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All the words I wish I could have told you

I got rid of my last photo of you, and I immediately regretted it. I realized that I will never be able to use the photos I took, documenting our love, as a bookmark.

I regretted that on any suspecting afternoon, with the sun gleaming just right twenty years from now, one of those photos will never fall out of an old book in front of my children and they won’t ask about the boy in the picture with curly hair and reddened cheeks.

I regretted it because you are – you were – my first love. And a person only gets one of those in a lifetime.

When I finally left I reacted curt toward you, almost passive or indifferent, because I didn’t want you to know that this was killing me too. Because I wanted to be strong – because the alternative was weak. Because we met un-intentionally and you immediately became forever etched into my soul.

I regretted it because we were damned from the start – because I found happiness in you before I found happiness in myself.

But, the reality is that I didn’t even know that I was looking for someone like you to save me from my misdirection. In fact, all I knew was that I liked the feeling in my stomach when your bright smile landed in my direction. I liked the comfort I felt in your eyes, I liked being desired. And, I liked how the beginning of our love story sprouted as if it were straight out of a Nora Ephron film.

The thing about those movies, however, is that they always ended just before the story actually began and reality set in.

For whatever reason, I thought myself righteous enough to pop our bubble. To be the one who decides that there is something better, grander, more extraordinary beyond the story of us.

So, I let it go. I convinced myself that I needed to get away so that I could start feeling again.

But seared inside my mind, hidden behind my self-proclaimed and glaring passions for the best love story known to man – and my belief that you couldn’t possibly give it to me – are the photos of you that I took in sepia. My hand on your chest. The back of your head against a sunset. Our hands holding one another. A kiss stolen in a gas station parking lot. Your eyes meeting mine with affection from the driver’s seat when we stopped at a red light and I told you to smile.

I regret that I didn’t give us the chance to seize just one more moment together. I regret that I didn’t give us a chance.

I know that you broke my heart in little ways for a long time, but I broke your heart in a big way all at once. One does not cancel out the other.

I loved you unconditionally. You knew it, too, but you lost me. I waited until I had enough and I left.

I realized that it is better to be single and search for myself, then to settle for something I feel insecure in.

Don’t get me wrong though. Our ending wasn’t nearly as tumultuous as I am making it out to be, nor as I would have liked it to be. One second we were, the next we were not. And that was it. We just ended. There was no thunder, no lightening. Nothing.

Even now as I am sorting through what exactly happened, I still can’t help but think that if you loved me the way you said you did you would have treated me the way you said you would.

I wouldn’t have had to beg.

Even when we did eventually try to talk about us, instead of ignoring the elephant in the room with banter or seduction, I’d be speechless. I didn’t know where to start.

But, please don’t mistake my silence for indifference. I do still love you. I always will, except it’s not the same. We spent so much time together and I know that I am saying so little right now to make up for it. I know that this is unbearable, but I promise you that every word I wish to utter to you is in my mind. I just can’t bring myself to speak when you look at me like that. When you draw yourself closer, it is a bribe which I can’t commit to. So please take a step back, I’m so tired of this. I am drained. If I stayed, I would spend a lifetime choking on words I wouldn’t ever dare to say.

I invested in you and I lost myself. I became dependent. And to be honest, this was the last thing I wanted. I spent close to a year relying on someone I didn’t want to rely on – nor could I. I knew it was the end long before you did, and I held on anyways, just in case, because I have a drastic fear of letting go and moving on.

But how can I reconcile breaking your heart and leaving everything we had together in just a few short minutes. You say that I took you by surprise, that you didn’t see it coming – but I don’t know how. I gave you all of the signs. You saw my silent tears. I always knew I wanted more. I was destined for something different. I felt it, deep in my bones, I just never faced it until I was forced to. I was able to ignore my confusion because we laughed with one another. We couldn’t take our hands off one another. We ran home in the pouring rain together, stopping only to kiss.

