Once again, with feeling!

It’s been so long since I wrote a post, I’ve almost forgotten how. I barely even visit my site anymore. Hardly ever check my comments or update the site in any way. And if I have any loyal readers still waiting out there for the next words to flow out of my fingertips, well, God bless you for your patience but really, I don’t blame anyone who’s moved on to a better blog. You know, the kind that actually gives you something new to read once in a while.

I can blame all kinds of things for my absence from the blogosphere or my almost complete disappearance from the interwebs as a whole. The mundane and usual excuses, work and my schedule taking up too much time. Exhaustion. Laziness. Lack of inspiration. But I think my main reason for letting go of my passion for writing this past year has been the recurrence of a demon from my past, the great big monster that silently encroaches on your sanity and overtakes you before you even know it’s there. Depression. That enigma of a mental illness that still confounds those who’ve experienced it and those who haven’t, mental health professionals and us common folk alike.

Now before everyone starts in with but you have a job (read, money) and an amazing daughter and your health and friends and family supporting you and you can do so much, just suck it up and try…yeah, we know. We as in the millions and millions of people affected by depression, fighting each day to not give in to its overwhelming siren song of defeat, fighting also the feeling that we’re ungrateful for all that we DO have. I know how lucky I am. I thank God for all of the blessings in my life. That doesn’t mean doubt and negativity don’t have a place to rule my heart. Quite the opposite actually. That all of those wonderful things exist and I’m still not satisfied, that I still feel a measure of failure, that makes me angry at myself. And anger at yourself is a major trigger for those of us who will always be fighting the darker, heavier burden of depression.

So what do I feel I’ve failed at? I’ve failed at some very basic promises to myself. Promises like not allowing my voice to be silenced, by anyone. Promises like challenging myself instead of allowing myself to ever reach a plateau and just stop. Promises like knowing my own strength, accepting my weaknesses, and being kinder to myself than I am to others. It sounds very vague and even a bit silly. But here’s why this matters. Two and a half years ago I told myself it was time to look for a job and truly start over. And I did. And I was happy, proud of myself, enthusiastic. But the other part of that was a timeline in my head. Where I’d be 2 years later, and 10 years later, and all of the ways I’d improve the quality of my life, and by extension, my little girl’s life. And now it’s 2 years in August and somehow I find myself struggling to remember what the next step was supposed to be. I look around and feel like there are no opportunities, like working until I’m too tired to think is the status quo, and like there will never be anything else. That just isn’t true. But I feel it. And it sucks.

ReachSo I’ve chosen to shake myself out of it. To remind myself of the person I am. To keep reaching and hoping. Because the alternative is letting myself give up, give in, to lay down my single mom sword and wave a white flag and then slowly suffocate myself with it. I refuse that alternative. Remember, I’ve got that steel strength in me, that core that has gotten me through all kinds of tough times before. And I’ve got my writing. My release. My respite from the fight. I won’t let my doubts and disappointments drag me back into the endless spiral staircase of depression. I will find my way back up before it’s too late. For me. For Zahara. For all those people whose love and support has been with me for so long. For all the dreams I have yet to see realized. This isn’t an empty promise. It’s a rousing call to arms, a renewal of spirit. And I don’t know how many cliches I can throw in there. ūüôā But it is. It’s my stubborn unwillingness to let my life be just okay. I want more than okay. I want monumental, passionate, deep experiences that will be a legacy of happiness I can share with and ultimately leave for my daughter. I want my life back. And hell yeah I’m going to get it. Stick around and watch. It’s going to be worth it.

I promise.

 

 

The Power Trip: meeting author Jackie Collins and finding myself

When I was in high school and college and I imagined myself at almost 31, I could never have envisioned what would be. I didn’t think I’d end up a single mom, working in the travel industry and searching for myself and my confidence again and again. I had no clue my love of books and my need to write my way through my feelings would someday give me the title of blogger, or especially, a blogger who gets invited to book launches and author meet and greets with some of New York’s press and PR and blogging elite.

Pause for a moment and think about that: events, parties, press, ME. Cyber-pinch me, people.

But that’s exactly what life is like for me these days.

Last Monday I took a train into New York City and after a slight navigational error (oops), I found my way to Yotel New York, an uberhip-looking hotel right near Times Square.

