Tag Archives: marriage

Feeling lonely (and old)

I’ve got all the ‘feels’ today, so I feel a rambly post coming on. I’ve had a pretty terrible week, worse than all the bad weeks I’ve experienced in a while. You know, when one thing goes wrong after another?

I’d had a long and exhausting day and I was on my way home on the tube, standing up amongst the commuters rammed in the carriage. And all of a sudden, I felt really lonely. I was surrounded by people and felt like I had no one to lean on. And that’s when I thought ‘I could really do with a hug right now’. 

I know it sounds so random, and I always hug my family and friends whenever I see them, but it wasn’t what I wanted. Can you ever ‘miss’ something you’ve never had? It’s at that point I thought ‘this is the time I wish I had a partner who I could go to for a big fat hug, bury my head in their chest and hide from the world, whilst they reassured me that everything will be alright’.

I feel really weird writing this, but I have a feeling it’s something that people don’t tend to talk about but will be able to relate to. Maybe the right word to use here is companionship. Someone who is always in my corner, who has my back and is my little cheerleader in everything I do.  

I know the simple answer to this problem would be to put myself out there and take this whole ‘looking for a life partner’ thing seriously. But I still have all those demons to deal with before I can even begin with the search. I’ll also admit that I’m a bit scared. I don’t take rejection or disappointment well. I know no one really does, but I have a feeling I will take it to heart, maybe a bit too much when I’m already feeling vulnerable. 

When I was talking about all those people (including myself) who pretend that everything is okay, I mentioned how I find it hard to talk to people about my problems. And I found this to be extremely problematic this week. I was going through a lot, and I know my friends are here for me, but I also know they have a lot on their own plates right now. So I didn’t want to add to this. And just how others sharing their problems with me eventually became a stress in my life, I didn’t want to become that person to them.

So here’s some real talk, I’m no spring chicken. A milestone is fast approaching, and I’ve been reading some of my old posts and realised I’m still moaning about the same things from 3+ years ago! I need to get a grip, haha!

Whilst hearing about some scandalous news from my hometown (so and so being in a secret relationship and whatnot), my mother decided to turn on me. She goes ‘when are you going to get married? You’re not getting any younger, don’t you care about your future?’. Oh mother, if only you knew.

I managed to dodge the bullet, as usual, but I’m not sure how long I’ll be safe for. She has a point, and also has the right to ask. I’m just the one who doesn’t have an answer for her. I do feel sorry for my parents to be honest. They’re still waiting for me to sort my life out, after so many years of waiting already. And even though they give me a hard time now and again, I understand it could be far worse. When you have younger siblings ‘of age’ at home and you’re the one that’s causing the bottle neck effect, the pressure is on another level. I’ve become very good at burying my head in the sand, so I’ve continued to do so. But now I’m feeling old and tired.

My actions and words don’t add up. I want a partner, but I don’t want to do anything about it. Feeling lonely sucks, but then I find a distraction and get over it (until the next time). I have a dream, that I eventually find ‘my person’. We respect each other, support each other, care for each other’s family and friends and live a simple, but happy life; full of travel and laughter. I know everyone dreams of the whole package, but to be honest with you (and I’m not just saying this to sound like a ‘great’ person), but I really don’t care about the materialistic things – house, car, latest gadgets, etc. Sure, having a nice place to live would be pretty sweet, but if I can travel and see the world, or even live abroad with my partner instead, then that would make me the happiest person.

I watched something recently where a very wise person said, look for qualities in a partner like you would look for in a roommate. Someone you could live with harmoniously, where you respect and are considerate of each other, rather than going by looks and credentials. And that is probably the most enlightening thing I have heard in a while. It’s so simple, but true. I don’t even want to get started on the criteria that Bengali parents have in mind for their children. This Bengali society we live in goes by the exact opposite of these teachings, and that makes me sad.

Now, where is this person I’m looking for? This is probably where I should insert the cheeky wink emoji or something, but in all seriousness, I hope to find this poor sod person soon!

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Role Model

I heard some words today that really touched my heart and I didn’t know how to process it. It’s not every day that you hear someone say that you’re their role model. I was quite taken aback and not quite sure what to say or do.

I have a young, impressionable relative, who has a heart of gold. At a very young age, she’s had to mature very fast and become a support for her family. Her and her siblings have been through things that no kid should ever have to experience, yet they have made it out of this awful situation, stronger than ever, and are continuing to live their life really well. And most importantly, growing up to be great human beings. I really admire these kids. Not only that, on top of the pressure of school and college, they’re pursuing hobbies, teaching themselves skills and putting themselves out there. These kids are truly a force to be reckoned with and are actually a huge inspiration to me. They are half my age and already are these amazing, kind and thoughtful people, even after going through so much. I often think, if they can achieve all of this despite everything they’ve been through, then I have to try to be at least half as good as them, which spurs me to keep going. Honestly, I can’t praise them enough.

So when I heard about this particular conversation from someone, I automatically choked up. It’s very easy for people to say things they don’t mean these days, whether it’s good or bad. But when you know they genuinely mean it, you feel quite wonderful… and a little bit scared.

