All posts by shadibozorg

Bless This Cursed Year

It’s been a year since I moved away from comfort. I decided to jump onto a plane and seclude myself away from everything I was familiar with. It’s been a bumpy, uncomfortable, spectacular journey. I had no idea what I was in for, but I learned quickly. Toronto is tough, I can be relaxed to a fault. I definitely got a little chewed up by this city, but I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t ask for it.

I didn’t leave Vancouver because I don’t love what I have there, I just wasn’t growing anymore. It was too easy. I needed adrenaline. I needed a high that wasn’t chemical. I did it for my career, for the story, for the hell of it.

Life was ready to teach me a lesson or forty, but also to show me how lucky I am.

I got off the plane and moved in with two charming fellas in The Village. It was only fitting. I had a lot of fun. Too much fun. Just enough fun.

I found a long lost sister in Sara, and we decided to live together. We moved everything by foot, by ourselves down 5 city blocks because we were too spent to get a u-haul or to ask for help. We lived without wifi for 2 weeks. Chaos can bring people really close together.

I dated enough to live out my Sex and The City fantasy. And then when I was least expecting it, I found a man that altered my view on love.

I became an undeniable cliche; a struggling writer working as a waitress, a sales girl, a barista. I learned to swallow my pride because being an adult is expensive. Only after that was I commissioned to write a feature script.  Funny how that works out.

I lost too many members of my family and a friend. I was put face to face with what death does to the living. I went through a heavy heartbreak.

I learned that nothing worth having comes easily, but you can laugh the whole time if you keep your perspective in check. Sometimes you have to grab a tight hold of it.  Sometimes it gets away from you, you can still get it back.

Not everything works out the way you want it to. Not everyone is who you think they are, or who you want them to be.  No one has your back more than you do. And that’s all okay.

I discovered that unwavering support from people you love doesn’t fade because of distance. I learned how to live without my mom’s cooking, or getting to hug her all the time. Free therapy from my sister came via text rather than from her couch. I learned to be without my perfect friends and family for the first time in my life. I also figured out that people love an excuse to get out of Vancouver. I was grateful to be that excuse.

No one from back home is replaceable, but they don’t need to be replaced. They hold their own place. People everywhere have soul. There’s love in any corner you look, as long as you’re willing to see it. Sometimes you have to do some weeding, but you’ll find it.

I learned how to be happy when everything seemed to be wrong, strong when I felt my weakest.

I learned that despite all the shit we have to go through on a daily basis, life is so beautiful it hurts.

And now I’m at the airport on my way home for the first time since I left, but I’m ready to do it all again in two weeks.

This was the hardest year of my life, it was for a lot of people around me. But I wouldn’t change a thing. A perfect storm. Even though the world seems like it’s falling apart, even though sometimes people are painfully confusing. Nothing matters except how we go on. You get up and show up.

Here’s to this beautiful, sad, difficult, learning year. To being torn down, beat up, getting up, standing tall, and doing it better. This time stronger, this time more focused, this time with all the lessons we’ve learned.

Enjoy your life. Enjoy being here today. Enjoy being around the people you’re surrounded by. Enjoy being you. This life is a blessing, it’s just that sometimes it comes disguised.

Merry Christmas x

You got the light, count it all joy.

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Asking For It

Last summer I took a trip to LA. The second to last night I was there I went out to a bar and someone I was talking to roofied my drink.

I was lucky. What he didn’t realize was that I was with my best friend. I could tell something was wrong. I went back to our place with her and I passed out cold for nearly 12 hours.

I woke up the next day feeling physically worse than I ever have in my life. I was a disoriented, non-functional, hungover mess. I had one drink that night. It was painful, but I eventually recovered and went on with my trip.

It never struck me how completely messed up that experience was until recently. It was more like, “yeah, it’s bound to happen sometime” rather than “what just happened to me”. I realize that’s primarily because I got out of it without serious damage done to me, but I never fully took in the other side of things.

I was in a foreign country, and this man knew that. He seemed like a decent guy. He was nice to talk to, I’d even go as far as saying we we’re hitting it off. Clearly, there was enough trust established between us that made me forget the “never look away from your drink” rule.

So, why did he roofie me?

Is it a fetish? Is it a power thing? How can someone prey on an unconscious human being?

