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.
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.”
“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.
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….
Live from Lisbon, Portugal, where I should have been in bed a LONG time ago.
A lot of people ask me the question, “Where are you from?” I know most people ask because they are curious about my ethnicity, not because they want to know which state of the Union I identify myself with. But I am never really sure, so often ask, “What do you mean?” I will respond without hesitation once they clarify. In some cases, people are actually asking about the state I am from, after they catch the subtlest hint of what remains of my Jersey accent.
When the question is about my ethnicity, the responses I get range in nature from slight head nods to outward enthusiasm to the highly offensive. Here are a few examples:
“I love Indian food! I love Indian culture. That’s so cool.” An enthusiastic response.
“Wow, you’re pretty for an Indian!” Yeah, that’s a very informed thing to say. No, it’s not.
“You don’t look Indian. Are you sure there’s no white mixed in? Somewhere?”
“DOT, not feather, right?” Yes, I have seen “Good Will Hunting.” You’re hysterical.
“I have a friend who is Indian. Do you know him? His name is Sunny Patel.” Um, no. Oh wait, you’re Italian? Do you know Bob Russo? Yeah, didn’t think so.
“Do Indians really eat monkey brains?” Thanks for starting that rumor, Indiana Jones. No, as a matter of fact, a good portion of India is vegetarian.
“Oh, you’re name is Kiran (pronounced kee-rin)! Do you mind if I call you Karen instead? Kiran is too complicated.” No. I’d prefer you call me nothing at all.
“You just don’t look Indian,” said with a head tilt, skepticism laced in the answer. This obviously from an expert on physical traits of Indian people.
“Wow. Your English is really good. I can’t even hear an accent.” The only accent I am guilty of having is the slight Jersey one, courtesy of the state I spent my childhood in.
I don’t get upset any more. In the past, I was a little firecracker about a few of the comments above. I would get angry or defensive and rail at the ignorance of the comments. Sometimes I would express how pissed off I was directly to the person, but oftentimes afterwards, where I would think of all the witty ways I should have replied.
There were times in my life when I wasn’t so comfortable being different from my friends, different enough to be receiving this question. I am sad to admit this to you now, but there were times when I was actually happy when someone told me that I “don’t look Indian.” It seemed safer to be identified as something else. Something less, I don’t know…
Last weekend, we packed up the kids and drove up from Northern Virginia to visit family in NJ and NY. Our Au Pair, Heather, came with us. She isn’t very familiar with Indian culture (she’s from Wales) and so I spent a lot of time explaining small things to her along the way to help her navigate a little easier. There was a lot to tell her, but I still don’t think I prepared her nearly enough.
While I am American, I genuinely do consider myself to be blended in my identity – sort of a citizen of both worlds. Walking into my parents home is a reminder of how influenced I am by the culture.
Let me walk you through a normal scene.
Imagine opening the door and immediately being embraced by your parents who have been calling you since you left home to find out where you are in the journey (usual answer “We’re stuck in Delaware”). They mostly do this so they can time when the food should be ready, because they want it to be just perfect when you get there. You can smell the aroma of the chicken curry and the lingering hints of the masala (spices) my mother used (Turmeric? Garam masala?) and immediately head into the kitchen to see what other goodies Ma made. Through the corner of your eye you can see the colorful pictures of the Hindu gods which grace the wall. Some put up thoughtfully, others placed on other walls haphazardly. Your mom asks you to eat some prasad that she brought home from the temple. To eat it is like receiving a blessing from God. You pick an almond out – usually part of the mix. Prasad is considered sacred, so once it has been presented to the Gods and a prayer ceremony (puja) is performed, to decline an offering is frowned upon. Most importantly, none of the prasad can be thrown away or wasted. As you enter the family room, you can detect the smell of the sandalwood incense my mother had burned earlier.
There are so many other things which assault my senses, bringing me back to the world I was raised in. And it’s comfortable to me. None of it seems foreign because it’s what I know. We usually settle on the couch, ignoring the buzz of the Bollywood videos playing on ZEE-TV (THE Indian channel for most Indian-Americans) which is pretty much on all the time when I go home. My mom asks me if I want her intoxicating chai. I decline and ask for a coffeee instead.
It’s odd straddling two culture like this sometimes. Marrying a non-Indian also accentuates the differences within cultures. However – this is what the immigrant experience entails. Usually the children of the first and second generation will be raised the way I was.
