Why I’m not a fixer-upper OR single is my lifestyle of choice

Damaged

You know how when you go to someone’s home for the first time, you always see exactly what you LOVE (read, covet) about the place, and almost as an afterthought, what you would change to make it perfect? Like, wow this living room is huge, but that painting is so overbearing. I would have put up a nice photo collage on that wall to make this giant space more homey and personalized. Or something like, hmm, so cozy but a mirror right there would have brought so much light into this room. We tell ourselves we love the place and we’re only thinking about what would make it better, but better for whom? The person living there has made it his or her own, but we human beings just can’t help fixing things…even if nothing’s broken in the first place.

This inability to accept that something is right as it is, that there is nothing to fix or improve or that it isn’t OUR place to improve it even if there is, is the reason I think so many people feel the need to tell singles “Don’t worry, you’ll find someone.” Or a variation, “You’re better off, honey, he (she) was all wrong for you. Here’s what you need to do…” followed by all of the things you have to change about yourself, the reasons why YOU, not the ex, are to blame for your relationship status. And, of course, how to get a new mate because the status of singledom is one that just HAS to be fixed. Don’t get me wrong, these people are generally well-meaning individuals, family, friends, and coworkers, who just want to make your life better. But it’s that word, better. Who’s to say that being in a relationship is better? Who says singles are damaged?

Whether they mean it or not, these redesigners of a single person’s life are in essence saying that there is something wrong with that life. There must be something to change, to fix, to improve upon, to get you where you need to be: in the arms of a new lover, or multiple lovers, or a spouse. And if that single person is a parent? Suddenly the good-intentioned tell you that your kid is missing something invaluable, that you are not enough. “You’re a great mom (or dad) but,” they’ll add with all the certainty that their personal inexperience in the matter can afford, “John and/or Jane Doe really need a father/mother and you need to hurry up and find the right person to marry who will take on that role.” Single parents are told that the only way they can do what every good parent wants to do (raise their kids right and give them everything they deserve) is to be married, a part of a team, one half of a whole that their kids must have. Well, I beg to differ.

I am not incomplete… and neither is my daughter. Sure, I tried to make the ex be a responsible, caring father who showed up, whether physically or by phone call, skype video chat, IPhone facetime, etc. I tried anything and everything, swallowing my own sadness and betrayal and anger to give my child the opportunity to have the relationship she should have had with her father. He will argue he did enough, I will argue he didn’t. The end result is that Zahara barely knows him, has never experienced him as “a father figure” and he went on television and denied he had ever been married or fathered any kids. I had plenty of reason to stop before then, but that was the point when I realized I was trying to fix him and make him be the father I believe Zahara deserves. Instead, I chose to focus on our lives, mine and my daughter’s, and stop wasting my time and energy on making someone into something they’re not.

So. As some say when they try to identify and fix the problem of my singleness, do I need to find a new “father” for Zahara?

How about this. Zahara has a biological father, whose status in her life I won’t spend any more time obsessing over. She also has a father in our home, my father, her Nana, who she calls Papa like my sisters and I do. Papa is the man she waves goodbye to from the door every morning when he goes to work. Papa is the man she cries for and wants me to call for her so she can talk to him on speaker when she isn’t feeling good, is mad at me, or just misses when he works late. Papa is who she runs to the door for, screeching and shrieking and a blur of arms and giggles, entangling herself in his legs when he comes home and whose back she rides around on like he’s a horse. Papa is whose hand she holds, leading him to the basement to play, or outside to walk or “supervise” the gardeners, or to get away from mommy who wants to feed/bathe/clothe her. Papa is her day-to-day, fall asleep in his lap, gang up against mommy, see you every day father figure.

 

She also lights up for another man in our lives. Her teacher Mr. Brendan, who makes funny faces, and amazing sound effects and voices, and who reads stories in such a captivating manner that even I’m enthralled. Mr. Brendan likes to get messy and creative with artwork, and run around and climb and jump and imagine we’re airplanes or bakers or dogs. Mr. Brendan has big curly hair that is hard to tame like Zahara and a huge smile and tons of energy for her every minute and a hand she expects to hold on one side (and mommy’s on the other) when she’s crossing the air log and jumping into an imaginary pile of leaves. Mr. Brendan is the playful, young, funny father figure Zahara has in her life.

