Love Life Stories

I’m proud of my shopping addiction – and I don’t need a man’s money to help me

People always associate shopping with women. They sort of demean us into good-for-nothing beings whose only aim in life is to shop till we drop dead, quite literally…

I get that women do love shopping, and that it is a form of therapy for a significant number of females. But when I think about myself and why I love to shop, it’s for different reasons. I love shopping. It gives me a sense of independence and it makes me believe I have power over something.

[bctt tweet=”TREAT YO SELF.” username=”wearethetempest”]

There is sheer joy in being able to pay for something with money I’ve worked hard to get. Countless hours of undivided attention are given to tasks that amount up to the sum on my paycheck.

That is why when I get the message of a bank transaction at the end of each month, I’m in the best mood I could be. I feel powerful. I feel strong. I feel independent.

You’ve no idea how great that feeling is, especially because it makes you feel like you’re on top of the world. It’s probably not the same for everyone, but payday for me is sheer bliss. Payday means I can go and buy whatever the hell I want and nobody can stop me.

Because it’s my damn money.

And knowing that I have the power over them is such an empowering feeling.

[bctt tweet=”Don’t let a person tell you that Anastasia glow ain’t worth it.” username=”wearethetempest”]

My Facebook feed tells me I should be waiting for my “Prince” or significant other to take me shopping and he’s my ideal guy if he gets me a crazy amount of Mac cosmetics. That’s all great if that’s what you want in a partner- each to their own- but being the person that I am, I don’t want to spend someone else’s money on my guilty pleasures. I want to spend mine. I hate the stigma of needing someone else to make you happy, when you can damn well do it yourself.

[bctt tweet=”There is sheer joy in being able to pay for something with money I’ve worked hard to get. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

And that’s why shopping makes me so incredibly happy. I know people could call me materialistic, but if I have expensive habits, I don’t see why I should abstain myself from them. Maybe I am partially biased because I do love paper bags, and I lowkey love when stores wrap up things and give you that extra “oomph” factor in your purchases. It just shows that extra attention and detail that they’ve given their store. Out of all the stores, they’re the ones that invested time and money into going a little out of the way to make their customers feel special. And, I’m one of those customers. I’m privileged indeed.

I’m not sure if enough people appreciate the countless hours that go into marketing, promoting, and selling something. Maybe it’s because I’ve worked with graphic design and marketing plans that I now understand the depth of detail that goes into them. But, nevertheless, I certainly appreciate them all the more.

It’s just a given luxury. I’m certainly not preaching shopaholic habits. But if shopping makes you happy, then by all means go for it.


Life’s too short to let other people make you feel shitty about what gives you joy. Too many people marginalize and stereotype women into one-dimensional individuals with no other aim in their lives. They don’t understand the point of spending what they consider an absurd amount on a product they obviously have no interest in.

[bctt tweet=”Payday means I can go and buy whatever the hell I want and nobody can stop me.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Haters gonna hate. But, don’t let a person with no knowledge about highlighters tell you that Anastasia glow ain’t worth it. Or that buying a special edition of Brisingr with Christopher Paolini’s handwritten chapters isn’t worth the money.

It’s absolutely worth it if it makes you happy. And while buying these products shouldn’t be the only reason for your happiness, if they’re what makes you feel better on a day where everything else seems to be going wrong, go do this for yourself. Make yourself feel better, and get through the tough day.

Tomorrow’s going to be better- especially, if your highlight is on fleek or if you know your coffee tastes better (kudos to spending on French presses and a better roast).

Gender & Identity Life

I’m ashamed of eating when I have my period in Ramadan, and it makes no sense

So if you’re a person with a uterus, there’s this major responsibility in the process of creating another being: getting our periods.

Regardless of why we get periods, let’s focus on why we act like we don’t get them. And there is no better practical example of this condition than that manifested in the combination of Ramadan, Muslim public places, and ladies on their periods.

You, most probably, already know how common period shaming is worldwide. Well, imagine experiencing the concentrated version that comes with living in inherently conservative societies.

