The schools are never close to anyone’s home. This is just how it is. No one can say why nor do they care to complain because the walk to school is an honorable one. Being educated is a luxury and the walk should be met with the greatest pleasure.
When my mom was young, her mother didn’t trust the roads, so my mom and her best friend, her brother Sacdi, were forbidden to walk to school alone. Instead my grandmother opted to have the neighbor’s son, who was slightly older but at the right age, escort the younger ones to and from school every day. To show her thanks, my grandmother would award the boy a couple shillings and entrusted her children with him. This boy was good. He would protect and deliver her children safely.
So every morning, my grandmother would wave goodbye to the three children from her door and watch as they disappeared around the block, their hands clinking with the shillings she gifted them. What my grandmother couldn’t anticipate was that once the children reached the end of the block, hidden from her view, the Good Boy would turn to her children, spew threatening words and strip them of their shillings. The shillings they had hoped to buy tasty sweets and other enticing treats with. That Sacdi and Nimco would cry silently as they followed behind the Good Boy, every tear reminding them of their loss and their inability to do anything.
By the time the troop returned home from school, the tears were long gone and the Good Boy and his manipulative, charming smile, present.
One particular morning, just before the children rounded the corner, something snapped in my mother. Maybe it was the hot African sun, the calls of the livestock or a whisper in the low bushes. Whatever it was, my mother had had enough.
Sacdi, we are two and he stands alone. Waa ku dartay, I swear on it, I will not allow this fool to pry another shilling out of my hand. Will you? What is it you are made of? Shit or brick?
And with that, a plan of action was conceived with each step taken.
Finally, the corner was reached. Before the Good Boy could rotate his neck to begin his morning terrorist routine, the ground was knocked out from underneath him as the two children made of brick, executed their war strategy: Sacdi working on the top targets while Nimco’s tiny fists flung and handled the bottom ones.
They might have lost the previous battles but this war was won. The aftermath left, as it turns out, a not so tough boy crying sheepishly on the sidewalk while two best friends linked arms and sashayed down the road, on their way to school, shillings dancing happily in their tiny, powerful hands.
My grandmother never found out about the Good Boy and the Brick War. Nor can my mother remember what ever became of him. But on certain occasions when she is finished telling the story and the big laughs transition to chuckles and then finally silence, nostalgia and sadness creep into her eyes as she silently wonders where the Good Boy is. If he is living in the States.
Or if he remained on that corner sidewalk, eventually being defeated by another war, one that he once again could not have anticipated.
I’ve noticed this trend on Twitter with young Somali people where they talk about their ideal mate. To sum it up better, they talk about their do’s or dont’s. In the sense of the boys, it goes like this:
“If she doesn’t make shaax like my moms…#can’twifeher.”
“Gurls dez days are hoes. I need a real woman. #can’twifeher.”
“Can’t take her to Hooyo if she ain’t in touch with Allah. #realtalk.”
With the girls it’s something like:
“Somali boys are too immature. Where are you white chocolate? #whiteboyswag”
“Boy, don’t judge me. Only the Lord can.”
“I wanna marry a good Somali man…do those exist? #wheredeyat”
No doubt that I sometimes think about my life mate, who I’m going to marry, what I seek in my future love and the difficulty of finding someone. Then I think about this in terms of my life, as a Somali girl.
It’s one thing to date but it’s a totally different thing to date as a Somali girl or boy. So many other factors go into this process, which is already traumatizing and scary enough on its own: how religious they are, their qabil, who their parents are. Then comes the: can they cook the basic Somali dishes, how well do they even speak the language, how Somali are they (how deeply are they invested in the American lifestyle) and something I’ve been taken aback by, their sexual history. Apparently, the more inexperienced you are, the more desirable, if you are a woman. The men, apparently, are not sized up with this factor. THEN, it is the personal traits, interests and their looks.
I agree love is subjective. Some will only date the artists, others only the businessmen. Some men like girls with long hair others prefer shorter cuts. To each his own, I preach. But this sort of subjective-ness, if you can call it that, makes me a little sad. Maybe even a little angry. I think our generation is very lucky because we can date and marry freely. Our love lives are very liberal compared to our parents and elders. I can’t speak for all, but a lot of adults I know didn’t have this much selection or choice. They married so quickly that they realized that the other person is actually a stranger. They didn’t really get the time or have the choice to select, the way we do. The way we have it, basically dancing on our fingertips.
