Please share any/all comments, even if they are bad. Id like some honest opinions. Do you think more can be done to this?
Coming from a traditional Pakistani-Muslim household, I was raised with certain values and a very specific outlook on life and what it meant to be a woman. My family is quite "liberal," in the limited ways in which Muslim families can be liberal: nobody wears hijab(headscarf) and we tend to follow culture a bit more than religion, oftentimes confusing the two. During my teen years I began studying Islam--learning the difference between what our religion says, and what our culture says. I eventually began to cover, wearing hijab and at one point even the face veil. The year and a half that I wore the face veil was a liberating experience for me. I learned of the gratification that came along with knowing people are judging me on my intellect rather than my face or my waist-to-hip ratio; the wonders of feeling like a human rather than an object. I felt the sweetness of breaking stereotypes when I bought homeless men on the street pizza and paused to speak with them, sharing laughs and stories on NYC sidewalks. But most of all, I got to know myself, my faith, and what I thought I wanted from life. My extreme cultural upbringing coupled with newly found religious fervor and an undeniable naivety led me to the decision that the point of my existence is to get married and be the ideal Muslim wife.
Although I had been accepted to a very prestigious school in the world of Fashion, I really did not take education seriously. For me, school had become a "waiting room" for my "real" life: married life. I was unmotivated, distracted, and not at all interested. In fact, the only reason I had even gone to college in the first place was because my parents forced me to. Simply put: I did not want to be there.
In the Spring of 2007, my mother received a proposal for me. He seemed to be all I wanted: true he wasn't educated, but he came from a religious family--one more conservative than my own, and he had a beard, which was an absolute must in my list of requirements. I met him only once in an awkward gathering. As we sat in a big circle in my living room, surrounded by about twenty of my parents's closest friends we were asked if we had any questions for eachother. "No," I replied shyly. He cracked a few jokes, and our fate was sealed: we were engaged. There he was: my husband---the person I had defined myself by since I was 15 years old, the person I had pinned all my hopes and dreams on, the person that I expected to love and respect and have children with---there he was, and...I didn't even know his birthday. Of course, my parents advised me to speak to him during our engagement period, but my logic and understanding of Islam at the time was seriously flawed. You see, it was my (totally incorrect) opinion that any relationship--even simple conversation--before our marriage would be sinful, and so I refused. "I trust God," I said, and did not utter a single word to him until we were married two months later. We did not "officially" get married until January of 2008, which was actually five months later, but the religious marriage was contracted, and so I began speaking with him.
I learned early on that marriage was not the rosy picture I had painted in my mind. At the same time, however, I would ask myself "How can it be this bad??" I had become accustomed to verbal and emotional abuse during the time we were married but not yet living together. I kept telling myself that if I just sit silently while he yells, he will realize his wife is amazing for remaining so respectful even when he is being a monster. If he tells me he doesn't like the way I walk, I should change the way I walk, and then he will realize how lucky he is to have me. If he tells me he doesn't like makeup, I should never again wear it. The truth is, I had signed my soul away to him long before I had ever even met him. I had foolishly defined myself as someone's wife--I never worked to define ***** as a sole entity. I was always a half; I was always a "wife," and the fruits of my foolishness were now infront of me. Still, I was married to him, and though there was always a part of me that wanted to stand up for myself--a part of me that just wanted more from my life--I feared the stigma that came attached with "divorce" in this culture. I went through with the wedding reception, and moved in with him.
Needless to say, things got worse, and the emotional/verbal abuse now escalated to physical abuse. He was the person I had waited for all my life, and I struggled within myself to make a decision. I really wished I could be the submissive wife I had romanticized about in my mind, but there was this fire within me that never quite let me be. One day, I stood in the soup aisle in the grocery store, with my head down and he screamed at me for putting his t-shirt in the washing machine. As I looked to floor, showing respect and submission, I asked myself "What have you turned into?!" I promptly told him to go to hell and walked away. My "submissive wife" routine was occasionally interrupted by moments like these, which left him confused and often more angry than before. He complained about how I have split personalities, because one moment I seemed so sweet (ie. willing to take his abuse) and the next I suddenly had a backbone and demanded respect. The truth is, I just didn't know who I was, because I never considered it important enough to acknowledge. I would ping-pong between what I thought I should be: submissive, respectful wife--and what I really was: a strong woman that is not willing to tolerate injustice, cruelty, or disrespect. Four months after moving in together, I discovered he had been cheating on me with multiple girls, and even promised marriage to two of them. "Is this what I was pinning my hopes and dreams on," I thought as I sobbed alone in my room, talking to God. It was then that I made the most difficult decision of my life: I would get divorced. I knew what this meant for me in this culture: from this day forward, I would be viewed as "recycled goods." I knew the stigma, the social repercussions, the fact that I would be the girl whose marriage failed after four months, the fact that it is always the woman's fault---I knew it all. But I didn't care. I would not just sit back and accept this as my fate. No, I would go out there and fight to get what I want from life.
I've learned and grown up so much in the past few years. I learned that when life knocks me down, I don't just crumble. I get up and fight back twice as hard. In effect, I learned who I was, what I was about, and what I stood for—things I never got to discover living my sheltered life at my parent's home. I realized that I can't define myself by a person or a marriage or a role, and that I cannot be a part of something until I have first established myself as a whole. I learned that I am strong and passionate and much more than I ever gave myself credit for. Of course I regret all the time and opportunities I have wasted, but as they say, "Hindsight is always 20/20." If I knew then what I know now, things would have been very different. At the same time, if I hadn't made the mistakes I made or wasted the time and opportunities I had wasted back then, I would not understand the true value of my time and and strive as hard for opportunities as I do now, nor would I have the motivation, confidence, and courage that have become my greatest assets and driving force. Life experience has helped me mature and achieve the balance it takes to be a strong Muslim woman in the West that is prepared to make a difference in the world.
Last edited by goosey on Mon Dec 15, 2008 6:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.