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Entries in identity (11)


Anxiety and Handwork

I'm not sure when it happened, but in the past five or six years, I've found that I am unable to do one thing at a time effectively.

This is how I explain why I'm always on my smartphone. I need something to do with my hands. It's not all social media stuff either. If I'm watching TV for example, I have to play a game on the phone while I do it. I feel like this makes me focus better. It probably doesn't, but that's the way it feels.

The problem is the smartphone feels like it's relaxing my mind, but it's actually winding me up. Making me get more amped up instead of letting me slide into whatever experience is before me. I've been thinking about this a lot lately... about this need to do something concrete and real with my hands while engaging in some abstract type of activity (watching something, listening to something, etc). Why doesn't the smartphone suffice?

We want to move our hands because human beings have an instrinsic need to work. We live in a world, though, where few of the things we use are the things we have made. I think food might be the last thing that we both make and consume on a regular basis. From the clothes we wear to the sofas we sit on... our hands aren't part of the equation when it comes to fulfilling our needs.

I personally think there's a connection to be discovered between the collective level of anxiety members of the industrialized world feel and the alck of opportunity to make useful, concrete things with their hands. I have been plagued by anxiety of late. A lot of that has to do with the nation's Fascist in Chief (herein referred to as FIC) and his unwavering dedication to keeping the brown woman in her place. But even there... we have a connection. Producing work... concrete art... it requires problem solving. And it is also engagement in problems that you can actually solve. I cannot solve the problem of our FIC not having a freaking soul. But. I could sew some unique linen napkins that are stylish in a way not determined by Target or Pier One. Solving little problems makes me less anxious about solving big ones. Confident, even.

(Right now I have "How do you solve a problem like The Donald?" running in my head a la The Sound of Music which interestingly like our lives features Nazis).

All this to tell you that in the next week, while I will still be producing content HERE, I will be going on an iPhone fast. I will only use the phone for work and I will not work after 6. Instead I will: sew, paint or knit. 

You should know that I am novice level on all of those things. 

I will take pictures and post them for your amusement.


This is Totally Normal

I realize it's been a while since around November 8th when John Oliver crafted the #ThisIsNotNormal thing, but I continue to have thoughts and feelings about it.

You guys, this racist bullshit that you are experiencing that's masquerading as the executive and legislative branches of the government?

IS TOTALLY NORMAL FOR AMERICA. I'm over here rolling my eyes at people who are sharing these posts of people being detained at airports and hashtagging it with #thisIsNotNormal.


This is not normal FOR YOU, BRO.

Two months after 9/11, my dad was taking a flight to North Carolina. He was pulled aside, detained and questioned. This was a domestic flight from Florida to North Carolina. My father, at the time, was 67 years old, had lived in the U.S. for thirty two years and had been an American citizen for nearly fifteen years of those years. Since then, between my parents, in laws and extended family, this family has had over half a dozen encounters like this. 


This is totally normal for US. 

So, why? Why bring this up in the first place? 

Well, look, there's two major kinds of racist/xenophobic/discriminatory paradigm:

1. Superiority Based Racism/Xenophobic/Discriminatory Paradigm: This says, "America is amazing and wonderful, white people made America, foreigners are terrible, gays are deviants, the only black people that get shot by the police are criminals, blow all of those sand people up and we'll be safe, etc."

And, then, there's:

2. Cluelessness Based Racism/Xenophobic/Discriminatory Paradigm: This says that the current climate of racism, xenophobia and discrimination is some sort of aberrant occurrence and totally ignores the pesky yet relevant fact that this triumverate of bullshit (racism, xenophobia, discriminiation) is somehow NOT woven into the tapestry of the American story.


You know.

I like John Oliver.

But let's not forget John Oliver is the great grandson of an Imperialist Britain which used racism, xenophobia and discrimination to dominate over half of the world's population in throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.

And then let's not forget that all those people who are using #thisIsNotNormal are the great great great grandchildren of people who appropriated North America from native peoples with their slaves in tow captured from Africa all of which was justified by racism, xenophobia and discrimination.

Barack Obama, our great hope, our American dream... was not normal.

This guy? P45? Is totally normal.

And he will never NOT be normal if you don't own him as a product of who we have chosen to be as a people for two hundred years.





This blog is seven years old. That’s, like, thirty eight years old in human years. Its knee is really starting to act up when it’s humid... 

