Sit Next To Me

I have a very strict rule about my kids not watching “grown-up TV”. Stuff that might seem harmless to others I seem to tear apart and analyze to a point of exhaustion even for me. That’s what writer, communication major type people tend to do I guess. As a general rule, the TV is never on in our house when the kids are around. We only watch it when the kids are sleeping or gone. Even if it seems like the most harmless little show. Sometimes I think it’s just words. Then I remember myself as a kid. There were so many times “just words” stuck with me. I want to wait until they are older and those words can be explained and understood. They are 5 and 6 so it might be a while before that happens. I know I’m one of the strict ones in this particular matter. I tend to do the opposite of what my parent(s) did. Always. Of course.

A bit ago I saw a news story about this white guy who didn’t want to sit next to a black old lady on the plane. He called her all sorts of names. Names we are not allowed to use these days. He said things we refuse to acknowledge even exist as a society amongst us. Oh, but how they do so exist.

That tiny video reminded me of a tiny little incident on a bus somewhere in a tiny town far away from us, and now. And here we are today. “What do I do?” I thought. This world. I live in it. I’m raising my children in it. Pretty soon they will not be little boys. Someone will not want to sit next to them because they look like those “terrorists” they keep mentioning everywhere. I want to turn back time. Nope. Move it forward? Isn’t that what Martine Luther King thought when he gave his “I have a dream” speech? I don’t want to stay in this time either. So how do I take control? My kid inched over to watch the video as he always does. This is the moment I usually turn off my phone. It was a split second decision to let him see the world, and let learn. This is how I take on the world. This is how I take control.

-“What are they fighting about?”

-“This man doesn’t want to sit next to this lady.”

-“Why?”

-“Because she looks different.”

-“That’s doesn’t make any sense.”

-“I know, that’s why it’s on the news.”

-“So he wants to be all alone?”

-“Wouldn’t life be boring if we didn’t have people who were different in our lives? His life must be so boring. It’s fun when you get to know different kinds of people from different places, who look different and act differently. Sometimes people from the exact same place can look different too. It makes the world colorful and fun, like art.”

-“Like me and Adam? And you and Daddy?”

My kids are fully aware that their dad and I are very different skin tones, and so are they. While all over the world it’s always been a difficult conversation in our house it’s always been pretty simple. Adam is very proud of his brown skin because that means he looks like his dad, and Dawud is very proud of his lighter color because that means he looks like his mom. There’s no denying what they look like. We have found pride in who they are just as we do in others people we meet and know.

Then we talked about all the interesting and fun things we have in our lives because we have visited all these places and met amazing people; everything that we would have never found out if we had never met those people. It was a casual conversation that made a 5-year-old realize that being mean to people just because they’re different “doesn’t make any sense”. The smart thing is to learn from them; to bring the good stuff forward so we can make the world a stronger place.

I can’t still guarantee that tomorrow when he’s all grown up someone will not refuse to sit next to him because of who he is or how he looks. I can guarantee you though, that I’m working as hard as I can to turn my boys into the kind of men who will recognize you for your culture, heritage, religion, color, and whatever else is important to you and then make a conscious choice to sit next to you.

Country Orphan

I just recently declared to my husband that I need to be myself. I need a haircut, color to get back to who I am. I need to feel like me again. Recent moving, taking care of the house, kids have me feeling like a robot. I look ahead and I see more of the same. A state of not being me. A robot wife/mother/caretaker who takes care of anyone or anything that’s broken. I have switches in my brain; kid throwing a tantrum take a deep breath, handle that crap move on. Guests coming over; wake up early even though I ’m tired, down two extra cups of coffee, handle that shit, move on. Husband panicking over something; un-panick him, handled, move on. I seriously wanted to be out of Saudia Arabia for reasons no one is a stranger to I’m sure. If you are, I can explain, just ask. However, I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into by moving here even though I have lived here before.

Pakistan is a place I know and love, but the problem is she doesn’t love me back with the same force. How I choose to dress and how I choose to carry myself is a bit too ”strange” for her. Sounds interesting coming from someone who lived on the ”strange” side of the tracks all her life in the US as well. Over there I was strange because I was too conservative. ”Those poor Muslim women. We need to free them from their religious and cultural prison”. Over here in Pakistan, I get looks that say, ”OMG, what is she wearing? ” It’s always inappropriate. I still have a scarf on my head and as far as I’m concerned everything on me is more conservative than it would have been if I was anywhere else in the world (excluding Saudi).

When I moved to Pakistan for the first time I was excited. I thought, man this is so cool, the days of being looked at as different and not good enough to fit in are over. As much as I knew I was going to miss home at least I could try and make a home here with people who were just like me. sounds awesome right? My perfect little world? Nope.

I got here and I was asked the same question I was asked in America, ”where are you from?” I gave the same answer I gave over there, ”I’m from RIGHT FREAKING HERE”. And I got the same response, ”no but really”.

Then we moved back for unrelated reasons and I was a bit relieved because it’s never easy for people like me, at least it was familiar and it was home. This time though, I thought I was older, wiser, so maybe I’ll handle it better. I’ll be less confused if nothing else. Turns out I’m neither. I’m not even confused. I’m something completely different from all of those things. I’m a Pakistani-American who has very strong opinions about her countries. I know where I want to be in my future. I know I don’t belong in one place. If someone asked me to pick just one country, or city for the rest of my life I would not be able to do that. My loyalties are many and I am very proud of that.

