I am as guilty of loving Disney princess movies as any pre-adolescent girl in my neighborhood. And I love sweet movies about unconventional romance, like Pretty Woman and Bend it Like Beckham. Boy meets girl, girl is feisty and cute and somehow doesn’t realize how beautiful she really is. Boy and girl fall in love, despite social differences (race, socio-economic status, religion). Those differences result in some kind of conflict which are ultimately saved by one overwhelming thing.
And when you go through life, you realize that love is complicated shit. It doesn’t work out as clearly as in the movies and there is no musical crescendo to notify you when you are kissing someone that this is the one. No laugh track when you accidentally bump heads reaching for a pen you dropped. No fairy godmother to dress you up in an outfit that’s just the right amount of pretty, classy and slutty to let him know what a goddess you are.
There are a few things I want my kids to know about love, and with it, sex. Some of it’s straightforward. Some of it’s not. But I want them to know the good, the bad and the ugly.
1. Love is a powerful thing
Yes, it makes you want to run through fields of flowers and change your Facebook status for the whole world to see. But when you love someone and they love you, there is a power that you both wield which could be used for both good and evil. When someone gives you his love, don’t throw it on the floor and stomp on it and break his heart. Similarly, know that when you allow yourself to love someone, that you are becoming vulnerable in a way that you might never understand till it happens.
So give yours wisely. Accept it from others gracefully.
2. It’s going to make you want to do the sexy time
Sometimes you think you’re in love. Or maybe you know you’re not in love but you know that you’re in something and you don’t know what to do with it. Before you go giving it up like free Dum Dums at the doctor’s office, ask yourself:
“Is this how I want to remember it?”
“Is this the person I want to remember it with?”
“Will I ever be able to tell my kids about my first time without lying?”
And I know these things are going to be hard to objectively answer, but humor me and try it before running out to Walgreen’s for a value pack of Durex.
3. Love in the time of Chlamydia
Giving a shout out to one of my favorite authors Gabriel Garcia Marquez on this one (HOLLA!). I am going to teach you about STD’s and you are going to listen. If you’re going to engage, do it wisely and know what’s out there. And if what I tell you scares the shit out of you and makes you want to wait, well, good.
I don’t care how “good it feels.” If someone asks you to do it without a condom because it feels good, you better get your ass out of there fast. Because this is not the first time she/he has uttered those words and you don’t want to catch that shit. It itches, leaves you all raw and makes everything hurt really bad down there.
What? How do I know that? Books. Here’s one about Cholera. Now, scoot.
4. You are too young to be a parent
I thought I was wise enough. Old enough. At 31, I thought I knew everything I needed to know. And I’m not saying there is a right age and there is a wrong age…
But I am saying that I prefer you wait until you are settled. Until after you have been in relationships with a few people. Until you have a means to support yourself, your child a family. I had all of that at 31 and still ended up in a state of shock for the next six years of my life. Sometimes I think I still am. I think it’s a permanent condition after you pop kids out of your vagina.
I will say that I prefer you to be married too. I do. I think that while marriage doesn’t ensure against separation, it does offer some stability that a child needs.
And let’s just say that for some reason (say, if you’re gay) marriage is not “legal” for you, just know that I will be fighting tooth and nail alongside you for that right. I hope by the time you are old enough, the Supreme Court has already made a historical decision that won’t allow that basic freedom be denied to anyone.
5. I don’t care who you love
Ok. Maybe I do a little bit. But let me be clear. When I was growing up, there were a lot of “no-nos” when it came to relationships. I don’t really have many. As I said above, I don’t care if you are gay. I don’t care if you fall in love with someone who is a different race, religion, or is rich/poor as sin. As long as I can serve dinner in paper plates when I want to and not have anybody judging me, then I’m ok.
Yes, avoid sociopaths. Murderers. Rapists. Racists.
I want you to fall in love with a person who respects you and your love and wants to hold a boombox over his head like John Cusack in Say Anything. When you find a love like that, don’t ever let it go. Which brings me to my next point.
6. When you love somebody, don’t set them free
Ok, that’s the dumbest shit I ever heard. And I know Maya Angelou says it and Sting sings it. And as far as the whole caged bird thing, I don’t like birds as housepets, so I don’t really have a point of view on that.
When you love somebody, tie that person down. Don’t set them free so some other bitch can get her hands all over him.
Seriously, kid. Have I taught you nothing?
7. Don’t make decisions about love when drunk
Now, I am not saying I have done this. I prefer you just sip alcohol on very rare social occasions once you are older than 21. But let’s just say that hypothetically, you and your friends don’t eat that much one day and you decide to do shots of Shmirnoff and chase it down with Diet Pepsi (tastes great! less filling!) and you go to a party and you meet a really good looking person that night who holds your hair out of your face when all that cheap vodka comes back up and walks you home.
You do not love him/her. You appreciate him/her. And you can email when you are sober and offer to buy dinner to say thanks, but you don’t have to say I love you or offer any hoo-ha up. Why?
a) Because you are wasted
b) You smell like puke
c) You just need to get the fuck back in bed – RIGHT NOW
d) Didn’t I raise you better than that?
e) All of the above. Oh and drink some water before you go to bed. That’s better, dear.