Talking about sexual assault makes people uncomfortable. What about it, exactly? The fact that someone would be willing to rape someone while they’re practically dead, and why they want to do that. The fact that someone would perceive sex as something that can be taken without consent, and why they grow up believing that.

That’s why I brushed it off, because thinking about why he would do that any further made me uncomfortable.

What bothers me now is how okay I was with it in my thought process.  I didn’t tell many people, because nothing happened. I didn’t let it define my trip, because nothing happened.

But what if it did?

This is a normal occurrence. It’s an “it happens” kind of thing. I felt like it was my own fault. Why? Because we currently believe it’s more important for a woman to watch her drink like a hawk than to teach men not to rape.

We question the victim rather than the attacker.

Admitting a sexual assault happened, that it happens frequently, and that it happens as if it’s normal is hard on society. This is because it would ultimately be admitting that there’s a severe underlying problem within us. We have trouble doing that, you see.

It makes people groan when 1,2,3, or 50 women come forward and accuse someone of rape because they think that they’re seeking attention. It’s 2016 and a sexual assault lawsuit is considered an attention grab.

And if that’s not enough, somehow the subject of sexual deviance is taboo. Not sex, because sex is where the money is. Sex, when you plaster it on a billboard to sell beer, is A-okay. But talking about unwanted sex, and what we should to stop it, is just too much. Discussing the actual problem, rather than the aftermath, seems too far fetched for some reason.

Don’t get me wrong, sexual assault cases make it to mainstream media. That’s once they’ve already become cases. You can discuss the person abused, you can rip them apart and pinpoint all the things they did wrong to make a sexual assault happen to them, but you rarely hear about the actual abuser and why they do what they do. No, that’s not something we ever want to talk about. We focus instead, on the victim, we don’t ask questions about the person that created one.

Admitting that objectification and power is the root cause, especially in recent years, would require society to take blame for an issue that we would rather remain a “personal problem”. But the truth is, sexual assault is not a personal problem. Yes, there are broken individuals who take advantage of others, and they should be held accountable on an individual level, but when will the rest of us own up to creating this narrative for women and men who are sexually assaulted? This  “it happens” and “it must have been your fault”, followed by little to no repercussions for the assaulter, is the landscape we’ve created.

I realize now that being casual about being roofied was a problem. Teaching girls to prevent getting harassed rather than teaching boys to not do it in the first place is a problem. Selling women as objects in the media is a problem. Brushing off women and men who come forward as attention seekers is a problem. These are the things we can’t seem to admit to.

People don’t want to be made uncomfortable, they don’t want to think for a second that they are feeding into an issue, so we brush them under the carpet. But guess what? The carpet can’t cover it all anymore.

Acceptance, admission, and accountability.  It’s a process.

When we stop avoiding the issue because it’s a touchy subject, victim blaming, and letting sexual assault be treated like a slap on the wrist, we can actually move forward. I’ve heard people say this is something we can never prevent “because evil people will always do as they will” but I don’t believe that. I believe by educating young men and women equally on what sexual assault is and what it does to us as individuals and as a society, we can begin to not only hold people accountable to it, but prevent it from happening so frequently.

Next time you roll your eyes at a woman in the media discussing her rape, next time you brush off a girl who says she was taken advantage of at a party as her being too drunk, next time you allow yourself for a second to forget that this all happens because of the current narrative in our society, just step back. Consider what these victims go through.

Consider how drastically someone’s life changes when this happens to them. Consider how you can change your own dialogue, and perception of sexual assault. Consider what you shrug off as nothing; the words you use, the experiences you go through. Do something to shift this current mindset and landscape of sexual assault, because it is possible. We’ve just let it become so unfairly one-sided that people can blur lines without any consequences. It’s time to start seeing clearly.

You’re a Queen, too.

Did you know that it’s completely possible to let go of the negativity that you build up in your head? It sounds like bullshit, but it’s true.

In my 25 years of existence, I’ve spent a significant amount of time and brain power focused on the things I hated about my appearance. I’ve gone through extreme measures to put myself down. I used to find solace in starving myself until my body couldn’t take it anymore, I’ve fluctuated in my weight more times than I can count. I frequently looked in mirrors and convinced myself that there was nothing right about me. My legs. My arms. My face. My feet, even. There were moments where I felt like all I’d ever be was the girl with the winning personality and losing looks. I was always the funny one, and never the beauty queen. And no matter how many times people tell you you’re great, for some reason you still want to be the beauty queen. I wonder why.