Since Zahara is so ultra-observant and smarter than the average bear, she has classified men into 4 distinct categories. The Papas, men who are generally my father’s age, grandfathers, heads of families. The Friends, younger men, who are husbands or fiances or boyfriends and may even be dads of some of her playmates or my uncles who let her play with their IPhones even though she’ll probably destroy them or who love hanging out with her at a family event while I run to grab some food. The Mamoos, which translates to maternal uncles, but is a term she uses to refer to my male cousins and ANY Desi-looking teenagery guys who want to lift her in the air or tickle her or play catch with her or take her to Chuck-e-Cheese as long as mommy says all of the above are okay. And finally, just Man, the strangers, gardeners, neighbors, workers she sees around her when we go out into the world.

This Zahara name and this Mommy name...and this Zahara and Mommy.

And guess what Zahara says I have? A friend…and mommy’s friend is Zahara.

Cue pulling of the heartstrings and tears in the eyes…

My heart swells with love and pride for her that she knows that SHE is my partner, she’s my other half. This is all she’s ever known and she understands it perfectly, without hesitation or questions. It isn’t weird for her, this is OUR normal. So why, oh dear supporters and do-gooders, do you think we need to be fixed? We are each other’s best friends, and even a 2 and a half year old knows it.

I am not a fixer-upper. And single IS my lifestyle of choice.

Sugar and spice, that’s what I’m made of

I’ve been doing a lot of baking lately and the results have been yummilicious, which is surprising because I always thought I wasn’t good at making desserts. But just like running and working with technology, I was wrong about my own capabilities. I’ve become more than a passable webmaster, manually switching web hosts for this blog with minimal issues and pat myself on the back success. And I not only ran a 5K last year, but kept up running since then and intend to continue. As for sweet treats, I was always better at eating and appreciating them than actually making them. Or so I thought!

If you look at my list of recipes I love on the left side of the screen, you’ll notice that a lot of them are desserts. One trick I’ve learned about sweets is that the best ones actually have a dash or so of salt in them to make the sweet flavor even sweeter. The more sugar is in a dish, the more salt is required to bring that flavor out. I find that so interesting, and it’s an obvious metaphor for life. The best parts can’t be as good without that bit of salt to really contrast them. So maybe I seem positive and upbeat and completely in control, and for the most part I am, but there are moments of self-doubt or times when my heart just wants to sulk and the loneliness hits.

In those moments, I close my eyes and take a deep breath and find flashes of memories, still pictures of the life I once had, flashing on the back of my eyelids, taunting me and haunting me and giving that sulky heart more to drown in. The heart becomes an independent being, separate from the rational, organized, STRONG part of me. And I miss him. Not the him he either became or I refused to believe he was all those years, but the him I thought I had married. The him I loved. And okay, rational Sheba says, he isn’t that guy anymore even if he ever really was, so get over it. But the heart replies, I don’t care, I don’t want to remember anything but the feeling of dancing with his arms holding me as I just let go and didn’t care who was watching. I want to remember the feeling of sexiness that came from HIS eyes watching me dance and HIS hands holding mine and HIS fingers leading me through a crowd. And rational, didn’t know I had it in me, strong Sheba responds, Ah, but now you’re sexy in YOUR eyes. Isn’t that what the past two years have been about? The end of that journey is that now, YOU LOVE YOU.

Becoming a mother was the biggest turn around of my life.

And after all that borderline schizophrenic, emotional tug of war saltiness, I feel relieved and renewed. Life is sweeter. Also, having an outstanding support system is the ingredient that gives the dish of my life a great little kick. Thank you my family and friends, especially Melysa S. and Zahara for about the thousandth time!

When I used to make dessert before my separation, I tended to psych myself out in advance, thinking, “Oh, the rest of the meal will be delicious so maybe I should just BUY dessert so I don’t ruin the whole thing.” I told myself I was in over my head, and lo and behold, I found myself overwhelmed, covered in flour and baking soda and sweating sugar streaks down my neck and staring into a bowl of custard that wouldn’t set or a tray of deformed, or liquidy, or burnt cake and fighting the urge to throw down my spatula and eat my way out of the sweet mess and into bed sobbing. So maybe I was a little overdramatic? It was traumatic, people, especially when my hormones kicked in once a month and again during pregnancy!