While most people who know me realize I am Indian in ethnicity, I think seeing me in my home surroundings is always a bit of a shock to them. It’s an eye opener, that’s for sure. It’s like I gain some kind of unspoken street cred. New Delhi style.
Here are some pictures of my grandparents, which both hang prominently in my parent’s family room, slightly crooked and much higher than eye level. These are decorating guidelines my parents do not care to know or abide by. I only saw my now deceased grandparents once every few years. They were my largest tie to India, and once they were gone, some part of my connection to India loosened a bit.
I love how my grandfathers look in the “Nehru” jackets, named after the influential politician Jawarharlal Nehru, father of Indira Gandhi. I see a little bit of myself in each of their faces, but I inherited most of my features from my mother’s side. I look at my Dadi and all I see is my own father’s face. Although, his eyes are definitely my Dada’s. Nobody is smiling, because taking pictures in my family is a big deal, and showing your teeth is considered “unattractive.” Too “proudy” as my mother or aunties might say.
I’m a girl from Jersey who teased my hair in gravity defying hair styles. My hometown is close to Bruce Springsteen’s and Bon Jovi’s. I love pizza and bagels and I miss how in New Jersey, when someone cut you off, you usually got that little hand wave in the rear view mirror. Nobody seems to do that in Virginia.
NJ – that’s part of where I am from.
But do you see those people in the pictures above with their stoic expressions, posing at the portrait studio? That’s also where I am from. It’s a big part of me that doesn’t go away. It’s not just the music or the food or the nuances of culture that make me hold on to that. It’s memories of climbing guava trees barefoot in the summer as I played hide and seek with my cousins. It’s memories of the smell of the early morning dew when I woke up in my father’s village. It’s holding my Nana’s hand as he took me to the market to buy me some lemonchus (candies) from a vendor in a wooden stall.
It’s so much more than I can say in one post.
I don’t really know yet if I clearly know where I am from. There is a quote from author Hugo Hamilton that hits on some of my feelings on this question.
“Maybe your country is only a place you make up in your own mind. Something you dream about and sing about. Maybe it’s not a place on the map at all, but just a story full of people you meet and places you visit, full of books and films you’ve been to. I’m not afraid of being homesick and having no language to live in. I don’t have to be like anyone else. I’m walking on the wall and nobody can stop me.” (From The Speckled People, A Memoir of a Half-Irish Childhood)
For me, where I am from is not a place on the map. It’s the collective stories, events and people in my life who have shaped that. It’s a combination of nowhere and everywhere, I like to think.
I think most of us are from there.
Where are you from?
A few years ago, I wrote a post about how good friends know what to say to each other in tough situations. They know the difference between being painfully truthful and kindly, gently delivering a message. Other times, they might even tell little white lies to help you get the message. Well, I called it lies, but I realize now what I meant was not necessarily lies… more like, omission?
What do you mean? I want someone to tell it to me straight, you might think. Yeah, I say the same thing, but when it comes at me too fast, too hard, I realize I’m not always ready for it. Let’s just walk through a few scenarios and see how this might work.
Scenario 1: Your house is a big, hot mess. It’s not dirty, necessarily, but it is NOT neat. At ALL. You thought you would have more time to straighten up before you friend came by for tea. But she’s not just on time, (who does that?) she’s 30 minutes early. You open the door, greet her and say, “Gosh, I’m so sorry, I haven’t had a chance to clean up! It’s kind of a mess around here.”
Your friend has a few options here.
1) She can tentatively walk through the door and say, “You’re right. This place is a mess! You let your kids live here?” She can wrinkle her nose as if the nose hairs in her teeny, pert little nose are offended. She might then go over and dramatically wipe some dirt off a table with her index finger.
The same finger you want to use to poke her in the eyes with.
2) She can stride right in and wave her hands dismissively and say, “What mess? Seriously? You call this a mess? You should see my place!”
She will say this to you even if you know for a fact that her place is spotless.
3) She will hug you, roll her eyes and and say, “Who cares? And I’m not really in the mood for tea. Here’s some wine instead!”
Now if you are one of my friends, the way you would most likely react upon entering my house is 2. There might be a little of 3 mixed in, but only if it’s after 5 PM.
Scenario 2: You haven’t had time to hit the gym. Your jeans are telling you that things are getting a little out of control and while you haven’t gained a lot of weight, your body has seen better days.