8. I can tell you all of this but you will make your own mistakes
We all do. It’s part of growing up. It’s part of learning. Your father and I will always be here for you no matter what that mistake is. No matter how hard it might be.
I have hardly touched on anything when it comes to love in this post. All I ask is that you go forward with your eyes open, your mind somewhat clear and with the end goal of loving a wonderful, decent human being who will love you – the perfect parts and the not so perfect parts. Trust me, people who expect perfection are exhausting (another post, another day)!
I’m trying to run interference on a battle between my three year old son and my five year old daughter.
“Nico! I can’t believe you did that to me! You are NOT COMING TO MY PARTY!” She yells at him.
“Shaila….” I interject.
“Oh yeah?!” yells Nico back, finding his voice. However high pitched it might be. “Well you’re not coming to MY party!”
“Nico….” I start.
“Well MY party is going to be bigger than your party. And I’m going to have pinatas!” She yells. She turns to me. “Mommy, I can have pinatas, right?”
“No, MY party is going to be biggest-er than yours and I’m going to have a water slide and you can’t go on it!” He screams back.
“At MY party, I’m going to have ice cream. And I’m going to eat it right in front of you and say, ‘Do you want some ice cream?’ And you won’t be able to HAVE ANY!” She points her finger at him. “And you won’t be able to talk to any of the princesses that are there likebelleorarielorjasmine!” Her words stumble on each other and she is short of breath from her proclamation.
“Well at MY party, you won’t be able to ride the elephant!” Huh? This ain’t no show about rich kiddy bitches on MTV, kid.
“OOOOH. I can’t even believe you, Nico! Mommy! Nico says I can’t ride the elephant!”
“Mommy! Shaila won’t let me have ice cream with a princess!”
This can go on for hours.
Let’s be clear about something. It’s February. Their birthdays – both of them – are in August.
They’re planning for hypothetical parties that are over six months away.
But I understand how mortifying it can be when you’re the only one not invited to a party. How much did that suck? I always hated feeling left out when I found out about a party that my other friends were all excited to go to, only to find that I was the only one not invited. It’s worse than getting picked last for kickball.
If not worse, than a close second.
As an adult, I don’t really care if you invite me to your party. Or to your wedding. Seriously. I’m tired and would rather hang out in my pajamas that night.
I wonder what would happen though if I ever started using the same cold, calculated method of alienation that my children use on each other. I mean, what would I even say?
“At my party, you are so not getting REAL wine glasses. Here’s a paper cup!”
“At my party, you’re are so not going to roll VIP.” You have to drink Bud Light and wine from the big ass Woodbridge bottle.
“At my wedding, you’re going to be at THAT TABLE.” You know. It’s the one furthest from the bride and groom and you’re so close to the bathroom that you can see a groomsman peeing in the urinal.
“At my party, you are so not getting any Tostitos!”
“At my party, my ass is going to look so much better in these jeans than your ass does.” Well, just because. It’s my party.
I don’t know. I don’t think I carry it off with as much aplomb as my kids.
Whatever. There’s more than enough space for all of you at my party. Send special food requests in advance if you are vegan or I have to make gluten free cupcakes or something else I probably suck at.
And try not to step in any elephant poop. It’s impossible to get off!
I wrote a post yesterday about how I feel about recent gun violence in America. It’s over at Scary Mommy today. I want to make a few points clear:
1) My post does NOT call for the disarmament of Americans.
2) My reference to technology is to bring the discussion back to the point of perspective. We keep going back to the 2nd Amendment as if it is infallible or impossible to believe that it needs to be revisited. I am not suggesting the revocation of the law, but for us to evaluate what that means under the context in which we live.
3) Yes, driving a car without a license is illegal in all states, despite the Twitter storm that tried to tell me otherwise. For the guys who were on my back yesterday trolling the guncontrol hashtag on Twitter, if you have found some nuanced way under some provisional law where you can operate a vehicle without a license and not have the vehicle registered, congratulations. Those are not the guidelines most Americans live under.
And I don’t know many cops who would pull someone over and say, “Oh, you don’t have a license? Don’t worry. I just need your Passport. You only need a license to buy booze anyway.”
4) This post does not in any way imply that we DON’T have a mental health situation on our hands in America. Proper mental health care, support and evaluation are a necessary component to a healthy society. We have a LOT of problems in America that contribute to crime. This post is strictly talking about what kind of regulation and enforcement should be in place around guns.
5) I believe that people should have the right to own guns for self-defense, protection and hunting. That is not being contested. What I am asking you to do is to set aside the guns for a moment and ask what the limits are to keep society safe and civilized. To keep our children safe. If you really believe that arming every American is the answer, I ask you to tell me what your vision is for this country. For our children.
Tell me with a straight face that you believe that’s what the Founding Fathers envisioned.
If anyone tells me that Thomas Jefferson’s vision was for us to applaud the idea of a Rambo nation in America, that person is clearly not familiar with anything about TJ, the founder of my Alma Mater, UVA.
6) Since Newtown, I have heard people call the massacre a “ploy” by the Federal government. I have seen a man who saved children that day being called an actor and a pedophile by gun control advocates. I have seen parents grieve but I feel like their grief is tarnished by those who are so extreme to call this a conspiracy.
I mean, I can’t even believe I have to write this, it’s so completely ridiculous.
