No, I will not be taking my hijab off for my wedding and you can’t make me

We often talk about how the hijab is viewed negatively in the Western world. But I don’t think that many people realize that discrimination against the hijab doesn’t only happen in western society. In my experience, it also occurs in my home country, Pakistan, and my own family members are a part of the problem.

My sister and I started wearing the hijab when we were 15 and 13, respectively. For us, it seemed like a natural choice since we’d spent most of our childhood in Saudi Arabia, where the hijab was mandatory. When our family in Pakistan found out we still wore the hijab after moving to Canada in our teen years, they were ecstatic. They thought it was wonderful that we chose this for ourselves and praised us for making seemingly religious choices. 

But that all changed when my sister turned 20 and someone tried to propose to her. Our mother rejected the engagement and it sparked a debate within our entire family. Most of them believed that more proposals would come her way if my sister took off her hijab. I still remember my mother arguing with our aunt who said that hijabs are only meant to look good on girls who are “white, thin, and pretty.” She thought that I was too dark and my sister was too fat, so we were ruining our prospects by sticking to our hijabs.

The worst part about all of this is that my aunt wasn’t entirely wrong. The hijab didn’t make men jump at the chance to marry us. Due to pressure from extended family members, my mother was constantly on the lookout for potential matches for my sister. But every guy who approached would run away just as fast once he heard that she wouldn’t be taking her hijab off for him. 

After a while, my sister did it. She found a guy who seemed accepting of who she was and agreed to marry him after a year. Suddenly, the tune the family was singing changed, but not for the better. Everyone asked if she’d be taking her hijab off for the wedding and discussing how beautiful she would look in this or that hairdo. They tried to talk my mother into making my sister buy lehengas, which would show off her midriff and arms. This completely goes against the very purpose of wearing a hijab.

To reach a compromise with my family, I nominated myself as my sister’s makeup artist and hairstylist for the wedding day and began experimenting with different hijab styles. We naively thought that if we could show them that the hijab could be dolled up, they would accept her decision. They did not. In the end, when the engagement was broken off, they simply returned to their earlier comments about taking off the hijab to score a husband.

The sheer amount of criticism that came with all this has my sister unsure about whether she ever wants to have a wedding, let alone one in Pakistan with our family. It hurt to watch my sister try and deal with the harsh judgment and then come to realize that her opinions hold no value in our community. It hurts more to think that other Pakistani brides might have to put up with the same level of harassment all over one headscarf

My sister was always much more staunch in her love of the hijab. Truth be told, I started wearing it on the condition that it would be pink and glittery. If you asked me just two years back, I might have given in to the family pressure and agreed to take off my hijab for my wedding.

Yet, knowing the struggle and judgment that comes with making a choice has given me an appreciation for the fact that it was a choice. However petty my reason is, it is my choice to put on the hijab, and I will be damned if I let someone else try to make decisions about my body and my attire for that one day in my life.

Now I can say with confidence that I will not be taking my hijab off for my wedding.

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Life Stories Weddings

Being engaged for two months made me realize I don’t want a marriage

The idea of marriage and a wedding was never a question of if, but when. I grew up in a fairly conservative Pakistani household and I was very close to my mother. She has been my idol for all of my life, and I have wanted to live up to the image of the amazing woman who raised me. She came from a complicated family background, but she put her all into giving my siblings and me a stable upbringing and all the opportunities we could ever ask for. Somewhere along the way, I decided that she was the kind of person I needed to grow up to be, a kind-hearted mother who loves her children. Getting married and having children seemed like the future I should work towards, the ultimate goal in a way. 

But of course, it didn’t end there. I grew up, like many young women, in love with Disney princess movies. Something about the fairytale stories of a young woman meeting a dashing prince, going on these fantastical adventures before ending with a huge, magical wedding just spoke to me. I spent most of my life believing in these dreams, thinking somehow that marriage and children would be the big thing I strived towards. 

When my older sister received her first proposal, she was scared. She was concerned if they would be a good fit as a couple and worried over all these details of their life together that I couldn’t even understand. If anything, I was excited for her. This was it, her big wedding! I couldn’t care less about who he was as a person. I went ahead and planned all the details for her potential wedding. I pulled out all the stops for this supposed wedding, despite the fact that she never agreed to the engagement, and later went on to reject his proposal. I still have the document I typed up with pictures and wedding details. Each time some other guy came to propose to my sister, I would pull it out and add to it.

As the younger daughter, I’m not expected to get engaged or married until my older sister does. Add to that the fact that I was a med school hopeful for most of my time at university, and everyone assumed that I would not marry until later in life. I was fine with living vicariously through my sister until then.

Then at 22, I accidentally ended up engaged. It was a stupid move, and every friend I spoke to tried to warn me against it, but I didn’t care. In my family, an engagement is essentially the dating period. We don’t ever enter a relationship without the intention of marriage. But even considering that, this engagement was pretty casual. He was a friend of a friend. He didn’t even live close enough for the two of us to visit or meet up. In fact, during the two months of the relationship, I never once met him in person. We just talked over the phone and texted, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that this wasn’t for me.

We met right around my birthday. He sent me this sweet and sappy message about how he was so glad to have me in his life. I felt so uncomfortable that my only reaction was to laugh out loud when I read it. No one understood it when I tried to explain how the message made my skin crawl. The more serious he got, the more I felt sick to my stomach. It’s not a feeling I can really put into words, but all the talk about our future, living together, and the hypothetical children I thought I wanted didn’t sit right with me when the words and ideas were coming from him.

But I still didn’t want to back out. I pulled out those plans for my sister’s wedding and began reworking them for my wedding. That feeling kept me in this relationship. But I knew it couldn’t last forever. He started getting clingy, he wanted to talk to me more. In hindsight, he was justified in asking for more of my time, but I wasn’t interested in him enough to care about his needs. I only saw him as becoming a hassle, someone I would have to tolerate instead of someone I would happily spend the rest of my life with. I once even told my mother that I’m more interested in trading him for a robot husband instead – I could have my wedding without dealing with another person in the mix.

