Health Care Mind Love Life Stories Wellness

This is how it felt to live with severe anxiety – and how I finally won

Yesterday, I faced my fears headfirst: I rode roller coasters with my eyes wide open and my hands stretched forward, screaming without abandon at every twist and turn. This might seem completely mundane and un-extraordinary to you, but to me, it was the beginning of a new chapter in my life. One where I would ride my fear and adrenaline headfirst, no matter the consequences.

Here’s the thing.

Growing up, I was fearless. I wore my t-ball cap with the brim faced backward, a careful tuft of my dark hair poking out. I dressed for nobody but myself, my world created by decisions I made and carried out. Life was just an adventure, and the next obstacle was simply something I’d clamber over.

It didn’t matter to me what someone said or thought or did about me, because it only mattered what I felt about myself – and I felt good about myself.

I rode coasters with wild abandon, eagerly getting in line over and over and over again, to the point where the park aides would laugh at seeing me again. I was the loudest one on the rides, sitting in the front row with no care for what might happen next. The world was mine to take, and it didn’t matter what stood in my way.

I don’t know when the tipping point happened.

It was gradual.

Words from parents, biting away at me. Words from friends, who left me for one reason or another. I tried to brush the words away, but the actions and words piled up and because they came from people I trusted, people I loved, people I thought believed in me, I couldn’t keep myself safe.

Day by day, it built up until there I was years later, back again at the amusement park, unable to ride any of the roller coasters.

I made one excuse or another as my sister and brothers tried to push me to ride the rides with them. Inwardly, I grappled with the anxiety that now bubbled up from my stomach, venom that kept me from jumping headfirst into the next challenge. It was a panic that pushed me into almost throwing up on a children’s ride that whirled around and around, my head down between my knees, just trying to make it through the whirl of words and pain that seeped up from within.

I hated going to amusement parks. What’s the point? I’d ask my family when they proposed our going to a park. There’s nothing fun there.

They refused to listen, dragging me alongside them to the place I now loathed. I’d hang back, standing at the railing as my siblings ran to get in line, looking up at the loops of the coaster with a churning mix of envy, fear and self-loathing. The anxiety within was now a full-blown beast, filling my head with every possible thing that could happen if I got on a ride.

It leaked into my real life.

I rode on loops of panic attacks and fears, growing to expect them, welcome them, considering myself to be accomplished only if I felt a pit of anxious nerves grow when I looked at my list of things to do.

I had become my own worst enemy. I fed myself moments of anxiety to feel alive. I was a failure if I had nothing to do. Relaxation soon became triggering, because what was life if I wasn’t freaking out about my next thing to do?

I thought that if I rode the waves of anxiety, that I could somehow manage it. That somehow it would stop growing, stop overtaking my decisions, stop ruling my life.

It was a ridiculous wish. The more I let my anxiety rule my life, the bigger it grew.

I found respite in the few friends who let me be myself, gave me space and understanding when I just needed to curl up and cry, the thoughts spiraling and deteriorating as the anxiety ruled my life more and more.

It was only when the thoughts had almost fully paralyzed me at work, cut me off from most of my friends, and robbed my life of the colors and vibrancy that I used to breathe in when I stepped outside that I finally sought professional help. Even with the exercises that my therapist gave me, I felt helpless.

When she suggested anxiety medication, I felt like crying. I had become a shadow of everything that I used to stand for, a walking lie.

On the outside, people found me to be seemingly on top of everything.

On the inside, I was the girl who couldn’t even ride roller coasters.

The day I started taking medication, my head and heart felt clear – for the first time in forever. I could finally breathe without coughing from the anxiety attack that would inevitably bubble into my lungs.

Anxiety no longer ruled my life.

Months passed, and we reached the day I headed back to the amusement park. I stared up at the largest coaster in the park, the drop so steep that you knew you’d lose your breath if you tried it, I felt fearless, dragging my reluctant friend behind me.

For all the years I’d dealt with the hellhole of anxiety, this was nothing.

I am finally fearless again.

How To Use The Internet Love + Sex Love Life Stories

Confessions of a former catfish

I have a confession to make: I’m not a good person.

It’s probably why I’m writing this anonymously because if you knew who it was that was confessing this, you’d probably reconsider every perception you have of me.

You see, I’ve done a pretty good job of coming off straightlaced, religious and ethical to the real world. Hell, I might have a filthy mouth and curse too often, but I keep it clean when it comes to being around my family.

I’m fiercely loyal to my friends and family, but deep down I’m terrified of losing everyone and have a recurring dream of being forgotten and alone by everyone who once knew me.

Hell, I might have a filthy mouth and curse too often, but I keep it clean when it comes to being around my family.

My mom worries that I’m too soft when it comes to dealing with work and friends, and I’ve been told on more than one occasion that I’m socially awkward.

So, of course, it wouldn’t really make much sense when I tell you that when I was fourteen years old, I ended up catfishing a boy on the internet.

And that, in the process of catfishing him, I decided to kill myself off.

I used to have a deep addiction to the internet.

Deep, twisted, and dark – I found myself wandering into realms of the world wide web that should probably never have been possible for someone as young as myself. I discovered my first x-rated AOL chat room when I was nine years old and would troll it, not really understanding what A/S/L meant but quickly catching on to the other language that was being flung about in the chat room.

My parents kept the internet strictly monitored and on very short time limits, so I got very good at making legitimate excuses at having to use the computer and hiding my online life from my real one.

Amidst everything, I still found myself struggling with a deep moral compass, justifying my morally reprehensive activities with the fact that I was just like one of those undercover cops online, finding sexual predators by trolling chat rooms. That made it marginally better, as my morally disgusted psyche struggled with my more reprehensible Id.

Here was my chance to fit in somewhere, where it wasn’t strange to be pretending to be someone else.

I discovered Neopets a few years later, back when it was at its peak of activity, and the company hadn’t yet sold out with the stupid merchandising deals. I quickly tired of the games and the cheat codes, and one day found the RPG forums that were populated by hundreds of other bored Neopet gamers.

RPG, I quickly learned, meant role-playing games.

The threads about actual historical or video game events were boring to me – what really mattered was the stupidly fantastic, quickly-moving romantic movie-based (or general scenario-based) threads.

My parents thought I learned to type as lightning fast as I do as a result of writing papers. If I told them it was to keep up with the role-playing threads on Neopets, they’d probably have a fit.

See, the threads were linear in the way they started.

Someone posted a scenario and available roles. You quickly called dibs for the most interesting parts, and the games started. Stories unfolded quickly, and most people opted for crappy but satisfying storylines that included hookups and online kissing.

I was everything that I wasn’t in real life.