When I say uberhip, think neon purple lighting at the entrance and a futuristic interior, filled with both modern furniture and people. Somewhere in there was Jackie Collins, top-selling and well known novelist and my current interviewee, with a new book called quite aptly The Power Trip.

I was already late, feeling a little embarrassed for my knack at getting lost even when I’m sure I know exactly where I’m going. So I felt like the nerd trying to fit in with the cool kids, the loser about to enter a world I didn’t belong in, the powerless outsider joining some of the influential writers and journalists and blog-Gods of the literary circle…

power trips indeed.

Cue the woman I’ve become, the one who takes a deep breath and steps forward even when it’s the hardest thing to do.

I stepped through glass doors into a room filled with people all mesmerized by a quiet British accent in the corner, a voice that resonated with strength and self-awareness and a bit of raunchy humor.

And then it was all sushi and laughter, old friends and new, and you know, playing a trivia game and posing for pictures with Jackie Collins

Jackie Collins and I are so empowered we emit a white glow... which no amount of photoshop could completely hide. We're that awesome :-)

Jackie Collins and I are so empowered we emit a white glow… which no amount of photoshop could completely hide. We’re that awesome ūüôā

the usual New York night.

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It was a reminder that I AM part of this world. I AM meant for hors d’oeuvres and open-minded conversation.

I AM A POWERFUL PERSON.

And so it was that I learned that the author of¬†The Power Trip is invested in strong characters with major flaws and just as major desires and dreams. That she believes in women using their own intelligence and power instead of their sexuality in professional relationships, but also that a woman’s sexuality isn’t something to be afraid of or kept hidden away because of outdated social mores and considerations. That an early experience as the wife to an addict left her broken in some ways and even more capable in others.

Hmmm, it seemed like Jackie Collins was someone I could actually get along with very well!

The novelist was captivating and sexy in person, and her writing is even more so.

Full of the escapades and private lives of the rich and famous, this new book gives you a glimpse into how the other half lives-

money, sex, manipulation, self-doubts, addictions, and the art of preserving a perfectly crafted public image.

In addition to the¬†salaciousness of the characters’ bedroom scenes, the novel also becomes a bit of a thriller and a cautionary tale to those who think their celebrity status gives them any real power.

Jackie Collins warns them all about how little they truly have control over, and how quickly they, too can feel powerless.

If all this isn’t to your liking, think about it this way: this book is your very own Spring Break, an escape from your reality that Jackie calls “a sexy, sun-drenched thriller.”

So even if you’re stuck working and waiting for winter to go away, The Power Trip will give you an escape route to a luxury yacht off the coast of Cabo San Lucas.

And if you’re like me and you have moments of insecurity or wondering if you really can identify with the uberhip lifestyle, this book reveals the simple truth that even the ultracool and ultra-famous are just people inside, damaged and seductive, powerful but nowhere near perfect.

And we can join them you guys. We can start by taking a deep breath and stepping into their world, because once we do it’s absolutely clear:

we belong here. This is our world, too. We are full of power, and we’re just getting started.

Disclosure:¬†This post was sponsored by Get Red PR, as in, they invited me to an event to meet and interview the author and stuffed me full of tasty appetizers and fancy drinks while I did it. No request to share any particular point of view was made. All opinions expressed here are strictly my own and that includes thinking I’m one of the uberhip…and that I’ll always be a nerd at heart.

Aurora, Colorado shooting: a reaction

I have other posts I’ve been working on, but today, July 20th, the nation woke up to news of a shooting in Colorado at a midnight premiere of the The Dark Knight Rises. This post might be a random collection of thoughts and reactions, but it’s just what swirling around my head.

There are people out there who are hurt, who are scared, who are grieving, or who are gone forever. Let’s not cheapen it by, I don’t know, tweeting, emailing, and calling victims and their families for statements. I don’t know, the media is truly sickening sometimes. I understand that for reporters and such, that a major tragedy is the stuff that puts food on their tables, but it IS possible to do your job while respecting and sympathizing with the suffering of others. I’m just saying don’t be the ones that add to the pain by swarming in like vultures incapable of feeling anything or expressing regret for the loss of life. Go to the scene, report the FACTS (and unfortunately, some of you need to go back to school and take some courses in journalistic ethics to know what that even means,) and please, for God’s sake, stop going after people for a quote. Those who want and need to talk will be around, willing to do so. You don’t have to physically or virtually (by way of the internet and social media) stalk them!

