This one’s an oldie but a goodie. I hope you enjoy!
My kids are little toothpicks. Skinny, all lean limbed with very little body fat on them. I don’t like it. I wish they were, I don’t know. Meatier? Chubbier? When they get sick, they quickly lose what little weight they already have and fall into the 0-5 percentile on the charts that they show you at the Doctor’s office.
Those charts are a little silly, don’t you think? A child’s height and weight is going to be some indicator of health, but you can’t abide too much by those charts. I mean, they are comparing my little children to the rest of the American population. Since my background is Indian and my husband’s is Italian and Puerto Rican, it would be much more accurate if they compared my kids to other kids who are:
1/4 Puerto Rican
But that’s hard to do. And since America is a melting pot of cultures, we are a melting pot of genetic makeup as well.
A lot of times my kids aren’t even on the chart.
“Zero Percent?” I ask at the Doctor’s office. “What the hell does that even mean?” Can you even exist at 0%? Do they have a negative scale, like -5 – 0%, -10 to -5%? I mean, WTF? How do you categorize all the 0% kids? (These are the questions that keep me up at night, apparently).
We do feed them. I promise. If anything we try to give them fattier foods to put some meat on the bones. The net result of that is that John, me and Heather, our Au Pair, all gain weight while the kids stubbornly hold their positions at their 0 – 10% mark.
I try not to worry about it. I mean, they are healthy kids. Just little.
John gets freaked out about it more than me. I try to remind him of what both of us looked like in our childhood pictures. Not that different from our kids in that way.
Gangly, stick figured like. You could see my ribs till I was about ten. I had teeth that were too big for my face, until I was about 20. Then I remind John about his mullet, which has nothing to do with being skinny, but it’s still important that we humiliate each other about these things.
Seeing how freaked out John gets reminds me of how concerned my own parents used to be about it when I was younger.
“Yeh kitni skinny hai?” (She is so skinny!) an auntie would say while literally squeezing what flesh I had off of my cheekbones, shaking my head from side to side. “Khahti he?” (Does this little punk eat?)
“Ha, lekin kya karenge? Khaathi hai nahin, na? Oos par bhi, zero percent mai hai!” (Yes, but what are we going to do? Bitch never eats. She’s in the zero percent.)
“Arey, zero percent hai bhi? Kaise, kya baat?” (What, they have a zero percent? I always wondered what they did to those little bastards!)
My parents would take me to the doctors. They were sure something was wrong with me. My pediatrician, Doctor Rahill, who oddly reminded me of a mix of Mr. Rogers and Steve Winwood, would tell them again and again that I was fine.
Finally, Dr. Rahill just broke down under the weight of my parents’ constant concerns over my weight and their good for nothing visits. I always got the feeling that he wanted to shake them and say, “I mean hello, there are starving children in India!” Instead, he suggested that my mother just give me the most fattening foods we had on hand. And basically to give me what I wanted to eat.
“But aahll she vaunts to eat is potahto chip and ice cur-ream. Vhat ca-an I do?” My mom asked.
“I like bacon. And pepperoni,” I volunteered, quietly from the examination table.
“VHAT?” my mom asked.
“Bacon. Pepperoni. I love that,” I said, piping up this time. My mother was giving me “the look.” But I didn’t care.
In unison, both Dr. Rahill and my mother spoke.
“That’s great! Bacon and pepperoni will put some meat on her bones,” said Dr. Rahill, happy with the solution. I think he even gave my mom a prescription that said, bacon.
“Ay, hey Raam! Hey Raam!” (Oh, my lord Raam. How did you give me this child of the demon, Raavana?) my mother said with her hands on her forehead, shaking her head in disbelief.
My parents do NOT eat beef. They do NOT eat pork. My parents think that eating pigs is like, the grossest idea in the world. Because pigs will eat everything. And so if you eat a pig, you are eating everything. I mean, there is an accepted analogy that is used in popular culture that even talks about pigs in conjunction with shit. Examples are:
“Kate was like a pig in shit when she got those tickets to see Neil Diamond!”
“Brad was like a pig in shit when his “Penthouse Magazine” got delivered earlier than expected!”
It’s so gross for them, that it’s like how I imagine I would feel if someone told me I had to eat horse meat. Or my neighbors’ little kitty cat down the street. Or watch “Full House” reruns all day.
A little like N to the O.
Hell to the NO.
So here is my mom, with basically a prescription to just let me eat shit, like literally, SHIT, in her mind. She went to Food-Town, dragging me by the arm and muttering under her breath, where she threw a few packs of bacon into the cart. She threw in a stick of pepperoni for good measure. I’m surprised she didn’t throw it at my head, to be honest. When touching these packets, she did it gingerly with her fingers, as if to minimize contamination. She then went to the drugstore and bought those face masks. You know, they kind you might wear in a hospital, while painting, protecting yourself from disease.
OR about to serve shit to your kids.
It was like she was packing to go to war. A soldier. Armed only with some packs of Smithfield brand cured meats.
We got home and the first thing she did was open ALL the windows. She turned on the attic fan. She put on her mask and brand new plastic gloves and was finally prepared.
This was turning out to be quite the operation.
