My Dearest Elena: A Touching Letter from a Mother to Daughter About Being a Woman


Shireen Chaya-Mahdi Society ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Today, like everyday since you were born, someone exclaimed “She looks like a boy! Where are her earrings?” while looking at you. But unlike every other time, you put your hands to your ears. For the first time, you understood. You felt an absence and you felt conscious. This will be the first of many times you will be told about your body through this lifetime. I was only able to delay this education for twenty months.

You see, my angel, the world is in a hurry to put you in a box and slap a label on it. Beginning with the 5 months ultrasound, we tried to get a peek at which box you would fit into. Outfits, balloons, and ridiculous belly-shaped cakes were waiting to be chosen in a definite pink or blue. And when you were born, it was anxious to punch holes in your body and to mark your entrance into the box labeled sugar and spice and everything nice. As you grow up, you’ll be told that your skin should be white, your hair soft, your nose small, your lips full, and your body tall, thin, and free from the marks that come with experiencing life to its fullest. But don’t you worry sweetheart – if your father and I haven’t given you the right genes, there will be no shortage of doctors who can cut and sow pieces in and out of you so that you will not be left outside the box.


You will also be told how to think and feel and what to want. You will be told over and over that to be a woman, you must accept beauty as the ultimate prize and pain as a small price. You are to aspire to an education only if you fulfill your ultimate goal of getting married to a man. And everything you want in life -including a career- should come secondary to your desire to have children of your own; the ultimate expression of your womanhood. Did I mention that in order to deserve all these things that make you a real woman, you are not to ever look older than twenty-one? But don’t you worry my darling, the doctors I told you about are waiting to help with shining scalpels. You are in a race that you can never win and it started when you were wrapped in that first pink blanket.


I wanted to wait to get your ears pierced until the first time you asked me for it yourself. I wanted to take you right away and explain as we drove there that mommy waited until you chose it because your body is yours now and forever. You can choose to make it look and feel any way you want; that you are to love your body as it is and treat it with the respect it deserves and however you see fit. I hope you will love the wide hips you got from me, and the thick eyebrows you got from grandma. If you choose to wear your hair long or short, blonde or purple, wear heels or sneakers, let it be your choice. You were given this body to experience life wholly and lovingly and you are to allow it to do what bodies were designed for; to change in tandem with your soul as the universe pours its wisdom – filling every bit of you.


And so, my dearest, I am here to tell you for what will be the first of thousands of times: there is no one way to be a woman (or a man for that matter) in spite of how hard the world will try to tell you otherwise. There is no body, color preference, dress sense, hope, dream, or aspiration that makes you a real woman. Know that the only reason the world fights so hard to pull you into a box, on the opposite side of your brothers, is fear. Fear that you might one day uncover the lies – the lies that run our world. Fear that you might both discover that the essence of your existence is one and the same – should you uncover the power of being whole, life, as we have painted it, will cease to exist.

And so, my darling, for every time someone makes you feel smaller, like they did today, remember the engraving on the bracelet grandma left for you:

I am the master of my fate.

I am the captain of my soul.

And fight for your right to be utterly, completely, and beautifully whole.