We experienced the best of one another for a short period of time, and I know that our relationship lasted as long as it was meant to. We loved each other until we couldn’t. We chewed us up and spit us out. We got everything we needed to get out of one another. We fell in and out of love from worlds apart. But I still feel terrible. And I feel like I should be feeling more even though I have been overcome with intense conflicting feelings every day since we said goodbye. Every day for close to a year.

I guess I just want you to know that I didn’t make this decision in haste. I needed to get away in order to understand more of myself.

I regret not thanking you enough for watching me blossom and believing in me so that I could believe in myself. I should have told you just how much you helped me realize the endless bounds of myself, for better or for worse.

I should have thanked you for letting me go, even though it hurt like hell.

I regret doing this to you because you waited for me. Because I gave you dozens of silent chances in my head. Because you would take me back in a second and I am here telling you that I am confused. That I need more time. That is – time to think. Time to learn and explore and dream. But all you hear is that I need to do all of these things away from you, that I need time alone. That I would rather work on building my sense of self alone than by your side.

But I deserve someone who makes me feel alive. Someone who is generous and who makes my heart jump when I tell people that they are mine. And you deserve someone who doesn’t give you an expiration date.

I am scared that maybe I made a mistake, that maybe I am foolish, or maybe that this is all that my love amounts to. I am having trouble accepting the normalcy of the end of us. The lack of explosion.

I am scared that I will forget. I am scared that after a few months everything we had will feel just like a dream. A dream that is open-ended, a dream that will constantly be on repeat in our respective minds until the end of time. Fated to carry each other’s baggage.

I regret that I now have to give you to someone else. That someone else will nuzzle into your chest, and devour your smell. I regret that I gave it all up so easily and have only in hindsight realized the weight of my naivety. Or did I? Because I also remember being so incredibly devastated, and being met with oblivion, with dismissive niceties. I remember my anxieties being belittled or made to feel small. I remember that I didn’t have the means, or the patience, to heal you.

I remember crying on the dance floor a year ago. Turning around so that none of my friends would see. I was staring at your messages. They were curt, broken and hard to make sense of. I remember being confused, I remember when someone told me for the first time that I deserved a love that was better. A love that nurtured. A love I didn’t have to settle for. A love that swept me off my feet.

I regret that we were different together than we were around everyone else. That no one got a real glimpse of us, in love. I regret being so quiet. I regret that I couldn’t love you like you loved me. I regret that you couldn’t love me the way I needed you to. I regret that we’ve run out of things to say.

I regret that our relationship was already broken even when your fingers were strumming through my hair or when we sat across from each other on the floor in a fit of laughter.

I regret knowing it was the end before you did, and holding on anyways just in case. I regret not telling you just how nervous I was and just how serious I was when I said that I thought we lost our spark. Our magic.

I regret it all because I wish that I held on to those pictures for a little while longer. I wish I studied them. Even though I knew the ending wouldn’t change.

Neither of us can fully heal our heartbreak unless we are apart. We have to heal for ourselves, rather than for the possibility that one day down the line we will be together again.

Seeing you that day, when you came by to collect your things, actually helped me realize that I am better off without you. That I am happy now. Really happy. And I no longer doubt myself. I no longer rely on you for happiness. I no longer get angry or sad because you couldn’t make me happy.

In hindsight I had absolutely no idea who I was when I met you. I still really don’t. I’m not even sure that I knew what genuine happiness looked or felt like.

Maybe that’s what ruined us after all. My indifference. My sadness. All of which at the end of the day amounted to nothing.

Soon I will be able to think about you without ripping my heart out.

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Love + Sex Love Life Stories

I no longer wake up in the middle of the night missing you 

I used to wake up in the middle of the night missing you.

When we parted ways, I experienced this intense feeling of nostalgia and emptiness rolled together.

It was so debilitating that it made it impossible for me to pick up the broken fragments of my heart and carry on. I would toss and turn in bed every night, with an empty mind and a broken heart. I fervently missed you and the memories we made together.