I started Native Born because I had thoughts worth sharing. As a stay at home mom at the time, I wanted an outlet that where thoughts that went beyond nursing babies, playdates and photos of my children could take hold in the human consciousness. (Go big or go home, people).

 In fact, I think my first post was something about envisioning yourself outside of being a parent in those few moments you had to spare. I waxed philosophical about how too much emphasis on the children put pressure on the children and omg stop writing about your kids all the time — AND DO IT FOR THE CHILDREN! I said. Or something similar. I read that first post yesterday and am overcome by the same feeling I had when I stumbled on my high school journal. Something to the effect of, “Ah, you’re a sweet kid.”

The spirit of my blog in its infancy gave me a good footing in the social cosmos of the Internet. I pontificated on politics, religion, economy, injustice. Not to appear completely alienated from the vast majority of bloggers, I threw some posts about my kids in there for good measure. I’m a decent writer, so the subscribers grew quickly. I know because I looked at them every day.

I got some paid writing gigs. I got some paid editing gigs. I got followers on Twitter. I got lots of likes on a Facebook community page. I started calling myself a writer. I won an award or two. I got to speak at conferences. I got so much respect. So much.

And then I stopped in July. Like, just stopped. 

I quit all the things. I got off Twitter and Facebook. I stopped reading blogs. The Internet had magically appeared, sprinkled fairy dust on my keyboard and taken me to the social media ball. And then there came a day when I looked at my watch, saw the clock strike twelve and found myself with pumpkin guts all over my slippers. I guess this happens to a lot of bloggers. Busy. Lack of inspiration. Pumpkin guts.

Not me. That’s not why I quit. I conscientiously quit without even doing the requisite, “I’m going on a break, see ya when I see ya” post. 

You can probably imagine, this isn’t actually that hard. It’s kind of like breaking up with someone by not returning their phone calls. There were a few people who e-mailed and asked me what happened. I’m so grateful for those connections that I still maintain. But I didn’t really go into the why. Because I didn’t know. It’s taken me all these months to figure out why.

I believe that the Internet is a real community. I believe that it is a real society. It’s one that supports you and accepts you. It’s one that rejects and condemns you. And it’s also one that will tell you who it thinks you should be and will passive aggressively punish you for being different than what you are supposed to be. Unsubscribe. Unfollow. Don’t retweet. Stop commenting.

Damn, the Internet can be a bitch.

 I think I fell out of love with the Internet the day that I realized that people were referring to me as a “Muslim blogger.” 

Look, I’m proud of being Muslim and Pakistani American. That is an important part of who I am. But I cannot be that person for you. That identity is useful to me in so many ways, and if others find it useful that’s a great little side effect. But that’s not the point of those identities, and being on the Internet was turning that aspect of me into some kind of commodity and to put it as poetically as possible, “That is super gross.” 

Visibility is important. In the climate of rampant Islamaphobia, it seemed like a good idea at the time to focus on these aspects of identity to foster awareness and tolerance. But, you guys, I am so much better at just being funny and relatable and having a good time. I’m not that "break down the barriers" gal. There are loads of other Muslim chicks out there that live, breath and eat the politics of tearing down those walls. It is an effort for me that is beyond the scope of my inner calling. If that makes sense. I promise it does to me and that’s what matters.

I’m a thoughtful, introspective human who is constantly evaluating my relationship with God and I refuse to do this in a public space anymore. God is between, well, God and me. If you hate Muslims, too bad for you. You miss out on a lot. It’s no longer my responsibility to make you un-hate them. Maybe, it's someone else’s job. And I will support that someone else as best as I can. But I want to be known for who I am in my entirety. I'm not your Muslimah Che. Or female Cat Stevens. Or, I don't know, Muhammad Ali. You know what I mean.

If you’ve been on Facebook, you’ll see that the hijab is an on and off again character these days. And the reason is… gasp… none of your business. If you have questions, I am cool with that. Ask them in an e-mail. But I will no longer be a symbol for you.

I cannot substitute for the very real experiences you must cultivate with people in your physical proximity. You want to know more about Muslims? Invite one to your home. Go to their home. This is not the space where connections like that can be made. Even with the podcast, that wasn’t about my being “the Muslim” even though we said that in the episodes. Mike and I were two people having an actual conversation. Sometimes we talked about Jewish-Muslim stuff and sometimes we talked about vampires. Friendship with the whole. That’s what that podcast was about. It was about cultivating an “in real life,” intimate relationship with someone unexpected.  

