific interests at heart...because seriously, my parents are upper middle class, I'm about to be a greatest plight would be taxation. I always vote for the candidate that will do the most for "my" community and my patients. Honestly, few candidates fully fit these interests of mine...]

My permanent residence is still listed as my parent's home, even though at this point I live in my apartment in Boston more than I live at home, ever since medical school. I don't in a place for 22 years of your life, you kind of have the feeling you'll be back, and it was such a big part of you, you don't want to give it up...something.

Anyway, I was cruising down, seeing a picture of a friend who I think was trying to look like a South Asian Don Draper (I love Mad Men, by the way...that show a little bit genius), I saw a picture of one of my cousins. She was wearing a scarf.

My cousin was donning hijab.

At first, my breathing arrested. I was surprised and a little bit concerned. But then, I just had to smile. I don't know if she was just taking the picture for facebook of her in hijab or if she's going to become a muhajaba for real,'s a good look. I like it.

Of all of my cousins who are Muslim or Muslim-leaning, she would be the only one besides me to ever observe hijab, only the second of our generation. Of my mother's generation, she and my eldest aunt had done hijab, though my aunt still does, and my grandmother still does, somewhat, although the scarf has not been simplified to this little black turban she used to wear around the house.

If she is actually donning hijab, I will definitely offer my support and congratulations on making the decision. I don't feel any pangs about it, you know, in terms of me not wearing the scarf any longer. I don't feel pangs because I know that my chosing not to wear the scarf is not a permanent decision, and knowing that I don't regret having worn the scarf when I did. I think it'll be a wonderful experience for my cousin...whether or not men or a man is in the picture...

So it was the surprise for the evening. After that, one of my classmates, who's currently doing a rotation in South Africa, caught me on Gchat. I spent all evening twisting my hair (it took 7 hours, essentially from 5pm to midnight), which is quite a time investment but it saves me from the grief of grooming an afro and keeping it hydrated, which usually means major shedding...but yeah. She says we should set up a phone date later...that sounds good.

So nothing really in particular to comment on. I just really liked seeing my cousin hijab. I think it was important for me, too, many of my cousins are nominal Muslims or not-there-yet Muslims, but besides some of my male cousins, none of the females were practicing, really, except for me. So now, even though we're in different states and probably will not see each other for months or years at a time, I don't feel as lonely in my family.

Anyway, I'm sleepy.