It got messier after that, with several petty arguments left and right. There was one fight that he thought he could win by giving me the silent treatment. Unfortunately for him, that silence was everything I wanted. The next time we spoke, it fell into yet another argument. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back and the whole thing was called off the next day. I happily moved on, packing up all my wedding plans and studying for the upcoming exams.

It’s been over a year since my engagement ended. I’ve spoken to several other potential suitors and it’s always the same. I stick it out for the idea of a pretty, magical wedding where I get to be a princess for the event. But inevitably, things break down and I move on to the next wedding plan.

I like the idea of love and romance. It sounds beautiful. But somehow, when actually faced with the realities of it and coupled with the responsibilities of marriage, I crack. I’ve never found myself capable of caring about these men the way they claim to care for me; they remain faceless entities I use to check off on my list of goals. It sounds callous, but it’s not that I want someone else to suffer for my little fantasy wedding. I don’t think I have the emotional energy to spare on someone else and I don’t know if I ever will.

And maybe that’s okay. I’m fulfilled by my family and my career aspirations. I am happy with life. And one day I’ll earn enough money and throw myself that big wedding and be my own princess.

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Sexuality Love + Sex Love

I rushed my first time because I thought I was late to the game

Content Warning: Some parts of this article may depict assault or unclear consent, you can scroll past the section, marked at the start and end with double asterisks**

It’s simple, really: much like Drew Barrymore’s character in the excellent millennium celebrated film, I was (almost) 25 and had never been kissed. Except, unlike Barrymore’s character, I had really, really never been kissed. And until the moment I had been, I couldn’t even decide whether or not I wanted it. Unfortunately, this is not some magical love story: my first kiss—my whole first time, was a massive disaster. 

I’d had crushes, but I’d rarely seen them through: chickening out rather disastrously when I was 19, determined to preserve a friendship I could rely on, rather than a relationship I was doomed to destroy. I’d otherwise been dumped when I was 22 for having a “difficult family history” and mental health issues that left my partner convinced they’d always receive less from me than someone else (it helps for context, to add that right in the middle of this relationship I’d been diagnosed with severe depression and probably wasn’t in the right place for a serious relationship). Needless to say, three years on, I was not looking for love, but I was looking for something.

I had really, really never been kissed.

I’d felt late to the game with my 25th birthday looming in 2020 and seemingly nothing to show for it. I hadn’t spent much time thinking about it before, but suddenly in those last few months of being 24, my lack of experience felt like the last milestone of adolescence I finally wanted to cross.

The second eldest of mostly sisters, I was the last of us and the only one to remain single for so long. While they never made a big deal out of it, it certainly felt like one. I worried they considered me prudish, shuttering more explicit talk when I neared, not wanting to make me feel uncomfortable, I assumed, in my inexperience. They’d later clarify it was in fact because of my indifference.

“Well you can’t know if you’re asexual if you’ve never had sex.”

This too, is true: I’d never understood, in the way it felt like my youngest sister always did, what made this actor or that person hot.

What did that mean?

What did that feel like?

How did I know if I was interested in someone if all I felt when I saw a simple picture was nothing?

My college experiences were borne of deep friendships: I’d cultivated an intimacy that made me feel safe enough to be vulnerable. It wasn’t how they looked, it wasn’t because they were both male.

When I toyed with the idea of finding a label, a well-meaning friend said, “Well you can’t know if you’re asexual if you’ve never had sex.” A few months after that conversation, I could confidently say that having sex absolutely did not make understanding sexuality any easier. 

In fact, if anything, perhaps backed by this sense of feeling broken and behind pushed me to make a decision I probably wasn’t ready for. Now it bears mentioning that I am a planner—I keep shoes in my online cart for months debating whether or not they’re the right ones, or whether I need, need them before executing a purchase. So it’s rather telling that from the time I thought of it (mid-February), to the actual execution of what occurred on the first Monday night in March that I was breaking my own rules by rushing into what I hoped would make me feel better. Rather, I was rushing toward someone I hoped would make me feel less confused. Someone, who, unfortunately, had no idea what was going on.

I wanted to get over this feeling of being “too old” to be a virgin.

A classmate of mine who I considered more than an acquaintance, if not friends, was where I landed. True to my nature, and probably my antidepressants, there wasn’t an immediate frisson. We were both writers, and perhaps through sharing our writing, I thought, in the smallest of ways, knew each other better than random strangers.

So after thinking about it and deciding against it, after a particularly rough week I woke up on Monday, March 2nd and by that evening showed up at his place and asked him to turn me down. 

While he expressed genuine surprise in seeing me there and insisted that he couldn’t enter a relationship with me, he asked me if I wanted to go up. Bundle of anxiety that I was, I did. And I overshared—a lot. Probably too much. I wanted to get over this feeling of being “too old” to be a virgin. I wanted him to understand that I was nervous, but that I could be brave. The only thing I miscalculated was that he didn’t care. 

Sure, he listened patiently as he tried to sober up from the blunt he’d smoked before I arrived. He was quiet, introspective—listened to my anxieties about graduating, about my family life, about my failed relationships. Finally, he asked me why I was there. I didn’t know—to feel seen, I guess. For him to know that I’d been thinking about this—about him for a few weeks. I wanted to know if he could ever—would ever, be interested in me. He paused, then, before asking, did I want him to kiss me now? Only if he wanted to, I said. And he did, so we did. And while I was sure I’d be terrible at it, he said it didn’t matter. So I decided not to worry about it and follow his lead.


There’s a reason we talk so much about consent — because everyone, myself included, will go back to a moment and try to understand what happened. What changed? How did it go from a (somewhat) positive encounter to murky gray so fast? Was it when I joked that if he liked my breasts in my dress he’d like them in my bra even more? Or was it when he shucked the dress, mouth going straight to the cups that I was surprised, but still went with it?

By the time he said he needed to come, and even though I couldn’t because of my meds, it wasn’t fair to lead him this far, it was still only gray territory. Because, it was “of course, only if I wanted to.” I said no exactly twice that night, first when he said he didn’t have a condom (he didn’t prefer them because it was less fun with them).

