smiling woman with baby

I pretend I am fine, but do not believe it. Do not believe it when I say I am happy. I expect you to know that the sorrows in my heart swallow all happiness. I smile, but do not believe it.

You know that I am faking, right?

Smiling allows me to escape the questions: “Are you okay?” “What’s up?”

I laugh. But you can see the sorrow in my eyes. Do not tell me you did not notice.

I do not care. Everything is fine. I pretend. And you pretend to know nothing. It is easier this way because the truth is intolerable. Truth is brutal. Truth is unfair. It is easier to close our eyes, to live pretending everything is okay.

The truth is something that shakes you, makes you cry. Do you want to know it? No, you do not. You do not want to know what hides behind the doors of my city, behind the chadors of every woman and beneath their injuries. I will tell you the truth.  In Afghanistan you do not feel secure. The truth is that as a woman, you do not count as human. The truth is that every day in Afghanistan, people die of violence, poverty, and sickness.

But you do not have to be sad. Do not bother yourself. Pretend to know nothing. Smile!

We all pretend. I pretended when women burned themselves in Herat. I pretended when girls were raped in my country. Like everyone I told myself it was none of my business; you told yourself you did not care. We ignored our shared disaster in Afghanistan.

We wait for something magical to happen. We close our eyes. We pay a price though. Eventually pretending begins to hurt, when the sorrow becomes too much to ignore.

Let’s stop pretending and save our smiles for real happiness. Let us face the truth, and work to bring change. Let us share our skills to end poverty, violence, and corruption in our land and create a future where girls can smile for real.

By Fatima H. 

Photo: Diana Haskins