Love Life Stories

I fell in love with my best friend – and then she broke my heart

There is this hauntingly sweet sensation that comes with the start of a new friendship. The shy first moments with this new someone. Recognizing that they’re slowly coming into your life and are here to stay. It brings happiness and hope, but also fear. Fear that this will end like many friendships before. But trust me, it is worth it. Hold this moment close and cherish it.

If you told me that nine months ago, I would have never believed you. During the time, I was hurting. My heart was bleeding and all I could feel was the pain.

Nine months ago, my best friend and I began drifting apart.

We had that friendship that everyone wished for. We were those annoying friends that would complete each other’s sentences. You couldn’t find one of us without the other close by. I was part of her family and she was my family. We were so different but so in sync. At some point, I couldn’t imagine my life without her. But, life had other plans for us.

I can’t pinpoint the exact moment where it all fell apart.

You know those things that just happen? This is one of them.

I remember crying and hating myself for it. It felt like I’d lost part of me that I’d never get back. I wanted her back in my life so badly. I wanted the comfort of our friendship. But I wasn’t sure she wanted me back. Every time I held out my hand hoping she’d grab on, I was left empty handed, grasping for air. We slowly started keeping things from each other. We began to spend time with different people, and the tension of unsaid words began to grow between us. I couldn’t be around her without feeling like a stranger. That’s when I realized I’d lost her forever.

I was hurt. My heart was broken. So I put up high walls, protecting myself and my fragile soul. It was the only thing I knew how to do. Once again, I felt alone behind my fortress. But it was impossible to stay alone, so I began hanging out with a classmate of mine.

I started spending time with her despite the ache my heart had for my old friend. I didn’t know she was different at the time, but I felt this small push towards her.

It was this odd sensation I hadn’t felt in a while. Each time I saw her, this push felt stronger, and I  found myself showing more of my real self. In return, she welcomed me into her world. It was scary and hard. With every step I took toward her, I found myself taking two steps back. My new friend’s movements mirrored. It seemed that the both of us had been hurt before and struggled. There was comfort in knowing that she felt the same way; comfort in knowing we both share the same wounds.

I found myself enjoying her company and spending more time with her.  I was at ease during the silent moments we shared, feeling like I belonged, and that’s when I knew something more is between us. This is one of those rare friendships, the kind they write about in the books.

My new friend saw the beauty in my scars and weaknesses. Even the scars of my previous friendships. This didn’t come easy or fast. This happened over the course of months. But, I found someone who loves me despite my annoying laughter, my pettiness, my bitterness, and my attitude. I’ve found a warmth inside her eyes and safety between her words.

I’m a university student, so I spent a lot of time awake at night (usually studying). I was awake studying for an exam when it hit me. I was trying to study when a smile found it’s way to my face. It hit me that the fear I once felt is now nothing more than a tiny voice at the back of my head. My heart has been reopened and a new world has been shown. This new bond fueled with understanding and love has introduced me a new world.

The pain I felt, the endless nights of wandering thoughts, thinking, “Why me? Why don’t my friendships ever work out?” are all long forgotten. Because those long restless nights, the tormenting thoughts, the stabbing pain, have made me stronger. They taught me to cherish the friends you have (shout out to my friends, I love you all). I’m more aware of my actions around my friends and the power of a friendship once I have it.

I realized something. Something important. That I’ve fallen in love with my friends. Deeply, passionately and unconditionally. I’ve created a second family, a second home, where I am my unapologetic self.

Sometimes, we aren’t fortunate enough to have a family that loves us or supports us. The reasons are endless. But our friends? Our friendships? They make up for the love you didn’t have before. They love you always and without judgment.

I’ve found a second home with my friends.

I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

Tech Now + Beyond

7 tech hacks to make your long distance friendship easier

My friends are my rocks.

We’ve stuck around for each other through our best and worst, all while watching each other grow into the people we are today. While I hold these friendships dear to me, what happens to these friendships after we start “adulting” and moving onto separate lives is a lot less reassuring.

My closest high school and college friends are no longer five minutes away from me. We’re in different cities, time zones, and zip codes. The certainty and assurance I once felt from these friendships have often turned into missed calls, late texts and a general unpredictability of catching up on life, especially at long distance.

Don’t be fooled: Long distance friendships take work. It’s easy to fall out of touch with your friends when your schedules are constantly misaligned. Though work is necessary in fostering meaningful relationships, living in our digital world can make this a lot easier.

Thanks to the digital age, we can get a lot more creative about how we stay in touch and remain in each other’s lives beyond a call, text or Facebook message. With tech at our fingertips, we can better traverse long distance friendships and be more intentional about the virtual time we spend with our friends.