I don’t know much about you people, but I have feeling a lot of you are part of the discussion over at Scary Mommy.
Thank you for confirming what I have thought.
I really should be scared. We all should.
My post was written with the knowledge that even if I just asked why we don’t call for greater regulation and enforcement around gun laws, that I would get a lot of opposition. That my words might be twisted or misinterpreted.
Excuse me. It happened.
You’re either here because you agree. Or you’re here because you have issue with my sentiments.
In either case, thank you for visiting.
Before you comment I ask you to read this incredibly important piece. Wrestling With Details of Noah Pozner’s Killing. It’s a hard piece to read. One person in the article said, “I didn’t need to read that” about the kind of detail that was shared about what the guns actually physically did to the kids in Newtown. And what their bodies looked like when the parents wanted to cradle them in their arms.
We can handle the inconvenience of reading that. Just like those children had the horrifying inconvenience of living that and like their tormented parents have to remember after seeing that.
Every American needs to know what that means before they weigh in.
Most of you have probably seen this picture by now, which is making its rounds online. It’s a young woman’s coming out letter to her parents. The young woman, Laurel also leaves a cake for her family to sweeten the message.
The message reads:
Good morning parents,
I’m gay. I’ve wanted to tell you for a long time. I thought doing it this way would be a piece of cake. I hope you still love me. I mean, it’s hard not to love someone who baked you a cake.
All my friends know and still love me. Your acceptance would be the icing on the cake.
I hope you, much like this cake, are not in tiers.
I hope we can look back at this and say, “boy, this one really takes the cake.”
It gets batter.
(Sorry for so many puns)
I posted this on my Facebook wall as soon as I saw it. Because I think it’s brilliant. It’s funny.
And I have wondered after posting this how Laurel’s parents received the message. What approach did they take when they heard the news?
And of course, how the cake tasted.
Approach One – Love it and Embrace Her for ALL of it.
It’s obvious from the letter that Laurel has a great sense of humor. I wonder if her parents were the ones who imparted Laurel with their humor and spirit. Did they laugh and throw their arms around her? Grab a slice of cake and tell her how proud they are of her, no matter what? And, how did she know they had been craving cake?
Approach Two – Greater Reservations – Need Time to Process
Or…. did they look at each other in shock, the father absentmindedly going through the normal routine of brewing the coffee while the mother read the letter again, licking some frosting off her finger. Did they take a slice of the cake to the table with their coffee before they sat down and held each others’ hands to talk about the message?
To talk about what all of it means.
That response would be okay too. Not everyone would be jumping up and down in the air about a declaration like this. Some parents need time to process this.
When did Laurel know?
How long has she been trying to tell them?
They might need time to figure out how this changes their expectations of things. To understand how they need to support their child.
To maybe even grieve a little.
Because that mother may have had an idea since Laurel was born that she would have a traditional wedding. That she would have a traditional family. That she would one day be a grandparent to Laurel’s beautiful children from her husband.
And while some of those things can still happen, what she envisioned won’t ever align to what will play out in reality. So it’s important to acknowledge and understand that she might need that time.
Approach 3 – Don’t Accept
And maybe, just maybe. Did one of the parents look at the cake and throw it across the room while the other parent looked at the note and say, “You thought you would buy us a cake to tell us that you’re a goddamn lesbian? What the hell kind of message is that to give to your parents? With a Duncan Hines cake?”
And I am really hopeful that Laurel did not see that kind of reaction.
What Approach Would I Take?
So here’s where I am going. I don’t know what happened in Laurel’s house. I pray that her family is loving and supportive and will do everything they can to make sure she knows that their love for her does not changes.
If my kids left me that cake? I would probably cry. Tears of joy and love and happiness that they feel they have enough support from their parents to know that we will always love them. I would be ecstatic. Even if I don’t like cake. I would eat every calorie in that cake.
I have always said I will embrace my children, no matter what their sexuality is. Things I worry about as a mother are my children falling down the wrong path at some point in life. I worry not about the sex of the partner they choose – but the quality of partner that they choose. No matter what, I just want them to find love in the truest way with someone who loves them back as selflessly as I know my own kids will love.
There are so many things I want for my kids in this life, but ultimately, it’s their happiness that matters the most to me. Their fulfillment.
So I guess the question is, how would you respond if a child came out to you this way?
For now I am off to bed. But when I wake, let them eat cake!
The other day (okay, a few weeks ago), I was working out at the gym, taking a break between sets during an intense leg workout. Well, let’s be honest. It was a leg workout, made intense by the fact that it involved work.
I don’t know what triggered the thought, but as I finished taking a sip from my water bottle, I remember thinking to myself,
“If a shooter were to walk in right now and start shooting up this place, would I have anywhere to hide? Where is the emergency exit? Do I know how to play dead?”
Not so bizarre. Not anymore.
I find myself thinking about those things more and more these days. I don’t think it’s hubris – I’ve never been one to be paranoid about protecting my life. I will jump on a trans-Atlantic flight, go on the most daredevil, heart-pounding roller-coaster and can go on a passionate carbohydrate binge that would have me banned from South Beach forever.
When I was in elementary school, we did fire and safety drills all the time. Every year, the firemen would come in and reiterate the same message about how the real dangers of fire were not in the flames, initially, but in the fumes.
