Dear White People: Labels, Labels, Labels

Watching controversial shows like Netflix Original ‘Dear White People’ has an extreme tendency to spark up a case of the fairly fluctuating fickle feels. One issue that has risen above the fold that I am inversely besotted to is the argument for and against “labels.”

Now, let’s get this straight: Subscribing to labels isn’t necessarily a juxtaposition to being independent and unique, and the opposite is also true. However, we can’t choose to refrain from being clad with specific labels if we don’t know we don’t understand which we would belong to if we did. If we are, we are simply following the newest trend of our society: It’s not cool to subscribe to anything but magazines.

Think Schrödinger’s Cat; The cat is in the box, but you have no idea if the cat is dead or alive unless you open the box. On a much, much smaller scale, we also cannot decide whether the labels really personify us until we actually explore them–i.e open the box.

So let’s talk labels. There are an ash ton of them floating around just south and north of the equator, but let’s simplify the list to our trending top three: sexuality, race, and gender.

Sexuality: an overarching umbrella. In its most basic family tree, you have your heterosexual, homosexual, and (perhaps arguably) asexual. But it gets complicated. You’ve got your Kinsey sixes, Kinsey threes, and just plain old Kinsey ones. You’ve got your zeros and you’ve got your fluids. Good luck counting them.

Next, race. You’ve got your classic black/white/hispanic hushed segregated system, but what happens when you’re biracial? Do you belong to two labels or have you created one of your own? Perceptions are everything.

Finally, there’s gender. You’ve got your cis, your trans, and your androgynous. The list goes on there too, but you belong to one of them, and you can’t escape that.

So, I would be an aromantic asexual Muslim Arab-American cisgender female.

These are labels that I cannot change.

And if we’re getting into the even more detailed form of my personal category, then I am an aromantic asexual epileptic diabetic Muslim Arab-American arguably marginally sociopathic cisgender female with an oppositional defiance issue and ADD.

That is a hell of a category, and those are a lot of labels. I carry each and every one of them, just like everyone else.

The only one I refuse to validate is “heteronormative.” Absolutely not.

Point is, believing that you do not subscribe to any epithets and are simply a unique, kindred spirit is nothing more than a delusion. You are branded by many individual labels. You are simply a compilation of them all.

Yes, you are you, and that is truer than true. Sure, there’s no one around, who’s you-er than you.

But that’s not what the cool kids say.

#DrSeuss

Bet Your Bottom Dollar You’ll Lose the Blues in Chicago

I had the audacity to take a weekend trip to Chicago with some friends to see my brother. I anticipated a long drive, plenty of rest stops, and shit ton of money spent on gas.

What I did not anticipate was the fact that I would have a terrible fucking time, because I am legitimately stupid. I went to Chicago with two married couples, only to meet up with my brother, who is engaged.

Three couples, and me.

I should have known that things were going to take a very ugly turn when we were all getting ready. All the women in the apartment were busy putting on a shit ton of make-up, primping and bedazzling like they were on an America’s Next Top Model challenge.

It was like watching an ant farm. Three girls scurrying about, taking out curlers and liners and other objects I didn’t recognize. I truly didn’t understand why they were doing this. It didn’t change very much. They didn’t look any different, and all of them were already beautiful.

And as we took our first class-trip into the heart of Chitown for eighth class seats at Lolapalooza, my aro-ace anxiety hit me like a rusted freight train off its rails. They were all walking in pairs; Each guy had his arm around his girl, and I was just walking in the back all by myself. I was now officially intruding on couple’s night, and it fucking sucked. It was a mild representation of what my life is actually like: people pairing up around me, and me taking my phone for a walk.

What’s even worse, it was also a reminder that one day I might have to be like them, because I have to get married. I’m going to be stuck doing things like that, because he won’t have a clue what he fucking married.

It wasn’t resentment toward them. I was getting extremely anxious, and I couldn’t hide that with anything other than anger. I wasn’t mad that they had left me on my own. I love being on my own. I just couldn’t mask the anxiety any other way, and they bought it hook, line, and sinker. We turned it into a joke and went on about our business.