Particularly your abs. And your thighs. Oh and also, that wobbly part of your upper arm, along your tri…
You meet your friends at a restaurant and admit to them that you haven’t been working out. That things between work travel AND the family AND the house AND your in-laws visiting this week AND your car breaking down AND … Well. They get it.
Friends can use this opportunity to really let you know how they feel.
1) “There is really no excuse for anyone to NOT do cardio for at least 20 minutes a day. That’s what Jennifer Aniston says,” Your one friend says while dipping her gluten-free, dairy-free, taste-free cookie in her herbal tea. She also makes sure to flex her arms to show you how toned they are. Also she might show you her abs, because she’s been doing boot camp at the gym.
2) “You’ve got a lot on your plate. You’ll get back in there. Just let things slow down and make it and yourself a priority.” They nod understandingly. One might even pat you on the back.
Just because. It looks like it needs patting.
3) “Oh. That’s sad. Do you want some chocolate cake?”
I think my friends would probably lean more towards answer 2. With a little bit of 3 sprinkled in, because everyone knows that sometimes? Everybody just needs a little chocolate.
Look, it’s not like we don’t know your house is a mess in Scenario 1. And its not like we didn’t notice the few extra pounds in Scenario 2. But you know what else a real friend notices? They might see the tiredness around your eyes as you are struggling to keep it all together. They might notice that you’ve lost your usual confident stride. They might notice that when they ask, “How are you?” and you say “Fine” that “fine” doesn’t really mean fine.
That today, “fine” might mean, “Hold me. Please?”
Friends GET it.
When I wrote that post a few years ago, one of my friends got upset with me. She thought I was questioning her integrity, when in fact, I was applauding her kindness and empathy in so many, many situations where her answers could have been so much less kind. I think what I’m calling “little white lies” is more about employing tact and some sensitivity. Using our words more carefully with each other.
Not every thought needs to be uttered; not every piece of advice needs to be given. Even sometimes when we think we know best.
I think about whether my answers to the scenarios would have changed between the time I originally wrote that post in 2010 and today and I don’t really think they would. If anything, perhaps I would be and also expect a little more softness now than I did then. A little more compassion. Because life hasn’t always been kind and my friends and I have all been through so much more than we ever expected in three years. Life has gotten harder. We didn’t know it would. It just DID.
I feel like a lot of times I hear people saying things like, “Look, I say it how I see it.” Or maybe, “I like to keep things real.” And that’s great. Good for you for being in touch with your feelings and having the confidence to get it out there. But sometimes, I think saying “I say it how I see it” is just an excuse to be rude. Hard. It lacks empathy. Humanity.
And ironically, you often STILL don’t see it.
I’ve come to realize that while my eyes can “see it,” if my heart and my hearing and my touch aren’t all part of the observation too, I’m missing a whole lot of IT, whatever IT is.
Saying it like you see it involves ONE sense. Sight. And ironically, when it’s used alone, I think it can make you a little blind.
In my life, I have come to realize that the meme below, while funny, just isn’t always necessary. In fact, it’s just a whole lot of noise sometimes that nobody else needs.
I have been that girl above. Especially the hair. I can TOTALLY see my hair doing that sometimes. The point is, I still won’t be quiet about a lot of things. But when it comes to my close friendships, I choose to tread lightly and with care. I owe it to the wonderful women in my life to give them that love and that courtesy.
If my friends are receiving judgment, let it be known that it won’t be from me.
“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.
On Wednesday, John and I are going to see my favorite band, Mumford and Sons. I am extremely excited and this was kind of both of our big Christmas/Birthday/Valentines gift to one another because I got the tickets too late and basically paid an astronomical amount for them.
It’s worth it for us though. Or, maybe I should say for me. John loves them, but not quite as much as I do. I sometimes think there is a 6th sense and that is the thing you experience when a song touches something in you that seems otherworldly. It’s bigger than the sense of hearing, because an amazingly written song can bring all of your senses into sharp focus.
I wrote something about Mumford & Sons a few years ago that I wanted to reshare.
A song that I have heard this year which has touched me deeply is “Roll Away Your Stone” by one of the best bands to emerge in the past five years, Mumford and Sons. For about the past 6 years, while I was able to experience many joys in life, especially my two children, Shaila and Nico, I found myself struggling with physical pain and weakness that doctors could not diagnose. I found myself feeling increasingly helpless. The doctors told me I was depressed, to which I replied, well, “Well duh. How long did it take you to get that degree again?” (Apparently it made me cranky too).
