​On Complements.

I think I was ten when I read somewhere that men like women who know how to take a complement. My ten year old self thought, “that’s great. Men like women who know they are smart and beautiful.” I thought men liked it when you agree with them when they complement you. 
As it turns out, that is not always the case.

Yes, there are men who don’t like it when you don’t “accept” a compliment. I don’t think anyone likes it when they tell someone they are beautiful and have them say something like, “you don’t really mean that.” Yes, I mean it. Why else would I say it? I think it is sad, especially for women, to be unaware of their good qualities. Because society more often than not, will tear us down. You cannot afford to do that to yourself. I think everyone needs a sense of pride. I think everyone deserves to believe it when they are complemented.

A lot of times, when a guy says, “hey, I think you are beautiful” and you respond with a “thank you. I know”, they will take it back. They will tell you to not be cocky because you are not even that beautiful to begin with. That they were only complementing you to start a conversation. You’re probably thinking, no one likes an arrogant person. But why is a woman knowing she’s beautiful arrogant? 

I find this ironic because our culture conditions women to care so much about their physical attractiveness but doesn’t place the same emphasis on men. Men grow up knowing that their looks play little to no role in their lives. So why is that we shame women for believing they are beautiful? Why is it that women who spend time and money on their outward beauty can only be shallow and superficial and dumb? Why can smart girls only be ugly?

I got one word for you. Patriarchy.

Patriarchy requires women to be led (read oppressed), to have no control over their lives. To not know what they want. Patriarchy requires women to be ashamed of their sexuality, that or she is a slut. Patriarchy expects women to be timid and take crap, that or she is a bitch. Patriarchy requires women to be beautiful but somehow oblivious to it, that or she is superficial.  

It might seem insignificant that a man would get offended that you are aware of your beauty, but what he is really saying, is I’m threatened by you. Because a woman who knows she’s beautiful and strong and smart, knows she’s deserving of equal rights. And that is a threat to a culture that profits from women doubting themselves. Case in point, would you imagine the hit the cosmetic industry would take if women woke up one day and decided their bodies are perfect? That their stretchmarks didn’t need removing and their hair didn’t need straightening.  That the acne on their face is only proof that they are humans capable of communing and being impacted by the elements. That whatever shape, size and form and bodies take as we go through life is just but a testament to our strength, that we can take on life, wage and win wars(mostly against ourselves, but still) and when all is said and done, we’ll only grow and morph. 

So when people tell you, “don’t be cocky”, what they are really saying is, reign in your power. Dull your shine, don’t blind us. But it shall never be your responsibility to accommodate ideals that break you. May we always be the women that refuse to blush, may we always be the women that say “thank you very much. I noticed my banging ass too.” 

 

Dear Son,

If I’m being totally honest, I am terrified of having a son. I don’t think I get men. No wait, I do get men. And when I say I get men, I mean I have put a lot of work into appreciating my sense of self, I really couldn’t care what goes on in a  man’s head in regard to my being. So actually no, I don’t get men. I just know how to use my voice to tell men what I want, to demand respect and to say no to shit. Also, I try to be a really good listener; a skill that I do not think I will ever master, but will never stop trying till my lungs give out. 

It’s boys I don’t get. It’s adolescents whose voices have just broken, and they are getting a little tall and trying to understand how their height and dropped balls factor into their lives. It’s spuds with unformed minds and shaky opinions and wandering eyes and a newly found sense of lust. It’s boys whose groins are just beginning to appreciate the effect of a female ass and hands just itching to touch a pair of breasts. It’s the boy locked in a bathroom with a page torn out of a Victoria’s Secret catalogue and he isn’t quite sure how to use his hands. It’s boys using a shaving razor for the first time, wrecked with insecurities, wondering if the package in his hands is big (enough.) It’s college boys who don’t know how to politely approach a woman. It’s college boys who refuse to invest in soap and maybe even cologne. It’s college boys who walk around campus in bathroom sandals and get offended when a girl won’t look in their direction. Generally, I don’t get boys struggling to be men. Boys who are yet to understand the nobility of their strength, or better yet, what strength there is in nobility. Boys just shuffling around, trying to find a solid place to plant their feet and grow. Boys with ambition but no character, boys with brains but not enough manners, boys with vision but no means. 

And it scares me that someday, I may have to raise that. To be an anchor to my son when he goes through this challenging phase, just trying to find himself. How do I do that? What could I possibly tell him? Because I don’t have much experience with men. I don’t have brothers and I have never really lived with my dad. Sure, my best friend is male, but he’s always been more of a man than a boy. But more than that, I am scared that even after I’ve done my best, even after I’ve spent half my life trying to raise him into as great and as good a man as he could possibly be, he’s going to leave home, and go out into the world and society will ruin him for me. I’m scared that society is going to creep up at him at night, and erase everything I’ve taught him. I’m scared of the perverted fellow intern that will send him nude photos of his ex-girlfriend and more terrified that my son will look. I’m scared that he’ll come back home for Christmas break with sagged jeans and a computer full of pornography and a tongue uttering sexist slurs to his sister. I’m terrified of the war that will go on in me; between his mother who loves him unconditionally and a woman who wants to cuss him out and maybe even disown him.  

So from me, to my future son. I know I’m only twenty one and I know nothing about being a man. But someday you are going to be twenty one, trying to find a job, struggling to be a brother, screwing up at being a boyfriend, learning how to be a friend. This is to tell you that whoever you become, you’ll always be my son. That I might screw up a little bit, but whatever you go through, whatever disappointments life throws at you, whatever victories you achieve, I’ll always be in your corner. That we will grow together and the list I’m about to write will only get wiser.

First of all, I’m totally fine with whatever sexual orientation. I will welcome and love whoever you choose to be your (life) partner. That said, I have a thing against PDA (Public displays of affection) so please keep that to a bare minimum when I’m around. In a nutshell, I won’t care who you fuck, just don’t do it in my presence, or my couch, or my kitchen counter. I’m not saying you shouldn’t experiment, by all means, experiment your heart away.(yeah, that’s a weird thing for a mother to say to a son)It’s just that I’m working so hard at ensuring my house has quality(expensive) stuff, please don’t ruin that for me by the memory of you being “experimental.” You’re my son, I love you, but that’s just gross.

