Mind the Generational Gap

My nephew is turning three this month and he brings me so much joy and happiness as I gaze upon his mad little ways. Born in the UK and the product of British parents, he is well and truly British but with Bangladeshi and Pakistani heritage. I look at his play dates and the friends of my sister and brother in law with heritage from all over the world: Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Iraq, UK, Libya, Greece and so on – a true reflection of multicultural Britain. I think of my future children and who they would make friends with through me – “Your friends are like the United Colours of Benetton” a friend recently said to me – not quite sure he knows exactly what that is but the reference to colours I think summed it up for him.

But then I look at my parents and the play dates we had growing up – mostly with British Bangladeshi children who were the product of Bangladeshi parents who had moved to this country as well as play dates we made through school. Looking at it now, I do wonder, would my parents have been friends with these people in Bangladesh and realised they were kindred spirits? Or did they flock together because under the circumstances their friendships were able to blossom? I know when I lived in France and Spain, it was very normal for the Brits to stick together – you were with people who knew where you came from and you could face your trials and tribulations with local life together. That’s just human nature.

The way of life in South Asia is very different to that of life in the UK in some respects. Our parents came from a country where alcohol is strictly prohibited unless you have a licence to a land where on every other street there are pubs selling this very substance, halal meat back then was next to non-existent, going to nightclubs and wearing less conservative clothing and having a boyfriend and moving out were all totally normal parts of life.  This was so different to society back home that there were two types of parents – those afraid of losing their children to a lifestyle they hadn’t grown up in and those who fully embraced it and let go of their past. Most parents were the former and did their best to ensure their children did not forget their roots, whether cultural or religious. I grew up knowing who I was and exactly where I came from but also adopting best of British. So how will I raise my kids? During a girly lunch, a British Bangladeshi, a British Indian and a British Mauritian pondered this question.  Would we allow our children to date as teenagers? Would we give them curfews? My answers came from a religious background but what amazed us was that as much as we had established our ways in British society, some of these things were still niggles in the back of our mind. Would we be cool with things our parents weren’t? Or at least would we be cool enough to openly discuss certain things with our kids that we would have winced at with our parents like who we fancied at school? How many generations would it take till things radically changed or would our heritage still be in the back of our kids’ minds?

I don’t look back and regret any of my parents’ decisions with me by instilling Bangladeshi and Muslim values – I don’t think the world would have been ready for my thunder thighs in a mini skirt nor do I think I missed out on dating awkward clueless teenage boys and I have always been mad enough without the need for alcohol in my system. The question remains though, will my children feel the same?

 

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Girl power

It’s been a while since I have written a post and what better time to write it than International Women’s day – a day of celebrating women. I love this day – as everyone posts quotes and pictures of women, it reminds me of several things: how amazing women are, their accomplishments, how I love being a woman and how I am surrounded by the most incredible, intelligent and fantastic female role models amongst my family and friends.

However, reality strikes and I’m brought back down to earth with a thud. Women face so many issues around the world that 8th March is not just a day of celebration – it is a day of reminders and action. The number of issues affecting women in 2018 boggles my mind – technologically we are so advanced and we live in a world that is all about betterment but then at the same time we have backwards attitudes towards women such as the gender pay gap in the Western world, daily misogyny and sexual harassment which sparked the #MeToo movement globally, female infanticide in India and China and women being raped as a form of weapon in Congo. These are just some of the major and very real issues women are facing. But you know what? As we try and campaign and fight for our rights and for respect, we should take a look at the sisterhood and work out the issues amongst ourselves – a baby step towards some semblance of unity.

I’ve said this before – I have the most amazing set of girl friends and today after work I met one of them for coffee, cake and catch ups as most girls do quite regularly but I love female company. I find it refreshing, I find the conversation to be intelligent, I find them witty and sarcastic and it is just such a laugh – no holds barred. It’s not to say that I can’t do that with men but I feel like sometimes girls don’t appreciate how much fun it is to be around smart girls and not necessarily talk about boys or go out in packs to pick up boys. Problem with going out to be on the look out is girls end up acting differently around guys from the usual hair flicking and batting their eyelashes like you see in films to being more uptight, like they can’t be themselves because they have to act a certain way around men, like just be cool and stop worrying how men perceive you.

