A Thank You Letter To My Non-Judgemental Parents

A Thank You Letter To My Non-Judgemental Parents

Thank you for allowing me to think for myself.
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Dear Mom and Dad,

Thank you for not exposing me to hate. Thank you for allowing me to experience love. Thank you for explaining to me that gender, race, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs do not define a person, but character, sincerity, drive, and love do.

There was one day I was at my Grandma’s house. I was partaking in my normal after-school activity: watching Ellen on TV. A friend of my grandma’s' granddaughter was over that day. She explained to my seven-year old self that she was not allowed to watch Ellen. I was appalled. What was wrong with Ellen? The little girl went on to tell me that she wasn't allowed to watch Ellen because Ellen is gay. How did this seven-year old girl associate being gay with being wrong? Her parents forced her to adhere to a set of beliefs without allowing her to think for herself. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for teaching me that being different is perfectly okay.

Fast forward two years. I was now in the fourth grade. I had a teacher that I adored. He was enthusiastic, spunky, fun, and he genuinely cared about his students. I made it through fourth grade, loving every day being in his class. It was sometime in the middle of fifth grade, where I was informed he was gay. I asked my mom that day why she never told me he was gay. She simply said “Does him being gay change your feelings toward him? Does him being gay affect all of the knowledge you gained from being in his class?" Obviously, my answer was no. I loved him as a teacher because he was good at his job. The fact that he was attracted to the same sex, had nothing to do with him being an effective teacher. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for teaching me what really defines a person.

Move ahead 11 years, and my favorite person in the world, my best friend, is a gay male. I adore him, and I love how determined he is. He works hard every single day to accomplish his goals. He puts a smile on my face every time we are together. Does the fact that he is gay stand in the way of him being a genuine, caring and fun person? Thank you, Mom and Dad, for teaching me to love and cherish those who are different from me.

Thank you for not forcing me to declare a specific religion. Thank you for not requiring me to follow a set of guidelines from a book. Thank you for allowing me to define my own values and beliefs. I was seven the first time I asked my parents to take me to church. I was eight, the second time I asked my parents to take me to church. Both times, my parents arranged for me to go. After the second time, I did not ask to go again. Instead, I asked questions, and you provided answers, so thank you. You allowed me to make my own decisions regarding my faith. Thank you for instilling values in me that I couldn't grasp from a sermon or a book.

I grew up not judging others based on what they did or didn't have. I was taught there are always people who have it worse than me. Empathy wasn't something I could learn on Sunday morning. It was something I experienced. While in school, I was taught not to judge other students based on their shoes, or clothes. For all I know, that could be their only pair. Their parents could have worked non stop to afford those shoes. It was not my right to judge them. When I did stray away from my values, you, Mom and Dad, were always there to bring me back into perspective. Thank you for pushing me to be a good person and do good. Whether it be loaning a hand to someone in need, or simply putting my trash in the garbage can. Thank you for allowing me to articulate my own beliefs and values.

Lastly, thank you for empowering me. Thank you for teaching me to fight for what I believe in. Dad, you always taught me to work hard to achieve my goals. I was taught that I am my own creator of my destiny. If there was something I wanted, then I better work my ass off to get it. No one is going to put in the work for me. Thank you for raising a strong, independent woman. Thank you for not only hearing me, but listening. Every since I was little, arguments have always sparked my interest. Whether it be a full blown screaming match in the dining room over abortion rights, or a more civilized discussion over global warming. You have always heard and respected my opinion. You never punished me for thinking a certain way. You never degraded my opinion. Thank you for not judging others. Thank you for not judging me.

Love,

Your Grateful Daughter

Cover Image Credit: Boomerama Llama

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To The Girl Struggling With Her Body Image

It's not about the size of your jeans, but the size of your heart, soul, and spirit.

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To the girl struggling with her body image,

You are more than the number on the scale. You are more than the number on your jeans and dresses. You are way more than the number of pounds you've gained or lost in whatever amount of time.

Weight is defined as the quantity of matter contained by a body or object. Weight does not define your self-worth, ambition or potential.

So many girls strive for validation through the various numbers associated with body image and it's really so sad seeing such beautiful, incredible women become discouraged over a few numbers that don't measure anything of true significance.

Yes, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle. Yes, it is important to take care of yourself. However, taking care of yourself includes your mental health as well. Neglecting either your mental or physical health will inflict problems on the other. It's very easy to get caught up in the idea that you're too heavy or too thin, which results in you possibly mistreating your body in some way.

