Family Life Stories Life

This is my open letter of apology to my sister

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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These are the trending, political debates ending relationships everywhere

 “We can disagree and still be friends – Yeah, about pizza toppings, not racism. Gtfo my face”. I’ve seen this meme circulating lately, taken from William Vercetti’s Twitter Status, and it’s just so apt. There are some things on which you can agree to disagree – but if your partner tries to debate and justify any form of oppression, how is that not the ultimate deal breaker for you?

Read on for the biggest political reasons ending relationships world-wide:

Debates over Donald Trump:

The domestic disputes over Donald Trump are so huge, that it even has its own term: “The Trump Effect” – Coming to a Marriage Near You. Okay so I made the tagline up, but you must agree – it fits. A year into Trump;s service, a 2017 poll showed that 11% of Americans ended a serious relationships due to political differences.  Because voting for Trump means voting for sexism, anti-abortion, racism, white supremacists, police brutality, xenophobia, the list goes on.


Ever heard of wokefishing? It’s a term writer Serena Smith coined to describe people (usually men) pretending they’re feminists, or into social justice, because it helps them score more with the ladies.

I’m not even American and Trump’s beliefs set me into a blind rage, so I can’t fathom waking up happily next to someone who’s marked a blasphemous, black X next to Donald Trump’s name.

Whilst catfishing may be a huge fear for men, womxn are more fearful of being wokefished and then waking up one day to realize their partner voted for Trump. I’m not even American and Trump’s beliefs set me into a blind rage, so I can’t fathom waking up happily next to someone who’s marked a blasphemous, black X next to Donald Trump’s name. “But honey, I did it for the economy!” he cries, as I set fire to all his belongings. Whilst non-Americans can’t end a relationship with someone for actually voting for Trump, it’s certainly a political debate rearing its ugly head and causing relationship unrest in many other countries, too. 

Debates over BLM:

It still blows my mind that people try and argue against this ongoing protest. There are the well-known “buts” and “all lives matter!” which was met with “um that’s what we’re saying, yo!?”

If you ever hear someone advocating for equality and your first word in response is “but..”, I hate to break it to you, but you’re the problem.

Another classic but awful “but” is “Black people kill Black people too!” That’s like saying – hey I’m dying of cancer and someone pipes in that pneumonia can kill you too. 

If you ever hear someone advocating for equality and your first word in response is “but..”, I hate to break it to you, but you’re the problem. If it’s your parent, colleague, or sister arguing with you, I get that maybe it’s tougher to end these bonds over what to them may be considered trivial (which it shouldn’t be). But if it’s who you thought you chose as your life partner; someone you’re about to make every life decision together with, it’s much more important to call it quits. 

Debates over #MeToo:

What is it about society that doesn’t want to believe sexual abuse victims? Is it perhaps too traumatic for us to deal with that our brain just shuts down and yells too. much. to compute. Heck, I don’t want to believe a president, or priest, or policeman is capable of rape and murder, either.

But let’s leave it up to the facts, shall we: Out of all the sexual violence offenses reported in Europe , UK and the US, only 2-6% are found or suspected to be false. Of course that doesn’t include the millions of cases left unreported, or reported too late because of the ridiculous stigma attached to the victim and the high cost of legal bills.

I’ve had to unlearn and relearn a million things about my gender that I was once brainwashed to believe.

It’s like, why would someone lie about an experience like that? If your partner doesn’t believe rape survivors, or adds anything to the discussion with a “why do women wear revealing outfits”, or if they spit with wild ferocity: “not all men!”, then please, do yourself a favor and dump their ass. 

Debates over Sexism:

Whilst I am a strong advocate for all the above, I’m gladly not under Trump’s reign. I am white, and I am thankfully not a victim of sexual violence. But as a woman, sexism is something I know everything about.

Because I promise you – that sexist “joke” is not funny, no matter how many times you are gaslit into believing it is.

I’ve had to unlearn and relearn a million things about my gender that I was once brainwashed to believe. Arguing with my father, my male friends, my colleagues, on issues I have formally studied as if they were just mere opinions of mine, makes my blood boil. While a lot of the time I bite my tongue and think, “choose your battles”, other times my beating heart tells me that I have chosen.

If you’re anything like me, you won’t be able to stand even a sexist meme circling your boyfriend’s group chats.  (And rightfully so!) So if your partner, friend, or family member is being sexist, you need to call them out and you need to have that discussion with them. And if you still don’t get through, it’s over boo. Because I promise you – that sexist “joke” is not funny, no matter how many times you are gaslit into believing it is.

You’re entitled to your opinion, of course. You and your partner can have debates on all sorts of things, from ice cream flavors to Netflix series; but basic human rights is not one of them. So watch out for those red flags everybody! Especially ones that read Make America Great Again”.  

