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.

Tales of Thievery and Extortion

There once was a girl who decided that she would spend a few of her vacation days at her parents’ house in New Jersey. During these few days, an old friend came to visit, and she spent the night in the house. They had not had an overnight guest for quite some time, and they all had a gay old good time. The guest left the next morning, leaving the girl in a peaceful sleep.

When the girl woke up, her mother asked her if she had seen a substantial amount of money that she had left above the microwave. The girl told her she hadn’t, and then went off to Shop Correct to buy herself butter of cookies. She found that purchase to be a complete mistake, but that’s another story.

Upon returning home, the girl found her mother on the phone, asking her husband if he had seen the money. Her husband explained to her that he had seen them that morning, but had not taken them.

Point is, the money was magically gone and our guest was the only one who had come in our house. Yes, our house. The sleeping girl was me. Anywho.

My mom called our guest and asked her to come over, and I hit the basement because I sincerely didn’t want to witness the throw down. Anyway, our guest denied taking it. My mom pressed, and she said no one more time, and then left in a huff.

Why am I telling this story?

I want to tell as many people as I can that it is extremely important to remember that, if evidence is circumstantial, labels and accusations are just not okay. If there are no witnesses or concrete proof that someone committed a crime, you do not have the right to play the blame game. Ask if they did it nicely. If the person says they didn’t do it, leave it.

Think about it this way. What if you were accused of doing something, even though there is no real proof that it was you, and it really wasn’t.

My parents live in a very safe suburban neighborhood. There hasn’t been crime here since we moved in when I was six, but they don’t exactly lock their doors all the time. There is always another possible explanation, always another possible underlying factor.

I have been falsely accused, before. There was evidence pointing to only me, but I really hadn’t done it, and it felt horrible.

You see, even when you are blamed for something and turn out to be innocent, the incident doesn’t disappear. If the same situation happens again, everyone will think back to the last time you were accused of this same thing and wonder if you really were indeed innocent before.

Moral of the story: just be careful what you say.

Words can hurt more than anything.

Oh, and obviously, stealing is bad, so don’t do it. Okay? Okay.

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.

Knocking People’s Hats Off

“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off – then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.”

The world is full of nasty, nasal, nefarious, nosy people who get off on other people’s misery. How we deal with them is what makes us who we are, and kudos to people who actually give a shit about that.

Let me tell you the truest thing I’ve ever come to realize:

Life sucks. It hands you lemons that are too gross to turn into lemonade. It sticks you with people you can barely stand. It punches you in the fucking gut over and over and over until you’re coughing up blood and can’t feel your face. Our world is black and white with red all over; with people telling people who they can and cannot be, and scary kids scaring kids into thinking they have a future, and parents being “parents” to the worst kin in existence without quite realizing what they’re doing to the rest of the world. There is no winning at life. There is no ultimate success. Hell, there is no glass ceiling, because that would imply that things are ultimately better on the other side. The rich are depressed, the poor starving, the middle class in a dream world they cannot accept is simply surreal, and everyone, everyone, is confused about who they really are.

There are people out there who work their asses off, and still don’t get what they want.  They jump through hoops, step over fire, run laps in the hamster wheel we happen to call life, and still don’t get what they want. So is that enough to sit back and say that it isn’t worth the work? It won’t happen, anyway, so why bother?

Let’s just sit back and Netflix until our eyes bleed and convince ourselves that we’re in this rut by choice.

Not that I have anything against Netflix, of course.

I don’t have any spectacular, ground-breaking words that will make anyone conquer their fears or jump on their horse and ride off into the sunset chasing their success.

All I know is, we are all narcissistic assholes, and those of us who aren’t, are lying.

So yeah, I feel like knocking people’s hats off. It’s not because I’m an angry old soon-to-be spinster, or because I’m the definition of sarcastic asshole, or because someone did me wrong and I’m too proud to take it and shut up.

No. I feel like knocking people’s hats off because I, myself, cannot muster enough humility to knock off my own.

We all fucked up. People suck. The sea sounds good right about now.

Personal Experience is Never a Rule

I can’t bring myself to use a silly and random title, here, and that’s because this is not a matter I want anyone to make light of.

First and foremost, I am sorry. I am sorry for all of the times I said that epilepsy and diabetes are nothing. I am sorry for every time I claimed that they were just a day in the life of a person; a struggle like any other. I am sorry for not realizing that what I have is not the same as everyone else.

To anyone who is confused, I have epilepsy and Type 1 diabetes. That means that I’m prone to seizures and that my pancreas is lazy. I have had the former for about nine years, and the latter for going on two.

I have always just dealt with it. It brought me down sometimes, but it didn’t really get in the way of my life. That’s what medicine is for. I could take care of myself, and though it was a little harder than most people, I led a (nearly) normal life; save for a few limitations here and there.

I joined these diabetes and epilepsy support groups online. For diabetes, I was really uneducated about it. I knew very, very little, because I was diagnosed only a short time ago.

And after I joined, I discovered that my life is absolutely perfect compared to many others with these disorders. There are people in the hospital every other day, people falling down in public and ending up with stitches on various body parts, people who blood sugars rock out of control despite healthy eating and correct insulin dosage, people who have thirty-minute fits and much more.

Me? I can’t wear shoes sometimes and have to avoid carbs.

Boo hoo.

Don’t take this the wrong way. My life is by no means easy, and having both is kind of a struggle sometimes, but it’s not more than I can chew.

For those of you out there who are having difficulty even living day to day, I hope that one day, you will be able to take it as lightly as I do.

I try not to, I swear, but seizures are my personal exercise. How could I ever do without those night time harlem shakes?

Dammit, Hend.