Up until a couple of years ago I let that be my status quo, I figured it was just the way I was meant to feel. No matter how much weight I lost, or how long my hair grew, or how much money I spent on clothes, nothing could change my mind. Anyone in the world could have told me I was beautiful and I wouldn’t believe it for a minute. I assumed they just felt pity.

The worst part about my history of self-hatred is that it’s completely “normal”.

Now, I look at pictures of myself from back then and wonder how I could have ever been so hard on myself. I wonder why I devoted so much of my energy discrediting my existence because of something completely superficial, because of some kind of outside bullshit source that swayed me towards thinking so little of myself. This world isn’t easy for anyone, but the self sabotage that comes from comparing yourself to other people on an exclusively external basis is horrifying.

I see people plastered all over magazines and screens, all the Instagram models, I see my own friends going through changes that make me sad. Not because I feel like what they’re doing isn’t okay, but because I just want them to snap out of it and see what I see. It wasn’t until I came out of my delusion that I realized how much happier I could have been that whole time. We live in a day and age where you do what you want to empower yourself, whatever that may be. I don’t judge plastic surgery, but I just wish you didn’t have to cut up your face to feel beautiful.

There’s another way. Unfortunately that solution is often lost in the completely image driven social world we live in now. But listen, having a winning personality has gotten me further in my life than being a beauty queen would have. The things that truly matter were presented to me, and I was able to find a deeper meaning in all of this chaos. I considered the nose job, the lip injections, the anything to make what I had slightly better, but I could never ignore my intuition begging me to step back and look at the bigger picture.

Again, you do what makes you feel good, but consider the measures you’re taking to get there. I once truly believed only eating cucumbers and smoking cigarettes made me feel good. I told myself that it would bring me to my place of peace, if I just kept it up for a little longer. Guess what? It didn’t. Every time I did it, something would trigger me and the cycle would begin all over again. Putting in fillers and pulling your face back, spending hours looking at other people and having body envy, spending thousands of dollars on procedures and clothes you really don’t need  are all temporary fixes. But because we believe in doing whatever it takes, we often forget to consider the repercussions.

Being self-conscious is completely internal. I could see the beauty in everyone, but refused to see it in myself. Now I include myself on that list. No, I never got to my ridiculous goal weight, I never got a nose job or injected my lips. In fact, I recently got the worst haircut I’ve ever had. But I’m still good. And I’m not being smug about that, I’m saying that even given the slums I was in with myself, I got all the way out. To the point that I will never look back again. And until the day I die, if you ask me, I will tell any one of you that you don’t need any of that shit.  Because you don’t.

I think it’s absolutely possible for anyone to get to a point where they’re happy with what they have. I genuinely recognize that certain procedures can empower you and truly give you confidence, but I’m begging you to draw the line. You are beautiful. You are. Xtina wasn’t lying. Look inside yourself. The more value you put on the way you look, the dimmer your light gets, the less you really shine. Don’t be fooled by Instagram and celebrity and fame and clubs and VIP sections. It’s all bullshit. Do you love yourself? Do you love who you are?

I had to learn to love myself. I went to war before I found peace, but I truly found it. I’ve been crazy in love a couple of times before, but I’ve never been as in love with anyone else than I am with myself today. Some may call that conceited, but what some say doesn’t determine shit. Put yourself first, and recognize who yourself really is. Is she the person that wants to cut up her face for some kind of validation?

Don’t get me wrong, I still have days, I still have moments. But I’ve accepted myself as the queen I am. Because, and I truly mean this, fuck anyone that would want me to think otherwise. I owe it to myself to treat myself as best as I know how, and so do you. I always made my biggest effort to be the best friend I could be to others, and I finally learned how to do it for myself too. That’s what you do. You learn to love your own company. You learn to be your own best friend. Would you tell your best friend the things you tell yourself when you’re putting yourself down? Be there for yourself.