And yet somehow, after a very enticing, and repeated “come on, let’s just stick it in” that no, turned into an okay. Fine. Sure. Thankfully, the second no stuck—despite his repeated requests that I put my mouth on him, I told him I wasn’t comfortable. I wasn’t ready, maybe next time.

He had no interest putting his mouth on me, first claiming reciprocity. But he did—just once to help me along. It wasn’t enough to get me ready, but he’d given up trying. Or didn’t notice. So what happened next was pretty painful. So. Extremely. Painful. I’d be bleeding for the next day.

There was an exact moment I swear I was watching my body from the corner of the room, in pain, trying to be into it. Watching him tell me about a girl he’d been sleeping with who also liked how he’d smelled so much she asked what it was so she could get it for her boyfriend. That definitely didn’t help things along. Finally, he gave up.

He didn’t come, I wasn’t into it, and now he needed to read for class. I should probably go. I asked him if he would hold me, but apparently, that was relationship-only privileges, which this was not. I felt like I was slowly returning to my body, but not in those cliched ways. It felt stranger now, that he had seen me naked. That he had put himself inside me, knowing it was my first time, with so little care. I dressed mechanically, saving my scarf for last, feeling his eyes on me as I recovered my hair. 

He wouldn’t ask how I was doing until two days later, the evening after I showed up to work looking “distressed”. He’d get drunk at a concert with a friend that night and tell her he thought he’d fucked up. That I had come on to him. That I’d been obsessed with him, insisting we have sex without a condom. He’d start gaslighting me, reminding me I’d initiated it whereas he’d been clear on the relationship point. So what else did I expect? This was how it was done, didn’t I know? He didn’t like condoms, couldn’t be bothered with them—I was being silly. 

I’d wonder for months during the long hours of quarantine if he was right. If I had pushed aggressively for this. If I had insisted he sleep with me. If, in accordance with his version, I was a villain. Leaving him no quarter, showing up at his place unannounced and insistent. I’d agonize over why he hadn’t been nicer, gentler, rejecting that he’d said that’s how it was supposed to be. 


In my journey for answers, for catching up with the crowd, I suddenly felt all alone (in the middle of a global pandemic), discarded, and unlovable. I didn’t want him to love me, but how could he renounce any responsibility?

Several months later, he wouldn’t have any better answers. He’d start sleeping with a friend in whom I’d confided about what happened. A friend who had at the time claimed to be stunned and so angry with him on my behalf. But suddenly she’d disappeared from my life, choosing him, and as he said it, “his side of the story.”

To be very clear, consent isn’t “tricky”. There’s yes and there’s no.

In the end, I could care less about my virginity—I had no answers and even more questions. My body no longer felt like my own. Every day, it felt like he’d told yet another person about what had happened—exposing me and my body before everyone. It felt like despite my scarf, my semblance of control over who could see my body was gone.

I felt like hiding from the world, anxiously messaging friends trying to feel out if they too were laughing at me, or if they meant it when they said they loved me.

To be very clear, consent isn’t “tricky”. There’s yes and there’s no. Yes is enthusiastic and genuine and if it’s not then it’s not consent. Especially if it’s given after repeated questioning, or is the easier option to get out of a situation.

Women don’t often come forth with encounters that they regret because there’s a misconception that we only cry assault because we regret it ever happening.

I do not regret my choice to want sex.

But wanting it, even approaching someone who knows you want it, does not replace agreeing to it. My only regret is approaching someone who cared so little for me and my comfort that I agreed to something I said no to after feeling pressure to change my answer. For my mental health, I’m not ready to label this assault, but if this has happened to you, you are entirely within your rights to call it such. Your body and choice are always deserving of respect. 

There doesn’t have to be a lesson here. But the only thing that goes without saying always, is that there is no deadline.

There’s no shame in not being interested in sex, in being interested, in pursuing someone, in waiting, in going for it. I was gaslighted and taken advantage of by someone who had no intention of taking care of me.

But I’m not terrified about what’s next. In fact, I’m hoping that he’s the worst I’ll ever have.

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These are the trending, political debates ending relationships everywhere

 “We can disagree and still be friends – Yeah, about pizza toppings, not racism. Gtfo my face”. I’ve seen this meme circulating lately, taken from William Vercetti’s Twitter Status, and it’s just so apt. There are some things on which you can agree to disagree – but if your partner tries to debate and justify any form of oppression, how is that not the ultimate deal breaker for you?

Read on for the biggest political reasons ending relationships world-wide:

Debates over Donald Trump:

The domestic disputes over Donald Trump are so huge, that it even has its own term: “The Trump Effect” – Coming to a Marriage Near You. Okay so I made the tagline up, but you must agree – it fits. A year into Trump;s service, a 2017 poll showed that 11% of Americans ended a serious relationships due to political differences.  Because voting for Trump means voting for sexism, anti-abortion, racism, white supremacists, police brutality, xenophobia, the list goes on.


Ever heard of wokefishing? It’s a term writer Serena Smith coined to describe people (usually men) pretending they’re feminists, or into social justice, because it helps them score more with the ladies.

I’m not even American and Trump’s beliefs set me into a blind rage, so I can’t fathom waking up happily next to someone who’s marked a blasphemous, black X next to Donald Trump’s name.

Whilst catfishing may be a huge fear for men, womxn are more fearful of being wokefished and then waking up one day to realize their partner voted for Trump. I’m not even American and Trump’s beliefs set me into a blind rage, so I can’t fathom waking up happily next to someone who’s marked a blasphemous, black X next to Donald Trump’s name. “But honey, I did it for the economy!” he cries, as I set fire to all his belongings. Whilst non-Americans can’t end a relationship with someone for actually voting for Trump, it’s certainly a political debate rearing its ugly head and causing relationship unrest in many other countries, too. 

Debates over BLM:

It still blows my mind that people try and argue against this ongoing protest. There are the well-known “buts” and “all lives matter!” which was met with “um that’s what we’re saying, yo!?”

If you ever hear someone advocating for equality and your first word in response is “but..”, I hate to break it to you, but you’re the problem.

Another classic but awful “but” is “Black people kill Black people too!” That’s like saying – hey I’m dying of cancer and someone pipes in that pneumonia can kill you too. 