Anyway, I set myself up for those major fails with my negative thinking. But one huge difference since I became a mother, got separated, and filed for divorce is my sense of accomplishment and my belief in myself. I know if I think I can do something, I do it. And with all of the eye rolls and sighs and logical, oh so annoying arguments that start with “But Mom-my-y,” I need that core of determination and self-assured certainty to get through the day. And seriously, I’m not even raising a teenager right now! She’s TWO and a half, what the heck is going to happen in ten years?! And how many syllables will the word mommy have in it by then…

So maybe the sweet masala of my life includes a teaspoon of salty tears, a few drops of bitterness and bile. It takes those things to make the end result better. It’s the same theory as that a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down. Something about that combination in life makes the whole thing easier to swallow. And so I CAN run. And I CAN create and control a blog. And I can walk a 5K along the boardwalk pushing a stroller into the wind with a combined baby-stroller-diaper bag stuffed with extra everythings-weight of about 60 pounds. Because I said I would, I did it and felt amazing even after a bout of extreme loneliness the night before. I’ve got my cake and I’m eating it, too! And it tastes soooo good loves, so so good. :~D

 

Every woman matters

I’m a woman of action. Some people like to get outraged by everything, vowing to bring change. Or they claim to help and act like they’re caught up in a revolutionary wave that should engulf us all. They ask for money and make promises and pretend they care and speak to that deep, inner voice of humanity that we have. Until the next great cause catches their eye…or they get busy enjoying their own lives, which is all they really cared about anyway.

I acknowledge that I am just one person, with limited time and resources, and a baby that rightfully takes precedence. I do have my writing, though, and I can use this medium to let you all know about the things I care about and what can be done about it. And I know you people rock. So you’re not going to just sit there and read about a need and then just click on. You’re going to rally, like you always do, for what you believe in. My job is to give you the chance to believe in what matters to me.

This weekend I’m going to be walking 3.1 miles with Zahara along the Jones Beach boardwalk. Our morning at the beach is more than just a random inclination to exercise or a craving for some salty sea air. It’s a fundraising event for women, the Katz Women’s Hospitals and the Katz Institute for Women’s Health to be exact. Two Katz hospitals, a part of the North Shore-LIJ Health system in New York, are currently dedicated to women’s health, with a full range of obstetrical and gynecological services and top-notch technology and amenities. In plain English, they’re giving women the experience they deserve during hospital visits and stays, pregnancy, labor, and childbirth. And that’s a cause worth marching for.

If you haven’t been reading my blog until now you probably don’t know this, but I had a sudden miscarriage before having Zahara. We had decided to have a child and God blessed us immediately. The miscarriage was only eight weeks into the pregnancy, but since I had realized I was pregnant right away it was plenty of time to have imagined motherhood and to grieve for the loss. It was also hard because there was no indication that anything was wrong, and then no reason why the pregnancy had ended. I didn’t even find out until my first sonogram, a regularly scheduled appointment, which showed that there was no heartbeat.

It took me a year after that just to mentally and emotionally be ready to try to have a baby again, because it felt like that joy had been ripped away so needlessly and unexpectedly the first time. And then I was finally ready to try again and it was another year of hoping and getting only disappointment as the tear in my heart got deeper and longer. Then finally, two days before my 27th birthday I found out that my prayers had finally been answered and this amazing child was going to be joining me in my life, thank God! After my first experience, I was honestly terrified and ecstatic all at the same time. Every single symptom and pain had me rushing to Google and WebMD and trying not to hyperventilate or sob. Thankfully, I had a fantastic doctor in Puerto Rico for the first 5 months and another fantastic one in Boston for the rest of the pregnancy to deal with both my pregnancy and my panic.

First day as a mother

Zahara was born in Boston’s Tufts Hospital with a capable group of professionals surrounding her. And I had a whole life-saving team of doctors, nurses, and technicians myself to literally save my life when I had to go back to the hospital just days after the delivery in order to undergo emergency surgery.

