Written by Saambhi.
When I “officially” started online dating a year ago, it was on the eve of an exam for my law degree, and I was a high-strung lunatic. My flatmate casually mentioned how a random guy online was offering to clean the apartment for her out of love and that was all it took! I signed up and created a profile, and when a week later I matched with the same guy (jackpot!) — he unmatched soon after. He wasn’t pleased with my answer that “I only accept acts of service in the form of Fenty products or cash.” I was heartbroken.
Yet I brushed myself up and continued down this rabbit hole. I was Alice in Wonderland, except I was brown, Muslim, deemed a slut at every turn, and overcame no difficult hurdles — because I “chose” to put myself in this situation. Do I sound bitter? I am not. I am just trying to make the most of what was marketed as a joyride to me.
Dating was never something I felt like I “had” to do. It just seemed unnecessary. I had never actively dated before last year; most romantic situations of the past were organically sprung. I was busy with school, family, and growing into the person I am — for better or for worse.
I was Alice in Wonderland, except I was brown, Muslim, deemed a slut at every turn, and overcame no difficult hurdles — because I “chose” to put myself in this situation.
Why I date? I am not sure. Am I conducting a sociological experiment? Maybe. Do I think I get to cultivate love in my life through dating? Absolutely not. Is this an attempt at me conforming to heteronormative standards? Most definitely yes! Knowing what I want — that is an existential question for me personally. So coming to learn about what I don’t need or want has been a truly invaluable experience. Because regardless of how good or bad or creepy the interaction goes, I come away with only myself and the knowledge that I have done everything in my power to do right by myself. If I had a sense of where my horizons lay before, now I have a clearer vision of where the boundaries are drawn and how I would want them colored in.
This may sound melodramatic, but it isn’t. We live in a world where straight men scoff at the topic of consent, saying, “I don’t know what kind of men you’ve known, but I am better than that!” This self-confidence is something that always takes me by surprise and that I have also come to expect. And so it is always a disappointment when you find yourself being nudged into the non-consensual territory and have to fend off the “love.”
To my Muslimahs — it’s okay if you disagree with me; that’s cool, sis. But if a guy tells you that he only dates hijabi women because they are “wifey material,” then kindly flee. And if you encounter a gentleman who says that he finds Muslim woman too “uptight,” then also flee. And then if he doesn’t say any of these things, and things are going great and your heart flutters at the mention of his name or whatever, then do stay.
But if he proceeds to send you pictures of other women he finds hot, he can fuck off. If he messages you “wyd” or demands emotional labor after asserting your boundaries respectfully, then please block. If he says that he has the God-given power within him to have kids and *make sure* they do not grow up to be gay, have a conniption. You’ve earned it.
Remember when Ciara was Walking in the Spirit of Wife and got hitched to Russell Wilson? Well, I walk in the Spirit of an Aunty Who Shares. I am not saying overshare or gossip, but don’t hide it either, especially if dating is or has been a taboo in your culture. Now, please don’t get me wrong — if everyone in my life knew I was dating, every step I took would be the walk of shame. But the ones I love, the ones I trust, the ones who hold the space for me while I grow — they are the ones worth talking to. Even if it is scary, or awkward, or considered shameful.
If he says that he has the God-given power within him to have kids and *make sure* they do not grow up to be gay, have a conniption. You’ve earned it.
During the most emotionally trying times in this last year, my saving grace was my peoples. By being able to share with them, confide in them, and listen to them I was able to cut my losses. By being able to talk to them I was able to be more honest with myself about what I wanted. By ignoring their advice at times I was able to clearly see what I was unwilling to admit and yet hoping for simultaneously.
This intimate space is one of the most valuable things I have had the pleasure of gaining out of this last year. The discussions we’ve had, the red-flag-bearing ceremonies, the I-told-you-so side-eyes, the holding each other accountable and responsible through love and dignity — it is great stuff. It really grounds you and also makes you realize that, yes, there are these different guiding principles in life which you can choose to adhere to or not. But none of them mean anything if they don’t allow for you to grow and expand within it, because you are supposed to always “know better.”
What I know is that I will never be a good enough Muslimah, feminist, or a life partner — not if I am doing that development for others. If I am going to be a slut for living on my own, or wearing acrylics, or wearing makeup, then so be it. If I am a being “too PC” because I don’t find your homophobic or rape joke funny, then so be it. If I am being too “superficial” because I am creeped out by your germ-prone car, or do want to eat at that good restaurant or do want you paying the bill, then so be it.
If I am unwilling to take you on as the “I was willing to change for you” project — then so be it. But am I still a bawse-ass bitch who is trying her best to be halal and ethical and a slut? Yes I am.
About the Author
Saambhi is a member of the internet who is always looking to take next her next great selfie. A self-proclaimed GOAT, she has all the personalities of an Aries ascendant. She also happens to be a Muslim and a Feminist and lives to disappoint.