If you feel sick ALL the time and your body hurts so much that you have to give up the things that you love – like running, it makes you sad. Holding a guitar was hard on me, someone who had always taken pride in my athletic strength and abilities.
Holding my kids was tough, but that was one thing I always pushed through.
So yeah, the doctors told me it was depression, which I acknowledged could be a secondary issue.
Again, its a little bit of the chicken and the egg conundrum – which came first? Not positive, but I felt like the physical limitations did push my world into some darkness.
I could barely lift my kids. Look, if that’s not depressing, I really don’t know what is.
This year the diagnosis turned to one of fibromyalgia. To which I said, “Fibro my WHAT?!” As I listened to the doctors explain the symptoms, I started to feel relieved. I FINALLY had an answer. The symptoms I had matched the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Basically you hurt all over. Your muscles could be crunchy like mine were. You could have exhaustion which could render you more tired than the most tired pregnant woman.
But the relief kind of turned to something else pretty soon.
I let the doctors prescribe me meds. And the meds took away some of the pain but made me even more tired. And I couldn’t help but feel that maybe this wasn’t the problem either.
And I realized I would not let this physical pain continue.
So I fought. I fought to have MRIs. I made finding a solution a priority. I made coming up with a recovery plan more than just “upping” my meds. I think the enormity of what my life would become if I accepted this diagnosis hit me when I went to my rheumatologist. I could tell she was busy but wanted to get more than a five minute checkup.
“So how are you doing since I put you on the Lyrica?”
“I think it helps.” Just to be clear, Lyrica would help with pain for almost anybody. Like if you had a broken nail, it would help.
“Well, let’s go on and up yours then. Let’s double it.”
Um, ok. And I realized that my path to recovery would always just be about conquering the systems, not the underlying issues if I did things this way.
I wasn’t going to take this lying down, even if that is the position you want to be in if you really have fibromyalgia. Lying down in a bed, for long periods of time where sleep washes over you like the warmest blanket.
I decided to lift that blanket. To reduce the meds. To look for real answers. Sometimes those are with a doctor. Sometimes they reside with me.
And I am trying to get stronger every day. There are days when the diagnosis feels like a distant memory and I forget about it completely. And then there are days where I am thrown into a fatigue so deep that when my children stand next to my bed and say, “Mommy, are you sick?” I can hardly look up to reassure them that I just need a little rest. Even though it’s much more than that.
You told me that I would find a hole,
Within the fragile substance of my soul
And I have filled this void with things unreal,
And all the while my character it steals
Darkness is a harsh term don’t you think?
And yet it dominates the things I seek
It seems that all my bridges have been burned,
But, you say that’s exactly how this grace thing works
It’s not the long walk home
that will change this heart,
But the welcome I receive with the restart
I look at the past few years as a long walk in many ways and to be honest, I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it home. Some bridges have surely burned, those which should have even earlier and those which were too unstable to begin with.
By and large, the ones that needed to remain intact, have. I am able to plot a course to where I need to go with the support of those bridges.
In the last line of the verse, Mumford uses the word “Restart.”
I have decided to restart. This blog represents the me I want to embrace going forward. There are times where I have to restart again. Maybe not all the way back to the beginning, but I take a few big steps backward and have to remember that it’s not a race. That I am not racing myself.
I have to just remind myself that I am stronger than I think and I can burden the weight of these stones. And I have to start pushing the ones I can’t hold away.
“It seems that all my bridges have been burned,
But, you say that’s exactly how this grace thing works”
I am always trying to find my grace. I still don’t know how this grace thing works. Trying to figure it out is tough. And maybe in finding grace, we have to stumble a few times and be quite graceless about the whole thing. And I tell myself it’s okay.
Please join me? We can start with small grace things like telling each other if we have spinach stuck in our teeth as a starting point before moving on to bigger things.
Rolling away our stones. Together.
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.
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.
Never judge a book by it’s cover.
We all know the expression. The meaning is clear. A book which is beautifully bound, with a richly decorated exterior may be the one that grabs our attention. It may be the one we pick up and bring over to the cash register to buy.
Only to come home and find that the pages inside are hollow. The story and the characters are shallow and one dimensional. And you realize how much better off you might have been picking the other book that you had held in your hands for that short moment, but dismissed because it lacked the shinier, less sparkly cover.
