Fairy tale endings only happen in fairy tales.
October 13, 2012 6:28 PM   Subscribe

Saving Aesha She came to America after the Taliban hacked off her nose and ears, a symbol of the oppression of women in Afghanistan. Since then, she's been passed around by well-meaning strangers, showcased like a star and shielded like a fragile child. The fairy-tale ending everyone hoped for has remained elusive.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies (12 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
"Since arriving in America less than two years ago, she’s lived in three cities. She’s been showcased like a star and protected like a fragile child. She’s been passed around by well-meaning strangers, embraced by a team of women. And she’s gone after a family of her own.

Back and forth she goes, flying forward, reaching skyward.

Here, on this swing, Aesha doesn’t carry others’ expectations. She doesn’t need a fairy-tale ending. She can soar on her own.

The only question is where, when and how softly she will land."
This ending is as trite as a highschool writing assignment.
posted by jaduncan at 7:03 PM on October 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

Thanks for posting this; although the writing might not have been my style, it's important that we hear stories like Aesha's through whatever means. It's honestly much more than I'd have expected from CNN.

I don't think many of us can imagine what this must be like for Aesha herself. She certainly seems to have chosen a good family, even if the only way she knew was to manipulate her way into staying with them -- some part of her knows what she needs. There are so many worse situations she could have gotten herself into. I was holding my breath.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:20 PM on October 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

"Borderline Personality Disorder"... Strangely, when reading about her "tantrums" and all the things she does and how nobody can stick around for long, that was what I felt, even though I didn't label it as such, and when I read that I'm like - oh yeah, that makes sense...


That sucks so much, I hope her therapist has the patience and ability to help her through a lot of this, and I hope she can function and cope in our society, in any society.
posted by symbioid at 7:21 PM on October 13, 2012

Behind that prose, I suspect, is the struggle of a writer who is herself exhausted and frustrated by her subject, and wants to present the imagery of a hopeful ending where she herself can't clearly see one.

Fascinating article, in any case. BPD and PTSD! Take away your knowledge of this horrific injustice, and its implications on the world stage, and ask yourself: when you* think of a homeless young woman with BPD and PTSD, what is your first reaction? Is it kind? Is it forgiving? I worry about what will happen to her when that illness is all that anyone can see anymore, when her saintlike adopted parents have either passed away or had to disown her for their own sakes.

What caught me particularly about Aesha's life story is that she is, in many respects, essentially a woman from the past. Aesha, as flippant and callous and sweet and odd as she is, has come from an ancient way of life, and not even a particularly Afghan one. Millions of young women, over thousands of years and countries, have lived lives like hers, being traded to settle debts, dying from cruel treatment at the hands of a new master. And this was what it made out of them.

* This is a generic "you" meant to connote the average magazine-reading, opinion-having American. You yourself are probably better. The diversity of Metafilter being what it is, you personally may have been a homeless young woman with BPD and PTSD at one time or another.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:43 PM on October 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

What caught me particularly about Aesha's life story is that she is, in many respects, essentially a woman from the past

Oh, would that this were true.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 8:30 PM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Even before you get to things like BPD and PTSD, I'm struck that people expect a narrative with stories like this that is just completely impractical for anyone. Nobody in the real world ever has a "happily ever after".

I know a lot of American girls (and boys) in their twenties who haven't been through anywhere near the horrors this girl has who still suck at being self-supporting, don't want to do housework or hold down a job, etc. She has a lot of unique problems, but I think one of them is that giant expectation that somehow things ought to work out for her better than they work out for ordinary people who didn't go through the same tragedies. Yeah, it makes a better TV movie if she eventually gets her life together and goes to Columbia to get a degree in social work, marries a handsome and well-off young man, and devotes her life to helping others. But that bar's pretty high even when your only initial handicap is spending your childhood on free lunch.

It's like we can't really respect that for a lot of people "I got out of bed today!" really is an achievement and it's enough to celebrate the real achievements, rather than trying for the fairy-tale narrative that doesn't exist.
posted by gracedissolved at 10:27 PM on October 13, 2012 [11 favorites]

Beyond post-traumatic stress disorder, Bakhchi says, Aesha has borderline personality disorder. Research is mixed as to whether a stressor such as Aesha’s brutal disfigurement can trigger a personality disorder, she explains, but she believes it can. There’s also a chance, though, that her disorder existed long before the attack.

Would that be so surprising? The family that raised her in childhood were people who eventually traded her like a slave to people who predictably mistreated her. That's not a family that would give a nurturing upbringing. It seems simplistic to assume that the 'trauma' only began after her forced marriage; being raised by a non-protective family is traumatic in itself.

In which case, as gracedissolved says, any kind of functioning is an achievement and a fairy-tale ending is ... well, it's something that'll probably do more harm than good to project on her. The first step with anyone is meeting them where they're at.
posted by Kit W at 11:17 PM on October 13, 2012 [8 favorites]

Thank you for posting this.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 8:32 AM on October 14, 2012

Am I reading this correctly? They were going to give her reconstructive surgery to fix her face but cancelled it because she kept having temper tantrums and they were worry she would injure herself during the recovery process?
posted by wolfdreams01 at 11:20 AM on October 14, 2012

posted by homunculus at 3:09 PM on October 14, 2012

"In late 2010, Aesha’s father-in-law was arrested for his role in her mutilation. Authorities said he held Aesha at gunpoint and ordered five other men -- including her husband -- to cut her. The father-in-law was released last July, however, reportedly because he didn’t do the cutting himself and because Aesha is no longer around to pursue the case."

The NYTimes article from then: Suspect in Mutilation of an Afghan Woman Is Freed
posted by homunculus at 3:15 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think you're minimizing a little when you condense this

episodes where she shook, went stiff and her eyes rolled back in her head. She bit herself, screamed and pulled out her hair. She had to be hospitalized.

into 'temper tantrums'. But anyway, significant surgeries like that are actually very delicate, and absolutely require cooperation and a lot of dedicated, disciplined work from the patient. Clint Hallam famously got a hand transplant which eventually failed, apparently in large part because he did not do the therapy, continued smoking and eventually stopped taking his medications (although it sounds like the planned surgery for Aesha is reconstruction not transplant, so less of an immuno-suppressant). Patient psychological stability is absolutely one of the considerations before undergoing what is, in practice, optional surgery that can very easily go wrong.
posted by jacalata at 9:57 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

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