My experiences are not rare, and women have been through much much worse. But what my journey into motherhood showed me is that it is a journey dependent on some strange mix of the abilities of the medical professionals, the spirit of the woman herself, and fate or God or circumstance, whatever you believe in. Some things are beyond our control, some things science has an answer for. If walking a little while and asking you all to join me (or donate) can possibly give women the slightest advantage in that awe-worthy and difficult time, then I’m going to slather on the sunscreen, pack up the baby outing survival kit, and walk until my legs give out.

So Zahara and I are registered to walk on Sunday, May 20th, to try and raise funds for every woman, because even if I am just one person, one busy mother, I can take my kid and join this event and make a small difference for other mothers and other children. Zahara and I are going to be there. Are you?

If you’d like to help but you can’t be at the event, click here and enter my name (Sheba Parveez) to search for my donation page and give what you can. Let’s show the world what real humanity looks like and tell ’em that every woman matters.

Mother’s day 2012

Happy Mother’s day to everyone who is actively a mother to someone, to dads who are both and do it amazingly, to grandmas, and aunts, and friends, and teachers, and everyone who fills that need in a child’s heart: THANK YOU!
And to all who help me be the mother I am, HUGS!!
Since I’m obsessed with celebrating holidays and birthdays and tend to go a little overboard, I decided to bake a cinnamon applesauce cake and a blueberry and cheesecake filled, so yummy my stomach’s literally growling for it, baked French toast!
Today I’m going to eat and eat and eat some more and enjoy the day with my one true love, Zahara! And tomorrow when I’m bloated from all the food I’ll lay around and be lazy and I promise I’ll add the links to the recipes.
If you have a child in your life then join me in doing a happy happy joy joy dance a la ren and stimpy. Then go enjoy the shnizzle out of the day!
Here’s another way I made this day special…Zahara got her first ever girly girl manicure sitting in mommy’s lap, watching as her nails turned a shiny candy-colored pink she had picked out herself!! There was some back and forth between pink and purple and neon orange but my little diva went totally dainty with these cute fingers. I am now imagining countless years ahead spending our days at the spa, massages and mani-pedis and facials and naps and mama-baby bonding! Happy Mother’s Day to me indeed!!! 😀

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Me, myself, and I

Last night I had dinner plans with my best friend from college. In between bites of volcano shrimp, ahi tuna ceviche, and calamari (hello, seafood!) and over a giant slice of key lime pie, we caught up on giggly stories of the newly engaged (her- CONGRATS again!!!) and proud/exhausted mama bragging (me) and a general what were we thinking attitude towards our early twenties (both of us.)

As usual when we hang out, hours had gone by and it felt like there were still a million things we wanted to talk about. And also as usual, my cheeks hurt from all the laughing and gossiping and simultaneous shoveling of food into my mouth. :~D

We had planned to see The Avengers after dinner, but my friend had to leave so we said we’d go another night. And then I thought, I’ll go to the movies myself!

I’ve always loved going to see a movie in the theater. I love the darkened lights and the communal feeling when everyone laughs together or claps for a superhero or cries for a character. It feels like I’ve entered that world intertwined with these strangers for a couple of hours, leaving our own separate lives behind. And meanwhile of course, I like to dip my popcorn in nacho cheese and then put that on top of the tortilla chip with a jalapeno and munch on the whole thing at once and then take a big gulp of soda to wash it down! What can I say, I like to eat.

Anyway, the other part of my movie-going routine was going with my husband. My passion for the big screen had rubbed off on him as well, and we would go see all kinds of flicks: action, rom-com, sci-fi, cop movie, Indian movie, everything. When I became a mother and then very quickly a single mother, I found myself without a body to fill the movie theater seat next to me. And even though I chose to respect myself enough to not stay with a man who mistreated me, I didn’t know think I could go watch a movie alone.

At first, I’d wait weeks to see a movie I was really anticipating just because I couldn’t find a time when one or both of my sisters could join me. I was embarrassed to ask friends to go because I didn’t want to face the questions about Zahara’s father, where he was and why I wasn’t with him. I was really trying to give my marriage a chance, but I refused to take my newborn into a situation where I didn’t know if her father could be trusted and we’d be far away from all of my family and friends. I didn’t want to air his dirty laundry either. So I stayed away from socializing with anyone other than close family to avoid that discussion.