If you ever hear someone advocating for equality and your first word in response is “but..”, I hate to break it to you, but you’re the problem. If it’s your parent, colleague, or sister arguing with you, I get that maybe it’s tougher to end these bonds over what to them may be considered trivial (which it shouldn’t be). But if it’s who you thought you chose as your life partner; someone you’re about to make every life decision together with, it’s much more important to call it quits. 

Debates over #MeToo:

What is it about society that doesn’t want to believe sexual abuse victims? Is it perhaps too traumatic for us to deal with that our brain just shuts down and yells too. much. to compute. Heck, I don’t want to believe a president, or priest, or policeman is capable of rape and murder, either.

But let’s leave it up to the facts, shall we: Out of all the sexual violence offenses reported in Europe , UK and the US, only 2-6% are found or suspected to be false. Of course that doesn’t include the millions of cases left unreported, or reported too late because of the ridiculous stigma attached to the victim and the high cost of legal bills.

I’ve had to unlearn and relearn a million things about my gender that I was once brainwashed to believe.

It’s like, why would someone lie about an experience like that? If your partner doesn’t believe rape survivors, or adds anything to the discussion with a “why do women wear revealing outfits”, or if they spit with wild ferocity: “not all men!”, then please, do yourself a favor and dump their ass. 

Debates over Sexism:

Whilst I am a strong advocate for all the above, I’m gladly not under Trump’s reign. I am white, and I am thankfully not a victim of sexual violence. But as a woman, sexism is something I know everything about.

Because I promise you – that sexist “joke” is not funny, no matter how many times you are gaslit into believing it is.

I’ve had to unlearn and relearn a million things about my gender that I was once brainwashed to believe. Arguing with my father, my male friends, my colleagues, on issues I have formally studied as if they were just mere opinions of mine, makes my blood boil. While a lot of the time I bite my tongue and think, “choose your battles”, other times my beating heart tells me that I have chosen.

If you’re anything like me, you won’t be able to stand even a sexist meme circling your boyfriend’s group chats.  (And rightfully so!) So if your partner, friend, or family member is being sexist, you need to call them out and you need to have that discussion with them. And if you still don’t get through, it’s over boo. Because I promise you – that sexist “joke” is not funny, no matter how many times you are gaslit into believing it is.

You’re entitled to your opinion, of course. You and your partner can have debates on all sorts of things, from ice cream flavors to Netflix series; but basic human rights is not one of them. So watch out for those red flags everybody! Especially ones that read Make America Great Again”.  

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Love + Sex Love Advice

Should you get back together with your ex?

My first serious relationship has been a complicated one. We have broken up and gotten back together more than once. This on again, off again type of dynamic is confusing to the people in my life.

When I tell people about my relationship situation they often try to insert their own opinions. I appreciate friends trying to look out for me, but the constant questioning and advice can be draining and even hurtful. The truth is that as easy as it is to make judgements when you’re an outsider looking into a relationship, no one really knows the relationship but the people who are in it.

When deciding whether to call it quits or get back together, I firmly believe that you have to follow your gut. You’re the one who will ultimately be impacted by your decision. Therefore, the choice should be 100% your own. 

My boyfriend and I met for the first time in my junior year (his senior year) of college at American University. I saw him sitting with a friend of mine at a table in our on campus coffee shop and decided to go over. I had never run into him before. He was cute and he caught my eye, so I joined them at the table.

From there, the connection was instant. I was frazzled talking to him that first day. Afterwards we followed each other on social media and he asked me out on a date. We quickly became exclusive.

The beginning of our relationship was shy and sweet. We hung out on campus and went to events and parties together. I was constantly at his house doing homework and chilling with him and his roommates. I had never connected with someone so deeply so quickly. We said I love you within the first two months of dating. I had never said I love you to someone in a romantic situation before.

Around this same time, he invited me to come visit his home in central California and meet his family. I agreed. The trip was lovely and romantic. It really solidified for me that this relationship would be for the long haul. 

The following semester, the spring of my junior year, I went abroad to London to study at King’s College. We did long distance for the months that I was away. We FaceTimed everyday and he even came to visit me during his school break. The week we spent together there felt magical. We went on dinner dates and explored the city. I introduced him to my new friends. Everything was going well in our relationship at the time. 

The time without him hurt so badly. I couldn’t stop crying.

Things started getting rocky once I came back from London the following semester for my senior year. He had graduated and started a new job along with graduate school. He was under a lot of stress. I also was struggling with my depression and anxiety.

We broke up for the first time right around our one year anniversary. I broke up with him, worried that we were too unalike. We were at different stages of our lives and didn’t seem to have time for one another. I didn’t want to do it, but I didn’t feel like there was any other way. The time without him hurt so badly. I couldn’t stop crying. We barely lasted a few weeks before deciding to get back together. 

Our relationship was great after getting back together. We had a newfound appreciation for one another and were working through our problems in healthy ways. This continued for several months. However, come January our relationship started going south again. We fell back into old unhealthy relationship dynamics. He felt responsible for my happiness and I felt like he wasn’t dedicating enough time for us. We fought often.

He broke up with me later in that month, saying he needed time to figure out his own life and mental health and that he couldn’t do it while we were still together. This breakup felt much more final. The time spent without him and barely talking were painful. 

After a month or two he came back saying he had made a mistake and he wanted to be together again. I was hesitant. My trust had been betrayed and didn’t want to jump back into a relationship with him without solving our previous problems. Ultimately, I asked for some time to think things over.

Ultimately, I decided to try things again, but to take it slow and re get to know each other like in the beginning of our relationship. That is exactly what we have been doing since then. 

I have learned valuable lessons through our relationships and have taken away a lot from us breaking up and getting back together.

Relationships are hard work and compromise and clear communication are key to making them last. Taking time to listen carefully and considering the other person’s perspective is essential. Showing appreciation and love for your partner through doing little things to make them happy also goes a long way.

No relationship is perfect, but repeating past mistakes and having the same fights are not productive.