I will never tell anyone what to do, and I will never judge anyone for the things they do to make themselves feel better. I just want every single girl who has spent even a quarter of the time I did in front of that mirror, silently shouting insults to myself, to break out of it. It’s a waste of time, it’s a waste of you, and it’s not real. Underneath it all, your mind, your soul, and your serenity is all you truly have. The rest is fleeting.

And you, my dear, are a queen. Act like it.

Runaway Bridesmaid

When my sister told me she was getting married, I was overjoyed. When she asked me to be her maid of honour, I said yes without a doubt in my mind. I knew she wasn’t going to get married on the beach at sunset with daisies in her hair. It would be a go-big-or-go-home kind of wedding, complete with an itinerary, centrepieces, a seating chart, Pinterest inspirations and stress. Oh, there would be stress. I was promised this the day I was given my responsibilities. Okay, I told myself; I can deal with stress. I assumed my sister and her groom were over-exaggerating so I wouldn’t feel overwhelmed.

They weren’t.

The pressure of planning a perfect day is intense, to say the least. You need the perfect venue, you have to invite everyone you possibly can within a budget, hire the right photographer, videographer and DJ. You have to make sure the food and alcohol situation is as good as it can be. You have to find the perfect dress, the perfect shoes, the perfect veil, the perfect bouquet, the perfect tux. The perfect… Perfect. It all has to be perfect.

After learning first hand what wedding planning took, I decided against having one of my own. This one would be enough for me. I didn’t get it. Why do this to yourself? Why spend all this money and time just to freak out that the flower arrangements were wrong? It dawned on me that the entire idea of a wedding was a big conspiracy. I began theorizing while sitting at my desk for the third hour surfing Nordstrom’s like an Internet zombie, trying to find the right bridesmaids dresses. Suddenly I had this big epiphany that weddings are total and complete bullshit.

Two weeks before the day, my stress was visible: I found three gray hairs and started drinking espresso. I was constantly texting or calling someone to make sure everything for the bridal shower was flawless, that everything was running smoothly. Do everyone’s dresses fit? Are these cupcakes the right colour? There was a checklist going off in my head, and I wasn’t even the one doing the actual planning. Why were my sister and her fiancé, two otherwise very intelligent and level-headed people, doing this to themselves?

Finally. The bachelorette party was done, the bridal shower was done, and it was Friday, the eve of the wedding. Everything was ready to go — a year’s worth of planning complete and set up for the next day. And suddenly it happened. The stress left my body that night and was replaced by an excitement I’ve never felt before — an excitement that had nothing to do with me, but everything to do with the love I have for my sister. The big day was here and the minute she put her dress on I started to cry. Just a day ago I had decided weddings were total bullshit, and now there were tears of joy running down my face.

This transformation carried on throughout the day. No matter what happened, it happened perfectly. Our limo driver almost ran someone over, we were late for the ceremony, my hair looked terrible — but everything was tranquil.  At the end of the night I stopped for a minute and saw an entire dance floor full of people, people who were all there to celebrate love, dancing together — happy, drunk and letting loose. I realized that this wedding had brought happiness to them all. On what other occasion would I witness this? The joy I felt that day was something I’ve never felt before in my life. Looking at the couple and seeing how in love they were on their night… all the stress, the gray hairs, the yelling — it was all worth it in the end.

I learned something valuable that day: never get caught up in superficialities, but also don’t deny yourself of what you want. This wedding had everything a traditional wedding has, including stress, but the magic in the room was louder than everything that went into making the night. You can plan and plan, and try your hardest to make your dream wedding come true, but never let that get in the way of the reason you’re there to begin with. TV shows and magazines have turned weddings into a business; planning a wedding can be enough to break a couple up or make them go broke. It’s important to remember why you’re doing it and who you’re doing it for. Your wedding night should be everything you want it to be, but what you want should be by your standards, not by those of some reality show on TLC. Do it for you and your loved ones and nothing else. After all, there is no price-tag on true love; it will shine through no matter what.

Meet: Arti

Arti Naidu knows her purpose in this world- to give new mothers the birth of their dreams. For many women, pregnancy is an emotional and spiritual journey beyond any other, but the actual process of giving birth hasn’t always had the greatest reputation. That’s where Arti comes in.