As Muslim women, we have been given the divine license to not fast during this holy month while on our periods, mainly because we’re usually weaker than normal days to bear fasting. But, if we can’t sneak a bite or a sip at work, we march on till Maghrib like we are the champions.

We’ve been raised to abstain from eating publicly if we’re on our periods in Ramadan, because, God forbid, a guy might suspect that our bodies are functioning how they are supposed to be functioning.

So, it’s not enough that we endure periods every time they happen, but we add insult to injury by sucking it up and forbidding ourselves the perks they bring us. Hiding in the bathroom to eat or drink. Sneaking mini bites while dodging the eyes of men, ordering food under the name of your Christian friend. These are the all too familiar inconveniences of being on your period in Ramadan, and we are all tired of them.

Every Ramadan, I think to myself, ” This is the Ramadan when I’ll shatter social confinements and eat in broad daylight! I’m not doing anything that is haraam, and men should just grow up! Humph.”

But I don’t do anything.

I would sometimes reason with myself and think, “Well, I’m not saying, eff it and order yourself a Big Tasty from McDonald’s, announcing my situation to the world à la Tom Hanks in Cast Away when he made fire.” I mean, I don’t want to be that blunt, neither am I interested in gaining myself a hateful crowd with the intoxicating smell of my French Fires.

Yet, I continue to act all cloak and dagger about it with the rest of my lady colleagues.

You might think, why not settle for halfway measures? Like if I really, really want that morning coffee, nothing will happen if I make it myself, instead of ordering it and go sip on it discretely at my desk. Or maybe bring myself a little non-aromatic sandwich and enjoy it at a spot with low traffic.

Yes. That makes perfect sense, but it’s easier said than done.


Well, you see, it all comes down to the fact that we live in a patriarchal world which succeeded long ago in socially conditioning women to think that they are lesser beings. It is old news, I know. But, to women, it still is a daily reality and an ongoing struggle. It has infiltrated us so deeply, that we ourselves regard fellow women who dare to practice their basic rights in spite of society as heroines. What kind of society is that that downplays our struggles to such rudimentary matters of life?  That reduces our dreams and hopes to the practicing of our simplest God-given rights?

Do I mean to start a revolution?

No. All I want is for us women to be easy on ourselves and allow ourselves to publicly embrace everything that comes along with being a woman. I’m not for shocking statements of defiance because they backfire and are just silly. But I am for gradual change by having society readily acquiesce in our case until they accept what they couldn’t before, as long as there is nothing wrong with it and it’s not against our beliefs.

Maybe it’s not all that easy. Maybe this is too forward. But women need to stop being apologetic about their periods and, more importantly, about existing.

Frankly, nobody will come up to me and embarrass me if I eat publicly during Ramadan. It is all just in my head. And even if they do, that would be their problem, not mine.

But I still struggle to apply that. So, if you’re a lady who dumps nonsensical social conventions in the garbage bin, then power to you.

But if you’re like the rest of us who still can’t, I feel you and I ask you, what do you think of this suppressing legacy we inherited, and how about changing it?

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter.

Gender Love Inequality

This wasn’t about female empowerment

Last week, a photo went viral in the matter of a few hours. It was a photo of a high school girl. Below it, her senior yearbook quote read, “Only reason I wear this is to give you females a chance.”

The “this” she was referring to, of course, was her hijab.

“Wow,” I thought. What a sweet sentiment! I had deciphered her comment as a boost of confidence to fellow hijabis: I’m wearing this so you can feel strong in your choice to wear this, too!

But as I started reading the articles that began to flood my social media, and I saw her own comments on Twitter, I realized it was nothing of the sort. She meant it in the way that she was covering her beauty — that she was too beautiful — and that would be the only way for women who don’t wear hijab to be noticed in society.

Well, once I realized that, I instantly felt a frisson of something I can only call discomfort.

Yet again, women were being reduced to a set of validated characteristics that were limited to our looks. And her reason for wearing hijab automatically excluded non-hijabi Muslim women from the larger community of Muslim women. As if the hijabis are better than Muslim women who choose to not wear hijab, because they “hide their beauty.”