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How fate allowed me to live without fear

Spring break in 2019 started with a disaster and a (sort of) run-in with the law. My sister had dropped me off at the airport with my bags packed for Greece. I was going on a community service trip with a group of people I had never met before. I felt nervous. I was the person that couldn’t eat alone in restaurants, let alone travel to a new country where I knew no one. It didn’t help that I wasn’t sure it was the right thing to do. Was I wrong for choosing this over an offer to go to Morocco with a close friend? Or was it fate?

No matter what, in the end, it’ll turn out okay.

Everything was going according to plan until a man called my name and asked me to follow him, leading me away from the flight gates. I panicked. “Won’t I miss my flight?” Looking me over in my sweatpants and faded Lollapalooza shirt, he told me that due to complications with my visa I wasn’t able to board the plane. Speechless, I was escorted out of the airport.

The car ride home was gloomy. I felt disappointed in myself for not double-checking my documents. I wasn’t sure it was wise to buy another round trip ticket. This felt like a sign. “No spring break this year for me,” I thought, resigned. Plus, I had just lost a lot of money I was probably not getting back. 

I called my friend, trying to seek assurance that I wasn’t the dumbest person on the planet. She was in Morocco, already on day two of the trip I gave up. “There’s still a spot for you here,” she said. I laughed lightly, not in the mood for jokes. “I’m serious. There is a flight tomorrow. Just come.”

Sometime that night, I got some of that money back. That had to mean something. The most difficult part of making my next decision was explaining it to my bewildered mother. I caught a flight to Casablanca. That trip became one of the best travel experiences of my life thus far.

I often turn to this story when I start to doubt the trajectory of my life, when it starts to go wayward and I feel myself spiraling into regret. It’s the assurance I need that no matter what, in the end, it’ll turn out okay. Just like how seeing a familiar face at a subway platform when I swore I was hopelessly lost made me pause for a moment and think that maybe I’d find my way home after all. Or how going on a gallery visit with a class led me to meet someone that made the rest of the year fall in an unexpected way.

So, yes, I do (loosely) believe that some things are bound to happen, and mostly for the best. I grew up between parents on opposite sides of the spectrum when it came to faith. The one thing they both agree on is fate. The phrase “what happens, happens” is as common as a greeting at our house. If something bad happens, it is normal to feel bad about it, but it was meant to happen to make way for something. This sentiment has been something I internalized and accepted.

When one door closes, sometimes it means that there was no room for you there anyway.

I heard that a remarkable thing that makes us evolved humans is that we can hold two contradicting ideas to be true at the same time. I know, on one hand, that believing in a preordained fate is a coping mechanism for us to remain sane in a world of chaos. Accept that what is meant for me will be can be a slippery slope, as I can lose a sense of control over my life. Some might even think of the belief in fate as a grandiose coping mechanism, which may be true to some extent.

The important thing is balance and being self-aware. I can’t always miss a flight and jump on another right afterward. But I won’t give up believing in fate– because, at the end of the day it brings me solace to know that I may not be responsible for absolutely everything in my life that goes awry. And it keeps me humble about the things that go right.

When one door closes, sometimes it means that there was no room for you there anyway. The group I was supposedly traveling with didn’t even ask why I had dipped out of the plan. Plus, looking back at it, I wasn’t going with the intention of helping others but rather to do something bold. And to see Greece. My heart wasn’t in it and fate knew it.

There will always be a door that opens up in its place, even in the most unexpected ways. Keeping the thought that “what happens, happens” has made me braver with my decisions. The only thing I can regret is dwelling on regrets themselves because it has long kept me from stepping out of my shell and looking around for new possibilities. Accepting fate has emboldened me, to put myself out there with my writing and be vulnerable no matter what, and to apply to programs that I felt were ‘too good’ or out of my reach. Now I’m here, sharing this with you and off to study literature in the master’s program of my dreams. 

I encourage you to take the leap once in a while and trust it. Looking at your life in this way makes you recognize the silver linings even in your most embarrassing slip-ups or a more devastating turn of events. 

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Book Reviews Books Pop Culture

Brit Bennett’s “The Vanishing Half” is a timely tale about white-passing privilege

Being an avid reader, I love to participate in various book clubs and reading challenges. In the midst of the Black Lives Matter protests, it was extremely important that I picked the newly published The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett.

Reading books by Black authors can allow us to better understand black voices. The Vanishing Half is set in the 1960s and 70s, but draws eerie parallels to what is facing the Black community right now. The book focuses on two Black twins who try to escape a town obsessed with light skin. As deep as these prejudices ran in this community, light skin did not save the twins’ mother from working for white people in a neighboring town or their father from being lynched. 

One can assume that this trauma made the twins realize what it means to be Black in America. The death of their father changed the twins irrevocably and caused them to take two diverging paths.

“Stella became white and Desiree married the darkest man she could find.”

After abuse from the dark man, Desiree returns to town with a dark-skinned child, Jude. Desiree’s return causes lots of surprise among the town’s residents. 

