Culture Life

Why I am constantly drawn to lavender

I find that my most blissful moments remind me of the strong, calming scent of lavender. For one reason or another, I relate it to a lot of the more meaningful aspects of my life. To me, lavender is like a feeling; like the wind brushing up against your skin.

While I think that lavender is largely optimistic, I also find a certain sorrow that is comfortable, even humble, in its presence. I’ve come to appreciate it in every shape and form – the color, the flower, the scent. Its hard to place; not sweet or bitter, but rather musty. 

Lavender manages to incorporate itself into my life seemingly on a whim and in the most fleeting of moments. We have a peculiar relationship. I am stomach-knottingly anxious in the presence of many, especially when I first meet them. But, with some, I sense lavender, and I know that something great is about to happen. It is more of a feeling than anything else. Just talking to some people can be rejuvenating, and perhaps it is because our meeting reminds me of that warm, soft smell of a mid-spring day when the sun is bright and pure, and the entire day lies ahead.

Nowadays, when I am feeling an emotion that is simply beyond words, I say that I am overflowing with lavender. 

According to etymology, the English word “lavender” is derived from the Latin “lavare,” which translates to “to wash.” It is a necessary refinement – a cleanse. I am purified with every utterance of the word. 

Perhaps it’s not just me. In literature, lavender has been used significantly as a token of love. To me, it’s more like a notion of love at first sight. Shakespeare offers a bouquet of “hot lavender” in The Winter’s Tale. Cleopatra also roots lavender with love, as she is said to have used its sultry perfume to seduce both Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. Christians are also known to have used it as a repellent of evil. The plant is said to have been taken from the Garden of Eden and is sometimes found hanging in a cross shape above the doors of some Christian households as a means of protection. There are so many songs with the title lavender, my favorite being by The Beach Boys, and there have also been many poems written about it, too. Take, for example, this quote by an anonymous writer, “as rosemary is to the spirit, lavender is to the soul.” 

Lavender is swift, like a movement, carrying me in and out of perfectly imperfect moments. The vision of it is rather uplifting as well. It stands delicately tall among the rest, but it is not intimidating either. I adore its confrontation. In fact, I look forward to it. 


Here’s why tattoos are more than just skin deep

There has always been a lingering, extremely negative stigma around tattoos. Whether that be the impression that they’re a reckless craft or profession, that they’re a reflection of unprofessionalism on the wearer, or that the kind of person who gets tattoos is a bad influence and misguided. My whole life, the narrative that tattoos are associated with illegal activities and reckless behaviour has been practically embedded into my social imagining. For a while, I believed it too. I thought that having a tattoo very much meant being unsuccessful in the career that I chose and that I would be going against the picture that had been painted for me. And in doing so, I would be letting everyone around me down, everyone who played some kind of part in raising me. Funnily enough, these are the same people who told me countless times that it is important to march to the beat of my own drum and to be the captain of my own ship. Go figure.

Especially being a girl, I’ve been told that tattoos are ugly, inappropriate, and distasteful. That the second I taint my body with ink, the body that is also supposed to be my own canvas, my worth diminishes dramatically. People start to look at me differently. I am no longer the girl that they thought I was. In a matter of seconds, their entire perception of me changes and everything they know about me is altered. 

This is the reality for so many young people and it is incredibly disheartening because most tattoos, if not all, can hold a deeper meaning. Plus, it shouldn’t even matter if the tattoo is meaningful or not, as long as the person adorned by it is happy and comfortable. Tattoos can be an exceptional medium for self-expression. Every little detail in a tattoo is an example of individuality that is impossible to replicate because everyone’s skin and everyone’s intent is entirely different. 

Most tattoos are real-life embellishments drenched in symbolism and motifs, and if you really think about it, tattoos are beautiful beyond being art. They are meant to be read like a book and tell you something about the wearer. You can learn a multitude of unspoken stories about a person just by looking at their tattoos, and these are usually the things that are most dear to their heart and truly make them who they are. These are the things that they’re so determined to never let go of that they literally make it a part of their skin and their blood. They tell you stories of growth, romance, culture, grief, passion, religion, wit, and determination. People wear art that speaks to them and makes them feel something. Tattoos are a love story in and of themselves. 