This kid told her mum that she looks up to me. She said that the fact that I work hard for what I’m passionate about, and despite being a ‘brown asian girl’, I moved away from home to pursue a career and do what makes me happy; she really admires me. Her and her siblings are looking forward to the day I get married, because I’m a really good person. I’m her role model…

I mean, how can I not get emotional after hearing that?

I went through many tough hurdles in my life a few years ago when I was searching for my happiness. I had to break away from cultural norms and fight for my rights. And then over the years I’ve had many ups and downs, but you kind of get busy with life and end up losing that sense of purpose. And now as I get closer to another milestone, I am anticipating tough times ahead – the pressure of marriage. So I often reflect on my life and wonder, what have I achieved? Have I been making the right choices? Am I a good person? Am I happy?

To then hear these kind words… I didn’t know what to do with myself. It was incredibly lovely to hear that there are people out there who think I’m doing a good job in life. But to be 100% honest with you, I really don’t think I’ve been doing that well. If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you will know that I’ve been struggling quite a bit with so many insecurities. Not forgetting the pressure that a family naturally puts on an unmarried ‘girl of age’; I’ve felt suffocated at times. The thought of being this beautiful kid’s role model just scares me. I feel a pressure to live up to this title, yet I know I am lacking in so many ways. I don’t see myself as ‘successful’, I just feel like I’m bumbling through life.

If only this wasn’t an anonymous blog, I would share this post with her too. She is the one that people should be admiring, not the other way round. I truly believe that kids these days are so much smarter and more empathetic than my peers and I were at her age. They see the world in a different way and I admire that sparkle in their eyes. I need to get me some of that!

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Other people’s pain

I read a really disturbing, but true, story about a Bangladeshi girl who was domestically abused by her husband, mother-in-law and brother-in-law. It was on another level. She was brave enough to share her story with the world, but even braver to show the face behind it. No matter how many words I write in this post, nothing will express how shocking her experience was.

When I watched an interview she’d done for TV, I couldn’t fathom how such a beautiful, strong and confident woman had gone through all of that. She explained that she had been brought up to be a strong woman all her life, so hearing how she reacted uncharacteristically to everything that happened after marriage, just didn’t make any sense to me. She just lost herself.

But when you really think about it, unless you’ve been through it, you have no idea what goes through someone’s mind when in a situation like that. From what I can understand, you love someone with all your heart and soul, and thought they loved you too. Then all of a sudden they get violent and abusive and lash out, then quickly realising this could get ugly, they apologise in a way that seems so genuine… only to go and repeat it over and over again. You then have a million and one thoughts running through your head, whilst feeling like your world has stopped at the same time. You don’t want to admit the reality of the situation to yourself and make excuses, for both the abuser and abusee.

The sad thing about this is that I believe that culture and the society we live in play a huge part in this. She probably couldn’t help but think of the dreaded ‘what would people say’ if she had then left her husband and when these ‘people’ found out, what impact that would have on her and her family’s lives. Not wanting people to know that she’d had a failed marriage, not wanting to have to start from the bottom again. Feeling like the world is collapsing around her.

This is only how I imagine she felt. I haven’t been through it myself, so I would never be able to understand it fully. But there are parts that I can see as clear as day, because we belong to the same culture, which I despise sometimes.

The pressure of keeping up appearences in front of people who do and don’t matter is immense in the Bangladeshi culture. You can’t show that you’re suffering, so you have to keep on, keeping on. You need your loved ones to think that you’re doing well, and you need outsiders to think that you’re living the life! The burden of this pressure is so heavy, that you end up losing yourself. In that instance, it’s so easy to forget who you are, what you wanted to achieve in life and what makes you truly happy. You’re made to feel like you are worthless.

Now, I’m talking about a different aspect of my personal life, but this is something I could relate to and it pained me to read. Halfway through her story, I had to stop and take a breather. It was just too much to bare. How could one person tolerate that much abuse on a daily basis? How is it possible for these evil, conniving, disgusting people to exist in this world and call themselves human beings, let alone muslims?

Everything that is wrong with this culture’s expectations on marriage is in this story. From the ridiculous expectations on her to be the perfect wife, to them mentally and physically abusing her and thinking that it’s their right to do so. None of it should have happened, but it did, because the culture (and religion to a certain extent) allowed it.

Just a few weeks ago, I watched a BBC documentary about a Pakistani Muslim woman who was exploring the expectations put on muslim women when it came to marriage and independance. And I wasn’t shocked to find that I could relate to practically everything she said; from how she felt the pressures to be a good daughter and not let her parents down, to wanting to do what makes her happy whilst being respectful of her religion. It was evident that parents enforce the rules of culture quite heavily, to the point that it overtakes the importance of religion. But this isn’t anything new, this is something I talk about all the time.

Thinking back to the domestic abuse story, at first I was adament that I would not have handled the situation like that if it were me. I’m a strong, independent woman who knows enough to realise my own worth and the respect I deserve. But it made me think… didn’t this Bengali girl also think this about herself before she got married?

Regardless, I know for a fact that I wouldn’t have let it get this far, but I also understand and appreciate that everyone is different. I think another thing to bare in mind is the fact that she was still fairly young when she was going through this ordeal, so probably wasn’t as worldy as she is now. I know myself well enough to know I wouldn’t stand for this behaviour, but I also appreciate the fact that I seem to be quite a few years older than her, so it’s only natural to become wiser with (old) age. You see and hear all sorts – you learn from other people’s stories and pain.