Here’s how you can get creative about it:

1. Watch movies and TV shows together without being in the same room.


Some of my favorite hangouts with friends have been sitting on a couch, vegging out on comfort food, and binge-watching a show on Netflix. While long distance can mess up your TV watching habits—especially if you or your friend watch shows together—with apps like Rabbit, you don’t ever have to worry about spoiling an episode for your friend, or vice versa. Rabbit allows you to watch a video, TV show or movie on the same screen, all in real-time. So when the full season of Jane the Virgin finally gets released on Netflix, rest assured that you and your bestie can watch it together as if you’re in the same room.

2. Share digital playlists.


One of my favorite pastimes is making music playlists for my friends. I used to burn CDs for my friends as gifts or pick-me-ups. Although music services like Spotify took away the novelty of creating a playlist I could literally hold in my hand, it also introduced a wonderful opportunity to share those very playlists with friends instantly. Within seconds, you and your friends can share new music with each other or get nostalgic over old beats.

3. Tag each other in posts or memes that remind you of each other.


I lose count of the number of times I scroll through Facebook and say to myself, “Oh, that is so [insert any friend here].” My favorite social media posts are of memes that describe the little moments in friendship, from the way you have each other’s backs, or the look you give a friend when you find out gossip.

Even though you’re not in the same locale, you can remind each other of your favorite quirks and why you’re in each other’s lives through a quick tag or share.

4. Send each other virtual postcards.


If you’re still a sucker for postcards like me, you now can create an original postcard on your mobile or tablet devices. Apps like Touchnote allow you to use your own photos and design your own layout to create customized postcards. When you’re finished, Touchnote prints the postcard and sends it to your friend, so you’re creatively combining the best of digital and traditional correspondence.

5. Get food delivered to your friend with the tap of a finger.


Sometimes it’s just one of those days: you’re either completely vegged out on the couch because you’ve had a long work day, or maybe you’re under the weather. Fortunately, there are ways to make sure that your friends still take care of themselves.

With apps like Postmates or DoorDash, you can get food delivered to your friends on their off days—just remember to change your location to their address.

6. Browse the web together.


Downtime with my friends often includes mindlessly browsing the internet. When at long distance with my friends, I miss stumbling upon funny Tumblr posts or taking Buzzfeed quizzes together. With apps like Samesurf, you can scour the internet together like old times. Samesurf allows you to share your computer screen with each other and instant message. You also have the capability of sharing computer files and HD video.

7. Want to plan a trip together? Try flight apps.


When nothing can replace physically hanging out with your long distance friends, make sure to plan a trip together. Thanks to mobile apps like Hitlist, Airbnb, and TripAdvisor, you can search trip destinations by dream destination, region, and activities, get notified about cheap travel deals and invite friends to help plan your trip. These apps allow you to seamlessly plan your trip so you can focus on quality time with your friends.

Love Life Stories

Sometimes, I wonder how I would have turned out without my relationship

I have been in a relationship since I was seventeen.

As someone who is nearing 22 with each passing day, thinking about that is slightly ridiculous. Before I met my current partner, who happens to be my first and only partner, I was a child. I didn’t even know what college I wanted to go to. I thought I was so grown-up, but I wasn’t. At all. We grew up together. And now here I am, four years later, just as happy as I was when we started dating. Usually.

[bctt tweet=”As much as I wonder about who I am and how I am defined, I am still happy.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Being in a relationship for the bulk of my truly formative years has been an experience that I went through alone. I am the only one of my friends at my college who still has a high school partner. And at home, my relationship is the only couple left from our high school friend group.

It’s just us.

It’s almost like we’ve become a constant in other people’s lives, not just our own. Our names go together, connected by a quick ‘and.’ C and J, J and C.

[bctt tweet=”It’s almost like we’ve become a constant in other people’s lives, not just our own.” username=”wearethetempest”]

I once had a friend of mine tell me that if my partner and I broke up, they might stop believing in love. Tell me that that doesn’t put a lot of pressure on a person! What if we do break up? Then not only would I feel awful because breakups are never fun (so I’ve heard), but I’d have the added weight of knowing that for a long time, people defined me by my partner, and defined good relationships by us, too.

Being defined like that, it was never in a bad way, or in a way that I am opposed to. Clearly, when you’ve been in a relationship for a while – and especially if you had mutual friends before you started dating – your relationship is just another part of their life. I’ve been in one long enough it’s almost as if “in a relationship” is tattooed on my forehead. And when you’ve had a relationship last from high school to college, it isn’t even just your relationship anymore. Other people have a part in it as well. Or at least, that’s what it feels like to me. They care about the both of you, but their image of your relationship, and who you are as a couple can supersede their image of you both as individuals. They’ve known you as a couple longer than they know you separately, at least in my case. In their eyes, you go together.