I missed all the mornings I would wake up with you beside me, feeling the cold morning breeze and your broad shoulders encasing me under the warm covers. I missed all the ways you made me feel, this feeling which I can’t quite put into words because it was so intoxicating and powerful. I scrolled through old messages and pictures, watched romantic movies trying to imagine you and me as the male and female leads. 

I thought you were my forever. I couldn’t imagine my life without you, and frankly, I didn’t want to.

You were my everything, and my heart belonged to you.

I was too attached to try to move onto someone else. I was too selfish to apologize and try to win you back. I was too reminiscent to try to forget about you.

But then, as time passed, I started to realize that my perception of you as ‘The One’ was merely just an illusion. I realized that I didn’t actually miss you but rather, I missed the fact that you weren’t the person I wanted you to be. And in turn, I stopped missing you.

I no longer miss seeing you smile and hearing your voice.

That smile I was so attracted to and so intrigued by was a simple distraction. That voice which I so longed to hear over the phone was nothing more special.

I no longer miss your presence next to me.

Before, all I’ve ever wanted to do was run back into your open arms. But now, I’m happier alone, and don’t need your arms to protect me as a security blanket.

I no longer wait anxiously for your text message to light up my phone, and consequently, light up my day.

I’ve realized that my happiness isn’t defined by a good morning text and that you in no way or shape have any ability to control what my day becomes.

I no longer miss your compliments

Your compliments weren’t much more than a simple validation that you approved of me, and how I looked to you. I don’t need your approval to make me feel like myself, and to think that I am worthy and important

I no longer ponder over the memories we’ve built and become fond of how you made me feel

The nostalgia is gone, I’ve deleted you, the old pictures, and dated text messages from my phone and my memories.

Most importantly, I no longer wake up in the middle of the night missing you.

I’ve been able to move on past the heartbreak, realize my self worth and move on from the fact that your presence was a part of me. We weren’t meant to be with each other. And you aren’t the One for me, no matter how much I’ve pretended you were. I finally was able to realize that I’m happier without you and that my independence is something I should truly cherish.

So, here’s me moving on for good, and leaving you, the memories, and our toxic relationship behind. 

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Love Life Stories Advice Weddings

PSA: Getting married shouldn’t be your only goal in life

“Mom, I am a rich man,” replied pop icon Cher, when her mother suggested she should settle down and marry a rich man. I’ve rewatched Cher’s interview in which she shares this anecdote many times. It resonates with me, although I can’t say the same for myself.

I’m certainly not a rich man, and, “Mom, I’m a starving artist,” doesn’t have the same defiant ring to it. But, money isn’t the only thing that buys you freedom, and there are many reasons that marriage is not a priority of mine.

1. “Mom, I’m a child of divorce.” 

This is my primary reason. Watching a marriage crumble from the inside is not alluring.

It’s difficult to watch two people who, presumed to love each other, appear to hate each other for more than a decade and then part ways. What worries me is the “forever and always” nature of marriage.

As many girls do, I grew up reading fairytales, and yearning for happily ever afters. And although I believe many people have happy marriages, I’ve learned that “happily ever after” is a myth.

Fairytales end at the start of a relationship. They chronicle two people falling in love, and end as they have their first kiss or get married.

They seldom show the nitty-gritty of the relationships they represent. The disintegration of my parents’ marriage shattered this illusion for me at a fairly young age.

Since then, I’ve never really placed much importance on getting married or finding somebody to marry.

2. “Mom, I’m young and my career is my focus.”

In my early twenties, I dated a boy who stifled me.

I’ve since described the experience as, “dating a handbrake.”

Once he was out of my life I excelled – my grades went up, I ran my first half marathon, my freelance career took off. I recently rewatched The Devil Wears Prada – a classic in my eyes. Shocked by how Andy, played by Anne Hathaway, has friends who guilt-trip her for prioritizing her career over her boyfriend.