I cherish my tattoo. It’s a very small pink dove near my left rib cage. I was 18 years old at the time that I got it done. Most people thought that I was acting in defiance, that I was being rebellious, and that I would regret it eventually. 

Well, they were all wrong. 

I wasn’t being defiant and I will never regret it. I got my tattoo because it is something that I knew I needed to do for myself if I was ever going to move past what had happened, if I was ever going to move forward. That year, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, had a double mastectomy, and went through multiple rounds of chemotherapy. With all of those odds against her, she survived. She is the strongest woman that I’ve ever known and will ever know. 

But still, the pressure and the helplessness that I felt and continue to feel can sometimes seem never-ending. I can never shake that fear, no matter how relieved I am to be out of the thick of it. So, I decided to commemorate the moment with something meaningful that is mine, and mine entirely. 

My favorite quote from the novel Jane Eyre says this: “I am no bird and no net ensnares me, I am a free human being with an independent will.” That quote seemed to describe what I was feeling, and really what I needed to be told, effortlessly. So, my bird is pink for breast cancer. I got it as a daily reminder of strength, resilience, and soaring above the ashes, just as my mother did. I too can soar.


How important are our fashion choices in the midst of a global pandemic?

It’s day twenty-something of quarantine where I live. Comfort is something I’ve come to crave in these very bizarre and scary times. I read somewhere that this situation isn’t about simply working from home – rather, it’s about having no choice but to stay at home due to a global pandemic during which we are trying to work. In the midst of everything feeling offbeat, we turn to what is safe: warming bowls of pantry pasta, Netflix parties, endless FaceTime calls, and clothes that make us feel fuzzy and comfortable – usually our pyjamas. Whilst many of us stick to PJs or sweatpants for our quarantine OOTDs, there’s a whole movement of people not letting social distancing stop them from living their best fashion lives.

At its core, quarantine fashion too can be a source of comfort for many. Dressing as if you weren’t confined to your home is, in a way, a defiant alternative to the reality of life at this moment in time. It gives those partaking in it something to look forward to everyday, and the ability to have control over and replicate a semblance of normalcy in some aspect of their everyday lives.

An example of this is the Working From Home Fits Instagram account (@wfhfits), which documents the outfits of various followers who send in photos of their chosen ensembles for the day. As you scroll through the account’s posts, what is most eye-opening is the little glances it affords us into how we humans are living right now. The account, like a candle, illuminates different parts of the world, giving us a sneak peek into the quarantine outfits of people in the midst of their improvised home offices, with their pets and their plants. There is something incredibly special about being able to partake in the experiences being shared. Everything is so unfiltered, so real and so relatable, that it creates a camaraderie and solidarity among us as we face the world today.

Could wearing our favorite meant-for-outside outfit while stuck inside really make so much of a difference in our day?

Maybe it’s the thought of wearing their pre-planned outfit that helps someone get out of bed in the mornings. Maybe it’s the group chat’s glowing responses to a photo of said outfit that brightens up their day. Maybe it’s the thought of wearing all these different outfits outside once quarantine lifts that gives someone hope. Maybe it’s what helps them see the light at the end of the tunnel.

If you can’t understand how someone dressing for comfort or making fun fashion choices, or doing a full face of makeup can be so impactful, you have to know that the magic is as much in the process as it is in the result. In a lot of ways, our outer appearance affects our mental health. If this isn’t a time for deliberate and dedicated self-care, what is?

In the middle of thinking about all this, I took out my makeup bag and swept my favorite glitter eyeshadow across my eyelids, and put on my favorite dangly star earrings. It’s been close to four weeks since I’ve done either, yet I didn’t expect such a small act to make me feel so much better while writing. What was mundane isn’t mundane anymore. What was routine can somehow bring joy to me now. Quarantine-chic, quarantine-fits, quarantine-lookbooking – there’s something to be said in favor of it all.

