I walk by myself, but I never walk alone!

Hi.

I know we’re all by ourselves here. Because others can’t stand hearing our voices. They never wanted to listen to us, and they never will. It’s because they’re afraid of questioning and understanding things deeply.

A story I can call ‘mine’ is just starting. Because until now, I was raised by parents who made a diseased society their judge; parents who hate each other, themselves and maybe even their children and I did everything they wanted from me directly or indirectly because I thought if I earn their appreciation I may earn their love. This means I did the things society wants from them too.

I was about 12 or 13. All of my girlfriends had their first periods, and I was the only one left. They would always tell: “Because I was on my period, my mom gave me thick socks in summer”, “My mom makes me drink lots of water”, “My mom bought us mother and daughter pads”. So when I had my period, I ran to my mother, who was in the middle of something in the kitchen, and I told her the good news. She said “Shush! Stop screaming! We get it!” and returned to her chores. So… where were the pads? The thick socks? The water? Pain killers? Nope! There it is, my world… That night, my mom came to me, while caressing my hair she told me I was not a child anymore, and my book of deeds* had been opened, one sin is written to men who saw me like “this” and two sins to me for making them see me, and if I wore a hijab, I would be so cute and it would suit me. Throughout the conversation, she kept caressing my hair. I was a child who needs love, like all children.

My mother loved my hair, and I loved my mother. She said it was a sin too; “God will burn you, you can’t get out of the hell.” This is the right way, everyone should do this, she said.

So the next morning I went to school wearing a hijab. We just started the 7th grade. But when I went to school, I realised nothing was the same as home. I didn’t understand what the right way was. My mom said everyone should be doing this, but no one was doing it except me. I didn’t want my friends to see me like this. I was so embarrassed. But I didn’t know how to turn back because that morning my dad smiled and appreciated me when he saw me, maybe he loved me for the first time. But my embarrassment never went away.

I told everyone it was a “secret among us”. I just wanted to be like my friends, like my age, as a child.

Hijab was banned at the school, thankfully. Every day I thought to myself, I thanked the people who banned it, my dad was watching the news in the evening, and when he saw students who had to take off their hijabs in front of the university to enter the school he’d call the people who banned it “bastards”. I, on the other hand, was praying that the ban would never get lifted. I looked like everyone in the class again.

Secondary school and high school always went on like this. In my high school years, my father used to drop me to school by car. I would sit in the car with my hijab, and when we entered the street, I would immediately take off my veil. My dad would understand that I didn’t want my friends to see me like this, but he wouldn’t say anything. He loved living like the truth didn’t exist. And when I entered school, I would fold my skirt and wear it above my knees. All of my childhood and my teenage years went on like this.

I left my small town to attend a great university I got in. We went to the registration day with my family and got to the campus with my dad. When he saw my soon-to-be classmates, he said: “At this enormous campus, I see the only girl who is both well-behaved and successful is you.” Maybe the others were rich, or they got here in their own ways too, but their success wouldn’t count because their hair, arms and legs weren’t covered.

It took a long time to understand how big of an emotional manipulation this was and how they shaped 22 years of my life. Of course, when the hijab ban was lifted in universities, my freedom was also taken away again. For the first time, I had to wear a hijab all day in school. I was never able to internalise this the four years I studied at the university.

Every day, I hated myself. Day by day, I lost my self-confidence and stopped talking to everyone. At the end of the 22 years of my life and 11 years of hypocrisy, I realised that I couldn’t look at myself in the eye, that I gave up going down 3 floors to go to the grocery store, that when the weather was so lovely, and the wind was blowing through my friends’ hair I always stayed home behind closed curtains, that I wanted to punch the men who harassed me since I was 12 even when all my body is covered, but I didn’t know how to do that, that in I always turned down the girls who came knocking at my door to go for a walk by saying I didn’t have anything ‘proper’ to wear…

Briefly, when I saw that I gave up the things I wanted to do to make my family love me and to make the society they adopted as a divinity not judge me, I confronted my family, crying, and told them I can’t do this anymore.

Now they’re busy putting on an act in front of everyone. On the other hand, I’m enjoying the sun changing the colour of my arms and the wind touching my hair after all these years.

Sometimes I go to the grocery store just because, and I go for a walk for the third time in a day just because. I walk by myself, but I never walk alone!

*Book of deeds is the book where the rewards (thawabs) and sins of a person are written by angels during their lifetime.

(Image: Diana Stoyanova)

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