My biggest piece of advice for people who may be going through similar situations is to give yourself space and time to really think over the relationship. Journal, make a pro-con list and really mull things over. I encourage you to ask yourself important questions like if the circumstances that caused you to break up in the first place have changed? Have you both grown since the breakup? More importantly, why do you want to get back together now? Obviously, no relationship is perfect, but repeating past mistakes and having the same fights again and again are also not productive.

Above all, listen to your heart. No one can tell you what’s right or wrong for you better than yourself. Talk to friends and family if you want advice or second opinions, but make sure your final decision is your own. If you’re anything like me, you let your feeling get clouded sometimes by other people’s judgements and opinions. The only thing that matters is the relationship being healthy and fulfilling and making you happy. If it checks all of those boxes, trust yourself, and go for it. Getting back together with an ex can work out if you take the time to address your issues and make sure the timing is right for your relationship to succeed!

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Love + Sex Love Life Stories

Have you ever felt unrequited love?

Usually when I think of unrequited love, I think of something great. Some sort of grand story full of catharsis. Unrequited is generally special.

A type of love that demands to be talked about for an eternity. Something electric, with compulsive wavelengths. Something like the movies that comes with its own playlist attached to it.

Something with late and long nights spent together in a damp minivan twinkling and spitting out dreams on a whim. Something with vicious fights fueled by our own desire. Something that makes my soul open up just as swiftly as it gets torn apart. And, somehow I wind up bursting at the seams yet feel completely unsatisfied. I always want more. 

Why do we long for the type of love that hurts so much it imprints our hearts? It is difficult to locate the line that separates struggle and triumph, as nearly every love story in popular media blurs the two. But unrequited love is so unbelievably magnificent and sad at the same time that it becomes all encompassing.

Unrequited love is an entire body, overwhelming, feeling. I have broken hearts before and I have had my heart broken, so I can tell you that the feeling never fades, one way or the other. It feels as if you are running fast, and for a long time, yet making no distance at all.

One time I waited two months for a guy to message me back before I realized that he just wasn’t going to. Ever. Again. And that entire time I couldn’t help but wonder why I cared so much. What we had wasn’t at all special, but I still was left longing for a distraction from the heartbreak. I was showered by his passivity instead of his kisses and I wanted him to know how much his absence hurt me, but he was so equally careless and carefree that none of it mattered.

Not even for a second. 

I felt unrequited love again while in a long-distance relationship. This kind of unrequited was different. It wasn’t one-sided. Instead, we felt tremendously for each other. It’s just that our bodies weren’t able to be physically together for some time. We were only long distance for the few months that I would be studying abroad, but it felt like an eternity. I remember being there and using all of my senses to try to gauge what his touch felt like.

Somedays I would wake up and watch the sun from my window, silently knowing that that same sun wouldn’t bounce to him for another six hours, and I would recall how that same sun looked dancing across his back at dawn. I’d lay in bed at night and want to tell him about my day, but I knew that I couldn’t. I was constantly reminded that he no longer took up the space in between my arms when we slept. But I was, and still am, fascinated by the immediate consumption of these moments. I am so grateful to have given him my heart. He still has it. 

The extent of passion is practically boundless. We should feel like we can fly on a whim, or scream and dance, when we are in love. Unrequited love just forces you to confront that intensity, those struggles and triumphs, head on. Some of it is beautiful; some not so much. I like to remind myself that love doesn’t need a reason, love just is. 

Unrequited love is messy, but worth it. It is a collection of fleeting moments. It teaches us that all love should be leaking, dripping, through every difficulty yet also a thread that is continuously weaving through and connecting our bodies and our souls. The whole point of longing is to continue, because there will always be potential to love someone rather than to have loved someone. They can’t be the one that got away if they weren’t the one in the first place.


I ended my engagement after ten months. Here’s why it was the best and worst thing

There’s something about an engagement ring.

The weight of it on your finger. The way it rubs against your skin. The glimpse of sparkle when you stand in the sun. The tiny rainbows you find on its diamond.

These daily reminders surprised me at first.

I thought I’d wear the ring, and it’d become a part of me. The same way you forget where you’ve put your glasses, then remember they’re on your nose.

For the 10 months I was engaged, it wasn’t like that at all.

The ring’s existence stuck out to me. Mostly, I wanted it to. I’d fiddle with it when I was nervous. I’d look at it when I felt low. It was a promise; things would be alright.

Because I had been chosen.

I had found someone to support me through thick and thin. A person willing to invest their whole life, and self, to be with me.

I had made it, at 27, to the camp of the ‘chosen ones’. Those women, pretty enough, good enough, worthy enough, to be proposed to. You know the ones on your social media feed. Smiling and showing off their rings on empty beaches and luscious trails.

Getting there meant I could breathe easier.


Because, like them, I had fulfilled a wish. One I didn’t know I had. To be freed from worry about getting to that part of my story. That narrative I share with all of womanhood. To be chosen, promised marriage, and the happily ever after.

I was never one to buy into the fairy tale. Yet the sense of calm I felt post-engagement was unmistakable. It was a resolution to the subconscious, but surely there, discomfort of waiting to be chosen.

As a feminist and young woman, I never thought of marriage. In fact, I was repulsed by the routine questions about my relationship status. Conversations started and ended there. Anything else about me didn’t matter to my extended family.

Yet, here I was. Engaged and relieved.

Until I wasn’t.

Getting closer to happily ever after than I had ever been, I failed to see it. The irony of it was tragic.

Faced with impeding marriage, reality had struck me. The fantasy was over. If I couldn’t imagine being happy with my would-be husband 30 years down the line, what was I doing?

Being chosen had guided my life, unbeknownst to me, and it wasn’t a good story after all.

I was brave and ended my engagement.

Weeks and months of panic and despair followed. I clung to the idea that all I had to do was open the search again. Start over. Find someone more compatible. And wait to be chosen again. I hadn’t lost my chance at happiness. It was a delay. One that sent me into crying fits on the bus. And one that made me ask myself “what have I done?” too many dark nights, clutching a ring I couldn’t give back yet.

I knew then, as I do now, that you need to be happy on your own. But trying, really trying, meant letting go once and for all of the easy story. The romance script I had failed at.

