Family Life Stories Life

This is my open letter of apology to my sister

Growing up, I had only a few friends. From the ages of twelve to sixteen, I had a grand total of three people I would talk to and even then, I only felt comfortable messaging one out of these three friends. But, the one consistent person in my life has always been my older sister, someone I owe a big apology to. 

When we were younger, my older sister and I were often called twins – we were so in-sync all the time whether it was sentences, responses, or even emotions. My sister is in fact just under two years older than I am and although she can be a bit up herself for being the older sibling at times, I can’t say I’ve never connected with her even though my sister was always a little more sympathetic to things than I was or even still am; if I shed a tear, she shed a waterfall. 

Exhibit A; I slipped headfirst into the side of the building and got a concussion at school one time in year three and she cried more than I did as she went off to get a teacher who basically told her to calm down because not a single coherent word was coming out of her mouth. Though I had to stay home battling a throbbing headache for the upcoming weeks, my sister would spend her time at school making get well soon cards for me and coming home to just sit with me. 

I remember when she was leaving primary school and on her last day, I was filled with dread because I realized that if I now had a spat with my friends, I couldn’t run off to my sister. She was now going to be somewhere that would require me to climb out of the school gates undetected, crossroads safely and not get kidnapped by the white van that appears to be everywhere. Far too much effort for the kid who barely got off the sofa once she sat down.

I got through that year anyhow and remember my sister giving me a pep talk before my first day of secondary school with the same sentence over and over: “I’m there if you need me.” It got really sour, really fast. 

Although undiagnosed at the time, social anxiety has always been a lifelong struggle of mine and I always took comfort in familiarity in my surroundings. I expressed to my sister how nervous I was about starting school on our walk there and she agreed for both of us to meet during break time in the school canteen. The first day had already been awful for me with the highlight of it realizing that I would be picked on by this one girl for the next five years. Her reason? She thought I was ugly. 

As I sat at a table waiting for my sister, a group of girls from my class walked past me making comments about how ‘ugly’ I was. I became the focal point of their laughter when my sister walked up to me and gave me a hug asking how my first few lessons were. I was suddenly torn between being in my safe space and fitting in – would I have been spared the embarrassment if I didn’t talk to my sister? I didn’t know it wouldn’t matter either way; the class bullies ran with it, teasing me relentlessly for the next five years. 

I got teased for a myriad of things during my time at secondary school, but it was all largely in comparison to me and my sister. She was tall, fairer-skinned (colorism at its finest), pretty, and above all, skinny. It didn’t help that she was also smart so whenever we had the same teachers, I would have to face comparisons by the teachers which would just become more ammunition for the class bullies. One girl in my class spread the rumor that I was adopted because there was no way one sister could be so beautiful and the other one so ugly. Another girl told me that my sister should be embarrassed to have such a fat sibling. The comments only got more demeaning from there.

I took it all out on my sister. I started arguing with her every morning so she would leave for school without me and purposefully get out of class really late so I wouldn’t have to walk home with her. Everything anyone has ever bought me down for, I would blame on her and I made sure she knew it. I bullied my own sister for my insecurities and that is a regret that will haunt me for the rest of my life. I regret my actions especially because my sister is a kind soul who has only ever encouraged me and waited patiently for me to work through any issues I was having.

It wasn’t until I got out of secondary school that I realized how awful I had been to someone who had never been mean to me – we came out of school with an overwrought relationship on my behalf. The road to healing has been long but my sister deserves to know that none of it was her fault and if I could undo it, I would.

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How reading taught me to be emotionally competent in life

I’ve always loved reading. While other children often got told off for being naughty, I often found myself being told off for ‘being away with the fairies’ as my Math teacher called it – simply put, I love books.

Reading is fun; you come across so many characters that you like and dislike and so many to relate to. Personally, I’ve always related to Matilda – a tiny human that wants to do nothing more than read and be the best version of herself. Even as I’ve grown older, I seek knowledge through books rather than the internet and if there is one thing reading has taught me, it is how to be emotionally competent. 

I read all types of literature; essays, novellas, poetry, short stories. Hand me anything with words and I’ll absorb it. Remember during English class where your teacher would tell you to find the deeper meaning of the crow in the background or the gloomy setting of the book? Everyone would groan in disbelief – “Miss, it’s just a crow.” And it’s true, it may very well be just a crow, but secretly, I enjoyed looking for the deeper meaning of the scenes and characters in the book. I found it helping me to develop my understanding of humans in general. 

I think what a lot of people forget is that when authors write, they write what they know so it is likely that the characters in the book are a mirror image of someone the authors know or used to know. That would mean that all the little traits that the characters have in a book suddenly make them a part of who they are. When we were reading The Kite Runner in class, I knew that the protagonist’s father’s thoughts on Islamic leaders were his own personal thoughts. I had seen an interview somewhere where Khaled Hosseini described his hatred for Islamic leaders as he had grown up watching Kabul fall down at the leader’s expense. The same thing happened when we were reading Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones. Sebold drew from her experience as she wrote of Susie Salmon’s death. 