Second, home will always be home. If I mess up everything, I hope you grow up knowing that there is very little that will make you unwelcome.( I should probably say nothing, but who are we kidding, you’re not going to enter my doors if you are a serial killer.) With the exception of immoral careers, I will support you. You don’t have to be a doctor or an engineer. You can be a drummer or a swimmer or a photographer. I’m working hard to ensure that whatever you choose to be, I will have the resources to ensure you are the best at that. If you want to be a musician, I will take you to the best music school, I will buy you whatever instruments you want to play. But even if life doesn’t turn out as I want it to, I hope you know that happiness and fulfilment doesn’t come from material things. I hope you understand that happiness is a choice, and an active one at that. I hope I raise you to understand that true fulfilment only comes from doing the things that you are passionate about, the things that make you happy. And I pray that even if you don’t turn out to be the strongest guy around, you will have the bravery to go after the things that make your soul dance; be it the weird boy in your school or a nerdy programming class. I hope you know not to measure your growth by what is popular and applauded but by what is noble and kind.

I hope I raise you to value your humanity above your masculinity. I want you to understand that it is okay to cry and show emotion. I want you to be the nice guy that opens doors for girls and pulls out chairs for them without expecting favours in return. I want you to be the guy that values friendships (with all genders) and goes out of his way to show it. I want you to be the guy who shows up with pizza and beer at your male friend’s house when he has been dumped and gives your sister flowers when she’s cramping. I hope you don’t grow up measuring your masculinity by mundanities like how many girls you’ve slept with or how good you are at playing FIFA. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with you playing video games. I just don’t want you to be the kind of guy that feels emasculated when a girl beats you at it. I hope you are the kind of guy that loves wholeheartedly even when he’s been hurt before. The kind of guy that buys flowers for his girlfriend’s mum and buys your girlfriend tampons when she can’t leave the house. I’m saying that I hope you turn out to be a good human being; a kind, generous, loving human being. A boy that values nobility over strength. A boy that uses his strength to help elderly people carry bags, and carry children across the road and not to bully the timid guy in class. I want you to be the guy who befriends this timid guy. I want you to understand that if you are stronger than your sister, it is not to intimidate her into doing all the house chores, but to help move the heavy furniture. But more than that, I hope you never outgrow your mother. That you never stop trying to be her friend. 

But more than that, I hope I do not do you the injustice of raising you with a fragile ego. An ego so easily punctured that when a girl says no to lunch, it results to insults and threats. An ego that won’t let you be vulnerable or admit to not knowing something for fear of rejection or ridicule. I hope you know to accept defeat and reach out of your comfort zone. I hope you have a curious mind that will ask questions and learn from your mistakes. I hope you never let failure define you or stop you from gaining new experiences. But I also hope that you have a sense of pride. Not the kind that comes before a fall, but an assuredness in who you are as a person and what you deserve. I hope you know to walk away from toxic relationships. I hope you never let a girl use you just because you may get to sleep with her someday. I hope you never have to beg for respect. I pray you learn to stand up for yourself and settle for nothing less than your worth. I hope you know when to begin a relationship and when to end it. That you will know to tell someone when you are falling in love with them and they make your heart beat faster. That you’ll also know to tell them when you’ve met someone else or the passion has died, or you want different things. Basically, I hope you know to speak your mind and that your words will always be graceful and polite, but firm and clear. I also hope you learn to be on the receiving end of these words. To be composed, understanding and rational even when your heart is breaking. To wish them well and mean it even when you never want to see them again.   

I hope you have good taste in music. Because everyone needs a sound track to their life. Especially when you are Twenty one and girls are ignoring you and school is hard and you’re broke and just barely getting by. I hope you will listen to more than just HipHop. That you’ll listen to soulful music; music that will give you goose bumps and make you want to cry. Music that will make you want to bang your head against a wall and scream when you hate your life. Music that will make you want to heal the world on your good days.

I hope you never lose your child-like sense of wonder. I hope you go for walks and explore the woods beyond our house. I hope you build train sets and castles. I hope you have pillow fights and build forts. I hope you never outgrow you spider man sheets and socks. I hope you never stop watching cartoons.

I pray that you love books. That you will read everything, from restaurant menus to graffiti on buildings. Because books contain more than just words. They contain ideas and dreams. Because a well-read boy is a great conversationalist. And a great conversationalist attracts great, smart girls. Girls that will challenge you and give you great conversation and adventure and with enough experimenting, great sex. Girls that will push you to be the best version of yourself. 

I hope you have a morbid (dark, weird and twisted) sense of humour. That you’ll make puns, lame and nerdy alike. 

I hope that you don’t lose yourself trying to fit in. I hope you know that normal is an illusion. I hope that you’ll always take weird as a complement.

Please be smart. 

I hope this list is good enough. 

Ps. I was going to name you Dilan. But there is this show called Modern Family with a character named Dilan that is very dumb and that ruined that name for me. If at all this is possible, pray that I name you something that won’t be used to taunt you. 
 

Why thank you. I am indeed angry.

So I have a resting bitch face. This means I almost always seem angry. It makes it very difficult to approach me. I cannot even begin to tell you how much I enjoy that. It gives me the space and freedom to be in my head, and not be aware of my surroundings. So the very few times I notice a guy working up the courage to walk up to me and strike a conversation with me, I can almost bet his opening line will be, “You seem angry, but I just wanted to say you are beautiful.” More often than not, I usually find myself wishing they had stopped at “You seem angry.” I think that is the greatest complement anyone can ever pay me. Let Me explain that. I don’t want someone to walk up to me and tell me,”You seem like you have anger issues. You should probably see a therapist.” Though if someone did, I would find it refreshingly honest and maybe even sexy, because I do have quite a bit of anger issues. I think anger is my primary emotion. Just the mere sight of people enrages me. I am taking my introversion a tad too far. I digress. Here is the thing, I think anger is what drives change. If you can get angry, it means you care about something. It means you have the potential to make the world a better place, as lost as that course seems to be of late. Also, As I said before, It takes quite a bit of honesty and courage to tell someone they are angry. And the world needs a bit more honesty and courage. Telling someone they are beautiful is such a generic thing to say, so much so, it doesn’t even have to be true.

But more than that, I believe that people, especially women, are a lot more interesting. To tell them they are beautiful, would be to dumb it down. Because it is important for women to understand that they do not have to be beautiful. They do not owe society or men a symmetrical face. It is pretty cool to have a beautiful face, but you know what is even cooler? A kind soul, a curious mind, a big heart and my favourite, an angry personality.