With the exhaust fan running on the stove, my masked mother made me a whole pack of bacon. She never cooked bacon so she didn’t know what it was supposed to look like, but I remember it being really burnt. She also didn’t know what a serving was, so she made me a whole pack in one sitting. The smell was noxious to her. “Oh Gawd” she muttered over and over again, slightly muffled through the mask, as I joyfully inhaled the sweetest scent of burning fat.
And so I sat at that table, in heaven. Eating a plate full of bacon that was burnt beyond recognition. Sitting in the small kitchen of my childhood home in the freezing cold. Like a pig in shit, I couldn’t have been happier.
I will never forget the taste of that bacon.
Parents make sacrifices for their kids every day. In that moment, on that day, I never really considered how challenging it might have been for my mother to do those things to make me happy. There are moments when I parent now that a memory will strike me from out of the blue and I will think to myself, “Did I even say ‘thank you?'” As a sometimes overly angst-ridden individual, I seem to remember the times my parents and I have been at odds with each other, and I focus on those.
But in these other things? These memories that go beyond money, ceremonies, celebrations or accomplishments?
There is a richness in them that I sometimes forget.
But one blast of the smell of bacon, even today, 30 years later, and I am right back there. At that table. Goosebumps on my arms.
Saying thank you.
“I don’t know what it is about food your mother makes for you, especially when it’s something that anyone can make – pancakes, meat loaf, tuna salad – but it carries a certain taste of memory.” – Mitch Albom
“Mommy, you suck,” – Nico Ferrandino, age 5 (9/1/2014)
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Or the most stressful. I haven’t quite decided yet.
The kids are back in school. Fall sports have begun. We are over committed and overwhelmed and it’s only just begun. When I say “it,” I mean all the fun, of course.
Oh, but of course.
John has volunteered to coach both Nico and Shaila’s soccer teams. Half the time, their practices are back to back and on different fields across town, so what I really mean is that John has volunteered me to also coach the soccer teams. He has also signed Nico up for flag football.
I don’t know why, but all of these organized sports make me feel really, really disorganized. That’s a lot of running to and fro. I am not good at to and fro’ing. I mean, who is really? Actually, I take that back since a lot of moms seem way more adept at it than me. They even have time to apply lipstick.
So let’s just say that I’m stressed. I’m a little concerned about how we’re going to juggle all of this to and fro’ing for the rest of the season while juggling all the other balls that are up in the air.
On Monday, we had our first back to back soccer practices for both kids. John and I had planned how we would manage it to get both kiddies to where they needed to be and to figure out how to teleport John to two soccer fields at the same time. The plan was tight, but we had it down. Mostly.
Nico’s practice came first. As the boys came onto the field, it quickly became obvious that Nico was the “little guy” on the team. Younger by a few months and perhaps a little less coordinated than the other guys, after a few of the practice activities, my son was in tears and sitting on the sidelines.
I tried to encourage him to get back in the game.
“Nico, you need to get back up and play with your teammates,” I said.
“I don’t WANT to. I don’t want to run anymore. And that boy hit me,” he said, pointing at an almost 6 year old who had accidentally tripped Nico during Sharks & Minnows.
“Nico, you can’t give up so easily,” I tried to reason with him.
“I don’t care, Mommy! I don’t want to run anymore,” he said, crossing both his arms over his chest.
I looked over at John and shrugged my shoulders, indicating that I didn’t think our pretty stubborn 5 year old would move. He kept coaching, but I know he wished Nico would get back up.
I do have to say this. In Nico’s defense it was about 100 degrees outside with swamp like humidity. The fields we were on were covered with gnats, further exacerbated by goose poop all over the place. I can’t be sure, but I think even my eyelashes were sweating, it was THAT hot.
I looked over at my phone. Shoot. I needed to shuttle Shaila to her practice which was about five miles away. I called her off the field, where she was running around being her dad’s “assistant” coach, and got her things to get her in the car.
“Mommy, don’t leave me!” Nico cried. I picked him up and gave him a big, sweaty hug and told him to make his Daddy proud and be part of the practice.
His response was to ignore me and sit back down next to a steaming pile of goose poop.
I got Shaila buckled up in her car seat in my car and we were off to her newer, nicer fields with less goose poop on it. There was still some. Just less. (I honestly don’t even know where all these geese are but based on the evidence, I know they exist).
Luckily for us, John’s friend, whose daughter is also on the team, has been nice enough to be the back up coach to help John out in cases like this and for when he travels for work. I got to the field and he was already there and so part of my anxiety was gone, because it meant I was off the hook for any coaching responsibilities.
His name is also John, so let’s just call him Tall John so as not to confuse him with my John. So, Tall John starts the practice and the girls start doing their drills. A few minutes later, my John pulls up in the parking lot with Nico, who looks exhausted and cranky and overheated.
“I think I should bring him home,” I tell John when he gets out of the car.
“Definitely,” he agreed. He ran out onto the field and I collected my stuff, about to put Nico into my car.
Except when I get to my car, I realized that I have Shaila’s car seat and not Nico’s. And that John has Nico’s and will need Shaila’s to bring her home.
So I trudged back out onto the field, starting to get a little cranky myself and wait to get John’s attention so we can trade keys. He finally came over and we do the exchange, trying not to break the cadence of the practice for the seven year old girls.