When I discussed this with a few friends and family, I was met with shocked proclamations and looks of disdain. How could I, a hijabi, not feel proud of this girl for her statement?

Simple. Because her statement points to a bigger issue we are facing in our society.

That photo went viral because we think that for a woman to feel better about herself and her situation she must, at the same time, put down other women.

This goes beyond Muslim women. This has to do with women of all backgrounds, and especially minorities, who have had to face discrimination at some point in their life. Women face discrimination in the workplace, in politics, in society as whole. You would think we would be more attuned to one another’s struggles and support each other when the need arises.

Women of color, however, tend to face discrimination on an even higher level. They face it both as a women, and as people of color. Both those traits together create a larger obstacle to success, especially when other women try and hold them back as they try to complete their own personal journey.

Being part of a marginalized community in this country has its hardships. It’s not easy to deal with the social injustices inflicted upon this population. A lot of times, it can seem almost hopeless. That is why I firmly believe that we, as women, need to bond together and work as one unit in order for us to be successful.

The high school girl whose quote went viral is only 17, and I cannot blame her for her comment. I admire her strength. What has failed us is our system.

We need to teach our girls from a young age that using our religion, color, or ethnicity to get ahead is wrong, as it simultaneously puts down other women.

Sisterhood is a fierce bond. When used correctly, its ripple effects will create waves of success in our societies. Now, more than ever, we need to uplift each other and work towards achieving our goals together. Only then will we see true freedom and equal rights for all women.

Jinan Deena is a Palestinian American who has used writing as a tool to express herself. Through her writing, she was allowed to create a safe space for expression and dialogue. You can find Jinan on Facebook, Instagram @jdeena and Twitter @j_deena.

Love Humor

Here’s how Fox News discusses Muslims.

comic about how Fox News talks about Muslims

Movies Pop Culture

Fifty Shades of Grey isn’t THAT sex positive, Hollywood

It’s been nearly half a week since Sam Taylor-Johnson’s divisive and controversial Fifty Shades of Grey came out, so it’s safe to assume that we’ve read every possible thinkpiece about the film already.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way – Fifty Shades of Grey is a terrible film. And not a campy, so-bad-it’s-good (hello, Boy Next Door), it’s just bad. It is poorly written, lifeless, and utterly boring. (The supposed early draft of the script leaked on Tumblr is fun to read though.)

Yes, the film also portrays BDSM as a result of trauma rather than sexual preference. This is problematic. Yes, the film normalizes an abusive relationship. This is also problematic. These are huge issues that respective communities have spoken out about, and rightfully so. But there is one aspect that we’re all forgetting.

[bctt tweet=”Our society is still so fascinated by the female physique and sexuality.” username=”wearethetempest”]

I’m going to ask you, the reader, to go to a very dark place: the year 2008. A time when “WHAT IS AIR?” was a normal response to humor, when knee-high gladiator sandals were socially acceptable, and when Taylor Swift was still a country singer. Critically acclaimed director of Thirteen, Catherine Hardwicke, signs on to direct the film adaptation of bestseller YA novel Twilight, which becomes a sensation. Whether you loved it or hated it, Twilight was inescapable. Then, as Hardwicke herself mentions in the 2011 documentary Miss Representation, once Twilight became a moneymaking monster of a franchise, she was dropped and the directors of the subsequent three films were all men.

[bctt tweet=”It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact reason we collectively became so obsessed.” username=”wearethetempest”]

I’ve written about the terse relationship between women and films before, and 50 Shades is eerily repeating the pattern that the Twilight series laid out before it (which, I guess, makes sense). Being a woman in an industry largely dominated by men forces your work to be judged as woman first, product second. Unfortunately, a large number of people will point their finger to Fifty Shades as evidence that female filmmakers are only good for making shitty films that make money. On the positive side, the box office numbers guarantee that we’ll be seeing a lot more women-centric films coming from Hollywood soon. However, films like these do very little in ameliorating the female filmmaker’s public image or increasing the respect we receive. Sure, we’ve got the likes of Kathryn Bigelow, Sofia Coppola, Lisa Cholodenko, and Ava DuVernay making serious, critically-acclaimed films, and even auteurs such as Nora Ephron and Amy Heckerling creating original and entertaining romantic comedies. Yet, none of these films exploded the way Fifty Shades did.