Weird, I know. But I grew addicted, and badly so. Here was my chance to fit in somewhere, where it wasn’t strange to be pretending to be someone else. I played everything I could get a hand on – women, men, once in a while, an animal. That wasn’t too interesting to me.

I soon learned that users would take their chats “off the thread” which just meant a chance for an online hookup, where you would literally sext before sexting even happened.

Six hours would pass in a blink of an eye, and I’d be churning out stories, connections, and hookups before I even realized what I was doing. It was a feeding ground of egos, ageless in a world where you were really only supposed to be taking care of a discolored, imaginary pet.

I was lonely. I had low self-esteem and body issues – but in this online world, where you could be anything, I was everything that I wasn’t in real life.

It was there that I met Josh. I’m calling him that because, honestly, I’ve forgotten his name.

I was Misty on Neopets, and that’s what he knew me as. I had a soft spot for him, the ruthless fourteen-year-old girl that I was, and we struck up a friendship over email that quickly turned romantic.

He sent me lyrics from a song he and his friends had written for their garage band, a song that he had dedicated to me.

I forgot to email him back. I forgot for weeks until I finally checked.

I told him things about a life that was fabricated for him, an imaginary life where I was an early high school student, pretty but bullied by the other students. I crafted a life that he fit perfectly into as my savior, and he fell right into it. He sent me his photo, and I sent him a photo of a pretty brunette girl I found online. He was in awe over how he could possibly deserve someone as pretty as me.

I felt guilty and ugly.

It was, in its ultimatum, my perfect story. But then again, who’s happy with perfect stories?

The downfall is so much more interesting.

So I grew bored with Josh. He was too kind, too good, and too needy. He needed my validation on his looks, his life, and his decisions. I had already gone through another dozen flings on Neopets. My life at home was a complete 180 from what he believed mine to be online.

That’s what made me decide to kill myself off. It’s as bad as you think.

I stopped responding to his emails after I told him that the bullying at my school had intensified. Having built a reality in which one girl at my school was getting more physically violent towards me, I forgot to email him back. I forgot for weeks until I finally checked.

There were twenty emails from him, all freaked out, each more frantic than the last. I read through them all, my heart sinking more with each one. Misty!, he typed in one, R U okay???! I haven’t heard from u in forever!

What was I supposed to do? I could confess and say who I really was, but that was too much of a headache. I was trying to cut my addiction to Neopets, and with that, came my need to cut my addiction to Josh.

So I slowly typed out an email, one that took me longer than any other email that I had probably written until then.

I hated saying goodbye, so instead, I had someone else say goodbye for me: Misty’s father.

I don’t remember the details exactly of how I killed myself off. It was a solemn email, one that spoke fondly to Josh about Misty’s goodbye note to him, and how the bullies got to her, in the end. It was all the bullies’ fault. I signed it with a sigh, knowing just how despicable I was for doing it – but sending it anyways.

I didn’t log into that email again after that. I didn’t want to face reality.

After all, it was the internet.

Surviving the Holidays Culture Humor Life

This is your ultimate survival guide to Eid morning

Eid is upon us, fellow Muslim brethren!

A joyous occasion celebrating the fasts, the prayers, the many times you repeated to yourself through gritted teeth and clenched fists, “I’m fasting” when you tried to calm your road rage.

The morning of Eid is an especially unique moment.

When else during the year do you iron your shalwar kameez at 6:30 in the morning or do relatives 7 hours ahead of you call at the break of dawn to say hello? Only on Eid morning of course!

4:34 AM


Despite having to be up by 6:15, you can’t sleep. Are you that excited for Eid?!

Or has your sleep schedule completely been thrown into a blackhole of chaos that is a summer Ramadan and you’ve gotten accustomed to sleeping so early the next morning?

4:59 AM

Girl Lying and Thinking Gif


Serious existential questions begin to enter your mind.

Did I do everything I could to be a better Muslim this Ramadan? Did I put enough lemon juice on my henna to get ultimate, long-lasting, bold results?

6:10 AM

Sloth Sleeping Gif


Your cutesie “EID <3 :)” alarm label is futile against your right thumb that hits SNOOZE.

6:23 AM

Cat Sleeping Image


The battle between the alarm and your right thumb continues. Your thumb wins.

For now.

6:30 AM

Pillow Bashing Gif


Your brother knocks on your door and tells you it’s to get up. “And oh yeah, Eid Mubarak.”

6:35 AM



All the showers are occupied. You use this time to groggily iron your Eid outfit which seems to be completely made of chiffon, sequin, cashmere, rose petals, silk worms (not silk, silkworms).

6:58 AM

Applying Makeup Cartoon Gif


Once in the bathroom, you wash your face to reduce puffiness. It is still puffy. When your face is all clean, you start putting on your mascara and try to think of the last time you put on a full face of makeup at 7 in the morning.

You remember. It was last Eid.

7:33 AM



Dressed and phone in hand already buzzing with “Eid Mubarak” texts, you go to the kitchen and your mom has laid out pastries on a fancy tray. You approach the cookies but hesitate. Then you remember that food actually isn’t haram (forbidden) and that it’s all okay now. You grab a powdered sugar cookie and allow the sugar to melt in your mouth.

You cherish this moment. It feels so wrong.

But so right.

Meanwhile, Baba is on his 3rd cup of coffee this morning.

8:02 AM

Snuggie Family Gif


You are on your way to Eid prayer and there is traffic. Baba makes a dad joke: “I guess everyone’s on their way to Eid prayer!” Your family laughs at the ridiculousness of the notion that all of LA is on their way to celebrate Eid. Then you all silently contemplate how cool that would be.

Then you think about Creeping Shariah and smirk to yourselves.

8:28 AM

Everything is okay!
Everything is okay!


Your father’s plans for arriving at the early Eid prayer are foiled (as they are every year), and your optimistic mother says, just like every year, “It’s okay, we’ll make the 9 am prayer. Relax, it’s Eid!”

8:35 AM

Spongebob and Patrick Gif


You’re finally at the convention center with thousands of other Muslims here to pray the Eid prayer. You put your shoes in a plastic bag provided so intuitively by the facility, sit down next to your mom, and begin saying the takbir chants. You realize you never really learned the takbir. You just know it from the Eid prayers you’ve attended since you were born. You begin saying it louder.

9:03 AM



Eid prayer starts.

Little kids in tutus, bow ties, headbands, mini kaftans run through rows of people praying. Today, you are okay with the children being unruly because it looks like a Gymboree catalog came to life.

9:10 AM

Voldemort and Malfoy Gif


Eid prayer ends. You hug and kiss the people you know around you.

