PREFACE: This post was written from a heterosexual perspective on relationships and may not apply to LGBTTIQ2SA+ communities. I acknowledge and respect the cultural nuances and gender identities in communities that experience relationships differently.
The year 2021 was a game-changing year for me. I remember all too well how I transformed from hating myself and viewing the world as ugly and unfair to feeling fulfilled and seeing the beauty in the world’s biggest flaws. Today, I wake up early in the morning, and after my last prayer, I look out the window and see the world with bright colours. It’s darkest before dawn, of course, yet somehow, I see stunning rays of colour everywhere I turn and at every moment in time. Someone could provide me with the worst news or attempt to break my heart into a million pieces, and I would still see a rainbow illuminating my world. How so? What changed? The short answer: my perspective. I’d be lying if I told you this happened overnight one cold afternoon in 2021. I was — and still am — a broken-hearted, vulnerable masterpiece in progress.
Humour me for this next part. I promise I’m not crazy.
In February 2021, my colleagues and I attended a virtual team-building event. Someone from somewhere asked us to close our eyes as part of the challenge and guided us into manifesting our future selves ten years from that day. For me, that was 41 years old. I know, I know, it sounds lame, but you know what? I was in the mood to humour the event organizer. Besides, I love meditation, so I decided to take this activity seriously… maybe a little too seriously. I closed my eyes, and in my state of meditation, I allowed myself to float out of my body, fly far up into the sky and let myself fall into a future ten years from that moment without thinking about it too hard. I found myself in Times Square, New York City. I looked around to see the hustle and bustle. My meditation was deep enough for me to smell the NYC sewer and sweat from the people pushing me around to get by. I walked up to a building and took the elevator to the top floor, the penthouse suite. I knocked on the only door on that floor, and as it opened, I saw my 41-year-old future self standing in a breathtaking open-concept suite looking out the window with the view of the city. I walked up to her feeling incredibly underdressed as she stood there in her pantsuit and Luis Vuitton heels (I know, I have a vivid imagination, but my God, let me have this and my pedestal!). The point of the exercise was to ask our future selves for one piece of advice. Without acknowledging my presence, my 41-year-old self first asked me if I liked what I saw and the life I could have. I eagerly nodded because ambition and success at work were my two drivers in life at the time. She then turned to me and said, “You can have all the success you want. You certainly have what it takes. Just remember, it’s lonely at the top.” And just like that, the organizer snapped her fingers, and I was brought back to reality.
Alpha females and women with alpha tendencies are possibly the most difficult women to be with. I don’t make the rules; I say it as I see it. These women are not born this way; cruel circumstances force them into a role that requires them to shield and harden their hearts. These circumstances can be events that have happened at home or the workplace, such as abuse, harassment, being played or being deceived by an individual or group of people. Regarding marriage and relationships, I can tell you firsthand how difficult it is to find a partner who doesn’t feel threatened by my success or straightforward attitude. I joke about how I scare men all the time (How to Scare a Man in Ten Days), but it is, in fact, a sad reality. Since the beginning of time, men have been conditioned to believe that they must be the providers for their families and the woman with whom they choose to spend the rest of their lives. There’s nothing wrong with men providing for their families; the problem lies in how they can’t seem to comprehend that they don’t need to trample on a woman to be her provider. Some may talk a big game about how they are feminists and support a woman’s dream, so long as her dream isn’t better than theirs or that it remains just that: a dream. They may even take it all the way, marry a strong, independent woman and then work tirelessly to make her feel small or adjust herself so that she never rises above him because it would pose a risk to his weak masculinity.