But then we got home, and every girl was in her guy’s arms, and I was sitting on my own, again. It’s not like I can be upset with them over it; They’re married and happy. There’s no reason they should disguise their love because I am disgustingly abnormal. The only thing keeping me grounded was my friend back on the East Coast, who was texting me the entire time. Even after everyone had slept, she was miraculously not tired, and we stayed up until 4 a.m. talking and messing around.

But she had to go to bed, eventually. She had work the next day. I was alone in the dark, now. I couldn’t ignore the anxiety anymore, and since there were people all over the apartment sleeping, I had to sit in the bathroom with the light off, music in my ears and trying not to cry.

How disgustingly pathetic is that?

I had zero reason to react that way. I had a panic attack because I was walking by myself among people who clearly just wanted to be with each other. So what? Why am I so uncomfortable being so ridiculously different, even after all these years? I am twentyfuckingfive.

People shouldn’t have to edit their lives just because I’m a mess. They can’t act differently around me simply because I might fall apart.

But I don’t think I can take this, anymore.

Never, ever again. Single friends only.

Time to get the hell out of Chicago.

Fuck off, Sinatra.

Ace Ventura: Beard Detective

Is it terrible to make someone your beard without telling them? Is there any situation in which it isn’t totally unethical to basically use someone to protect yourself?

I’m dating someone I don’t want to date to keep my parents off my back about getting married and protect myself from being exposed as a flaming asexual. The Ace gene can’t be spilled to an Arab family.

That’s therapy. Immediately.

Well, full disclosure, I’m technically engaged to him, and he has no clue that I have no interest in marrying him or that he’s just a beard. He thinks he’s in a hopeless love story, and I want him the way he wants me.

I know how awful it sounds, but aren’t there exceptions? I mean this guy isn’t exactly great. He’s basically thousand dollars in debt and just keeps taking out more loans to pay back those loans and then doesn’t pay those back either. He’s taken money from me and my father and hasn’t returned it. He has a job, but doesn’t go. He’s stubborn, a loose cannon, and immature. And also, my friends hate him.

I would feel horrible making anyone else a beard.

Him, not so much.

Is that so wrong?

Baby We Had a Good Thing Going

There are some days in which standing up for yourself is almost entirely impossible, in which being who you are outwardly is unacceptable in your most basic moral code, in which you find yourself in the presence of people who can strip you of every powerful wall you’ve built between yourself and reality.

I went to visit an old woman who I love just as I love my own grandmother. She is among the kindest and most well-intentioned people in my life, and for this reason, I held my tongue and let her say whatever she wanted to say, even though I was having a nervous breakdown inside.

I recently broke up with a guy who is a close family friend to both hers and my own family. I finally ended the relationship, as I should have a very long time ago, but it hasn’t sat well with anyone around me. According to them, I was throwing away a blessing. How could I just let someone who was so in love with me go?

And I watched her as she went on and on about how I might not get another shot at someone like this, and how I could have control over him and what he does if I just take him back. She told me that I might not find anyone, and then eventually end up with someone abusive. She noted that I was not perfect, and should never expect to find someone who is.

Now, how do you tell someone who has no concept of asexuality that you are ar-ace? You can’t. Instead, you listen to her tell you all the different reasons you screwed up. Instead, you let everyone in the room tell you that you’re throwing your life away. Instead, you sit down, shut up, and wish you had an explanation anyone would accept.

Instead, you wait until you go home to think about how goddamn selfish you were to date him to begin with.

Cracking Open the Closet Door: Being Aro-Ace and Muslim

I am not entirely sure how to start this. Introductions are high on my list of horrors, finding themselves ranked above my pesky pigeon plight and just under the frankly fearsome fate of failing if I try to publish, again.

Forgive me. I resort to humor when I am uncomfortable. Allow me to turn off my taciturnity toward this tediously troublesome topic and return readily to my rattling rhetoric.

Okay. That was my last one. Promise. I’ll just get right to it.

This is my personal tell-all on how I pretended not to be aromantic and gray-asexual for the entirety of my life, displayed on the internet for all who do not know me to see.

Because no one I know goes on my website. Ever. This is our little secret, internet.

Just a little background on what aromantic and gray-asexual mean–at least in my case. As an aromantic, I have no desire to be in a romantic relationship. As a gray-asexual, I have no sexual attraction to people, regardless of gender. I can be sexually aroused, but not by someone else. People who are gray-asexual are considered to be on the asexuality spectrum.