Every once in a while someone asks me why I write and I usually just shrug. Because, what else I am going to do? Where else will I channel this anger? I can’t particularly say I know why I am so angry all the time. But I do know it has shaped me into a better human being. Is it exhausting to be on the verge of an emotional breakdown every single second? It is. It is exhausting as fuck. (Is actual fuck exhausting? I don’t know. Everyone has an opinion these days. As it should be. Because Fucking is a personal thing.) My whole point, before fuck hijacked my train of thought(I regret saying that. The double entendre. I’m not going to delete it though.) was that accepting and reeling in my anger has shown me the depths of my personality. I don’t think my eleven year old self knew I could care so much about feminism and racism and corruption, let alone be so outspoken about it. My anger helps me understand other people’s anguish and I think that has ultimately made me a better writer, if I do say so myself.

I keep visualizing the kind of world it would be if women owned their anger. If we understood that being angry doesn’t make us flawed and ugly. If we all understood that anger is an essential part of our humanity and that finding healthy ways to express that is integral in any kind of relationship. Think about it, emotional abuse stems from someone telling you that your anger, and feelings in general are not justified. That you are overreacting and being crazy. And if they do it long enough, you begin to believe it and doubt your instincts. You begin to rely on them to second your feelings, and before you know it, you are letting them tell you how to feel. And I think that is how we lose ourselves.

Now I’m not saying that our feelings are absolutely rational. But no one should ever make you feel like you have to apologize for feeling a certain way, for being angry. You can and should apologize for smashing his windows after a breakup, But you should never apologize for feeling hurt. Because when all is said and done, how you felt about things and people is the only measure of how full your life was. You can’t let people take that away from you.

What do we want? Control over our own bodies. When do we want it? Now!

My favourite things about people is that we are such paradoxes, or lazy and unmotivated, depending on how you look at it. We say we want to be happy, but stay in unfulfilling jobs and relationships. We say we want to be successful, but do nothing about that idea we had. We want to be respected and appreciated, but do not stand up for ourselves in the face of an injustice. But more than that, we have this immense capacity for compassion, even at the expense of self. There is very little we wouldn’t do for the people we love. This, is simultaneously my favourite and least favourite thing about myself. I don’t like it, because sometimes it gives me an excuse for my laziness and failures. You take a word as ugly as procrastination, over-indulgence, recklessness and you wrap it up in a beautiful word such paradox or a difficult word, say, complex, and just like that, our less proactive moments become palatable. But it also beautiful that I can be mean and kind, I can be selfish and generous, I can be good and bad. I like that my human nature allows me to be everything I want to be, that it doesn’t box me. I believe an understanding of this makes it a lot easier to live in a world that endeavours so much to make extremes out of us. A world that doesn’t seem to place tolerance, understanding and equality as the foundation for all human interactions. A society that has decided that there are certain aspects of femininity that girls and women should be ashamed of.

The hardest thing I have had to do in my life (apart from being a semi-normal human at social interactions) is unlearn the sexist, subjugating ideals I internalised as a child. Even now, I cannot completely say that my outlook on these things is purely based on my understating and appreciation for their necessity and not the vague memory of the careless, misinformed opinion of an ignorant acquaintance, an agreeable parent or a well-meaning grandparent. I cannot tell you how many times my mother remarks about my dressing and it takes all of me to not weep.

Here’s the thing, I generally do not like long clothes. I don’t even know why. I just don’t look at a long skirt and think, “hey, I would like to wear that.” That only happens I see shorts and above the knee dresses and skirts. I think my mother has nightmares about this. So I do her a favour and stick to pants and keep my less than “modest” clothes to when she can’t see me. The problem occurs when I’m home and I do not intend to leave the house and I’m in shorts and a vest. Even when she doesn’t say anything, it says everything. And I know I am not the only girl who goes through this with their mothers and aunts and grandmothers.  I cannot count how many times girls are told to not dress like prostitutes, or wear a longer skirt because short skirts make boys uncomfortable and they might just get this urge to rape you (I hope you guys can hear the sarcasm in my voice because my eyes are rolled all the way to the back of my head) While they do mean well and all they want is an assurance, as feeble as it may be, that we will be safe, the language they use to express this concern is counter-productive and just serves in perpetuating the implication that a woman’s dressing and largely, her body is not under her control. 

See, when you tell a little girl to not dress like a prostitute, you are implying that dressing is an assessment of morality. Which is absurd. As far as I am concerned, the only thing that makes you immoral is doing immoral things; like killing people. And the only thing that makes you a prostitute is getting paid to have sex. And even then, that is a personal choice and it’s none of my business. Even if there was a correlation between dressing and morality, a certain way of dressing does not cause immorality. Correlation is not causation.  As I see it, dressing is about comfort and expression and attractiveness and presentability. Would it not make more sense to tell a girl, “Wear a longer dress because it is chilly outside. Or because you look more attractive or more presentable in that.” And when I say attractive, I do not mean for the sexual gratification of men, I simply looking your best self. And when I say presentable, I mean appropriate; not subject to the judgement of others. Because dressing is never about other people, especially men. Which makes it even more absurd when we make girls feel like their dressing should take men’s comfort into consideration. Not only is it an appropriation of the rape culture of victim shaming, it is also dehumanising and sexually objectifying. As Chimamanda Ngozi put it, we are teaching our girls that they are mere props in managing men’s sexual appetites.  We are teaching them that they are only avenues of blame should the said management of men’s appetites not work and we end up with a rape victim.  We are teaching them to value themselves less; to put a man’s comfort above their own.

I am all for decency. But decency should never be used as a justification to undervalue others. To shame them for the things that they love. We cannot want to control how women view and treat their bodies and hide under the guise of decency, at the very same time shaming victims of rape and sexual assault and blaming it on a supposed indecency. A case example, a guy who sags doesn’t get little more than a few scornful looks but a girl who wears a short dress gets a myriad of things, starting from insults to rape threats. Why do we treat women’s bodies as some sort of abomination? Why do we shame them for letting someone see them? More importantly, why do people who are not the women themselves even get to have a say? We make our girls think that their naked bodies is something that should make them uncomfortable, something they should be ashamed of. Is it not enough that women already have to try to attain these impossible standards of beauty imposed upon us? I understand and support the concept of healthy living and having a body that doesn’t weigh you down. What I do not support is that the toned thighs and flat stomach and clear face should only be for the guy(s) you are intimate with. It’s everywhere; from status updates on Facebook to anecdotes on WhatsApp groups. Women are constantly told to cover up, that there are some parts of their bodies are only meant to be seen by certain men. So we are telling women to do the hard work and get a nice body, but not allowing them to flaunt it? I’m not saying that people should walk around naked, I’m saying that the decision to not walk around naked, should be left to the women to make. My point is, women looking good naked shouldn’t be about the guy she’s having sex with. It should be about promoting a healthy perception of self, about women loving their bodies; loving their reflection in the mirror. It should be about women feeling beautiful, for themselves.  Also, if we are going to treat naked bodies as taboo, let’s do it for all genders.  Let’s raise hell when men are shirtless all over the place as they always are. 