My next point is crucial. As a woman, I am not going to deny this, we are very critical and the worst part of it is that we are so critical of each other to the point of putting each other down. What’s the point on hating on a girl because she is prettier than you or smarter than you or is more popular than you? It won’t make you prettier or smarter or popular and won’t help your sanity at all. And if you are those things, don’t look down on women that aren’t – what are you gaining? We have enough problems as it is fighting misogyny and patriarchy that we really don’t need to be fighting each other *cue old school Destiny’s Child*. There are too many memes and posts on social media about girls wanting to claw each other’s eyes out that are meant to be funny but as is the case with a lot of jokes, they stem from some truth in them. Stop hating on girls that your boyfriend talks to – if he is being inappropriate, that’s your fault for dating such a moron because he’s the one in the relationship. A lot of girl-on-girl hate comes from relationships – you think guys sit there and stalk their new girlfriend’s exes or their ex girlfriend’s boyfriend? Some might but wow, go get a hobby. Stop hating on girls to make yourself feel better. Just thinking about this is exhausting for me, like I really don’t have the energy to spend so much time hating on another girl. At the same time, I’m not some sort of hippy dippy girl who thinks that we all need to hold hands and force everyone to make friends with everyone but if you can’t be nice to each other, just leave each other alone and concentrate your efforts elsewhere. Be civil or walk away. The only thing is worse is to be fake about it and pretend like you are being nice to your fellow female.

Something else that really pains me is that there is still so much sexism amongst Muslims where people feel women shouldn’t be doing certain things or acting a certain way because it is “un-Islamic”. Erm ok, hold on a second. Our Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) married Khadijah (RA), his first wife- a lady who was one of the most powerful businesswomen at the time and 20 years older than him who HE worked for. You think she did that sitting at home? No, of course not, she was dealing with traders daily and she was an inspiration to him. What about Khawlah Bint al-Azwar, a female warrior and a Muslim. When things go backwards, people say we are going back to the middle ages but this was the middle ages and as a community we’re not even good enough for that – where did we go wrong?

I’ve ranted a fair bit now and coming back to the idea of celebrating International Women’s day there is one thing I will say: I am unapologetic about being a strong, feisty independent single girl. I work, I pay for my own holidays, I pay for things that make me happy etc. I’m proud of my achievements and how far I have come and I am blessed to come from a family that supported me to pursue my own interests and helped me to literally get a life. I’ve had people try and dumb me down for the typical Asian thing of I have to get married asap and guys don’t like such ballsy women so I need to tone it down but I’m not toning anything down for anyone. You know why? Because if I ever get blessed with a daughter, I refuse to give her a father who will try and bring her down.

Happy International Women’s Day – stay fierce.

xxxxx

 

So long 2017…

The older you get time sees to be flying by – another year is coming to an end and a good time to reflect – what did 2017 bring me and what do I want from my 2018.

Life is what you make of it – cliché saying but it is true. We’re so busy in our day to day lives that we forget or don’t have time to just stop and think. Think about our blessings, our highlights, things that we are grateful for, things we want to achieve, things we want to do, things that will make us happier, things that will make you into an even better person than you already are. As we rush to welcome New Year’s Eve and party and start the new year fresh and full of excitement – after all, it’s like a clean slate. We think of things that we want to do but why wait till every Jan 1st to do it?

2017 has been a busy year for me – many highlights with some lows. I don’t like to ignore my lows because I’d like to think that they have taught me something about myself, something to make me stronger and know what mistakes to not make again.

Here are some of the things I’m taking away from this year:

1. Aim high – never think that you aren’t good enough for a certain job/career/lifestyle choice etc.

2. Easier said than done but if a person doesn’t bring you happiness and brings you down at any point, you have to let them go, whether it is a friend or a partner. Anyone who does not fully appreciate your worth or takes you for granted definitely does not deserve your time. You might miss them and wish they were around but the relief of not having to put up with their nonsense will be incredibly liberating.

3. Forgiveness – everyone makes mistakes and some people realise and others are too self involved to pay attention but don’t be the bad guy. Forgive them no matter what – if they realised they messed up, it’s a good way to make peace and if they haven’t, don’t lose your compassion because they clearly can’t function in human society properly.

4. Don’t forget yourself – look after yourself, take care of yourself, love yourself. If you don’t give 100% to yourself how can you help others or even how can you expect others to treat you better when they are receiving at best 50% of a person?

5. I’ve noticed a lot of people are afraid of what people say or think and still, during adulthood, follow that. Why? As far as I am concerned I will only worry about others if I have done something wrong and upset or hurt somebody. If I know I am right, why am I going to put things on hold for someone else and let them dictate my life? Yes I occasionally find some noses up in my business but I’m woman enough to ignore and it’s rather weirdly flattering – waste your time on my life when there is clearly nothing going on in yours.