I’ve seen great women go from reaching for the stars to reaching for the frying pan in the kitchen once married. Heck, I was that woman six years ago. I remember telling my ex-husband I wanted to run for office and he laughed and said, “No offence, but who would vote for you? Besides, I’m not moving to Ottawa.” The first thing I did soon after my divorce was run for office because I knew that even if I had lost, I still had what it took to run an amazing campaign and give it my all. It’s the experience I gained that made me a winner, not the election results. It saddens me that in the 21st century, men still see us as a threat to their masculinity. The irony is they can still be the providers even with a strong woman by their side; however, they can’t see passed their egos. I would argue that a strong, independent, intellectual woman would make them better providers, but most men aren’t prepared to listen to me because… you guessed it! I’m a woman. What do I know? Yet, even though I’ve known this all to be true for a long time, nothing prepared me to face the reality of my manifestation. I wasn’t ready to accept that I would likely spend the rest of my life alone should I choose to dream big and realize those dreams.
In honour of International Women’s Day on March 8, 2023, I dedicate this blog post to all the beautiful women worldwide, whether alpha or not, housewives or CEOs. I am 100% supportive of your dreams, whether to get married or work your way to the top or both because it is possible despite what you’ve been told (by weak men)! And if you choose to climb the corporate ladder, know that you won’t be alone at the top because I’ll be there with you in spirit, along with many women who unapologetically choose to be themselves regardless of how men feel about it hurting their egos.
Disclaimer: OMG OK, not ALL men. I said it again! Jeez. If the shoe fits, figure out what’s wrong with you. If not, just keep reading and appreciate the struggles on the streets.
He called me a b!tch so I said thank you
I’ve been called many things, like many women, by men who have no self-esteem or self-respect and are full of insecurities. Today, I want us to embrace these words because we hold much power when a man decides to label us. Let’s do it together. Shout out to all the women who have been called:
- B!tch (my personal favourite)
- Crazy eyes
- The Devil’s servant (lol — no wait this one’s my favourite)
- Dragon Lady (credit to my ex-husband for that one)
- Fat ass
- 12-year-old boy’s chest (I don’t know who comes up with these)
- Hmara (an Arabic word that means “female donkey” — Arab men are notorious for comparing us to animals, so you also have Baqara (cow), Kelba (female dog), Djahsheh (I think that’s like another type of donkey?) or simply hayawaneh (female animal), etc.)
- Kharieh (an Arabic word that means “female shit” / “worthless”)
- Nos 3a2el (an Arabic phrase that means “half a brain”. I don’t even want to tell you the story of where that came from)
- HR bomb
- Pr*stit*te (or in Arabic… nah, I don’t have the stomach to write it in Arabic, but you get the gist of where I’m going with this list)
Oh, here’s a good one: in 2012, I wrote a political op-ed article on how the Arab Spring stands to benefit to include women and gender equality in their movement, and an internet troll commented that I was a filthy wh*re, a kafra (a female disbeliever) and can’t wait for the day I die so he can spit on my grave. Introducing the men of our generation, folks! I can go on, but we’ll need 100 more pages because insecure and cowardly men are very creative at putting women down. Ladies, put a finger down any time you’ve rejected a man or set boundaries for yourself in your personal or professional life, and that same man went from telling you you’re the best thing that ever happened to him to calling you one of the names above. There are not enough fingers in the world to play this game. I’ve come to understand that whenever a man calls me something derogatory, like one of the names I listed above, I’m doing something right. So you think I’m a b!tch, eh? Boy, Ima b!tch the living hell out of you; just watch me. Woof, woof, m-f**.
Every generation has a set of women who disrupt societal norms and dare to do the unthinkable. Nawal El Saadawi, Assia Djebar and Sahar Khalifeh are all strong feminists who spoke and wrote actively on the female struggles in a patriarchic world that weaponizes religion to control and hold power over women. These women had two themes in common: divorced or never married, and men labelled them as the b!tches of their time because they would not conform to the sexual status quo enforced by the patriarchy. Another example of a strong-willed woman is Rosa Parks, who sat at the front of a bus during segregated America when Black people were only allowed to sit in designated coloured rows. Ruby Bridges was the first African American girl to integrate into an American school in the South of the US. Malala Yousafzai was shot at and almost murdered for advocating for girls and women to have the right to an education. Of course, as my youngest sister once told me, “A woman who tries to effect change that aims to disrupt societal norms will not be welcomed with open arms.” These strong women are celebrated today in most parts of the world for their feminist work, but they were shamed for daring to dream of equality during their time.