A model and aesthetician, Arti has always had an interest in making women feel beautiful, happy and at peace. After meeting a number of new mothers and pregnant women in her line of work as an aesthetician, she developed a fascination for the process of birth. This moved her to train to become a doula. Her passion about a procedure that so many females fear is a little bemusing to me at first, but as she continues to speak of the emotional journey of a birth, I begin to understand why she’s so spirited about it.

Arti has a firm grasp on the energy around her, and she knows that she can utilize that power to help women during one of the most challenging events that they will ever go through. The job of a doula is to be an emotional supporter of the mother-to-be, but also to maintain a calm and positive energy in the birthing room. She meets with the parents a number of times beforehand and discusses their hopes, fears, and everything they want out of the day- the bulk of her attention being on the needs of the mother. She calls this the planning of the birth party, and suddenly the entire thing sounds exciting to me.  She sets up the birth room just as the mother wants it, making sure she is surrounded by things that will bring her comfort and joy. On the day, she’s all in: whether her support be through encouraging words, hand holding, making sure the mother is physically comfortable, or even being there for the partner. She’s there to provide peace and tranquility, a feeling that will transfer to the baby.

“Strong emotional imprints are already being made on your baby during birth. ” She emphasizes the importance of the energy in the room, and the needs of the mother during the entire process. “So many women have told me that they felt there was no one there to ask them what they wanted, or why they were in so much pain, and sometimes they couldn’t even verbalize what they wanted. That’s what I’m there for.” The purpose of a doula is to ensure that the birth, a memory the mother will hold onto for the rest of their life, is a positive and happy journey. I tell her that the thought of giving birth doesn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy inside, but rather fills me with a large amount of anxiety, and she laughs. She assures me that it’s common and completely normal, but it’s not the way it should be.

“In the past, so many women died, hospital births were brutal. The spiritual journey of the birth was lost. But now we have the opportunity to change that.” The relationship with her clients is simple- what do they want? She makes a point of getting to know their personalities, asking what they would like to see happen, learning their birth plan and then monitoring the birth to ensure that everything is as it should be. “If you put your fear aside and don’t let birthing scare you, and you think instead of what your dream birth would be, what the environment that puts you in a calm place would be, then it can be the most amazing journey of your life.”

Arti’s passion about her line of work is both inspiring and comforting; in our two hour long conversation she made me see birth in a completely new light. The significance of a doula is relatively new in Western culture, but on a steady rise. “I just want women giving birth to be as comfortable as possible. As a mother, you don’t have a lot of control when the time comes, and giving up that control is difficult. You have to put it into the hands of people you completely trust and are comfortable with. People that are there to make you feel at peace.”

Hair and Make Up by  Kym D from Swank Makeup
Arti’s Instagram @vamalifewellness

The Tiptoe Method

The word ‘commitment’ used to stand for security and assurance, but now it’s often associated with deep rooted anxiety. Fair enough. When the options seem endless how could a concept as cementing as commitment come naturally to us? Thanks to rapidly evolving technology, we’ve come to a point where there’s always something else out there. Something better, shinier, newer, more compatible. It’s hard to settle down when an abundance of choices are available right at your fingertips. How do you commit to one if you haven’t experienced the rest? Jobs, apartments, phones, outfits, plans, and people. Everything has become effortlessly replaceable.

This never-ending supply we’ve found, no, created for ourselves, has caused us to seek shelter under a shield of avoidance when the time comes to actually decide what the fuck it is we want. We tiptoe around it, avoiding the ultimatum that this kind of thing brings us to. Am I done looking for the next best thing? Is this the one I want to stick to? Am I sure? Will I ever be?

It’s often a subject we prefer to leave unspoken. There’s no hard feelings if it’s never discussed, no stress, just keep moving along. Avoiding it means we don’t have to answer any questions. In dating, it’s easier to just assume we’re all open for business until you have “the talk”. When the time comes to talk about it, it kind of feels like the walls are sinking in. It’s time to decide, it’s time to actually commit to one thing. Instead, we all keep fucking around for a while longer, avoiding the issue, sweeping all our responsibilities under the rug to deal with later.