But above all else, women are sexual human beings. There shouldn’t be shame in this. We need to  be open and honest about sex. I’ve always thought of it as a pity, that I have never been able to tell at what point exactly I developed a healthy opinion about sex. It means, I don’t remember an authority figure being open and honest with me about sex. For most of my pre-teen years, I thought talking to a boy would get me pregnant. I remember when I was ten, my social studies teacher decided to talk to us about sex. Actually it wasn’t so much a talk as it was a reprimand after he asked the girls who are not virgins to raise up their hands and everyone was too confused to raise up their hands. I have never understood why a teacher would find it appropriate to ask ten year old girls in a mixed classroom about their virgin status. I remember feeling attacked and exposed and later on swearing to never have sex until I was married. 

While waiting till marriage to have sex is a beautiful decision, it is not a decision that should be made after a tirade. It should be based on information and experience. Choosing to not wait, is also a valid decision. It is not right that we tell girls shit like, “being a virgin is the best gift you can give your husband on your wedding night.” It is not right that we make girls feel like losing their virginity before marriage is a failure on their part.  It is not fair that the same standards and embarrassments are not imposed on men. What we should teach girls is that sex is beautiful and sacred it should be between consenting people. We should tell them that it would be easier if they were adults and are better equipped to deal with its consequences. But more than that we should make them understand that losing your virginity doesn’t define them. It doesn’t make them whores. It doesn’t strip them off their dignity and make them less worthy of respect.  But they should know it matters because it’s fucking personal and as my roommate says, “it should be with a friend. Someone you are comfortable with. Someone you aren’t scared to say no to.”

Can we just let women issues be decided by women? Can we not make it about men? And can we not shame women for being women?    

    

A little forwardness, that’s all I ask. 

I have this admiration for people, especially women, who are forward.  I mean forward about sex.  I guess it is because I struggle so much with social interactions, to be able to walk up to someone and go, “hey, I wanna have sex with you” feels like a stunt out of a super hero movie. Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way saying random people should walk up to random people and request a dalliance. Depending on who and how you do it, it could be sexual harassment. And that’s not my brand. I’m all for people respecting each other, I’m all for consent if anything sexual is to happen. What I am saying is, if in this lifetime, or the next, but preferably this one, I am able to comfortably express my sexual needs to a man, without hearing society’s voice and judgement in my head labelling me a slut and a freak, it won’t matter much if I achieve little else,I will definitely go down in my books as the most phenomenal woman to ever traverse this planet. And just so you know, that book has the likes of Maya Angelou and Audrey Hepburn in it, so it’s no small feat.  

As a child, I unfortunately internalised the prettiness of a woman’s silence. We are taught from a young age as women that we are supposed to be seen, not heard. We are to do our hair, smile and look pretty. We are supposed to evoke desire, but not express it. Men are to find us attractive by the broadness of our hips, our inviting smiles, the glow of our skin and not by the contents of our brains or the words out our mouths. We are taught to let men hit on us, and only encourage the ones that actually do. Don’t flirt too much, don’t show too much skin, don’t laugh too loud. It’s desperate and it turns off men. We are not allowed to be picky, or even go out of our way to attract the kind of men we want. All we have to do is keep the man that wants us. So we have to cook and manage the house and raise the children, but more than that, make sure our men don’t stray. Because a man cheating on a woman, is somehow a reflection on her; the blandness of her food or her unwillingness to try certain positions in bed. Which is ironic, because we live in a society that deems it perfectly okay for people (read men) to use phrases like, “good dick will hypnotise a woman” but an abomination for women to applaud their sex game. It is understandable for a woman to stick by a less than average guy, because he gives her good dick, but incomprehensible for a man to stay with a woman because of the sex. She has to be a slut, if sex is the best thing she brings to the table.

So while, this is not the 1950’s and I cannot deny that men understand the essence of a modern-day woman. The woman who won’t do your chores and suck your dick (metaphorically speaking), but will give you great conversation and pay half the bills. Society still struggles with the concept of a woman being able to express her sexuality. We still tell little girls, to let the boy text you first, let him kiss you first, let him ask for sex. And even then, don’t put out on the first date, play hard to get, don’t make him think you are available, he might mistake you for a whore. We teach our boys to categorise the women in their lives. The kind they’ll just have fun with and the kind they’ll marry. We make our girls feel like they have to choose, will you be the fun girl or the wife? Will you be the booty call or the mother of his children? Why can’t girls have it all? Because I want it all. I don’t mean the booty calls and giving lap dances to strangers at a party. I don’t do that. But that decision doesn’t come out of judgement for people who do, it is out of an understanding of the mechanics of my soul. I am not a casual sex kind of person. I am not saying we have to be in a relationship, I am saying I want to have an emotional understanding of my sexual partner. And that is the only place that kind of decision should come from. It should be from an awareness of self and not because people told you that you have be a certain way, that you can’t do certain things because of your gender.