But it’s not just character emotions and insight that I’ve learned to pick up through reading; my friends will tell you that sometimes, I jolt when I walk past people because I can almost see their emotions. I didn’t have a social life growing up (story of every broody teen ever), but I am no longer a broody teen. I turned to books for comfort because of the lack of people in my life and somehow, I have ended up with the ability to feel other people’s emotions and their fluctuations. And I know I’m not the first person something like this has happened to. I have a friend who often calls herself emotionally inept – you could tell her the saddest story in the world and unfortunately, it will go in one ear and out the other. And that not to say that she’s not paying attention – she is. Her eyes zoom into your soul and everything in between. But she can’t comprehend emotions unless she is reading about them. 

I think that although the death of the book is on the rise, it is important to appreciate what a good book can do for a person; for a lonely person, it provided me with an endless variety of friends and a boost in confidence. For many other people, both children and adults, it provides entertainment and knowledge. It allows you to put yourself in someone else’s shoes for a brief moment in time and just escape.

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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.”

Gender & Identity Life

Can we stop telling girls that abuse is love?

We were having a family get together at my house and I was hanging out with one of my little cousins. She’s around seven or eight years old and she was telling me and some other relatives about how a boy at school was bothering her. He would tease her, push her around, and all that elementary school bullying that shouldn’t happen.

And then one of our aunts said something. She said something that people say all the time. People toss the comment aside as if it’s meaningless, harmless, like it’s totally natural. Like it’s a definitive fact of life and childhood. But it’s not and it shouldn’t be. So, she said, “That just means he likes you, sweetie.”

[bctt tweet=”To tell a child abusive factors look like love sets up a pattern of unhealthy behavior.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Oh dear.

I could only think one thing.



Please no.

It troubles me that people don’t understand the implications of a statement like that. Telling a child that her bully is just trying to show her he likes her is excusing his bad behavior. It justifies aggression as a means of communication, as an ordinary way to interact.

[bctt tweet=”Why wouldn’t young girls learn to accept pain as a measure of endearment?” username=”wearethetempest”]

Pulling hair, hitting, hurting someone’s feelings, these are all, by definition, examples of abusive behavior. And to tell a child abusive factors look like love sets up a pattern of unhealthy behavior. Why wouldn’t young girls learn to accept pain as a measure of endearment?

And the people that make comments like this, who tell girls that this form of bullying is okay, are the same people that won’t understand why women stay in abusive relationships. Maybe it’s because you’ve told them, systematically, since they were children that if a man hurts them, he loves them. And what’s even more upsetting is that in setting up this dynamic, you’re telling young boys that in order to express affection, adoration, they need to inflict pain. Once you’ve sanctioned that kind of mistreatment, how do you turn around and declare that it’s immoral to hurt a girl years later?

[bctt tweet=”You’re telling young boys that in order to express affection, they need to inflict pain.” username=”wearethetempest”]

It only makes sense that these lessons develop over time and translate into grown, abusive relationships. Of course, this doesn’t mean that every person ends up in situations of domestic violence either as the perpetrator or the victim, but it speaks to a cultural norm that legitimizes abuse. It normalizes male aggression.

[bctt tweet=”It’s because you’ve told them since they were children that if a man hurts them, he loves them.” username=”wearethetempest”]

It’s no surprise that we tolerate the narrative of the dominant male in the household who makes more money, receives more opportunities and gets to tell his own version of history. It’s no wonder that this translates into victim-blaming and rape culture. Of course, women stay in dysfunctional relationships and make excuses for why their male partners are controlling, rude, and maybe even violent.

Some people are going to say, “but they’re just kids.” They’ll say this behavior means nothing when they’re so young, that they’ll obviously learn better. I say those are just more excuses.

[bctt tweet=”At exactly what age do you start to tell young people that aggression is no longer affection?” username=”wearethetempest”]

Because it doesn’t change. Where do you distinguish between acceptable playground roughhousing and inappropriate, threatening behavior? At exactly what age do you start to tell young people that aggression is no longer affection?

I told everyone in the room that day a lot of this; I spoke a lot about what we should not say or do. But, I should have talked more about what we should say instead.

We should tell little girls from the beginning that the first time a boy puts his hands on her without her permission is the last time. That’s what my grandpa told me.

[bctt tweet=”Tell girls that love isn’t predicated upon obedience, her weight, or her sexual conduct. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

Tell girls love means respect, care, patience; it means friendship. Tell girls not to settle for anything less than a man who regards her with absolute reverence, who honors her and in return, whom she trusts and holds in the highest esteem.

Tell girls that love is not predicated upon her obedience, or her weight, or her sexual conduct. They need to know that there is value in their strength, that their opinions and convictions matter. Tell girls to stop apologizing for their existence. They need to know that living their lives exactly as they are – that is enough.