And the ones who look familiar but you’re not sure if you met them before but it’s probably better to say hello just for good measure.

10:07 AM

Beyonce Eating Donut Gif


Exit prayer area, head for donut table. Eat celebratory Eid donut and relish in the fact that it’s broad daylight and you’re eating.

11:04 AM



After much picture taking, people meeting, Eid-money receiving, and donut eating, it’s time for the traditional Eid nap.

Go ahead, you need this. You have a long day of celebration ahead.

Health Care Love + Sex Love Life Stories Wellness

The day I got my first period happened weeks before I started college

I got my period when I was sixteen and a half years old.

Why that matters to most people, I can’t tell you. But it mattered the world to me, for years.

I was seven and a half years old when I first noticed that my Mama sometimes didn’t pray with the rest of us. She was – and is – a blunt, powerful woman, unafraid of putting out her opinion or life if she felt that you needed to hear about it. Sometimes it was an opinion you didn’t want to hear, but she said it anyway. She didn’t mesh well with the other Mamas at the mosque, many of whom were taken aback at how blunt she was, and how vehemently opposed to frivolous banter she seemed.

My Mama grew up in a country where she made her way back and forth to her school on her own from six years old. She didn’t believe children had limitations, in the truest sense of the word – if you showed up and asked a question, you wanted the real answer.

So, I asked, not expecting what I would hear, but knowing that I would get the truth from her. She didn’t mince words. I found myself handed an introduction to a world, exclusive only to those who got a period.

“I got mine when I was thirteen,” Mama confided in me, “I was wearing the nicest pants when it happened.” Somehow, the reality of the experience became something I craved, the invitation to being a woman something I longed for.

Getting your period was the ultimate sign of becoming an adult for thirteen-year-old me.

You got to join a secret society, one replete with winks and the quick palming of a brightly colored pad. As a woman, you were allowed to take time off from fasting in the midst of the month, a period of time replete with sighs about how you weren’t able to fast, but a secret joy that you were a part of that club. I learned that having your period meant you could demand a little more heat for your sore joints, chocolate for those mysterious cravings, and a little more empathy from the people around you.

It was everything I wanted, and everything I didn’t have.

I was eight years old when I thought I got my period. But it was a false alarm, complete with my mother running to the bathroom and shaking her head at my enthusiasm.

“That’s not your period,” she said ruefully, “and you’re way too young for it to happen.”

I was preoccupied with the future. I would keep a diary, and each entry ended with a countdown for the number of days left until my next birthday. I don’t know when I started keeping track of my goal ages, but soon, the birthday entries were accompanied by excitement for my next goal age: 10 years old, then 13 years old.

Thirteen years old came and went without the arrival of my adulthood. I wondered if I was doing something wrong.

Every night, I would squeeze my hands side by side, whispering fervently under my breath to God to bring my period to me.

I just wanted to join the club. Soon, I was 14. My new goal was 15 years old. I waited day after day for the ticket to the club.

When I was 15, my mother took me to the doctor and asked whether everything was okay. The doctor was bemused by my mother’s concern, and peered over at me, swinging my legs sullenly back and forth on the examining table.

“It’s normal for girls to get their periods around this time,” she said, looking down at my charts. “And you’re perfectly normal for your age. Give it some time.”

My Mama tried to explain that in her family, this was late, but the doctor wouldn’t hear any of it. “Give it some time,” she repeated.

One evening later that year, I was leaving the kitchen, my Mama and aunt joking around about what it was to be a woman.

“Honey,” my Mama said in between laughs, “this is what your period will be like. It’s the way it is with all of our women.” She turned on both faucets, the water rushing out en-mass.

My aunt laughed, and I fled, my cheeks burning in mortification. As I swung around the banister to head up the stairs, I looked back. They were both laughing, the water still flowing.

I had given up on being a woman when I turned 16. I thought something was deeply wrong with me. I resolved to make my way forward, even if it felt like something was missing.

So the change surprised me when I was almost 17. I had given up.

It came all of a sudden, all in a rush, and in an instant, where I had been was no longer where I was. It was in the middle of a faith conference that everything happened. The cramps overwhelmed me, as though 17 years of pain were suddenly unfolding all at once. I didn’t know how to explain what it was that I was going through.

All I knew was that I had crossed over – and as terrifying as that was, I couldn’t wait to tell my little sisters what awaited them.

I had finally grown up. I was just like my mother. I had joined the club.

Culture Gender & Identity Race Life

9 qipao questions you can feel free to never ever ask me

1. “Is it appropriation for me, someone not connected to or invited into Chinese culture, to wear a qipao/Cheongsam?”

[Image description: Emma Watson poses in a Chinese qipao.] via Sense of China
[Image description: Emma Watson poses in a Chinese qipao.] via Sense of China

Is this a question? Why would you wear Chinese traditional garb just for the ~aesthetic~? And why is my culture your aesthetic? (Please don’t tell me you have a Tumblr full of generically “Asian” schoolgirls with straight black hair and dead expressions.)

Furthermore, if you’re Eastern Asian and don’t hold any ties with the qipao – this can get kind of messy and confusing, decide carefully – then don’t wear our traditional clothing, either!

2. “But they’re cheap, and Chinese people sell them to tourists all the time!”

[Image description: Tourist shop in China displaying costumes and outfits.] via
[Image description: Tourist shop in China displaying costumes and outfits.] via
Poor shop owners, that make a living off selling kitschy shit to tourists, don’t give a damn about appropriation or global systems of power, yeah?

3. “But what if I, another POC, want to wear one?”

[Image description: "Definition of guanxi: (n.) personal relationship or connnection based on mutual trust, loyalty and commitment by exchanging and returning favors so that all share the same benefit."] via Giphy
[Image description: “Definition of guanxi: (n.) personal relationship or connnection based on mutual trust, loyalty and commitment by exchanging and returning favors so that all share the same benefit.”] via Giphy
If you’re another person of color, you probably have your own problems with appropriation. Is it not uncomfortable when non-xxx race people wear dreads, bindis, “chola” makeup, etc…? If any of that is uncomfortable for you, let me just tell you right now how sad I get when I see someone wearing a qipao.

Doubly so if I look down and the caption has Chinese characters taken from Google Translate.

I trust someone who is more likely to have experienced being on my end of appropriation to see where I’m coming from, so please apply the same way of thinking to my culture. Asians absolutely do benefit from anti-blackness and racism, but we also share some of the struggles that you do.

4. “But if they’re not actively stereotyping Chinese people, it’s alright, isn’t it?”