So when I see someone tweet or talk about someone’s qabil and swear that if a potential love interest doesn’t belong to it, that person doesn’t stand a chance, I become angry. Does someone’s tribal background define or equate how strongly they would love you, how happy they’d make you? How dare you take something that use to make or break a potential marital union, sometimes burden, and reinforce it? You have the opportunity to marry outside your tribal background, to break this prejudice but you want to keep it alive and carry it on for generations to come? I was taught that it was shameful to talk about tribal identification, that we were one people, one nation. We’re all just Somali; you’re my brother and I’m your sister.
I understand tradition but I feel sometimes it holds us back. A few of our traditions are misogynistic or just plain prejudices. Double standards, for example irk the shit out of me. Men want women to know how to cook, to be religious, graceful, to be a virgin and loyal to her husband. But this is not required for the men. I feel the boys of our generation are attempting to inherit this thought-process from their parents when they are in a beautiful position to break it. The things you desire are beautiful and ideal, but before you request them, can you agree to give them back? Don’t ask anything of someone you are not willing to give yourself.
Somali girls: restore your faith in the Somali man. Your father is Somali and he makes your mother happy. One of these boys can make you happy too. Relish in the fact that he understands your cultural references, the fact that you can talk to him in a poetic language, share your faith and your food. Maybe it’s not that he’s Somali that makes him bad, rather he is a bad person. Be the person you want to marry and he will show up inshallah. And for god’s sake, YOU’RE NOT GONNA MARRY YOUR COUSIN. Relax…that’s gross. Have some faith!
Somali boys: refrain from derogatory names.Look for a soulmate, not a maid or a chef or a religious monk or spiritual therapist. Marriage is not an item that is supposed to be checked off your list. Find a girl that brings out all your greatest attributes. A girl who gives you the intimacy and connection you can’t find with your friends, that listens when you talk and that you can share all the secrets and thoughts you’re too afraid to say out loud. And if she happens to make shaax that could possibly beat your Hooyo’s, then hey, good for you!
In the end of the day, we’re humans. We’re flawed and have our faults. It’s if you can forgive them and love that person anyway, that matters. If you can do that, you’re set for the rest of your life. Let that be your focus folks.
Maybe then we can hone in on the issue of Somalis being professional wedding crashers…
Asmahan, you done did it again girl!
Modern Love: The Era of the Strong Black Woman.
I fall in love with the boy walking past me in the sprinkling rain shadowed by the gray sky, sporting the James Dean haircut.
I AM A STRONG BLACK WOMAN!
I fall in love with the boy walking out of the sports center, sun-kissed biceps seeping out of his ill-fitting t-shirt.
I AM A STRONG BLACK WOMAN!
I fall in love with the boy that holds the heavy door open for me, inviting me in, into the warm golden glow of the dining hall.
I AM A STRONG BLACK WOMAN!
I fall in love with all of them, the ones who share their secret, intoxicating smiles with me. The ones who listen to me with their eyes and tease me with their attention; I’m in love with all of them.
I AM A STRONG BLACK WOMAN!
This is my anchor statement. It is my go-to phrase, borrowed and originating from the two most unlikely and least black women I know: the Polish, wild-haired Koby and cuteness overload, Vietnamese, An. The girls have this thing where they vow to not care for the men in our age group; they will not let a man distract them, so help them God! Anytime the feeling of interest or attraction, the dizzy obsession that follows after being burdened with a crush, ensues, they advise me to scream “I AM A STRONG BLACK WOMAN!” This will surely bring me back to sanity.
Why run from love, though, inquiring minds wonder? Because it’s 2012. The modern state of love fucking sucks.