It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact reason we collectively became so obsessed with a poorly written Twilight fanfiction; was it the sex? The fantasy of an ordinary girl melting the heart of a stone cold heartthrob? The even better fantasy of a billionaire falling in love with you? Probably all three. Regardless, it seems as if women collectively make an event out of seeing films such as Fifty Shades, partly to joke about it and partly to see ourselves onscreen. It’s somewhat humiliating that our selection of lady movies to gather around is so poor, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Personally, I think that the somewhat taboo topic of BDSM is what drew so many to the film, which is frustrating because Anastasia is repeatedly portrayed as an instrument to Christian’s sexual urges. I’m not going to rehash or debate the blurred lines of Anastasia and Christian’s sexual relationship; it’s pretty clear that there was an element of abuse there. So here’s a proposition, Hollywood– for your next female blockbuster, hire a woman to direct a well written, sex-positive film starring a woman! Our society is still so fascinated by the female physique and sexuality, it will most definitely make money. I promise.

[bctt tweet=”Personally, I think that the somewhat taboo topic of BDSM drew so many to the film.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Until then, satisfy your desire for kinky sex, complicated relationships, and layered female characters with Secretary. Seriously. It’s fantastic.

Movies Pop Culture

Fifty shades of NOPE.

What. Is. Going. On?

Why is everyone obsessed with Fifty Shades of Grey?

According to The Telegraph, this series has sold more copies than Harry Potter – over 10 million copies worldwide. The movie of the first book, “Fifty Shades of Grey” premiered just before Valentines Day this year – how… lovely.

I will not be reading the book and I am definitely nowhere near interested in seeing the film. Hopefully, I can attempt to convince you why it’s not the greatest “love” story and why I’m not going to dare and flip a page from it.

[bctt tweet=” Wow – thank you so much!” username=”wearethetempest”]

First things first: a book like this can be found in a section labeled as “erotic fiction”. Based off of the Merriam Webster dictionary, this means “works of art or literature that deal with sex and are meant to cause sexual feelings.” I’ve come across a few acquaintances who brought up their excitement about the book and I’m like, just no.. please stahp. Personally, I would never come near such a book because if watching sex is haram then how can reading it be halal? It’s not even sex – this is a whole new level of disgust – something I would consider sinful based on my interpretations of Islam.

[bctt tweet=”If you’re still wondering whether I read the book or not, I have not. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

Look, I get it. I get that there’s this somewhat romantic aspect in the novel/movie about how seductive Christian Grey is and how so many women are obsessing about him being the ideal man.  What I don’t get is how phrases that Mr. Grey says such as his need to “exercise control in all things” or “my tastes are very singular” – do not come off as striking and non feminist. This is not my ideal man.  Relationships in real life are not meant to be this way whatsoever. There’s no passion in this. This is a freak who lured with worldly treasures and denounces your worth to a sexual object. The trailer gives you glimpses of his “playroom” which, frankly speaking, is the playroom  for a guy using sexual abuse to fill in a hole in his heart.

Another aspect about this series is that it involves BDSM. BDSM stands for: Bondage, Dominance, Sadism, and Masochism. If you have no clue what those words mean, don’t worry – they don’t add flavor to your life, so don’t bother. However, if you do know their meaning, then sadly this is the core purpose of the trilogy. When I think of the concept of sex, I see it as a gift that God has bestowed upon couples to fuel their love for one another, not as something that inflicts pain on one spouse. Yes, there can be role playing while having sex but that takes time, patience and agreement between spouses, if that’s their method of experimenting, so long as it doesn’t reach sexual and physical abuse. Having that said, this story distorts this beautiful gift and presents age groups as young as teenagers with a messed up-evil view of what love is and what it should be.
If you’ve fallen in love with the way Mr. Grey seduces and is able to read Anna’s body language, then you ought to take into consideration that this isn’t his first time he’s done this. Such instances come from experience. Being able to figure what turns your spouse on takes practice and guidance, it’s a give and take relationship.

It’s mind boggling to me to see such a book skyrocket the charts to the point where the media went wild when the director revealed that they weren’t going to film the infamous tampon scene because there were just too many sex scenes already.  Wow – thank you so much!

[bctt tweet=”I will not be reading the book and I am definitely not interested in seeing the film. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

If you’re still wondering whether I read the book or not, I have not. And I won’t ever. Thankfully, God has blessed me with more than fifty shades of truth that can keep me far away from such material and more focused on important matters.

At the end of the day, I walk away from this knowing that this series is about a sadistic billionaire’s “love” story. A fantasy I do not want to be near.

Humor Life

17 realities that DEFINITELY happen traveling while Muslim

1. No one wants to sit next to you and your duffle bag. Maybe because it smells like curry, lots of curry. Or dates, maybe?

dog spraying man with air freshener

2. Metal detectors break in anticipation of your presence. You’re just that fabulous that they need to pull out the heavy machinery to capture your image via full body scan. 

Beyonce winking

3. You try to not look at the planes too hard in case they act up like the metal detectors and fail to work because of your sheer proximity.

Girl smelling her armpit

4. Enunciation is at an all-time high for anyone you meet. They really want you to u-n-d-e-r-s-t-a-n-d.

Woman holding her hands over her ears

5. No one even tries to say your name. It’s just not worth all the practice.

Michael Scott saying "I am dead inside"

6. No one wants to be your travel friend. They must smell the dates on your breath…

Man eating Doritos

7. When you smile a lot at people to force them to be your plane friend, they get really happy and cuddle their bags closer to themselves.

Woman waving through a window

8. Some people are too nice to you. Like, way too nice. Either they are trying to cop a date or they are hoping to kill you with kindness.

Toddler being really happy

9. Every academic you meet asks you about the book you are reading. They are pretty sure it’s the Quran, and that you can finally be the “moderate Muslim” they have been looking for. Its usually just a boring old biology textbook, though. It’s a shame to disappoint them, really, where else will they claim to encounter one of your kind?

Gaston and Belle from Beauty and the Beast looking at a book

10. Old white men seem particularly interested in where you are headed and why. It’s possible you finally landed the coveted sugar daddy. Or they are attracted to dates.

old man giving a thumbs up

11. Stopping at rest stations is a profound experience. Not only did you see some interesting flora and fauna, but you’re pretty sure your twizzlers have reshaped after years in a vending machine to form the word Allah (swt).

Eddie Murphy looking disgusted

12. You pretend no one can see inside your untinted windows in the car when take off your hijab to feel the air (read air conditioning) flow through your billowing locks and pray you can pull it on before the airbag inflates.

Cow with long blond hair blowing in the wind

13. Train stations are the best place to play Are-You-My-People? Transient vaguely Muslim looking dudes are everywhere.

Bollywood dance scene

14. But then you begin to see cyborg-like KKK members (Terminator style) everywhere.

Terminator on fire

15. Somehow, everyone thinks that other rando Muslim person is your mother/grandfather/child. You find yourself comforting them/sharing your snacks because everyone else will be judging you if you don’t.

cat and rat sharing food bowl

16. You are never paranoid someone will steal your bags in your sheer proximity, because you are the best anti-theft device on the market.

man stealing a bike and riding it away

17. But the best part is when the Muslim lady working at Auntie Anne’s gives you extra samples for your shared struggle. #solidarity

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler giving high five
Gender & Identity Life

When I publicly smoked as a hijabi, I felt like a hypocrite.

Over the last couple of months I discovered my hijab story. Mind you, this story only developed seven years after having taken up the hijab and 10 months after having taken it off. But I guess it’s the experiences that make the story and the subsequent lessons.

Nothing about my years in hijab were traumatic that caused me to dismiss my faith and throw away my beautiful pieces of cloth in a rage-full dismissal of my faith.  I actually still wrap my old headscarf around my neck or arms, reveling in their comfort on a daily basis. What changed was the issue of representation. I have always had, and continue to have, a strong love for the rationality of my religion, the peace of my faith, and the comfort of making my most stable identity, Islam, visible through the scarf. I decided to take on wearing the hijab as I was graduating from middle school to a Catholic, all-girls high school.

At the time, as an awkward-looking, flat, wild-haired brown girl, I didn’t understand the idea of hijab as protection. Rather, it was a statement. A way to represent my faith, my politics, my identity, and my self. When wearing the scarf, I made a point of smiling more frequently, engaging with strangers, being incessantly polite, answering questions politely, and going out of my way to make friends.

I study issues of representation in international development, particularly representation of women, I firmly believe in representing myself in the best way possible, keeping in mind the way people perceive and response to the way I carry myself. During the first two to three years of college, I developed a variety of habits that are un-Islamic. These habits, at least not all of them, were not necessarily ones that I could conceal in order to maintain the image of an observant Muslim.

The most problematic and persistent development was, and continues to be, the smoking. I smoked and continued to wear the hijab for two years. Depending on where I was and whom I was with, I would decide whether to smoke publicly or not.

A brown woman in hijab, smoking against the backdrop of white-male dominated academic background is a striking and meaning-packed image, as I discovered and manipulated. Here is an exercise: conjure that image in your own mind and derive your own meanings and judgments. Among other things, it defies the norms and traditions of the culture that my skin color speaks to. But it also defies the belief system my hijab spoke to.

Case in point: I was smoking, one night, in the parking lot of a rather prestigious restaurant when an elderly, upper class, white man approached me. He, very pleasantly and politely said, “You are Muslim, right? Smoking is against your religion and its going to ruin your beauty.”

Way to represent, Sumer.

A year later, I was heading to Amman, Jordan for a semester. I wore the hijab for a week into being there. And then I took it off. I no longer felt as though I needed to represent my faith and fight the stereotypes against Muslims, because I was in an environment where most people shared my faith. I further justified my decision by turning to the idea of hijab as a protection. I was being sexually harassed and followed in the hijab, and that persisted after I took it off. The biggest challenge was deciding what to do when I returned State-side. I had long Skype calls with my mother and closest-friend. My decision came down to the issue of representation. I still smoked, far more than before, and had no intention of quitting upon my return. That, combined with my other less-noble tendencies made me feel like a hypocrite in the scarf. In my travels, I watched Muslim women in hijab engaging in actions that were, also, less-noble. I did not want to be that person. I am not making judgment calls against such people; this was just a standard I had set for myself and was not keen on breaking it. So I landed in States, with no scarf on.

I returned to campus and my job at a coffee shop, with my thick curls falling down my back. It took all of four months for me to discover the power and beauty of hijab. All of a sudden, the male regulars, who I had been serving since before I left, were openly flirting with me. People held doors open, said “hi” randomly, and I got asked out more times in those four months than I had in my two and a half years of university.

Before, during the handful of times non-Muslim guys asked me out, I considered them to be my friends. They knew me, my character, my mind, my opinions, my behavior. Now, guys who misread my name off of my nametag were asking me to dinner. The newly developed attention was demeaning and offensive. And I continue to feel the same way about it, being in Indonesia with a different pool of men.

Before I left for Indonesia, I was taking my break outside the coffee shop, having a smoke. An elderly, upper class white women approached me.

She, very pleasantly and politely, said, “I sometimes wish I still smoked.”

Mind Love + Sex Love Life Stories Advice Wellness

I almost lost myself to my husband – until this happened

Today I found myself skipping.

It’s something that I haven’t done since elementary school and it felt great. Trying to figure out why that was happening, I started asking myself questions: Did I have too much coffee in the morning? Was that white powder sprinkled at the top of my daily pumpkin muffin really ‘just salt’?

The answer was that I was simply happy, and it has taken me a long time to get to this point.

I have been divorced for almost a year now and it has been the most liberating and powerful experience of my life.

Often, I am met with people who feel pity towards me or approach me as a broken-winged bird; I have a tough time articulating to them that not only am I fine, but I am the happiest I have ever been.

Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I don’t freak out when I lose things. Last weekend while traveling I lost my phone and my wallet all in a matter of two hours. During my search to find these items my friend noted how calm I was. I tried explaining to her that I’m not very possessive of material things and I truly see them as temporary and replaceable.

Loss has never bothered me. However, last year I lost one of my most prized possessions: myself.

I naively entered a marriage that had placed all the hard work I had put into myself onto the back burner.

My ex-husband came in with this presumed power to set limits on my dreams. He attempted to break something that I took years to build. Through his own insecurities and misery, he attempted to dismantle a foundation so strong that even he shook when trying to break it.

During the brief time of my marriage, I found myself faced with someone who made me feel as though I was hard to love. Someone so threatened by my own ambition and confidence that they attempted to pick apart my accomplishments and make all the beauty in me somehow seem ugly.

Now, before you judge me and approach me with the ‘marriage is hard work’ bullshit, understand that I didn’t leave my relationship because I was afraid to put in the work, I left because if I didn’t…it would have destroyed me.

His ability to make me feel bad for being me turned into an abusive and manipulative relationship that was centralized around his own illogical feelings. He projected his own insecurities on me.

My successes became his failures and I eventually was perceived to be a failure myself.

I particularly remember being excited about a new position at work and eagerly applied in the hopes that things would work in my favor. My eagerness was interpreted to be a lack of interest in him, male co-workers suddenly became threats and my work was believed to be a sudden force taking me away from him and my role as a wife.

He reacted poorly. He belittled me in the worst of ways; both publicly and privately.

In the end, I had become a literal and figurative punching bag for a man who just couldn’t handle the woman that I was. It was the very moments that I found myself apologizing for the things I had no control over that empowered me to move forward and eventually move on.

In realizing that my dreams were not built to break, I also realized that this loss was quite the biggest gain of my life.

I am by no means perfect. I have a sharp tongue, I forget to clean up after myself and I am often too sensitive for my own good.

As I think about the idea of a new relationship or a marriage, I am open to the idea of having someone who challenges me and is there to support me becoming a better version of myself.

However, I will never settle for someone who makes me think less of myself. I crave a love so deep that any bit of criticism is packaged in unconditional respect and a commitment to a long-lasting relationship filled with patience.

Real love is transformative. Real love challenges you in the right ways. Real love makes you stronger. Real love isn’t destructive.

I want my future companion to be fascinated and inspired by my drive, not threatened by it. I want him to see my passion as my most beautiful feature.

And more than anything, just as Frida Kahlo once said, “I want a lover who looks at me like maybe I am magic.”

Gender & Identity Life

I’m terrified of not being brave enough

I think I’ve lost track of the number of times random strangers have complimented my “headwrap” or “hair-do.” I’ve lost track of the random “as-salamu alaikums” that always make my day, but each and every time it had me grinning ear to ear, so proud of my faith.

Everyone’s world was shaken early last week as we heard about the Chapel Hill Shooting, the murder of Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and Razan Abu-Salha. This wasn’t just a faraway attack that hurt us, it was too close to home. They were too close to us, too much like us. We see our friends in them. We see ourselves in them.

I wish I could say it stopped there, but we all know it hasn’t. Mustafa Mattan was shot in his own home last Monday in Ottowa. In the same week, the Islamic Center in Texas was set on fire, six windows were shot out with a gun at the Muslim Secondary School in Montreal, and a man was attacked while grocery shopping in Dearborn. This is just a glimpse.

These are just headlines of lives and stories that ripple into innumerable effects. A death doesn’t kill just a life – it kills the spirit of those around them, and it has the power to kill hope and faith and bravery. Last week, I saw hundreds of our community members gather together to show that we do not accept this, and to prove that we stand together.

I felt confident and defiant. But as I watched two sisters clutching each other, crying for the murder of their friends, as I listened to a girl tell us that if she didn’t seem scared, then she was doing a better job pretending than she thought, and as I read about a father attacked in a Kroger less than 20 minutes from where I live, I was terrified.

I’m terrified because I couldn’t handle it if this happened to my brother. I couldn’t stand and watch as someone tried to lay a hand on my father, the most gentle man I know. I couldn’t bear to lose a single one of my friends in the hands of senseless killing, and I’m terrified because this is now our reality.