Then as I settled into single motherhood and started finding bits of my strength again, I started to take Zahara to a local movie theater that has special baby-friendly showtimes for moms, dads,and guardians to enjoy the newest movies with kiddie in tow. It’s a fantastic idea and they do it at all the National Amusements theaters. If you’ve got young kids who’d wail through the two hours and get you kicked out or at least glared at, you should definitely try this out instead, whether you’re single or not!

I didn’t feel awkward going to these shows because it would be all individuals with a kid or two in the stroller. So I didn’t stick out as the sad, pitiable all by her lonesome, isn’t she weird, movie watcher! I got to enjoy movies again, with Zahara right next to me making me feel like I had a partner, an ally, to watch them with. And when she was about 10 months old, I started taking her to Gymboree and Stroller Strides and playdates and just giving myself the chance to have friendships again, too.

I had to change diapers and give her bottles and rhythmically sway her stroller or rock her in my arms to go to sleep. My nacho cheese would get cold and I’d miss parts of the dialogue and sometimes things would spill, but still, I was happy. I was a movie lover once again, even as a single mom.

Then last night, I had this AHA moment when I realized I wanted to see The Avengers alone. I’d done what I had to the past two and a half years since Zahara had come into my life and her father had left it. But now, I was excited about seeing a movie by myself. No one eating my snacks! No moment of dialogue or action missed! No feeling like I was only half listening while I had to tend to other things! I love my daughter and going to see a kiddie movie with her is fun, but I need to watch a movie without her once in a while, too.

And the part that really makes it amazing is that I felt good about it. I realized I’m happy in my singledom and I don’t need a body filling that seat next to me. I can spread my too long for most theaters legs and not bump into anyone else. I can create my snack concoctions and not worry about the baby making a mess. I can watch a movie alone and not feel embarrassed or nervous or self-conscious. I can just enjoy the movie!

I was so used to always having Zahara’s father with me everywhere I went. A lot of things were relatively easy to change after we separated, but watching a movie without that other person there felt odd. I don’t know why, but I had this image of everyone staring at me, wondering why I’d go to the movies alone. And I hate to say it, but I was once one of those judgy people myself, who saw a lone moviegoer as sad and lonely, or maybe a little strange.

Maybe this is no big deal anymore, now that there are so many more people who are single and satisfied. But it still felt very difficult for me before now to be somewhere like the movies or a nice restaurant without someone to share it with. I made Zahara my honorary date whenever I could, and it felt like the most natural thing because she is my other half, my whole life. But suddenly it feels just as natural to have some me-time, too, enjoying these kinds of outings with her safely at home with my parents and me out and about alone, unabashed and unafraid and filled with contentment and joy.

I was this adventurous, quirky girl and now I am again :~)

My strength and self-love has grown without me noticing how much these last few months. I’m at peace with myself and can take myself out and not worry about what anyone thinks. And Melysa S. and her posts on success and satisfaction and celebrating herself inspired me in this solo adventure, too. If you haven’t already, please catch up on her blog, especially when she went to Atlantic City alone and rocked it! I think that post was in the back of mind all this time, and her confidence helped me reach this moment. This time it’s a movie. Next time it’ll be something else, and one day even a road trip like my friend Melysa. Because I can. And hell, yeah I’m worth it.

I had another single woman first last night. I took another step forward in a way I never would have imagined even 3 years ago. I went to watch a movie by myself, no friends, no man, no Zahara. And yes, this is a very big deal. :~D

Pic of the day project 4/1/12-5/6/12

I began this picture project in order to remind myself that even the hardest days are full of beautiful moments that inspire me, strengthen me, and fill me with joy. Whether sweet or silly, these pictures signify my conscious choice to be happy and to appreciate every day. My picture tweets got put on hold for a while when my parents had to be out of town and I was busy with illnesses, events, Zahara’s classes, and all of the daily distractions. But even without my nightly ritual of picking my favorite moment of the day, this project helped get me through that very difficult month. I had begun it 8 weeks earlier, so by this time I was accustomed to calming my mind and sifting through the hardships to the little memories of each day that showed me how truly blessed I was…and still am, thank God. Even though I didn’t put up any pic of the day project posts in April, I was silently still doing it for myself.