I really respect her for speaking out and sharing her pain with strangers, because it helps people, who are suffering in silence, realise that there is hope out there. And I genuinely wish that people who are going through tough times, gain the strength to reach out and not suffer alone. It can take just one call, message or email to turn your life around. You can read her story on her blog.

When I started this blog a few years ago, I didn’t expect a single person to read it. In fact, I didn’t tell anyone about it or share it on any social media platforms. But miraculously, people came across it, and not only that, they took the time and effort to reach out to me and tell me that I’m not alone. They even shared their stories with me, which made me feel truly touched and I was definitely taken aback. I never intended for this to be a regular blog (as you can tell), only just an outlet for me to share my thoughts when I felt like I couldn’t talk to the people around me. I’m blessed to have such great people in my life, but even then, I felt alone. And writing a blog post to ‘nobody’ was the only way I felt I could let out my inner thoughts and insecurities.

I’m still shocked when people send me messages, especially when they say that reading something that I had written on a whim had helped them; I just don’t know how to react. It made me appreciate the power of communication. If my ramblings could help you come out of a unpleasant situation, then I am more grateful to you than you are to me, because YOU found me. You have already done more than I did when I was suffering, so I just want to say a big thank you to all of my readers. I’m sorry I’m not a good enough blogger, but I’m grateful to you for making my life shine a little brighter.

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Life update: summer has passed and winter has arrived

The summer has passed and winter has arrived… and I haven’t updated this blog in nearly a year! What have I been doing with my life? I have to admit, I went through some dark times earlier this year. I can’t really say 2017 has been a good year for me, but it’s certainly looking up, so I’ll try to keep this in mind whenever I feel down thinking about the past.

I’ve actually written several posts, which are saved in my drafts and probably won’t get published. It’s weird reading them back when so much has changed, except for one thing. I’m still nowhere near the point of getting married, nor have I started looking.

I don’t feel stressed about it like I did before though, but it’s obviously something that’s always at the back of my mind. Over the last year, several relatives and family friends have got married. I had to attend two weddings as they were of my cousins, otherwise no one would’ve seen me anywhere near one of those celebrations. I tried to dodge and run away from any relatives who had that inquisitive look in their eyes when approaching me. I knew exactly what they wanted to talk about. In other words, what they wanted to grill me about. I learnt my lesson at the first wedding where a relative, quite bluntly and harshly, asked me, ‘Aren’t you ashamed?’.

‘Ashamed of what?’ you ask…? Oh, just the fact that the kid getting married is 5 years younger and that I had the audacity to show my old, unmarried face, without looking embarrassed. I know… just wow. I really didn’t see this direct blow coming. I just turned around and said no I’m not, and that if it’s a problem, then I won’t bother turning up to the next one. That left me with a horrible feeling that night.

Just like I’ve explained in previous posts, I’m not against marriage. In fact, I want to get married. But I had to sort out other aspects of my life first before even thinking about it. This is how I process things and deal with life. Everyone works differently. It’s not even like I tried and failed – I just haven’t been looking. And yes, I know I’m getting old and that I should get a move on. But you know what? I have stopped caring what other people think.

Although, I know I constantly contradict myself. I see everyone around me getting married, buying houses, having babies. And then here I am – nothing has changed. But I’m happy (mostly). I am living a good life right now. And I don’t even mean a crazy one. My life is just as simple (read: boring) as most people’s. It consists of 80% work, 10% ‘fun’, 5% spending time with family and the final 5%, hiding from the world. Most of my time and energy goes into work, because a girl’s got to work to live!

But with a blink of an eye, I’m already nearing the big dreaded milestone and now I’m like… shit.

How did this even happen? One minute ago, I was fresh faced, young and naive. I moved to the city to follow my dreams, thinking it would be just like the movies. Instead, I bumbled through life and here we are, many years later. My best friend always helps me put things into perspective though. It’s easy to sit here and dwell on all the lost opportunities and cry over the fact that I haven’t achieved anything. But then she snaps me out of it (she’d slap me if she could) and reminds me of all the things that I HAVE achieved and how much I’ve gained from that. Everybody needs a best friend like that – someone who can bring you back down to earth and reality.

Anyway, the takeaway from this story is that nothing has changed, but a lot has changed. I’m working towards being happy and content with myself first, before looking for a partner in crime.

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The marriage trend… has it skipped a generation?

I’ve been quiet for a while, so apologies for that. But recently I’ve noticed a lot more marriage announcements happening amongst my family and relatives. The majority of these people happen to be much younger than me, which isn’t that surprising seeing as I’m now technically in my late 20’s. Whereas these young’uns are in their early to mid 20’s.

But it got me thinking; has the marriage trend, or the need to get married, skipped a generation? I took a moment to step back and analyse my peers; people who I grew up with in the Muslim/Bangladeshi community. We are the generation who seemed to be the first ones in our families to actively pursue education and a career. Some of us are even the first to go to university out of all of our family and relatives. A lot of us have also steadily and somewhat successfully climbed the career ladder. Although a fair few of the people my age I’m referring to happen to be guys, I’ve noticed that a lot of them in this age bracket are still unmarried. I know guys tend to get married a little later than girls, but it doesn’t seem to make much difference in this case.