I was raised by Muslim, Middle Eastern parents. My entire life, I was told that my future consisted primarily of three things: going to school, making something of myself, and starting a family of my own–kids, husband, the works. That last one was not an afterthought. It was important both culturally and religiously, and I never doubted that.

I still do not.

On a trip down memory lane, one could see little me growing up completely different than literally everyone else. I was weird. People commented on it openly. They said it to me; They said it to my parents; They said it to almost everyone who knew me. It was never a positive thing.

My parents were very loving and supportive. I was their daughter and that was me, and they loved me. I have always been absolutely terrified of disappointing them, because everything I have, they gave me without a second thought.

Growing up, I had a ton of friends, but I felt extremely isolated. I didn’t fit in. I didn’t get the things other girls liked and they didn’t get the things that I liked. I was weird, and everyone knew it. I couldn’t control that, and it was hard. You try being one of those kids who know that they are complete deviations from the norm, all by their lonesome, not really sure what to do about it. So, I clung to at least one thing that would make me the same as everyone else: crushes.

I had crushes on the most random boys; I had nothing in common with them at all, but all I needed was to fit in, so anyone fit the bill. I had to start faking it since elementary school, and I got very, very good at it as I grew older. I even had myself convinced:

“This is normal. This is what I am supposed to want, so this is what I want.”

It became a sort of mantra. I stopped wanting to fit in very early on, but I now understood that it was extremely important in my most basic belief system. I had to get over it. I had to get over not wanting to be with someone at all, because I had to do it eventually.

Then, I hit college, and I “fell for” my best friend at school. We hung out all the time, and I thought, “Okay. This is good. This is okay. I can deal with this.” I completely convinced myself that I had fallen for him, but the second it was about to get real, I couldn’t take it. I ran. I screwed up and did some idiotic things. I remained attached to him because I was still obsessing about my screw ups. In my head, I figured, “This is obviously love, right? It has to be.”

It wasn’t. It was me, once again trying to convince myself that I was just like everyone else. I wanted this. I wanted him, so clearly I did not have an aversion to having a relationship. I even had my friends convinced that I was truly into him, and the lie got so out of control that I had to tell even more lies to cover up that lie. I couldn’t admit it, but I was too terrified to even contemplate the possibility of the truth, let alone tell someone else.

After that, I went through guy after guy. It became a cycle. I’ll give him the time of day, I’ll have “won” him, and then I’ll come up with any reason to high-tail it out of the relationship as if my feet were on fire.

I had–and still have–everyone completely convinced that it isn’t that I don’t want a romantic relationship of some kind, but rather, I have too tangled a mess of commitment issues to stick to one guy. I welcomed that label. It was served to me on a silver platter. I was not aromantic or gray-asexual. I was afraid of commitment. It was perfect.

I have lied so many times to so many people, because I couldn’t let one soul know that I was this much of an anomaly. I have always known that stepping out from under my fairly comfortable invisibility cloak would go one of three ways: people would think I’m either lying, completely screwed up beyond human comprehension or that I still haven’t met “the right person.”

Not one of those possibilities was appealing in any way.

And I was right. I told someone very close to me, and I regret it whole-heartedly. I am positive that she thinks I am confused or lying.

It might not seem like a big deal, but I struggled with this for the vast majority of my life.Being aromantic and Muslim is several degrees of hard, because even though there is nothing that mandates that I must get married or “I’m going to get it,” marriage is too fundamental to just ignore.

I am a girl who will get married because she has to get married, not because she wants to.

I will stay in my tiny little closet, making no noise and pretending I don’t exist.

That is my burden to bear.

Immediately regret telling her. I think she thinks I’m lying or that it isn’t a big deal.
It is a big deal. It’s a huge deal. I’m Arab and Muslim. The concept of marriage–regardless of who the person is–is a HUGE deal. You have to get married. That’s it. Being aromantic is horrible when you haven’t got a choice.
What the hell was I thinking, telling someone? Never again.

I opened the closet door just a crack and told my friend that I’m aromantic, today. Sure, I bitched out and just threw it in the middle of conversation and moved on to the subject of pizza to avoid talking about it, but I did it, didn’t I?

Don’t you judge my pansiness.
Don’t take away my victory.
At least I said it.
#NoRomo