I’m not planning on any new years’ resolutions for 2018 because I just want to continue doing things that benefit me and make me a better daughter, sister, friend, colleague and most importantly, an even better human being.

The gym may have to be a resolution but like…it just doesn’t bring me as much happiness as a chocolate cake would you know?

Instascam?

A few of my readers have messaged me asking me to do a post on this and it is something that a lot of people have been talking about and it is the topic of how perfect the world looks on social media. People all around the world are using different social media outlets whether it is the classic Facebook or its newer rivals such as Instagram and Snapchat. Social media seems set to stay and if you are not on social media, you are considered a freak or some form of feral outlaw because the immediate thought is what could they be hiding that prevents them from being on social media.

I’m not here to judge or slag people for using them – I use all three very regularly. I see the pitfalls of social media but that is the price I am willing to pay to stay in touch with family and friends around the world and keeping them at my fingertips. I try and do regular culls to limit who is on my profile but if I am spying on your life then here, you can have a look at mine. I say spying but it isn’t really is it?  You have chosen to put something on the internet about yourself and were a lemon when checking your security settings. But that isn’t even the real issue anymore. The real issue is what people are posting and how people are posting it. Each engagement post seems to get mushier by the second – there is that photo collage of the couple, the ring, hands in the shape of a heart and a delightfully boring caption about how fantastic your life is and how in love you are and that your souls were always meant to be together and are made of the same thing etc. etc. Come back and tell me that in 50 years when you’re still together, I’ll have more time for it then. Bet I’m painting a super sexy picture of myself as a bitter cow with a crooked witch nose whilst my single ass strokes my cat poring over the internet, aren’t I? But you should be in love at the start of a marriage, why feel the need to prove it to everyone? Common sense would surely dictate if you didn’t feel that way about them, this marriage and wedding is a very expensive mistake.

It isn’t just engagements, it is people’s infuriating holiday pictures etc. See here’s the thing, I post pictures on social media too – Instagram in particular to show outings with friends and stuff I get up to and I like seeing people’s pictures of them doing normal friend things etc. What I don’t like seeing are the staged pictures. I already feel a bit of a complex that if people were to see me in real life, I look like me and not me with the Amaro Instagram filter on it that makes my face glow. But people are staging their pictures like everywhere they go is some sort of photoshoot. Gazing off into the distance, not looking at the camera like you are some kind of celebrity being papped. Just like celebs, these filtered pictures don’t reveal people’s day to day lives. Celebs live in a rich bubble where walking down the sandy beaches of Cabo may hint at other issues but at least the five star resort behind them shows their bank account is nice and healthy. You’re walking down the sandy beaches of Benidorm and acting like it’s Cabo.

There are plenty of people who have made a living off social media fame where their life has been their money maker or a passion of theirs like fashion or make up or politics or whatever. They post pictures of their family, husbands, boyfriends, kids etc. and their pictures look like something out of a fairy tale. Girls who blog about fashion have pictures of themselves walking down the street and the next shot is the same outfit but oh wait, look, there’s something on their shoe so they’re looking down. I never look at what these people are wearing because my first thought is “Who is the poor moron that is having to take these pictures of you?” How boring that you can’t make it down the street without stopping every 5 seconds for a picture and how long must it take to go anywhere wit you. The problem with these pictures is that very few of these bloggers keep it real. The picture of the couple hand in hand down the street doesn’t show that that couple may be having trouble conceiving which is why their fans feel the need to ask why they aren’t having kids yet because surely that is the only missing piece to their perfect life. The picture of the woman looking lovingly into her husband’s eyes as if the camera isn’t there, does that mean they never argue? We’re looking at things through rose-tinted glasses and it is nice to show lovely things but is it not going too far? People are feeling inadequate because they aren’t that perfect or beautiful or their kids aren’t as cherubic and their husband likes to kick back on the sofa after work and not follow them around the house with a camera and therefore they must not be as worthy. You rarely see people talk about the real issues in their lives because there is nothing sexy about that. Or in social media terms, there is literally nothing to like about it. People may claim that they know it doesn’t show reality and they’re not that stupid to think these people are actually perfect but we have gone from a culture where celebs were seen as people to envy to now envying people who are a lot closer to our level so really, our lives should be just as perfect. I can’t help but feel pangs of jealousy sometimes like damn, I’d love that to be my life and maybe in my head my life seems fairly normal but there may be someone who wishes they had something of mine and so on.