I try not to judge my books that way. Most of my favorite books have nothing compelling on the cover. I have learned over the years how to follow my instincts in picking out what to read. Sometimes the barest of covers are the perfect hiding places for stories of substance.
It’s not so much about whether someone is pretty or not pretty. Glamorous or not.
I tend to look at how someone presents themselves and without realizing it, assign them to some non-formalized class system in my mind. Rich vs. poor. Privileged vs. unprivileged. Educated vs. uneducated. Easy life vs. tough life.
Over the years, I have learned that my first impressions are terribly… off. And that our covers don’t allow people to see a fraction of the many chapters that comprise our lives. I have mistaken shyness or reserve on a young woman as snobbery and elitism, only to now to now be able to count that woman is one of my best friends. I have mistaken over-friendliness as genuine warmth and friendship only to find a bitter coldness when it retreats.
I worked at a large technology company for many years. There was a young executive there who was a bit of a rock star. He was highly respected within the company and people knew his name. When I met him, he gave off an air of affluence to me and it was easy for me to compartmentalize him into those simplistic categories I mentioned above. It was clear to me that he must have grown up as a child of privilege. If not privilege, well… at least the middle class.
These are assumptions that are easy to make in the workplace and often times, we don’t know our colleagues well enough to go back more than the last few chapters. Rarely do we ask them to go back to earlier chapters and tell us how their story first started.
And so it just shows how much I know. And how faulty my impressions of people can be. Chris, the executive I mentioned, posted this story on Facebook the other day and I wanted to share it with the readers of Masala Chica.
In 1978, there was a family of 3 (single mom and two boys – 9 & 8) living in a small town in northern Arizona. Because of the grip that alcoholism had on the life of this family – the mother did not work and relied on family and the welfare system to care for her family. Often the money received from the government was used to feed her addiction – when you take money from an already tight budget to purchase alcohol – it makes a horrible situation simply unfathomable.
So here the family was on Christmas Eve – with the exception of a couple boxes of generic macaroni and cheese – there wasn’t anything else in the cupboard. There was no tree, no Christmas lights, not stockings hanging, no reading “Twas the Night Before Christmas”, no Christmas ham, no opening of a present before bed – just another night. The boys had learned throughout their life not to say anything or ask for anything because it would make their mother feel bad and that would only mean that the drinking would escalate and depression would often lead to much worse things. So the boys went to bed – with empty stomachs, empty dreams and an empty reality. That night the younger brother asked the older brother why Santa Claus wouldn’t visit them – the older brother did his best to comfort the younger brother and they finally went to sleep.
In normal homes, on Christmas morning the children are awake first thing in the morning often before the sun even rises to see what magic is ready for them underneath their Christmas tree. In this small trailer – these young boys slept on the floor because they had no beds and with the trailer being drafty and cold – they often slept in – huddled around an electric space heater. This Christmas morning, when they finally did get up – they walked out of their bedroom and something simply magical had taken place. In their small living room – there was a complete Christmas Tree – lights, decorations, tinsel, tree skirt, candy canes – the works. There were boxes wrapped with their names on it. There were stockings filled with treats and tooth brushes and combs and socks. They had clothes, shoes, coats. There were toy machine guns – you know the kind where you keep pulling the trigger to get the machine gun sound. The fridge and cupboards were full of food. There was two bicycles for the boys. Santa had indeed found this small family and had brought hope to a desperate reality. There was just a simple note that read – “Merry Christmas – Love Santa”. The reason that I know this story so well is that I was that older brother. To this day – I do not know who was responsible for this amazing gift of hope. But it did in fact change my life and has touched me every year as I think back.
I would encourage all of us to take time this holiday season to help provide some hope to those that are less fortunate than ourselves. It is hard to give to adults who you know are going to most likely use the money to feed an addiction – but we all need to remember that the children that are in these families did not choose this lifestyle and they have no options; they are where they are because of the poor decisions of the adults who are responsible for them. Please take some time and find opportunities to provide for these children and families this holiday season. Whether you take a few cans of food from your cupboard for a food drive, take a name from an Angel tree to buy needed gifts (shoes, bedding, clothing, etc), whether you become a secret Santa for a child who is in foster care (where you provide these children with necessities, sleeping bags, a sleeping cot, clothing, etc) (remember that the families that take children in for foster care are not given money to provide gifts – so they are very limited in what they can do for these children as well), whether you take some time to actually adopt an entire family this holiday season – please do something. It will bring the spirit of the holidays into your home and hearts like no Christmas Story, Christmas Carol, Sleigh Ride or Holiday Party can.