Have you ever walked into a room, and felt like everyone has already decided who you are and what you’re going to say? It’s a hollow, sad feeling. It’s a stifling feeling. It is the exact opposite of the feeling that kept me blogging so excitedly those first few years.

You go to these conferences and they talk to you about “branding” and “your brand” and you start to think, Whoa, that makes sense… people should know what to expect when they come to the site because that’s what makes them come back. But you forget, you aren’t selling anything. 

A brand cannot be vulnerable. I can think of a very few exceptions, of course. But, mostly, a brand can’t tell you the truth about when she’s scared or upset with herself. A brand has to appear to know what she’s doing. A brand is someone who does not actually connect, but wears connection as though it is a beautiful winter coat that protects her from the discomforts of true vulnerability and transparency.

I’m not a brand.

I think when they say brand at the conferences, they mean “values.” They’re saying you should stay true to your values. Ask yourself if your content matches up with your values. I get it. But just because I get it doesn’t mean I’m going to accept this terminology. I will not take the word integrity and dress it up in clothes borrowed from marketing jargon. If you want to make money on your blog, this is obviously a good strategy. But my space here isn't about money and it never will be.

This word "brand" in the space of personal blogging? It’s a mask, people. It’s a mask that keeps you from being vulnerable and open in a moment in our history where vulnerability and connection are in existential crisis.

I’m living a real life over here and I want to chronicle it. I want more than just the religious stuff, the political stuff, the controversial stuff to be here. I’m just done with tracking page views or writing/editing posts for money. I want you to be here because you want to be here and NOT because I constructed a brand that appeals to some specific need you have.

Because between you and me, you probably have everything you need already.

Be here so we can connect as humans. Tell me your stories. Listen to mine. Let's bring the personal back into personal blogging. It's not an exercise in narcissism. It's a an exercise in return. We erupted from the same tiny speck of energy billions of years ago. Could we, you and I, find each other again?

I started this blog when I was thirty one with a specific agenda, and that agenda doesn’t feel right to me anymore. I’m not too old to care about diversity and multiculturalism. I’m simply old enough to know that the only way to honor something is to live it, to tell its story and to not limit its definition by allowing it to define you completely.

Life. As it is lived. This is a personal blog and it will now become personal. 

A lot of you have been doing that for a long time.

You are an inspiration as you bring your lives into the light so that we may know the truth of what it means to be human.

All of those years, you have been my teachers. I may have looked like I was napping in class, but I promise I was paying attention.


I’m ready to be one of you. 


These Boots Were Made for Gawking. And Giving Away.

In a couple of hundred words, I'm going to tell you how you can win some boots. Until then, sit back, sip on something for a spell and let's talk about history, culture and identity.

Here’s a surprising admission: I don’t wear cowboy boots. 

I’ve always wanted to own cowboy boots, though. In the spring of 1994, I went to Pakistan for about five months. Before I left, I searched the mall up and down for a pair of, don’t laugh at me, red cowboy boots. I wanted to wear them on the flight over with a pair of Gap jeans and a black button down shirt. I owned the jeans, purchased the top and then was sorely disappointed at not finding the boots. There was a specialty store for cowboy boots in my area. I wasn’t about to go in there, of course. Frankly, I was afraid of looking like a big poser. I’d never ridden a horse or been within ten feet of a cow at that point. Actually, come to think of it, I’ve still not been within ten feet of a cow unless it's on a plate.

Why the cowboy boots? Because I’m American and I wanted people to know that when I got to Pakistan.

I was contacted recently by Country Outfitters about reviewing a pair of boots and hosting a giveaway for Native Born readers. If you’ve read this blog since the beginning, you know I don’t work with brands or products in this space. I really, really, REALLY wanted a pair of cowboy boots, though, so I said yes. Plus, cowboy boots are interesting and I want to write about them.

As I waited for my boots to arrive, I got to thinking about cowboy boots and the irony of a first generation Pakistani-American chick sporting a head scarf walking around wearing them. If you’ve read my post about why I cover my head, you’ll know that a great deal of the decision rests in cultural authenticity and a desire to express my identity. That was true back in 1994 when I tried to look for those red cowboy boots, too. I’m not any one identity and the fastest way to transmit that to people is through fashion.