That’s what I want my little sisters to know. It’s what I’ll tell my future daughters. It’s what every girl, every woman should hear.

[bctt tweet=”Tell them there is courage in their tears, in their smiles, in their love.” username=”wearethetempest”]

And on the other hand, every boy needs to learn that honest communication, not aggression, is how to convey affection. They need to be rewarded for acts of kindness and generosity, not simply for brawn and arrogance. Talk to boys about their emotions and tell them there is courage in their tears, in their smiles, in their love. Teach them that feelings are not weakness.

So, I don’t want to hear anyone else telling young girls that the reason they’re getting picked on is that some boy has a crush on them. We deserve more than ignorant justifications for the disrespect and bullying girls face every day. We can do better than that.

We are better than that.

Let’s prove it.

Love + Sex Love

My first love promised he’d never do this to me, until the day he did

My first love once told me, “One of us can get really hurt in the end; and trust me, I do not want that to happen.

His words were so similar to the lyrics Adele sings in her heart-wrenching song, Someone Like You: “Sometimes it lasts in love, but sometimes it hurts instead.”

His words frightened me and made me insecure. For the rest of our relationship, I had a constant fear that I was going to get hurt – and I did. It was very, very painful.

[bctt tweet=”Trust me, I do not want that to happen.” username=”wearethetempest”]

My relationship with this man always surprised me.

Our intimate conversations had so much to do with his past – the pain he experienced in life, his sensitivities, and the heartbreak. Based on what I learned about gender relations while growing up, usually, women are the most prone to pain and hurt. But his troubled past completely flipped that coin for me.

I felt like I was the man in the relationship, to be quite frank.

Growing up, I learned that men were the real heartbreakers, and women were so fragile and weak that they were more likely to get their hearts torn apart. However, learning about my ex during this relationship completely changed my perspective on the way this whole “love” thing works.

The intense depression he fell into, and the extreme pain that he was inflicted with when girls cheated on him proved to me that there is no real difference in how much pain one can feel.

[bctt tweet=”Growing up, I learned that men were the real heartbreakers.” username=”wearethetempest”]

In a poll taken by 501 singles in the UK, 25% more men than women have suffered more pain after a breakup. In an explanation by Psychologist Wiebke Neberich, “Men have a propensity to overestimate a woman’s interest, meaning that they also get brushed off and suffer from an unrequited love more often.”

There is a societal assumption that women are more emotional creatures than men. People think women have a more difficult time handling their emotions than men because of the accumulation of mental layers that cloud their rational thinking. But I beg to differ.

This gender stereotype can add pressure on women in relationships to be more firm and harsh, instead of soft and loving. It can also cause insecurities and make a woman feel like she cannot express how she honestly feels about certain things.

I remember being criticized by him for being manipulative and unlike “the woman he has gotten to know,” just for expressing myself in a way that he found wrong.

Unfortunately, I was revealing my emotions in a way that made him uncomfortable because I myself was insecure and unsure of how to share my feelings with him. I was put under pressure to figure out how to communicate how I felt, and that was constantly tormenting because it made me afraid to say anything.

[bctt tweet=”There is a societal assumption that women are more emotional. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

The reality that I see now, on why I was in those circumstances, to begin with, is because some men do not know how to handle a woman’s intense emotions. Their own fears and insecurities make them unable to endure the difficult emotions that come with a relationship – that they must deal with in a fragile manner but often fail to do so.

The article 5 Reasons Why Men Handle Heart Break Worse Than Women offers a clear explanation for why men may suffer more than women or are equally vulnerable to heartache.

First, men are taught from a young age to be tough and dance around pain by expressing anger and frustration. This leads to a vulnerability in not knowing how to handle emotions when a man’s heart gets broken.

Second, men feel a sense of protection when it comes to their romantic partner. If she were to disappear, this loss will be tormenting for him. He will feel as though a part of him, his most prized possession, is gone.

Third, men are used to their habits. If there comes a time when they must completely break out of a certain routine, it will be hard for them to quit. It’s like a drug, I suppose.

Fourth, men get attached very easily – as do women. Attachments prove just how hard a person can fall for another.

And lastly, the potential of a woman getting hurt by a man who just wants to “hit it and quit it” is far greater than it is for a man.

These experiences that women go through have developed in them thicker skin that allows them to be prepared for what may come next. Whereas, men may not necessarily have a nagging fear that a woman will sleep with him and disappear the next day.

[bctt tweet=” Some people have a harder time dealing with them than others. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

Men and women have emotions, and some people have a harder time dealing with them than others. But this does not divide us in the context of gender – it does so only in matters of the heart pertaining to the individual be it a man or a woman. The mental capacities we assign to both sexes in heartbreaking circumstances are detrimental.

We allow both genders to dwell in expectations and in believing that, both sexes are at a loss.