I got to John’s car, put Nico into his car seat and started the car, relieved to feel the blast of air conditioning cool my skin. That’s when I looked down and saw John’s wallet.
Oh come on now. Really? Really?
I contemplated just driving off anyway. I mean, did he really need his wallet? We live less than 3 miles away. But it just felt wrong to drive away with it.
And so I made a mistake. A big one. Blame it on the heat and the stress and my sweating eyelashes. I chose the wrong words.
“Oh John. UGGGH! This SUCKS!”
I got out of the car, leaving the door open and ran back to the field quickly, depositing the wallet back with John and ran back to the car to get back to Nico.
“Mommy?” he said.
“Yes, honey?” I replied.
“Mommy, YOU suck,” he said.
“You said Daddy sucked. So now, I’m going to say you suck.”
I tried to explain to him that I had used the wrong words and that I would never say that Daddy sucked (even though he wasn’t totally wrong, because I was maybe resenting Daddy just a little at that moment). He wouldn’t budge though.
I explained to him that he should never tell anybody “they suck” and he listened, but I think he was exhausted and decided to burst into tears instead.
“I don’t like what you’re saying to me! You’re mad at me!” he said.
“No! I am not mad at you. I am just trying to explain to you…” I said.
“I’m running away! I don’t want to live in our house anymore,” he said.
“But where will you go?” I asked. “And it’s so hot outside!”
“I don’t know,” he said. “But I do have my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sleeping bag, so I’ll be okay.”
By the time we got home, I got an apology for the “You suck” comment and a retraction on the running away claim. Fine parenting, if I do say so myself.
I don’t have a nice bow to put on this piece. Basically, my son told me I sucked. I am still not sure whether to laugh or cry.
And why is that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles bag sitting by the front door?
Today’s post was written by a friend of mine, fellow blogger Sheryl Parbhoo, who you can find at Southern Life, Indian Wife. According to Sheryl, she is “born and bred in the South, I am as American as they come. My shoulders burn after 30 seconds in the sun, I love fast food, and the only language my ancestors ever spoke was Southern. I am also the wife of an Indian man, who is paradoxically as Indian and as American as they come. His arms turn black after 30 seconds in the sun, he loves fast food and his mom’s food, and speaks or understands five languages, including “Redneck.””
I asked Sheryl to come and bring her voice over to Masala Chica to share it with our readers over here. I hope you enjoy her authenticity as much as I do. Today she asks if any mom can have it all, inspired by Pepsi CEO Indrani Nooyi’s recent musings on the subject.
Can any mom have it all?
I recently read online Why PepsiCo CEO Indra K. Nooyi Can’t Have It All, where Nooyi admits her own faults as a mom trying to balance career success with motherhood. What she said made the insecure stay-at-home mom in me doing a little mom-jig. She may be wealthy and successful, but she isn’t a great mom, either. All the years of insecurity about missing my calling as a career woman faded. I haven’t had it all, but she hasn’t either.
Fifteen years ago, I stood in a mall elevator with my four small kids, smiling back at a middle aged woman next to us. My newborn twins napped in the double stroller, my older kids held onto the side of the stroller as instructed, and I rummaged through the diaper bag for my phone.
Elevator woman gazed benevolently at the babies, “Aw, how old are they?”
“The twins are six weeks and,” I patted my son and daughter’s heads, “five and three.” The woman nodded politely and gave a little wave to my daughter who peered from behind her new stuffed puppy. Then, my son started banging on the buttons, my phone rang on full volume and both babies screamed awake. As I searched for pacifiers, the doors opened and my son and daughter bolted out.
Elevator woman said as she held the door for me, “Wow. Better you than me. If I were you, I’d shoot myself in the head.”
Yeah, she really said that.
Needless to say, the choice to stay home and raise four kids came with judgment from a spectrum of elevator people, movie theater people, waiting room people, neighborhood people, and even family people. And, to really give grit to people’s comments, we went and had a fifth kid! That really crossed the line. Deep down inside, though, I judged myself right along with them. How could I do this many kids and myself justice?
The answer is – I couldn’t.
When we got married twenty two years ago, my husband and I agreed that I would stay home to raise our hypothetical two kids for the first few years. But, after graduating with honors from college, I felt pings, and sometimes stabs, of regret being stuck at home pregnant while my friends went to graduate school and built careers. Still, I knew the end was in sight. I would go to law school soon, then our neatly packaged life would commence.
The wrapping on that package fell off when I set foot in a law school classroom. During lectures and readings of case briefs, my mind wandered to nursery rhymes. I knew someone else was nuzzling my baby girl’s fuzzy head while she took her bottles, and someone else was reading Dr. Seuss to my toddler son. So, I put the legal dictionary I’d just purchased at the university bookstore on the shelf, and went back to play dates and nap time and rolling out Play Doh snakes in the afternoons.
Just one more year with the kids, and then I’ll reenroll.
Then the twins happened, and the package completely unraveled. And the comments began:
Four kids? Wow. Are you Catholic or Mormon?
Did you plan this many kids?
Haven’t you figured out how this happens yet?
Not wanting to get arrested, I kept my fist to myself and ignored strangers. Family, though, I couldn’t escape.