Clothes, jewelry, shoes - these are all markers and suggestions of who we are, where we’ve been and they're ways to reinforce not just a community but cross cultural commonalities, too. Most people, for example, associate cowboy boots with America. While it’s a fact that cowboy boots were made fashionable by the likes of Will Rogers and John Wayne, their origins have been traced as far back as the 12th century to Genghis Khan (no relation). The present day construction of cowboy boots is still based upon the specific needs of horsemen that were addressed by Khan and the Mongolians. Four hundred years after Genghis Khan, caballeros and vanqueros in 16th century South America were wearing cowboy boots as they herded cows and livestock. As Americans began to realize the economic potential associated with transporting cattle and livestock from one place to another, the need for a strong shoe that could handle the strain of that type of work became high and thus the use of modified Wellington boots which had been used in the Civil War became widespread in the West and Midwest regions of our nation.

Now, here is where it gets really cool. About twenty years after the Civil War, Buffalo Bill used elements of the cowboy lifestyle to provide entertainment value to the American public in ways that still resonate in today's culture. What had been a sturdy brown working shoe now reflected beautiful and intricate overlay, color and design. The functional had been transformed into the fashionable and as each decade passed, innovative methods of construction and design allowed Americans to claim this specific and fashionable version of a historical riding boot as their very own.

The American cowboy boot’s current construction and visage is reflective of all things American: borrowed, worked over, branded and most beautifully reenvisioned . 

When I look at a pair of well crafted and artistically magnificent cowboy boots, I know exactly how people who do not originate in the subcontinent feel when they see a beautifully patterned sari or scarf. The modern day fashion cowboy boot, like those things, is a symbol of tradition, evolution, beauty and culture. This may sound dramatic, but when I look at a gorgeously designed cowboy boot, I am reminded that the nation of my birth is no less rich in its tradition and beauty than the one of my origins.


I’ve always looked good in blue and I may never take these off.

Country Outfitters has agreed to give away a $150 gift card a member of Native Born's audience. Honestly? You should totally try to win this. The winner will be announced December 7th.

CLICK HERE and enter your email address. Country Outfitter will occasionally send you marketing messages. You are welcome to opt out at any time.

For an additional entry please leave a comment below letting me know that you entered. Must be a US Resident 18 years and older.

To gawk at more boots, visit their main website and like them on Facebook 


Disclosure: As the writer of this blog, I am wholly committed to expressing my real, honest opinion with the highest degree of integrity about products or services I've been asked to review. CountryOutfitter, a retailer of women's cowboy boots sent me these turquoise Corral boots to review this month and is sponsoring the giveaway of a gift card, as well.


Photo Credit: Country Outfitter -- Dingo Women's Adobe Rose Boot - Distressed


#BlogHer2012 #BHIdentity Panel Snippet

There were major delays at LaGuardia airport. My flight was supposed to arrive in Memphis at 6p.m., but I didn't get home until after midnight. I'll be posting a little post mortem post on the conference later this week.

In case you didn't make it to the panel with myself, Deb Rox & Kelly Wickham, I thought I'd post a portion of my notes for your reading pleasure. I know most people use bullet points, but my style for speaking is to write a script for what I'm going to say and then never look at it again. Once I write something down, it's generally committed to memory.

Hope your summer is wrapping up and your ready for the fall to push on through.

From "Blogging the Fine Line Between Your Identity and The Issues" panel at Bogher 2012

In what ways does your identity limit or enrich your blogging?

 My identity enriches everything that I do. A friend once that told me she was envious of my identity -- the rich cultural heritage, the religious aspect, and the sense of community it brings me and the inspiration that community gives me. What my friend didn't realize is that everybody has multiple identities and that thoughtfully recognizing those identities helps create a community.  -- whether I'm writing to reinforce, defend or to dispel and reconstruct, identity is always a factor for me. Religious, national, cultural, gender, sexuality... Can an identity limit you? Definitely. That's why I added the "thoughtfully" part. I feel like this is the issue with our political landscape right now, we are being conditioned to think of identity as kool-aid drinking instead of viewing it for what it is: a malleable and fluid state that is in a constant state of evaluation or even reconstruction. As a Muslim, for example, I'm critical of structures within my religion as it's practiced -- that critical eye feels like an appropriate application of identity. If I thought I had to think a certain way and that being critical was never appropriate, then my identity would limit me a lot.