Ramadan Around the Corner

My friend sent me an email about Ramadan. The 15th of the month of Shaban just passed, I think. Those things fly by me because I don’t really have daily interactions with Muslims. I think Ramadan is coming at the end of September. That’s the same time school starts. I can’t really front. And I’m only now trying to think of my survival strategies. After my first horrific fast when I got really sick and passed out at one point, I sort of dread the announcement that the New Moon has been officially sighted. I always feel unprepared.

I can’t lie, fasting is hard. Sometimes I wonder if I can make it the month. Sometimes I wonder if I can make it through the day. I can barely keep my eyes open because my energy gets low. Everything becomes frustrating, my mind can’t process complicated ideas, my temper is short. Even when I take a nap during the day, I’m ready to have a melt down by 3 p.m. By the end of the first week I can sort of adjust to a disfunctional schedule. Last year when my friend’s Senegalese Wolof teacher saw me, he knew I was Muslim. I had that totally drained look of a faster 2 weeks into Ramadan. You see, unlike Christmas for Christians…nothing stops for us Muslims in in the West. And we pay, dearly.

Then there are all sorts of other dilemmas. Sitting at lunch meetings with my stomach growling as I try to maintain mental acuity. What about not going out with the BGSA women for a month because I should be doing good deeds with my non-fasting time. Or my internal debates over my dress code:” Is it extra bad if I wear that cleavage bearing embroidered blouse on Ramadan? tight jeans during Ramadan? I can’t ride my bike with that skirt!!” Avoiding the radio because 90 percent of the songs are going to make me think something haraam. God forbid I hear a song with lyrics like, “I say eeny meany miney mo, how many &*%$.. from the club wanna roll” when I’m starving myself and trying to transcend to a better spiritual state. Too bad I always forget to charge my iPod. I’ll try to do better this year.

And the biggest dilemma of all: what to do about faster’s breath. They have traditions that Allah loves the faster’s breath. But other people don’t. I sort of cheat. I gargle with Hydrogen peroxide and brush with tooth paste throughout the day. Many scholars frown upon this because there is a slight chance that we might injest some toothpaste. But because I have to interact with non-Muslims and I have to live with myself, I can’t walk around with the notorious faster’s breath. I avoid talking to people. Plus I hate talking with a dry throat.

There are Muslims who love Ramadan and all its challenges. But I can’t lie, fasting for a whole month sux. I try to wake up and eat before the sun rises. But that sometimes makes me hungrier later on. My metabolism goes out of control. I eat at night, eat everything, everything and anything tastes good. After Ramadan, I have to hit the gym to burn all those misplaced fat deposits. And I’m starvinnnnnnnnnn through the day. It especially sux when everything around you goes on as normal. Non-Muslims visiting Muslim countries during Ramadan hate not being able to get food. Ha!! Welcome to my world. At least they can sneak food at home. But me no, I get some respite for having a menses. Only time I’m happy when Aunt Mary comes to visit.

The Muslim festival marking the end of Ramadan is by no doubt a relief. But I hate the anti-climatic end to my month long process of food and sleep deprivation. Usually I have to go back to work. Everything goes to normal, nothing changes, no visiting friends and family. It is about as much fanfare as, secretary’s day sometimes. I know, no one in my family celebrates Eid. I think I received an Eid gift maybe once in like 13 years. It is a struggle to feel part of a community during that time. In the large crowds I’m usually grateful to find a familiar face and give quick salaams. My Muslim friends are off doing their family thing. If I go hang out with them, I’m sort of like a fifth wheel. So, I just go home and dream of a time when I could have my own Muslim family and we can make up some traditions of our own.

Ramadan was not so bad nor so lonely last year. Stanford always has nightly iftars (breaking of the fast). The food isn’t bad. Stanford has a lot of international students and some second generation Muslims. There are a few Muslims whose families came from Africa. But for two years I was the only African American Muslim convert. And I was the only African American Muslim grad student that I knew. There are few Muslim grad women. The few of us are working on overcoming our crazy schedules and cultural differences. Then, I have an interesting relationship with the undergrads. I’m sort of used to the awkwardness. And I know I’m the black sheep of the Stanford Muslim family, but they have embraced me. I guess I’m like a permanent international student, displaced and far from home.