And yet, we’re only human, despite how close we’re getting to becoming half machine. Having feelings for someone does still come naturally, that part is unavoidable. It’s just the entire process afterwards that we all seem to be running from. Even if you think you have feelings for someone, you keep seeking out your options. Keep swiping. Keep going to clubs. Keep running through partners and having meaningless sex just because we aren’t sure when the time will ever be right, when just one person will ever be enough, who will ever be worth fighting for. People have become replaceable and therefore disposable. It’s as easy as a swipe of a finger.

It’s probably also vital to recognize that we are dubbed the “me” generation. We put ourselves first, which isn’t a bad thing to me for the most part. It’s driven me in my career and also taken me out of many shitty situations with people I knew better than to stay in. But the “finding yourself” excuse eventually wears out. When do you stop finding yourself? Never, I hope. I hope I continue to learn new things about myself until the day I die. I think that’s the beauty of life. The issue seems to be that we’re afraid to grow with just one person.  Is it just a defence mechanism to avoid someone seeing you in a place of vulnerability or is it purely selfish?

Of course, there’s also the fact that past relationships have fucked us up, as they do. People who you may have given your heart to that tore it to shreds. Relationships that you may have tried fighting for that just never seemed to work. We’re all scarred and that has led us to become kind of petrified to dive in again. Save a headache. We often sidestep from actually getting into anything serious because we have post traumatic stress from events prior.

Personally, I stay open with how I process my feelings. If they exist, you should know about them. I wasn’t always this way. I’ve been fucked over, used, I’ve hurt others, I’ve shut off my emotions, I’ve drowned my issues in substances and meaningless sex. But none of that was satisfying to me. I decided at some point that I wouldn’t conceal the way I felt because that would be lying not only to myself, but the person I was with. I’ve experienced different reactions to this. Some react in fear, some in the classic “she’s crazy”, and some go for it because it’s right to them too. The best relationships I’ve been in were built around this communication. And although they ultimately resulted in breakups, they were amicable and with people I still consider friends. That’s because there was nothing hidden, and therefore no feelings seriously hurt. I didn’t tiptoe then, and because of it I never fell over and hurt myself.

Those experiences had me set on continuing to stay open, but recently I’ve found myself tiptoeing around too . Maybe it’s because I’m in a new city, maybe it’s because I’m not ready, or maybe it’s just because tiptoeing causes me less grief. But I learned that the tiptoeing thing is what actually makes me act crazy. It’s what makes me have assumptions and conceal my feelings and therefore not communicate properly – the opposite of where I want to be.

What I’m saying is that the tiptoe method is bullshit. It’s built on a foundation of bullshit and it will continue to cause our generation to dive even deeper into the bullshit dating scene we’ve created for ourselves. Yeah, we have fun. Yeah, we’re wild. Yeah, date and sleep with whoever the hell you want, but don’t deny that it all gets old and it can leave you empty. It’s important to have fun and be single and empower yourself, but denying yourself of the things you truly want just because that’s where society is at is, you guessed it, bullshit.

Being afraid to jump into something will cause you to deprive yourself from an experience you could have had. We keep saying ‘everything happens for a reason the way it should’, but if you’re gonna cliche, you better double up- life is also what you make of it. We lose out when we cower away from each other. We miss something so big. Something, that in my opinion is the entire meaning of life. In all this hoopla and craziness that our world is comprised of, it’s the only thing that really makes it all worth it. Ask yourself, while you’re working and building and creating and growing and living and finding yourself, do you have magic in your life? Do you want it? Is it missing?

That tiny, giant L-word.  Four letters that either make no sense whatsoever or make all the sense in the world, depending on where you’re at. But love is all this is about, in the end anyway. You miss a big part of life when you avoid it. Love is a pool on a uncomfortably scorching day and we tiptoe around it, looking at it, wondering when we’ll be ready to jump into it while we stay burning under the sun in the process. We all want it, but some people never jump in. Some people fear they’re gonna drown. Some just hate swimming because they never learned to do it right. But eventually your feet get tired from the tiptoeing and only once you’re laying down by yourself you realize that you may have given up something you really wanted.

If you’ve been in love and you’ve been hurt, you know that you’ll never fully be sure of anything again- until you actually try it. The unknown is okay. The unknown is actually the best part. I say dive in. Life is too short. Time is fleeting. Fear is helpless. Be a little reckless with your decision making, and give your feet a rest.