I’ve always been a big proponent of no matter what anyone else says, the only two opinions that matter in a relationship are yours and your partner’s. But when people are so used to your relationship that they only know who you are in that relationship, you start to wonder. It isn’t like I’m about to split from my partner; I’m going to stay with them because they make me happy, and I am a better person for having known them. And I do know who I am; being in a long-distance relationship helps with the formation of who you are as an independent individual.

But I still have to question, because that’s who I am. I have to think about the contingencies and the could-have-been’s.

Who would I have been if I wasn’t in a relationship? Would I be a radically different person, or would I be pretty much the same? All my instincts are telling me I wouldn’t be too different. But maybe I would have been more outgoing, gone to parties I never felt I belonged at. Or maybe I would have stayed as lonely as I was in high school, a hopeless romantic fixated on an idea of love I can’t quite get a grasp on. But who knows? And who can know? If anyone has goggles to see an alternate timeline, lend them to me. That would be awesome.

[bctt tweet=”If anyone has goggles to see an alternate timeline, lend them to me.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Or don’t. As much as I wonder about who I am and how I am defined and who I could have been, I am happy. I love my partner unconditionally. The way they support me and help me find where I am meant to be going in life is incredible. And I like to think I make them pretty happy, too. Even though I wonder about what could have been, to me, our love is what matters.

To me, that is enough.

The Tempest Radio Episodes The Expose Show Audio + Visual

THE EXPOSÉ | Episode 25 | “V-day isn’t really our thing”

Happy Galentine’s Day!

Wait what? Yes, today won’t be about Valentine’s, but this new holiday celebrating our relationship with loved ones- non-romantic ones that is. Join us as we introduce new hosts, Galentine’s/ Palentine’s day celebration ideas, how to love being single, and who we would pity date in order to prevent an asteroid from falling on earth.  

Music List:
Beyoncé Run “The World (Girls)
Alicia Keys “Girl On Fire

If you’d like to hear more songs this Galentine’s, here’s our new playlist:
BE MINE: The Self-Love Mix for this Galentine’s Day

Subscribe to us on: Stitcher | iTunes | Soundcloud

Science Now + Beyond

Perfect gifts only math and science nerds in your life will appreciate

Being a college student, I know a lot of talented science majors. Budding scientists study a lot, and need some appreciation to keep on going. What better appreciation than lots of THINGS? Here are some of the coolest science gifts I’ve spotted online:

For your environmentally conscious friend.


Get your friend something to wear for the upcoming science marches. Or a handmade patch and a pin to stick on their backpack on the way to their environmental studies class.

Know any neuroscientists?

I Heart Guts

Theres always the one person obsessed with brains. Get your neuro-major (or zombie) friend some things to cuddle with, like this giant neuron or this brain plushie. Or something to keep the sun out of their eyes as the ozone layer breaks down.

For the future biologist in your life.


Show your love with these anatomically correct heart stickers and badges. If your friend is more of a head over heart person, get them this hand-embroidered skull.

For the chemistry nerd.


We all know that chem majors party the hardest. But when it’s studying time, get your friend some gifts to boost their energy level.

For the astrophysicist.


These travel posters will make your friend leave you to go live on another planet. If you don’t want that to happen, you can always give your astro-nerd friend some nice soap or candy instead.

Love Life Stories

I was an awful friend and I didn’t even know it – until this happened

In my early twenties I thought I was a really good friend.

Self-sacrificing, loving, supportive, all that good stuff.

Turns out, I was totally wrong.

Older women in my life talked about how they were still best friends with their college roommates and that they still got together once a year for a vacation. People my age would tell me that they were still really close to their best friend from elementary school.

But I didn’t have any friendships like that, and I started to wonder why.

Then I started to ask the women who had long term friendships what those friendships were like. They set up a time to call their friends every week. They always reached out first instead of waiting for their friends to reach out to them. They committed to being there for their friends all the time instead of just when something big was happening. They made plans with their friends instead of just saying, “Let’s get together soon!” They sent cards, like actual physical cards with handwritten notes in them, when something big happened, or just randomly to say, “I miss you and I love you.”

[bctt tweet=”I didn’t know what it meant to be a good friend.” username=”wearethetempest”]

I realized that I had never done any of these things with my friends, even though many of them had done these things for me. I realized that I was actually a really shitty friend, and I felt like a really bad person.  I reflected on all the friendships I’d lost out of apathy. I thought about all the times I had let my friends down by not showing up or caring more about myself than our friendship.

