Category: essay

ramadan

Call to Prayers: The End of Ramadan

I wrote this piece in May 2011, as I watched Muslim faithfuls convene to pray in Abuja.  It was inspiring to observe, be caught in the middle of, and document.  The post has also been featured in Pamay Bassey’s My 52 Weeks of Worship Project. Every time I revisit this piece, I am aggressively attempting to edit it. I begin to, but I don’t. I wrote this in a very particular voice; it might be just what it is to keep it this way. Nevertheless – 
Eid Mubarak!

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The Self-Proclaimed Good Guy

pouring wine
You’ll have to excuse me; I need some space to get this out.

Recently, I had the distinct displeasure of meeting a young man who was apparently confused as to why women would not want to be with him. I’m a good man, said… we’ll call him Gregoire, “I don’t get why a woman wouldn’t want to be with me“. I blinked into my phone, reading the Book of Lamentations of the Self-Proclaimed Good Guy. Yet, I gave Gregoire the benefit of the doubt: I asked questions, gave him space to elaborate. It wasn’t that Gregoire, the good guy was actually complaining about relationship troubles. We all have them. The singles among us all think we deserve decent people to be with, because we are decent, fun-loving, ambitious people. No, no, it was that Gregoire, the good guy felt as though because he was a decent person, women ought to be flocking to be with him. It was confusing to him why a woman like me, udee, would not automatically see his goodness and sign my name on the dotted line to be with him forever …or for the night. Ugh, who knows!

Le sigh.

There is nothing unsexier than an adult displaying their acute failure to grasp reality. Humanity requires a baseline level of decency in most cultures. You don’t get rewarded for being baseline nice. And your reward for baseline decency should never be other people. This should never be your expectation! Tell me, how does your being a decent, nay, good person, mean that you expect your reward to be a binder full of women? Women have become the prize to be won when you offer your seat on the train to the elderly, eh? Or perhaps when you drive your more than tipsy female friend home from the block party, you expect your reward to be what, a snog maybe? Or maybe it’s her romantic attentions you want? What do you appropriately reward a man who decides, in his infinite goodness, not to defer to inappropriate behaviour, or assault or outright rape? …and we wonder, still, on this side of the 21st century, why feminism is relevant.

It is emotional manipulation to tout your goodness as sacrifice for others, because (a) what metrics have you employed to calculate that your level of special and alleged sensitivity is deserving of female attentions? and (b) you’re simply not that special – no one is. In the face of sounding too morbid, even after your death, after a period of mourning and healing, life will continue to move on without you. You do not deserve other people. You do not deserve a woman. We are not property.

It’s actually terrifying to think, as a woman, that there are men out there who take their chivalry aka goodness aka decency and expect women to queue up to be with them. What unbridled entitlement! Upon explaining to Gregoire why this was not at all tolerable, I still don’t think he understood. He thought I was hating on his confidence as a guy. After all, he mused, I’m not ugly. Ah yes, my dear Gregoire! It is that you are handsome that you ought more access to a woman’s emotional and physical body.

I had had enough and proceeded to distance myself permanently.

 

We need it talk. It’s been years, but we need to talk. …or I need to talk. Doesn’t matter.

I almost forgot we were Facebook friends. I didn’t remember that cyber space had reconnected us in this way. After grade school, I always wondered where in life everyone was, but that was only a cursory musing I reserved for a select few – the few with whom I shared adventures. Honestly, despite my ebbing and flowing crush on you back then, I never remembered to wonder about you. How old were we anyway when you walked into my third grade class …or was it fourth grade? Fifth grade? The details are hazy. Nevertheless, you had the nerve to surface on my News Feed and like a conjuring, I snapped into grasping at fading grade school memories of you.

First of all, age looks inexplicably fantastic on you. Good-ness! You’ve clearly found a pattern to this manhood thing and created a lane that works rather comfortably for yourself. You’re taller, darker-featured… and the look behind your eyes seems inquisitive, in the adult, grown and sexy kind of way. As I unabashedly click through damn near all your photos, I see you’re nurturing a lovely pelt of facial hair. I hope the people in your life tell you that it’s completely striking on you. It is; I hope you keep the look.

