My First Date

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I went on my first date, yesterday.

I wasn’t afraid of him. He was much bigger than I, and I still was not afraid, that is how mild mannered he is. Perfect, really, for me.

We met on a dating site, and he invited me for coffee. I ran a background check and found his wide open social media and went willingly.

Over a year ago I Skyped with a much younger man for the first time, ever. We had been talking for three years, via forum and text boxes. He thought I was cute. I was flummoxed. He knows my story.

Since then he has insisted I am beautiful, repeatedly, consistently. Until I began to have suspicions of my own that my self perception might be off.

I shaved my head. I still could not accept my face, and my hair grew in.

I complained in therapy about this, was it a dysmorphic disorder? My therapist was incredulous. “No one ever told you that you were pretty?” She asked me. She did not offer an opinion. She approached it thoughtfully. She had suggestions.

I started taking selfies. I skipped the filters and played with light. I read tutorials on eyeliner. I put my face online in places where I was known, but not my identity. Didn’t have a great response, but didn’t have a bad one, either.

I wrote a dating profile. I sat on it for months. I put it live. I got some responses, but all women do. I shut down the profile and started talking to some of those responses.

I got to my first adult date invite. Ever. The day before I go, my friend who insists I am beautiful tells me he wants to move here, where I live. He knows I love him, I don’t bother to hide it anymore, but he probably does not feel quite the same and I don’t think he should. The therapist tells me to let him make his own choices and stop deciding what is best for him. I start calling in favors via phone. I take time off work to do this.

I go on the date. He asks me for another. I plan it for two weeks from now. I can’t afford the sitters but I can’t afford not to go, either.

I don’t know what I am doing. How do you get to know someone without confessing things up front like “I am in hiding. I am an apostate, they want to kill me. He wants me dead. My children have PTSD. I have PTSD. I survived. I understand honour violence from the inside out. I am not a product of my culture.”

The small talk is killing me. I want more. I want everything, all at once.

Still Floundering

It has been five years since I took off my headscarf. I don’t wear it anymore, but I did for about sixteen years.

I can’t stand my face without it or a turban. I wear neither, and I wish I did.

I hate my body. I miss covering it with shapeless oversized clothing. Form fitting clothes are very comfortable, easy to exercise in, but they are revealing. Everyone can see my issues.

I took a quick online test for body dysmorphic disorder and I scored just below- I probably don’t have it. I am currently working on processing trauma and I haven’t touched on how I loathe myself for being myself yet with my therapist.

When my hair gets longer and the wind blows it in my face it feels good, the sensation of wind is pleasurable after not feeling it for so long, but it also feels like it is an insect attacking me. It always gives me a start. I can’t get used to my own hair.

Last fall I shaved my head for my daughter when she got hers clipped short, so we could grow our hair out together. I thought it would force me to accept my face. Nope.

Everyone focuses on the wrong word…

4:34 Surah An-Nisa
But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance – [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them.- Sahih International Version

In my opinion the key in this ayah is “fear”, and indeed I have never seen it without that word. Fear is not proof or witnesses or even any tangible thing. Fear is a man’s paranoia, his personal issues, his deep-seated insecurities, his mental illness, his worry, his stress. Fear is the justification, here. Fear alone makes it permissible to beat your wife.

Everyone looks at “strike”, which is often translated as “beat” in English versions. I have seen that word picked apart, worried over, given alternate meanings, historically analyzed, excused, justified, and explained away. Daraba, the root of it. To hit.

The ayah is not simply a license to hit, as they claim and also deny, depending on their sympathies. It is a license to use fear itself to justify physical and moral authority over an adult female.

You can reach your own conclusions. You know what mine are.

So I am out, and now you know.

Don’t Ask For Help

Don’t put a general plea out there for help if you don’t really want it.
This is what I do for a hobby, is help women get free.
If you really are trapped in a house etc etc I can help you. But if you are just pissed off because you want to marry some guy and your father won’t let you and the laws of the country you are in require his permission…
Don’t ask.
I won’t help a woman trade jailers.

The Empty Spaces Inside Me

I seem to have lost my online friend. He no longer talks to me and I can’t blame him. I miss him a great deal, I feel like a limb has been lost.

Sometimes it is hard to come to terms with the fact that I am older and I am alone and will remain so.

Just when you think you have accepted being alone someone makes you feel like you might have some hope of sharing a bit of your life. Not necessarily with them, but because they find you decent or attractive you think “Maybe someone out there WOULD like me and be willing to put in the work.” When they stop paying attention to you that hope seems to die as well and the grieving process begins all over again. Luckily it doesn’t happen often to me.

It makes me feel overly dramatic and self centered, both things I abhor.

Last night I attended a meetup with others who have left the faith. I didn’t hold back much, and though it makes me look crazy I just let it all out in the open, my experience, what has happened to me, the effects. I didn’t want to let it out in pieces or wait for later. I want to listen more than I talk when I go to these things. I did not name names, though. It is SO EMBARRASSING to be myself, to have made the choices I made and to have to own it. I joke around a lot but there is so much shame under there. What kind of crazy person gets involved with the people and the movements that I do- by choice rather than by birth?

I really liked these people. They are not necessarily people who have lived like I have, they seem a bit sheltered, which makes me happy for them. Probably they have nice families who have looked out for them. It was weird to greet and leave them without the customary rituals common to our former religion, I might never become accustomed to foregoing that. I missed them immediately, as I walked away. I get attached quickly, often without reason. It makes me a great wife and in-law but it’s not much use with everyone else.

I left the children with a sitter, and I think this is the first time in 14 years that I have gone to meet up with strangers. It is certainly the first time I have left them with a sitter to do something that had nothing to do with them or their issues. The first in over nine years.

I will go again. I don’t know that I will be much help. I am not skilled with small talk or conversation, I do better in emergencies, better when working. Maybe they will put up with me, if I am lucky. Perhaps I will get better at social cues. It is hard to pick up cues from sensitive, educated people after so many years spent in isolation. Five years in American culture does not prepare one.

There were four other people there. That is how hard it is to leave the faith in this area. Their membership seems to be less than ten. Other chapters in other cities always show more.

I will never again automatically be treated like family by perfect strangers and never again will I do the same with others. There is no sisterhood for me, no shared faith, no comforting words. I am an outsider and it breaks my heart. Everything was easier when I belonged. When I belonged to a family, to a culture, to a community. I am not comfortable anywhere else and it is no more.

I can’t replace any of it. I don’t think there is any substitution.