I want to thank Chris for sharing this story.
I did not know Chris’s journey. I did not know the beginnings of his story. I see a successful man today and I am sad to say that I made some assumptions about what his life must have been like. Privileged. Easy.
That can’t be farther from the truth.
The roads we all took to get to here, wherever HERE is in our lives, are all vastly different. We can look at each other and assume we know enough of each others’ stories, because we have read the synopsis and the reviews on the covers of the books. But there are stories that often remain untold, chapters that have been overlooked.
I feel like there is a growing lack of empathy towards people who are enduring true financial challenges – challenges like how will I feed my kids tomorrow? It extends not just to the poor, but to the homeless, with the most apathy directed towards the individuals on welfare in America. In the minds of many, most of these people have made their own beds and they are generally somebody else. But sometimes, somebody else looks a lot like you. Somebody else looks like me. Your neighbor.
We all have the power to help co-author the chapters of the lives of others. Not just on Christmas, though if this is one time where you heart is open to giving in a year, consider opening it fully now.
Based on the letter Chris shared, I believe that the kindness he received that day helped give him hope. Helped a nine year old boy get through some really hard times. It was by far not the only thing, but it did help inspire him as he became the American success story that he is today.
Help change someone’s tomorrow.
And make tomorrow amazing.
“No one has ever become poor by giving.” – Anne Frank
“You’ve been getting really political lately” – My husband, in regards to my activity on Facebook, Twitter and yes, this blog.
When John told me this a few weeks ago, I was like “Really?” knowing in my heart (yes, this bleeding, left leaning heart) that he was right. “What do you mean?” wanting him to tell me so I understood what he means by “really political.” You know, versus just “slightly political.”
“Well, you put up a link to a post that is obviously written with a liberal slant on your Facebook page and then you ask people for their thoughts.”
“So? I am asking for an open discussion.”
“Well you never put up a conservatively written link and ask for anybody’s feedback on that,” he countered.
This is, in fact, NOT true. I will put up posts from “out there” Republicans like O’Reilly. Or Ann Coulter. Even Glen Beck. Republicans who I really don’t believe speak for the moderate minded side of the party.
And then I sit back and call them names and talk about WHY they are wrong.
HMMM. It seems like my husband may have a good point.
I know that with blogging, unless you are writing a political blog, it’s best to stay away from touchy subjects like politics or religion. They teach you that in like Blogging 101.
So, sorry. What can I say? Oops?
I have a problem with getting a little too into politics. It’s an annoying habit that I have. Ever since I took a sick day in the 7th grade when Michael Dukakis lost the Presidential Election to George Bush, I have realized that I have issues.
But since I was twelve, I think I have matured a little bit in my political outlook. I have come to the realization that while I identify myself more as a Democrat (oh goodness, this is like blog suicide right now, isn’t it?), I have also come to terms with the fact that it’s not as black and white as that.
I also realize that while I support “the party line” on some issues, it is not always with the same cheerleader type of enthusiasm I may have in the past.
I think I just look at these issues differently now.
I attribute my change of opinion, or at least my questions regarding it, in large part to becoming a parent.
You’re Pro What?
Ever since I can remember, I have always said that I am “Pro-Choice.” I have resented that my stance on being “Pro-Choice” indicated that in some way, I was “Pro-Death.” I would get even more annoyed at that because it seemed like such a hypocrisy since many traditional Pro-Lifers support the death penalty.
“Nobody has the right to tell me what to do with my body,” I have said. And I still say it. I don’t want anybody – my neighbor, my dentist, the grocery checkout lady or the guy in the U-Haul next to me who is driving a little too crazy – what I can do with my fingers, my toes, my esophagus, not to mention my uterus.
I also don’t want anyone telling my daughter what to do with her body either. EVER. Anybody who even tries to better BACK THE HELL OFF.
So What’s My Deal?
Prior to having a child of my own, if someone asked me when I believe that life begins, I used to respond fairly confidently with, “Somewhere between the second and third trimester.”
