The Crush Conundrum

He was cute, blond and resembled a slightly chubbier version of a younger Nick Carter. But this guy’s name was Chad. We didn’t attend the same school but would see each other on a weekly basis at the hospital where we both volunteered. Thursdays were the best day of my life. *Sigh*

Yes that’s right, I had a crush in 9th grade and I’m not afraid to admit it. I think I had a crush on him partly because he was the first boy who didn’t mock my hairy arms (see my previous blog post for context) and actually took interest in talking to me like a human being. It was awesome. I didn’t understand why my heart would pound at the thought of Thursday approaching or why my stomach was in knots while I spoke to him, since my puberty talk was 5 minutes and consisted of “this is a pad, let’s not talk about tampons”. But hey, I had made my first male friend (notice I didn’t use the term boy friend, let’s not spread rumours here), and his respectful manners and our polite conversations were great. We agreed to exchange phone numbers so that we could chat after school. Nothing about dating was mentioned, we were friends...he was my crush, but we were friends.

I actually didn’t think that he would call, but he did. And guess who answered the phone?

My mom.

I felt like I was in an elevator free-falling down hundreds of storeys as my stomach promptly lodged into my throat. While we had done nothing wrong except exchange civil conversation and then phone numbers, a boy was calling for me. Let me re-iterate this...a boy was calling a Muslim girl’s house.

Chad asked to speak to me and my mom very calmly and politely told him that I wasn’t available and to please not call again. My mom then turned to me and said I’d be attending an all girls’ school next year. And that I’d be banned...banned!!!...from volunteering at the hospital and would never see my beloved Chad ever again.

And so, I went from having a crush to having my heart crushed in the span of 30 seconds. I think this event prevented me from ever again trying anything remotely close to what I did, which in the grand scheme of things, wasn’t that bad! I had given him my home phone number, and was well aware that our conversations would be audible. I really had nothing to hide, although my mom wasn’t quite so sure.

I have no qualms sharing this story publicly. I think us Muslims don’t talk enough about this stuff anyway. Instead, we label things as haraam (religiously forbidden) when in all honesty, they are not. Muslims are taught that having a crush is haraam, since parents feel as if using this term towards just about anything will be a shield from it. That is haraam, this is haraam! What parents fail to talk about with their children is that crushes in and of itself are not bad, but they can lead to other haraam actions if certain decisions are made. While the fear of Allah was not unleashed upon me by my mom, I was told that having these feelings was wrong. I have girls coming up to me in schools today, telling me that their parents are saying the same things. And it’s the year 2014.

“Where does it say in the Quran that it’s haraam to have feelings for the opposite gender?” they ask.

“I don’t feel comfortable talking to my mom about my crush, I’m worried she’ll over-react” they state.

Girls (and boys) need to know and understand that feelings towards the opposite gender are completely normal, functional, and not haraam. Premarital and extra-marital sex are haraam, this is clearly stated in the Quran. Muslims are not judged for what they think and feel...we are judged by our actions. So when a girl “confesses” to me that she has a crush on a boy at school, I congratulate her for being normal, healthy and having a hormonal and neurotransmitter mechanism that will come in handy in the future for the religiously-endorsed purpose of finding and settling down with a spouse. I don’t tell her what to do (“lower your gaze sister and fast to diminish your feelings”) since she probably hears that from her parents, Quran classes and countless Aunties. Instead, I ask her a series of questions that give her food for thought and remind her that she is ultimately accountable for her actions.

“So, tell me how you feel around this person? How do you feel about having these feelings? What do you plan to do with these feelings? How would your parents react if you choose to date this person behind their back? How do you define “ dating”? How would you feel when you reflect back on your past as an adult? How can you remain true to yourself? Are you alright with living a double life and hiding this from your parents?” are some of the questions I’ll guide the conversation with. I do talk about the snowball effect regarding physical affection and spending time alone with the opposite gender, since Islam is pretty clear about this. But rarely are teens admitting that this is where they’re at with someone.

But notice how I don’t give advice since not a single girl comes to me for advice. They just want an adult to hear them, not to preach back at them (as I’ve been asked many times not to!), and guide them towards making a responsible decision. I empathize when a girl cries because she’s worried that her crush is her “one and only.” I share my story with them and how there will be many future instances where they’ll be attracted to someone and Inshallah (God willing) someday one man will become their future husband when the time and place is right. They ask questions about dating, and whether it’s OK to hug or touch the opposite gender, and I do my best to answer in a religious way without preaching or judging them for their actions. Ultimately, these girls all know the answers to these questions. They’re smart, know right from wrong, and can distinguish between what their heart tells them versus their intellect.