I wondered if I’d be able to repair any of those friendships. And I realized if I truly wanted to repair those friendships and build new ones, I would have to do a lot of work.

Technology makes it easy to feel like we’re making connections. Texting and Facebook messaging are easy and convenient, but they’ll never have as much impact as hearing someone’s voice or seeing them face to face. We’re all very busy people, and it’s hard to maintain personal relationships with people we don’t see in our day to day lives. But the most important piece of advice I was given about friendship is that a friend always makes time for a friend, even when it seems like there’s no time.

[bctt tweet=”Keeping in touch via technological means will never be the same as connecting face to face.” username=”wearethetempest”]

After I realized what a shitty friend I had been, I started reaching out to those I had been calling my friends and apologizing for being a part-time friend. I said I wanted to commit to being closer and that I was willing to put in the effort to make that happen.

One thing that became apparent pretty quickly was that I couldn’t have as many friends as I thought I could. I couldn’t have 20 ‘best friends’. I had to decide who I wanted to spend my time with. This sounds harsh, but we each only have so much time and if we want to be really good friends we have to give that time where it really matters. Of course, this doesn’t mean that I blew off everyone I didn’t deem a close enough friend. I still reached out to them every once in a while, hung out when it was convenient, and was kind to them when we ran in to each other.

[bctt tweet=”I couldn’t have 20 ‘best friends’.” username=”wearethetempest”]

For those ‘best friends’, which ended up being about six people, I made a commitment to call and see them regularly. I kept in touch with them enough to know about all the little things and not just the big things. If it had been a bit since I saw them, I would make sure to clear a whole day to spend with them so our time together wasn’t rushed. If one of those six people called me and needed something, I did my best to help them out. I made them a priority. I did the boring things like helping my friends move and driving them to doctor’s appointments and waiting in the lobby. I did the fun things like watching them participate in a sport or hobby they loved. I tried new things with them. I really listened when they talked and recalled small details and remembered to follow up later. I did the work to become a good friend.

In my early twenties a lot of people I knew were getting invited to weddings. I remember thinking to myself that I would never be a good enough friend to be invited to a wedding, which was incredibly lonely. I have now been to three weddings, for some of my closest friends, and for one, I was even asked to be the Matron of Honor.

When I got married to my husband there were more of our friends at the wedding than either of our families.

[bctt tweet=”I realized that I was actually a really shitty friend, and I felt like a really bad person.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Sometimes I’m still not a great friend. Life gets busy and I tend toward isolation. I don’t call or see my friends for a little bit. The difference today is that I’ve worked hard to gain true friends, so they do reach out to me if they haven’t heard from me in a while. Or I kick myself out of my lethargy and finally call them. I no longer let relationships just fade away from apathy.

Today, I know how much work it takes to be a good friend, and I’m willing to do it because having real, true friendships is more valuable than anything else in this world.

Love Life Stories

When I lost my faith community, I lost myself – and I’m still trying to find my people

I grew up in a really tight knit community. I lived in a small town and my family had been attending the same church since before I was born. I was raised by committee, not just by my parents, but also by the little old ladies in the front pew, my friends parents, and my Sunday School teachers.

[bctt tweet=”My successes were celebrated by my community. My shortcomings were forgiven. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

My successes were celebrated by my community. My shortcomings were forgiven. Whenever I had a problem I felt I couldn’t bring to my parents, I could always talk to one of the church members who had known me since I was born or the parents of the kids I taught in Sunday School. They helped me through my struggles, whatever they were, without judgment or condemnation. In my house, we called these people our church family.

[bctt tweet=”Being surrounded by community makes the hard times a little easier.” username=”wearethetempest”]

This church family taught me what it meant to be a part of something larger than myself. They taught me the value of service to others. They showed me what it meant to have empathy and compassion. They cemented the morals and values that would guide me through the rest of my life. They gave me a profound sense of belonging.

When I moved away from this community, I felt their absence in my gut, in my soul. I felt disconnected and lonely. In my loneliness, I began to live a life of self reliance, convincing myself that I didn’t need anybody else. In reality, I desperately wanted to belong as I once had.

[bctt tweet=”I began to live a life of self reliance, convincing myself that I didn’t need anybody else. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

I began to search for another community where I could belong.  It had been a long time since I had connected with my faith, so I began ‘church shopping.’ I went to a few different services, but none of them felt like home. I tried finding communities outside of my faith, but nothing quite fit.

I couldn’t recreate my church community.

Many millennials share this struggle.  It seems as if communities as a whole are disappearing. In a world where it’s so easy to ‘connect’ through a screen and a keyboard, connecting for real, in a face to face, soul to soul way, is fading.