It’s incredibly important to remember, however, that for all those who consider style a form of personal expression and haven’t dressed up much while staying at home, that’s okay too. It is truly about what makes us feel most comfortable in these wild times. Clothes and accessories and makeup are all tools for any individual to use to their own liking. What brings comfort? What brings joy? Is it those oversized bunny slippers, or is it a tailored power-suit? It really isn’t for anyone but you to decide.

Dear Madame Lestrange Love + Sex Love

My boyfriend is more experienced than me. What will the first time be like?

Dear Madame Lestrange is The Tempest’s love, sex, and relationships advice column. Have a question? Send it to Madame Lestrange here.  It’s anonymous!

Dear Madame Lestrange,

I’m planning on having sex with my boyfriend soon. It’ll be my first time but not his and while I’m very excited, I’m also very nervous. I want to make this a pleasurable experience for us both and I have no idea what I’m doing. I gave him my first handjob too and while he did cum, I feel like I could’ve done better.

Anywhoo… could really use some advice here!

—Virgin Distress

Dear Virgin Distress,

My first piece of advice would be to not overthink it. It’s good that you want it to be pleasurable for both of you but guaranteed the more that you attempt to do so, the less it will be. Make yourself completely comfortable in the environment. Play some music, dim the lights, and completely relax. Don’t allow yourself to wonder if he is having a good time because trust me girl, you will know.

I’ve always found that sex is always better when the couple communicates their needs to one another.

Most importantly, if he does something you don’t like or you want him to do something more then tell him! Communication is sexy and it’s a sure-fire way for you both to understand each other’s bodies better. I’ve always found that sex is always better when the couple communicates their needs to one another. It means that you don’t have to assume that someone will like it or have to worry that they don’t. It’s totally fine to air your opinions and needs during sex!

The key thing to remember is that there is no right way to have sex. People do it in very different ways that is pleasurable to them. Don’t worry yourself with the right way to do it. When you have him that close and you’re kissing and touching the ‘right’ thing will happen. It will happen at the right pace for both of you and in the right order. The key thing is that you both enjoy that time and not worry about doing it in a certain way. If you wanna improve your game, my ultimate advice would be to talk to your partner.

When you have him that close and you’re kissing and touching the ‘right’ thing will happen.

Now, I don’t mean this in an evaluation kind of way but whilst you’re giving him a handjob or going down on him, ask him. Also, follow his cues: if he moans more when you do something, then do it more. If he moves your head then let him guide you because ultimately he’s been doing this for years and he knows what feels good.

Don’t just give all your attention to his penis, play with his balls as well, mix it up a little between your hand and your mouth and trust me, you’ll drive him wild. 

You’re welcome, 

Madame Lestrange

More Dear Madame Lestrange

My girlfriend and I recently started trying out oral sex. Truthfully, I’ve been struggling to know how to please her down-there. What can I do to make my girlfriend come? How do I start?

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Love Wellness

8 things you can do to maximize your next mental health day

If you have a cold, the flu or some other physical ailment, what do you do? You stay home, curl up in bed, and maybe go see a doctor. Sadly, when it comes to mental ailments, taking a day to take care of your mental health isn’t seen the same way; even though mental health contributes to your overall health.

How do you know you should take a mental health day? For me, it’s when I begin to feel overwhelmed or when I feel my own mental illness start to get out of hand. It’s important for everyone to treat their mental health with the same seriousness as they do their physical health, and mental health days should be treated the same as sick days.

Here are a few tips to get the most out of your mental health day, when you finally decide to take one.

1) Let your boss/professor know

preofessor teaching
[Image Description: A professor, wearing a white blouse and a yellow bow, teaching and point at something off the camera.]
If your mental health day falls on a day where you would usually be in class or at work, let your boss or professor know that you’ll be out that day. I don’t advise lying or making up a far-fetched excuse, but if you don’t feel comfortable telling them that you’re actually taking a mental health day, just say that you’re feeling under the weather and that it would be in your best interests to miss class or take the day off.

