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.

Of Sleepless Nights and Anxious Messes

It’s four in the morning. I have been in bed for four hours, now. I can’t sleep. My anxiety is approaching an all-time high, and it feels like there’s a hole inside me that’s sucking up all the air I am trying to breathe before it gets to my lungs.

I’m exhausted, but not sleepy. I want to rest and forget everything, but my brain is buzzing. The only things contaminating my mind are the memories that remind me of all the reasons my life is so hard. And unfair. And just painful.

And I realize how juvenile it sounds. It’s as if I am a fifteen-year-old drama queen. I have so much to be thankful for–I know that. I know that I have so much to be thankful for, but that doesn’t make all the terrible things more bearable, and if you don’t believe me, I will list them for you. I will let you form your own opinion, as you read on.

I have Type 1 diabetes. I am epileptic. I wear flats in the dead winter, because shoes induce seizures. My memory is slowly wasting away because of my medications. I am fat. I am not pretty. I am not particularly smart. I am aromantic and asexual in a world that does not accept asexuality as a reality. I’m being dragged in the direction of marriage, and I am too deep inside the closet to protest it at all. I am alone in this, because not one person in my life has any of these problems. Not one. It’s just me, myself, and anxiety, and I’m struggling more than I can possibly explain.

I can’t breathe. I’m losing my mind. Even the things I’ve been told my entire life that I am good at have just led me to fall flat on my face. I’m a student at NYU. I’ve got that going for me. Hurrah for plan C, since A and B failed so tremendously. I don’t really want to be a therapist. I just failed at being a journalist, tanked my chances at becoming a writer, and needed something to do with my life.

And the worst part of all of this is, I am alone in a way that I can’t possibly explain. I am an anxious, depressed mess who covers it poorly with humor and sarcasm.

And for once, I’m not just being melodramatic. I’m quite literally seizing my days away.

And to fix this, I wrote a book loosely based on these experiences in a fictional story-line. Of course, my self-esteem is far too low for me to try to publish it.

I didn’t want to keep whining on here, but I can’t seem to stop.

Hend Salah–fucking up everything since 1991.

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.

Speak up. Say Something. Who are you afraid of?

Robert Frost once said, “Half the world is composed of people who want to say something and can’t, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it.”

Restraints come in many different forms. They can be fear of consequences, judgments, tomorrow, society. They can be physical binds and emotional trauma. They can be rational, irrational or even a bit of both. The first half of the world is terrorized by entities it cannot capture, for often, they exist only in our minds.

We are terrified of missteps, cautious of embarrassment, weary of others and anxious of “x.”

And every so often, binds that we create for ourselves lead us to the very precipice of insanity. We drive ourselves to devastated mental states. It has created the possibility of concurrent existence of sanity and insanity; We function as normal human beings, not outwardly struggling in physical or “literal” aspects of our lives, but when we lay down to sleep, silence is deafening. We can’t be alone with ourselves, because we are plagued with memories and thoughts that we suppress during the day. We analyze every word we have said until everything disintegrates into total nonsense and our regrets intensify.

What we are afraid to say plays over and over in our minds until we fall into nightmares or fail to sleep completely.

And nothing is worth it. No one has power over you unless you give it to them.

Speak up. Say it. Say something. Who are you afraid of? Break the chains, so that when you lay down to sleep at night, you don’t wonder what could have happened.

And if it backfires, learn to forgive yourself. No one matters but you. It will hurt. I cannot promise immediate solace, but it will fade if you let it.

I basically admitted to being asexual to my father, yesterday. It was an absolutely horrible experience, and it made me feel like complete and total trash. He wasn’t at all mean. At least, not intentionally, but it was just not good. I agreed to things I should not have agreed to.

Oh, and this was two hours into my birthday. I’m officially 25 years old.

I do not regret it, because I am not ashamed of who I am.

No one should ever be. Speak up. Say something. Who are you afraid of?

The 80 Million Killers of Kissing

Let me begin by saying that I do not have an issue with people’s sexuality. Who am I to tell anyone what they can or cannot do? Whatever floats your boat, go for it. You get in there and close the deal, if that’s what you want to do.

However, distracting diligent disclaimers aside, I really do think kissing is nauseating in the most unfortunate of ways. It isn’t about being aro/ace. Think about all the bacteria that’s being exchanged during that interaction. You are quite literally opening yourself up to another person, whose mouth may have been places that could make your stomach turn.

According to Time Magazine, 80 million bacteria can spread from just ten seconds of kissing. The human tongue is really not the cleanest kid in the playground that is your body.

Sex is not the only way sicknesses can spread. We talk to our kids about STDs all the time, but mouth-to-mouth resuscitation for the sake of pleasure is not exactly the cleanest activity either, especially if we’re putting a French twist on the game.

In fact, your sexual organs are cleaner than your mouth. If you and your partner have tested negative for sexually transmitted diseases and keep everything covered and safe, you might actually be better off jumping over first base and taking it straight to home plate.

Kids should be informed of the implications of all activities that involve the exchange of body fluids. Preaching abstinence is not sufficient. Talking VD is not sufficient. Lay it all on the table. Bring the banana. Bring balloons. Bring puppets.

Okay, puppets may be a bit creepy. Nix the puppets idea.

Anyway, the next time you think about swapping spit with someone, I hope you remember this post and skip right to sex, instead.

Just kidding.

Sort of.

Cracking Open the Closet Door: Being 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 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 an asexual actually is, I have zero sexual attraction to people, regardless of gender.

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 didn’t talk to any of them. I just told my friends. 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. In my head, I figured, “This is obviously a Muslim girl in 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 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. My parents would introduce me to someone, I would give it a shot, and then find a reason not to go through with a marriage. 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 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, gay 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 asexual 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.

I Got this Icebox Where my Heart Used to Be

Perhaps my least favorite thing to do in the world is have an emotional conversation. I am a firm believer in the idea that one’s feelings should be bottled up unhealthily in the least pervasive a way as possible. I use “pervasive” because our society dictates that, in order to be a normally functioning human being, you should express your feelings.

Of course, my beliefs in this particular case are severely contrary to everything I have learned from graduate studies in applied psychology, but I am completely comfortable with the deviation.

I simply think it’s situational.

It isn’t always therapeutic to talk about your feelings. In fact, it is actually semi-traumatic, for me. It makes me uncomfortable for long periods of time, and I continue to replay the conversation in my mind. I am not the only person who feels this way.

Having emotional discussions symbolizes that you have taken a pledge of trust toward the person you are talking to. You have to have faith that the person in front of you is not going to pass judgment. This person is not going develop an opinion on your problem. He or she is simply going to listen.

And that is simply impossible.

Everyone in the world judges, perhaps some more than others. It takes a certain kind of obliviousness, or even recklessness, to disregard this and just open your heart to another creature. It is also very unlikely that the other person has profound insight that would be altogether helpful, anyway.

This is not to discourage anyone from opening up if this is what would be helpful to them personally, but I cannot bring myself to believe that it is a suitable solution for the entirety of the masses.

Then again, I’ve been told that I’ve got a block of ice where my heart should be, so what do I know?