Because beneath my cynicism, I still believe in fairy tales. Well, sort of. I believe in finding the love of your life and marrying them and not getting divorced. I believe in making relationships work and not giving up on people. I believe in marrying your best friend (or at the very least a friend) and being there till death do you part. It could be the dumbest of my dreams, but it is the greatest of my hopes. I just want someone I’ll make puns with. I just want a friend I’ll be sexually attracted to for a really long time, eternity if I had it my way. But in the meantime, I also want to have fun. I want intimate dinners and poetry by a fireplace. I want Coldplay concerts and bitter-sweet goodbye kisses from an exotic man I just met on a trip; the inevitability of the end of an affair and the relief that my sins will stay with him. I want star-crossed love and blurred lines with a friend.  I want sexual innuendo and geek talk. I want to be able to wear sweatpants and mini-skirts just because I feel like it. I don’t want to be asked if I am not worried that sweatpants dull of my femininity. I want to be able to wear a short dress without being asked who I am trynna look good for. I want to be able to wear shorts to class and not have to worry about the lecturer misjudging the content of my character.  I just want to be able to be comfortable in my sexuality. I just want people to understand that I own my sexuality and whatever I do with it, or how I choose to express it is not a statement on my morality or intelligence or humanity.  And if I can get at least one person to see things this way, then my work will be done. Because to me, there’s more to feminism than ending rape and equal pay for women. My favourite bits are the ones that make women comfortable in their skin, the parts that allow women to stand tall and unapologetic for wearing their skin as they see fit. The kind that makes us realise that the quality of our lives should never be determined by society’s willingness to allow it. 

On change.

The year was two thousand and fifteen. Young, ignorant me was excited about the new year. I truly believed it was going to be my best year yet. I really did. It makes me laugh(and sometimes cry) to think about now naively optimistic I was. I guess I just needed the hopeful illusion. Two Thousand and Fourteen had been an awful year. As it turned out, 2015 wasn’t that different anyway, at least not the first quarter. The prominent memory about this time is we were almost homeless, my roommates and I that is. We had to move out of our residence at the time, and we had no prospects of finding another place to live. Also, we were doing exams and we were as broke as it gets(or at least I was) Looking back, being almost homeless was a good thing for us. We really needed to move out of that place. The environment was toxic, both physically and mentally. We were out of Our league, We were spending way too much money and for some weird reason all our relationships were falling apart. I can confidently say, my roommates and I cried ourselves to sleep more often than we care to admit. Even so, moving out wasn’t that easy, change never is. I remember when we finally moved out and because it was to a different building, structured differently, we had to switch the curtains. Just the mere thought of having different curtains in my room, upset me more than it should. It was a while before I grudgingly admitted that we had done the right thing by moving.

Like I said, change is not easy. I guess we get so used to having things a certain way, as harmful as those things may be, that we dare not try to make things better. Change comes with unknown variables and with the unknown comes this paralyzing fear. You know what they say, better the devil you know than the angel you don’t know. And for the most part, it is understandable, I could say acceptable to some extent. It is okay to be scared. As long as you know, and are preparing to face that fear someday. What isn’t acceptable, is how we let this fear of change rule our lives. How we stay in a state of destructive inertia, we let ourselves hurt, how we slowly kill ourselves just because we are afraid to venture into the unknown. How we feed our bad habits, excuse others for theirs and pretend that we have forgiven ourselves for being so cowardly. If there is one thing that is common to all human beings, it is that we are capable of change. We owe it to ourselves to change, to grow, to discover the better versions of ourselves.

And it is on this premise that I am basing my dissatisfaction and disappointment in myself and others close to me(or everyone) for the times I have not been my best self. For the times I have procrastinated, for the times I have indulged my self-destructive thoughts, for the times I have used my humanity and my room for error to excuse my bad behavior, for the times I fell back into old habits, for the times I have let my ego get the better of me, for the times I have been as human as I could be. But more importantly, I am annoyed at the times I let people take advantage of me, for the times I let people hurt me, for the times I have forgiven people, or held my tongue and given them another chance simply because I understood where they were coming from, or that they didn’t mean to. This is also about the times I have been the offending party but still felt entitled to some forgiveness simply I was hurting. This is to say that hurting others isn’t okay just because you are hurt, or you have been hurt. Because we are capable of being better, because the goal in life is to be better.

Here’s the thing. We are all a little damaged. Nobody was raised by perfect parents. Hell, some people aren’t even raised by their parents. More often than not, the people that raise us, also break us a little bit, knowingly or not. We internalize things, we take up their bad habits, we accept the lies they tell as truths, and we never quite forgive them for the careless utterance that broke our spirit a little bit. As we grow up, we learn that we have to unlearn some of the things they taught us, Or at the very least, put it in context. The people raised in abusive homes have to learn that it is not okay and it is never an excuse to be abusive. The people raised by neglectful drunks learn that you can’t go through life evading your responsibilities and drowning your sorrows in alcohol. Even those brought up in seemingly perfect homes find the need to discard or at least change some ideologies they were raised up with. If not for anything, then for the fact that the passing of time necessitates a change. So while some people are more damaged than others, and some people need more time to change, it is never okay to use your damage as an excuse for the less than noble things you will do. Nobody should have to endure and constantly forgive your mistakes just because someone made you like that, or because you have always been like that. If you can be better, you should be better.

I have been told on numerous occasions that I should develop a sense of humour. What stands out about these instances is the people who told me that usually said it after they cracked a rape joke, or said something misogynistic and I wasn’t amused. I used to get so worked up when people tell me that because for starters, I have a sense of humour. I will laugh at anything. I just saw this text post about this vegetarian who climbed Everest to prove that vegetarians aren’t weak but she ended up dying. People were commenting things like,”Lettuce pray” and “rest in peas” and I laughed so hard. Don’t judge me. I have a heart. And a weakness for puns. Also, I do not have anything against vegetarians. It takes courage and strength to be so healthy. My point is, I have a sense of humour, dark as it may sometimes be. What I don’t like about these people who tell me to lighten up is their argument that “boys will always be boys.” It is essentially saying that boys will always be sexist, violent people. And that is not true. Did you know that there was once a convention in the middle ages where the table legs had to be covered because boys found them sexually attractive? I guess the table legs resembled women legs, but still. All I am saying is, if boys can learn not to feel a sexual attraction when they look at table legs, then they can unlearn the sexist ideologies that they have internalized. Boys Can Change. Girls can change. Everyone can be better. So let’s be better.

Everyday sexual harrassment.

A couple of months back,  I was walking with my two male friends when some random guy tried to get my attention in a not so polite manner. What stands out for me about this situation is that my guy friends were more offended than I was. Let that sink in. Here is a situation that  potentially could have led to sexual harassment and what stuck with me is that my guy friends were offended more than I was. I should have been  more offended. But you know why  I wasn’t, because I am acutely aware that things could have been worse. Part of me expected things to be worse. And that right there is the reality for most if not all women. Ask any female and they will tell you that every time they pass a group of men, they expect to be cat-called, or for someone to say something sexually offensive or even for someone to grab them. The women who will counter this are the ones who haven’t realized that whatever happened to them actually qualifies as sexual harassment. And that is the saddest thing; sexual harassment is so commonplace, sometimes our brains forget to register it as offensive. Now tell me that isn’t messed up.