Your body is your special, beautiful temple. It harbors all of your thoughts, feelings, characteristics, and ideas. Without it, you wouldn't be you. If you so wish to change it in a healthy way, then, by all means, go ahead. With that being said, don't make changes to impress or please someone else. You are the only person who is in charge of your body. No one else has the right to tell you whether or not your body is good enough. If you don't satisfy their standards, then you don't need that sort of negative influence in your life. That sort of manipulation and control is extremely unhealthy in its own regard.

Do not hold back on things you love or want to do because of how you interpret your body. You are enough. You are more than enough. You are more than your exterior. You are your inner being, your spirit. A smile and confidence are the most beautiful things you can wear.

It's not about the size of your jeans. It's about the size of your mind and heart. Embrace your body, observe and adore every curve, bone and stretch mark. Wear what makes you feel happy and comfortable in your own skin. Do your hair and makeup (or don't do either) to your heart's desire. Wear the crop top you've been eyeing up in that store window. Want a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body, simple.

So, as hard as it may seem sometimes, understand that the number on the scale doesn't measure the amount or significance of your contributions to this world. Just because that dress doesn't fit you like you had hoped doesn't mean that you're any less of a person.

Love your body, and your body will love you right back.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Margliotti

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We Need To Stop Treating Arranged Marriages Like Business Deals

We need to stop treating marriages like business deals where the groom gets dowry in exchange for his willingness to marry and the bride gets a husband in exchange for dowry.

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When I was thirteen years old, I spent my summer break at my cousin sister's place. She spilled steaming hot tea all over her thigh leaving a huge burn scar. The first thing my aunt said to her was "What would your future husband think about that scar? You should have been more careful." My cousin was just fourteen.

Growing up, we are made to believe that marriage is the most important thing in a woman's life and is going to be her biggest achievement. I thought it was hideous how we were made to believe this and pressurized to get married in fear of what society would think until I realized just how hideous the process of an arranged marriage itself is.

According to an IPSOS survey conducted in 2013, 74% of Indian marriages are arranged. Being the youngest sibling and cousin, I watched a lot of my older family members and relatives getting arranged marriages. Having spent most of my life in India, I have witnessed no other marriages than arranged marriages. It is funny to me how people have a checklist of superficial expectations like stereotypical beauty standards and unrealistic salary expectations. From publishing ads like "In search of a slim, tall, fair, very beautiful, homely girl who knows how to cook and sew" in the newspaper, the process of finding a groom or bride through an arranged marriage couldn't be more misogynistic and sexist.

Surrounded by all this, I penned down a poem in hope that we would stop treating marriages like business deals where the groom gets dowry in exchange for his willingness to marry and the bride gets a husband in exchange for dowry.

I

The glass bangles on her wrist jingled as she placed a plate of laddoos in front of the guests,

She wondered if this was the family that would finally pass her parents' tests.

"Oh! She is as fair as milk" the boy's mother exclaimed,

Her cheeks flushed to the color of scarlet under her dupatta as trained.

"He is too short" to her mother, he didn't appeal,

The deal wasn't sealed.

II

When no suitable match was found, the search was still profound.

"Hush," the girl's mother whispered "Don't tell them about the burn on the leg of the bride"

"What man will marry her once he finds?"

Another man arrived, tall, fair, and handsome- he was perfect,

Except that huge mole on his cheek which left him imperfect.

"The mole doesn't complement his face" to her aunt, he didn't appeal,

The deal wasn't sealed.

III

Still no luck in finding a groom,

Her father placed a matrimonial ad.

"Searching for a suitable groom, engineer or doctor, 25, fair, slim, vegetarian, no disabilities" the ad read,

The ad was published in multiple newspapers so that she could finally be wed.

Another boy arrived, but this time the tables turned,

"What? She can't cook?" the boy's mother was left concerned

"Oh, what a shame" to his parents' she didn't appeal,

The deal wasn't sealed.

IV

When everything had been tried, a Jyotish was consulted,

Vastu remedies for delay in marriage he suggested.

"Fast for sixteen consecutive days, the kitchen shouldn't be in the southwest."

Yet another boy arrived, tall, fair, slim, no moles- he seemed the best,

With everything from their checklist of expectations checked, everyone seemed to be impressed.

"But his earnings are so less," her father was left depressed.

To nobody he appealed,

The deal still wasn't sealed.

V

The number of grooms decreased as her age increased,

The girl walked in with a plate of laddoos, but this time from the southeast.

"Oh my god, the bride can't cook," the boy's mother noticed,

Thankfully the burn on her leg went unnoticed.

Double the dowry was demanded,

Her father's savings made sure the groom's family didn't leave empty-handed,

The girl's mother approved the boy, so did her mother's mother,

And her uncle, his wife, and their daughter

Even to the distant relatives, he appealed,

The deal was finally sealed.

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