Did I want to follow it again? And delay my happiness? Wait for prince charming number two?

No, I wanted to be happy now. And only, I, could see to that.

Getting there may seem harder but in the end, it’s the only happiness worth anything. Forcing myself to see my previous engagement for what it was took me a while. A whirlwind of romance I had gotten lost into, believing fantasy would turn to reality.

Getting a ring, and wearing it was a powerful artifact of the cultural narrative I never thought I’d be one to buy into. It made me confront the internalized stories I didn’t know I had.

I’m afraid we all have them to some level. I didn’t dare admit to myself that I wanted to find my forever partner before I was 30. I didn’t dare admit I wanted to be chosen. And that I wanted these things like a child wants candy. Because it tastes good in the moment.

It’s embarrassing, looking back.

Yet, I wouldn’t change things. I would end my engagement again. It led me through the worst and best moments of my life. Confronting and losing my shoddy illusion about happiness in favor of something real.

Next time I get engaged, if that ever happens, I’ll be the one to ask. Because I’ve chosen myself already and it’s time to write my own story.

Mind Love Life Stories Advice

I wrote a letter to the one that hurt me and this is how I healed

There comes a point in life when you reach a place of self-love and healing. The healing is gradual, it is a constantly fluctuating line that slowly staggers upwards, but this place of self-love is one that takes a long time to reach.  

People deal with the realization that they are no longer affected by the person who broke them in different ways. Some go out and enjoys themselves, maybe even at a party, some decide that it’s finally time to meet a new person, some stay at home and write in their journal about their feelings and some, like me, write a letter to the one who broke their heart.

I’d come to terms with the experience and I’d soaked up all the lessons like a sponge, squeezing out only the bad feelings and the negative emotions that came with them. I was happy, content, and getting on well with my life. But one day, I sat down and absorbed everything—the lessons, the hurt, the love and what it all taught me—and I decided to write to him.

I’ve accepted that healing is not a destination, it is a process and it is a long one at that. And sometimes, while you’re journeying in your path from a jungle of confused feelings to self-realization and soft happiness, you might want to take a breather and reach out to the one who caused this much growth in you without reaching out to them. And that’s what I did. I got a pen and a paper and started writing the traditional ‘Dear…’ letter to the person who broke my heart.

Later, I turned this letter into a poem which I shared on Instagram, and I realized that maybe he would have read it by now, but that wasn’t the point. The point was that I was finally in a comfortable place to reflect on the experience that I had not many years ago, enough to write about it. The letter was called ‘indifference’ but I can reassure you, it didn’t come from a place of spitefulness or regret. Instead, it was an accumulation of everything that had happened and how it made me feel at that present moment—indifferent.

I felt indifferent because I was no longer affected by him. I felt indifferent because the heartbreak I experienced didn’t hurt me anymore. I felt indifferent because I knew then that no matter what happened, I was never going to turn back into his arms again. I felt indifferent because my heart didn’t know how else to feel about him.

It was like, the hole that he left inside my chest was filled with love and happiness and countless experiences since him so there was no room for pain. There was no room to think about the hurt he caused or the tears or the love. And because there was no room, there were no emotions for him either and instead all that I was left with was indifference.

It felt good. I liked writing this letter because as the words appeared on the paper, I felt stronger and more in control. The letter made me feel like I was the one in power this time, and I was. If you think about it–I was the one asserting, I was the one who was ‘telling him how it is’ and I was the one who had the final say because the last word was mine. 

I spoke about my feelings or the lack thereof and I even cared to add a little sass because that’s just me, and by the end as I put that letter in an envelope that wasn’t going to get posted anywhere at all, I was much lighter than before. I was already happy, but after writing to him, I felt happier. I felt like we’d had a conversation which went my way, and most of you will know that is never the case when you’re speaking to the person who hurt you, and now things were ending in the way that I wanted them to.

After writing it all down, I not only came to terms with the true depth of what I was going through, but I was also able to appreciate my journey and how far I’d come. This was the most fulfilling thing about writing that letter. I’ve learned now that often to close old chapters you just need a little ‘chapter summary’ of what happened so you can read over it and make sense of everything. This summary doesn’t need to be for anyone but you, and sometimes you don’t even need to write it out. Just think about it if you must but do take the time to reflect and absorb everything that has happened.

Eventually, when you start a new chapter you have that little bit of information about the previous one so you know how to prepare your heart and soul for what’s to come.

Music Pop Culture

What we all really need to learn from Ariana’s “thank u, next” music video

“I met someone else… her name is Ari”

These are the lyrics that 25-year-old pop star Ariana Grande broke the internet with in her music video for “thank u, next” that premiered Friday evening. For anyone who has been living under a rock, Ari’s new hit single is about thanking her ex-boyfriends for all they have offered her, but now moving on from these relationships as a proud single woman.

The five-minute video managed to break records as the most viewed Youtube Premiere video of all time. People across the globe were even throwing premiere parties with all their closest friends in order to sit at the edge of their seats and watch with beaming faces as their favorite singer graced the screen.

Fans of Ariana were ecstatic to see the pop artist replicating iconic movie characters from all of the quotable films of their youth and inserting pop culture references that shine a whole new light on the brand classically known by the world as the “chick flick”. It is commonly expressed by society to label a chick flick as less than, a cheap film by patriarchal standards that is, simply and derogatorily, “girly”. In “thank u, next”, Grande takes the derogatory term and flips it on its head. Paying homage to movies that our generation has grown up with, these empowering films include (but are not limited to) Mean Girls, Bring It On, Legally Blonde, and 13 Going On 30.

It is a video filled with community, excitement, hope, and celebration. Yet as charming as the movie references and celebrity cameos in Ariana’s video are (and they are very charming indeed), the best part about her smash hit video is watching as Ari embarks on her authentic journey to self-love in the face of pain.