So, here’s to another upcoming Ramadan. I’m going to try to get excited this time. Maybe if I reframe my perception about the whole thing. Ramadan has community and spiritual dimensions. Taking this journey has put me on a path of solitude. That’s part of being your own person, I guess. That is what Ramadan is about coming to terms with your most natural and human of desires and putting a reign on them. Sure, I suck on the self discipline side…but that lack of food may whip me into better shape. Having some resolve is a good thing, right?

Time wasters

Okay, I’m procrastinating big time right now. I have this paper deadline and I really hate it. I’m going to get started on it, for reals. But a new curse has entered our household. It is called basic cable. So, I’ve read all this stuff on slavery in Africa, the Sokoto Caliphate, and trading diasporas. I have 15 pages to write and about 25 hours to do it. I think I’m going to miss this deadline. I was really busy. We had this Barbecue on Saturday, house guests all week. And then, like I said, tv channels.

But that is not the kind of time wasters I’m talking about. I mean the real time wasters. Time wasters are those dead end relationships. People who are up in your face because they want to hear themselves talk. People who need constant attention in meaningless interactions. Looking back at the past two years, I think about some of time wasters who have monopolized my time. I’m really jealous of my time too. I sometimes wonder why some men want to be all in my face wasting my time. Maybe its because I’m pretty laid back and pretty open. Do I look and talk like I’m some fun-loving, adveturish air-head?Maybe I should act a little bit more diva-ish or something. I dunno, but I’d like for the time wasters to keep moving on. I’m making it my next mid-week resolution to swear off time wasters. I have proposals and exams to prepare for. Plus I need a side job tutoring rich brats. I can be far more productive if I avoid this breed of human beings. You know the time wasters I’m talking about. The people who message you and ask: “How are you doing this evening?” Or they ask for my IM address so they can chat up my precious spare time.

What about the men who want to fly in like they are on some kind of vacation and have me show them around? Look man, do I look like a tour guide? Dude, this is not your fantasy vacation. Creepy out of towners who write me that they want to meet me. Meet me for what? Because long distance poonanny has less strings attached than local poonanny? Anyways, what do I get out of it? I could have male attention to affirm my feminity, a meaningless interaction, or maybe some temporary physical gratification where I’m left wondering if the feelings were mutual or was I just being used.

I find local dating hard enough. It is often a cat-and-mouse game. Sort of like how long can I maintain his interest and avoid getting boned or left for someone else who will get down with him. I personally find dating obnoxious for all its games. And because I don’t like the game nor do I play by its rules, I really am unfamiliar with all the protocols of dating.

Anyways, there are tons of admonitions against Muslims dating. The whole halal-style meeting leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Plus I don’t have that good old reliable ethnic network where you can find out if a brotha is shady from word of mouth. And brothas are real quick to secure a marriage before all the dirty secrets come out. There goes the more natural, un-artificial way of getting to know someone before jumping into a relationship. Anyways, I’m not really interested in dating in the conventional sense. But at the same time, I’m not interested in hook-ups. That doesn’t mean that I’m not interested in getting to know people. It is all about bringing It with the right intentions.

Since few men are really approaching me with a realness and depth that I think I deserve I’ll substitute it for some other needs in my life. For instance, I could use a really great free translator. As far as the interactions I could really use, would be someone who is well read and a sharp intellectual. I would love to run into another academic who can help me in those intellectual quagmires I find myself in. Do they understand what the hell the subaltern school people are saying? Do they understand the shortcomings of World Systems Theory? Can they give me a break down of Heidegger? Can they help me through the murkiness of post-modern theory. More than anything I need a reliable editor who has a good turn around time. Often, I am let down by people who offer even the most simple feedback. Their follow through has left something to be desired. I resolved myself to not to turn my writing it its most vulnerable stages unless I am sure that my reader will help nurture my ideas and thoughts. So, I substitute real interaction and even real writing for this blog stuff. Now that I have wasted 50 minutes writing this blog…I supposed I can get back to writing these crappy papers.