But you know what is worse than being sexually harassed? Actually, nothing is worse than that. Being shushed when you speak up about it however does add salt to injury. Society has numerous ways of saying shut up when you try to tell your story. People will tell you things like, “it was all in good fun” or “it was just harmless cat-calling” or “you should be grateful that nothing serious happened.” In a nutshell, what we are basically saying is your violation doesn’t really matter as long as someone got a good laugh out of it. Laughter after all is good for the soul. What you need to do is shut up and feel grateful that some male was merciful enough to not exercise his privilege to make you feel uncomfortable and unsafe to its full extent. I could take all day exploring these responses and their various implications but I want to focus on the three rebuttals that I find most infuriating.

“Boys get harassed too.” While this is a true statement, contextually speaking, it is an insult. So yes, boys get raped, boys are victims of gender-based violence, boys undergo forced genital mutilation, but why is this only an argument when I am talking about women issues? This is the equivalent of the hashtag #alllivesmatter only after #blacklivesmatter has been generated. You get why that is offensive, right? Why must we use the plight of men to water down female suffering? Does female suffering not matter? Is it not relevant? Is female suffering only valid when it is compared to men’s? Boys get harassed is a complete statement. It should never be used as a justification or a distraction. And you know what the worst part is? How the people who wave this statement around don’t really care about sexual crimes against men. They just use it to shut up women. Because even when a boy gets raped, it is  mostly women who are up in arms against it. Most men just brush it off.  I once heard a guy ask how a boy could get raped by a woman. Why didn’t he overpower her and rape her instead? Now, I am not defending this woman rapist but that right there is an indication of how rare sexual crimes against men are.  So much so, when it happens, it’s laughable. It only serves to assert this mindset that sexual harassment is something that should happen to women only. Well no, sexual harassment should happen to no one. So yes, boys get harassed too, but the conversation is currently about it happening to most if not all women. So dear guy who has never experienced it, do not make it about you.

“What were you wearing?” For starters, it doesn’t matter what she was wearing. The amount of clothes on someone’s skin is no justification for sexual harassment. I could walk around naked and no one should make a comment. There is no such thing as asking for it. No one ever asked to be raped. No one ever asked for sexual objectification. No one ever asked to be made to feel unsafe. And when I say it doesn’t matter, I mean it literally.Because you could be wearing the most conservative clothes  and it wouldn’t help a thing. Because the men who sexually harass women do it simply because they can, because they grew up in a society that mistreats women. They have no reason, they are not doing it because you are dressed seductively, they are not doing it because they like you but know they don’t stand a chance. They do it because they are men and inherently have privilege to dominate women, and say whatever they feel like and there is not a damn thing you as a woman will do about it.  So no, it doesn’t matter what you were wearing. As millions of women all over the world have hard to find out, wearing a longer skirt never decreased your chances of getting raped. As a matter of fact it doesn’t matter how old you are. As long as you are born female, some male somewhere has earned the right to be sexually inappropriate with you. And that is not fair, it is not right. No one has a say on their gender anymore than they have a say on getting cat-called. Society needs to stop making women feel responsible, guilty for being sexually harassed.

“Stop making a fuss about it.” This to me is a way of saying that while society acknowledges there is a problem, they do not want to deal with it. Yes, we know that someone disrespected you, but could you please shut up so that we don’t have think about it and all the ways knowingly or not, we have perpetrated male privilege and enhanced this cycle of gender based violence. I remember the first time i was sexually harassed(or rather the first time I acknowledged it as such.)It was a crowd of people, waiting to board a bus. Amidst all the pushing and shoving, this guy came up to me and pressed against my chest in the most deliberately disgusting manner I could possibly imagine. I wanted to brush it off as an accident but then I turned and he was grinning as if to re-affirm that he did it on purpose. I remember I was so embarrassed and offended and quite hurt(physically and emotionally) even after I was seated inside the bus I had to cover my face as I was fighting back tears. Some girl who had seen it happen tried to make me feel better by telling me not to be so offended because the guy probably only did it because he thinks I’m hot. Today if you ask me what the worst part of this encounter was, I will tell you it was what this girl said. I understand that she said it in good faith, but when you think about it, it is almost as if she was saying that sexual harassment is a complement, it is something that validates you, it is something you aspire to. Well, it isn’t. It is wrong and it is hurtful.

My whole point is, sexual harassment is something that happens to women on a daily basis. So do not let anyone shut you up, prevent you from telling your story. When it happens to you(notice I didn’t say if), you make a fuss; scream, kick, yell, whatever you do to get attention on the matter. Because getting enough attention is the first step in eradicating this, the first step in reclaiming our dignity as women. Do not let some guy who doesn’t know shit about being sexually harassed stop us from getting there.

Chill out, it’s just her virginity.

You know how it is when you run into an ex, or an almost ex. You know, somebody who could have been something but life got in the way, or the timing wasn’t right. Not just any type of ex, someone you had a profound connection with, maybe even loved. So it is a chilly evening, you are walking hurriedly past Mr.Price, the one near Archives, trying to catch a bus home. On a good day, you’d stop and window-shop. On a better day, you’d get in, maybe get yourself a necklace. Not today though. Today you are too broke to even window-shop. Because window-shopping is an implication of sorts, that you are going to be able to afford that stuff someday. It is a sad, cheap, kind of hope. And you know what they say, that hope is for the birds, and the brave. You think about this for a while, and you realize that maybe birds and the brave is just a metaphor for the rich. This makes you laugh, a sad, hollow, self-pitying laugh. And then it happens.You bump into someone. And even before you look up, you know you recognize that scent. The way it brought butterflies to your stomach. He says hi, you mumble something back. small talk here and there. He says something about losing your number, asks for it. You want to give it to him, but what good would that do? So you look away, pretend to notice the sunset. How it makes Tom Mboya street almost look beautiful. How it makes you want to sit on a roof top and kiss someone. It is funny, because you’ve never been one to watch sunsets. He brings this up. You tell him people change and there’s really no point in trying to go back to the people you once were. You stagger away before he can say something else, get into a bus and as it leaves, before you leave  behind the piece of your life that could have been, you allow yourself a moment of total honesty. You know you miss him, that you will always carry with you this sense of loss, that your bones will always ache for him. You know that feeling? That does not even begin to compare to this craving I’ve had for French fries and chicken these last couple of days.