I still don’t understand how I’m so different from my siblings. My younger siblings are now ‘of age’ according to my mother, so the pressure is on, more than ever. And after many deep and intense conversations I’ve had with my siblings, I still can’t quite believe how ready and open they are to the prospect of getting married fairly soon. At their age, I was fighting for my right to pursue a career and live an independent life. I was seriously pushing back because I felt like I had so much more to achieve before I got married. But these kids, they seem to lack any serious ambition.

I’ve spent many nights discussing their aims and goals in life, and have been stumped when I discovered they don’t really have any. What has drastically changed for them to be like this? Or am I the abnormal one, being selfish for wanting to lead my life with a purpose different from those set by my parents and society?

I’ve noticed another trend; people my age are being ‘skipped’ and their younger siblings are getting married before them. This makes me feel pretty uncomfortable. I feel like I’m stuck in the middle; on one hand, I’m open to marriage but don’t feel like I’m ready just yet. On the other hand, I feel like time is running out and that my parents will just ‘skip’ past me and get my younger siblings married off before me. The reason why this makes me feel uneasy is because there is a stigma attached to this. If you’re older and unmarried, then surely there must be something wrong with you, otherwise why wouldn’t you get married first? It’s different for guys, if they have younger siblings, especially sisters, it’s fairly normal and acceptable for them to get married off first. But for girls, they have to accept that people will be talking about them behind their back and speculating.

The final trend I want to mention is the rise of the love marriage. A lot of these young couples seem to have been in relationships for quite a few years, which is now converting into marriage. This could be for many reasons, two of which I believe are temptation and fear. Temptation being that they’re ready to take their relationship to the next level and get serious about life. Fear being the fact that they might ‘get caught’ (or already have) so needing to nip it in the bud before it gets out and causes drama in their community.

The thing that astounds me about this whole situation is the number of love marriages happening in the first place. Or maybe I’ve been blind or just naive to the fact that muslims are dating from a much younger age now. Again, as far as I can remember, people in my generation were brought up so differently, and somewhat more strictly, than this younger generation. I know I’m making myself sound like an old granny, but the truth of the matter is, even just being a few years older, I feel like I’ve had a whole different upbringing. One of which instilled the fear of my parents wrath if I were to do anything to tarnish their name and reputation.

A thing my mother instilled in me from a young age, and I hope it’s the same for my siblings, is the understanding of what’s important in life. She said how money comes and goes, but respect takes a lifetime to earn, and just a second to lose. I grew up with those values close to my heart, and everything I’ve done up until now, I’ve made sure to never do anything that could harm this. I always want my parents to be able to hold their head up high when it comes to this daughter of theirs; even if they’re stressed and embarrassed about the fact that they have an unmarried daughter in her late 20’s, living away from home and showing no sign or interest in getting married any time soon!

But the reason why I’m mentioning respect and reputation is because I have always been told to stay away from boys. Not to be seen with them in situations that can be misunderstood to mean something else. So in a sense, I had quite a strict upbringing. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always had guy friends, which my parents certainly knew about – I made sure of it to ensure they knew that I’m not up to no good. But this also meant that I actively avoided pursuing relationships. Not that there were many offers anyway, ha! But the truth is, relationships were just a big no. And here we are, hearing of these young couples about to get hitched, who happen to have known each other for several years (read: been in a relationship secretly for 5+ years).

All of a sudden, this is a much preferable situation to my mother, than my situation, where I’ve actually been a good, respectful daughter and avoided scandal. She has the audacity of turning around and saying ‘well at least they’re actively doing something about it and sorting it out themselves!’ I mean, can you actually believe this? I cannot fathom how this is a much better outcome and how I’m now the ‘bad’ one in this situation. Just because I haven’t had a secret boyfriend all these years? What is this nonsense!?

I will never know. But all I can say is, it’s making me feel on edge. And as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, this feels like the calm before the storm. Am I alone in feeling like this?

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Insecurities about marriage

I’ve been in a weird place for a while. In my previous post I mentioned some of the things that have been bothering me lately. But I wanted to talk about some things that haunt me during the day and night, and that’s my insecurities.

It’s no secret how much I dread talking about the ‘M’ word that is marriage. It’s inevitable; it’s part of culture, society, religion and life! I know it’s expected of me to get married someday, and the truth is I do want to get married. But there are so many thing’s holding me back, and they all come down to the insecurities. So I wanted to give a breakdown on some of the areas of my life that I feel these insecurities come from. Get ready for a long and bumpy ride.