[Image description: Dragon animation showcasing the diversity of Chinese languages.] via Giphy
[Image description: Dragon animation showcasing the diversity of Chinese languages.] via Giphy
Well, simply put, no. Chinese fashion is relegated to the category of “ethnic”, and it feeds into orientalism which, of course, actively feeds into fetishism and stereotyping. When someone with no connection to the qipao wears it, they capitalize off of our culture and remove Asian people from the picture. It’s that age-old phrase of “I can’t display my own culture, but you can” in action.

And it sucks.

Also keep in mind, even for us Chinese people, our history is hard to navigate. The qipao is commonly accepted now, and definitely part of our culture, but we must remember that Han people were once forced to wear the qipao by the Manchurians. Some of us know this, more of us should, but it’s very unlikely that an outsider would. Do not conflate one single Chinese culture to China, because China has customs so incredibly diverse it would make your head spin.

Not only do we have the North versus the South, but we also have the erasure of Han Chinese and Uighurs.

5. “It’s just fashion, can’t you quit being such a stickler?”

[Image description: Mulan sings while rubbing off her makeup.] via Giphy
[Image description: Mulan sings while rubbing off her makeup.] via Giphy
It’s not just fashion. It’s every Chinese New Year when I inevitably stay up all night debating whether or not to wear it, fearing that it’s garish. Fearing that someone will think it’s a costume.

It’s having my mom talk to the dressmaker about what she wants. My sister wants a white and silver one. My mom wants a black and red one.

It’s middle school when I’m praying in the backseat to not be Asian anymore, and I certainly don’t want one.

6. “Well, are there ever situations where I CAN wear one?”

[Image description: Woman takes a rose from a vase and throws it like a spear.] via Giphy
[Image description: Woman takes a rose from a vase and throws it like a spear.] via Giphy
[Image description: Woman takes a rose from a vase and throws it like a spear. Another woman in a school outfit catches the rose, staring back at the original attacker.] via Giphy
[Image description: Woman takes a rose from a vase and throws it like a spear. Another woman in a school outfit catches the rose, staring back at the original attacker.] via Giphy
I don’t feel comfortable defining “the line.” But I can give you a little rule of thumb, I guess. If someone who is Chinese invites you to wear one, do it. If someone who is Chinese gifts you one, be selective about when/where you wear it.

Don’t wear it to something generically “Asian,” though, because you’re conflating all Asian culture as the same culture. The qipao is a dress marked by its Chinese-ness, and you should be careful not to rob it of that.

7. “Since I can’t make one in real life, is it alright to make fan art of anime characters wearing qipao?”

[Image description: Shot from The Disastrous Life of Saiki K, which is a Japanese gag manga series.] via Wikipedia
[Image description: Shot from The Disastrous Life of Saiki K, which is a Japanese gag manga series.] via Wikipedia
Ah, just one of my many pet peeves. Don’t even begin to poke your head down the sorry history between Japan and Chinese. Just turn away from this now before you get drawn into the fray. Whenever I see Japanese anime characters drawn in a qipao, all I can think of is my grandpa asking me, “Do you have any Japanese classmates? You should never be friends with Japanese people.”

I also silently question if traditional Japanese garb, like kimono, isn’t enough for you. Don’t you realize that it’s super harmful to conflate all Eastern cultures to each other? Like, did you have to specifically draw this character in a qipao with a high leg slit and (in other cases) a little cut-out area for the breast? Is it because the qipao has a longer history of sexualization? I literally don’t even want to follow your train of thought.

8. “What if I’m cosplaying/dressing up as a Chinese character?”

[Image description: The three soldiers from 'Mulan,' dressed in traditional feminine outfits.] via Giphy
[Image description: The three soldiers from ‘Mulan,’ dressed in traditional feminine outfits.] via Giphy
Well, that sounds pretty sketch already, but I guess if you’re dressing up as a specific character I can be lenient. I would advise against dressing up as a character defined by being Chinese but use discretion, I suppose.

Under all circumstances, do not dress up just to be “Asian/Chinese.”

First of all, DO NOT DO YOUR MAKEUP ALL “CHINESE-Y.” Unless it’s your character’s trademark or something, don’t do those straight across, Madame Butterfly eyebrows and stark white foundation! Make sure, if they wear traditional garb, you don’t end up looking like you’re wearing some weird mash-up of China, Japan, and Korea.

Basically, this is the opposite of what you should do:

[Image description: Katy Perry performs at the AMAs while dressed in an offensive costume.] via The Female Gaze
[Image description: Katy Perry performs at the AMAs while dressed in an offensive costume.] via The Female Gaze

9. “Look at this super unique qipa-”

[Image description: Vietnamese women stand and smile while wearing áo dài.] via Wikimedia Commons
[Image description: Vietnamese women stand and smile while wearing áo dài.] via Wikimedia Commons
Those are áo dài.

Please look at this handy infographic while I smile politely.

[Image description: Differences between Ao Dai and Qipao are pointed out.] via
[Image description: Differences between áo dài and Qipao are pointed out.] via
In short, stop fetishizing my qipao. Stop exaggerating the leg slits, drawing straight eyebrows, and wearing one to your white friend’s wedding. Use your own brain for once, and do some research.

If your “#chinesedress #ulzzang #asian” makes you a purveyor of Chinese culture, then I guess it’s about time I tag all my photos the same way.

(Hint: I never will.)

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Culture Family Life

The only way my Mama showed me love was by hurting me

If you ask me the question, “Does your mother love you?” to give you an honest answer, I would tell you that my mother, at times, didn’t love me at all.

“But how can you say that? Every mother loves her child,” is what I bet some of you reading this are thinking.

Growing up, my father worked in the oil industry in Saudi Arabia. My mother, siblings and I lived in New Jersey. In addition to raising kids alone, my mother did not have a communal support system that would have enabled her to breathe and see her missteps more clearly.

I remember getting the silent treatment from my mother when I was about 5 or 6 years old.

My mother was completely alone. Her parents and family lived miles and miles away in Syria. The fact that her heart still beats, despite being worn down by loneliness and fear, is a miracle.

Though I have always understood what my mother was going through while I was growing up, I still can never bring myself to justify what she did. Pain is not a language of love.

I remember getting the silent treatment from my mother when I was about 5 or 6 years old.  Every time I’d try to talk to her she would act as if I didn’t say anything. She’d turn her face and look the other way. As a kid, I’d blame myself for the silent treatments she gave me. But now I can’t believe I had to go through that at such a young age.

When I was in high school, I used to always get into arguments with my mother, mostly about how she made me feel neglected.

One time, the arguments between us got so intense that we didn’t talk to each other for a week. At the end of that week, I got into a loud argument with my brother. As we shouted at each other, my mother rushed out of her room, grabbed me by my hair with one arm and wrapped her other arm, rather gently, around my torso, almost as if she was giving me a half embrace.