My husband is Indian, and true to a stereotypical Indian family, nearly everyone our age is a health care professional of some sort. His Indian friends and cousins had semi-arranged marriages to good Indian wives. Both worked, and the guys’ parents took care of their one or two kids. At family dinners, men and women alike chatted about medical or dental crap that I could care less about, while I silently spooned spicy daal and rice into my mouth. When I was younger, people asked me when I was going to finish law school. After the twins, I think they benignly wrote me off. Not only was I white, I wasn’t a professional something-or-other.
Or was I just judging myself?
I’ve thrown myself into raising my kids, and until recently, forgot I was a person outside of being a mom. I’ve been room mom, field trip chaperone, classroom helper, chauffeur, and room mom. I’ve spent entire mind-numbing school days at driving around town to find the right soccer cleats, and shopping for the perfect teacher appreciation gifts. I’ve been bored, stressed, and craved conversations about something other than my kids. I’ve yelled at them, I’ve nagged them, and I’ve cried when they’ve told me they hate me. But, I’ve also gotten the good stuff.
When the school nurse calls me about a sick kid, I am the one that gets to hold a cool cloth on their foreheads when I bring them home. When they come home from a long day of middle school drama, I am the one they share their frustrations with as we sit at the kitchen counter and eat a bowl of popcorn. And when they forget a major research paper because they were up all night typing it and forgot it on the printer, I get to save their butts and bring it to them at school.
My kids are now 20 and 18, with the twins at fourteen, and the youngest is seven. I’ve found myself once again now, not as a lawyer, but as a writer, and I crave the excitement I feel crafting my own future on the page. Would my kids say I was a great mom to them because I stayed home to raise them? Hell no. I guess they get to have it all, either.
Who gets to have it all? I don’t think anyone ever does. Fulfillment is different for the Indras of the world, for the cousins and friends, for the elevator people and all the rest. And that’s okay. I just do my best to accept and be peaceful with all the little choices that add up to my life. I love as much as I can, and like we all do, I always, always search to create something sweet to look forward to.
When I was a kid, I used to write “Letters to Myself.” This may seem odd and no, I don’t have multiple personalities. I just wanted to make sure that as an adult, I didn’t forget about all the “horrible” things my parents did to to embarrass me while I lived under their roof. I figured if I could warn myself in the future and help prevent my children from suffering the same kind of embarrassment that I had been through, we could potentially break the cycle. Thus leading to less money spent on counseling sessions, which would be a win-win from any perspective, because even my parents would agree that we shouldn’t waste money. I didn’t start the letters until I was in middle school, but I think I covered my bases pretty well.
So without further ado, let me present you with the teenage Masala Chica’s list of parental “Dos” and “Don’ts.”
1) Don’t wear saris when I pick my kids up from school. Try to be cool like the other moms and wear jeans.
2) Don’t send my kids to school with weird pickles on their sandwiches.
3) Do learn how to make things like brownies and cupcakes. When it’s my kid’s birthday, make these things from scratch and don’t buy them in the plastic containers from Shop-Rite.
4) Make interesting and exotic dinners, like Spaghetti and Meatballs or Fettucini Alfredo. Don’t serve rice and daal at every meal.
5) Do not wear bindis. Do not wear anything resembling dots on my head.
6) Do take my kids to fun places like Disneyland and Six Flags. Don’t wear saris. Wear cool jeans and shorts, like the other moms.
7) Do let my daughter go to the mall on Friday nights to hang out with the rest of her friends.
8) Do teach daughter about facial hair. And what to do with it. Teach her how to shave, wax, whatever. Don’t let her walk around feeling like a hairy gorilla.
9) Do watch other movies with my kids other than Indian movies. Learn how to be comfortable with watching kissing scenes in front of my kids, like the other cool moms. Don’t make the kids leave the room if a kissing scene does take place.
10) Don’t make my kid pray all the time. Pray less. Sometimes praying too much can give your kids a headache.
11) Don’t yell at my kids if they say the word sex. Sex is not always dirty. Sometimes, sex is just a question on a form.
12) Don’t take my kids out of school every year for a few weeks to see family in India.
My list of dos and don’ts was fairly black and white for me. Whatever my mother was doing was a “DON’T”. Whatever the other moms were doing was a “DO.” Apparently I had great respect for my friends’ mothers, their mom jeans and their ability to whip up a box of Duncan Hines baked goods at home.
I look back at this list and what’s clear is that I was obviously afraid of being different. I wanted, so very much, to be like the rest of my friends. I wasn’t thinking about how cool it was that my mom still embraced her culture so much. I wasn’t really thinking about how amazing it was to eat the sabzis and the curries my mother would make every night to go alongside the daal and rice.
So what if a few kids made fun of those differences? Buck up, I want to tell that kid now. Learn how to be different. Embrace those things. And for Pete’s sake, don’t worry so much about hairy legs. You will have a lifetime to worry about that.
Well, not really, if you get married.
In that case, you generally get most of the winter off.
Still, I want to tell that young girl that one day, she will be writing a post, much like this one, and will salivate at the thought of her mom’s homemade pickles on her sandwiches or eating her mother’s cooking that night. That it’s ok that her mom couldn’t shake and bake like her friends’ moms.
