Posts Tagged domesticity
Recently, I was talking to B., one of my old Muslim convert friends. We have been close friends for over twenty years now. B. asked me something-or-other, and somehow, the conversation turned to the old days. The days when we were both living very conservative Muslim lives, in an insular Muslim group that turned out to be a cult.
And B. mentioned that she remembered how my ex-husband used to always be yelling my name. That whenever he wanted me to fetch him something, or tend to something, or give him some information about something (like somebody’s phone number), he would yell for me, even if I was upstairs doing something (like, changing a baby) and he was downstairs… or even in the basement. “And you would go and do it,” B. said. “Like a slave.” Her revulsion at that memory was unmistakable.
I hardly knew what to say in response. Yeah, he used to do that. But it hadn’t seemed to me to be all that bad at the time. Annoying, definitely. Disrespectful, absolutely. A really bad example to the kids, without a doubt. But that was just how he was. That was his personality. Trying to talk to him about it had had absolutely no effect. He didn’t care at all what I thought about it, or how it affected me or the kids.
Once upon a time not all that long ago, my choices were heavily restricted by a number of mutually reinforcing constraints:
Poverty. Belonging to a conservative religious sub-culture which had a lot of rules about what you can and cannot do, as well as strong ideas of what is and isn’t appropriate for a women (and strong social pressure to avoid “inappropriate” things). Poverty. The number of children I had, their ages, and my daily responsibilities to care for them. Poverty. The culture and personal tastes of the man I had married, as well as the opinions of his family and ethnic community as to what was and was not acceptable. Poverty. Feeling out of place or unwelcome in certain places and situations, due to my hijab. Poverty. Not having friends outside of my community. Poverty….
But once upon a time, a time so distant that I can barely remember it, I was a teenager. Back then, I had hobbies and interests.
I became a Muslim and got married at the tail end of my teens. And quite quickly, many of these hobbies and interests had to be abandoned, or fell by the wayside. But I didn’t really notice that they weren’t being replaced with anything (unless you can count religion). Why didn’t I notice? Largely because my energies were mostly directed at simply surviving. And partly because I did try to hang onto a few favourite pastimes. Trying to stand up against the pressure to drop them and behave more “appropriately,” I didn’t really have time to think about what I had already given up.