I can’t believe I had to go through that at such a young age.

As I screamed out in pain, at that same moment, I felt my mother’s pain and love. Her painful embrace felt like she missed me, but at the same time, she was furious with me.

Now that I’m married to the most wonderful man, with two kids of our own, it boggles my mind.

How did my mother raise six kids all on her own? I’ve come to realize that she was able to do that because she unintentionally sacrificed the most sacred part of a mother’s relationship with her kids: sharing her love with each child equally.

My mother spent her energy making sure we were all fed, clothed, and finished our homework. By the end of the day, she only had enough energy to share her love with some of us – usually the eldest and youngest.

I don’t think she did this intentionally. I now see that my mother allowed herself to be directed by fear. She was afraid of losing her children to bad health or trashy ethics. She instilled in us the fear of disappointing her, accompanied by a whole lot of tough and deeply painful love.

When I was in undergrad, I was always known to be the risk-taker among my siblings. I knew what I wanted in life and I set out to make it happen, no matter the obstacle.

My mother didn’t approve of my attitude towards life.

I revolted against the mental conditioning that I was exposed to at home, which was intended to make me want to become “a good housewife.” Whenever I invested in my own self-development, my mother would punish me. She’d manage to get all my siblings to follow her example and give me the silent treatment.

I can’t see her love through the pain she dealt me over the years.

It was not until many years later that my sister admitted to me why she followed my mother’s lead. Rola explained that my mother made her feel like that if she didn’t hate me, or at least treat me in that way, my mother wouldn’t accept her or show her love.

I know and believe that deep down, my mother loves me. But I just can’t understand how tough love and fear resembled love. I can’t see her love through the pain she dealt me over the years.

I’ll admit that I love my mother, though it’s difficult for me to know how to best love my mother. I still carry the pain she’s dealt me over the years.

I hope to love my mother in the way she deserves and appreciates, without causing more pain for myself.

It’s something that I still carry with me to this day.


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Editor's Picks Mind Mental Health Love Life Stories Wellness

This is why my Muslim community says I have depression

I have depression.

Not just a ‘once in a while I feel depressed and down, but the next day I’m fine’ – not that type of depression.

Rather, a chronic ‘what is my life, I wish I didn’t have to exist because I am so incredibly, incredibly sad.’

Despite being surrounded by a large support group, close friends who fight for me and urge me on, I have a constant aching, a feeling of emptiness, a lack of connection with the world. While they tell me constantly that they are there for me, I feel as though I am a burden, despite my knowing that I am not.

It is the nature of chronic depression to feel this way, to feel like a burden no matter what others reassure one with. To feel disconnected, empty. Tired, unmotivated.

Previously, my depression was bearable to disregard, stifling my feelings of worthlessness by throwing myself into academics.

Last year, however, things got worse.

I remember the day clearly. It had been an awful week for my personal life – I was angry with a close friend and had woken up the day of a test (that I had not studied for) to an email from another close friend.

“I feel you criticize a lot,” she had written. On a normal day, I could have easily admitted to this, but on this day, it triggered a reaction I am still terrified of.

Not just, ‘once in a while I feel depressed and down, but the next day I’m fine’ – not that type of depression.

Sadness. Not just feeling sad, but a curtaining of grief over my brain and heart. Unable to do anything, think anything, feel anything else, the tears began to stream downwards.

I am an awful person.

Who did I think I was, to say negative about others, to hurt others by my words?

I was an awful person, I should not exist, not if I were to create so much pain.

That week, I continued through my academics in a zombie-like manner, going through the movements without absorbing anything. When the end of the week came, I decided to take a drive, to clear my mind.

It did quite the opposite.

Prior to that moment, suicide had always sounded terrifying. Now, there was nothing else I wanted more than to just not exist. Death was not appealing to me, due to the pain, but I genuinely wished for nothing more than to cease existing.

Maybe there was a way, I wondered, to find a way to pass and just not be.

My faith in God was shaken.

I had always been a faithful person, working on my faith to get closer to God, for whom I previously had an unwavering belief.

There is a sickness within the Muslim community. A lack of understanding about mental health; a nonexistent support system.

Then, however, I was unsure.

What type of God is merciful, but would create a human that is so flawed, so empty?

Why would God continue to test someone that is so mentally unstable?

Despite the prayers that I did, I did not feel any better. Nothing could help me.

There is a sickness within the Muslim community. A lack of understanding about mental health; a nonexistent support system.

Having not grown up completely intertwined with a Muslim community in America, being surrounded by Muslims was never familiar to me. However, when the old school thinking of mental health as a lack of faith stands strong, there is a problem.

Depression, many people claim, is just a lack of faith.

You need to pray to get better.

That is what the community told me. The reason I was sick was that I had failed as a Muslim.

The depression was entirely my fault.

I cannot pray away my suicidal thoughts. I cannot ask enough to throw away my hopelessness. While I can pray that one day this feeling will cease, so far, no amount of prayer has pushed the depression away.

The Muslim community surrounding me does not understand this, and that hurts. Without any support system, how is one supposed to reconcile the faith that one has lost?

While I still struggle with my depression, I have reached a crossroads in my faith.

I would be a fool to end this on a sugar-sweet note, telling you that I am better; that I am a more improved Muslim than ever and that my faith in God is more than strong.

However, I would be lying to say that I am 100% back on track in my spirituality. I am not. At this moment, I am unsure. Questioning. The problems within the community have only forced me to have to reevaluate my belief system, making me question how I understand life as a whole.

I wish there was more of an understanding of mental health within the Muslim community, but alas, there is not. I wish I had a stronger understanding of why God would test me so, but as I have been told all my life:

God knows best.

And though for now I am finding myself and trying to make sense of this all, I can only take it one small step at a time.

Every day that I live, I am proud that I have overcome my obstacle.

I would be a fool to end this on a sugar-sweet note, telling you that I am better.

Maybe one day I will be brave enough to stand up for the cause that is affecting me so strongly.

Maybe one day I will be able to erase these feelings of depression and replace them with those of happiness.  

Maybe one day I will be able to understand, to accept the trials that He has set for me.

Maybe one day I will be able to speak about this with ease, unafraid of the judgments of others.

With time comes ease.


If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, check out the resources below:

* Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline1-800-273-TALK (8255). Here is a list of international suicide hotlines.

* People who are deaf or hard of hearing can reach Lifeline via TTY by dialing 1-800-799-4889 or use the Lifeline Live Chat service online.

* Text TALK to 741741 for 24/7, anonymous, free counseling.

* Call the SAMHSA Treatment Referral Hotline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), for free, confidential support for substance abuse treatment.