“Stop! Drop! And ROLL!” We were taught and we would have to demonstrate one by one that we knew how to do the roll.
“Roll away from the smoke!” The firemen would indicate where the fake smoke was coming from.
And we would have to get on the floor and roll down the hallway or the pavement, with our arms pressed against our sides.
And now I wonder if I am supposed to be teaching my children how to play, “Stop. Drop. And play dead” instead.
I watched the news the day of the Newtown shooting from my office. When I first saw word of the gun shooting online, it had estimated two dead. When I was leaving the office to grab lunch and passed by the TV, my heart dropped when I saw the revised numbers.
A few of my colleagues were standing with me and one of them said, “Yeah, just watch the gun control freaks have a field day with this one.”
My idea of field day is quite different than anything I saw in the news that day or in the following weeks about what happened in Newtown. See, having a field day involves doing things like a 50 yard dash or playing tug of war. Jumping towards a finish line in a potato sack.
It doesn’t involve children being slaughtered to death.
“It’s not guns that kill people!” my co-worker explained. “People kill people.”
Yeah. No shit, Sherlock. People kill people. Usually with guns.
Of course there are other weapons and other means to kill. But that doesn’t mean that anything has the power of an assault weapon of the caliber used in Newtown.
So call me a freak. But first call me an American.
I am an American. Born and raised on this soil, I am proud of my country. I’m a patriot. I love my country. Like most things I love, like my husband, my children, my family, my friends and even myself – I love my country, not with the false belief that it is perfect. I am under no illusions that my country is perfect.
A blind love is never a healthy love, you see.
Being a patriot to this country is not just in honoring those who fight in the name of this country. It’s not standing with a hand on my heart during the pledge or even the fact that I often cry during the National Anthem.
Being a patriot to this country also means acknowledging the imperfections that tarnish the soil that we love. It means acknowledging that what was done to the Native Americans in a quest to drive them away from their homes was a travesty. It means acknowledging the stains of our own intolerance in the Japanese internment camps that were a part of this land.
“This lands was made for you and me.” It’s a beautiful song. But it’s hardly one that we have always sung together.
Being an American patriot means acknowledging that slavery existed in this country even while the Founding Fathers were writing a document that we immortalize with reverence. There was a time when American fought against American in this land because of the difference in opinion that we could “own” the bodies of other men and women. Our fellow brothers and sisters. It means recognizing that segregation in this country existed until just a few decades ago.
So I’m an American. I love this country but I won’t ignore the flaws of our past and look at anything in our history or any document in our history as beyond questioning. As unquestionable or perfect in any way.
The Founding Fathers. They were mortals. They wrote the Constitution under the crushing pressure of trying to obtain freedom from England.
They were people who made mistakes. They were people who did not have a crystal ball. They were Renaissance men, the lot of them, yet they had no concept of things like the Industrial Revolution. They never imagined cars. They didn’t ever foresee large vessels that could fly across oceans in the air or do the same things in the deepest recesses of our oceans.
They never saw a television. They never saw a man walk on the moon. They never imagined the mass production and unethical means in which we would harvest our animals. They never had the internet. Or a phone. Or electricity.
They owned muskets. They had harpoons.
They never imagined gang wars. They never saw the technology that could create guns that could kill so many people so quickly. They never saw an AK-47 blow someone’s head off. They never imagined the number of civilian deaths, that would take place and grow each year on American soil
I will tell you one thing. They never imagined Columbine. They never imagined Newtown.
“Don’t take away my Second Amendment freedoms!”
Settle down. First of all, let’s stop looking at this as religious scripture. And stop attacking anyone who asks if guns should not be better regulated in this country. Well, if the laws we have are not enforced, then we don’t need more laws. We need enforcement and we need laws that make sense.
I feel like we are sitting at a critical juncture as a country. There will be another shooting. There might be another Newtown. There is just a sense of when, how, where? that I feel smothers us like a blanket.
I just want to know why I feel like the moment I question better regulation, people feel like their rights to own guns are being threatened? Hey, nobody’s saying you can’t hunt. Nobody’s saying you can’t own guns for self-defense. Heck, keep your arsenal for your hypothetical militia.
We have a problem here. An epidemic, if you will. Why is proper licensing of guns not considered acceptable? Why are more stringent licensing practices not being issued?
I keep hearing, “Well people will get guns without licenses!”
Probably. But it will be illegal and they should be penalized under the law. A person cannot legally drive in this country without getting a license. It doesn’t mean that people aren’t driving illegally every day. But that’s no excuse to stop overseeing it.
And why do we do that? Why do we require driver’s licenses? Because we like waiting online at the DMV? Because we like the way we look in the pictures? Does anyone actually like to go through the process of car inspections, vehicle registrations and wasting half a day at the DMV. Every stupid year? For every vehicle you own?
No. It’s a goddamn pain in the ass is what it is. But you do it. And it makes sense.
We do it because we know the power we hold behind the wheel. We know that we can kill, we can destroy, we can maim if we don’t know what we’re doing.
So why then? Why, why would we allow people to own guns without the appropriate training? Without appropriate documentation of what guns are where? And if it’s because we are going to talk about the people needing a way to raise a militia against the government, the people who are raging about wanting to have a right to raise a militia are usually the people I would NEVER want to see raise a militia.