I have no plans to give up on social media and if you are one of those people who like to post staged pictures and what have you then you know what, go for it – you do you. Ultimately post what makes you happy but don’t wish your life was as rosy as someone else’s appears – you may not want to find out what happens when the filter comes off.

No, I’m not a doctor

“So what do you do?”

“I’m a student at University X”

“Oh, they have got an excellent medical school!”

“Yes, so I’ve heard”

“You’ve heard…? You mean, you don’t study medicine? What do you do instead, dentistry?”

“No…I’m part of the Arts faculty, I study languages”.

As quickly as this “uncle” at the wedding had approached me, he disappeared just as fast. That was a conversation I had 6 years ago and fast forward to my present and nothing has changed since. All of the other kids within my Asian circle all seemed to become doctors or lawyers or had followed any other vocational line of study. Not me though, I was a bit of an enigma. The kind of person that the “uncles” and “aunties” looked at funny or thought was a bit thick for not having done something like medicine but their kids thought was dead cool because I was quirky but then realised a conversation with me about a patient could only go so far.

Why are Asians so funny about their children studying something non-vocational? Something that they are actually passionate about? Or at least, why has this attitude not changed? If you’re not a pharmacist or a dentist or anything remotely like that, your career isn’t worth discussing and if you are being super kooky and wanting to study something like music or drama, get out of here.

I love the fact that I studied languages, I love the fact that it brought me so many opportunities like living abroad and I love that it has made me such an open minded person. I have met so many Asian kids who have said I want to be a doctor and I am always like cool, you must enjoy sciences and stuff, right? A large proportion have said no…it is so hard and I am struggling but my parents want me to be a doctor. I feel so bad because I was blessed with parents who said do what makes you happy and I am looking at these young people and thinking you are like fish expected to ride bicycles. It’s just not for you.

As Muslims, we need representation in all Islamically-permissable walks of life and we have so much talent within our communities that it is such a shame to box us into the same 5 job areas. Let’s find what our strengths are and not be afraid of pursuing them.

 

Party Pooper

“No boxed gifts”. That has to be one of my pet hates to any party invite. Yes, it is more convenient to walk away with a box of envelopes but nowadays, people find it easier to give cash anyway. I recently went to a party for a baby (aqeeqah – muslim equivalent of like a christening) which had cash only on the invite which I found out afterwards from my mum – had I known, I would have boycotted the event. It is bad enough but socially acceptable that people write it for their wedding as they start their lives out but for a party for a baby? That child needs nothing but love and countless blessings as they start out on the journey of life. The thing that gets me is that no one would dream of turning up to a party without a present but the idea that cash is the only acceptable gift is deplorable. It embarrasses those that may not be able to afford a lot and people feel the pressure to give a lot because in this materialistic world that we live in, £20 no longer seems good enough. Why don’t people just start selling tickets to their event instead? At least that way you’d know what they’d consider to be an acceptable amount.

I’m not saying sell tickets flippantly, I genuinely mean it. People have always tried to keep up with the Jones, I guess it is human nature to want to have what others have but we’ve entered into this new age when events are becoming akin to seeing a show. A summer wedding had a website printed on the card – what for? I decided to check it out and it was like a brochure for the wedding – what kind of things we were going to expect, what food there would be, what entertainment they would have. Why do I need enticing to your wedding? It is a wedding, people should be going to join the celebration of love and the union of two people because they care and are happy for them, not because there will be a monkey standing on its head handing out canapés. Or the flipside where people don’t want to go because there won’t be a monkey standing on its head handing out canapés. Btw, the website set themselves up for failure because I attended the wedding and was promised stroopwafels and I left very disappointed and irritated that I didn’t get them. Complete false advertising which I would have never known about had you NOT SET UP A WEBSITE! I was half expecting to then get a Tripadvisor-esque review link afterwards. You can guess what my review would have been.  2 stars and demands for them to fulfil stroopwafels promise.

What happened to people being interesting enough or couples being interesting enough to not feel the need to have ridiculous levels of entertainment at their wedding. Coming back to the baby party, halfway through the event, Grandma and friends decided they were desi Spice Girls with flowers in their hair and matching pink saris, started to “sing” old Bollywood classics. Why? It is a party for a baby, people want to sit and relax and play with the baby (hilarious – I saw the baby for 3 seconds whilst she slept and that is only because I made the father show me her face). There was a raffle midway – again, why? Was I at a PTA school fair? I hadn’t gone to win prizes or have my hearing violated.

