Tell me not who to be,
For I am my own person.
Tell me not what is me,
Unless you want my state to worsen.
Please don’t tell me that you’re there,
Then turn and walk away.
And please listen and be fair,
When I say you need to stay.
Do not break me down,
Then expect me still to stand.
Do not cause a frown,
Then try to hold my hand.
Do not lose all hope,
When I’m still holding on.
I know life is a slippery slope,
But you’ll miss me when I’m gone.
I wrote this poem in reflection to Samina Ali’s novel, Madras on Rainy Days. A major theme in this novel that really resonated with me was the idea of societal and parental expectations, and the amount of control that they can have over a person’s major decisions in life. The conformities that society pushes upon you are often hard to deal with, especially when what you want to do goes against these conformities.
Throughout the novel, Layla, the protagonist, struggles between the two cultures she was brought up in, and ultimately chooses to return to India and go through with an arranged marriage that her parents have set up for her. While this is a very socially normal part of Indian culture, Layla has already broken numerous societal rules in America. She had premarital sex, and is pregnant with the man’s baby. This leads me to the next topic… the expectation of women to be virgins on their wedding day. Not only this, but if they are not, then the father has the right to kill the daughter. This gives women the idea that all they are good for is for their bodies, their “purity” for their husbands, to become good wives and mothers.
But what about their ideas, their own personal freedoms, and their choices? They have none. They are wanted for their bodies; they are seen as objects that need to be “pure” in order to maintain honor within a family. And this, I believe, is wrong. I think every woman is entitled to make the choices that she wants to make, if she is only affecting herself.
Now some people believe that women degrade themselves by sleeping with numerous men, numerous times. I am not necessarily supporting this lifestyle choice, and I do believe it is really important for women to respect themselves. However, if a woman is making that choice purely for herself, and not under the coercion or influence of anyone else, then I believe she has the right to do it.
I wrote this poem in honor of any person that is experiencing pain from trying to conform to others’ expectations, and making decisions based on what other people want for them, rather than what they want to do for themselves. I personally, have had many struggles with falling into the pressures of societal expectations and expectations from my family.
I have given in many times, because ultimately, that seems like your only option. But the couple times that I have said “Screw it.” and gone with what I wanted to do, I have learned the most, and I have grown the most as a person. So take a chance, allow yourself to create your own destiny, and don’t let it be molded by those around you. Yes, it is okay to be guided and to seek guidance from others, but don’t let other people shape your life… it is yours and only yours to live.