Even though I cannot relate to the struggles of the Black community, I saw my own community reflected in how Jude and other dark-skinned characters were treated. Colorism is a major problem in the Desi and Muslim community; and reading some parts of the book made my blood boil. Jude did not feel like she belonged in this community simply because she was dark. I instantly thought back to how many aunties have bullied friends and family members for “being too dark.” 

Women, in particular, are scrutinized. I cannot begin to imagine Jude’s feelings, where you experience disgust from outsiders and your own community. It’s disheartening. 

But besides the town’s obsession with being light, folks were wondering about Desiree’s twin, Stella. Being white-passing, she had gone on to become “white” by dressing and talking differently.  She married a white man and that made her life remarkably better than her sister’s. But in the process, Stella’s sense of identity seemed to vanish. She lived in constant fear, nervous that one day, her husband would realize that she is Black. 

Passing as white made Stella lose touch with her family, but the privilege that came with looking white was undeniable. That privilege has not gone away in our “modern” society. 

Stella continuously plays a white woman and does not even tell her daughter, Kennedy, that she is Black.

When a Black family “invades” Stella’s white bubble, Stella panics and even gets upset when Kennedy plays with the neighbor’s child. She feared that the Black family will see Stella for what she is. Eventually, Stella allows herself to befriend the family. However, the other neighbors do not hide their hatred towards the new family and throw bricks through their windows.

They were sending a message: Don’t they know they aren’t welcome here?

As fate would have it, the twins’ daughters meet each other. Ironically, both struggle with their identities as well.

After failing to lighten herself, Jude is slowly learning to accept her color. Her boyfriend, Reese, who is transitioning from female to male, has played a crucial role in her character development.

I am grateful that Reese’s character was included in this narrative. He highlights the intersectionality of marginalized groups and how much we still have to fight for transgender rights.

Jude never really spoke about Reese’s transition. But she silently worked in order to save money for his surgery and threw herself into education so she could have a life that her mother could never have.

Kennedy always felt like her mother hated her and perhaps there is some truth to that, Kennedy was a manifestation of Stella’s lie. Additionally, Kennedy did not seem to understand her privilege much and felt “whiter than before” when she dated a Black man.

I feel like Bennett did that on purpose. Kennedy (thinking she is white) only sees her whiteness when it is in juxtaposition with someone who is not “from her world.”  It reminds me of how people say that they have Black friends so they totally understand when they do not.

All in all, The Vanishing Half, tackled problems that were seen as “issues of the past,” but clearly are not. Racism and transphobia are still very much alive today. The book should not be timely in 2020, but sadly it is; so, let’s reevaluate ourselves by acknowledging privileges and working against systems that oppress minorities.

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Colorism in South Africa tore away at my self-esteem

In 2019, Oscar-winning actress, Lupita Nyong’o, referred to colorism as the “daughter of racism”. With this simple but poignant statement, Nyong’o summarized an often overlooked form of discrimination: darker people in many racial and ethnic groups are seen as lesser than their lighter counterparts. Her particular use of the word ‘daughter’ could allude to the idea that women suffer from this discrimination more than men – a notion I agree with.

The closer you are to whiteness, the better.

The word ‘colorism’ was first publicly used by author and activist Alice Walker. She defined it as, “prejudicial or preferential treatment of same-race people based solely on their color.” Its roots are widely agreed upon: colonization and white supremacy. These led to the introduction and adoption of a Eurocentric beauty hegemony by communities of color; the closer you are to whiteness, whether it be having straighter hair, lighter eyes, or fairer skin, the better.

As a South African Indian who was raised in an Indian community, I have had my fair share of encounters with colorism. A country previously colonized by Europeans, South Africa has a long and sordid relationship with racism. Hence, other forms of bigotry were sidelined in popular discussion.  But being brought up in a same-race community, racism was never really the issue. Instead of judging me for my race, people took to judging me for my skin tone.

In my little brown bubble of Tongaat, a town that was built by the first Indian settlers who were brought to work in the sugarcane plantations, colorism was a subtle tool used to oppress the dark and glorify the fair. In my experience, the main perpetrators of this form of discrimination were older women or ‘Indian aunties’ as the stereotype calls for. I was constantly told (by women I barely knew) to use fairness creams or to avoid staying in the sun for too long. Ironically, many of these women were also considered dark-skinned women.

European “norms” have lingered in our societies and have taken away from various cultures’ own values of beauty for far too long.

The Association of Black Psychologists has labeled colorism as a form of internalized racism, the process whereby ethnic minorities absorb the racism of dominant ethnic groups to their own detriment. This phenomenon of internalization was clearly present here.  Reinforced over generations, it was now a part of the social lenses we viewed our world through.

What made it worse was having an older sister who was taller, thinner, and lighter than me – a direct (and personal) point of comparison. People in our age range were not largely complicit in such discrimination, but when they were, it was blatant. In high school, my sister and I had an unwanted joint nickname, “Top Deck”, referring to a Cadbury chocolate which had a bottom layer of milk chocolate and a top layer of white chocolate.