I’m not going to assume you remember me because I sat behind you in history class or some such nonsense. That never happened. In fact, I don’t think we ever shared any activities of note together throughout the time we went to school. Not a stolen kiss on the playground… not a strange obsession with postcards… I was the kid who kept thoughts in a journal, the real world being inherently awkward to interact with. I was the kid with too much elbows and knees and height for all the boys and too much of an early bloomer to be comfortable in her own skin. So I tended to shrink from public view. So it’s likely you wouldn’t remember me. It’s cool. I liked foursquare at recess though. Maybe you remember that? I do.

But even back then, I thought you were cute. I was lanky and bones and bug eyed and weird, but I know I incubated a crush on you. I can’t remember how long or even how fervently, but I recall hoping you’d like me. I think. I just hope I was nice to you back then – that I never laughed too hard at you, as I tended to do. I do remember laughing at you once though: when your mother walked to you to class in the morning and demanded from you a goodbye kiss. You were horrified. And I was there, laughing like a fool. I still laugh like a fool. It’s become a bit of a signature, this laugh. Maybe you’d appreciate it more now than perhaps you did back then.

Well, I hope you are happy in life. Your photos on Facebook seem to suggest you are. You are all husband and father now. Geez, we’ve become that old! Nevertheless, I still think you’re cute (perhaps more handsome, than cute now, no?) and I hope people let you know that from time to time.

dirty-30

So I’m Turning Dirty-30: health, wellness and Beyoncé

On September 13th, I formally entered the final year of my 20s. I’ve expressed my terror in the past of what it means to inch along towards dirty-30. Let’s not dwell… All I know is, as I get older, I’m becoming increasingly conscience of keeping myself right and tight, just like Beyoncé. The woman is aging into her Diana Ross, which means that her hair will forever be wild and lush, her face will eternally be youthful and her energy will last forever. So when I finally get to 30, I will officially have entered my Year of Beyoncé As Inspired By Diana Ross. With this comes great responsibility. With this comes great duty. There are a couple of things I am gathering as important for women entering their Year of Beyoncé to consider, specifically as it relates to health. Can I share? I’ll share anyway. Thank me later.

1 | Gynecologist
If you have health insurance, which is without question the most clutch thing a woman can have, find a gynecologist. But even if you don’t, there are women’s clinics scattered all over the country! So do your research and find a gynecologist that you like with a comfy reception area. I recently found a doctor’s office that I like. It’s close to my workplace, the receptionists are nice, and the nurses are even nicer! They always tell me they like my lipstick. When I once told my nurse that I didn’t want to look at my weight on the scale (it was #scalefreesummer time), she took me seriously. She told me to close my eyes and held my hand as I hopped on the scale, wrote down my weight, asked me to hop off and we never spoke of the number again. See that? Clutch. And make sure it’s a doctor’s office who will attend to your questions even if you don’t have an appointment. Again. Clutch.

2 | Hair and skin and nails and teeth
There are a plethora of wellness gurus out there, and a million more hair care monks. Just peruse YT for like an hour; the inundation is excessive! I like to keep my regimens simple; who has the time? So my summer routines, for instance, include a mixture of my faviourite oils for my hair and skin, a monthly trip to the nail salon, and a seasonal dentist appointment (so grateful for health insurance!). There. Simple.

3 | See a therapist. See your priest/imam/spiritual leader. See. Someone.
Mental health is just as important as physical health. There is NO SHAME WHATSOEVER in discussing your life with a trained professional. Honestly, who cares who the professional is! If you trust your imam with discretion, see your imam. But as a young woman with a few letters behind her name (all. well. earned), I figure your mental health confidant be someone who has formal training too, ok? Yes, yes, take it to Jesus, by all means, do!, but do not shun taking it a person who can talk you through understanding yourself better. Self-understanding and reflection is crucial, sexy even. There is so much stigma around this, especially in the black/brown/immigrant populations. You don’t have to disclose, but just do yourself that service, if you can. Don’t muddle though life neglecting your mental health!