I will explain that she was comparing apples to oranges.
Or better yet, Apple pie to Ladoos.
My mom never had reason for me to question her cooking, especially when her samosas kick the Tri-State area’s ass.
I wish I could explain how precious it would be, that time when she is young. And how much it means to let her hold on to it for another day, another year. And if that means not letting her troll around a dingy mall so that she is less likely to get felt up by upperclassmen in the empty part of the parking lot over by J.C.Penney, so be it.
I would love to tell her how one day, those trips to India will teach her more than any textbook at home could. How those trips will inspire her to think beyond the world she lives in. To look beyond those walls and beyond the privilege she has been born into. How they will be the only way she would have had memories of her grandparents or cousins who are now gone. How maybe understanding the journey her parents took to get to the United States, might help her appreciate the ties they still cherish.
The customs they hope to keep alive.
I totally would back her up on the praying thing. Praying too much still gives me a headache.
But I would love to maybe give her a different point of view.
Maybe just a little perspective.
You know that line from the movie Notting Hill? The one where Julia Roberts, who plays a famous actress – real stretch role for her – tells Hugh Grant’s character, the manager of a small bookstore, “I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.”
First of all, I call bullshit. She’s not just a girl. He’s not just a boy. When most people become famous, odds are, they change. I have seen and known it to happen with some friends in my own life. They became more than just a girl or a boy and depending on their character, the people they need to surround themselves have to come with a pedigree I don’t have or serve a purpose I apparently don’t.
To them I’m just a girl.
But I do want to re-purpose that line for my own use and maybe change it just a little bit.
“I’m just a girl, writing a blog for anyone who will read it, asking them to understand me.”
You might be the ones calling “Bullshit” this time since I am using the word “girl” quite liberally here. But I wanted to tell you a little bit about what this girl, who is writing this post way too late at night, has learned about herself and her life over the years through the course of blogging. She’s not going to write it all today, but maybe she can start.
(Please don’t mind the use of the third person reference there. It’s 2 AM. Cut me/her/she some slack.)
Blogging about your life is a constant balance
I know you’re thinking, “Like, duh.” Of course with blogging, there is always the balance of time. Do I play with my child or answer the comments that are waiting for me after my last post? Do I try to work on the business model for the company I am launching or do I come up with new witty posts about what happened to me at Target the other day? Or today. Or on Saturday, just because I needed an extension cord. In pink.
That time balance is a constant struggle and I am not going to lie. If I was sitting on a seesaw and my family was on one end and the blog was on another, over the past few months, it would be clear that my family won out and I sat my butt on one end of that seesaw and pretty much stayed there. I needed to. Stuff was happening and it was a choice I needed to make.
But it’s the other stuff. The below the surface stuff. It’s deciding whether to write about the things going on in my life that are hard to talk about, but for whatever reason, seem to flow from my fingers with a power of their own as soon as I open WordPress. It’s about contemplating what daily struggles I want to share that I am having with my spouse, siblings, in-laws, friends or co-workers. It’s talking about the issues that I am really thinking about but can’t write because I know that there will be collateral damage in doing so. Hurt feelings. Irreparable damage even.
I can’t write what I think all the time because I don’t live in a vacuum and every word I put out there impacts the people around me.
Some people call it brave to put it all out there. I think I used to believe that. Now, I think that there is a fine line between bravery and needing constant validation from people around the internet, sometimes at the expense of my own family. That? I don’t see that as bravery anymore, but I do think it’s pretty freaking selfish.
I was at a conference once and Jeff Goines, the author of “Wrecked” was taking questions after a presentation on creative writing. I asked him how he draws the line between writing about himself and impacting the privacy of those in his life. He didn’t seem to understand the question and I struggled to find the words during that 10 second period to explain what I meant. But It think it’s something like this.
If I were to tell you that I battle depression, it’s not just my story. It’s also my husband’s. It’s also my children’s. It may become their teacher’s story, who may look at them differently or treat them because of a different lens they now have on. Oh, your homework is late? Is it because of what’s going on at home?
If I were to tell you that my husband has done something to me, something which has shocked me, it’s not just my story or his. Again, it’s the story of my children, our friends and our families as well. Perhaps even his co-workers and colleagues who might have seen or read the piece (Don’t worry, John hasn’t done anything to me. Yet.)
The reality is that over time, as a blogger, you start to feel that you owe it to yourself to be honest. And that you owe something to your readers. And while this may be true, I find that there have been a few times where I took this a little too literally and did so at the expense of the most important people in my life. These people – my family, my friends – don’t always understand my blog and they don’t get why I have opened up about some of my life. When I talk about the cathartic aspect of it, I think I lose them a bit there too. In fact, I am pretty sure my Dad would just say, “Get a diary.” In fact, I am pretty sure that after I publish this, my Dad will ask me why I had to say that he would say, “Get a diary.”
What I consider to be my story has sometimes been violations of the story of others. Especially when it has come to my family. What was hard for me to learn was that in my re-telling of the stories, they also saw many of the things very differently than I did.
But I got to tell my side of it, so it’s all good, right?
I guess I just don’t know anymore.
I think one of the reasons I have also taken a break from blogging was to figure this part of things out. I can tell all and really mess my children over forever or I can write with boundaries. And sometimes writing with boundaries is so hard to do that I just opt to not write at all.