[Image description: Two girls, the one on the left with a darker skin tone than the one on the right, sit smiling together.]

Older people were more subtle in their deliveries. “You’re very beautiful,” my grandmother would say to my sister. “So slim and tall, and such fair skin. ..You’re pretty too!”, she’d say as I walked past. There was no escaping it – I was objectively shorter, fatter, and darker than my sister. It dawned on me that to many, I was automatically less attractive than my sister due to those factors. And because they thought it, they thought that I thought it too. But I didn’t…until then.

Colorism can largely be considered a feminist issue in the wider context of our patriarchal world. Women already have certain beauty standards forced upon them – shave your entire body but have voluminous hair on your head and wear makeup to “enhance your natural beauty” – but not too much or you are “falsely advertising”! Even my sister, praised for being tall, was often told not to get too tall “or else boys will feel intimidated and won’t marry you”.

Colorism is only one example from a very long list of criticisms allocated to the female body. Through arbitrary social constructs, women are conditioned to tie their self-worth to their level of attractiveness. What I saw occur in my town were efforts to become lighter (an attribute synonymous to being more sexually desirable) in the hopes of one day having a man choose you as a wife.

European “norms” have lingered in our societies and have taken away from various cultures’ own values of beauty for far too long. I have not been back to my home town for three years now. I can only hope that some progress has been made and that women are allowed to feel comfortable in their skin, no matter the shade.

Gender & Identity Life

When my little sister was diagnosed with a rare brain disease, I had to learn how to trust her

My little sister has been through more than any child should. But she’s also the bravest person I know.

After years of struggling with mystery symptoms, she was diagnosed with a very rare brain disease called Moyamoya. In Japanese, it means ‘puff of smoke.’ It concerns the blood vessels in her brain, and without surgery, she was at a very high risk for a stroke. When we got this news, everything changed. But some of it changed for the better.

When my sister was a baby, my biggest fear was something happening to her. She nearly choked on a cracker once and ever since the idea of her getting hurt in any way makes it a little hard to breathe. Now that she’s a little older, she’s an athletic kid. Because of this, her favorite thing to do is climb anything she can find and hang upside-down from it. I think part of why it’s her favorite is because of how I react: with pure panic. I can’t handle the ease with which she places herself in danger.

Still, her thirst for life and adventure were things I could not deny. If anything, I could relate to them. Our shared anxieties always brought us close. But we bonded through our determination. Watching my little sister, I witnessed the ability to forge ahead like I never had before. Finding out about her illness only strengthened the resolve in her. She was in real danger this time. And like finding her hanging from the furniture, all I wanted was to catch her and keep her safe.

Because the disease is so rare, there are very few facilities that specialize in the kind of care she needs. We were lucky to have a community of friends and family to help raise funds for her to have surgery where she would get the best care. At the hospital, she braved some of her biggest fears and tackled recovering from the life-saving procedure like the superhero that she is. And even though she was emotionally and physically drained, she still managed to open her eyes and say, “Hi mommy,” with a sweet little wave the first time she was able to see our mom after the surgery.

And while life is different now, with things like brain scans to check her progress or new rules like keeping hydrated and taking her medicine, she is still the brightest and kindest person I know. She loves to dance, and does it often. She’s even playing on the school basketball team with her friends – something that even her doctors didn’t anticipate happening so soon. And while I’m still terrified every time I find her hanging upside-down from something, it’s nothing but instinct.

Because what I’m really feeling is so very thankful to have her here. To see her shining. And yes, to watch her gain strength by doing the things she loves – even if they’re a little dangerous.

Gender & Identity Life

Everyone keeps asking me why I’m not as accomplished as my sisters, and I’m sick of it

I’ve always been average in studies, but when compared to my siblings, I’m considered incompetent.

My elder sister aced all her exams and bagged first, or if not, the second position in her class. Then there’s my younger sister, who brought home one trophy after another, be it an award for winning a debate competition, or one for hosting a ceremony. Class monitor, extra-curricular activities, and good grades; they excelled at everything. While I wasn’t good at anything.

Even our school teachers had a hard time grasping the fact that we were siblings. Our first day in biology class my teacher sensed a familiarity with my face and asked me if I was so-and-so’s sister. I responded in affirmation. She then asked me my grades and gave an unexpectedly weird look at my answer, because my grades were significantly lower than what my elder sister used to score.

From then onwards, every time she asked me a question in class -she made sure to question me in every single class- and I gave a partially right answer, she’d tell me how my sister always gave the best answer. “Why can’t you be more like your sister?” Wow! Thank you, that motivated me so very much.

In reality, this stumped my interest in her subject so much so that I stopped answering questions at all. What she didn’t realize was that not everybody is good at the same thing and in this case biology.

Comparing your child to others, be it their siblings, friends or cousins, is something that is so common but actually does more harm than good.

The first thing our parents ask after we tell them our grade in a class test, is what grade did Aunty Tina’s daughter’s neighbor’s uncles’ sister’s nephew get? And why did we get one mark less than him/her?