I realized that if I wanted that sense of community, I had to create a community. I began to prioritize connecting with people on a more intimate level. I got more involved in the lives of my friends. I introduced my friends to each other so we could all have a broader network. I began having real, intense conversations about real, intense things. I found the people who shared my morals and values and talked to them about how they lived their lives. I began to volunteer with these friends, so we could be involved in something bigger than us.

I started to feel like I belonged again.

[bctt tweet=”Connecting for real, in a face to face, soul to soul way, is fading. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

I learned that building community and maintaining community is really hard work. It takes showing up for the same people over and over. It takes a lot of listening and vulnerability. It takes a selflessness that is not innate to a lot of people, especially me.

But the hard work put in to creating communities is more than worth it. The sense of belonging gained from being a part of something anchors me in a way that makes moving through the world easier. Being surrounded by community makes the hard times a little easier.

We have some hard times ahead of us right now. Those hard times will be even more difficult if we try to tackle them in isolation. Now, more than ever, is the time to put in the work and create communities. Join a club, volunteer, rediscover your faith. However you choose to do it, find your people and hold on tight.

Community is the way we’re going to make it through.

Gender & Identity Life

I feel like I don’t belong when my family goes to Desi parties – this is exactly why

My family and I walk up the steps to a family friend’s house for their annual Eid get together. Taped to the door is a piece of paper. Scrawled in marker, a message advising guests that men will be sitting in the upstairs, and asking that ladies and children keep their shoes on and go straight to the basement. “Thank you for understanding,” it reads.

We’re no strangers to gender-segregated parties, but the overt message makes us feel odd nonetheless.

As we enter the house, I suddenly feel increasingly hyper-aware of my movements. Is my churidar too bright? Too attention-grabbing? Should I go into the room and shake the hands of the men or should I just go straight downstairs?

I opt for an awkward wave and quiet “as-salamu alaykum,” and then go straight downstairs.

Gender-segregated parties and weddings have, to some extent, always been a part of my life and part of the lives of my parents. But over time, both of us have seen the segregation become more extreme and overt.

What began as a sort of natural gravitation of the women to one another and the men to one another has now become a prescribed set of rules. There’s an expectation on how we’re supposed to socialize, and an archaic assumption of what’s appropriate and inappropriate.

According to my parents, it wasn’t always like this. My family is so massive, that I’ve often seen them as a microcosm of sorts. The shifts in their customs and attitudes seem to reflect dominant shifts in our specific cultural and religious group. As one particular brand of Islam has spread out of Saudi Arabia and into surrounding countries, I see conservative religious practices with no real historical roots influence cultural groups. I see a contemporary form of Wahhabism attach itself to my community and infuse it with practices that some claim have always been there, but with little to no evidence surrounding those claims.

And when I say contemporary, I mean very recent.

Rewind to my parent’s wedding in 1989. Both of them describe it as partially segregated, something not uncommon to the time or to my culture. What they mean, is that the wedding reception begins segregated, but as the night goes on, men begin to come in and eventually everyone mingles together. The divide fades away naturally.

Nowadays gender segregation has become overt. My cousins and aunts regularly attend weddings where you may never actually see any men during the course of the night. Towards the end, immediate family members of the newlyweds may enter, but won’t stay for a prolonged period.

The shift in attitudes towards gender segregation is most obvious in the change in what is considered “close family.” My parents recall a point where extended family was still considered close family, and therefore segregation—plus hijab and other more modest clothing—was considered unnecessary around them. Now, even this is considered taboo.

My father’s first cousins and aunts insist on wearing their hijab in front of him, despite them being immediate blood relatives and even growing up with each other. These divides simply did not exist in my community prior to the late 90s and 2000s—they were only meant for men who were not directly related to you.

The underlying sense of tension seems to be routed in some ultra-conservative notion that there is an inherent sexualization to male-female interaction, regardless of whether you’re a blood relative or not. There is no cultural and religious reasoning to this. There are several current Muslim communities that have not adopted the Salafi mindset, which places such an over-politicized and sexual emphasis on men and women socializing. These concepts are as foreign and new to my own people as they are to me, no matter how hard some community members will argue—(based on their selective amnesia)—that we have always been like this.

Such practices are not only exclusive to weddings, but several social occasions.

It’s reached the point that relatives of mine in Dubai are having entire homes designed to feature separate entrances and seating areas for men and women. No doubt this is a huge indicator of class status—while some see rigid religious practices as characteristics of the poor, I’ve seen the opposite. Rich Middle Eastern families seem to adopt these forms of conservatism even more than their less wealthy counterparts as a way to boost social standing. They see less conservative practices as exclusive to poor folks, and therefore, to be looked down upon.

