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...


  1. I see the uncertainty in your future. You are so wise and mature for your age yet I see you haven't been jaded yet.

  2. :) I still have dreams, for sure!