In my mother’s tongue, girls are nazuuk–
frail and fragile beings with thin limbs and glass bones.
Within this predestined definition, we live by a certain set of rules, a code that preserves our ‘delicate’ nature:
We are sought after to be as white as the moon, waxed fresh and new. To be like dandelions, pulling on the skin of a flower in every place we may feel like a weed. To be as beautiful as sparrows, as long as each wing is clipped. We are told to cut up our big personalities into bite sized pieces, while swallowing our voices whole—
–as if loud women are contagious. Of course, how uncomfortable must it to be to consider breaking the silence in which women have been unlearning who they are for centuries.
To be nazuuk, we must be soft. Every morning we begin the day by sanding down our edges, making ourselves smaller. By scraping back scales until we are pliable, plucked, pristine packages waiting to be unwrapped. By learning to carry the weight of silence on the small of our backs.
With such a fate, I can’t help but be thick-skinned. My bones live inside an armor of fiery flesh, scales thriving, glowing against a backdrop of muted history.
After generations of caged women, I have filled my hollow body with will and trained myself to fly without wings.
If this means that I am no longer beautiful,
so be it.
By Gia Farooqi