That’s right. You people scare me.
I don’t know what will happen if I am at that gym in a middle of a workout and a gunman comes in raging. I haven’t thought through that yet. But I know that I think about my children every day. And my friends’ children. And my neighbors’ children.
And I’m not ready to teach them to stop, drop and play dead.
Something needs to change.
Sorry, this post is a little later than promised and I know many of you are biting your nails and waiting with baited breath for me to hit publish. Oh, you’re not?
So I started my adventures in “Les Mis” over the holidays, writing in this post about how I had seen it twice in one day. I consider that to be pretty extreme, hard core movie lovin’. Sure, I didn’t sleep in a sleeping bag to get to see the first show – I’m not that pathetic. Especially not on Christmas. I mean, even for people who are crazy about something like “Twilight,” – well I think even those guys would look at me weird, which is pathetic because hello. They are in love with vampires.
It’s about perspective people.
So yes, I saw it that second time. And I walked back into the house twirling and singing and dancing.
“ONE DAY MORE,” I belt out, making large operatic gestures with my hands. My kids usually enjoy it the first few minutes. But then they are like, “Mommy. You sing nice. But can you please stop?” and I have to be like, “Come on, just one more verse?” or “Wait, wait, but this is the best part!” And they just look at each other, roll their eyes and turn back to me and let me finish.
And just know that I sing the ass out of this soundtrack. I do it all in the character voices. So what if I sound a bit like Sean Connery when I do Jean Valjean’s parts?
It’s authentic, guys. And has anyone thought it odd how only “Les Mis” makes it totally reasonable for a play that takes place in France to have everybody talking in an English or Scottish accent.
Even if they’re American? Or Australian?
And then I put out a poll on the blog’s Facebook page. Which is a smart way to parent, I think. Put it out there and make it democratic.
The gist of the question was this: “Can I bring Shaila, age 5, to see “Les Mis” with me, one of the things I am so passionate about in this world. John thinks I am crazy, but I’m not. Right? Right?”
I was waiting for all my friends and readers to tell me that “mother knows best!” and all that stuff. But it didn’t quite work out that way.
The answers were a resounding:
Hell to the no.
These were the responses I got. Opinions ranging from “Guuuurl, you be CRAZY,” to “I’m calling Child Protective Services on yo’ ass” were thrown out and I realized I would not bring Shaila. This would be a love we could not share for some time. I was on my own.
See how I did that? Get it? Eponine sings that song … Ok, fine I get it. I am a geek. My “Les Mis” jokes are a bit obscure.
So, when my parents came to visit us a few days before New Year’s and while Ma was making her amazing chicken curry, I sat around the kitchen table with a bottle of champagne making mimosas and set out three glasses. I reached out to serve Ma and Papa.
Me: “Ma, do you want some?”
Ma: “No. It make me too much gas.”
You might not understand what that means, but it made perfect sense to me. Papa declined too, but I had already popped the cork so what could I do?
So I sat there with my parents shooting the shit while they each had a glass of red wine and I had a bottle of champagne to make apparently enough mimosas for a sorority tea party.
It was FUN. And then I came up with the GREATEST idea EVER. If I couldn’t bring Shaila to see “Les Mis,” perhaps I could bring my parents? I mean they were of age and we could also take advantage of a senior citizen discount.
And so in my slightly buzzed state, it was decided. I would be taking Ma and Papa to see “Les Mis” in the movie theater while John watched the kids the next day at noon.
So the next day, the three of us bop along on our merry adventure. We get to the theater and grab some popcorn and head to our seats. This is hard for my dad because he has a cane and is legally blind, so he had to go really slow. I don’t have a particular need for speed, but I felt bad not realizing how uncomfortable and long the walk must be for him in a movie theater with no light on to guide him.
I felt terrible about that. So, better planning required on my part next time.
He was a trooper though. We got settled into our seats, me sitting in between the two of them. The previews started. I couldn’t really hear them, though I was aware of the loud crunching of popcorn resonating in my ears IN STEREO.
Am I the only one who realizes how loud her parents chew in public?
So, the movie started and I was immediately swept into another world. I sat there and watched when about ten minutes in, I heard someone snoring. Yes, it was my father on my left. Completely passed out. Now I was not going to wake him up, because it won’t end well. When he used to fall asleep when we would re-watch seasons of “24,” he would awaken in a panic and ask as he adjusted his glasses, “But where is Chloe?” It didn’t even matter if Chloe was IN the episodes. Heck, it didn’t even matter if we were watching “24.” I couldn’t wake him up and risk having him yell something like, “Has Chloe broken the code? Did she find Jack?” during “Les Mis.”
I let my father sleep and miracle of all miracles, he seemed to come to on his own.
I leaned over to my mother. “Do you know what’s going on, Ma?” I asked.
“Yes honey. It’s not too bayd.”
Good. So about 30 minutes in, when one of the characters becomes a prostitute and the audience is watching a gut-wrenching, terribly sad scene, tears running down many a face, Ma leans over and taps me on the shoulder.
“OH, THAT’S BAD,” she announced in her Megaphone Voice. Yes, having to turn to a life of prostitution because you can’t get a job to feed your daughter is a little bad, I would think. Um, to say the least.
“yes, ma, it’s bad.” I said, trying to whisper.