Speaking of vultures, those people using this day to campaign and politicizing this shooting have either lost their humanity or never had it in the first place. What should happen? Should everyone have a gun so the victims can defend themselves? Should no one be allowed to buy, carry, or use a gun except law enforcement? Does this tragedy really have ANYTHING to do with Democrats, Republicans, Tea Party members, or any political groups? Look, the bad guys, the crazy people, the ones who intend to harm others will always find a way to do so. They’ll always be able to get their hands on a weapon. They’ll always be able to initiate trouble. The real solution would be for there to never have been such a thing as guns, but that’s not possible now, is it? Besides, this isn’t the time to turn that debate into an election campaign strategy. If you’re selfish enough to use death and destruction to further your own career, you sure as hell don’t deserve my vote or that seat you’re pushing so hard to get.

The real story here is the same story that was true and real after 9/11. How we can come together, love each other more, appreciate the presence of our loved ones, friends, and neighbors. The real lesson is one of compassion and community. And of understanding that none of us knows when this life will end for us, so even though we get caught up in work and chores, frustrated, tired, or angry, that we should take a moment every day to just step back and take stock of the good in our lives. That we can thank God or the universe or fate or whatever you believe in for the blessings we’ve been gifted.

Other countries and communities in the world face this type of violence and loss daily. They have become almost desensitized to it. Almost, but not completely, because you can never truly get over the intense lack of control and confusion following senseless death. We Americans are privileged to have less to compare these acts to, but regretfully, they are becoming more common here as well. But let’s learn from the world community and mourn the loss of life, whatever it’s cause may be. I’ll call this mass shooting terrorism, because it does terrorize the local and national public who wonder why, who fear and struggle to¬†comprehend¬†what has happened. But this isn’t the time to criticize people who call the shooter a lone psycho and reserve the word terrorist for people who are darker skinned or who pray differently. This isn’t about us, fellow Muslims, this is about the us of fellow Americans, of fellow humans. This is about the us of us all.

Whether you are a good person or you have sins to atone for, whether you’re Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Amish, Atheist, Unitarian Universalist, or any of the countless ways we label ourselves, if you’re a human being you’re affected by these things. Give thanks for what you have. Send prayers/good thoughts/hopes for a better future to those who need it. Grieve for those who are hurt or have died at the hands of other humans and hug your own loved ones a little longer.

Love. Learn. Live on, mindful of those who cannot do so anymore.

Single people don’t hate couples

So I was scrolling through my Twitter feed and saw this:

Now, I was an English Literature and Creative Writing major and a high school English teacher once upon a time, so critical reading is basically second nature to me. I may HATE an author’s opinion, but I try to understand it anyway.

I clicked the link with an open mind and was immediately hit by this obviously incendiary title:

Umm, okay. So she wants readers, and comments, and you know, people like me to blog about her so she gets more visitors on her page. The title is meant to catch your eye and make you do that thing Eminem raps about in one of his songs: “Ah, wait, no way, you’re kidding, he didn’t just say what I think he did, did he?”

I get it. Say something outrageous and just wait for the interwebs to explode with conflict centered around your work. Brilliant.

Except, she writes this inane little piece about how she’s soooo happy with her boyfriend J and she’s soooo annoyed with her single friends and their “single behavior” and they must be sick of her rainbows and roses and so in ruvvv happiness.

First off, if you have to explain over and over again just how insanely Snow White singing to the forest animals full of joy and laughter you are, maybe you’re not. Maybe you’re trying to convince yourself that everything is that perfect. Or maybe it really is, but you’re that girl who can’t just be happy with her man but has to go around making sure EVERY SINGLE PERSON knows it, because that’s what makes it real for you, showing off instead of sharing your joy. Yes, there IS a difference.

Did you ever think that maybe your single friends don’t want to hear you “ooze” happiness as you say, not because they’re jealous, or in a different place in their lives, or don’t get it like you sort of smugly think, but because you just ooze a little too much? I mean, even the verb you chose is sort of gross and overdone in the images it brings up. Open sores ooze. People in love gush. Gushing is cute, oozing is something best left for pus and other such unstoppable, disgusting things.