2) Catch some Z’s/Take a nap

woman and dog sleeping
[Image Description: A woman with brown hair peacefully sleeping while a pug lies next to her.]
There’s an endless list of benefits to sleep. Personally, I take a nap almost every day just because I’m on the go from the moment I wake up to the moment I get back home, and it can be pretty exhausting. Not only does It help you maintain a healthy heart, but it keeps off unwanted weight, strengthens your immune system, helps your focus, and best of all helps your mood.

For naps, twenty to thirty minutes is recommended to help with alertness and not interfere with nighttime sleep. Wherever you decide to rest make sure you’re in a comfortable, quiet place with minimal light.

3) Eat a good breakfast

[Image Description: A breakfast platter with sunny side up eggs, berries, orange slices, a pancake, and coffee.]
What better way is there to start your mental health day than with food? But not just any food. It’s the most important meal of the day.  Sugary breakfast foods will only bog you down further, so try some healthier alternatives: anything with whole grains, a sugar-free cereal and milk combination, breakfast smoothie or, my personal favorite, a bowl of fruit, which in my opinion, is the least appreciated of all breakfast foods.

4) Turn off your phone ( at least for a little while)

blank phone
[Image Description: An individual using their phone. The screen in blank in the captured image.]
As hard as it may seem, it will be so worth it in the end. Excessive use of social media networks has actually been linked to depression and anxiety. Turning my phone, or at least my notifications off, for me, is like turning the rest of the world off. I’m helping myself out by removing unwanted distractions so no outside influences penetrate my self-care bubble.

5) Get comfy

black pjs
[Image Description: A woman with light brown/ auburn hair wearing black pajamas and holding up a bowl, consequently covering her face.]
People talk about wishing that they could spend all day in their pajamas, and and a mental health day gives you that option! Pull out your warmest pair of pajama pants, your softest t-shirt, and your coziest sweatshirt or cardigan and just revel in the comfort.

When I’m dressed comfortably I automatically start to feel better because in my mind, since I’m not in the clothes that I wear to class, I’m removing myself from that stressor and don’t have to deal with it.

6) Write down what you’re feeling

[Image Description: An open journal with blank ages and a pen resting in between the pages (the spine).
I cannot emphasize the importance and benefits of journaling. There’s just something about putting your thoughts to paper that eases overwhelming feelings. You don’t even have to have an actual journal; just get some paper, a pen, and just write out your current stream of consciousness.

When I do this and look back on the things I’m thinking and feeling in that moment, I’m able to pick it apart and find the root of my problem or where things began to get out of control. It helps you see the small factors within the bigger picture.

7) Call someone you love

woman on her phone
[Image Description: A woman with dark hair and nails painted orange on her phone. The image in taken nose down.]
We all have that one person that we can depend on, no matter what, to pick up the phone when you call. For me, it’s my grandmother. Any time of the day or night, she picks up the phone on the first ring.

Sometimes all it takes to make things better is talking to someone that loves and cares about you. They can offer up some valuable advice, but sometimes just listening is enough.

8) Pamper yourself

woman in tub
[Image Description: A woman with dark hair in the bathtub with the water running. Her foot rests above the faucet.]
One of my favorite songs has a line that goes “Get in the shower if it all goes wrong,” and it’s so true. Have you ever noticed how when you’re in the shower or a bath, you forget where you are and just relax into the water?

As cliche as it sounds, get a bath bomb and let the stress, sadness, or anxiety wash away and down the drain. Do a face mask, paint your nails a fun color, maybe take some time to shampoo and condition your hair while you’re at it; just do something for yourself.

All it takes is slowing down and paying a little extra attention to yourself for a little while for you to get back on the right track, and a mental health day is the perfect way to do this. There are other ways to practice self-care and even self-love. Once we start to manage all aspects of our health, mental and physical, we can live life to the fullest.

Tech Now + Beyond

There’s something about simple tech that helps me get through panic attacks

I have to admit it: I’m a sucker for minimalist tech.