“VHAT?!” she asked, leaning in to hear better.
Now, I don’t want to give anything away, but Jean Valjean is the main character that is in the movie. It starts with him, it ends with him. About 40 minutes in, during a critical scene between Fantine and Jean Valjean, you know, the guy whose life we have been watching develop the LAST 40 MINUTES OF THE MOVIE, Ma leans over, grabs some of the popcorn I have taken back from her and says, “Yeh kaun hai?” (Who’s this guy?)
“Ma,” I whispered, just loud enough to be heard over Papa’s snore. “That’s Jean Valjean. You know, the same guy from the beginning of the movie.” ?
She looked perplexed.
“Ma, he’s been here since the movie started.”
I still don’t think she got it.
And it hit me. How could I forget that my mother has trouble telling white people apart? I mean, she has trouble telling anyone apart other than Indian people and she messes that up sometimes too. The only white person she could pick out of a crowd is Tony Danza and that’s because my mom thinks “he’s the boss.”
If you know what I mean.
At that point my father’s head fell on my shoulder and he started snoring fully in one ear with my mom eating popcorn at the highest volume in my other.
We went on this way for the remainder of the movie, Papa popping in and out of nap mode, waking up and catching himself before he yelled, “Has Chloe broken into the mainframe yet?!” Ma sat there and kept hitting me if I cried.
“Oh Gawd. It’s just movie, dohn’t be crybaby.”
We had a good time. No, seriously. It was awesome. I am so glad my parents went with me and I kind of love that they went to go see something I loved that much, just because I asked them to.
Well, asked. And then begged. And then begged some more.
Something still tells me that Shaila may have appreciated it a little more (no, don’t call CPS!), but I was glad to be able to have that day with my parents.
When adults would read me Snow White as a child, I always marveled at the beautiful Princess’s beauty. Her loving mother had wished for a daughter with skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood and hair as black as coal.
Wow. She sounds pretty.
Except…. (Sound of a record scratching)
Back the fuck up, yo.
Skin as WHITE as snow?
I was raised in a pretty homogenous small town in New Jersey, at least when I was young. It started to become more and more diverse as droves of New Yorkers from Brooklyn, Staten Island and Queens started to move a little further out to raise larger families in bigger homes, where they could still commute to the city. When I graduated from high school, my yearbook reflected faces from around the world.
But when I was younger, like in elementary school, there were just a few faces that were the other side of tan, scattered in a sea of white.
One of them was mine.
I remember my friends always being perplexed when it was time to draw a picture of me. I could turn out anything from yellow to orange, red to burnt sienna. Sometimes all in the SAME picture, guys. My favorite was when one of my friends tried to mix black and white together and I just ended up looking like a freakish zebra kid.
Talented kid, that one.
You can see there was some diversity in this picture. There’s Aimee Moy in the back. She was my one Chinese friend throughout Elementary School. There is Terence in the middle in the front row. I don’t know where he is – he moved that year, but he used to sing his ass off in the bathroom, I remember that. The Indian boy next to Terence* is Rajiv. He was my next door neighbor and also Indian, so OF COURSE, he was my “boyfriend” which made us just want to pull each others’ hair out even more. There was Jonathan**, sitting at the end of the front row – half Filipino and half white, he was one of the few “mixed” kids I knew.
At home, the messages I received around skin color were no less confusing. As I heard of cousins’ marriages being arranged, when asked if the girl was pretty, the answers were usually along the lines of “ha, bohut gauri hai.” Yeah, her skin is whiter than a holy cow’s milk. or “Chehra meh taura sa paani hai.” Which literally translates to, her face has water in it.
I don’t know what that means, but it had to do with the girl not having a very white face. Or maybe being bloated.
The message was clear, the whiter you were, the prettier you were.
Bollywood movies played in the background of my house and the message was confirmed. Most of the beautiful Indian actresses were fair-complected, sometimes with light colored eyes. Scroll down and see some of the examples….
Do you guys notice anything similar about these women? Do you? DO YOU?
They all look like they can bloody be cast as Snow White in a Bollywood version of the movie.
I would never look like these beauties. Five minutes in the sun and my skin would darken, throwing my mother into a panic as she wondered if she would ever be able to find a suitable husband for me. At the time, she and my father were still under the illusion that they would be making that decision for me.
Aw, parents. You gotta love them.
There was this one commercial that started playing in my later years of elementary school in the middle of Indian movies. It was for a cream called “Fair and Lovely.” Basically the commercial starts out with a boy and his parents seeking out a prospective bride. The boy sees the girl and thinks she is pretty but is a little disappointed because her skin is not “white” enough. The girl’s mother senses the boy’s discomfort with her daughter’s skin color, so she buys her somewhat tanner daughter a little old “Fair and Lovely” and makes sure that her “homely” daughter applies it every day.
After a strict regimen of just applying the skin cream, the girls complexion starts to lighten. She is transformed into a whiter, and obviously, according to the ad, much prettier version of herself. By the time the boy sees her at the wedding, he is mesmerized.
He turns to his mother, “Vow, Mom. Look at her skin! Kitni fair and lovely!” (How fair and lovely. Oh and look at what a racist jack ass I am!)
The boy and girl marry and ride off into the sunset.
It’s like, so magical, in a really disturbing, ethnophobic and backwards kind of way.