Ari recreating the scene from "13 Going on 30
[Image description: Ariana Grande with her head resting on a doll house, recreating the scene from “13 Going on 30”] via Vevo

We all have to face heartbreak at some point, whether it be a breakup with a romantic partner or a falling out with a close friend. As most of us know, it’s a terrible feeling to lose someone who was once a significant part of your life. In a way, it can almost feel like you are losing a big part of yourself in the process. This can easily cause us to feel lost, and in a desperate effort to feel “found” we sometimes will search for external sources in order to make us feel complete again. If a partner breaks up with us, we immediately look for another one. “thank u, next” teaches us to find that kind of love within ourselves before scouting for validation from another person.

I remember that feeling of significant loss hovering over me after going through a terrible breakup with my first love. I would just find myself trudging through life like some kind of zombie, emotionless, feeling like I was only half of the person I used to be when I was still with that partner. Who was I without my other half? What kind of person was I to become? My whole world felt as though it had come crashing down, with my expectations of security and comfort evaporating all at once.

Yet as terrible and incomplete as I felt at first, there was still a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel. I knew that because I was no longer tied down to anything, I now had the entire universe at my fingertips. I could finally take whichever path I liked, wander down whichever road, and knowing that alone was the most liberating feeling. Was I terrified to suddenly have all of this freedom? Of course. But it was a brilliant kind of terrifying, the kind that only creeps up when you’re in the process of pure growth.

In that process of growth, I was finally able to take all that love I had for my ex and manifest it into myself. The journey to self-love is a difficult one, but once you embark on it, you will feel more empowered and dignified than ever before.

In a lot of ways, I wish Ariana Grande’s “thank u, next” would’ve come out sooner. Its classy message of learning to be thankful for what you’ve lost, regardless of how much of hurt you, is an important one. It teaches us to look back on our past relationships with gratitude and poise, rather than spite. It teaches us to put all of that energy we could be wasting on anger and hate into self-love and appreciation.

Ariana singing the words "I turned out amazing"
[Image description: Ariana Grande singing the words “I turned out amazing” sitting in a garden recreating the scene from Mean Girls]

If we can learn to love and appreciate what we have to offer the way Ari teaches us to, we will turn out amazing! So go ahead, embark on that journey of self-love and gratitude. As soon as you do, you’ll have the universe at your fingertips.

Love + Sex Love Advice

After my breakup, I needed time – not society’s deadlines

Have you ever heard that it takes half the duration of a relationship to get over the breakup?

If you were given this advice while weeping on your couch after getting your heart served to you on a silver platter, you’ll first feel relieved. Then, you’ll probably wonder where this arbitrary calculation comes from.

Cut to me, in the fall of 2017. I was going through a tough breakup, wondering why I had to wait so long to get over the heartache.

We met at a Flamenco bar. He checked all of my boxes.

Cute in an underdog-ish way, smart in an unpretentious way. Worked in the music industry, read Joan Didion, and never cleaned his sheets, because, I suppose, he was too busy working in the music industry and reading Joan Didion.

The only box he didn’t check was the one labeled “wanting to be with me.”

We broke up twice, the second time for good.


I was working a pretty dead-end job and had a lot of time to write very shitty, sad poetry. The only light at the end of my unshowered, sweatpants tunnel was a date on my calendar. Our brief affair had only lasted three months, and thus, I would be absolutely one hundred percent recovered by mid-February. Valentine’s Day of all days! I couldn’t wait.

Well, I’m here to tell you that Valentine’s Day came and went and my internal sadalogue didn’t shift a centimeter. On the contrary, I started feeling worse. Not only was I heartbroken, I was berating myself for feeling hurt. Every time I’d think of Mr. Music Industry I’d start scolding my id like a broken record.  

“Why don’t you get over it? You only dated him for three months! Well. Two months and three and a half weeks.” Why was I feeling this way? What was WRONG with me!?

[bctt tweet=”Not only was I heartbroken, I was berating myself for feeling hurt.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Turns out, what’s wrong with me, is apparently wrong with everyone else.

With burning curiosity, I polled my friends about the ex-lovers that still occupy their minds. There’s the girl he never even kissed, whom he still felt the urge to text six months later. There’s the boy she only slept with for around three months, whom, one year later, she couldn’t help but invite to her birthday party hoping he’d show up. There’s the ex from years ago who still haunts his dreams. And there’s the surprise encounter, witnessed most unfortunately by many, in which a martini hit the face of the boy who broke her heart six years prior, while still in high school.


You don’t get to choose how or when or who will hurt you. You only get to choose the way you react to that hurt. Pain is inevitable, but suffering? Suffering, especially the kind that involves lashing out at yourself for not ‘getting over it’ fast enough, is optional.

The good news is I’m here from the other side to tell all you sad people, there’s no appropriate length of time to grieve the loss of someone you saw a future with. Your inability to get over someone quickly is not an indication of your worth as a human being.  

Nowadays, I no longer think about the boy from the fall.  I no longer worry about bumping into him at a bar, or whether or not he’s watched my Instagram story.  In all honesty, this is mostly because I’m in a new relationship with someone who checks the box of ‘wanting to be with me’.

Sometimes dating someone new is what it takes. Sometimes staying single is what it takes.

Sometimes going on a hike or accepting death or just time in all its forever-ness is what it takes. Not deadlines-calendar-dates-marked-in-red-ink time, but life. The thing that goes on and on and on.  And sometimes it takes nothing at all. Breakups are like cuts to the skin: some run deep and some run shallow.

And although all heal eventually, the pain of each bruise leaves a scar in your mind, guiding your way to feeling less of it over time.

How’s that for some bad poetry? Every shit cloud has a silver lining. Be kind to yourself, people!

Editor's Picks Love + Sex Love Life Stories

Falling in love with my soulmate was doomed from the start

In hindsight, I can clearly see that our relationship was doomed from the start. There were a lot of differences between us – our beliefs, cultures, and countries. There was no way for us to be together, and in the back of my mind, I knew it was never going to work.

But I was blind, consumed by the idea of being in love.

I never thought my first boyfriend would be a foreign student, a red-haired guy with pale blue eyes and beautiful accent. Our relationship was a big mistake and I knew that. Eventually, it would end in tears, but I foolishly ignored it for the sake of temporary happiness.

He was a serious man and wasn’t afraid of commitment.

He always talked about our future. Every time he brought up the topic of our life after college, I tried to change the subject. The mention of marriage reminded me of the possible ending of our relationship, which would definitely be an epilogue of heartbreak and despair.

I lived with mixed emotions every day.

I wanted it to last forever, but at the same time, I knew how wrong it was to pretend it would work when I knew it wouldn’t. I’d been successful in dodging the marriage topic, until one day he dropped a giant bomb on me.

He proposed to me.

It shocked me. I was utterly flabbergasted, stunned, fazed and dumbstruck. There weren’t enough words to describe how I felt. I was so speechless for a few seconds, and then I did the unexpected.

I said yes.

Saying yes to his proposal was a huge mistake. Inter-religious marriage is legal in some countries, but not in Malaysia. It was impossible for us to be together, no matter how much we tried.

It took me weeks to find the courage to talk about it.

It broke his heart to hear it. I tried to reason with him, but he came up with many ideas to make it work.

He didn’t want to break off our engagement.

Of all ideas, there was only one that could work – elope.

Somehow, he managed to convince me to do it. Yes, I actually agreed with that idea. He suggested that we move to a different country and start our new lives there. We were even willing to ignore the fact that both of us were students at the time.

I have to admit, I was actually excited by the idea of moving to another country and getting married to the love of my life. If it weren’t for my family and future, I would’ve packed my things right away to be with him. It was the biggest dilemma I’d ever faced. At first, I was so tempted to be with him. I did want to spend the rest of my life with him.

He was my first love and I couldn’t imagine my life without him.

But then I thought about my family and my future. The thought of the shame and humiliation faced by my family was unbearable. I couldn’t imagine how disappointed they’d be with me. Also, abandoning my studies seemed like an extreme change in my life, and possibly not for the better.

My heart told me to go after my happiness and elope with him. But my sensible mind disagreed.

After days of thinking, I finally made up my mind.

We both met and I told him my decision – that I could not be with him. He was shattered and begged me not to leave him. It pained me so much to see him heartbroken that I had to turn away from him. When he was convinced that I’d never changed my mind, his heartache turned to hatred.

He’s despised me ever since.

I don’t blame him. I made him believe we had a chance when there was none at all. Being in love was a beautiful feeling that I just couldn’t let go of. But in my circumstances, there would be unfortunate consequences.

That was my first heartbreak and I almost believed I wouldn’t survive it.

Sometimes I regretted my decision, other times I knew it was the right thing to do. Every time the pain of our breakup hit me, I tried so hard to convince myself that time would heal me.

Everything would be better eventually.

And I was right. It took a while, but I did get over it in the end. Now I’m happy with my family, almost done with my studies and hopefully, I’ll earn my degree at the end of this year. I have everything I need in life and couldn’t ask for more.

But sometimes I wonder, what would my life be like if I actually did run away with him. What if it didn’t work? I’d have been left with nothing, no guarantee for my future and no one to support me. Eloping would’ve been a great adventure for a romantic story, but in real life, there were too many consequences.

Thinking about it makes me feel more grateful that I made the right decision. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Tech Now + Beyond

You’d be surprised at what the best diet of my entire life did

I press “Share.”

The selfie, a mere 1 of 50 takes, is now out into the web. But my work is still not done. I open a second app and cash in all of the coins I’ve acquired from liking other Instagram users’ images. These win me 50 likes from random people whom I’ve never met, and never will.

I stare at my phone observing how with each refresh, my selfie garners more likes. When engagement reaches a plateau, I put down my phone.

I’m satisfied. I’m happy.


A year ago, I took a social media break, and it was likely the most effective diet or cleanse that I’ve been on in my entire life.

The months after my college graduation had sent me into a miserable state-of-mind. My non-relationship was on the rocks again. I was applying to 50 or more jobs a day. I had no money. I was living with my parents. And I was always opening up my social media apps and seeing more and more of my peers securing career opportunities, traveling across the world, or grinning in their beautiful selfies as if everything was perfect.

Why couldn’t I have a life as exciting as theirs? Why did it feel as if all of my likes on their pictures or views of their stories were only increasing my envy and self-loathing?

I finally received my current job offer at the end of July. And I took it as the perfect opportunity to start fresh. That non-relationship was officially obliterated after I accepted the job. The stress of moving in two weeks was impeding on my positivity. And I had too many other issues to worry about rather than keeping up with social media.

So, I quit social media cold turkey.

As a communications professional, I opted not to close my accounts. But I deleted Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter from my phone. No more birthday notifications, knowing what was trending, or having a platform for political rants.

During my social media break, I rarely felt the need to have my phone and could only learn of news directly from the source. Screenshots and selfies no longer filled my Camera Roll. And the urge to share everything I was doing with the world subsided over time.

I felt a whole hell of a lot better. I wasn’t comparing my life (which was pretty sucky at that moment) to that of others. I had to deal with my emotions internally and seek self-gratification from other, more meaningful, sources. I started learning how to play the guitar, explored the new city I was in every weekend and spent time working on improving my apartment. At my new job, I wasn’t distracted by the ping of a Facebook notification or the constant desire to check my Instagram.  I got work done. When I had nothing to do, I would read a book or take a walk outside.

When I felt lonely in my new home, which was often, I didn’t have social media to amplify that sense of unhappiness. I doubt seeing so-and-so drinking mimosas on the beach, while I battled a new landlord to do repairs, would have made me feel any better.

But there were times when I feared missing out. I wouldn’t see pictures posted by my family members or hear of peers’ new milestones because those were all posted to social media first.

It seems we live in a society that opts to tell the internet about their life, before telling their friends and family.

I didn’t end my social media break until almost a year later. My transition back into the social media sphere was slow and tactful. I often limited my use of Facebook to a desktop and didn’t return to Instagram until months later.

Now don’t get me wrong, social media is great. It connects us with people, cultures and news, and it’s a large part of my career as a journalist and communicator.

But it has its drawbacks.

Social media can create the illusion that the grass is always greener elsewhere—that your life doesn’t live up to those of everyone else.

And that’s not true.

So, consider a break from social media until you can create a healthy relationship with it again.