Career: If you’ve read any of my earlier posts, you’ll know how much my career means to me. I’ve worked hard to fight for my right to have one. Even though my family is in no way against girls working, whether they realise it or not, they’ve never really been one to encourage girls to be the best person they can be. They’d rather you opt for the option where you ‘act like a girl’ and do any job that doesn’t require too much commitment, therefore resulting in an ‘easier’ life all around. And because ‘you’re a girl’, you’re supposedly only doing this to keep yourself busy and get some money to put towards your wedding…

I fought for my right to go to university – my dad wanted me to just get a job locally because ‘What’s the point? People only go to uni to then get any odd job afterwards anyway’. I fought for my right to do my placement year in London. I fought for my right to move to London for my graduate job. I have been fighting this good fight to make a name for myself over the last couple of years and develop a successful and fulfilling career that I could be proud of. I wasn’t doing it for anyone else, I was doing this for me. So what does this have to do with marriage? Well, everything. Even though it’s been a little while since I graduated, I’m still at the early stages of my career. The stage where you have to work your butt off to be noticed and so I’m nowhere near being a leader in anything just yet. How can I put my career on the back burner and make marriage a priority? Because trust me, looking for a life partner is like taking on a second job.

I called my mum yesterday and she asked what I was up to. I gave her a generic response, as you do, and said I’ve just been busy working. For some reason that really annoyed her and she took that as an opportunity to start having a go at me. ‘When are you going to be “unbusy”? You need to quit your job and become “unbusy”. When are you going to sort your life out? You need to think about these things seriously now!’

Wow. There goes feminism and girl power down the drain. Thanks mum.

I know she doesn’t mean it in a bad way – she’s only being the typical bengali mum that she is and thinking about how I’m getting old and soon no-one will want me (which is probably true). But I’m finding it harder and harder to explain to her that, right now, my career is the most important thing to me. I know I have to realise there is a point where I can’t put my career first, and that’s usually after marriage when you’re then expected to have a home and children to fill it with. I’m just in such a funk with work at the moment, how can I focus on anything else?

Money: This slightly links to career. But when I moved to London, I was just so happy to have a job away from home that I accepted whatever salary they gave me. This was tough because it was barely enough to survive on and I would consistently have to dip into my credit card to make ends meet. Slowly my pay increased, but that wasn’t enough to save, it was just enough to start paying off my student overdraft and credit card interest. A few years down the line, I was able to clear most of it, then a holiday mishap happened (it’s a long story) which led to even more debt. So then finally, I landed this amazing dream job, I even negotiated an awesome salary (woohoo, girl power!) and managed to clear pretty much all of my debt. But things on the work front is a bit shaky right now (another long story) and this is where I’m at. I’m not in debt, but I also don’t have any savings. I know you didn’t need to know the ins and outs of my financial history, but the point is, life is so unpredictable. I don’t owe anyone any money, but it doesn’t mean I have the ability to magically save anywhere close to enough money to pay for a wedding. How am I supposed to do this AND find a life partner AND get married in the next 2 years (or so)?

Appearance: This is probably the hardest thing for me to talk about and the most insecure area of my life. I’ve always said I’m a realist on this blog. I don’t make ‘negative’ comments about myself for attention or because I’m trying to make out that I’m ‘uglier’ than I actually am. And this is why I find this the hardest thing to talk about because people always come up with the same kind of response to ‘comfort’ me, and you know what? I hate it. Literally, please don’t say these things thinking it’s the right thing to say, because actually, it makes me lose respect for you. Look, I’m not saying I’m an absolute monster, but I have many insecurities for a good reason. A lot of guys think they care about the person on the inside more than the outside, but let me tell you this, they are absolute liars, whether they know it or not. Everyone cares about the outside, we all do. I’m not saying you don’t care about the inside too, but don’t kid yourself in thinking that the outside isn’t a big deal, because it is. I am saying this because I have ‘experienced’ it.

I haven’t really spoken about it on the blog and it’s probably a post I will write about soon, but not so long ago, I decided to give online dating another go. I tried it a few years back, hated it and never wanted to try it again. But I did it again, and hated it all over again. That’s a story for another day, but I’ll tell you one thing that did happen. This muslim dating website gives you the option to have your photos on private and allows you to give access to this photo album if someone makes a request. So naturally, most people choose to have their photos on private. So I re-wrote my profile and was being upfront and honest, and hopefully it came across genuine and refreshing. I’m a strong independent lady, I don’t want to fool a guy into thinking he’s going to get that perfect little housewife (although, I am a damn good cook, but that’s not the point). So a few guys contacted me, and I got chatting to one and I’m like really nervous… what if this is the one? I read his profile, he seems cool and normal and likes similar things as I do. It’s weird. We message back and forth with some banter and it’s nice. Then he respectfully asks if he could request access to my photo album and I’m like, oh god, here we go. I say sure, but I tell him how nervous this makes me feel. He laughs it off, saying don’t be silly. I bet you can just imagine what happens next. He takes one look at my photo and never messages me back ever again.

Now, there are 1,001 things I want to say about this whole exchange right now, but I don’t want to go off topic, but I will just tell you a little bit. Look, I totally understand and respect that everybody has their own taste and sometimes that spark just isn’t there. I didn’t expect the guy to fall in love with me, far from it actually, but I wanted him to have the decency to message back and in a polite way say ‘thanks, but no thanks’. Don’t get me wrong, I would HATE him regardless, but I would hate him just a tiny bit less if he had the courtesy to respond, rather than him just disappearing off the face of the earth and leaving a girl hanging. That’s just rude and really not nice.

