Racism and other shit

Do You Want to Build a Gay Snowman?

frozen imageThe other day, a friend of mine pointed me to a blog post that she wanted a second opinion on. She had read the post and asked herself afterwards,  “Is this woman bat shit crazy? Or, is it me?”

After reading the post and wondering why on earth some people choose to blog and reveal such crazy, I assured her that she was not the one with the issue for disagreeing with the blog, in spite of the number of comments applauding the author. I also told my friend that if she was crazy, then I was full on LOCO. Yes. In all caps.

Rather than send you to the post and have you contribute any page views to this woman’s blog or her ego, I will summarize the basis for this gem of internet published work.

In her post, she argues that the song “Let it Go” from the movie Frozen is about coming out and therefore, should not be supported or shown to kids because that’s not how Jesus would roll.

She then went on to write all the lyrics out and expanded on her theory in a torrent of words that were filled with homophobia, hate and ignorance. Shrouded in lots of Christianity.

If you know me at all, you know that at first I got irate. Angry. Really, really annoyed that viewpoints like this are shared with such condescension. That some people feel it’s alright to condone intolerance and hatred by arguing “But God wants it that way!” to close their argument.

I read through some of the comment storm and it was torturous. She got a lot of “Right on, sister!” and “Holla!” type of feedback from many who went on to quote some passage of the Bible to strengthen their argument.

I had to shut it down because I was getting so pissed off.

Why? It doesn’t take much to have a blog. A monkey could have a blog. In fact, a monkey could have written a better blog, I think. At least one that was slightly less hateful. So, it’s not like this person’s opinion should really matter to me. She had no qualifications she could point to other than being Christian and loving Jesus. I am not Christian, but I  found myself deeply offended for the non-homophobic, loving and accepting ones who might be a whole lot less inclined to believe that Frozen is a work of gay propaganda. I also found myself deeply offended for Jesus who doesn’t deserve that kind of company.

I am also just annoyed because whenever I watch that movie from now on, I will think of her stupid post. (Sorry if I have ruined it for any of you as well).

I know at the end of the day, not everyone will embrace or accept homosexuality. I get that. I understand that there will always be some confinement around beliefs that even time and more societal acceptance will not break down. It doesn’t make me happy but I am a realist. Haters are gonna hate.

If the movie Frozen is really about brainwashing kids into accepting someone’s sexual orientation, even if it might be different than their own, I will play it on repeat once it’s out on DVD. I will belt out the songs and teach my kids all the words and then sing some more, well beyond when they cover their tiny little ears and beg me to stop.

Haters are gonna hate, but if I’ve done anything right, my kids won’t be one of them.

P.S. I understand that everyone is entitled to their opinion.

P.P.S. Except when it’s wrong.

XO,

Kiran

Bonbon Break

My Teenage Dating Chronicles

I have a story to tell you guys. You might not believe it. But I swear, it’s all true. Every stinking word of it.

When I was younger, well…I wasn’t really a hit with the boys. I know. I KNOW. This is hard to believe since now I am so obviously ridiculously, ridiculously good looking and charming. But suspend your disbelief for just one minute, however hard that might be and go back in time with me.

When I hit my teens, I was awkward and shy. A bit pudgy, with braces and Jersey hair so big and so wide that it made Medusa look like she was a shampoo commercial model. Friends, it was bad.

But then things changed. The pounds fell off when I ran cross country. A teeny weeny eating disorder didn’t hurt either (another story, another day). The braces came off and I figured out (somewhat) how to work with the mop that God (yes, thank you for that God) gave me.

So around 16, I blossomed. Ok, maybe that’s too strong of a word. I wouldn’t say that I went through a case of the ugly duckling turning into a swan. Nothing that dramatic! But I was a more attractive duckling, which was progress and which helped confirm that a daily dietary supplement of my mother’s samosas was not conducive to weight loss.

I also got the whole facial hair thing under control. SCORE! This achievement involves a serious fist pull. You see, I’m Indian. And I have dark, coarse hair. And it sprouted on my face with a profound enthusiasm that I could not match, much less conquer alone. After a very unfortunate incident with a bottle of Nair when I was 13, I finally became a pro at using hot wax. No easy feat for a young teen with a small forest growing on her face.