Anyway. The summer before I went to high school, I went to India with my parents. And I saw the billboard ads for “Fair and Lovely” ALL over India. And I saw how it magically transformed these girls’ lives.
So of course I had to have it.
I would slather it on my skin to the point where I actually started to look whiter right away. I mean, imagine if you took ten layers of Nivea and just let it sit on your face. I thought if I let it “marinate” and “simmer” a little, I might get results faster. I would sit there and sometimes look in the mirror to see if I was whiter. What, it’s been twenty minutes?
Damn. Still not white.
I don’t know if it ever worked. To be honest, a minute in the sun and I catch color, so I could never keep up with enough applications of “Fair and Lovely” to stay ahead of the “whiteness” curve, as I like to think of it now. When I came back home, I started playing high school sports, so was out and getting tan and no amount of “Fair and Lovely” was ever going to negate the effects of that.
I don’t know what my mom ever did with all those tubes of “Fair and Lovely,” but I know I didn’t need it anymore.
Eventually, I learned to love the skin I was born in. Because by then, my metabolism had caught up with me, so I had other fish to fry.
Just kidding. Kind of.
I don’t eat fried fish.
My husband is half-Italian and half Puerto-Rican. With me being 100% Indian in ethnicity, our kids are quite a mix. I love their exotic features and their beautiful skin. And I know one day they might have questions about skin color, but I don’t think they will be quite as startling as mine. They are growing up in a much more racially diverse environment than I did. Northern Virginia, on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., is one of the most racially and internationally diverse places we could have settled. I love that about our area.
When they watch TV, they will see faces that look like theirs. I don’t think I saw any Indian faces on mainstream television till Apu made his breakthrough performance on “The Simpsons.” There are TV anchors with names like “Kiran Chetry.” There are more Indian role models in mainstream American culture like Mindy Kaling, Kal Penn, Padma Lakshmi, just to name a few.
Heck, one of these days, they might even cast Indian doctors on some of the medical shows. Because of course, that wouldn’t be too true to reality or something. Where is Dr. McCurry already, people?
Anyway, I was 14 that summer I tried to make myself white. I like to think that I was just one step ahead of Michael Jackson on that one. A true trendsetter.
As a bonus, I have found some current “Fair and Lovely” commercials for you to watch. Between laughing and gasping in extreme horror, I just ask you to forgive me by ever being influenced by this shit.
This newscaster’s career dreams were always being held back by her skin color of course! Until she decided to take charge!
In this one, one of the girls is accused of “doing cheating” because she saw results faster than the other girl. But the other girl didn’t apply the skin EVERY day like her. Idiot.
At least they are gearing it towards men too! Thank goodness! The stunt double always gets out shined by the much whiter hero until he finds the mens version of “Fair and Lovely.”
A career changing move, you’ll see.
This girl’s dreams of being a Cricket announcer cannot be realized until she is like, whiter. I love how teary her mom gets to see her daughter living her white dreams to the fullest.
* If you have seen Terence, please let me know. None of us in Old Bridge, NJ have seen him since the first grade. I don’t remember his last name, but he is known for singing loudly in bathrooms.
** If you have seen Jonathan Gross, also let us know. None of us have seen him since he moved from Old Bridge, NJ in the fifth grade. Apparently he is too smart to be on Facebook.
Also, would you guys click on this button below if you want to see me selected as one of the Top 25 Funny Mom Blogs? You can vote from now until Feb 13th every day. I was nominated late so I’ve got some ground to make up for. Help me validate my funny! XO.
I was sitting on the couch, ignoring the kids while they ran around, jumping on top of John. John is not feeling 100% after traveling for business this week, so I looked up to ask him if he was alright. I don’t know how he responded, but he wasn’t puking or anything, so I’m guessing he said, “Couldn’t be Better!” with a thumbs or something.
Nico stuck something on my head and I told him, “That’s nice,” because that’s usually what I do when he asks me something and I am too busy doing something SUPER important (i.e. anything other THAN something super important) to respond.
Plus I think teaching him about positive reinforcement is really healthy. Of course, this backfired the time he was holding the knife and I was on my iPhone and said “That’s nice!” and now he thinks that playing with knives is a good thing.
Still, it’s better than guns, I say.
Anyway, I went out a little while later to check on the kids who rolled out the door to play with John, again, who is not showing signs of dehydration, so I’m thinking he’s just being a wuss on the whole “not feeling good” thing. And then, WTF? John started laughing at me. I would say “That’s not nice!” except I figure if he’s laughing, that’s a good thing, because it’s better than him being on the can all day or something and REALLY being sick.
I came back inside and caught my reflection in the window.
So, I don’t do reviews or anything on this site, because well, nobody really asks me to. Also because I would probably just say “That’s nice!” and you all know how much that means at this point.
“Nico! Put away the knives!!”
God, I never realized how much he looks like an Indian/Italian/Puerto-Rican version of Chuckie when he’s armed like that.
Anyway, I felt like I NEEDED to review this. This plush “Minnie Mouse” headband is wrapped in a velvet headband so soft, you forget it’s even there. The sparkly, glittery bow is perfect for making your eyes “pop.”
On top of that, people who have Disney fetishes can easily incorporate this into their repertoire.
