Letters to My [Dearborn] Sisters: A Sequel
I HAVE SO MANY STRIKING, STUNNING SISTERS - I HAD TO STOP COUNTING. WHAT A BEAUTIFUL PROBLEM TO HAVE.
About a month ago, I posted "Are You A Dearborn Girl: 50 Ways To Know," and I was so humbled by the love letters I got in response. So many of my Dearborn sisters went out of their way to repost, or message/comment, letting me know that the post resonated deeply with them. It made me happy to know that my writing could create a sense of community, that i did my due diligence in telling parts of our wondrous stories. i really love you girls.
this whole #roadtorima and subsequent blogging journey has made me feel beyond blessed because it has attracted so many of my dearborn sisters into my life, some who never really left, and others whom i have recently met. either way, I know this is no coincidence at all. I needed you girls most this year, and god brought us together. thank you for being here.
I BELIEVE IN RECIPROCITY, SO THIS LETTER IS FROM MY HEART TO YOURS:
Dearest Dearborn Girl,
YES. EVEN IF WE'VE NEVER MET.
Why did we ever stop smiling at our sisters?
Who told us we should see each other in public and look the other way?
When did we start being so competitive?
why can't we wear our hearts on our sleeves?
Why have we stopped celebrating each other?
What are we so afraid of?
DID YOU KNOW THAT We're sisters?
YOU ARE ME AND I AM YOU.
In more ways than not.
I mean, we all try so hard to be different, and I'm not taking YOUR IDENTITY away from you, boo. But when we're really honest with ourselves, we're one in the same. Let me tell you how.
Like you, I look in the mirror and wonder what you all see in me. i know what I see. I look in the mirror and i see a girl who just wants you and the rest of our sisters to love me. I've always wanted you to be proud of me, regardless how well we knew each other. I always hoped that if you were to say my name, it'd be something like "Rima? Yeah she's doing her thing." I always hoped you would suspend your judgment. I always cared what you thought; i cared so much. I wanted you to forgive me for my immature phases, my slip-ups, the moments when you and I both know I wasn't being true to me - true to us. I wanted you to lend me a helping hand when I was down. I wanted you to think I was smart, beautiful, fun, cool, nice, etc.
I just wanted us to be sisters, and i still do.
But, like you, I acted like I couldn't care less what you saw in me. I wouldn't dare ask you to give me the love i needed from you, no way. I acted unfazed by your opinions or judgment, Like what you thought about me never crossed my mind. I acted unapologetic about my immature phases, slip-ups, the moments when we both knew I wasn't being true to me - true to us. I acted like I would think I was smart, beautiful, fun, cool, nice, etc. regardless what you thought. When I was down, I wouldn't even look up to see if your hand was there to help; i pretended i didn't need it. I PRETENDED like I DIDN'T WANT ANYThing to do with you. like i forgot what it meant to be your sister.
i just wish i knew Who told us to act so hard.
Who told us that vulnerability IS weakness?
That solitude is strength?
sisterhood is strength.
THIS IS ME RESISTING THE LIES AND SPEAKING MY TRUTH, IN HOPES THAT YOU WILL DO THE SAME:
The truth is that I love you. You mean so much to me; every single one of you. i don't care whether i know you or not, I see you. Like actually, truly see you. I want to hug you and apologize for all of the pain and hurt that the world has caused us, as women, as arab women, most of us, as arab muslim women. all of this pain that we've perpetuated by treating each other this way, BY WITHHOLDING THE LOVE WE WERE MEANT TO GIVE. I WOULD DO THINGS SO DIFFERENTLY IF I HAD THE CHANCE TO GO BACK, BUT I DON'T. SO, consider this my attempt at making up for lost time.
Being a Dearborn Girl was difficult. I spent THE MAJORITY of my adolescence terrified that I would do something to "ruin my reputation." i felt pressure to be perfect everywhere i went. we all dealt with this in some way, shape or form: a daunting urgency to DEFEND an identity that we haven't yet created for ourselves. THESE FEARS WERE MANIFESTED DIFFERENTLY IN EACH OF US. PERSONALLY, I always felt like a walking target. I constantly asked my friends what they would think of me if they didn't "know me know me." It seemed dramatic at the time, but this obsession with others' perceptions of me was my oppression in disguise. i spent the majority of my life drowning in our cultural taboos, i almost forgot that i could come up for air.
I failed to realize that I needed to build myself from the inside out, THAT, like you, I just NEEDED to be loved through it.
but THE DEEPEST form of OPPRESSION has ITS WAY OF MAKING YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'RE all alone in your pain. like you have no words to name it. IT'S CRAZY BECAUSE I look back and realize that I WAS CONSTANTLY creatING these fictitious stories about you girls. I told myself that you didn't like me. That you thought I was stuck up and spoiled. That you thought I was a goody-two-shoes. I had no real reason to think these things, I WAS JUST CREATING a reality BASED DIRECTLY ON FEARS AND INSECURITIES THAT I FAILED TO CONFRONT. BUT, I internalized this story NONETHELESS, AND I PROCEEDED TO HARDEN MYSELF AND REJECT you, my sisters, BEFORE you COULD REJECT ME. after all, my fear was constantly telling me that, IF given the chance, you WOULD surely do the same.
i'm different now.
this has been a humbling several months for me, and honestly, you have Helped humble me more than anyone else.
i think about you girls a lot.
THE TRUTH IS THAT I COULDN'T HAVE BEEN MORE WRONG ABOUT YOU.
after Baba's death, I found myself gravitating towards my Dearborn community more than ever. Towards the people who know me know me, towards you. i didn't know why i felt those inclinations, and I didn't really try to figure it out. I knew that my heart and spirit must have known something that my mind didn't. and, like they tend to be, they were absolutely right.
You, my sisters, have loved on me. supported me. cried with me. laughed with me. cheered me on. pushed me. prayed for me.
you gave me such gentle reminders of who i am. even those of you whom i have never met in person. I get emotional even thinking about it, because you give me strength that i cannot feel anywhere else. Strength that I didn't even know existed. I can't even begin to tell you. i just feel safer with you. There is something different about prayer and praise when it comes from one of my Dearborn sisters. i look at you and i'm just so proud to call you my family.
I PRAY THAT EVERY GIRL CAN FIND A SISTERHOOD LIKE OURS.
you've given me so much, and i am going to give back. this love letter is only the beginning of an already beautiful kinship. stay tuned, ladies.
all i ask in return is that we stop believing the lies and start believing in love.