So just yesterday I am in a Samsung  shop getting my laptop charger replaced. But they are taking forever because they are out of stock and so they are getting me one from I didn’t care where. So I figure, screw calories, I’m getting myself chicken and fries. What else was I going to do to kill time? Also,people have just been on me incessantly about my weight. And if I’m being totally honest, it is getting hurtful. I know they do it with the best of intentions,(well, some of them) but sometimes it just feels like they are body shaming me. And yes, body shaming isn’t something that only happens to plump people. So I hop over to some fast food place and order my chicken and fries. Which if you think about it, is a pacifier of sorts, like the way traditional Africans poured libation to appease ancestors. The pacification was a huge mistake. The food tasted horrible. Okay, maybe not horrible but it wasn’t spectacular either. I couldn’t get past few bites. So I just sat there, wallowing in regret for squandering my fare for the next few days for food that wasn’t spectacular to please some mean women who didn’t even see me. Really, the food would have been put to better use as libation. I was still staring at my food, trying not to cry when this guy who I’d say is twenty four years or so sits next to me with some cute, I’d say six year old. My first thought was, “what a nice guy. taking his time to spend time with his little sister. she is probably going to question the niceness of the brother after tasting the chicken, but it really is a nice thing to do. ” Turns out the little girl is his daughter. A very curious one at that. I feel like i should tell you how I know that. Okay. But don’t judge me.I was eavesdropping. Not purposefully of course. The seats are so close to each other in these fast food places, it is impossible not to catch snippets of other people’s conversations. Also, the little girl was asking very intriguing questions. I’d say the winner was, “daddy, was it wrong for mummy too get pregnant before you got married?” The guy froze. Who wouldn’t? Even I chocked on my own saliva. So I left. It felt wrong to listen on afterwards.

I couldn’t stop thinking about the question though. I do not think there is an easy or direct way to answer that question especially when it is a six year old asking. That is a loaded question especially to a father who obviously doesn’t want her daughter to ever be in the same position he now was, but also doesn’t want her daughter growing up with an unhealthy attitude towards sex. It has so many variables like society’s perception of virginity, pre-marital sex, responsible sex, you name it. All I can do is hope he did the best job he could at answering the question. Here are my two cents though. There’s is very little on this planet that is absolutely wrong or right. Is it difficult to be a parent before you are married? Yes. Hell, I think it is difficult being a parent even when you are married. But just how do you tell a six year old that her mother should not have had her? You can’t do that. But you know what you could do? You could tell her she will grow up, she is going to learn about sex and intimacy and she is going to make her own decisions about them. All you can do is do your best at ensuring that when she gets to make those decisions, she won’t regret them.

But let us face it, our attitude towards sex, pre-marital or not is not solely shaped by the people that raised us. There is peer pressure, societal misconceptions, personal choice. Some choose to wait till marriage to have sex, others do not. Ideally, there should be nothing wrong with those choices as long as you are responsible about it. But for some reason, society shames girls who do not wait. And that is not cool. If you ask me,all this hype around virginity is a societal construct designed to perpetrate some misogynistic agenda. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that people should go around recklessly breaking their hymens. All I am saying is that it doesn’t have to be such a big deal. So while sex is a sacred, spiritual affair, the idea that a guy inserting his man bits into a girl’s lady parts is such a life-changing event especially for the girl is just unwarranted and a little bit cocky(and yes, I heard it when I said it.) A girl losing her virginity in no way alters who she is as a person, it does not make her any less worthy of respect, it should not earn her insults and name calling. The long and short of this is slut-shaming is not cool. Girls are allowed to have a sex life. They are allowed to express desire and have fetishes. Society needs to stop slut shaming girls for the very things that they consider men fucking legends for(pun definitely intended.)

Just for the record, misandrists are not feminists.

I am in this WhatsApp group that consists solely of my high school classmates. Now, I was in an all-girls high school and so every once in a while, things do get female, for lack of a better word. So recently, a member of this group shared a link to this article that was basically the author saying why waiting till marriage to have sex was not a good idea for her. Then, later, it was a screenshot, I think, of some guy ranting about how most women can’t cook. Anyway, I don’t have much use for my phone(partly because I hate it. Can somebody please buy me a new phone?)I don’t text or call much, or even log onto my social media platforms that frequently. so I’m almost always offline. I like being present, absorbing my surroundings, I don’t want to be a slave to my phone. So when I finally get to read this group texts, it is in hundreds, so I usually just end up scheming through. but today, for some weird reason, I was actually rereading these texts, and this guy next to me, was shamelessly reading them with me. and as if that wasn’t bad enough, he had the nerve to start a conversation with me about my texts. Can you believe that?

So here i was, reading my texts, occasionally bursting into a discrete laugh and then I hear someone commenting on how annoying it is that women can’t cook. My first instinct was to ignore him, but people are always telling me that I am extremely intimidating so of late, I have been making a purposeful effort to seem nicer. but if i am being totally honest, I am only doing it for my friends. because, a huge portion of me likes being intimidating. and I don’t intend to change that, not completely. anyway, I agreed with him. because I do believe that the lack of a basic survival skill is not something you brag about. We all need to be familiar with the process of nourishing our bodies. Then, this guy goes ahead to tell me, that he is glad I agree. That for a second he was scared I was going to get all defensive and throw some feminist anthem in his face. So I told him that I actually am a feminist. This as followed by an awkward silence and then he finally said, “you are not like other feminists.” Now that statement could pass off as a complement, but think about it, and you will realize it is offensive and undermining on so many levels.

See, when you tell me I am not like other feminists, you do not complement me. because, at the very least, you are suggesting that the feminist course is something I should distance myself from. and no, I don’t want to do that. because I understand what feminism is about. Because at the end of the day, feminism is all about embracing ourselves as women, understanding our power, being comfortable in our skin. Feminism is about making it okay to be female. And I wanted to tell him that but I realized it is not his his fault, not entirely, that his views on feminism are misinformed. I mean, even I, can’t deny that there are females who have given feminism a bad name. Because a lot of women who call themselves feminists are just bitter, male hating people who don’t even understand what feminism is about. And the ones who think they do, misinterpret it. Because feminism is not about bringing men down, or making men do things for you, or having things handed to you on a silver platter just because you are a woman. and maybe that is why other people, especially men, do not appreciate the concept of feminism. Because some people have managed to to make it seem like feminism is just a conspiracy to destroy male souls. And that couldn’t be further from the truth. Male haters are not feminists, they are called misandrists.