Since having a child, my view has changed when someone asks me that question. I don’t always answer right away, because I don’t really feel that confident in my answer anymore. It seems at odds with the confidence with which I approach most of my beliefs. Unlike the old me, the post motherhood me believes that it starts right away.
As soon as the bullet hits the target.
It’s weird writing it for me and seeing it in print, but it’s true. A part of me feels like I should be modifying this to say, “After the first trimester” or maybe even, “Once the heart starts beating.”
It’s just that, I remember the voracity with which I would read “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” oddly one of the most mundane books in the world to read EXCEPT when you are pregnant. Then it becomes the most fascinating piece of literature in the world to read as you sift through the pages and hungrily absorb the details about your baby being the size of a pea, an avocado and other sized fruits and vegetables.
I remember feeling the exhaustion and the effects of both pregnancies almost immediately. And each pregnancy seemed to have it’s own stamp. As if each child was already making its mark, its imprint.
On me. Really, really early in the pregnancies.
Straddling a Fence?
So it sounds like on the one hand I don’t want anybody telling me or my fellow sisters in this world what we can do with our bodies. On the other hand, I know that the day I discovered I was pregnant each time, I stopped throwing back things like vodka martinis and expensive wine, NOT because of the calories.
Because they were bad for the baby. The one that was growing in my belly.
I fear what would happen if our government were to overturn Roe vs. Wade.
I fear what happens when a woman or young child who is raped no longer has the right to regain control when control has completely been taken away from them.
I fear what happens when a woman finds herself in a situation where she has no other option and must seek a back alley abortion.
I fear what will happen to the many children, now brought into this world where a parent cannot support them or does not want to support them.
I fear what happens when a woman who is faced with the likelihood of death is not given the option to choose whether she can live. I am especially thinking of the death of the young woman in Ireland, Savita Halapannavar, who was declined a D&C a few weeks ago, even though there was no chance of her baby’s survival.
I fear that something as scary and frightening as “rape” will one day be defined for me by a primarily male Congress. I laugh at the Tina Fey quote below, but it’s a truth that I don’t feel comfortable with.
I also fear that if you tell someone that they can only be granted an abortion if they have been “raped,” after it has been defined by the powers that be (see point above) that we will see a frightening number of “Salem Witch Trial” like accusations going down, on innocent people.
So Where the Heck Does that Leave Me?
Good question. I thought I may have lost you there. These are murky waters.
I am “Pro-Choice.” Not because I am “Pro-Death,” because I don’t believe in the opposite of the “Pro-Life” movement. Nobody who is Pro-Choice is against life.
The problem I have with overturning something like Roe vs. Wade is that I can’t count on absolutes. And I greatly fear consequences of looking at the world in absolutes.
The fears that I listed above would all be consequences of Roe vs. Wade.
In fact, both sides (Pro-Choice and Pro-Life) are looking at the value of life and protecting those lives. We are just looking at the issues with our own lenses.
We just don’t live in a world of absolutes. We never will. It’s not as easy as Life vs. Death. Choice vs. Death.
What happened in Ireland a few weeks ago should not and cannot be allowed to happen in this country. The thought of any woman being in the same situation as Savita Halapannavar and not having a choice between life or death is terrifying.
So I support choice. Not lightly.
Not lightly at ALL.
And as I write this post, I greatly even debate whether I have the guts to hit “Publish.”
Closing my eyes. Here goes.
When I was younger, I always had this vision of what being a mother would be like. I knew it would be hard, juggling that successful career, running around with my kids in parks, cooking homemade meals every night while still remaining to stay in shape through all of this.
Because everybody knows if you are doing that much work, you must be burning a lot of calories.
But being a mother is NOTHING like I thought. Nothing that I bargained for. These were the realizations that hit me very early on.
1. Control. Or lack thereof. As someone who could be relied upon to be on time, stick to commitments, be out of bed early and even manage to throw a workout in before a 7 AM flight, losing this practically gave me angina. I cannot tell you how many times I have gotten my family prepared to go somewhere to be stalled by a “What’s that smell?” from my husband or a “Mommy, I need to go potty!” or an even more reassuring, “Oops, Mommy, I missed the toilet!”
So shit, if you are expecting to be on time for anything, you better be ready and prepared for poop explosions.
In regards to control? Well after a few kids, some of us also have bladder issues when we sneeze or cough.
Not all of us. I just heard about it from a “friend.”