What adults don’t realize is that every child is born different; with different abilities, aptitudes, and talents. Each child has his own individuality and uniqueness.  You can’t expect two children to be the same and give you similar results, despite having the same education and similar environment at home. THEY ARE DIFFERENT.

They have different strengths that develop at different rates. There is nothing wrong with developing the talents that you want in your children, but first see what is it that they are good at, and what do they enjoy doing. Help them identify their interests and explore their talents and then polish those talents even if it’s something you’re not a fan of.

When children are compared, it breaks their confidence and shatters their self-esteem, making them feel worthless. It increases their anxiety and reduces their motivation. The child begins to see himself/herself as a failure at everything and becomes blinded to even the things that he/she is good at. This feeling settles in and deteriorates growth while damaging an entire personality.

Instead of focusing on what our children can’t do, we should be focusing on what they can do, and that will be different for every child. Focus on their positives, embrace their individual strengths and weaknesses. Encourage them constantly.

This will boost their confidence and make it easier for them to accept themselves for who they are.

Humor Life

10 reasons being the youngest sibling is the best damn thing ever

Being the youngest child is a godsend. Of course, my sisters think of me as a spoiled brat, but who can blame them? I always get my way.

No, it’s not always perfect. There are definitely cons to being the youngest child of the family, but whether it’s that your parents baby you too much or don’t take your endeavors seriously, my opinion is that, as the youngest, every negative can be turned into something to exploit.

So join me on an evil journey of using our youngest child privileges to one-up our older siblings!

1. You get all your siblings’ hand-me-downs.


This might sound like a negative, but think about it: how often have you seen older, vintage pieces come back in style? Being the youngest meant that I had access to my sisters’ wardrobes as soon as their clothes were too small. Infinite band t-shirts? A fashion blogger’s dream.

2. You’re the only one left for your parents to spoil.


Hand-me-downs aren’t the only wardrobe bonus you get as the youngest child. As soon as my sisters left for university and started earning their own money, my parents focused all their buying-power in one area: me. Family Shopping Sundays, anyone?

Family Shopping Sundays, anyone?

3. You get away with pretty much anything.


Let’s face it: your parents are tired after having to deal with two or three other kids. By the time they get to disciplining you, they’re so over it, they’d rather just let you do you. I was allowed to have a boyfriend well before either of my sisters were allowed to even think about boys.

4. You can cry your way out of any misdemeanor.


When you do get in trouble, crying solves every problem. No one wants to see the baby of the family in tears, it makes them feel like monsters. So that test you failed because you forgot to study? Just throw a few puppy dog eyes in their direction and you’re set for life.

5. No one takes you too seriously.


Okay, again, this sounds like a negative. But when you consider the perks, it can actually be a huge pro for your reputation. I don’t know how many times I’ve announced to my family that I’m going to do some big thing that will blow everyone’s minds. Of course, being the baby of the family, not many people take my announcements too seriously. So when I end up failing, getting bored, or giving up, there’s no one to be disappointed in me. It’s smooth sailing!

6. You’re treated like royalty.


Whenever I get sick, my mom does everything for me. She’ll rub my back, fetch my medicine, cook me good food and even bring it in on a tray. For my sisters, it’s not so easy. Since they’re older they get treated like they already know how to look after themselves. But being the eternal baby, I get to just sit back and relax while people dote all over me. Ka. Ching.

7. You get to be bossy without people getting mad.


I prefer to think of myself as assertive rather than bossy, but I won’t lie, sometimes I teeter on the border. Whether it’s complaining to my dad to pick me up a few hours outside of curfew, or convincing my mom to cook what want for dinner, all my whining is only ever seen as cute rather than annoying or over-indulgent.

8. You never feel old.


No matter how old you get, you’ll always feel like the baby of the family. Yes, other kids will be born into the extended family, but your immediate family will only ever see you as young. Age can be difficult to deal with for some people, but when you’re the youngest child, no age ever feels too old.

9. Your parents already know what to do with you.


Your parents have had time to make mistakes with the kids that came before you. They messed up here and there, and even though your siblings aren’t scarred by it, they definitely could have used a little more practiced parenting. Being the youngest means that your parents have been through the ropes already. They know exactly what to bring to every bake sale, and they know exactly how much is too little to spend on stationery for the next school year.

10. You’re born into the age of technology.


Okay, so maybe this one only works if your siblings are way older than you. The difference between my sisters and I are that they were born a whole ten years earlier than me; a giant time jump between technological advancements. This means that while my sisters’ preferred mode of music-listening in high school was CDs on Discmans, mine has been iTunes and Tidal on my iPhone.

Being the youngest child is nothing short of amazing. Yes, there are some cons to having older siblings, but nothing beats the unlimited amounts of attention, praise, and general awesomeness thrown your way. Fellow youngest kids, how lucky are we?

Love + Sex Love Life Stories

My friends almost ruined my life when they tried to play “matchmaker”

I’ve been single in all my life. Being in an all-girls high school, there was hardly any chance for me to meet or talk to boys. All my best friends were girls and we kept it close-knit. We shared everything and did all the things together. We were like sisters.

Even though we rarely had opportunities to interact with boys, somehow they managed to get boyfriends. I didn’t. To be honest, I never even had crushes on anybody.

But one friend request changed everything.

This one boy from a nearby school sent me a friend request on Facebook. Without thinking, I accepted it. I didn’t expect us to become close, but in no time, we actually did.

My biggest mistake was telling my friends about this. They were all excited that I’d finally found my ‘first boyfriend’ after being single for my whole life. Every time they said it, I rolled my eyes. I had my first guy friend and immediately they thought we should be together?

At first, I didn’t take it seriously. But slowly it started to annoy me.

They became completely committed to being matchmakers. Through their attempts to set me up with him, my friends became close to him. In their eyes, we were a match made in heaven. But I didn’t want to make it into a big deal. After all, he didn’t feel anything for me.

Turns out, I was wrong. I found out he did feel something.

The moment my friends found out, they were ecstatic. Every time I was with them, they’d bring up his name and start teasing about us being together, making up romantic scenarios about our happy ending.

I told them to stop, but they didn’t listen. They thought I actually liked it when they were being playful and that I just pretended not to. It finally reached the point where I completely I lost it.

I argued with my friends, for the first time ever. My relationship with them turned sour. At the same time, I turned down this guy and we stopped being friends.

A few weeks later, my friends apologized.

Everything became normal again, just the way it was before. We spent our time, as usual, hung out, and enjoy our school days like we used to. I was relieved, thinking that it was finally over.

But then, this guy came back.

I tried my best to ignore him. But my friends were excited to start their matchmaking game again.

There were no jokes or teasing at first. But they tried to catch my attention by mentioning his name in every conversation we were in. It started to irk me again, but I pretended to be uninterested in talking about him. I couldn’t accuse them of trying to play matchmakers again because they weren’t bringing up their fantasy about our happy ending anymore, but I was still uncomfortable.

But their matchmaking schemes started to become clear pretty soon. 

They invited him to hang out with us, and then bailed so we could be alone. They always came up with creative excuses about why they had to leave. When we were in the same class, they intentionally arranged for us sit next to each other. It bothered me so much, I started to avoid all of them. But I couldn’t escape our chat group on social media.

Some of them shared pictures of him and me together, sitting next to each other in the class or cropped our group photos. Sometimes they put heart-shaped borders or effects in those pictures, and that really pushed me over the edge.

I confronted them.

We all met during lunch and I spilled everything out. I told them how much I hated them being matchmakers and how much it pissed me off every time I had to listen to their daydreams about me and this guy. I made it clear that I had no romantic feelings for him and that we were never going to happen.

I gave them a choice. They could keep playing matchmakers and I would stop being their friend or they could quit it and save the friendship.

Of course, they didn’t want our friendship to end because of that. They admitted it was all for fun though they really did want to see us together. They just wanted me to be happy, and in their minds that included me having a boyfriend.

Finally, they promised to stop. Thankfully, they were true to their words.

It took quite a while to get our friendship back to normal this time. But they understood that I was perfectly content with my single life. Alone didn’t mean I was lonely.

Eventually, I will find someone, but for now, I just want to enjoy my single life. And I’m glad my friends have chosen to respect that.

Love + Sex Love Life Stories

My promise against marriage almost kept me from meeting the love of my life

When I was about ten years old, I told my mother that I did not want to get married. I can’t remember exactly when or why it started, but I was certain from a young age that marriage just wasn’t for me.

These thoughts did not stem from my home life. My parents have a happy and relatively normal marriage. As two full-time bosses, they support one another in business matters, share social circles, and plan large family gatherings, like weddings, together. They have grown together and been behind us and beside us through highs and lows over the past thirty years of parenting three children. I just thought they were an exception to the rule.

[bctt tweet=” I was certain from a young age that marriage just wasn’t for me.” username=”wearethetempest”]

That instinct was later confirmed by all the representations of marriages that I saw in movies and on TV. I saw couples that seemed to be putting up with each other more than they were loving one another or sharing in true partnership. The wedding day was all hyped up, but the actual relationship always seemed to sour.

Besides overly saccharine portrayals of marriage in some shows like Seventh Heaven, being married seemed a little miserable.

Permanent cohabitation and vowing to be with only one person felt like a hoax. Marriage, to me, was an antiquated relic of an age when families’ children were united for economic benefit or social mobility. Throw in my college-age revelations about heteronormative expectations and societal power dynamics of marriage and children for most young women around the world, and I knew it. I was definitely going to be single. I decided that if I wanted to be a mother, then I would adopt a child on my own.

But marriage was out of the question. I told the people I dated, I confirmed it with my mother. Marriage and I were not to be.