When I first watched it as a teenager, I remember thinking that Andy was selfish for putting her work before her boyfriend. The narrative is often skewed to make us feel this way. In this common film trope, women become villains for putting their work first, whereas men are often glorified for the same thing.

While striking a balance between one’s personal life and work life is important, I don’t ever want to feel held back by another “handbrake” relationship.

3. “Mom, I’m a feminist.”

Don’t get me wrong – there is an overlap of people who love marriage and people who identify as feminists. There are many marriages that are equal partnerships, and if I ever do get married, mine would be that way. But, the idea of marriage, as well as the values upheld by marriage originated from patriarchal value systems.

I don’t like the idea of being “given away” by a man to another man, as if I were ever anybody’s property.

At wedding receptions, typically, only men speak, while the bride is silent. The bride sits, looking beautiful, wearing white – white, of course, being the color of purity. What I will look like on my wedding day is the least exciting thing about me. 

Wearing white as a marker of my purity speaks to a time I’m glad I was not born into.

4. “Mom, if it happens, it happens.”

Perhaps, someday I’ll meet somebody who makes me so happy that I push these reasons aside.

That would be a welcome surprise.

But until then, marriage won’t be a priority of mine, and my life will continue to be full, and exciting regardless.

Love + Sex Love

I didn’t think I’d ever be a housewife, until the day I found out why

When I started educating myself on feminism and decided I wanted to be a feminist, I began to look at my life differently. I realized that the patriarchy affected pretty much all my relationships: my relationship with myself, my relationship with my body, my relationships with girlfriends, and especially my relationship with my husband.

It’s not like my husband is an anti-feminist or a meninist or anything, but when I started to examine our relationship through a feminist lens I discovered, to my dismay, that we both had some very patriarchal ideas about how our relationship should function.

We are told from a young age who does what in the relationship, and those ‘rules’ are deeply rooted in the patriarchy.

Though we typically don’t subscribe to the idea that women should be home raising the babies and men should be out working, they do still subscribe to patriarchal gender roles in relationships in more subtle ways.

[bctt tweet=”Millennials still subscribe to patriarchal gender roles in relationships in subtler ways.” username=”wearethetempest”]

For my husband and me, our patriarchal ideas of gender roles manifested in three particular ways: chores, financial decisions, and emotional labor.

When we first moved in together, chores quickly became a problem. I am not a fan of cleaning and I have never been. I’m the type that lets the house get to a critical mass of messiness and then spend six hours deep cleaning everything.

Unfortunately, my husband doesn’t like to clean either.

After some months of living together, chores became a passive-aggressive battle. If I didn’t think he was doing enough dishes I would let them pile up until we lost the counter. He would let the trash in the bathroom overflow. We would have screaming matches over these chores, but we never actually talked about how we thought they should be handled.

Finally, we sat down and had a real conversation, like real adults. He admitted that he’d just expected me to do the chores when I moved in. For some reason, he thought I’d like doing chores. He hadn’t connected his assumption to sexism or gender roles, it was just a casual assumption.

[bctt tweet=”He hadn’t connected his assumption to sexism, or gender roles.” username=”wearethetempest”]

We talked about how this assumption had created tension in our relationship and how unfair it was to expect either of us to do all of the chores. I told him that as a feminist, I was committed to making our marriage more egalitarian, which included making chores more egalitarian. He agreed and we worked on a chores list, and it gave us both accountability. Even when we stray from the agreement (and we have!), we always try to respect the intent, which is that we’re both responsible for housework.

Splitting the housework is key to our feminist relationship.

Our ideas about finances ended up exposing more of our patriarchal ideas after we got married. About a year before we got married, I’d quit my job in the tech industry to become a nanny. I was making less than half what I was making before, but I refused to ask my partner for financial help. I was stuck in the idea that it would be anti-feminist of me to be financially supported by a man.

So, I struggled to pay my bills all on my own, clinging to the idea that this meant I was an “independent woman.”