Everything about it feels alien to me. As I look through old photographs and recall memories of my cousins and I in my childhood, I know, it wasn’t always like this.

Of course, gender segregation, to many, has its benefits. For women who wear hijab, or more modest clothing, women-only environments provides a chance to wear whatever you want free from judgment and the inevitable risk of intra-community gossip. And some natural gravitation for women towards other women makes sense—often times when we sit with men and attempt to engage conversation, we get talked over and ignored.

Or, worse, we are subjected to some humiliating microaggression. I’ve experienced this first hand, not just in the presence of men in my community, but around men in general—Western men, white men, are guilty of this too. Girl groups provide an immense sense of comfort, and belonging. In these groups, our voices tend to feel more heard, instead of in constant competition with the voices and overbearing egos of the men around us. These spaces can feel safer, and are therefore precious to so many. In many ways, they are precious to me too.

For me, it’s not the existence of women-only environments that is troubling, but the fact that in many of these social settings, it’s not my choice to sit with the women, but it is what is expected of me. It’s ceased to become a natural gravitation and is now an actual rule. And if I break this rule, and decide to go interact with the men, it now paints a certain picture of me.

Immodest, unruly, un-ladylike, un-Islamic.

Growing up, I was always closer to my male cousins, mainly because we were in a similar age group. I remember us spending summers lounging in their pool all day, playing video games, and lighting firecrackers on the front lawn.

Now I go back there, and the cousins I spent hours with just relaxing in my swimsuit are all confined to another room. I walk in, they don’t even say hello. I feel the distance between us and feel too awkward to go up to them, to say salam and hug them. God forbid I even bring up that we ever spent that much time together in such immodest clothing. My first cousins, all pooled together in a sea of white, their khanduras identical to each other and me in my fuschia jellabiya. Even the stark visual contrast serves as a reminder—they are men, you are a woman, go back to where the women and children are.

Sitting in the basement of my family friend’s home, interacting with girls I’ve never even met before, I feel the weight of our regression. I remember Eid parties at their home 10 years go, all of us together celebrating the end of a month of fasting. Music, dancing, talking. Now it’s quiet. The girls are speaking softly to one another. A baby cries in the corner. My mother looks devastatingly bored.

And I hear, looping over and over in the back of my head, the echoes of the same question: since when were we ever like this?

Gender & Identity Life

Stop telling Muslim teens that mixing genders is some kind of fitna

I attended the annual ISNA (Islamic Society of North America) conference earlier this summer, an event that brings together Muslim leaders from all fields. I got to listen to some great speakers and see a lot of wonderful people. There was one moment, though, that is still bothering me.

Included in the ISNA conference are MYNA (Muslim Youth of North America) lectures and events. There was one lecture in particular that my friends and family were interested in attending. Youth get to choose seats first, so we got good seats toward the front.

Two minutes after we settled into our chairs, one of the MYNA volunteers told us we needed to sit separately, boys on one side of the room and girls on the other.

My younger cousin voiced it perfectly when he simply declared to their faces, “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”

And he was right.

This was the only event I had been to that weekend that was gender segregated, which is bizarre. Why are we singling young people out with these regulations?

In doing so, we assume some things about kids and teenagers.

We create rules based on these assumptions, and we force a narrative of young people as characterized by wrong intentions and inappropriate interactions.

The worst part is that this kind of separation is not unique to this one event. It happens frequently in Muslim gatherings. I have been fortunate to have mostly been surrounded by progressive, active, well-rounded Muslims, so I personally don’t face this kind of situation often. But the fact is that it happens a lot.

Too often.

It characterizes and defines many young Muslims’ childhoods and adolescence. This has serious implications for the culture of Muslim communities.

To separate young boys and girls is to sexualize their interactions immediately.

It is to say that even sitting next to one another is in some way inappropriate. It teaches children that the only relationship between one another is sexual and therefore should be avoided. And it shouldn’t even really matter, but especially when we are sitting with our brothers or cousins, or close friends we grew up with, to tell us that we might be giving strangers “the wrong idea” is ridiculous on so many levels.

Creating these rules assumes that a MYNA lecture, or another sort of Muslim gathering, is the place that young people are going to get up to some hanky-panky. Honestly, if young people are going to try and get down with each other, it’s going to be anywhere else.

Literally anywhere but there.

I’m not trying to hate on any one organization or take away from all the good work they do. They still provide amazing opportunities and services, and that has not gone unnoticed. This conversation matters because it is a common theme in events like these.