I decided that I would forge ahead with dating and even falling in love, meeting new and interesting people with whom I was open about not wanting to get married.

Then my older sister got engaged. And that changed everything for me.

She and I have always been close, sometimes too much so when we were in our adolescence.

Being so close in age meant that I would steal her clothes, try to be just like each other or the exact opposite, and we both felt very competitive. But, in the years since teenagehood, we have put in a lot of time and effort into having a mature and open relationship. We have healed old wounds and got to know each other as adults. She has been one of the greatest influences on my life and we have both leaned on the other in defining times of need.

Because of our closeness, when my sister got engaged, I finally had the opportunity to ask some real questions about the commitment of marriage. She shared her hopes, joys, fears, and expectations of life with her now spouse.

I began to look differently at the people I was dating. Living in New York City at the time, there were plenty of opportunities to go on dates. But now I felt less able to put up with major character flaws and general douchebaggery. I went on a lot of first dates. I wasn’t out searching for a husband all of a sudden – in fact, I started to believe more that if marriage wasn’t a hoax, then maybe I just wasn’t meant to find someone.

I certainly wasn’t going to lower my standards.

At her wedding, I ended up meeting the person I married. He was a longtime trusted friend of my brother-in-law and turned out to be my life partner. We didn’t hit it off right away, but the immediate mutual attraction and honest conversations that followed were refreshingly new. 

He lived over one thousand miles away, however, so we got to know each other over the phone every night, talking for hours when we had the time. We traveled to be together as often as we could afford and when he proposed to me after ten weeks on a corner in Brooklyn by my apartment, I didn’t hesitate.

[bctt tweet=”Being married seemed a little miserable.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Looking back on that quick courtship and the ensuing fourteen months before we got married, I notice how my attitude changed after my sister’s wedding. I am grateful for her honesty with me about her commitment to her fiancé and husband and why she believed in marriage. It helped me to snap out of my dating daze and I found myself being much more honest about my time and those with whom I was spending it.

With my now-husband, I didn’t put up a front about who I was and dedicated lots of time and attention to getting to know him, as he did with me. The foundation of honest and open communication that we built together as a long-distance couple in those early months has survived to this day and helps us get through minor hiccups and bigger bumps. I didn’t have wi-fi in my studio apartment back then, so we couldn’t Skype or FaceTime.

And, when you have to share everything over the phone, you have to be very open and specific.

I am especially glad that in that time I talked to him about my past ideas of marriage and how I was looking at it in a new light now. We asked each other and ourselves hard questions about our presuppositions around marriage and our expectations from long term relationships or partnering. Together, we openly discussed the spiritual aspects of marriage, the depth of permanent commitment, the gravity of vows, and more. Through this honesty and difficult, long talks, we decided that we both wanted to marry the other.

It was a mutual decision, made with both an acknowledgment that we truly can’t know much about marriage until you’re in one, but also that we have both done the work to question it and get uncomfortable enough with it to know that we aren’t jumping into the commitment blindly or with the expectation that it will make us whole or that the other will change.

[bctt tweet=”When you have to share everything over the phone, you have to be very open.” username=”wearethetempest”]

He’s now my husband of three years, but if I had been closed off to the idea of marriage as I had been before, I may not have been open to seeing him as a potential partner. I’m so glad that I did.

TV Shows Pop Culture

“The Young Pope” takes a massive leap of faith with its audience – and misses

If you haven’t seen The Young Pope on HBO, I strongly recommend that you check it out. The series, directed by the Academy Award winner Paolo Sorrentino, will forever change the way you look at the Catholic Church.

Personally, the show didn’t rub as well with me, as it did with most. I loved the subtle commentary on religion and the hypocrisy of the Vatican. However, I didn’t enjoy the weird sex scenes and the less than stellar character attributes of Pope Pius.

For a little taste, check out the trailer below.

The opening credits are my favorite part of the show. It illustrates the history of the Roman Catholic Church in a short but impactful sequence. Jude Law walks down the hallway of the Vatican, filled of vibrant religious paintings. The opening credits are so impressive because they chronologically picture important moments in the history of Christianity.

A shooting star picks up pace during the pope’s walk, leaping from painting to painting. In a sense, the star breathes life into the art. The opening sequence ends with a comet striking the old pope. The sequence makes so much sense when we break it down: the meteorite crashes down on a old pope, making room for a young pope to take the wheel.

“The paintings of the opening scene are a quick chronological overview, with obvious shortcomings, of the most significant moments in the history and art of the entire arch of Christianity and the church,” showrunner Paolo Sorrentino explained to Vulture.

The Young Pope attacks the hypocrisy of the Vatican and the position of the Church on delicate matters like abortion and homosexuality. It even makes fun of the influence the pope has on Italian government. The show does a lot of things right: with stellar costumes, music, and production. However, it is also lacking because it sets us up to dislike Pope Pius.

Despite its flaws, it is definitely one of the most daring shows of 2017.