So here is what I think feminism is about. Feminism is about self improvement. It is about making women into the best versions of themselves, not so that they can compete with men, or outshine men, but so that both genders can work together for the enhancement of the human race. Feminism is not about equality, it is about equity. because as I see it, men and women are such different people, and on that basis alone, we cannot be equal. What we can do however, is to appreciate our differences. understand that our different abilities, do not make one gender less capable, but instead complement each other. That with these differences, we can find a way to work together and move forward as a people. Feminism is not about making women equal to men, or proving to the world that women can do everything men can do. on the contrary, I think women were created to do everything men can’t do. Otherwise,there wouldn’t be much point in having both genders on the same planet. Think about it, why have two different genders that can do the exact same thing? And don’t get me wrong, our abilities, and talents do overlap, but it is not a competition, it is just more manpower. So maybe that is the problem with contemporary feminism, we are too busy trying to prove that women and men are equal, fighting for the same opportunities,political representation, basically just emulating men. Perhaps what we should be doing is instilling in our women, a sense of pride in being female.

Because when you understand who you are as a woman, when you fully grasp the magnitude of your abilities, you wont need affirmative action or laws to be enacted so that you can have representation in parliament. You will realize that you are capable of getting these things for yourself. you will realize that you do not need to stay in an abusive or a relationship that is not fulfilling. you will know that is is okay to be single. you won’t need to rant about your boyfriend not being able to buy you the dress you saw. you are not dating an ATM machine for crying out loud. You will realize that you own your sexuality, and are therefore entitled to do with it whatever you damn please. You could choose to wait till marriage, or not. it is entirely your prerogative and no one has the right to make you feel bad for having a responsible sex life. You will realize that as a woman, you are and can be many things. you can be beautiful and ambitious and smart and sexual. That you should not be a slave to an image you have to uphold. You do not have have to choose pieces of an identity. You do not have to be just the smart one, or just just the good girl, or just the one with a smart mouth or just the good-looking one. My point, is you can be all of these things, simply because you can be. and yes, society will always try to polarize you, to break you down into bits they can understand. And you know why that is, because society has simple-minded people. And simple minds only think in black and white. To them you are either than angel or a whore. But you are a woman, and trust me that is a s complicated and as magical as it gets. It would be a shame to lose your spark just so you can be accepted by a dying fire.

So maybe the next time your crush says you are not like other girls, how about you don’t smile sheepishly? How about you find your voice and tell him that the next time he wants to pay you a complement,he shouldn’t do it by alienating or disparaging you. Because girls blossom in hostile places. I don’t know why you wouldn’t wanna be that.

Every woman needs…

Someone once asked me what I loved most about being female. I  wanted to say I don’t. Because being female is so exhausting. But it wouldn’t be true if I said I didn’t. Because I have days when I am dangerously in love with myself, and more so, with the fact that I’m a woman. I call them my feminine days. The kind of days you just want to dress up, put on a dress, wear lipstick and just stare at your face. There are days I am just so thankful for being feminine. days I am aware of my power as a woman, my ability to give life, endure pain and love with every fibre of my skin. days I feel so in touch with the universe. Days I’m just happy to be a woman. and I wouldn’t trade feeling feminine for anything else. Then there are days that i’m not. I had one of this female-hating days and I was complaining to my friend about it and so he asked me, “what do you need?” I wanted to say “a hug” but those of you who know me know that I try really hard to hide the fact that i am sentimental. but I have been mauling over this question for weeks now, and I finally made a list. So this is my version of what i think every woman needs.

First, you need your dad. you need the first guy you love to love you enough so that you don’t ever feel the need to re-tweet every complement you get. You need your father there the first time you look into the mirror and notice your eyebrows are a little thin or that your ears are a little pointed. You need your dad there when your first boyfriend dumps you because your hips are not as wide, or that your breasts are a little small. You need your dad there when you fail your first test and when you get rejected at your job interview. You need to hear that you are beautiful and smart and you can do anything you want to, as long as you are growing up. You need to hear this so many times you believe it so that even when you are away or too big to sit on daddy’s lap, the echoes of his love will always guide you.

You need to love yourself. You need to love yourself enough to build a career and ensure your independence. You need to know how to walk out of a bad relationship. You need to learn to say no and don’t feel bad about it. You need to be comfortable in your weirdness and embrace your uniqueness. You need to stay true to yourself and not succumb to pressure to be cool or popular. You need to love your own company and live with yourself. You need to have a relationship with yourself. You need to forgive yourself and let things go. You deserve to take a break and go figure things out. You need to find yourself. You need to be alone. you need to be happily single.

You need a best friend in whatever version they come in.It could be your mother, your sister, your childhood friend, the guy you just met. Or it could fragments of people. Either way, you need someone who makes you laugh. You need someone you can call in the middle of the night without ever worrying if they’ll pick up. You need a shoulder to cry on when you are sad and a fist to bump when you are excited. You need someone you can be the weirdest version of yourself with without them judging you for it. You need someone who brings out the child in you. You need someone you could spend the rest of your days with. All I am saying, is you need healthy relationships, of whatever kind. because(and I don’t think I will ever be able to emphasize this enough) you deserve laughter, and to be kissed tenderly, and frequently. Oh, and orgasms.

You need ambition and dreams and goals. You deserve to be independent. You deserve your own house and your own car. You need to be able to take care of the people you care about. You deserve to be free and liberated and not have to depend on someone else. You need to be able to occasionally say, “fuck it. I don’t need you guys. not really.” You need to be able to give back. You need to touch lives. You deserve to leave a legacy. C’mon people, you deserve a comfortable life. You need to be able to afford that life.

Basically, you need to work on yourself. because being the best version of yourself is the only way to be truly happy. Plus, you owe it to others to be a good person. Because other people also deserve the things you deserve. And since work on ourselves is never quite done, you deserve to enjoy the process. To take pleasures in the little things; in  tiny black dresses and red lipstick. Because every woman deserves red lipstick. There is something about red lipstick that makes you fall in love with yourself all over again. You deserve to be happy. You need to stop at nothing to make that happen.