Your wedding day is a special day, I get it (I’m not even going to talk about any other event because get a grip, that baby will have a first birthday and a wedding etc so her aqeeqah is not worth mentioning right now). You want nice things like photo booths which is cool for guests but what do you want them to leave with? The memory of a great night based on activities that had absolutely nothing to do with the couple they were meant to be celebrating? I went to a wedding this summer where the couple had a beautiful venue, a kids corner with snacks and activities to keep little ones busy and occupied which is fair enough and then the rest of the evening was great food, tasteful speeches and just great company. The groom didn’t have to fly in in a helicopter (yep, I’ve seen it) and it was just a lovely, fun evening.

This has been on my mind for a while now and the aqeeqah was the cherry on top hence my need for a rant. Maybe my family and I just need new friends. Or I turn into a hermit. Answers on a postcard please.

Boys will be boys and girls will be…?

“Yeah but he’s a boy”. Sound all too familiar? Sadly, this is a statement that I am hearing far too often and it has to stop. Before I continue, I’d just like to make a disclaimer that at no point during this article am I judging people’s lifestyles – I am more interested in looking at the double standards when it comes to free will and society’s perceptions of it.

In the Muslim community there is the general perception that girls are to be kept under wraps – they will go out and come home by a certain time with certain people and they should not be fraternising with the opposite sex. Ok, cool. But then what about our boys? Why is there not a general consensus that boys have to follow the same rules? Growing up in the UK, a lot of parents have said to me that their sons do their own thing – they go out and return whenever, do what they want, go out with a ton of girls but it’s cool whereas when it comes to their daughter, they immediately turn into the haram police.

Why does this double standard exist? Just because there’s less of a “risk” factor for boys doesn’t mean islamically this is correct, which tends to be the reasoning behind why the girls can’t do the same. Boys can’t fall pregnant, they are safer at night in terms of clubbing and drinking alcohol etc –  age old excuses. Sorry, but this type of logic does not work for me – this isn’t to say that I have a burning desire to go clubbing or sleep with boys, but whatever we are teaching our girls should also be taught to our boys and if our girls are doing the same as the boys then so be it, don’t treat them any worse or judge them.

Let me give you a case in point: I once spoke to a fellow brother who had a pretty large tally across his friendship group of the number of women that they had bedded and knowing the family he came from where his sisters had all been married very young to avoid extra marital relationships, I asked how would you feel if your niece, a teenager, was falling for guys like you and you found out she was sleeping around. His immediate response? “I’m a boy, I can get away with it”. Dude, take that nonsense with you and jog on, I haven’t got time for that. His parents turn a blind eye to his activities and he essentially has their blessing to do as he wills because he is a boy. Forgive me but based on the Islam I grew up with and am still learning about, I didn’t realise a penis came with these kind of extra privileges. The only thing that would have wound me up even more was if he then turned around and said when he gets married he would demand a virgin wife.

I have often discussed this topic with so many sisters who have vented their frustrations of boys being given free reign to do whatever they want whilst they have lived modest lives and they are now ready to settle down and don’t want somebody who has been the complete opposite to them and sadly, they are struggling. The worst is when I have had girls say “He’s had loads of relationships in the past” and I’ve said “Are you cool with that?” “I have to be…he’s a boy, it’s ok for him”. Is it? Since when?! Times like that I feel like I have really missed something. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying all these boys are bad boys and you shouldn’t go for them at all, it’s just when thinking about the future, you need to check attitudes – are these guys going to continue this idea of boys will be boys but girls will be nice and subservient? This is not the message I want for my future kids. Many a theory has been discussed as to why these boys are the way they are – my favourite has to be taken from a dear friend: “These parents are too busy doing Tawaaf around these boys to notice or care”.

This isn’t a purely Muslim issue at all, I know, and double standards are still very much prevalent in all communities and we cannot be naïve about Muslim girls and boys drinking alcohol, having extra marital sex etc – these things are happening as young people find themselves and juggle their British identity with their Muslim one and be part of both worlds. All I’m saying is boys will be boys and girls want to be treated without the weight of extra judgement and this notion of some things being socially acceptable for one sex and not the other isn’t right or fair. We shouldn’t be judging others at all based on what they do – free will and all, let alone based on whether they are carriers of XX or XY chromosomes. Will our future daughters, ten, fifteen, twenty years down the line still face the same two faces of society?