4 | Get. Moving. Get a trainer, set a running schedule, join a muay thai studio, bribe your friend to become your walking partner. Whatever.
Your young body isn’t going to hold up forever. Yeah, black don’t crack, girl power, or whatever other slogan you go by, but aging is real. Note I didn’t say to become vegan or pescatarian. Move your body, gyal. Sweat is a great way to de-stress, anyway.

toes in the sand

Where are the articles about dating and relationships for the woman in her late 20s?

…for the single woman on the precipice of 30, the single woman who is still growing in her womanhood, the single woman who has purposefully given up the college scene, but finds the “older crowd” a little too…married with kids. This the single woman who is self-aware and self-confident enough to know that rom-coms are a scam and most dating advice online is click-bait.

There is so much growing up that takes place between 22 and 28 – it’s the difference between having been able to legally drink for a year and finishing up a graduate program/negotiating a starting salary. After 25, you’re truly an adult, making adult-ass decisions, such as replacing your college love for vodka with an appreciation for wine and brown liquors. You’ve come to the point where the weekly Thursday-Friday-Saturday party scene is unsustainable. Thursday is for staying in (it’s usually wash day for me), Friday is reserved for socialising over drinks and appetizers, Saturday – you’re tired; it’s a Netflix night, and Sunday is for brunch and long naps. Listen, you’re grown, the over-excitable large party scene is only needed once…maybe twice a month. And you’re more apt to gather among friends in cute shorts over a grill, sipping homemade sangria anyway. Why all the loud noises every single night of what ought to be a restful weekend?

Dating for the post-25 year old is a different kind of beast, seeing as you’re becoming a different kind of woman. You’re more calculated about your time (‘no’ is a stand-alone statement), the language you employ is more robust (you code switch like a mutha!), your expectations have taken shape and heightened. In all, while still a creation in progress, you’ve become a much more defined, fleshed-out woman than your 22-year-old self.

For the sake of musing and to end my seeming laundry listing of how peculiar this specific age group is, I’d like to highlight a few realities that are perhaps unique to women who are actively dating between the ages of 25 and 30:

1 | Younger men are largely still immature, even though they will argue tooth and nail that they are not. It’s just true. Yes, there are the occasional exceptions, but dude, give it to me straight, how many exceptions have you met lately?

2 | Take the dating game lightly. While finding the kind of guy you’d like to settle with might be your ultimate aim, right now you’re dating. Don’t take every single date so seriously that you wear yourself out. Many dates, you’ll wind up sipping wine across from an absolute joker. Trust me, when brunch rolls around Sunday, you can cackle about it with your girls.

3 | Go with your gut about the whole damn thing. If communication sucks and you’ve been clear about your thoughts on the matter, go with your gut: it’s probably not going to work. If you think he’s harbouring more drama than you need in your life, go with your gut, it’s probably not going to work. If talking to him seems more forced than natural, go with your gut, it’s probably not going to work. Don’t ignore the spidey-senses you have. You have ’em for a reason.

4 | Your mid-twenties are an awkward time altogether. Guys at this same age range most likely aren’t going to have all their shit together – much like you might not; let’s be fair. Know what you are willing to deal with and be up front about it, because you should always go with your gut (#3) and you’re dating anyway, right (#2)?

5| Say what you mean, dammit. At times, this would mean you’re more communicative than he is. Maybe that means you actually initiate a telephone conversation to clear the air, rather than resorting to strained text message conversations. If there is any worth or merit therein, invest accordingly. You’re a grown up now; own the responsibility of your emotions, perceptions and thoughts.