The point I’m trying to make here is, I know I’m not everybody’s cup of tea, and yes, I hope there is someone out there who thinks I’m alright. And to my credit, I actually used my personal social media profile picture which got over 80 likes and 25 comments! None of my photos have ever had that type of response. This goes to show there is a reason why I have these insecurities. I’ve said it before, I’m not your typical Bangladeshi girl. I’m not slim, slender, skinny, thin, trim or any other adjective the thesaurus could come up with. It’s something I’ve been insecure about my whole life, and have tried to change and not had much success in, but that’s a story that I won’t depress you with today. I’m also not conventionally pretty. Don’t get me wrong, I can make an effort and whack on a whole load of make up and look half decent, but let’s just say, the face and the shape match. I get compliments about my ‘pretty’ eyes all the time, and it’s something I’m really happy about, but that’s where the list starts and ends really.

Confidence: When it comes to many things in life, I will be your champion as well as mine. I am confident about so many things, especially my career. I may be in a bad place right now, but I have faith and confidence that I will achieve my dream and that in turn will help the money ‘roll’ in. However, appearance is something I do not have confidence in, which in turn doesn’t give me much hope when it comes to marriage. It’s all to do with taste, and I do not have control over that. I know there are things I can do to start feeling more confident about how I look, but until I am happy with myself, how can I put these insecurities aside and look for happiness in marriage? No-one else can do this for me, and with my mother on my case all the time, reminding me that I can’t afford to be picky, can you blame me for feeling this way?

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Where do I belong?

So a lot has been happening in my life over the past few weeks. So much change. I’m yet to figure out if it’s a good or bad thing. But I realised I feel like I’m at some kind of loss. Maybe a crossroad in my life?

I’m at the turning point in my career… looking for the next suitable opportunity. I’m a single, Bangladeshi, muslim girl on the wrong side of 25. I don’t have any significant debt. I don’t have a partner. I’m mortgage free and not trapped in a contract in my London flat. I have nothing tying me down… except this invisible pressure.

Pressure that I’ve put on myself to prove that I can achieve anything I put my mind to. Pressure to show people that I’m doing extremely well. Pressure from my parents to save money for my imaginary wedding, find a husband and settle down. Pressure to get serious about religion and become a better muslim. Does this list ever end?

But all I can think about these days is how I want to escape. Don’t get me wrong, I love my life in London. It wasn’t where I was born or grew up, but it’s always felt like home. It’s where I’ve always felt like I belonged. It’s where I’m most comfortable, it’s where I can breathe this fresh (but somewhat polluted) air of freedom.

Yet, I feel like I need a break. For a very long time now, I’ve wanted to have the opportunity to live and work abroad. It’s my dream, it’s all I want in life right now. But I know that’s unrealistic, and it makes me feel sad. I mean, you just have to read my list of pressures above to figure out why.

My parents would go mental and summon me to move back home. They will demand I sort my life out and get married in the next few months. They will treat me like I’m incapable of making my own life decisions. I will regress back to being that angsty teenager, fighting for my rights. In the end, I will be the one losing out, and risk having the freedom I have in London yanked away from me.

It’s so hard to explain this to people outside of the culture. These people will tell me that I shouldn’t be listening to my parents and should do what makes me happy. And that my parents can’t tell me what I can or cannot do. I really wish it was that simple. There will always be consequences and the possibility of them disowning me (if I really pushed it that far). And I know this may sound absurd, but it’s not easy to not care about what your parents think. There’s always this feeling of wanting their approval of the choices you make in life. It’s a losing battle in my case.

I spoke about it with my siblings today, about how I feel like it’s the right time in my life to give living and working abroad a shot… and they just laughed in my face. Like ‘oh here we go again…’, which actually hurt my feelings. They think I’m ridiculous because I work too much and am nowhere near close to finding someone, let alone get married. They think I’m silly for having these hopes and dreams and that I should focus on settling down. I really felt let down; I feel alone.

So why is it, that despite being in a good, commitment free life, I feel like I’m at a loss? Why is the good always overshadowed by this pressure hanging over my head? Why do I care this much about what others think? Why did I ever think that the people who are meant to be my nearest and dearest, would actually care about my feelings?

There’s nothing stopping me from taking a leap, yet I can’t move. I have all of these questions that I can’t seem to find answers to.

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Travel or plan an imaginary wedding?

I’m sure this sounds like an odd title for a blog post, but it’s seriously one of the biggest stresses of my life. When I was at college many moons ago, I realised how big the world was out there. That’s when I developed this curiosity and caught the travel bug. My closest friends were either going on group holidays or taking a gap year before going to university. It was an alien concept to me. Don’t get me wrong, I have actually left the country before. I had visited Bangladesh precisely 9 times at this point in my life. Oh and not forgetting a day trip to France when I was in high school. Very adventurous, I know.

But when my friends came back from their travels with the most colourful and amazing stories, I couldn’t help but feel jealous. I wanted what they just had. But the idea of me, a young Bangladeshi girl, going on holiday or travelling with friends, was just absurd. But a girl can dream, right?

