“I believe in recognizing every human being as a human being–neither white, black, brown, or red; and when you are dealing with humanity as a family there’s no question of integration or intermarriage. It’s just one human being marrying another human being or one human being living around and with another human being.” ~ Malcolm X
My lovely friend The Imposter has a new blog. Well, it’s not all that new; she started it eighteen months ago, and then she took a year long break. But now she’s back, and you can find her over at My Life As An Imposter.
She writes about her life growing up in the UK as the daughter of Pakistani parents, and about her impending marriage to her Jewish fiancé, Bob.
The Imposter describes her blog as – “Less ‘cuddles and a cup of tea on the couch with Oprah’ more, ‘a pinch on the bum from a drunk nun.'”
I say that her stories are warm, witty, and insightful, and that her blog is well worth a read. Not just for those who’ve grown up straddling two different cultures, but for anybody who has ever felt that they didn’t quite ‘fit in’ – particularly amongst their family.
This post is just a taster of what you can find on My Life As An Imposter.
Love, Sex and Organised Religion
It’s a very strange thing to have to straddle two completely different sides of yourself. I was born in the UK but was raised a Muslim. I can identify with Asian culture as well as the culture and traditions of the religion I was raised in but; I enjoy a good whiskey, smoke like a chimney, I collect really shit songs on vinyl like Bruce Willis’ timeless classic “Respect Yourself”, I love to knit, I make a killer steak and kidney pie, oh, and my fiancé is Jewish.
I suppose you could say I am as western as they come but I am still so proud of my cultural heritage. However, being 1st generation Pakistani and growing up in 80s-90s Britain was a real shit sandwich.
The constant racial abuse hurled at you when you were walking down the street was astounding and, thankfully, something that rarely happens to me today. In times when teachers didn’t care to learn the correct pronunciation of your name and children were not encouraged to celebrate their differences at school, one was left rather flummoxed when it came to marrying these two completely opposing sides of yourself and somehow magically producing a well rounded, balanced individual. Particularly when the thing that made you different was the focus of so much negativity.
I am grateful to my parents for sending me to a private school. In those days, it was one of the only ways in which the children I knew were given a bower to rest under and had a shot at developing and flourishing in their own time without the aggressive influence of racial abuse. I’m not saying it didn’t exist, but it was simply not tolerated and, thereby , never developed into something you just had to accept as part of being your lot in life.
I owe every ounce of incredibly inflated sense of self esteem to the schools my parents put me in – they fostered growth and expression and taught me never to apologise for who I am. They gave me time to figure out what my religious and cultural identity meant to me and allowed me to develop my own feelings about it that weren’t marred by negative experiences.
But it doesn’t work out this way for everyone, I see so many members of my wider family who still seems to implacably uncomfortable in their own skin, even in their 20s and 30s because they are still attempting that precarious juggling act between religion and their Pakistani culture and then, are trying desperately to fit in with western society too. Which brings us to the star of the show:
(For those of you that don’t know, it’s kind of like the Catholic guilt monster, but with more sandals).
Take the opposite sex…. Often in my life I have found myself at a crossroads where I have had to think long and hard about what I feel is the right thing to do and it rarely satisfies all three sides of my religious and cultural identity. It is no lie that I am a far cry from the blushing Asian introvert but unfortunately, this tends to make you go from nought to whore in 5 seconds in the eyes of the Muslim community.
There is no respectable line drawn in the proverbial sand when it comes to a woman’s reputation in both Muslim and Pakistani culture, you are either pure or ruined. And it seems that I would fall into the latter category. Even though I am a gentleman’s daughter, had a top notch education, don’t take drugs, don’t sleep around and have, in fact, only slept with three men, all of whom I was in committed relationships with and one of which I am marrying this year. All of this means I am doomed.
I’m not going to lie, it’s a difficult pill to swallow. It’s hard to find something pure and beautiful with someone you care about and then feel as though expressing that with them physically is debase and wrong. It seemed to me to be the most natural thing in the world.
So, one day, I decided to stop feeling like garbage about wanting to be Pakistani, British and Muslim and I just took the best bits of each of the different sides of my culture and fused them together in some unholy amalgam called “I have no idea what I’m doing”.
But that’s the whole point.. there isn’t really a precedent for this. I grew so tired of people telling me what is right and wrong for my own life, so I decided to stop pleasing people and stop feeling as though I ought to apologise for who I am.. because I rather like me…. Me does charity work and bakes cakes for people and likes to help others and smiles at strangers. I am a good person and I just got so tired of feeling horrendous. I was raised at a cultural crossroads and it was time to respect each strand of that, because it was responsible for who I had become.
All I knew was, I didn’t want to end up like one of my 30 year old friends who has been with his girlfriend for years and is currently buying a house with her and still hasn’t told Mummy and Daddy that they are even a couple.
I just think it’s insanity. What does that say about you that you can’t even stand by your own life choices and be proud of who you’ve decided to make a home with?
Don’t get me wrong, I do understand the myriad of problems dropping a bombshell like that on very traditional parents will cause, but you can’t half arse this stuff. If you are in, you are all in… and, yes, it’s confusing and there aren’t really any rules, but no one can tell you aren’t a proper Muslim if you have sex before marriage either because, guess what??? Your faith is your own fucking business and you can be connected to your God any way you see fit. I don’t believe my God will send me to hell for loving another person, for making a life with them and being happy.
But, it took me a long time to get there. I remember when I first started having sex with my first serious boyfriend, I was so wrought with guilt, I ended up in a Catholic Church of all places (as I assumed I wouldn’t find a sympathetic ear if I took this problem to a Mosque). In any case, this genius idea didn’t end well either. I was sat down by a lovely, benevolent Irish nun who gave me a biscuit and a nice cup of tea and then told me I was going to BURN IN HELL.
5 thoughts on “Love, Sex and Organised Religion”
Very interesting. I’m currently living in the UAE, which is an entire country suffering from that sort of crossroad. It’s interesting to watch the conflicting interests and desires battle it out. (Do we want Western business more than we want to protect ourselves from their whore-ish ways of dressing? Do we want foreign workers to do everything for us more than we want to preserve our specific culture? Etc.)
My boyfriend grew up here and I don’t necessarily see that conflict in him. He just takes insane pride in his culture and religion by loudly claiming them. But then he just picks and chooses the parts of each that he wants to cling to. Sort of like you did, I suppose. Except he’s not Western at all, he just decided that he wanted to be, so he only hangs out with Western people and dates me because one day I might take him to the land of television and movies. Although I suppose at one point there was probably conflict until he came to your same conclusion of “I do what I want” or whatnot….
As an Indian girl, raised in the Middle East and just about gallivanting around the world for most of her life; I’ve faced a similar conundrum of trying to fit into different worlds that I love and are core to my identity. It’s a struggle and you’re right, there isn’t really a way to know what the hell you’re doing.. just to do it and hope it works out.
Good luck! x
Thanks! I’m glad you liked it 🙂 It is somewhat of a juggling act isn’t it?
And thank you to makeupanmirtazapine.. what a peach x