The pic of the day project is back! This simple act helps keep me grounded and aware of all the best things in my life :~)

Glam Me up, Scotty

It’s time to be transported to a place where moms are manicured, massaged, and made very very happy. And yes ladies, such a place DOES exist. ;~) After huge success with their first Glam Me event, Mommyslinks has announced three more Glam Me Girls Nights Out! Mamas can join the fabulous party in Brooklyn, THIS Thursday, in the Bronx on June 9th, and on Long Island on July 7th. Take your pick or be truly glamorous and attend them all. (shrugs and dusts shoulders off)

The pampering lineup includes hairdos, makeup applications, manis and pedis, and more. There’s even mendhi! For those not in the know, that’s the stuff that’s also called henna: non-toxic, plant-based dyes turned into temporary tattoos and beautiful designs. :~)

And for those bellies yearning for some nourishment sans mommy responsibilities, Glam Me events offer food and drink specials while you mingle with old friends and new. Plus, they’re giving away some awesome door prizes, swag bags, and holding raffles!

The best part of this pleasure party is that it’s all FREE WITH ADMISSION!

Tickets for Glam Me Brooklyn are selling at warp speed, so go to http://bit.ly/GlameMeBK now! Enter the code “MommysLinks” and you can get a last minute $10 off discount, so your ticket is only $25!!

Just $25. Believe me, this is not a dream! You CAN have an amazing night of self-indulgence for this one low price. This is the perfect way to celebrate National Mom’s Nite Out on Thursday, May 10th. And it’s exactly the way to celebrate yourself again in June and July, you magnificent mom, you! (I like alliteration, is it obvious?)

Glam Me Girls Night Out is not just for mothers. Any woman looking to get a little glamorous can attend.

Go ahead, ask Scotty to glam you up. Be sure to mention me and I’ll get a little cha-ching to spend on my own prettyfying!

;

Disclosure: This post was not sponsored. No request to share any particular point of view was made, however I will be given a small compensation every time a ticket-buying glammifyer is referred by me or this post. All opinions expressed here are strictly my own, including the Star Trek metaphors which I do not find lame at all because I think Glam Me WILL be an out of this world experience!

Brown like me…and Ashton Kutcher

As many people are now aware, a recent ad campaign for popchips featuring Ashton Kutcher in a video for a fake online dating website has drawn a lot of criticism. If you follow this blog, you also know that I was one of many of the bloggers who was given the opportunity to “break” this story. We were not told who the celebrity in the video would be or what the content would be or even what product the ad was selling. Once we received that information, we had a limited amount of time in which to write a quick post and send it out in hopes of it spreading around the Internet. The rules were that I had to act as if I had just found Ashton’s real online dating video, in which four over-the-top, funny men also appeared to introduce themselves to potential dates. The catch is that all four characters are played by Kutcher himself.

The problem is that some people find the video racist, in particular, the character of Raj, a Bollywood producer played by Ashton wearing brownish-orange makeup to look Indian. The character has a deep accent, wears a bright blue short kurta (traditional shirt,) and has both laughable dance moves and horrible pickup lines. He is also the only character who isn’t white.

Okay, now before I continue, I unfortunately have to clarify something quickly that will be what some people will say as a response to this post. They will say, “Well, you’re Pakistani, not Indian, so you probably like making a mockery of the Indian race to get back at us for the war that never ends.” WRONG. I was born in New York, my parents were born in Pakistan, and my grandparents were born in India. I still have family in both India and Pakistan, as well as in America. I think the war between India and Pakistan is tragic and I wish it WOULD end, somehow pleasing the people of both countries as well as doing right by Kashmir, the disputed territory caught in this deadly battle for years. And I have friends from every race, religion, culture, and homeland and I am not biased or prejudiced against anyone.

