E&M met with the wonderful author Nadia Hadid of “My Life as an Imposter” on inter-faith dating, top tips for young European Muslims dating, featuring on Lena Dunham’s podcast and more!
E&M: Hi there Nadia! Can you begin by telling us a bit about yourself?
Hello hello. I’m Nadia. I’m short and brown and I write about being short and brown on the internet. I also write about race, politics, cultural identity, love, sex, art, religion, and my ridiculous young adult life when I was trying to figure my shit out.
E&M: Could you start us off by explaining the meaning of your blog’s name ‘My life as an imposter’?
A lot of people ask me about this, and often assume it’s about my religious beliefs or my marriage. My blog name is actually a reference to Imposter / Impostor Syndrome. Which is basically the inability to recognise and internalise one’s own accomplishments. It’s something I’ve experienced, especially whenever anything notable or extraordinary happens in my professional life. It’s also, worryingly, something that affects a great deal more women than men. People also ask me why I spell it “Imposter” and not “Impostor”. Years ago, when I started my blog, it was a more of a cathartic exercise and, therefore, incredibly secret. I hid it from search engines and decided to go with the American spelling, “Imposter” over the traditional British so it would be harder to find by anyone who might know me. But now, I’m much more comfortable with having a reader base so, hello there *sits back in armchair and tips hat*
E&M: What are then your top dating tips for young European Muslims?
I think the main thing to remember is that there is no precedent for this. We are all just flying by the seat of our pants here so, don’t panic:
Your relationship to your religion, values, and your God is your business and is not subject to anyone else’s approval… ever. Not your friends, not your family, not your parents *gasp*. I genuinely find it so baffling that our “Muslimness” is so heavily scrutinised by people both inside and outside our community. It’s relentless. So, I think it’s important to remember that, whether you are a hijabi, strict, liberal, a Muslim who drinks, or Muslim who marries out of your religion; you are still a Muslim if you want to be. I have never looked at my Jewish, Christian, and Hindu friends and assessed the degree to which they follow their religions, or ever wondered whether that assessment should preclude them from dating, sex, marriage, or cohabitation… because that would be fucking weird.
Be proud of who you are because who you are is enough and beautiful
Be proud of who you are because who you are is enough and it’s beautiful. Don’t hide your faith, background or culture, it’s such a rich, interesting, and exotic quality. I grew up almost embarrassed that my parents didn’t like me being at boy/girl parties or that I wasn’t really into casual sex. I wish I could go back in time and shake myself. There is nothing to be ashamed of, your circumstances are just your circumstances, treat them like your shoe size. Do you feel emotional about your shoe size? No. Because you just find shoes that fit your feet and keep walking. I discovered in my young adult life that, if someone had a problem with my cultural or religious situation, it wasn’t me that was the problem, it was the douchebag making me feel like it was somehow less evolved because it didn’t align with their own views.
Whether you want to save yourself for marriage or get busy asap, dating within European culture is absolutely possible. Just be clear and honest about your boundaries, and respect other people’s boundaries in return. I always advocate honesty, politeness and directness, without judgement from the start. Keep an open mind and you’ll be surprised at how many people might want to do the same. I wrote a series on the ins and outs of Modern Muslim dating for eHarmony UK, including a piece called, “Hello I Don’t Want to Sleep With You, Please Date Me”. Go read it, it’s excellent and I am in no way biased at all.
E&M: Are these tips you wish you could have had when navigating the world of dating in the UK as you were younger?
Absolutely. Life would have been so much simpler. I definitely learned to love my South Asian and Muslimness fairly late in the game. I wish I’d had this kind of advice and guidance at the end of a magical smart phone in the 90s. We just had Tamagotchis. They did nothing.
E&M: What kind of reactions did you receive upon sharing these on Lena Dunham’s Women of the Hour podcast series?
Just lots of love and positivity. I got quite a few messages from other Muslim women thanking me for talking about this. It can be very lonely and frustrating when you’re trying to find a happy medium between your religious life and your western cultural life. Most of the feedback I received was women saying they’d never really felt their particular demographic was represented before they heard the segment; and they were reassured to hear someone talk about life and experiences that mirrored their own. That really meant a great deal to me. It took me a long time to get to this place on my own so, if I’ve helped just one person feel a sense of kinship and feel heard, that’s good enough for me.
“Sometimes, I feel as though we squabble and wage war over details that, in the grand scheme of things, don’t actually have any bearing on how our religions ought to be interpreted at all”
E&M: All in all, these tips would benefit any young Europeans who feel strongly about their religion – do you think it is increasingly difficult for religious young people to reconcile their faith and dating in European culture?
I do but, I don’t think it has to be. I think about this often and I wonder whether we’ve just become too granular in our interpretation. Our religious texts are thousands of years old and are meant to guide mankind in our lifetime but also, presumably, for thousands of years following us. Sometimes, I feel as though we squabble and wage war over details that, in the grand scheme of things, don’t actually have any bearing on how our religions ought to be interpreted at all. We are so arrogant in assuming that these ancient allegorical philosophies apply specifically to us in our lifetime and the way we live now. These texts are meant to apply both when society is civilised and thriving and when we are plunged into medieval Game of Thrones-esque chaos and disorder. Basically, I think we all need to relax and that your own link with God and a firm handle of the key principles of your faith is what really matters. Once you have those, I don’t think it’s difficult to engage with European culture at all. Dating is an incredibly positive thing, it doesn’t necessarily have to have lewd undertones. Meeting new people and learning how to be kind, considerate and patient with someone you care for is always something that can add to your life, and character as a whole.
E&M: We also stumbled upon your series of First Kiss stories, do you want to tell us a bit more about this? Is it liberating in a way to be able to express and read other people’s experiences of a first kiss?
I started collecting first kiss stories a few years ago. There’s something so beautiful about first kisses. We’ve all been there, walking that tightrope of nerves and exhilaration, never quite knowing what might happen next. I find this synonymous vulnerability so fascinating and wanted to explore how we reflect on these experiences through our adult eyes. I invite people to share their stories either in their own words or in a Q&A format, some prefer to remain anonymous. I’m considering expanding the series to short videos, perhaps next year. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s liberating, it’s more a sense of solidarity I feel. Quite a few of the contributors relaying a bad or embarrassing experience have found it quite cathartic too.
E&M: Do you have any last thing you’d like to say to our E&M readers?
Yes. Thank you and may you glide through life with the grace of Audrey Tautou and the everything else of Ripley from Aliens.
British, South Asian columnist and features writer that goes by the moniker, Nadia Hadid. Nadia writes about cultural and religious identity, politics, love, feminism, comedy, interfaith marriage, and curates first kiss stories. Her work has been featured in White Noise, Sister-Hood Magazine, The Mighty, BrownPussyTalks, Art UK, eHarmony, BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, City Radio, and Lena Dunham’s Women of the Hour.