Things are not how they use to be. The days of boy meets girl, boy confesses feelings and courts girl to ultimately marry and eventually have corny, genius babies with, have passed. Finding love is no longer a scavenger hunt in a blissful, exciting, charming, magical forest. Today, it’s a confusing, dark hunt in a bipolar jungle. There are sometimes mouth-watering prey in this jungle, though very few and extremely scarce; most of the time, the inadequate, brainless, huntresses capture these gems. The rest of us are left either with the mere imitator game or the extremely rotten, stinking leftovers (given that you actually captured something).
Honestly, I blame that whole “girls develop faster than boys” spiel. It’s an excuse. I want to talk about my passions, those weird profound thoughts I have occasionally, my every-three-week existential crisis and that really great book I just read. The boys in my age-group do not; they like laughing about their reproduction organs, what they would do if they had Scarlett Johansson in a room for only 5 minutes and that activity that features that flying brown sphere. But let’s be fair: there are some boys that are up to par. You can have intellectual conversations with these kinds of boys, they allow you to take your personality out of its cage and they make you laugh without feeling cheap. These boys, though, are tricky. If they’re not already claimed by that big-breasted, airhead girl you hate that’s in your lecture class then more than likely, he’s probably “not sure if he’s into women anymore.”
In the end, sooner or later, mating is a must (anthropology attests to this) and let’s be honest, that Katherine Heigl movie (that same one she’s made for the gazillionth time) did something to your mushy, girl feels and you really want your own romantic comedy ending with that whimsical, clever hot guy who turned out to be your soul mate.
So when a boy walks through the door and he happens to have a really great smile, the kind that instantly relaxes you because it is strangely familiar, comforting, welcoming… let it beckon you. Let him consume your thoughts, start mapping out the non-existent relationship the two of you have in your head, begin finding any excuse to run into him and when you do, acquire his name by all means and look him up on Facebook. Then when your friends remain silent when you show them his profile picture, begin swearing up and down “he’s SO cute…this picture just sucks” and scramble for more photos validating this statement. Why? Because this boy could love you, this boy could make you happy; this boy could change everything you know and erase every memory you had prior to his entering your life. Because you want to drown in him and this unique love of yours. Because you are young and this is the best thing that will ever happen to you.
Wait! What am I saying?! I AM A STRONG BLACK WOMAN!!!
Asmahan, I’m seriously obsessed with your writing. I need to see more of it!!
She remembers and it’s tall grass and green-foamed oceans.
I remember and it is rubble and starvation.
She remembers and it is the sweet taste of goat milk and warm summer nights.
I remember and it is giving 2 cents a day to save a child.
She remembers and it’s anjeera and shaax in the morning.
I remember but I don’t remember.
I’m a collection of the white man’s creations and memories created by photos and folk tale.
Or maybe I’m just a young girl, scared that I don’t have a single, glimpse into who I am and what my blood is made of.
I really love my blog.
Love this Tumblr page I have and more than likely I’ll probably keep it. But recently, with my first-year study course, I’ve been thinking about my writing and where I want to go with it. My don, when reading my work, has pointed out to me my culture. But more specifically, what about it, exactly, that I want to talk about.
I feel like the whole “Somalia: the Civil War and How I Fled It” has been over done and most of the time, personally, I feel the authors have exploited such a devastating and fragile wound. Furthermore, I was born in 1993. I have no account of the War, what Somalia is like right now or what the immigration to America really means. That’s not my story to tell, it is my Mom’s and that strong generation’s to tell. For me to do it, is disrespectful and a lie.
What I’ve realized is this: outside of books on the War, what other Somali novels or writing is there? Who’s writing my story, and my peers, cousins, friends, sister’s stories? Where’s the story of the young Somali woman or male living in America? How it is a battle to assimilate. What’s it is like to keep your culture and religion alive in mainstream American society? How difficult it is to straddle two cultures? And your constant fear of losing something that makes you entirely too special to a country your not too sure is entirely yours.
Where’s that story? And who’s writing it?
Me. I’m going to write that story. I’m going to write it for me, all the Somali-Americans(we’ll talk about that term later) I know and don’t know. Their skeptical parents and everyone who isn’t and doesn’t know what it is to be part of this generation.
But mostly for you. You, who is confused about your identity; you, who doesn’t really know what term to classify yourself as but is constantly representing a nation, you really don’t know.
This new blog is going to be for you.
I can’t wait!