 

God Blessed My Persian Face

When I was in elementary school I was made fun of for a number of reasons. Being a visible minority in the 9/11 era and living in a waspy neighbourhood sucked on a few different levels. One of my most vivid memories of these events was being told I was ugly because my eyebrows were thick and bushy and full of Persian life. The whole “sand n*****”,  “terrorist”, “get out of our country” thing was pretty bad too, but a lot of my childhood was filled with hating the way I looked because I wasn’t a white girl.

I remember going home and looking at myself in the mirror and resenting my heritage for causing me the struggle of not being totally hairless and blonde. One day after a notably bad recess break, I went home after school and took my sister’s razor. With the fierce determination to lessen “the damage” of my thick eyebrows, I went to town. I looked ridiculous, of course, because I was 11 and I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing.

Today, thick eyebrows are everything. Terms like “on fleek”, “on point”, “proper” have been used to describe a girl with eyebrows like the ones I once tried to eliminate from my existence. There are multiple memes floating everywhere praising the holy thick eyebrow. I’m not gonna lie, my eyebrow game is proper. Why? Because my eyebrows are thick as fuck because I’m Persian, and we are born into the world covered in hair. Which is still not okay, by the way. Just the eyebrows are okay.

I hated them until about 4 years ago. I would pluck them into tiny lines like the magazines just to avoid looking the way I was born to look. Now? Now it’s cool. Now I get compliments. Now there are white girls asking me “how I got them so thick” so they can snag some tips. The same type of girls who once called me ugly. Nope. Now I refuse to ever let Western media determine how I feel about myself, and this happened after I was finally validated by it. Funny, that something as minor as eyebrows could have caused my life so much grief. So sad and alarming at the same time.

The cultural appropriation conversation is typically pretty cringeworthy. It’s a lot of political correctness vs. ignorance vs. oversensitivity vs. a lack of empathy. It goes in all different directions. I’ve thought a lot about what it means to me. Am I guilty of it? What is it even really? Why can’t we all just get along and appreciate whatever we want? Because it’s not that easy.

I’m not even on the bad end of it. Eyebrows are universal, I know that. I’m not saying anyone is appropriating Middle Eastern eyebrows. I’m saying how come it’s only okay when a specific group says it is? What about headscarves? What about bindis? And crownrows? Headpieces? Where’s the line? What’s okay and what’s not?

Girls like me, who were shamed for looking a certain way and then later praised for it, often feel resentment towards the people who are now embracing what they once rejected. It’s not fair that it’s only “cool” to look a type of way after white girls do it. Plain and simple. It’s not fair that my friend was thrown rocks at for wearing a culturally traditional bindi and now some 18 year old chick from LA is wearing one to Coachella and being photographed for Nylon. It’s not cool that girls with afros were bullied into relaxing their hair, then told weaves were “ratchet” and now you can clock a weave on any given white girl. It’s not fair because it was never okay until someone else said it was, we were never given the choice and never given the chance to actually enjoy the way we looked or the things we did until someone else said we could. Yes, it’s important to empower yourself via yourself, but it’s hard to do so when you’re young and being bullied by both your peers and society.

There’s a big difference between appreciating and embracing other cultures and exploiting them. My experience has been that my “exoticness” was never really appreciated until certain aspects of my image were sought after. I’m a curvy girl. I feel good about that, but I grew up hating it. I wanted to be a size zero, something my body physically will never be. Now it’s okay for me to have thick eyebrows. Now it’s okay for me to be “thick”. Now it’s okay for me to be “exotic”. And that’s cool, thanks for seeing it, but it wasn’t until it became “okay” that I realized how fickle the media and society’s view on me are. Fuck that. Fuck that forever.

That’s why when someone gets offended by you possibly cultural appropriating them it’s best for you to take a minute to think about the journey they’ve gone through. The whole process of learning to accept themselves that they might have faced before you assume they should take it as a compliment. How sacred what you’re utilizing for fashion is to them. It’s never as simple as you think it is.

I’m flattered by every compliment I get about my skin tone, my eyebrows, my hair, my anything that was given to me thanks to my heritage, but I will never forget how this very society looked at me before. I’m not saying walk on eggshells, I’m not even saying stop doing certain things, I’m just saying that it’s important to recognize where the resentment comes from. Empathy goes a long way. Evidently, so do good eyebrows.