My first reaction to the opening scenes: I am so rooting for this show. I thought there was no way that I couldn’t love this show.

A pope this amazing? This was exactly the kind of pope I was hoping the show would portray.

My second reaction: I felt a little duped figuring out that this speech was only a dream.

After taking a closer look, I realized there were many clues that it wasn’t real; like the ominous weather and the fainting priests.

The Young Pope gets a thumbs up from me for showing how devious Pope Pius is and how the Vatican is no different. With sex, power, and deceit as its major influences, The Young Pope shows us that the Vatican is a religious hierarchy no different from a political hierarchy. It is filled with people climbing to the top, and eschewing morals to do so.

The Young Pope also shows us how competitive and duplicitous humans can be and Pope Pius uses this to his advantage. He knows secrets are very useful to him.

Jude Law as The Young Pope, in all white and a while gold brimmed hat.

So far, The Young Pope feels like Jude Law playing a long game of chess with the Vatican. It becomes obvious that it is run by blackmail and that Pope Pius is the cruel puppeteer.

Shoutout to the strong Sisters in this show, though. Diane Keaton’s character is amazing for calling the shots in a religious community that constantly favors men.

I feel like I may be one of the only people with a negative opinion of this show, but I stand by it.

The biggest fault that I have with the show is that it makes no effort to make the audience empathize with Pope Pius. His expert prodding isn’t enough to make me empathize with him. 

Needless to say, this new HBO show hasn’t failed to grab the attention of its audience.

The Young Pope sex scene with Pope Pious and his childhood crush.

Seriously, though, what is up with those weird sex scenes?

Like all HBO shows, we probably won’t know what’s really going on in The Young Pope until the season finale. We can only hope that HBO has something up their sleeve for this show – and that things get better.

Gender Inequality

I grew up as the lie my Arab and Desi friends used to their parents. I still don’t know why.

Growing up, I was unaware of the privilege I wasn’t supposed to have. I didn’t feel the double standards between brothers and sisters which would consume the minds and lives of my Muslim, Arab, and/or Desi first generation girlfriends. In youth groups where we were deluded with the illusion of agency, told we could talk about anything, my friends would complain about the unfairness of their existence.

During these rants, I would listen and nod quietly to the complaints I couldn’t relate to:

“Why can’t they just trust us?”
“I wish I was a boy.”
“Being a girl is the hardest thing you can be in this world.”

In their moments of anguish and emotional healing, I couldn’t tell them that my brother and I (only a month and a half apart), were given the same rules and expectations through much of our lives.

During our childhood, we both were forbidden from sleeping over at friends’ houses, because little girls’ and boys’ innocence was the most important thing in the world to protect.

We both went on a one-week camping trip to Lake Arrowhead in the 6th grade, because the experience would be fun, social, and stimulating for a pubescent boy and girl learning to adjust to a new school district.

During our adolescence, we both had an 11 pm curfew, because young men and women needed routines but also autonomy. And later during my early adulthood, we were both allowed to go wherever we wanted to go to for college because sons and daughters deserved all the world’s opportunities.

Coincidentally, I was the one who moved out for undergrad, while my brother commutes to his university from home.

It wasn’t until I started hanging out with other first-generation Arabs/Desis/Muslims that I realized there was a discrepancy between a boy and girl in what we were allowed to do. When I would hang out with these girlfriends, we would absolutely have to be back in a house, out of the public, by 8 pm.

Sometimes my friends would rebel and break the rule, and I would find myself become a deceitful lie while harmlessly browsing through the local Barnes & Noble: “Yes, Ummi, we’re at Jasmine’s house now. Pick me up at 10?”

Other times, they were tired of lying and arguing with their mothers for an extra hour of mall ratting, and we would end the outing at 8 pm like their parents wanted. I would be back home 3 hours before my Saturday night curfew, which I would spend watching Arabic TV with my parents.

Meanwhile, because my brother’s friends were allowed to stay out much longer than the curfew that my parents had imposed on his male body, he would come home at 11 pm, bitter and trapped in equality, arguing that 11 just wasn’t late enough, as most of his friends barely started to leave their homes at 9 pm.

I don’t know if my parents made a conscious decision to give us equal restrictions and expectations to make a point about gender equality.

Maybe it was just easier to keep track of your kids when they were operating under the same guidelines. I don’t know if I would have made fewer mistakes with less freedom. I don’t know if I would have made more mistakes with more freedom. I wonder if they struggled between the restrictions they may have felt inclined to impose and seeing me happy.

If they did struggle, I don’t know how they overcame the former in favor of the latter.

I don’t know if I became the confident, purposeful, curious woman I am today because I was allowed to go to Lake Arrowhead in 6th grade. I don’t know if I have the relationship with them I do today because of those three extra hours we would spend watching Egyptian soap operas, my parents explaining the jokes to me so I could be entertained and stay and watch with them.

This I do know: nothing will make you realize what an annoying kid you were (and probably still are), than when you write about your parents.