* Call the RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline, 1-800-656-HOPE (4673), for confidential crisis support.

* Call Trevor Lifeline, 1-866-488-7386, a free and confidential suicide hotline for LGBTQ+ youth.

7 Cups and IMAlive are free, anonymous online text chat services with trained listeners, online therapists, and counselors.


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Gender & Identity Love Life Stories

I grew up believing awful stereotypes about Muslims – but I’m Muslim.

Growing up in a primarily white and conservative county, I was forced at a younger age than most to understand my identity.

As a Palestinian-American Muslim girl, I was an enigma to so many of my friends and their parents. Nevertheless, I was a child and therefore just as confused in my childhood about their own religions; at six, my brain could never wrap around the fact that some of my friends would go to their place of worship on a Sunday while my father would always talk about leaving from our family restaurant for the mosque on Friday afternoons. Yet, despite how equally confused over each other’s religions we were, Christianity was considered the norm and only I would have the burden to explain my way of life.

I was the token Muslim friend for as long as I can remember, even before I understood so, and that meant I was left with the responsibilities of such a position. I think back to when I was growing up when peers began to ask me questions upon hearing that I was Muslim. I was young when I realized that my battle against stereotypes would have to be one I’d fight alone.

Peers started to ask me a barrage of questions in our classes together. Did my father force my mother to wear the hijab? Would I be forced to wear the hijab? Did my parents have an arranged marriage, and would I be expected to have one myself? Once, when I was getting a haircut, and my mother had left to go pick up my younger brother from school, my hairdresser released an avalanche of questions that seemed to be probing for confirmation on my end that the women in my family were oppressed.

I realized I would always be seen as a representative of Muslims, solely based on the fact I was the first Muslim many had ever met. I went out of my way to prove that I was outspoken so that nobody could ever assume I was oppressed. Eventually, however, I had gone to the point of trying to anticipate biases people would have in advance so that I could preemptively prove them wrong.

Would people start to think that the reason my parents said I couldn’t go to someone’s party was that I was Muslim? Would they start to think that all Muslims were stricter than normal parents? That they never let their daughters leave home? I had created a world full of all the ignorant assumptions that people around me had made, and I soon started to believe them myself.

I never was asked these questions, but I always believed everyone to be thinking them and began to wonder if there was some truth to what they’d say. In my imaginary world, I always assumed the worst and viewed my own parents in a way that played out like a thread of comments on a Facebook post gone wrong, with islamophobic accusations thrown left and right just because someone involved was Muslim. In my initial effort to prevent the world from seeing my parents as stereotypically oppressive, I became quick to interpret everything they had done as oppressive.

In this world, I saw that me not being able to go out multiple times a week was because I was a Muslim, and not just because my dad didn’t want me staying out late on school nights. Stereotypes against Muslims had me believe my family was more likely to be strict and oppressive. If asked to clean my room, I automatically saw the situation from an outsider’s perspective, overanalyzing the situation and wondering if my dad was telling me to do so out of the belief that good wives aren’t disorganized.

My inherited skepticism from the world around me had me lashing out. Many nights ended with shouting fights, with my own internal satisfaction at the fact that I felt nobody could say I, as a Muslim girl, didn’t stand up for myself. This went on for nearly a year until my father beseechingly asked me, “Why are you acting out like this? I just don’t understand.”

Later, in the silence of a house that has heard too much noise in one night, I would repeat that question in my own head and struggle to find an answer. It was when I actually sat down with my parents that I realized my paranoid perception of the world around me was not the reality. I understood that my father truly wanted me to be independent for myself and not dependent on others.

I had spent so long believing in the worst situation that I hadn’t seen they wanted the best for me.

His dreams involved my success, of earning the college degree he never held himself, of being financially stable of my own doing rather than from marrying rich. My mother wanted me to be educated, someone whose success she could brag about on the phone with her friends.

I had spent too much time blinded by the belief that my parents were a physical manifestation of Muslim stereotypes that I couldn’t see the people they truly were.

After we’ve seen the havoc wreaked by ignorance, it’s time we recover from the shock of it all. That shock helped feed into my own paranoia, but now it’s time to wake up. In an environment of adversity, I was able to thrive because I was forced to learn who I was.

Now, I’m thankful for those experiences as they’ve made me even more ready to take on the world as myself.

The Tempest Radio Mixes Audio + Visual


I am completely and utterly Bollywood obsessed. I’ve grown up on Bollywood movies and songs, and I have so many memories that I’m instantly reminded of every time I listen to any specific Hindi song. I remember dancing to Hindi songs as a kid, even singing along (read: screaming) the songs at the top of my lungs.

Till this day, one of my favorite ways to relieve stress is by having impromptu one-person dance parties to Bollywood songs. Here I present to you a few of my dance favorites.

1. Yeh Sama – Bally Sagoo

This list would not be complete without this song. This is the very first song I remember dancing to, and it is just such a feel good remix to a slow romantic number, sung in the melodious voice of Lata Mangeshkar. I’m pretty sure we have me dancing to this recorded somewhere on tape too!

2. Sweety Tera Drama – Dev Negi, Pawni Pandey, Shraddha Pandit

One of the recent songs in Bollywood, this song had me waiting excitedly since I heard it in the trailer of this movie. Released last week, this song has me wanting to jump up and dance every time I listen to it! I absolutely love the sheer desiness of this song, and just how youthful it is. That spirit of carefree singing and dancing is definitely what I live for.

3. Kala Chashma – Amar Arshi, Badshah, Neha Kakkar

One of the biggest hits of last year, this one is going to be danced to for years to come! Also, can we just take a note of, and appreciate, Katrina’s amazing abs? Like damn, watching this song for the first time genuinely made me want to hit the gym! Nothing like a good fitspirtion from a Bollywood dance number.

4. Le Gayi Le Gayi – Asha Bhosle

Confession time: if there is one old school movie that I can watch without getting bored halfway, it’s most definitely this one. The songs, the choreography, the story- everything was just perfect for the 90’s. Another embarrassing confession: it is because of this movie that I have an undying love for heart-shaped balloons. And I am rather sad to report, I have yet to come across balloons as glorious as depicted in this movie!

5. Mann Mera (Remix) – Gajendra Verma

The original version of this song is a soothing, romantic number. Personally, I’m always a bit wary of slow romantic numbers being turned into fast-paced dance numbers, but this song is one of the few that really takes the original song, and makes the remix sound even better than the original.

6. The Disco Song – Benny Dayal, Sunidhi Chauhan, Nazia Hassan

This remix of the cult classic is too good to pass up on. I know I killed that replay button until I learnt the dance steps to it. I learnt it, took the lead, taught it to my brother, and eventually, we danced together at one of our cousin’s wedding.