Moving on. Now, the next jab at me will be that being an ABCD, American Born Confused Desi as those born in Southeast Asia say, makes me incapable of understanding the dynamic in play here. Um hello, I have spent my whole life being different, being a representative of the Desi culture whether I wanted to be or not and showing non-Desis that I do believe in Jesus but I don’t celebrate Christmas and I also don’t eat monkeys (true story- someone’s mom wouldn’t let her come over for a while because she was afraid of this.) I was also the first one in my entire extended family to be born here, so I spent much of my youth traveling to visit family “there” and represented Amrika to people who expected me to be cursing in English and disrespecting my mother and wearing as little clothes as possible. I’m not confused. I know exactly who I am and I always have. I also know exactly what bothers you most about this video.

It’s the gora. The white man. The white man making fun of us brown Desis while he tries to sell his chips and get away with it. Okay, I get it. India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh were under British rule for YEARS. History shows us that that rule ultimately led to the breakdown between Hindus and Muslims and the eventual development of both India and Pakistan as separate entities, and eventually Bangladesh as well. It was “divide and conquer” and it worked for the white man and the Desis went from being subjugated to winning independence to killing each other. The hatred, both outward and inward, has never really gone away. That’s why the countries still fight. That’s one reason why Western involvement in those countries is seen as interference and even a subtle re-subjugation.

I am not going to argue any of this with you. I took Social Studies and History and Sociology and Psychology and I am Desi and I am American and I get it. All of it. But guess what? That is not, in any way, shape, or form, what this video is about!

Ashton as Raj is a stereotype. Yes, a stereotype…ooooo. But so is the Rastafarian hippie dude who jokes about getting high. And how about the Southern biker with bad teeth and tattoos all over? And the Karl Lagerfeldesque Darl, who is just too much for me to even say? Three different white characters that satirically portray a bunch of different people: New Age hippie wannabes, Southerners and bikers in one, and fashion-loving, dog-loving, self-loving men.

Raj is a parody, the same character of FOB, Fresh Off the Boat, that we Desis portray often in our own television serials and movies. Why is it okay to do this to ourselves, but not okay when someone else says it? Okay yes, the gora did it, but so what? Can’t we throw off the chains of oppression and servitude that created all this resentment and self-loathing in the first place? Do we really have to pretend to think Ashton or popchips or the American society in general are being mean-spirited or hateful towards us? Or could we maybe just laugh at the stereotype and acknowledge that it is a stereotype for a reason, because there are people like Raj in our community and we ourselves make fun of those characteristics in our entertainment industry and advertisements and conversations ALL THE TIME.

You want to know why I say we hate ourselves? Because we are always trying to BE the white guy, the sahib, the ones who once ran our countries and our lives. The biggest selling products in our culture are things like “Fair and Lovely,” to brighten our skin, and our traditional style makeup requires layers and layers of foundation to look fairer. The community still remembers bowing down to this powerful white ruler, so now we are offended by “them” making fun of “us,” while simultaneously trying to turn into them?

You know what? I AM offended. By you critics who have made me feel like an other among a group I belong to. I was asked to be a part of this campaign like everyone else in our network. I was given my first chance at a sponsored post and I was excited and I did well and I was praised. And then you showed up. Claiming righteous indignation and the voice of a people. But you never asked me what I thought. You didn’t stop to consider that by making me a part of your outcry by saying we all feel the same way (or should,) that you actually forcibly removed me from the very people you are calling racist and exclusive. You essentially put a giant asterisk on my forehead, a bias-bhindi!

Instead of being proud of my culture and heritage and displaying it proudly, I am forced by you to offer this long-winded explanation of why us Desis can’t lighten the hell up. I’m forced to feel ashamed of the funny aspects of my community and guilty for having laughed in the first place? No! No way will I be ashamed or guilty! I have a sense of humor, damn it, and what’s funny coming out of a Desi mouth is funny coming out of Ashton’s or anyone else’s.

Once again, it’s me and a bunch of people who don’t quite get it because they aren’t Desi, and you, the Desis who are so outraged, on the other side. Once again, Sheba’s in the middle. And Sheba’s sick of it.