And that sucks. The not writing just sucks.
Things in my life are finally settling down after what has been a very tumultuous few months. Some of it I can tell you about. Some of it I can’t. And I think that’s what I am learning. These boundaries with blogging are just never going to be that clear cut.
Thanks for sticking with me through my ride though.
At the end of the day, I’m just a girl. A girl with a blog. And I really want it to be a good one.
All my love,
P.S. If you are in the Northern VA/DC Metro area, there is a conference on October 26 empowering bloggers and small business owners being run by Femworking. I will have a stall there as Simply Om, my jewelry company dedicated to raising awareness and aid for women living in oppression around the world. If you haven’t signed up, please come out and check out my good friend, Jill Smokler, (Scary Mommy), as the keynote speaker. Hope to see you there!
“When I grow up I want to be a slut,” said no girl. EVER.
The other night I was talking to an old friend about nothing and everything. We somehow ended up talking about a reality show, since everything in my life has about two degrees of separation from the Bravo Network. The subject moved to the storyline of one of the the women that appears on this show. I don’t know her, but she seems like a really sweet woman with an amazing personality, which says a lot for anyone represented on reality television. I think it’s fair to say that 80% of them DON’T seem like real “quality” people. Quite the opposite, even.
Anyway, I would guess that this woman is about 40 years old. I can’t say for sure, but she seems so nice, like she would give you the shirt off her own back.
Apparently, however, she has a reputation for not having a shirt on her back.
“Yeah, I heard she used to be a real slut in high school,” my friend mentioned casually. “My friend Rich went to high school with her. Apparently she used to have a reputation and used to go down on guys under the bleachers.”
I thought about the woman in question. For the past few years, she has lived her life on television and allowed people to see her as a mother, a friend and a wife. This is reality television so take it for what it’s worth, but she seems kind, she seems loving and she seems like she works hard to have a good life.
But for whatever reason, to some people, she will be known always as the “girl who used to go down on guys under the bleachers.”
Over twenty years ago.
The whole conversation made me sad. I don’t know, nor do I care to know what choices this woman made about her sexuality when she was younger. I doubt they define her and I highly, HIGHLY doubt that any male who participated in the activity is still remembered by anyone for whatever it was that he did under the bleachers with her.
Which takes me back to how I started this post. When I was a little kid and played dolls with my female friends, we talked about our dreams.
“When I grow up, I want to be a doctor.”
“When I grow up, I want to be an astronaut.”
“When I grow up, I want to get married and have two kids named Chanel and Coco.” (Ok, ok. Only once).
You know what I didn’t hear?
“When I grow up, I want to be a whore.”
“When I grow up, I want to be known as the girl who gives guys a good time.”
“Maybe if I work really hard I can become a pole dancer one day.”
No, these are not things that I hoped for as a young woman. I don’t remember any of my friends having those aspirations either.
The names that women are called for choices they make around their sexuality are brutal and meant to debase. We might not live in the day and age of a Scarlet Letter, but society shows a woman a huge double standard when it comes to her sexuality. It’s no wonder that the names women get called who are deemed as “too sexual” carry such a stigma. They are meant to cause shame. They are meant to devalue her.
Which is why, as a woman, I make a conscious effort not to look at another woman as “a slut”, as “a whore”, or any of these other terms that get thrown around a little too comfortably and reduce a woman’s identity to the lowest common denominator. Society might be telling me to call her such a name.
I choose not to.
We’re playing on the same team here, sisters.
When I look back at high school and I look at the girls with a “reputation”, I see things a little differently now. They weren’t professional hookers at 16. They were lost and they were confused and they could have done with some light in their life.
To any girl I may have judged in high school because perhaps I’d “heard things about you,” I’d like to apologize. I look back at the young women you were and while we may not have always run in the same circles, I certainly judged you. I regret that and wish that instead, I had extended a hand in friendship and supported you.
Maybe if you been given a little more light and less judgement in your own life, you might not have mistaken love as one night of the quarterback’s affections.
I made my own mistakes later in life, I will admit. My college years were fueled by insecurity, pain and alcohol. I don’t really want to know what names I might have been called. I do know that my sorority named me “Most Likely to Hook up at a Mixer” which wasn’t even fair because I didn’t even go to mixers.
I don’t think that those years define me, but they certainly play a role in shaping who I am today. The sum of my parts are not comprised by my best days alone. They include my mistakes and my weaknesses, which I believe I continue to learn from.
I hope one day I can watch my Bravo television in peace, with my glass of wine in my hand, the kids tucked into bed and the dishes miraculously done. Where I can watch a woman act like a moron on national television while she drinks too much chardonnay, flips over a table and pulls her friend’s hair weave in a cat fight.
Just doing what they do on any given Tuesday.
Just don’t tell me what she did under the bleachers 20 years ago. I don’t care.
And neither should you.
“The timeless in you is aware of life’s timelessness. And knows that yesterday is but today’s memory and tomorrow is today’s dream.”
- Khalil Gibran, “The Prophet”
“Last morning, I peed my pants.”
“Last morning, I got a boo boo, Mommy.”
“Remember? Last morning, Shaila hit me.”