This is about a culture of gender segregation.

This focus on separating kids makes any kind of relationship seem that much more tempting, and weird. It also contributes to a lack of self-control as kids get older, when they finally have independence. It’s important that they learn their limits and self-discipline as they grow up, and not suddenly have to deal with it when they’re in high school or college.

Especially since we live in America, we have to recognize that boys and girls have access to each other in every setting, at school, at extra-curricular activities, but all of a sudden, in Muslim contexts, they’re told to separate. If we want our Muslim youth to grow up to be socially aware and to pursue relationships with one another, it doesn’t make sense to isolate them from each other when they’re young, while they have access to everyone else.

Further, it invalidates same-sex relationships, which tells children it’s unacceptable to be gay, or just leaves them confused.

It’s not okay to keep telling children that piety looks like segregation. Because it’s not true, and it sends such a twisted message.

It’s not okay to tell children that a high-five is inappropriate because it leaves room to be interpreted as something “more.”

Practicing a system of segregation legitimizes and fuels so many sexist practices across Muslim communities, whether it be to send women to a tiny room in the basement of a mosque to pray, or not legally allowing women to drive.

Here’s a thought: let’s not do that anymore.

It’s not impossible, guys. I know for a fact it’s not.

In most of the Muslim contexts in which I’ve grown up, we were always treated with respect, and not as if we were little troublemakers just waiting for some devious shenanigans. It’s okay for kids to be friends, of any gender, of any sexuality.  Let’s just stop letting patriarchal cultural traditions get confused with religious practice.

Because that’s not okay.

Let’s not perpetuate sexism, mkay? Cool.

TV Shows Pop Culture

‘Sherlock’ withdrawal is too real, but here’s why I suffer through it

If you are a fan, or even know a fan, of the beloved British crime drama Sherlock, then you know that these viewers have to be patient…or incredibly irritable in between seasons. In fact, irritable might be a bit of an understatement. Allow me to explain.

Sherlock has become a bit of a drug to those who avidly watch it. Thus, fans are always looking for their next fix of the debonair detective and his witty sidekick Watson. Unfortunately, that can be a tad difficult with only three episodes per season and seasons only occurring every two years. In case those of you in the back didn’t hear me, I’ll repeat that.

We only get three episodes. Every. Two. Years.

Don’t even get me started on how we waited our two years for season four, only for it to get delayed until 2017. Do you understand the torture of having to wait an extra 365 days for something you have already yearned for for so long?

For those of you who have ever loved a show with all your heart, please try to imagine how painstaking this is for fans of Sherlock. Even if you double that imagined pain, you won’t even know the half of it. Some might say that, on the bright side, at least the episodes are longer than most shows, often running close to 90 minutes. However, I’m sure that most diehard fans would opt for 24 half-hour episodes instead if it meant some Sherlock sass to look forward to every week for six months.

Sherlock and Watson are a team like no other; that’s always been a fact even before the television series came to life. However, Benedict Cumberbatch (Holmes) and Martin Freeman (Watson) are such an incredible on-screen pair that they always leave viewers wanting more. From humorous quips to ridiculous arguments, the pair gets in plenty of their own trouble outside of the crimes they are solving. Still, always ending in triumph and smiles, each episode of Sherlock showcases not only a crime being solved, but also a tale of true friendship. Yet another large reason why it is so difficult to wait for more in between seasons.


Now, since there is so little to grasp onto during these short seasons, fans need to find ways to thrive.

Thus, with every little bit we do get, message boards, tumblr pages, and gif-making flourishes immediately. Audience members write about Sherlock and make plenty of fan-art of all kinds in order to keep each other satiated during the dreaded off-season. Still, it doesn’t make the waiting any more enjoyable. Sherlock fans have had to learn the hard way that patience really is a virtue, and probably not one that many possess when it comes to such an addictive series. However, they have at least learned that there is nothing they can do but wait until Cumberbatch and Freeman finally pop up on their screens again.


So, in the words of the great detective himself, “the (waiting) game is on!”

Love Advice

Here’s how to move on when a friendship ends

Hey Laila,

What’s the best way to admit to yourself that you and your “friend” aren’t technically friends anymore? Or at least back at the acquaintance level? Should I tell them?

– Help Me


Hey Help Me,

First off, kudos to you for recognizing that some people aren’t meant to be friends with you forever. For a lot of people our age, that just isn’t something we’re willing to admit. It’s a reality I had to face with a few people, so here are a few questions you should ask yourself:

1. Is it emotionally/mentally draining for you to spend time with this person? Do you spend more time taking care of their emotional/mental needs than they do with you?