Raj is not a representation of Desis everywhere. He is the satirical performance we’ve seen in countless places before, in America, in Pakistan, in India, and beyond. YOU are not a representation of Desis everywhere. You are one piece of a culture that needs to move beyond the past and see where its place is now. We are doctors, engineers, and lawyers, leading in the fields of technology and computers. We are teachers and mothers and business owners and we are Americans, Canadians, Brits, Australians, living in the islands and living in Africa and living in the lands of our forefathers. We are not second-class or a servant class or a group to be controlled. But this is a commercial. It is making light of many, many different kinds of stereotypes. It is not a comment on who you are and you shouldn’t let the gora or your inner voice or anyone ever tell you that you’re anything less. We should be past all this already!

*****

The main person to begin the negative reaction to the advertising is a man named Anil Dash, a blogger, an entrepreneur, and self-described “geek” in the world of technology. His post sounds valid, but here’s what he says in a comment on someone else’s blog:

     Here in the United States, people of Indian descent actually have relatively less impact in all of

     those realms than would be expected, given the percentage of population that we represent, so

     we have less power… It’s fine to mock people in positions of power; It’s wrong to mock those

     who are not in power. This shouldn’t be that hard to understand — it’s the same reason adults

     don’t make fun of kids, for example. (Anil Dash)

 

Raj made me laugh, you make me shake my head in disgust. I am so unbelievably insulted by this- what you, the critic, have to say!

We have “less impact” and “less power” and are compared to children while everyone else is an adult?! Now that’s racism. Racism doesn’t have to be one race against another. You have shown here that you consider Desis inferior to other races, especially to whites, and that you think we’re mere children being bullied in this society. Please Mr. Dash, have the decency to not spread your self-hating, insecure, nonexistent self-esteem to the rest of us!

Ashton’s character never says anything as demeaning as what you’re putting out there as your explanation for hating his performance. He put on brown makeup? Actors ALWAYS wear makeup, whether they are playing their own race or another. He has an accent? So do billions of people, and so do countless characters in Hollywood, Bollywood, and Lollywood, because that is a reality and it can be an interesting quirk to portray. He can’t dance? Damn it, all you people with two left feet, get out there and join the movement against left-footedness!!

Seriously, this was supposed to be funny. Just say you didn’t think it was and move on. Don’t turn it into an us versus them. Don’t tell me we’re “not in power” and we should be hurt that those who supposedly are are making fun of us. I am one of the bloggers to break the story, just like my white/black/pink counterparts in the blogosphere, and I have an impact. I have power. Don’t take that away from me because you don’t like the joke!

For a few moments in this video, Ashton Kutcher was brown like me. And I, for one, found it hilarious.


 

Cyber-dating surprise: Ashton Kutcher on my screen!

This masala-loving single mommy didn’t think it was possible to find true love online. I mean, how can I get to know someone with a bland profile?

What melts my heart most is honesty and humor. But can words and a few glamour shots online really tell me if a guy’s going to make my face hurt from laughing so hard? And how am I, the unable to fit into maximum word limits girl, possibly going to get all the flavors of myself into one tiny paragraph?

Well, people kept telling me to “get back out there” online. Then I discovered a new dating site, World Wide Lovers. You HAVE to check it out. Turns out, they use videos to show a girl like me what a potential match is really like.

And guess what? I’m not the only divorcee on a soulmate cyber-search. Ashton Kutcher’s looking for love at WorldWideLovers.com, too!

I didn’t think That 70s superstar would ever need a dating video, but he’s putting himself out there again the same as you and me…totally at the mercy of strangers. (I’m shaking just thinking about it, but Kutcher charms and disarms like second nature.)

When I continued my search for Mr. Right If He Can Make Me ROFL I found this.

 

Could it be? Is that a Bollywood-

flavored Ashton?! Desi girls

everywhere, commence swooning.

                      :~D

We all knew Ashton was back

on the market, but different kinds of Ashton? Obviously this prince

of parody has showing off all the sides of his personality down to

an artform. If Romeo-Raj doesn’t shine as bright as his blue kurta for you,

one of the other LOL identities definitely will!

 

 

Check out Swordfish, the soft-hearted bikerpoet in this hilarious dating video from World Wide Lovers!

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by popchips. No request to share any particular point of view was made, including thinking Bollywood Ashton’s dance moves are AWESOME. All opinions expressed here are strictly my own, especially when I tell Raj that I’m “the most delicious thing on the planet.”