These are all things my three year old son, Nico, can say on a given morning. You would think that “last morning” might mean yesterday, or the day before yesterday morning. But no. Last morning can really be any morning that happened in the past. Heck, it might even be an afternoon or an evening.
We have a lot of stories about “last morning” going on in this house. “Last morning” basically is a sum of all our yesterdays; it’s where the accidents of our past took place and where we lay our mistakes to rest.
I look at my own past, kind of how Nico does. A lot of memories of yesterdays seem to jumble up together. I don’t often remember the order in which all the memories take place but they sometimes stumble upon each other when I look back at them, forming a mosaic of “last morning” type of scenes.
Last morning I had a baby named Shaila. (Granted that morning was almost six years ago now. Just stick with me on this one).
Last morning, I suffered through terrible post-partum depression, which lingered on when I had my second child, Nico, two years later.
Last morning, I started to question the marriage that John and I built together.
Last morning, the questioning grew stronger.
Last morning, John and I wondered if we were quite right for each other.
Last morning, John and I separated.
Last morning, I went and bought a house.
Last morning, John and I realized that we wanted to work on our life together.
Last morning, I had to “return” the house, just two weeks before going to closing.
Last morning, I lost some people I really cared about. Only a few of those lost actually were to death.
Last morning, I cried. Shit. I cried a lot of mornings.
Last morning, I laughed. Some mornings it was easier than others.
Last morning, I drank too much wine. In my defense, it was really in the last evenings.
Last mornings were hard.
Last mornings are now just a series of my yesterdays.
The past few years have been hard for me. Hard meaning things hurt, I hurt, I have been through things I didn’t expect and I have felt a sucker punch or two (or three) that I wasn’t quite prepared to handle, last morning. Heck, I don’t know if I am prepared to handle them THIS morning. I know I feel things hard. Even before I started writing this blog, I always seemed to accessorize my most often mismatched outfits with my heart positioned right on my sleeve, where everyone could see it.
Maybe even poke at it a little.
“Kiran’s… sensitive,” is how my closest friends might describe it. The friends who have been there for me on my last mornings and continue to be there for me might describe it as something else outside of my own hearing. If they are honest, the words “impulsive,” “constantly searching,” and “dreamer” might be a part of their description as well. I know they love me, but I think I confuse them. I think we handle our last mornings differently. I would say they do a better job than me.
They would probably agree.
The last mornings of my recent past where I started to juggle a full time job with motherhood, marriage with my own independence, family with my need to still be my own person were tough. I imagine that they are for a lot of mothers and fathers like myself who have felt their last mornings implode on themselves. I also know that there are many who handle it all with much more grace and wisdom than I have been able to manage, across all my last mornings.
My last morning were not always joyous and no, they didn’t always fit into a nice little package that I yearn to re-open on rainy days.
I feel like they belong in my past, where they will stay.
Still. Regardless of the challenge I might have felt in the most recent years of my life, there were so many gifts I got last morning.
Last morning, I had a beautiful daughter named Shaila.
Last morning, I was blessed with an amazing son named Nico.
Last morning, I rediscovered my marriage.
Last morning, I realized how lucky I am to have many of the people in my life who have chosen to stick around.
Last morning, I realized how lucky I am to have my parents, and John’s parents, alive and a part of our lives.
Last mornings, while challenging, were also really quite amazing.
And I need to remind myself of that. Whether it’s Nico tattling about his sister when he talks about his last mornings or whether its me, trying to make sense of a few years full of last mornings I once had trouble navigating. Last mornings pave the way for a new today. And maybe an even more amazing tomorrow.
“Mom, where is your family from in India?” Shaila asked me the other day.
“Your grandparents are from a state called Bihar.”
“Well, it’s in the North.” I explained, “If you were looking at a map of India, it would be at the top, near a country called Nepal.” I explained.
She looked at me blankly.
“Here, I’ll show you.” Rather than pulling out a handy map though, I had something much better.
“Mommy! What are you doing?!!” Shaila yelled at me, diva hands on hips and all.
I had pulled up a pant leg in the middle of the mall, figuring I could find some vein formation on my legs to show her the geographical landscape of India. It didn’t take long to find an imperfect asymmetrical peninsular shape of India on the map somewhere on my right cankle.
Or should I call it my rankle?
The map of India I had found even had a vein that looked like the Ganges river running right through it. If you felt it the upper-left corner, you could probably feel the mountainous ranges of Kashmir in it.
I don’t know when my legs became so veiny. It’s not something I particularly pay attention to since they are hibernating behind jeans, warm pajamas and yoga pants most of the year. But I know that the years have not been kind to them.
Previously one of my best physical features, my legs now look like they should be used to teach my kids lessons on geography. Instead of taking my kids to the planetarium, I can draw out the Big Dipper and Ursa Minor on my legs instead, giving them hours of joy as we trace the constellations and tell stories about vengeful Greek gods who cursed some women with varicosity.
Childbirth can be terribly unkind and humbling for many mothers. Despite the way that I represent myself on Facebook or on this blog, the pictures are often a facade. It’s like I am wearing one big SPANX girdle thingy and have found a way to wrap it around my life to make all the loose skin, muffin-top and puffy eyes that are going on, somehow look pretty.