Well that wasn’t good enough for me. I had to make this happen somehow. So I hatched a plan with my best friend who is the most awesome person I know, and that’s a fact. She’s strong and independent, but caring and thoughtful at the same time. And she doesn’t give a crap about ‘what people will say’. She knew how much I wanted to travel, and having experienced a gap year herself, she was the one who passed this travel bug onto me. So we decided we will go on a big holiday after we graduated from university.

Now the tough part was convincing my parents. I’m not sure if you know this, but a lot of the time, some parents will say ‘yeah okay, we’ll see when the time comes’ just to shut you up. And this was probably the first time my dad regretted saying that, because I didn’t let it go. As mentioned before in my earlier blog posts, I have worked all the hours under the sun since the age of 16. I had a part time job in retail for 5 years and then did some temping after finishing uni. And I managed to save a bit of money for my holiday. When graduation came around, I brought the topic up again and reminded my dad that we had discussed the possibility of me going on this holiday after I graduated. I was ready with my reasons and prepared to fight my case. I told him how hard I’d worked for 4 years at university and just really wanted this once in a lifetime opportunity to go on holiday, as a reward, with my best friend who they knew and could trust. She had already travelled the world on her own and I have saved up money for the flights and costs. They really had no way to get out of this.

When I look back, I really have to respect my parents for letting me do this and I’m truly grateful to them. It can’t have been easy letting their single, 22 year old daughter wander around the world. But also, they really didn’t have a choice because I went ahead and booked my tickets. I know, what a rebel! I wanted this more than life itself. It’s so strange reflecting on something that happened 5 years ago and just looking at how far I’ve come.

It came with all these conditions and promises on how it was going to be the first and last time I do something like this, etc. I just nodded yes to everything. Little did they (and I) know that this was only just the beginning…

Since 2010, I have been on holiday 12 times. And I have to say, it has enriched my life and made me so happy beyond belief. There’s just something so magical about escaping reality and exploring another country, culture and the world in general. Every year since my first trip away from my family, I’ve been fortunate enough to visit so many wonderful places, which has broadened my mind and opened my heart to beautiful things. I have learnt a lot and it has shaped me into the person I am today. I am always on the lookout for my next escape… but this is always against my parents wishes.

They detest me going on holiday. They see it as a way of losing their ‘control’ on me and they’re always saying it’s a waste of money. They constantly argue, asking me what’s the point in working if you’re going to wash all your earnings down the drain? They just don’t understand how important it is to me.

Funnily enough, that’s not the case when they want to go to Bangladesh or Dubai, because apparently that’s different. Over the last year or so, travelling has become even tougher as they continue to put the pressure of marriage on me. They want me to save for my (imaginary) wedding, even though I don’t have a partner, therefore I’m not actually getting married. This would sound ridiculous to anyone else outside of the culture. So every time I book a holiday, I torment myself with what my parents will say this time. And when I call them to tell them that I’m going away, I get a huge lecture down the phone, about how I don’t care about anyone other than myself. That I’ve never given them any money, but spend it all on holidays instead, which is not true whatsoever. It hurts hearing this emotional blackmail every… single… time.

But I know how lucky I am. Firstly because I have fought for my right to have a career, move out of home and have a great quality of life. But also because I work damn hard and save my money to spend it on things that I love, travel being one of them. Girls my age are generally married off with a mortgage and kids by now, and although I do want to get married, all the other stuff can wait for a while in my opinion. I don’t want to live a life full of regrets and what ifs.

How do you feel about this? Do you agree with my view on this situation? I would love to know.

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Muslim Blind Date – #Fail

I’ve been a little quiet on here for a while, but I’ve had so many people ask me about this date I made such a big fuss about. So I thought I better update those who wanted to know.

Well… this blind date didn’t actually end up happening. It just wasn’t meant to be. After finally co-ordinating diaries via this mutual friend, the guy had to ‘postpone’ due to a last minute family commitment. Whether this was a legitimate reason or not? I have no idea, although I’m going with the latter. But as this was so close to the end of the year, I think everyone just got busy and forgot, as did I.

We never got around to rescheduling it, and I felt a little disheartened (although I must admit I was quite relieved at the time). How do I go back and say ‘Oh hey, remember that date that never happened? We should really make it happen now’? I just don’t think I can, as it’s a little embarrassing, so I just left it.

I haven’t felt like I have missed out or anything, I haven’t even had a chance to deeply think about it. I can’t believe how fast life zooms past you in London. We’re already nearly 3 whole months into the new year and I feel like I haven’t done anything I planned to do yet! I’m always busy doing one thing or another, or busy with work and career progression. Where is the time to date? Someone please tell me!

But at the same time, is this only applicable for those who live in London? Non-Londoners… do you also see it the way I do?

I know dating is meant to be made a priority if you really want something to happen, but do I want something to happen right now? I’m not convinced just yet. It doesn’t mean that I never want it to happen, but maybe not right now.

On another note, I got a sneaky secret squirrel type of call from my sibling today, who had overheard a conversation between my parents. My freshie brother-in-law came to my mum with what I call an ’empty proposal’.

Some guy he knows has a cousin who is on a student visa and they are looking to get him married. So what does my bro-in-law do? Oh he brings this ‘proposal’ (if you can even call it that) to my mum, despite knowing I have made it so damn clear that I don’t want to marry someone from ‘back home’. I outlined my reasons in one of my previous posts about the pressures of marriage if you are interested to find out why.