So now, I no longer had a moustache that rivaled that of Mr. Kakos, my very Greek AP English teacher. Huge improvement folks.

And so all this happened. And I started hearing the word. Pretty. And people were using it to describe me. ME. Well, sometimes. Again, just roll with me here.

That's Me - 2nd row curly hair!

 

I’m in the second row – 1st on the left.

And yet friends, though I bought the milkshakes to the yard with all these changes, nobody came a-knocking at my door. Sure, we had some Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, but other than that – nothing. My phone wasn’t ringing off the hook either.

I had guy friends who were great, but nobody was romantically interested in me. I use the word romantically loosely, because we were in high school and all I knew about romance, I learned from watching Guiding Light and Fred and Daphne’s obvious sexcapades on Scooby Doo.

Was it the knowledge that not so long ago, I slightly resembled a yeti? Was it the fact that any time someone did call me, my strict, Indian father would interrogate them relentlessly?

“How do you know her?” Um. School, Papa.

“What do you want to talk about?” Math. Like, duh.

“How many girls have you deflowered?” Ok. No he didn’t. But I am sure he wanted to.

I remember being in the cafeteria one day hanging out with a guy I had been friends with for a while who I had a huge crush on. For the sake of this story we will call him Don*, because a few friends from high school read my blog. He said something really sweet to me. Something absentmindedly and God I don’t remember what it was. I think it was something like “Oh Kiran, you’re so great” accompanied by an affectionate nudge on the shoulder.

I recognize now that you say things like this to lost puppies and sympathy crushes. You know, to people you know that like you, but who you don’t have feelings for.

At the time though, I wasn’t that cool. (I know, I told you to suspend your disbelief!). So I mustered up my courage and said, “Well, Don. You know I think you’re great too.” And I could have left it at that.

But no friends. I did not. I did NOT leave it at that. Instead, I added, “Like, yeah. Like, I like you.” Fucking idiot I was. When over 50% of your sentence uses the word like, you officially qualify as a moron.

This is when Don said to me, “Well, Kiran, I like you too.”

“Really?”

“But you know I can’t date you.”

“Why?” I asked, perplexed.

“Because of what you are.”

I paused for a second. Wow. Harsh!

“Wait. Because I’m smarter than you?”

The next thing I know, the bell rings and we are surrounded by friends and apparently the boys aren’t dating me because of my lack of milkshakes but because I’m smarter. Well, at least I knew what the problem was.

When I told my friends about what happened though, they saw things a little differently than me.

“Because of what you ARE?!!”

“Yeah. Because I’m smart.”

“No, Kiran. Because you’re Indian!” my friends informed me. Apparently he had been overheard talking about it with a friend and had been a bit more clear about my unsavory characteristics.

Oh. OH.

Every other brush with dating in high school ended disastrously. I wasn’t often in the running, but when I was, it was not usually very smooth sailing.

And you know, while it sucked that a guy didn’t like me because I was Indian, I kind of am still proud of my first response. Because that’s who I was. I was a smart little cookie. Sure, I had shitty taste in footballin’ men, but I had some balls to take a chance and tell someone I liked them. It took courage for me to do that. And sometimes having courage is a lot more important than getting to make out with the high school quarterback. That’s the story I’m sticking to anyway.

Stay tuned for more adventures in awkward, Indian teenage dating….

XOXO,

Kiran

Live from Lisbon, Portugal, where I should have been in bed a LONG time ago.

Stop. Drop. And Play Dead.

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.

Reality Check.

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.

Muskets, people.

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.

Who Put the White in Snow White?

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?

Hmmm.

That’s me in the back with the pink shirt and the glasses.

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….

Typical.

 

 

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.

Circle of Moms Top 25 Funny Moms - 2013 - Vote for me!

Namaste,
Kiran

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MEET KIRAN

I'm Kiran, I'm a dreamer. A writer. A singer. A mother. An ugly crier. An Indian-American. Who loves Gandhi. My stories are full of truth that is sometimes hard for me to say out loud. This blog is where I overcome my fears and live (and love) out loud. Read More....

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