my mom didn’t feel like going to work today so she decided to work from home. i was doing the dishes and she was typing away on her laptop when she brought up a lady we both know. she said, “i told farxiyo she should leave him, and she said if i left him where would i go?”
we talked about the choices we make in relationships, the choices we are forced to make, the choices we have the privilege of making.
farxiyo works so hard. her husband is never home. her husband didn’t help her raise the kids. he spends all day driving his taxi around town.
[we never talk about how diaspora hurt our men. we don’t talk about how our men can’t be the men their fathers were. what happens to an image once it is eviscerated? what do we do with that loss? our men leave, or they stay out too late, they work too many hours a day.]
and what do our women do? my mama said once her and her sister ayaan had a two hour long conversation about divorce. ayaan said no, never. my mama said if i’m not happy i’ll leave. my grandma said, divorce? i beg allah none of you ever go through the shame of it. my mama said to hell with shame. unhappiness is a form of shame.
how many of the choices we make in relationships are made out of shame? as a young girl with your legs uncrossed they say ceeb. later when you disagree ceeb. when you tell the truth about your marriage ceeb.
we talked about our own family; my mama said she wants her sons to be nothing like her brothers. she said she taught us to disagree, to be loud in our refusal, to own our bodies and our opinions even when we are afraid to.
she didn’t grow up at home. her father died when she was young, and she was sent to live with an older sister. she said she grew up on her own, she was independent from a young age, not a girl living under her father’s roof. when she got married she already knew she would have to fight tooth and nail to retain that independence.
she said my dad used to get annoyed when they would go to stores and events and she would speak on their behalf. he felt it diminished him as a man. she said no one’s ever spoken for me before, and i’m not about to let anyone now.
we talked about power in relationships. what it looks like. where are men taught to assert power, to usurp it (to illegitimately seize and express it)? and where are women taught to relinquish it? and why are women taught to relinquish it? because fighting is ceeb because we say u dulqaado we tell our daughters to turn the other cheek/ to bear the weight/ bear the burden in pain, in turmoil, in silence.
we say nurture. we ignore how nurturing turns into submission. we say take care of things, but we don’t teach our daughters to take care of themselves. we teach our daughters to make sacrifices, we say again and again u dulqaado, we teach them to bear the burden, that to love is to lose (independence and self). (warsan shire: how far have you walked for men who’ve never held your feet in their laps)
we say give and expect nothing in return- we say give and give and give until there is nothing left. we learn that love is a form of martyrdom. we spend our whole lives trying to be like our mothers.
by Jamila Osman
(photo credit: Fatuma Mohammed Said and Amina Ahmed Abdi (mother of ten), Somali refugee camp, Mandera, Kenya, 1992. / Fazal Sheik)