Take Apple products. There’s something about their design that makes me feel at peace. The simple palette of neutral colors exudes an effortlessly elegant cool, the kind of cool you find while resting under the shade of a big tree. It sounds ridiculous, that a product made in a factory can make me feel so calm, but being surrounded by minimalist tech is the primary way I deal with my depression and anxiety.

It sounds ridiculous, maybe even too good to be true, so let me explain.

We are surrounded by technology. Every day we interact with our phones, computers, tablets and smart watches to the point where it becomes as natural as breathing. From the moment we wake up we are bombarded with notifications. Social media, work emails and even little things like weather updates can make us feel overloaded with information.

We spend hours scrolling through Facebook and Twitter, and not only for recreation. Many of our jobs, especially people who need to market themselves in order to find work, require us to be interactive on social media almost 24/7.

But when it has to be done on a brightly colored, chunky and flashing screen, it can feel even more like you’re being boxed into a tight room with little air to breathe.

So when I wake up in the morning and roll over to pick up a sleek black phone ready to deliver my to-do list for the day in an easy-to-read fashion I feel a little less stressed.

When I sit down at my desk to write and see an even keyboard of white letters on black keys, a distinct black border around a plain white wallpaper, and finally a neatly organized dock of just the things I need, I feel serene.

And I haven’t felt calm in a long time. Since I was diagnosed with Polycystic-Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), my depression has increased drastically. The imbalanced hormones coupled with the hustle of everyday life makes it impossible to get out of bed in the morning. So much of my life is spent fighting an internal battle between giving up and forcing myself to go on, and there are days when I feel empty and unable to do either.

Since my depression got worse, so did my anxiety. So many people, from doctors to people I spent time with, told me that my depression was ‘simply’ hormonal. I was being told to deal with it quietly, and that made me feel panicked about whether my feelings are even valid.

And beyond this, I and other millennials are feeling completely burnt out by work or lack of it.

So when it comes to implementing small things that can make big differences for my mental health, buying the minimalist tech I need has reached the top of my list.

And I get it, I understand that being able to buy something like an iPhone when capitalism is demanding more and giving less is a upper-class privilege. The same way that I accept this privilege, I accept that I need to do this in order to survive and be able to achieve in life.

It’s either save up for an iPhone or face another day of panic attacks over missed deadlines and uncontrollable crying in the shower.

Of course, work expectations are the key issue here.

More and more millennials are expected to smile through their unpaid internships while bills loom dangerously overhead. Even our parents put pressure on us to be as good as them at getting jobs, a house, a husband and children while not understanding how difficult these things have become.

We are expected to lose weight, get promotions, win awards, update Instagram and maintain our relationships all while having to beg our parents for one more month of allowance. These stresses compounded on top of one another make giving up the more tantalizing option.

So even though in my heart I know that should not give into consumerism I also know the care I give myself in unwrapping that certified pre-owned iPhone 6.

Even though I know the issue here isn’t really flashy, colorful technology, I also know that I can’t fix the labor market all on my own.

Instead, I am trying to find my way in this dizzying world, one day at a time.

Science Now + Beyond

Here’s why you’re not supposed to wear a bra, according to science

Hipsters, Kardashians, your closest friends — people are hanging up their bras these days. There have always been societal phases and styles that do not require bras, but it seems to me that there’s been a lot in media recently about going out au naturel.

So, why? What’s the big deal about bras?

Before the bra, we had the corset, and that’s not a style I would personally like to bring back. Cue flashback to Keira Knightley passing out in Pirates of the Caribbean. Anyway, in 1914, Mary Phelps Jacobs created the first widely used “backless brassiere.” Bras are worn to offer breasts support and minimize motion during exercise. Sounds good, right? Why would you not wear a bra?

Through a 15 year study, the French scientist, Jean-Denis Ruillon found that while bras have traditionally been thought of as preventing back pain and sagging breasts, bras do nothing to reduce pain and actually weaken muscles, causing breasts to sag more. His results are self-admittedly not definitive because he would need a larger sample size to come to a more serious conclusion. Rouillon also observed that for those women who do not wear a bra, their nipples were 7 millimeters higher per year toward the shoulder.