[bctt tweet=”We are told from a young age who does what in the relationship.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Since my husband and I managed our finances separately (by my insistence) he ended up making a few major financial decisions without discussing them with me first. He assumed since it was his money, I wouldn’t mind. I flipped out and we sat down for another long discussion, and eventually, I realized that part of being in a partnership was allowing your partner to help. I agreed to combine my finances with that of my husband’s.

I didn’t realize that being a feminist could include being financially supported by my husband because even my ideas about what feminism is had been influenced by the patriarchy. The patriarchy has worked very hard to make feminism seem like it’s about hating men and, in some ways, rejecting them.

What feminism is actually about is making sure that men and women have equal opportunities and are treated as equal human beings.

Part of me having equal opportunities in my relationship was being able to be happy in my career, which meant I had to be humble enough to accept that I could rely on my husband’s money and still call myself a feminist.

[bctt tweet=” Part of being in a partnership is allowing your partner to help.” username=”wearethetempest”]

The hardest part of making our marriage more feminist is our expectations about emotional labor. Men are taught that they are not supposed to show their feelings. By extension, they learn that they are not responsible for the emotional labor that goes into relationships. But make no mistake, relationships require a lot of work, and most of that work involves feelings.

What happens in most relationships, including mine, is that women end up doing most of the feelings work. They manage their own feelings, their partner’s feelings, their partner’s reactions to their feelings, and they spend countless hours trying to get their partner to discuss feelings.

[bctt tweet=” Men are taught that they are not supposed to show their feelings. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

Throughout the years we’ve been together, I’ve done a lot of emotional labor to keep our relationship going. My husband, not so much. Eventually, I became exhausted with managing all the feelings and asked him to start doing his part.

This is one we’re still working on.

Being a man raised in a patriarchal society, he’s not comfortable discussing his feelings and it takes a lot for him to move past this discomfort. I need to be patient with him. Overcoming years of patriarchal programming takes time. We have agreed to keep the lines of communication open at all times and to do our own work on ourselves so we can bring better versions of ourselves to the relationship.

Splitting the emotional labor is essential to our feminist relationship.

[bctt tweet=”Feminist relationships are founded on equality. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

Feminist relationships are founded on equality. Each partner contributes to the relationship. Each partner helps with the housework, contributes financially, and has a say in major decisions. Both partners confront their discomfort in order to keep the lines of communication open.

It’s been hard, but working with my husband to make our relationship more feminist has vastly improved our marriage.

Love + Sex Love

I never thought I’d get an arranged marriage.

I have to admit, my opinion of arranged marriages…or rather, arranged courting or matchmaking…has always been pretty negative.

To me, it was a transaction that could only be compared to something like buying a car. Mr. Eligible Bachelor asks people he knows if they have a car for sale or know where he could possibly find one.

Someone says, “Oh yes! I have a fantastic car for sale!”

Mr. E Bachelor comes over and checks out the car. If he likes it, he takes it. If he doesn’t, he tells the owner he is terribly sorry, but he doesn’t like it. Wasn’t good enough. Of course, the car should just be thankful that a buyer even came along – too many cars for sale, not enough buyers.

The car goes along, willingly.

Of course, in my little analogy, Miss Eligible Bachelorette is the car.

Even though (at least in most Middle Eastern circumstances), the lady involved is able to reject the potential groom, something about the whole set up always felt inequitable. Watching friends and cousins get married after being introduced to their now-husbands through an aunty or uncle, blew my mind.

I just couldn’t ever accept, couldn’t ever see how a woman could be happy like that. It creeped me out and angered me.

I’m starting to see things differently. Look, maybe I’m starting to realize I’m one of the few apples left on the tree of Lebanese girlies. Maybe it’s because some half-decent proposals have been made lately. But maybe it’s not such a terrible idea – maybe it’s not such a foreign concept. Something has clicked in my mind.

Let me share my “wisdom.”

