There are moments in life when we act like everything is fine, even if we wanted to scream, run, hide, we choose to lie. When I was 16, I would come home from school and always get the same question, “How was your day?” I learned that simple questions like that don’t often lead to simple answers, unless they’re lies. “It was fine,” I would reply.
There are always two versions of a story; the truth,the exact timeline of events as they happened; and the quick version you tell someone in passing when they ask, “how was your day” and in a mindless summary you reply with a pile of words you found like a pen on the floor that wasn’t yours, but you used anyways, because it works doesn’t it? “It was fine.” You took a breath and moved on.
You get used to telling that story enough, and eventually it becomes the truth even to you. Maybe it really was fine?
Eight years later, I saw a girl sitting alone on a bench when a man sat beside her, asking her if she wants to come home with him, yelling at her to look at him. I saw his hands climb up her leg & tears stream down her face & I wondered why she just wouldn’t leave, and why no one else bothered to stay, or say anything.
That night I ran home, and like always my dad asked me, “how was your day?” I fell into long awaited tears, because the truth, although slow, always seems to appear.
It wasn’t fine. I spoke that day in words that felt finished, not ones that cut themselves up before they began.
Daniel from history class made bedroom jokes while we were supposed to be working on an assignment. I laughed awkwardly, not knowing what else to say. I told you everything was fine.
Two days later, Daniel pushed me into a locker and put his face inches from mine; does that mean he likes me? I turned my face to the side and laughed awkwardly not knowing what else to say. I told you everything was fine.
There were Tylers too: boys who put their hands on me in the hallways as we walked to class trying to slap our…well you know. It was a game they all played. You look surprised? For me, this was fine.
I don’t want you to think I’m bias, because there were Mohameds too. Men who forced themselves on me in busy subways, and insisted that “we know you want it, we know you do.”
It turns out the truth’s a dirty sinner too.
There’s so much I never told you, because I know the truth is hard to look at, and you might have to look in the mirror and find out you have some blood on your hands.
See, I was always taught that if I woke up and just covered myself up, men would understand that my body was mine, and that maybe I would be protected by the Divine. Things would be fine.
It turns out, it doesn’t matter how much you’re wearing when a man decides he wants to undress you.
Boys will be boys I guess.
Women will need evidence.
Women will need proof that you went up our thighs
Even if a man was underneath you, women are continuously told to get over it.
I know that men can be kind. I know that because I’ve seen them root for me when I apply to jobs, when I fail, when I succeed, when I fall and don’t land on my feet. Men like my father who will stand face to face with an Imam and say, “What you said today belittles my daughters, and that’s not what I or the Prophet (SAW) taught her.”
I know, not all men are trash, but we’ve lived through enough to not want to pick through the garbage anymore. Nobody blames garbage for its smell, but we’ll always leave dirty, spoiled, and unclean. We can’t hide the smell you left behind.
Please look at yourself in the mirror and question what you find.
I know these just sound like stories, but for us they are Mondays, they are Tuesdays, they are having to stay late at the office, they are parking our car, they are walking to the bus, and yes it’s scary, but they are even at the mosque.
Header photo taken from the Banksy exhibit in Amsterdam