2. It’s more challenging to stay in shape. Now I am not saying it CAN NOT, it SHOULD NOT, or it MIGHT NOT be possible. I am just saying it’s harder. And sure, you can drop your kids off at the daycare at the gym, but if you work, you feel guilty about leaving your kids with someone else again.
So you go to the Fitness Store or Sears or something and buy an elliptical. You set up a TV with cable and DVR all your favorite shows. And every night you set the alarm because in the morning you will go down to the basement and watch Gossip Girl while getting buff.
Yeah. It can be kind of like that.
And then your husband asks you if he can cancel the DVR since you never use it anyway, which only makes you feel worse. Hearing his words makes your ass sag just a little more.
3. Running around in parks and shit. Oh this totally happens. It’s just that vision I had of running around with my hair done and bouncing all healthy like a damn Clairol commercial while running after my kids and taking pictures of them with my SLR camera is far from what is usually happening.
I am usually in my yoga pants. I may or may not have showered. My hair is not bouncy. It is, in fact, pulled back into a tight bun on the top of my head and I am not bouncing around the park with them Clairol, Revlon or even Suave style with them. I would have grabbed my SLR but I forgot it, damn it, but I’ve got my iPhone so I can snap pictures on that.
What’s that? Oh Shaila – you want to go on the swings over there and Nico you want to go 200 yards in the opposite direction to that slide? To that particular slide, because none of these other twelve slides will do? Oh ok, of course that makes sense.
After some negotiation, we are good.
Oh, what’s that? Oh you need to use the potty? Oh – well, we can use the Port-a-Potty right there. What? Oh you think that’s disgusting? Oh ok, let me magically make a shiny new toilet appear with this Harry Potter like wand that all mommies have. They came out of our vaginas the same time we had you. Oh, you peed yourself? Oh, ok. Let’s go home.
And then even though I have watched Food, Inc. and I know terrible things about the food industry, I will stop at McDonald’s.
4. Cooking homemade meals and crap. Some moms are really good with this. Heck, I have a friend from high school named Deb and she is one of the most popular food bloggers in the whole world, the author of a blog you may have heard of called “Smitten Kitchen.”
I read it from time to time. The pictures on it are pretty. I also really like her granite counters. I wonder what kind of granite they are.
See what I mean? Those counters are really pretty.
Before I know it, the time I needed to cook a homemade meal is gone.
So I pick up the phone and call for delivery. The guy at the pizza place asks me if my cold has gone away and if I’ve scheduled that mani/pedi. I ask him if he gave that girl he was talking about a call. The one he told me about the LAST time we spoke.
Anyway, these are just some of the things where my vision has not quite matched my reality. If I were to liken it to a novel, the title is no longer “Great Expectations” but more like, “The Little Engine That Could.” Just trying to get to the top of that hill.
I think I can. I think I can.
There are loads of other things I suck at, but there are only so many hours in a day and a blog post can only be so long. Maybe I will mention them to you another day. (Laundry, anybody?)
I do know one thing for sure. I think one thing that I am good at is loving my kids. I may not be the shiniest, slimmest, most glittery, in control, homemade meal cooking, organic-y kind of mama that I thought I was going to be. But I think my kids will forgive me.
I have given them life.
I remember the moments I held each of them for the first time and the expressions on their faces like it was yesterday.
I know the patterns of their breath when they sleep at night. I notice the cute little tics each has.
How Nico does this cute little shiver when he gets scared.
How Shaila makes “the love face” when she looks down at her brother in those rare moments where she is not occupied with throwing something at him.
The small things, the little nuanced behaviors that remind me of a family member on my side or John’s side.
I have held them close when they have been sick, I have felt the sweet touch of theirs lips against my own.
For what it’s worth. They are kind of stuck with me.
And to me, that’s worth more than anything else.
“Even if I’m setting myself up for failure, I think it’s worth trying to be a mother who delights in who her children are, in their knock-knock jokes and earnest questions. A mother who spends less time obsessing about what will happen, or what has happened, and more time reveling in what is. A mother who doesn’t fret over failings and slights, who realizes her worries and anxieties are just thoughts, the continuous chattering and judgement of a too busy mind. A mother who doesn’t worry so much about being bad or good but just recognizes that she’s both, and neither. A mother who does her best, and for whom that is good enough, even if, in the end, her best turns out to be, simply, not bad.“
― Ayelet Waldman, Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace