We need help navigating 2018 so we live freer than we did last year. There are few better people to help us through these times than Randa Jarrar, award-winning author of A Map of Home and Him, Me, and Muhammad Ali. Every other week, our new advice column “Ask Auntie Randa” will post on Wednesdays and be devoted to your questions seeking advice for life’s complexities especially health, sex, Muslim stuff, and identity (we extend an extra hearty welcome if the quandaries are about first- or second-generation living). Have questions? Send them along to Randa: email@example.com.
Dear Auntie Randa,
How do you hold on to, honor, and love (if you do) your Arabness while having legitimate concerns/disagreements with Arab and Arab-American communities? This is a question I constantly ask myself and am curious of your thoughts!
We’ve all been through some version of this. We think we can leave our cultures behind. We are embarrassed and annoyed by our communities. We have internatilized some racism, sure, but we have also been around one too many assholes who happen to share our ethnicity, or one too many community events where a bunch of dudebros broed out on us.
I love my Arabness because I think of Arabness itself as solidarity, strength, defiance, revolution, loudness, stubbornness, kindness, loyalty, protection, and love. This Arabness, or a version of it, perhaps, is mostly one I feel in America. When I am “back home,” in the Middle East, I feel a heightened sense of this love, and I also feel a heightened sense of annoyance, concern, and dissent. In other words, when I am saturated in Arabness and Arabs, it is harder for me to hold, honor, and love us. And when I am in the United States or Europe, I am more likely to love us.
For a long time, I wondered if this was because I felt a defiance to love us in spite of the narrative building against us. But then it became clear, the more of us I befriended, the more communities I got to know outside of my own family, the more young folks I spoke to, that we are beautiful, and that I love and honor us despite being constantly told and shown images that we are dead or deadly.
That said, you don’t have to be silent about your concerns and disagreements with Arab and Arab-American communities! Please, please make noise. Please call out your cousin, neighbor, community rep, and anyone else when they engage in misogyny, anti-Blackness, colonial apology, or anything like that. To love a place and a community is to disagree with it vocally, to push it to do better, to hold it to higher standards. This all takes a lot of labor, I know. Which is why it’s okay to step back sometimes and withdraw or seek comfort in your chosen family.
I find that compassion really unlocks a lot for me. For example, when I am angry at Arabs who spend thousands of dollars on weddings or cars and jewelry, and are bougie and judgmental of others who do not, cannot, or will not do the same, I try to come at my anger from a point of compassion, and think about what it is about those material objects that might bring people comfort. Is it an age-old need to carry our possessions with us all over Southwest Asia and North Africa? Is it insecurity, boredom, oppression, inability to express oneself in a more artistic and individual way? Or, for example, when I see and hear an older Arab or Arab-American community member being shallow towards women’s appearances, are they truly horrible people, or do they come from a time and place when a woman only had her looks to get her out of her parents’ house? Or are they victims of white supremacist beauty ideals? Probably. The next step is not to excuse this, but to either tell them to stop doing it, or withdraw. It will really depend on you and what your energy level is at the time.
The main way I tap into my community is through the arts. Connecting with other artists and writers draws out the most love for me. That’s not to say we don’t have our problems sometimes—we do.
I always hope we can do better, and hold each other, and love one another.
Dear Auntie Randa,
After spending over five years in a tame, almost sex-less relationship, I’m having a hard time connecting with my own sexuality, desire, and pleasure. Is my pussy broken?
Been there. Here are some things to ask yourself now that you are out of that relationship:
- Why was I okay with staying in a sexless relationship for so long?
This may take a long time to look into. You will journal, cry, call your sister, call all your friends, complain, cry some more, and then possibly spend six to nine months trying to figure this out before trying to meet anyone else. You’ll be glad you did this, because some really great stuff will rise to the surface. You may figure out that you were afraid of your own sexuality and desire, and that you were ashamed of the kinky stuff you wanted to try out, or that you were lazy sometimes about manifesting—femmifesting—your own desires and fantasies. You may also wonder if you may have been choosing to be in a monogamous relationship as more of a “one-stop shop”—that you’d hoped to be able to have rough sex, make out sessions, love-making, and everything in between from one partner.
Maybe after all that, you will get a pussy journal. Write everything that pops into your head about your pussy, at any time. If you dream about your pussy, write that down, too. In dreams, is your pussy a rock, or shell, or any other hard object? Is it floral, cacti, wine, rain, a rabbit? Slowly get reacquainted with your pussy in waking life. Take pussy selfies. Touch your pussy, but not necessarily to orgasm. Keep your journal close, and write any feelings that rise up when you touch yourself. Sometimes, masturbating reminds us of our loneliness. What does your loneliness look like? Draw a picture. Light candles. Call on creator and mother earth. Meditate.
And when your desires start shaping up into language, and the new moon hits tomorrow, write down your intentions, whatever they may be.
Then, go forth and cum, forever.