There are days when I look back at my body pre-baby and then compare it to the one I have post-baby.
I will not tell you which side is “winning,” because technically, we are all “winners.” But I will say that my butt is a lot bigger, my hips a lot wider and even my feet have grown.
So, like I said, not calling anyone a winner or loser here, but do want to make sure that if “more” is “better” than I am doing something very well and am ahead of the pack. Like a fine wine, you could say I have improved.
I would say that this is all just part of the miracle of being a mother. That I find this all quite rewarding. But there are days where I don’t at all find it fair. Right now, Nico is going through a “I love my daddy so much and who the hell are you, woman who calls herself my mother?” kind of phase. He goes through this every few months and it does little for my ego as a parent.
Tonight he started crying when he realized I would be putting him to bed and not Daddy.
“Nooooo!” he yelled. “But I don’t want you. I want Daddy!”
In an attempt to distract him, I took off my knee high boots and rolled down my sock.
“Do you want to see Disneyworld? Florida?” I said, trying to find it somewhere on my legs. Like Murphy’s Law, I could spot Georgia, Kansas, Utah – lots of other states against the landscape of my legs.
But not Florida.
Not until later anyway. Just for the record, It’s on my left leg, upper thigh. It does sit next to California, but I’m not going to be a purist about my leg art.
I try not to let Nico’s words hurt. He’s too little to appreciate the 10 months I had with him in my belly. Maybe one day he will get that and some of the other ways I love him as a mother.
In the meantime, I am going to go and trace New Jersey on my right quad. There, it’s next to Wisconsin, but my kids are American and prone to geographical ignorance anyway, so I’m not too worried.
The ladies at our dentist office love my husband, John. I think it has something to do with how friendly and smiley he is. Maybe it’s because he never gets cavities. Whatever it is, they are seriously crushing on him.
I have thought this was cute. It doesn’t really bother me. When John missed his appointment a few weeks ago because of some last minute work travel, he forgot to call the office to cancel. I had an appointment two days later and as soon as I walked in, the receptionist looked up from her desk and jumped up to greet me.
“Oh my God! Is John okay? We are so worried about him!”
I could feel the eyes of the other patients in the waiting room looking me up and down. What had happened to this John person? I could almost see them asking. (They had not yet updated the fliers, so his celebrity was not yet on the rise in Northern Virginia). I was so confused as I hadn’t realized he had missed the appointment and I also didn’t realize his teeth were that bad that the office staff would be so concerned.
At this point, one of the hygienists ran out from the back and said, “Oh, what happened? This is so unlike him!”
As opposed to so like him? Based on what?
And so I apologized for John (thanks, John) and had to spend the rest of my cleaning listening to how great my husband is, and how funny he is, and oh wow, he must just love our kids soooo much.
Seriously. They got this from his teeth?
“He seems like such a great husband. And he’s Italian! I love Italian food!”
“Es, ee ith ithalian, buth thigh I the thun that thoes the thooking” I also tried to explain that he is half Puerto Rican, but it was hard to get out with that suction thing making a ruckus and my mouth wide open.
“Oh bless his heart! I bet he cooks for you all the time!”
“Thar thou thucking thidding mhee?” I tried to say, except she told me to spit.
I don’t know what John talks about when he is in the office. And I don’t know he can get a word in edgewise during his cleanings because he is a bad flosser, so they must have to use the time he is there to really get in there.
So all I remember thinking was “How the hell did you get this from his teeth?”
As I left the office that day, the receptionist yelled after me from her desk, “Tell John to keep his next appointment! We don’t want him to break our hearts again!”
So then the next day, John goes to the office for his appointment and comes back home all happy and beaming like Ponch from CHIPS with a story to tell me. Most people would probably get reprimanded for missing an appointment and get smacked with a “no-show” fee at most places.
But not John. And not Dr. Han’s office.
Instead, they asked him to become one of the “faces” of their office and be on their website and all over their office walls. They want to hire a photographer and have a photo session so he can flash his pearly whites so his fan club can swoon all over his pictures every day.
“Now we can look at you every day!” they told him.
You could tell he was trying to be humble about it, except of course the part where he wasn’t trying to be humble at all.
“Isn’t it funny how you used to model and I’m the one who gets asked to be in the pictures?”
“Yeah, it’s hysterical.” I said, not really laughing but still finding it odd that his teeth have some special “something” that mine will never have.
The “IT” factor. For teeth.
He was so excited. John’s best friend has modeled as a side job for years and we see him on TV in commercials and in magazines all the time. I could see John already putting his portfolio together and thinking about how many commercials there might be where he could play a call center rep from Mumbai. But then I had to remind him that while he has the loveliest smile in real life, anytime a camera is pointed at him, he becomes Chandler Bing and clams up.
And of course he remembered that is a bit of a problem but I think he is going to try and wing it. I mean, you don’t want to lose an opportunity to have your teeth displayed all over the office and website of your local dentist.
Once in a lifetime opportunity, John. You MUST take it. Carpe the hell out of this one.
I will let you guys know how it goes!
And so now you know about how John’s promising modeling career started. I haven’t quit my job just yet, but if he keeps smiling like that, I’m hoping he can even land a Bollywood gig or do stunt work for Wilmer Valderama.