Another important point that our community tends to neglect is that teens need other outlets to channel their energy and feelings to. Since dating is not encouraged (but yes, it still happens) and most parents do not deal with these conversations adeptly, teens are left feeling like Islam is no fun and merely there to set upon them strict rules to make their life miserable. This is far from the case but we don’t explain this to our youth. Parents try too hard to make things black and white when Islamically, very few things are actually that way, and those that are the Quran states very explicitly. We cannot apply the haraam term to everything that we don’t want our kids to do. It simply doesn’t work and it’s not giving credit to the critical thinking skills and religious knowledge that Muslims are encouraged to develop.

Justin Bieber becomes a believer...
I utilize humour a lot when talking to girls about dating and relationships. Because in all honestly, it breaks the ice, they see that it’s a human emotion and reaction to the opposite gender, and that Allah will not send them to the hellfire for crushing on (yuck) Justin Bieber or Ahmed what’s-his-face in 9th grade. I also encourage all parents and adults to ask their kids or youth they’re working with what dating means to them...because I can guarantee you that in many cases, it’s not what we adults think.

“It’s being able to call a boy your boyfriend and he calls you his girlfriend” said one teen.

“It’s seeing each other at the leisure centre on the weekend when we’re swimming” said another.

And yes, there are examples of texting and messaging and Snap-Chatting, which we cover with students with regards to safety and sharing personal information, etc. But in the grand scheme of life, neither of the above two answers are “punishable” by parents, in my opinion. Choose thy battles! Instead of reacting defensively and angrily, chat with them about who this person is, why they like them, and what their future plans are. If you’ve already established a trusting relationship with your child, this should be a piece of cake.

I also have a theory that girls who are not having their emotional needs met at home may seek it elsewhere or need it more than other girls. If you look at reports outlining child sexual exploitation studies, whereby perpetrators are interviewed as to how their “victims” were chosen, they explain how girls with low confidence/self-esteem, troubles at home, and lack of a social/peer network are often the easier ones to lure into the sexual exploitation circle. I’ve blogged about this here. I have another theory that the bond between father and daughter is as critical as that between mother and daughter. A father’s relationship with her daughter can either build her up or tear her down. And sadly, many fathers (not just Muslims ones) are not available for their daughters.

I’ll never forget a story a friend told me about celebrating Valentine’s Day as a family in Pakistan. Yes, Pakistan. Her father would bring his mother red roses every year, and for herself and her sisters, he would bring them white roses to symbolize the love, care and affection he had for them as his daughters. She fondly recounted this to me, since her father has since passed away, and said it always made her feel that she had a male figure in her life whom she could turn to and talk with. Such a simple gesture showed such immense meaning and she carries this with her today.

Muslim parents really need to move beyond the fear of “talking to my kids about this will make them curious,” because the opposite it actually true.

  • Talk to your kids about puberty and new emotions and having crushes. This starts when kids are as young as two years of age and you’re teaching them about their bodies and basic emotions. 
  • Demonstrate healthy physical affection with your spouse in front of your kids, and let them hear the words “I love you” towards your spouse and themselves. 
  • Talk about the crushes you had as a teen and maybe some current ones you have towards a celebrity, for example (growing up, I knew that my mom had a thing for Harrison Ford AND Andy Garcia!). Let them see that it’s normal, even when you’re married! 
  • Don’t lecture your kids about this topic or any other they may encounter, but teach them how to analyze situations they’re in and how to use critical thinking skills to make the best possible decision. 
  • And never forget to tell them that you made mistakes, and so will they, and as along as they learn from them, try again and repent, Allah is forgiving. No one is perfect. The more we can teach that Allah is loving instead of vengeful, the more likely children and teens will act in ways to please Him.

And so, many years later, I’ve come to terms that Chad and I were just not meant to be. After that incident, I channeled all of my crush power into Kevin Richardson from the Backstreet Boys and Pete Sampras, the BEST professional tennis player to this day! Since I was not allowed to post up their pictures in my bedroom, I used my locker at school instead. It was pure awesome-ness.

Then I came to my senses one day and realized that it wouldn’t work out with either Kevin or Pete. What was I thinking?! They weren’t Muslim ;-)

Comments

  1. I couldn't help but feel bad for you and Chad...oh well lesson learned I guess. The story of the Pakistani father touch my heart :')

    This was very informative and so true!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is a very helpful article sister . May Allaah reward you for your efforts.

    ReplyDelete

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