Moreover, Dr. Joanna Scurr found that wearing the wrong bra can damage breasts.

Physicians and researchers claim that tight-fitting bras block lymph drainage, which prevents the body from releasing all the toxins it needs to. This issue may contribute to the development of breast cancer. These tight-fitting bras might also be a factor in the emergence of benign, but painful breast cysts and lumps. Research has shown that women who wear bras 24 hours a day have a higher chance of developing breast cancer than women who do not.

Underwire bras are supposedly the most dangerous, though. The underwire is almost always made of metal coated in plastic. Below your breasts are two neurolymphatic reflex points associated the the liver, gallbladder, and stomach. When metal is constantly applied to any energy channel, after a while the stimulation becomes sedation and the channel no longer performs the functions it should.

If you are an adult who has worn a bra for years, to stop wearing a bra probably will not allow the benefits younger women might receive if they are to stop wearing the bra. It’s also worth discussing that many people dedicated to the #freethenipple movement don’t wear a bra either.

For many, not wearing a bra just feels more comfortable, sexier even.

Others might feel they need the support a bra to be comfortable. The right choice for you might not be the right choice for me and not everyone has to agree.

Ultimately, though, the most important factor in choosing a bra is to make sure it is the correct fit.

Fashion Lookbook

The ultimate 6-step guide to getting the perfect bra fit

1. Go to a lingerie store and have someone measure you.

if this is you a few hours into wearing your bra, get fitted by a pro / via Giphy

You may not like what you’re about to hear but to get a truly proper fit you’ll have to get a fitting. Yes, this most likely will entail a virtual stranger with their hands up around your top-drawer business – the good news is, they are professionals and have been trained to a) do this correctly and b) make you feel as un-weird about it as possible.

Victoria’s Secret is an obvious place – because they’re probably one of the most visible brands on the planet – but you can find all sorts of good small businesses that can do the same thing for you. If you absolutely cannot reconcile yourself with the thought of someone all over your T’s, it is possible to do it at home yourself (but it may not be quite as accurate unless you’re really well-versed in tailoring or garment measurements).

Either way, the following will still apply.

2. Your attire will matter.

probably leave your gortex at home? / via Giphy

Wear a bra that you’re already comfortable in. Might be a long-shot, because how comfortable are they, really?

But one that’s already feeling pretty comfortable is already giving you a decent amount of support — it’s going to give the most accurate reflection of your size and what you need. Don’t wear a push-up bra or a sports bra — these styles might make you feel confident or comfy, but they’ll interfere with you getting a spot-on fitting. Wear outer clothes that are comfortable and not too thick or baggy if you can.

They can definitely measure you over your clothes if you want.

3. You can get fitted in a dressing room — or in the middle of the store.

via Giphy
via Giphy

Look, it’s already uncomfortable enough to have someone handling your dirty pillows in a mall. It’s not all that bad – they don’t need to cup your actual boobs in their actual hands – but even the thought of someone quickly using tape to take a few measurements may have you feeling weird about it. That’s okay.

They’re trained to do this fast and well, and a lot of the time they’re also trained to talk to you if you’re feeling insecure about anything – they might have a lot of the same insecurities that you do! We’re all in this together.

Usually, the salesperson will offer you a dressing room to be fitted in. Ah, that’s better, nice and private.

However, maybe you would feel less awkward if you weren’t in a confined space with a stranger?  That’s fine, too. If you want to be in the middle of the storeroom floor you can do that! The world is yours.

Also, a top secret, hot af pro-tip: you DO NOT have to go in the dressing room, a lot of times the salesperson will try and persuade you into one so that they can then talk you into trying on a bra and getting you to buy it. This is your Salt Shakers’ circus – you call the shots.

4. Times you will want to definitely get a fitting:

first time? you’re not alone! / via Giphy

Funny story: once at work with my work bestie and lifer, Lauren, she said, “God, you have such small boobs, haha, what are you like an A?” JOKE’S ON YOU BABY, I HAD JUST GOTTEN FITTED AND I WAS A 36C.