7. Piya Piya – Pinky, Preeti, Prashant

Who can deny, this movie was “best friend” goals! That hook step of the song was all the rage back then, and this was one of the most played songs back in the day. I remember this particular party we had, where these neighbor girls of ours danced to this song. This song brings me back to that party every single time I listen to it, and since I love that slice of time so much, I absolutely love this song too!

8. Sooraj Dooba Hain – Arijit Singh, Aditi Singh Sharma

Who can resist dancing to this amazing number? Still one of my absolute favorites to add to the playlist for those solo dance parties! There are two separate versions of this song, and when I first heard them on separate occasions, I thought I was going crazy. This version is the one that I like best!

9. Nashe Si Chadh Gayi – Arijit Singh

What can I say about this song except that it’s one of my absolute favorites, and it is my ultimate dream to learn those dance moves, all the while still looking as hot as Vaani Kapoor! People bashed this movie, maybe for good reason, but you can’t deny that the album of this movie has some of the best songs of recent years.

10. It’s The Time To Disco – Vasundhara Das, KK, Shaan, Loy Mendonsa

Another cult favorite! Definitely never getting old, this one. There’s always time to disco!

There are two more songs that aren’t on this list, but definitely deserve an honorary mention. Any child growing up in the 90’s will most definitely remember O O Jaane Jaana, as well as Ole Ole. Today’s generation will probably never even hear these songs, much less remember them, but truly, 90’s and 2000’s  Bollywood had some of the best music of all time.

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The Tempest Radio Mixes Audio + Visual

TIME TO BHANGRA: The Wedding Mix

Weddings are important occasions in almost every culture, but Desis elevate this occasion from a one-day event to what can easily go on to a 7-day occasion. We love weddings, we love dancing, and we absolutely love bhangra. All this comes in handy when the bride and the groom’s sides of the family have an epic dance-off in an event called “Mehndi” (translates to Henna). Here’s the ultimate Desi wedding 101 mix. Keep the tissues ready, it’ll be rukhsati time soon.

1. Rab Rakha || Sonu Nigam, Shreya Ghoshal (Love Breakups Zindagi)

This song screams Desi weddings. It’s an incredibly feel-good song and gives the most positive vibes ever.

2. Kabira || Arijit Singh & Harshdeep Kaur (Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani)
This Arijit Singh masterpiece is an all-time favorite of mine. It’s great to listen to, but it’s also perfect for every Desi wedding. This has 2 versions, and the Rekha Bhardwaj & Tochi Raina is great but Arijit’s version more fitting for a wedding.

3. Chitta Kukkar || Neha Kakkar and Gippy Grewal
This is probably the oldest Mehndi song. I’m pretty sure it’s been sung and danced on, when the first-ever Mehndi was held (whenever that was). Play this remix to pump it up or go with the classic, and watch the older ladies in the room bring the house down.

4. Mehndi Ki Raat || Models

We’re going old-school with this track, because of course if it’s a Mehndi night, how can you not sing this?

5. Desi Thumka || Nouman Khalid ft. Osama Com Laude

Now we’re ready to pump it up, and I assure you this one is bound to get everyone on their feet. It’s just that catchy. It’s also an easier song to dance to because you can look up Mehndi dances and this one is definitely going to be there.

6. Angreji Beat || Gippy Grewal Feat. Honey Singh

This is addictively catchy, and you’ll find yourself playing it in your head. Don’t be shocked if you can sing the stupid Honey Singh rap word-to-word; it happens to everyone, knowing lyrics to a song that annoys you,

7. Shakar Wandaan || Ho Mann Jahaan

Songs in movie weddings have a probability of definitely becoming actual wedding favorites. Add in signature dance steps, and bingo you’ll have people on wedding events doing the exact same steps, which is literally what Shakar Wandaan is.

8. Balam Pichkari || Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani

This one’s more fast-paced, but it’s also great because when it plays, you’re going to want to dance to it even if you haven’t rehearsed for it with your fam/friends.

9. Ballay Ballay || Bin Roye

Slightly slower-paced, but still a pretty upbeat song. If you’re preparing for a Mehndi dance, you’re probably already watching the song video and trying to copy all the stops. ‘Nuff said.

10. Sadi Gali || RDB

There should be a limit on the number of times I can use the word catchy, but this is the last time, I swear. This is THE catchiest song ever, and it is absolutely perfect for a Bhangra. I’ve seen people who don’t even dance get up and get their Bhangra mode on with this one. Is a Desi wedding really complete without this song? [aka the real question that should keep you up at night].

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Gender & Identity Life

25 things that humanities majors are tired of dealing with

As a Humanities major, you’re often put in the position of having to justify your major to family, friends, and acquaintances. Even if people are constantly questioning your choices, you know that passion is what counts.

Unfortunately, passion won’t always protect you from the pitfalls of college.

1. Reading. So much reading.


When I got to college I thought I liked reading. I still do, sort of, but now most of the books stacked on my desk come from syllabi.

2. You’ve added up the number of pages you have to write for all of your classes.


Or you haven’t. That’s cool too, and probably better for your stress levels.

3. You’re an expert at skimming.


Not only can you read at an Olympic pace, you can understand and absorb what you read while doing it.

4.  Shakespeare.


Does he belong to the Humanities, in the realm of the English majors? Or does he belong to the Arts and Theater? One thing is for sure: he wrote a lot of poems and plays, and we read them pretty often.

5. “What are you going to do with your degree?”


This is something everyone worries about, so why does it feel like the question is usually aimed at Humanities majors?

6. Sometimes that question comes from your parents.


It’s harder to brush off from your parents.

7. Take-home exams.

They’re much better than in-class finals.

8. Taking math or science requirements.


People assume you don’t know what you’re doing. If they’re wrong, it’s infuriating. If they’re right, it’s still infuriating.

9. Everyone assumes your classes are super easy.


See points one and two. A Humanities degree is a lot of work.

10. “Have you thought about law school?”


A lot of Humanities majors go to law school. What frustrates me about this question is that everyone who asks it seems to think that they’re giving you completely new information.

11. When you’re working on a paper at the last minute and run into your professor in the coffee shop.


There’s no use trying to hide what you’re doing. Your professor already knows because they’ve probably done the same thing a hundred times.

12. You don’t drink coffee, but for some reason, you’re writing in a coffee shop anyway.


No time for questions, you have to write!

13. Alternatively, you do drink coffee and your blood is half caffeine by now.


Is that how caffeine works?