There’s a strong correlation between how society raises boys to become men and strong, independent, free-thinking women who struggle to find a partner. I mentioned a few times in my previous posts that there are only two stipulations for men to get married: to have a job and to be fertile. On the other hand, women must eat shit and shut up (keli khara w sketi) because men were not taught to appreciate the true value of a woman’s contribution to a relationship. Remember, a woman must be the mother, daughter, housewife, cook, cleaner and most importantly, the husband’s punching bag. Stray from this role, and she becomes a b!tch, a wh*re, a sl*t, half a brain, a shit, and the list goes on and on. A woman doesn’t actually have to be one of these names to be called one; she simply has to dare to question and challenge the status quo. She could be the nicest, kindest, most generous and most caring human being on the planet. But if one man feels threatened by her intelligence or is taken aback by her ambitions, she’s now the villain in his story. Soon, the world would see her as such because a man’s word weighs more than a woman’s. This is the reality we live in and have been living in since the beginning.
Not every man deserves a smile
I started this post with how 2021 was life-changing for me. During the summer of that year, my dad and I were driving back to Toronto from Montreal. As we passed through Cornwall, ON, he suddenly piped up as though to have started a conversation in his head and asked, “Baba, why don’t you come to Dubai with me? You can get married like that!” He snapped his fingers to indicate the speed at which I would be married if I went back with him to Dubai. I laughed and said, “Crap, you want to do this now while we still have another four hours to go?!” He laughed and said, “I’m serious. I know many men who would be interested, but you have to be in Dubai with me so they can meet you.” It was evident at that moment that my dear father had forgotten the type of strong personality I held.
Why else would my dad try to sell me on the idea of marrying an Arab man born and raised in the Arab world? I told him, “Dad, seriously, have you met me?” He shrugged, tilted his head towards the passenger window, and said in Arabic, “Baba, eh ya3ni, lazem 2tta2li 7alek shway.” Roughly, that translates to, “you must settle down (or calm down) and humble yourself a little.” It was a funny and sad moment to hear my dad suggest this to me; it just goes to show how everyone — including my father — wants me to play this game with men to win their affection. Society needs women like me to pretend to be someone they’re not. Still, I don’t understand why women have to prance around and smile at every man they see on the streets and pretend to be anything but themselves. My smile, kindness, generosity, and sweet, loving, soft personality aren’t qualities I put on display for men to preview at an auction because not every man deserves that side of me. The truth is, like most women, I can be sweet, I can settle down, and I can be soft and loving, but only to the right man who’s shown me that they can love and appreciate me for everything I stand for, including my outright ambitious, loud, fun, energetic vibe.
Suppose we use the hijab (headcover) as an example of how women shield their hearts. I believe that every woman on the planet should wear a metaphorical hijab on their heart, hide that sweet side of themselves and only reveal it to the people who’ve earned it, such as friends, family and the man they choose one day. In Islam, Muslims talk a lot about how women “have to” wear the hijab on their heads and cover their physical beauty from men because only the one they marry has a right to that beauty. However, what some Muslims fail to see is that the most critical hijab of all is the one that covers a woman’s emotions and her feelings, like the love she can have for a man for example. Of course, there is a level of professional courtesy and respect women should uphold in society, but that doesn’t mean they need to wear their heart on their sleeve every time they meet someone. Men are not entitled to a preview of a woman’s vulnerability. This ain’t McDonald’s! We ain’t giving away no free smiles!