No, John. Not you. Aren’t you feeling sick? Sheesh.
I got it with my daughter’s Halloween costume, but it goes with a lot of different outfits. And ladies, it doesn’t slip off your head or pinch you behind the ears. Plus if you have a daughter, you can always let her “borrow” it. Just make her give it back.
There’s only room for one diva in the house and Shaila ain’t gonna be it.
Not when I’ve got this on anyway.
I usually end my post with, Namaste. But that just feels wrong today.
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 bake and shake 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.
The past few months, my 5 year old daughter has spent an inordinate amount of time worrying about her appearance. Worrying about how to style her hair. Painstakingly picking out her outfits, trying to make them look as “girly” and as “dainty” as possible. This usually amounts to huge amounts of pink. Ruffles. It looks like Barbie puked on her when she tries to dress herself. She pushes her limits too, constantly asking to wear lipstick. Or hoping she can get a pair of shoes with heels.
I am not sure where Shaila gets it from. I certainly may have been a fashion plate at one point in my life (briefly. VERY briefly), but now I find myself dressed in something I can kick around in all day. Yoga pants. Sweats. Comfy hoodies. Working from home has removed the desire to spend a lot of time styling my hair or putting on makeup. I do clean up pretty well when I want to, but it hasn’t been a focus of mine since she was born.
“I’m not pretty, mommy,” she will say sometimes.
A few weeks ago, she said it again.
“You are beautiful. Inside and out,” I told her, holding her close.
Kneeling on the floor to look her in the eyes, I asked, “Do you know what pretty means?” We have been through this before.
“Being beautiful?” she asks. I can see why she might think that. It’s kind of a circular question. It’s one that I think most grown women and men haven’t yet figured out either, including myself. Especially when I question what I see in the mirror.
“Pretty comes from inside. It’s how you love and how you open your heart and mind to other people. Pretty is being kind and compassionate. Pretty is about helping people when they are hurting.”
She looked at me, not saying anything.
“You ARE pretty, baby,” I said, kissing her on her forehead. “Remember those things and you will always be beautiful.”
Still, I know the question and the insecurity will come again. I was proud of her when last week, she decided during a routine haircut that she wanted to cut her hair for Locks of Love, an organization that accepts hair (unprocessed) donations of a minimum of ten inches, to make wigs for children who have lost their hair to cancer or other diseases.
I almost hesitated when she said it. Shaila’s hair? Well, it’s the hair I had always wanted growing up. Heck, it’s the hair I wish I had now. She’s got the glossy, shiny locks that shampoo commercials are made of. She looked so certain though.
“You sure?” I asked.
“Yes, mommy,” she answered, resolutely. “My hair grows fast, mommy. Don’t worry.”
I knew a few things that helped make up her mind:
1) Like any girl knows, change is sometimes fun. And necessary. Puts a little pep in your step.
2) I had explained the program to her a few times, asking her if she might want to donate. She never seemed to have the attention span to actually hear me out before running off to do something else, so I never thought she heard me.
I guess she did.
3) At the age of 5, she has already been exposed to cancer. She often still speaks about the little boy on our street, Declan, who died of cancer when he was shy of a year old. We have been to several fundraisers and she has seen children going through chemo and has asked questions about why they are bald.
I don’t remember if I knew what cancer was when I was 5. She does.
4) Last year, two days before the start of 2012, her beautiful cousin and our niece, Amanda, committed suicide. This year was the first anniversary of her death on December 30th. The days leading up to New Years felt heavy, almost suffocating as I tried to keep a flood of memories of the pain last year at bay. This year, New Year’s was not a time to celebrate. It was a time to cry and remember and to say her name and honor her memory.
I must have spoken about her more than I realized. One thing I had told Shaila was how Amanda had donated her hair to Locks of Love – three separate times. And how she probably would have done it more had we still been blessed to have her.
I know that Shaila still thinks about Declan and Amanda a lot. At night as she says a prayer, she will often stop in the middle and say, “Mommy, can I pray for Declan and Amanda too, in Heaven?”
It makes me proud that she had them in her mind when she made her decision. Perhaps that’s a bit selfish of me, but her actions comforted and soothed a part of me that was aching that day.
Is it weird to say I felt like she knew that?
In the end, when it came to the actual cut, the stylist did a real hack job. I would have been better off cutting it myself. I wish I had stepped in more during the haircut, but I didn’t realize the woman was going to shape my child’s hair in the shape of a giant mushroom. But Shaila hasn’t complained or said anything. There are times where I have seen her look in the mirror and try to settle down her too short layers. But her hands drop away and she says, “That’s ok. My hair grows so fast. Right, mommy?”
Yes, Shaila. And so are you.
I feel like we are making strides with explaining what the words “pretty” and “beauty” mean to our daughter. But I know it’s not just what we teach her at home, but the constant messages and images that she will be exposed to through mainstream culture and the things she will hear at school.
With the value our society places on physical beauty, it’s a challenge to help steer your children in the right direction. We all know the pull and the draw of external beauty, but it’s a fleeting and superficial thing. I kind of go back to that famous saying by Audrey Hepburn when I DO need to be inspired on how to explain beauty to Shaila.
For beautiful eyes, look for the goodness in others;
For beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness;
And for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.
I hope she continues to be as beautiful as she is proving to be.