14. When you’re in a coffee shop at 5:30 a.m. and you see a duck walk past the storefront.


This one isn’t universal, but I’m still thinking about that duck. It was one of the most surreal experiences of my life and it left me sitting there as the sun just barely started to rise, trying to rationalize it. I haven’t seen a duck in that shopping center before or since.

15. “Are you going to become a teacher?”


Maybe! Or maybe I’m going into another one of the careers open to me. It’s not really your business.

16. Theory classes.


Theory classes: where all the readings are as dense as bricks.

17. When you actually understand what the professor is talking about.


The moment you realize you know what “dialectic” means is wild.

18. Discussions sections where no one else raises their hand, so it’s mostly you and the TA talking with an audience.


You did the reading and you have something to say, so say it!

19. When someone says something in the discussion that is just so wrong that you almost want to stop class to let them know.


Would you stay after class to keep arguing? I am pretty confident I would be that person.

20. “You must love reading! What do you read for fun?”


I can tell you what I read for fun in middle school. I probably had time for a few books in high school, too. But in college? See point one again.

21. Walking into office hours and asking your professor to help you craft a thesis.


Put on a smile and admit you don’t have any concrete ideas. Talking it out with your professor helps flesh out your own thoughts.

22. Not getting comments on final papers.


I know my grade, but what did my professor think?

23.  Not being able to read your professor’s comments on the papers you do get back.


Now you have to go into office hours and ask.

24. Getting positive feedback that just stokes your ego.


It’s not false modesty that makes you go, “Who, me?” My absolute conviction that I am a better writer than all of my classmates coexists with the unwavering certainty that I am in fact a terrible writer.

25. Getting critique that helps you improve your writing.


Sometimes when a professor tears your essay apart (nicely), you get real advice to help you move forward.

Love + Sex Love Life Stories Advice

Telling women to just ‘let a man be a man’ ruins relationships

We speak a lot about the patriarchy and how it hurts all of us.

How creating strict rules on masculinity or femininity limits our ability to be ourselves. But there is one nagging, persistent issue that I have never fully discussed with anyone: the subtle (and not so subtle) ways that strict adherence to gender roles can negatively impact romantic relationships.

To put it clearly: I am tired of being told to “let a man be a man.” What does that even mean?

Like many privileged enough to attend college, I began thinking analytically about gender and sexuality in undergrad. Namely, questioning what I’d been taught — both directly from my family and by society as a whole.

For the most part, I grew tired of thinking about the number of things I’d been taught not to do because I’m a woman.

Refusing to listen to solid advice is not bravery.

Not just rape-culture-driven-“how to prevent sexual assault” tips, but daily microaggressions that I never realized were problematic – until I joined Twitter. There, I began following people who were able to write clearly and nonjudgmentally about sexism, gender roles, and feminism.

In recent years, I’ve been thinking about my persistent need to be “nice,” my inability to give a definitive “no” and the roadblocks that narrowly following gender roles create in my romantic relationships.


For reference, I’m a 20-something, cishet Black woman, so recent discussions about the end of traditional gender roles that centered on women in the workforce and men becoming stay-at-home dads did essentially nothing for me. Black women in America have always worked outside of the home. I think I’ve only known two stay-at-home moms in my life.

One was a pastor’s wife and the other is raising five young children — both of which are full-time jobs in and of themselves. Having/being a stay-at-home parent has always seemed more like an unattainable luxury.

Fortunately, I’ve never dated anyone who undermined my career goals.

In fact, the only person who has ever suggested that I’ll stop working once I get married and have a few children was an out-of-touch Uber driver. I gave him two stars.

Instead, my problem manifests itself in other, more nebulous ways.

Men I have dated have had an inordinate amount of trouble requesting and receiving help from me. It can be about small things, like following my directions to a restaurant, or larger, more important issues, like knowing when it’s time to quit a terrible job.

For some men, strong and independent masculinity means ignoring all advice and stumbling through problems alone. It might be harder, but this isn’t about convenience, ease or efficiency.

Strict adherence to gender roles occasionally gets in the way of us having open and honest conversations about things.

This about control and feeling self-sufficient. It is about ego. It’s kind of like the modern-day, city-dwelling man’s version of killing, skinning and butchering their own meat. It’s peak “manliness.”

Extra points if you do it with a full beard.

“Only date men who like women as people” is some of the best dating advice my ever-wonderful mother has given me. I didn’t fully understand what she meant when I was younger, but as I matured and began to critically observe her relationship with my father, I realized exactly what she meant.

My father has three sisters, is still incredibly close to his nonagenarian mother, and has helped raise four daughters. As a result, gender roles were never a noticeable factor in my parents’ house. Household chores were divided up based on our individual schedules. My father shared all of his interests with me, from yoga to horror movies to yard work. He and my mother are best friends and I know that he values her counsel and vice versa.

I’m currently in My Most Serious Relationship Yet and honestly, my partner reminds me so much of my father that it’s a little unnerving. He’s caring, funny, smart, and always willing to rewatch “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” with me.

The one problem?

Strict adherence to gender roles occasionally gets in the way of us having open and honest conversations about things not related to our relationship. It’s a problem I’ve encountered with others in the past: I feel like I can’t give him advice that he’ll listen to because he is “a man and needs to figure this out for [himself].”

From work decisions to handling issues with landlords, school, etc., I feel like he has to experience the worst of it before he is willing to listen to advice from me. And I honestly don’t feel like this comes from a misogynistic place.

It’s not that he thinks I can’t comprehend his troubles because of my delicate lady-brain.

It feels like that “masculine”-sense strength and independence are more important than going the easier route and LISTENING TO A WOMAN WHO CARES ABOUT YOU AND HEARS YOUR GRIPES EVERY DAY.

It’s a myth for the majority of the successful people whose quotes float around inspirational Twitter/Tumblr blogs.

This is one of the ways that the patriarchy hurts men: telling them that the only way to succeed and strive for what they want is to go at it alone. It’s a myth for the majority of the successful people whose quotes float around inspirational Twitter/Tumblr blogs: the idea of pulling up one’s bootstraps, demanding the job you want, struggling until you reach your breakthrough and then surviving said struggle in a fantastic fashion.

But this idea is pervasive and false.

We all need help.

We all need someone to listen to us and to pinpoint finer points about our problems that we might have missed because we are too close to the situation.

We all need someone to tell us that our feelings are valid.

Asking for help is not weak.

Crying and confiding in people you trust does not make you burdensome.

Understanding one’s emotions and not discrediting them as something “weak” or pejoratively “female” is powerful.

Refusing to listen to solid advice is not bravery.

Narrow definitions of manhood and masculinity do not leave room for a person to actually love and live freely. Instead, they create boundaries in even the healthiest and most loving relationships – all in the name of “letting a man be a man.”