Lines. Directions. I’m standing on a plane, where vertical and horizontal axis of directionality cut off my limbs. I attempt to extent into non-normative spaces. I sense a greater pull towards certain orientations, towards certain ways of being that are acceptable in the family sphere. These ways of being clash with my own object/desire/orientations. Ahmed explains how we are conditioned through constant repetition towards certain directions for our desires where “to be ‘in line’ is to direct one’s desires toward marriage and reproduction; to direct one’s desires toward the production of the family line” (74). This is what is expected—follow the pattern of heteronormative life cycles, to become what it is you came from. That, in itself, evolved and arrived through the same type of history until it is invisible entirely. I concentrate. Suck in my breath to hold my shape and hold my color. This life I am given is a gift, a gift from my parents, an arrivant I’ve (un)happened upon that demands a return. Because the gift of life is a gift that requires some form of gratification---that: “there is a demand that we return to them by embracing them as embodiments of our own history, as the gift of life” (90).
My mother approaches me. She is stern, tired. Yet she will not yield until my limbs are wrapped in a bridal sari. You’re of that age now, she tells me. Meet with a few suitors. You’ll continue to study, but this is something you need to take seriously. My skin boils. I am out of place. She begins to shame me—thoughts of hell. Good Muslim girls marry good Muslim boys and produce strong, bouncing children. It is the Sunnah of the prophet. It is the tradition which has come to be for the past thousands of years. Marital bliss. Ceremony. These are all the things she has envisioned from her past to mark the direction of my future. Patterns. Practice. You’ll learn to love it. You’ll learn to be happy just like the rest of us. She hands me her al-Quran. It feels heavy in my hands; something that was so familiar to touch has lost its meaning, has lost its matter. For me, it is no longer a holy scripture, no longer whispered love poems from god. Dead pages of a text shrivel beneath my fingertips. She tells me to read. Read from it the way god made the prophet read from inside himself. Read from it the way my father would as I sat on his lap as a child. Read from it the way I should know how.
But I can’t.
And I don’t know how to bring myself back because I don’t want to straighten my act. I’m unwilling to negotiate my personal orientations even though they seem to queer up her spaces. Because I could be happy if not for her sorrow. I am in pain, as she is in pain, for “it is the intimacy of this pain and grief, as the ‘point’ at which bad feelings meet…such lines are also the accumulation of points of attachment” (75). She thinks me some kind of blemish to our family’s name—a name which matters as much as bodily form because it is transcendent across generational gaps. She believes that as a girl I should desire a marriage, I should desire a good husband, a strong family, a safe space of domesticity. She can’t fathom where the will to defy convention comes from. Such strange, unhealthy behavior, she tells me.
Referencing Queer Phenomenology by Sara Ahmed