 I dread networking events by default. Meeting strangers and hoping they like you well enough to actually engage with you is exhilarating to the thrill seekers. For me, it’s a thing I have to gird myself for. I’m not much of a small talk person; I like deep discussions, meaningful banter. Small talk confuses me: the weather is really not that riveting. You know this… I know this… And then again, networking can be the most pretentious of affairs. People adorn themselves to impress: over-priced high heels, suits they normally don’t even wear to work, the expensive perfume they only turn to for worthwhile outings. Folks come ready to wow you. I like meeting new people and networking can be rather important, but there is absolutely nothing wrong in enjoying an evening of Netflix/Hulu+ and wine. Shoot, the show Hannibal is starting to get really good! And if your next event is among psychology folks, a sprinkle of pop culture references can be appropriate.

But regardless how you feel about it, networking can be crucial part of your professional portfolio. You want to be able to speak to strangers about what you do, and where your passions lie. You want to be able to connect with other more or less like-minded folks about your professional side. You never can be sure where you might find your next job, or mentor, or lover!

So to assist in preparation for your next networking event, I’ve drafted a few key points for consideration:

1 | Business cards
The very least you can do is throw business cards at people and hope they become useful down the line. It’s a curious thing, the business card. You or your company has literally paid money for printed paper, just for you to aim to give them all away. The alternative, of course, is that you get stuck with heaps of cards bearing information you already know about yourself. Might as well come prepared to give away as many as possible. Who knows? This networking event might be the one where you shine and people really do think you are interesting!

2 | Prepare your mind
If you’re the naturally shy type, you’re going to have to dig up some courage somehow. I wouldn’t suggest liquid courage. That would be a mess. Slurring your words in your best corporate heels or your three-piece suit isn’t the business. You know, pace yourself, and prepare your mind to be present.

3 | Wear comfortable clothing
There is no point wearing your tight pant suit or six-inchers when you’re supposed to be working the room, nibbling the passed around hors d’oeuvres, and sipping wine water. By all means, look cute, derive confidence from looking cute; I certainly do. But finding a ledge to lean or sit on halfway through the event and looking mad uncomfortable puts you out of the game. This happened to me once, I felt like I was at a club and over-danced in shoes I didn’t break into properly – not fun. Be comfy, you have business cards to distribute!

4 | Be pleasant, say hello to the people you make eye contact with (why not?), ask tons of questions, and smile through it 
You decided to spend happy hour here, instead of catching up on Hannibal from under your comforter, right? Might as well make it all worth your while!

Say What You Mean, Dammit

Relationships are a riotous mess. Relationships are a especially a riotous mess when egos are played like chess and communication is a gift no one is trying to give. I have found myself often falling prey to passive aggressive ego-laden text message conversations that lead nowhere. Or worse: communication that is pivoted on discussion about the weather and other trivial matters that no one really cares about. Except at networking events, I’m not much one for small talk. I thrive amidst witty banter, and animated deep discussions. I’m the kind of girl who wants to talk to someone with dictionary in hand. If we must speak, let’s really speak. Therefore, received monosyllabic text message responses are met with exasperated sighs and eye rolls. If we must speak, let’s make it worth the while!

Today’s blog post is inspired both by an old friend’s blog and a late night conversation with my girl friend over wine. I have become torn in a few of my relationships, especially with the men in my life who have stuck around as romantic interests. Interpret that the way you please. These days, it seems, telling someone exactly how you feel about your interactions with them has become frowned upon as being too clingy, too needy, and giving of yourself in an unattractive way. It’s mind boggling, really. No one wants to share their actual thoughts and no one wants to be told actual feelings. The alternative has thusly become strained (text message) conversations, where nothing is actually said. Or complete silence.

I’m not a silent communicator – I’m too analytical and observant to simply pass through life without commentary and discussion. And so, the 21st century relationships have comprised of unspoken sentiments and passive aggressive non-arguments met with days on end of silences and no resolution. I simply want to shake someone! There is no need to avalanche everything within your heart, but be about using words! Divulge your thoughts earnestly, trusting that mutual respect will eliminate whatever ridicule you think lies on the other end of the receiver, if you will. Create the time to foment actual discussion that means something.

Say what you mean, dammit. No one has time to piece together half-baked conversations like a jigsaw puzzle.