She’s like “Dude, no way, I’m a B.” Lauren’s packing a lot of punch up top.

I said, “Babe, you need to get measured because NO YOU ARE NOT.”

I convinced her and she ended up being a DD.

Yeah, this can actually happen to you. Has it been a few years (or never) since your last fitting? Has your bod gone through some big changes like weight loss or gain, pregnancy or nursing, traumatic injury or illness? Even changes in posture could affect your bra size because the band measurement can change.

5. If you’re going to do this yourself, keep these things in mind:

or…you could, like, do it yourself? / via Giphy

Like I said above, attire matters, don’t wear a push-up bra or a sports bra to measure yourself at home. Ya gotta get a measuring tape and you need to take two measurements — your band size and your cup size. To get your band size, measure yourself at the base of your breasts (beneath them) and against your ribcage. Use the bra that you’re wearing as an alignment guide across the back. To get your cup size, measure yourself across the fullest part of your breast — but loosely — then subtract your band measurement from your cup measurement.

From a pro: “Whatever number you end up with, each inch will represent a cup size. For example, if your band measurement is 36 and your cup measurement is 40, your cup size is D and you should look at 36D bras.”

Confused by that? I KNOW I AM.

So, that’s why pros are helpful because they know all the ins-and-outs of that, as well as being able to help you out if you’re between sizes or if you just can’t get comfortable in your “correct” size they can help you find your “sister size” (going down one band measurement and up one cup measurement).

6. Love your body, baby.

always / via Giphy

This last one is from me and it really has not much to do with getting a proper fit for a bra – I just don’t want anyone feeling bad about what they’re working with. Be nice to yourself – you’re beautiful any way you are!

Gender & Identity Life

Do I even belong in the mosque?

I prayed on the pavement today because when I planned my journey, I failed to check if the mosque that fell in my path was a “men only” mosque. I prayed in the hospital today, because there, a “sisters section” is guaranteed, even if shared with men.

How is it that prayer, the second pillar of Islam, is relegated as an option to woman? Many Muslim men claim that sisters are a “distraction” and are better off praying at home. But listen well: While I will be questioned about my prayer on judgement day, my brothers should also be prepared to be questioned about preventing me and my sisters from our prayer. How is it that I must sit through lecture after lecture on praying on time and yet you still turn us away because only men are allowed at this mosque? May God have mercy on us both.

Interfaith speaker Nisaar Nadiadwala once said, “It is not that they have failed to understand you but that you have failed to express.” But how can I express myself if I’m not given a chance to talk? How can I express myself if I’m dismissed as nothing but a troublemaking feminist? How can I express myself when a brother looks at me helplessly, because even he doesn’t know when someone will turn up to open up the ‘sisters only’ section?

Those who say that women can prayer at home fail to consider sisters who depend on mosques to carry out their daily prayers. Perhaps they travel for their work. Whatever the case, why is it so hard for you to understand why I didn’t want to miss my prayer, why I couldn’t miss my prayer?

I weep in my prayer, I can’t hold back tears on the bus, I sob when I get home. I cry for the sisters that have experienced this and the sisters that will come to experience it. I weep that we don’t want for others what we want for ourselves. I weep that my brothers don’t even understand the consequence of what they have done. But I take comfort in knowing that the prophet Muhammad’s dear companion Umar ibn Al-Khattab, known for his strength and his justice, would also have wept. I take comfort in how my heart has softened to the extent that I am able to cry.

News of the first women-only mosque opening in America only further disheartens me. Muslims can do better – far better.

Let’s go back to what mosques were originally used for: a place of prayer, communal prayer, yes, but prayer all the same. Nothing – not an all-male Qu’ran class, nor a meeting of only men – should take precedence over prayer.

A Muslim should be given the means to pray on time, whether it is a man or a woman. Change has to happen now.

To the early Muslims who were persecuted even within their own homes, the mosque was a place of sanctuary, the only place they could truly be themselves.

Where, then, is the refuge for my sisters? Where is our comfort, our haven?