Alone and free than married and imprisoned
Two years have gone by since I manifested my 41-year-old successful self. My initial reaction to the advice I gave myself was that I didn’t want to be at the top of anything if it meant I would end up alone. I started to change myself to become what I thought most men would find palatable and agreeable. For me, that meant waking up early, praying more consistently, going for runs, eating healthy and being kinder to myself. I’d write on post-it notes that I was beautiful, loving and intelligent and post them all over my laptop and bathroom mirror. As the days turned into months and my lifestyle shifted, I discovered my greatest love: the love God has for me and that I have for Him and myself. For those of you who don’t believe in God, humour me on this part. But for me, God is the Most Important part of my life. It’s not to say that my life has been rainbows and unicorns since; Lord knows, I’ve been put through the wringer plenty of times! I simply see the beauty in every good experience and obstacle I face because there’s always a lesson to be learned. Besides, I know God’s very protective over me and all His women. After all, the saying goes, “A man’s rejection is God’s protection.” Ironically, working to become the best version of myself deterred men away from me. I became too much and left them with no room to be the hero in my life. Men are accustomed to winning a woman over by giving her gifts and solving her first-world problems. Like most women who’ve been scarred and hurt by life’s sharp edges one too many times, I didn’t need the shiny bracelet or for Prince Charming to rescue me. I saved myself through my faith and through the love and care for my mental and physical health.
Women who are secure in their solitude scare men away because most men don’t know what to offer a woman who appears to have it all figured out. But, men, I will let you in on a little secret if you are up for the challenge and have a strong, independent woman in your life with whom you’d like to shoot your shot. Alpha females or women with alpha tendencies are looking for a man who has confidence, isn’t afraid to be vulnerable, and communicates even when it’s uncomfortable and scary. They don’t want a Yes-man or someone who cannot make clear decisions. They want strength, mutual respect, intellect and stimulating conversation. Women with strong personalities love to be challenged but not belittled. They need their souls nourished, not their wallets. Once a woman feels safe enough to let her guard down a little, she’ll show you her softer side and that beautiful smile you knew was hidden beneath all the hurt that turned her into an Alpha, to begin with. She doesn’t need an 18-karat gold necklace or a bouquet of roses. What she needs is a man to hold her hand and walk on the side of the curb to make sure she doesn’t fall into traffic, a man who will support her when she says she wants to apply for that VP role or go back to school, and a man who will stand up for her, stand up for justice even if it means standing up against himself or his family, fight for her, and be her biggest fan. In return, I promise you; she’ll multiply whatever affection you give her because that’s what ambitious women do. Treat her any way less than extraordinary, and you risk losing her forever. Your biggest competition when it comes to strong women isn’t another man but her solitude; a woman who is OK with being alone is one powerful woman.
Happy International Women’s Day to the strong, passionate, fierce women in my life and to all women out there. Unapologetically be you and live this life to the fullest.
Raise your head high, fix your crown, straighten your back and follow the dreams you put on the back burner. Shine like the star I know you are, and by God, shine out the dark clouds around you that shadow your journey and keep you from getting to where you need to be!
May you achieve all your heart desires, and remember that you are not alone on your journey, however lonely it may seem at times.
4 thoughts on “Marriage or Success: Women Can’t Have Both”
It’s a very deep reflection on gender roles. My sister is a little boss, same as every other woman in my family. It takes a very patient man to marry one of us LOL some husbands last longer than the others but I am not sure if they are having a good time. I mean, take it with a grain of salt. We are way too feminist but my family is from Ukraine, so it’s not the same. At the end of the day it takes two to set boundaries and respect your partner’s strangeness. Religion also plays a part in this game, culture plays another huge part. I wish you all the best!
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Thank you for your comment and kind wishes, Milena! I couldn’t agree more with you. Standards, boundaries and respect are incredibly important in a partnership and goes both ways. It’s unfortunate that these three elements are sometimes overlooked for fear of “ruining” a “good” vibe. Relationships blossom when both parties understand that vibes come in waves and that standards and boundaries are set to navigate relationship hardships if and when the time comes. Wishing you an early Happy International Women’s Day! ❤
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Thank you so much! Happy women’s day to you too!
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