2. Do you trust this person?

3. Do you enjoy spending time with this person?

Friendship is more than just hanging out and talking – it is, at its very core, the opportunity to share your valuable time, space and self with a person who respects your autonomy and worth. Once that stops happening, they bump down to someone you say hi to every once in a while – otherwise, you’re selling yourself short.

[bctt tweet=”Friendship is meant to be a positive, real experience – not an exhausting job.” username=”wearethetempest”]

I’ve found that simply phasing out a former friend – being “busy” or less responsive to their requests – generally, gives them an understanding of where you are these days. However, should they ask, and you feel comfortable doing so, letting them know that you’re not on the same page anymore and for that, it would be better to stay acquaintances, it can save you from straight up denouncing any ties you ever had to the person.

[bctt tweet=” Is it emotionally/mentally draining for you to spend time with this person? ” username=”wearethetempest”]

Friendship is meant to be a positive, real experience – not an exhausting job. Sure, there are ups and downs, but if your gut is telling you otherwise, it’s time to listen to it.


Kick some ass,



Do you have any questions for Hey Laila? She’ll answer your questions on entrepreneurship, personal development, kicking ass, and anything that falls under taking over the world. Send over your urgent (and not-so-urgent) questions to our anonymous form here.

Tech Now + Beyond

I’ve made more friends online than I ever have in person

“Hey, so you’re on a list of people that I want to be friends with, so let’s be friends.”

That’s probably not one of the most usual messages you’d expect on Facebook. Actually, it’s among one of the more abnormal ones I’ve received. It was my sophomore year of high school, and a random classmate had messaged me. Even in a small class of 300 students, I had never spoken to her. We were in different classes and had different friends, but we were Facebook friends. And soon after her message, we were “real life” friends, too.

Five years later, we’re still best friends. The quirky, outgoing personality that had lead her to send that brazen message became one of my favorite qualities about her. I found out that she really did have a list of potential friends, all of whom she contacted through Facebook. While high school — and, indeed, real life — is ridden with messy and frightening social dynamics, the internet can sometimes be a safe haven from these constrictions. We felt unable to socially interact outside of the hyper-stereotyped world that is high school. In a private online messenger, we were free from those dynamics. Without social anxiety and pressure, we could just chat.

Of course, there’s still ghosting and screenshots. The internet is no doubt rampant with cyberbullying and public humiliation. But for me, there’s something slightly less terrifying about sending a message. At least if I don’t get a response, I can delete the message and it’s like it never happened. I can reach out of my comfort zone without being too uncomfortable.

When my friend sent me that strange message, I responded enthusiastically. Where some might have been put off, I welcomed it, because I’ve made more friends online than I have in person. The internet was a great outlet for me, helping me to express myself and find welcoming communities. More than that, Facebook wasn’t a way for me to connect with old or current friends but to make new ones. I was too young to have an active MySpace, but Facebook’s inception aligned perfectly with my coming of age.

There’s something oddly pure about meeting a stranger when the only pretext is a Facebook conversation. I didn’t bump into them in a classroom and make small talk. I didn’t meet them through club sports or camp. Just through one simple, inviting button: Add as Friend. Although I met people through other sites, Facebook was my primary source of friend-making. Perhaps a little more outgoing than I should have been, I friended people who were in my area who looked interesting, and others did the same for me.

So with almost 2,000 friends, most of which I had never talked to, I would post status like “someone talk to me!” or “like this and I’ll tell you something I like about you.” Looking back on it now, I suppose it does sound a little desperate, but it worked. I would have people message me, and we would have a totally normal conversation. A lot of the time, I would talk on the phone with them, forming bonds with these “strangers.” Sometimes they stayed strangers, sometimes they didn’t.

Before there was Tinder, there was Facebook. Before you could swipe left, you could add. Of course this came off as dangerous, especially to friends and family. Most of the people I knew had never had an internet rendezvous. If I started dating someone, my friends would ask me how I met them. I would reply, “Facebook,” which earned me more shocked gasps then I can count.

Of course, sexual predators are real, and meeting people you don’t know online can be dangerous. People you meet online may have as malicious agendas as those you meet on the street. I sure have had my fair share of creep interactions on the internet, but less than you might imagine. When I met people, I made sure I was safe and in a public area. You can take precautions to ensure that your online meet ups don’t end badly.

Now, it’s much more common to meet people online. Everyone’s going on Tinder and OkCupid dates—it’s normalized. But what about friends? For me, Facebook no longer seems like a place where I can just message strangers and ask about their lives. Maybe that’s because I’m older now or maybe social media has changed. Either way, I still find the internet to be a place where a stranger can become a best friend with a few weird words and click of a button.