I know that at the end of the day, this isn’t going to happen. And that’s because this isn’t what I want in life, and I’m a pretty strong-willed person. I’m dreading the day I go home and they confront me with this discussion, so I’m already psyching myself up for it (as well as getting very mad whilst imagining them in front of me and already playing out the argument)!

I think the thing that upsets me the most is that I genuinely thought I had made progress here. I have had many awkward deep and meaningful, and quite frankly, honest conversations with my mum about marriage. What I want, what I don’t want and why. But she is so consumed with the obsession to get me married before I die of old age, that she conveniently forgot all of this. It’s like 2 steps forward, 10 steps back.

And worst of all? They know NOTHING about this guy. His background, his own family, what he does/studies, if he and I would be compatible, etc. The list is endless! All they know is that he is somehow related to this other guy… and that is it.

WOW. It really makes me feel special, knowing that they have such a low criteria for my future partner, because frankly, in their eyes, anyone will do right now – anyone who will have me.

I’m just sad that they didn’t once think about my happiness. This sucks. I have no idea how this story will end; all I know is that I’m in for a long and bumpy ride and will fight till the end. Whether I win or lose… stay tuned folks!

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Muslim Blind Date – The Introduction

So fast forwarding 2 years from when I started this blog, a lot has happened. The London life zoomed past me without me even realising that all of this time had passed.

So I am no longer in my early or mid-twenties, which is very upsetting. So as you can imagine, the pressure of marriage is pretty high right now. I tiptoe around the subject, especially around my parents. They don’t even care about all the other things I’ve achieved in my life since I moved to London, because that’s not important in their eyes.

Last summer (or was it the year before that? I can’t remember to be honest) I gave into this pressure and signed up to an online dating site for Muslims. It was pure torture. The whole thing made me feel uncomfortable and caused me so much stress. But I’ll save that story for another blog post – it seriously needs it! After that experience, I felt like I had been put off the online dating scene for a while. It just wasn’t for me at that point in my life. I kept this quiet from my mum as well – I didn’t want to give her any ideas! But the downside was that my mum thought I was sitting here idle thumbed with no care in the world about finding a suitable partner to marry.

So the pressure got more intense and my mum used every opportunity she got to lecture me. You know the usual – hurting the family reputation by being an unmarried single girl living away from home; being a burden on parents (even though I didn’t rely on them for anything), stopping them from fulfilling their duties, not saving money for my imaginary wedding, oh and that I was causing her to develop some kind of depression because of all the stress she was putting on herself. Quite lovely eh?

I’ve been able to somehow ignore all of this for a while, because… London happens! But then the other day, I got the most random message. Out of the blue, an ex-colleague asked me how I felt about going on a blind date with her Bangladeshi friend, who I knew absolutely nothing about. I’m not going to lie, I did freak out a little… or a lot. I have never dated before, let alone go on a blind date! How do they even come about? Well… apparently like this!

I messaged my closest friends and they all freaked out too – more out of excitement rather than panic, unlike me. Whilst I got a brief description of the guy (his age, background, hobbies, etc), I freaked out even more. I was scared more than anything else – this was a world that was completely alien to me. My friends were telling me to just do it, what’s the worst that could happen? And I knew they were right; there was no pressure on me to actually marry the guy – just to meet him. So after a day of panicking, I plucked up the courage and gave the go ahead, so she messaged her guy friend who got back to her pretty much straight away and was up for meeting me.

OH MY GOD.

I had so many questions going through my mind… Did I really want to do this? Will this guy like me? What does he know about me? What even happens on dates – is it like the movies? What do we talk about? How do I dress? Where do we meet? And most importantly, how the hell am I expected to greet this person?

I think out of all the questions, the last one is the one that’s stressing me out the most. If I was meeting a friend, I would greet them with a big fat hug or squeeze. But what about when it’s practically a complete stranger – a Muslim male who could potentially become ‘somebody’ to me – how do I make a good first impression? Do I shake his hands? Do I go in for a gentle hug? Or do I just do an awkward on the spot wave and say hi? What am I supposed to do!?

I meet new people in my job every single day and have to be able to do a pitch on the spot – that seems so much easier to me now compared to this!

So my friend asked the guy to choose where to meet and I was asked to suggest a weekend when I am free. And now I just have to get myself there, looking half decent, to be wooed or to woo the guy myself. This sounds like hard work and I am freaking out. It’s not even the thought of keeping a steady stream of conversation going, because my friends and I know very well that I could talk for England. But it’s everything else that goes with it.

I don’t fit the typical Bangladeshi girl mould – I am not that pretty, or skinny, or really religious and I don’t wear a headscarf. I’m sure I could add so many other expectations to this list. But with this being a blind date, this poor guy doesn’t even know any of this. When I shared these thoughts and feelings with my friends, they just didn’t get it. Instead they got annoyed with me for thinking and saying such things about myself because apparently I’m an incredible person. But they are my friends, they have to say these things. I am a realist and not delusional, so I do tell it as it is.

I have no idea how to cope with these nerves or this weird type of stress. It’s so strange to me… Somebody help me!

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