Let’s have a look at online dating. You realize you’re ready to find Mr. Right (or Mrs. Right – this is an equal opportunity blog site).

Your friends convince you to register on a dating website. You throw the idea around in your head, jumping from the “THIS IS SUCH A GOOD IDEA” to the “WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING” sides of the fence. You fill in your profile deets, upload a picture and you’re good to go. The site will probably look at what you’re looking for and show you profiles that match your preferences.

You’ll randomly receive creepy, unsolicited messages, but that’s okay – they’ll help make the good ones seem even better.

If someone looks okay, you’ll go on a date and talk it out. If it goes well, it goes well, if it doesn’t, you text your gal pals and tell them how insane he was and how lucky you are to have made it home in one piece. If it goes well enough, you’ll live happily ever after and appear in those stupid eHarmony ads where the couples are all, “OH GOSH. LOOK, WE FOUND EACH OTHER. YOU CAN FIND AN AWKWARD LOVE LIKE THIS TOO.”

It’s not too strange to think about. I mean, everybody and their mother is on Tinder.

Apparently these days, a swipe of the finger is all it takes to find love.

So how is matchmaking by your parents or their friends different?  I can’t believe I’m actually saying this – but I think it’s exactly the same. You realize you’re ready to find Mr./Mrs. Right. You tell your parents while you’re throwing the idea around in your head, jumping from the “THIS IS SUCH A GOOD IDEA” to the “WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING” sides of the fence.

Hopefully, in the 20+ (hopefully 20) years that you’ve had this parent/child relationship, your parents know you well enough to know what you’re looking for. C’mon, you’ve had those scarily exciting life conversations and have bitched about other people’s partners – they’ve got a pretty good idea. They’ll have a look at the people they know and based on what you’re looking for, show you profiles – I mean people – that not only match your preferences but meet their psychotically protective requirements too. Sometimes you’ll receive unsolicited proposals from weirdos – but that’s okay.

They make the others look decent.

You meet this person. If it goes well, you meet a couple more times. Hang out with each other’s families. You get to know each other. Eventually, you’ll get married and live happily ever after. If somewhere along the way it’s not going so great, you cut your losses and move on.

I’m about to freak out a lot of my friends – but I think it might even be better than anything than online dating, Tinder or even just real life dating can offer.

Your family will generally do some investigating. They’ll ask people they know who know the potential partner, or people who know people who know the potential partner, about them. They’ll uncover skeletons in their closet.

Any lies, any games, any ticking time-bombs about them or their family are made crystal clear.

Were they previously seeing someone else and then destroyed them? You’re going to know about it. Are they lazy? Greedy? Slobby? Sneaky? Useless? It’s the only benefit of the 0.2 degrees of separation that exist in the Lebanese community – sure, an aunty who sees you out will call your mother and dob you in, but she’ll also be a Nosey Nancy who can tell you how many times a day your potential partner urinates.

My dad and I have our ups and downs, but he’s my hero and loves me so much and knows me so well. Having him as a bouncer for my heart is sounding like a great idea. Knowing that he’ll interrogate any potential suitors and ensure that the man I end up with comes from the top shelf and not from the bargain basket, is pretty comforting.

This arrangement basically means that your potential suitor will tick all the boxes on your check-list.

Your parents have the added bonus years of wisdom and clarity that comes with age and not having those love-goggles on. No relationship is guaranteed to last forever and it is quite likely that you’ll be hurt some time in your life (if you’re hurting now, let me help you). However, this little arrangement appears to mean that you can semi-safely fall in love with this person. You’re not falling in love and then trying to make it work – you’re figuring out if you can make it work and meet your standards and then falling in love.

A risk minimization strategy for heartache? Oh my Allah! Sign me up!

Who knows. I may meet my sweetheart at the library or on the bus. He may bump into me and pick up my dropped books and me.

Or, my parents may introduce me to a man who is so charming and dashing that I’ll just fall head over heels in love.