I’m scared of how this will affect the people around me. I anxiously watch debates of women who want to take off their hijabs after all of this. I see people who want to hide their Islam, and it breaks me to see strong people being stripped of their bravery.

The truth is that there’s nothing any of these victims could have done to prevent all this, but maybe there is something we can do to keep it from happening over and over again. Whoever you are or wherever you may be, don’t think for a second that this doesn’t affect you or that this is not your problem. Inform yourself, spread the word, and get involved. There is always something you can do. Write about it. Paint about it. Talk about it. Speak up, before your voice is taken from you.

Videos Audio + Visual

Here’s what Muslim women REALLY think about your pick-up lines

We asked Muslim women to tell us the worst pick up lines they’ve received. Here ​a​re the results.

Love + Sex Love Life Stories Advice Wellness

Nine lovely ways to survive Valentine’s Day if you’re single

If you are single like me, you might be loathing the fact that Valentine’s Day is upon us.

For some, it’s just another day, for others it’s a day to express how much they love their partner, and for still others, for people like me, it’s the most infuriating day of the year. On any other day, I adore being single and basking in the glory of my solitary, peaceful, care-free life.

On Valentine’s Day, I am reminded of the possibility I will die alone. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that). Then there’s the fact that on one Valentine’s Day I had decided to get married and, on another, my lawyer decided it’d be a good day to finalize that divorce.

So, if you – like me – will be struggling to cope with all the love, romance, and the disgusting pink…here’s a survival guide for you:

1. Turn off your phone and block your social media for the day.

white iPhone

You know that your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram will be filled with people expressing love (yuck), gloating over their “cute” presents, and just generally being gross. It’s also a great way to escape the yearly “Is Valentine’s Day haram?” debate.

2. Stay away from happy couples.

woman hugging and kissing her boyfriend

If on any other day of the year, cute and happy couples make you want to vomit, I’d suggest especially staying away from them during this day. Tell your parents, siblings, or whoever else, that you’ll talk to them after they recover from the euphoria that is this commercialized holiday.

3. Skip the romantic movies and opt for horror instead.

Stephen Colbert eating popcorn

What better way to forget about Valentine’s Day and your singleness than watching a horror movie full of blood and gore.

If horror’s just too much for you, turn to Harry Potter. Nothing makes you hate relationships more than seeing Ron and Hermione end up together (what was J.K. Rowling thinking?).

4. Spend the day with your single friends.


United we stand, divided we fall. Gather all your single ladies and spend the day watching movies, shopping, or having a discussion on feminism and the joys of being an independent woman. Galentine’s Day, am I right?

5. Treat yourself.

Treat yo self from Parks and Rec
Life Teen

Take yourself out for a spa day. Get a manicure, pedicure, or even a new hairdo. Spa days can get a bit pricey so you can always do it all at home. Turn up the music, paint your nails, make a homemade mask and enjoy how great it is to be you.

6. Eat a lot of chocolate.

Woman lying in bed eating chocolate

Just because Valentine’s Day is for people who are disgustingly in love, does not mean you shouldn’t be allowed to enjoy the perks of it. Eat all of the chocolate, guilt-free.

(Don’t forget the day-after deals.)

7. Have a dance party of one in your room. Clothes not required.

Liz Lemon dancing

If you’re bitter and a tad angry – not saying you are – there is no better way to let off some steam then having a dance party by yourself. Nobody’s watching, so turn up the Beyonce and remember you’re flawless***.

8. Break a sweat.


Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people don’t glare incessantly at happily-in-love people. They just don’t.

And most importantly…

9. Remember that Valentine’s Day is an arbitrary, made-up holiday that doesn’t matter.

Mindy Kaling saying "I have a right to life, liberty, and chicken wings."

Enjoy the day. Don’t worry about dying alone, or pressure from parents, aunties, and friends to find a boyfriend or husband. Your worth is not based off whether you are single, married, divorced, or in a relationship.

You’re still you. And you’re still awesome.