What makes me is all of those things combined. What is not me is being a robot. I’m not going to wear certain clothes because everyone is wearing them.

That is exactly why others opinion on my scarf doesn’t matter when I’m in the US. People who genuinely want to know can ask me or research. The rest can assume what they want. I am too busy being me usually.

Although, I’m not going to deny that it does hurt to know that the two places that I’ve called home have not truly embraced me. That everything I’ve ever known and loved and forgiven about these places just because I wanted to be accepted are sometimes the exact issues and dilemmas that stand between us. Generally, it is not my fault. It is not my fault that I have the wrong skin color for most people. It’s not my fault that my parents speak a different language.

Well, it is kind of my fault that I’m choosing my religion, but religious freedom, no? Why don’t I get that if I’m not infringing on anyone else’s rights?

It surely can’t be considered a fault that my fashion sense is unique. You can look twice, I’m okay with that but gosh don’t judge me for it.

It cannot be a flaw in my innate personality that because of my family background, religion and upbringing I act different and have different opinions. Just a different way of looking at the world. I’m not demanding you agree with me.

This whole list goes for every home I’ve had. I’ve experienced these on different levels everywhere. ”Too Americanized” or ”not American enough”, “too Pakistani”, “not Pakistani enough”. Those switches in my brain just keep turning off and on. All the while I’m trying not to get lost myself. I’m neither since neither place has claimed me.

So where do I feel at home? With myself. There’s no judgment here. I change my look often to keep it fresh, to keep reminding myself that I belong everywhere. No one can tell me to change: citizen of the world and all.

OR a country orphan. I’ll go with that it’s more dramatic. So, I’m off to change it up again, this country orphan feeling is strong right now.

The Ever Changing Me

Last couple of years plenty has changed. That’s what life does, it changes. We grow, and change. This was my kid’s assignment for school over the last few weeks. About how he has grown and changed over time. How he started from being a baby; not being able to talk, walk, feed himself to today where he’s fairly independent, and has emotions that he can express. He can express them better than most kids his age, I would say. I would say that because I’m his mom and most of his emotions are directed towards me. I would also say this because I’m his mom, and my child is smarter than yours. Always.

The purpose of telling you about Dawud’s homework was that the line about “growing and changing” was straight up plagiarism from a very competent kindergarten teacher. Sorry Sir! Next time I will give you full credit with name, and credentials.

Growing and changing has so so many different meanings to different people. To a 5 year old it simply means being able to grab things with one hand. Sounds simple and innocent. To me change and growth means being a 100 pounds lighter than 3 years ago. That kind of change is not just physical, it comes from the inside before it starts showing on the outside. I don’t much care about what people get to look at on the outside. I know everyone cares a little, I’m sure I do too but I’m not worried about people’s opinions. When people’s opinion counted I didn’t care about the weight. Of course, they wanted me to be prettier, who wants to look at something that’s not aesthetically pleasing? I started losing the weight when I decided it was the right thing for me. My health. I wanted to take charge before it was too late. I am my best friend, my best ally, gotta watch my back, right?

We weigh people’s worth by the pound. Every time I meet someone I haven’t seen in a while I realize how “different” I look. I’m forced to admit that I “feel” different too. Because, of course, weight loss comes with so many positive changes in one’s life. Haven’t you heard, you become famous. People love you more. Also when you talk, people stop and listen. Although, if you’re a woman it still might happen less often, however, it will happen. Life will change ”for the better”.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, “so and so is getting fat”. “You need to talk to them”. This is especially true for women. We’re told It gets much harder to lose the weight later on. “Once you have kids it’s downhill from there. You lose your body completely”. I mean yeah, everyone loses a little bit of themselves as they get older and gain so much more. No one can say ten years later that they are the same person that they were ten years ago. Same goes for our bodies. Is that really a bad thing? The change is inevitable. It’s been 14 years I’ve been crying over my c-section scars. Guess what happened to them? Still there. In fact, more have been added. My weight has been up, it has been down. I have been pretty and I have been just okay. You know what? I’m still here. I’m not here because of my scarred or non scarred body or fat or non-fat body. No, I’m here because I decided to ignore all the chatter and stay. The ever-changing mind and body. The Me. The world can complain about thin people and fat people. I’m staying in my shape, however, it may get better over time.

I realize I wrote something like this just a while ago but this is different because this is about weight. This topic comes from a very different place. It doesn’t come from “sticking it to people” place. This comes from accepting the reality that the world is going to change around us and we are going to have to keep our feet on the ground solid. People are not going to approve of so many things we do, including the way we look. I’ve lost the weight now but now I’m too thin. I look ill. Yep, that’s a thing. My hair is too short and funky colors. That’s also a thing. There’s no pleasing the world.

I have also said this before, there’s only one change that matters: MAKING THOSE C-SECTION SCARS GO AWAY. That’s my inner monologue, ignore it.

There’s only one change that matters: that’s constant, inside you. You will learn, grow and change. The cycle is constant. When people say to me, “you would have never done that before, you have changed”, I say, “yes, yes I have”.