But hey, you want to talk about the love of your life CONSTANTLY and you want to ooze out the details just so nobody ever forgets that you. are. in. love? Okay, go ahead. Just don’t get concern and advice mixed up with scorn. You write that you’re annoyed some of your friends worry you’re moving too fast. Honey, that’s called friendship! Friends are the ones who tell you that new haircut makes your ears stick out or you have snot hanging out of your nose or hey, I’m so happy you’re happy but please be smart. Be careful. Maybe go a little slower. It’s not that they don’t get it. It’s that they care so much about you, with your gushing and your oozing and your tra-la-la mentality that they want to make sure you don’t get blindsided and you don’t get hurt. Because frankly, you sound like you could easily be hurt, and that’s not a judgement against your coupledom, but an opinion based on how much you feel you need to “ooze” about it instead of simply being comfortable and secure in loveland.

And you are right about one thing. Sometimes friends grow apart. Sometimes even the best relationships end, but guess what? Your friends are saying that that’s true of friends, boyfriends, and even marriages! If you’re really as mature as you feel you are, you can accept that fact and realize that some people are only trying to get you to acknowledge it by advising you step on the brakes a little. You don’t have to do what they say. They might be wrong and this really is THE guy for you. If they’re real friends they’ll look out for you AND be ecstatic for your happy ending.

You can be friends with both singles and couples, with the happily ever after in love and with the happily solo, passionate about something else. And those women who are genuinely annoyed with your relationship or your career or any other personal success? Frenemies darling. The very definition of the term.

Okay, so maybe you have some real friends and some jealous, competitive frenemies, I thought. And then I got to this little snippet of pure judginess:

Hi. I am a 30 year old single mom. I am a Disney/Hollywood/Bollywood love-loving romantic, full of idealistic notions and career goals. I spent my 20s on a “serious love” that turned out to be a hell of a lot more serious for me than it was for him. We singles do not all hook up or go out every night or act like we’re teenagers until we find a mate to settle down with and settle our unstable lives. People like to do millions of things that have nothing to do with living a party scene, whether they’re in a relationship or not, and I’m sure your friends have much more to tell you than just that. But some people do like all that party all night, every night stuff and hello, plenty of them are social both before and after coupling up. Why are you so judgy of those who do? Maybe you don’t want to listen to them?

I haven’t given up on love and I don’t get bitter when my friends find it. I have three weddings in my family this summer, two weddings of friends, AND my best friend’s engagement. She’s told me all about finding the man that makes her heart skip a beat and had me grinning because he makes her so gleeful. All three of my closest friends in a mom’s group are now happily pregnant with their second children, glowing that pregnancy glow that’s a mix of sweat and pure joy.

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I’m overjoyed for all of them and all of the great things happening in the lives of the people I love! I wish all of these relationships more and more love and God’s blessings to remain intact and get stronger with time. I wish all of the moms health and sanity and easy deliveries and the magical chance to sleep once in a while! Just because my marriage ended doesn’t mean my friendships need to dissolve. Just because I have one amazing kid and am nowhere near redoing the newborn thing, doesn’t mean I can’t love all the rounded bellies and eventual little balls of huggable goodness. I would be a very selfish person if I made it all about me.

And that’s where I think your problem truly lies. You come off as this selfish, self-involved woman who doesn’t seem to believe her friends have anything else going on in their lives other than “random, crazy hookup stories” OR you have been so very very unlucky as to never have made a real friend, ever. I feel sad for you either way. I make amazing memories with friends who are single and friends who are in relationships, with people who have kids and those who never want to parent. We get coffee or a meal, go to movies and the mall. We go out in groups where I may be the only single one or the only divorced one or we’re all single and NO ONE CARES. We have fun. I hang out at the park for a playdate or attend a girl’s night out or a mom’s night out and it’s all the same, because I enjoy the lives and stories and experiences of all of these amazing people I choose to surround myself with. That makes me ooze happiness.

Here’s the thing. You say you’re a grownup ready for grownup things like serious relationships and all, but you’re making a huge, childish mistake if you allow yourself to ostracize and let go of a friend just because you two aren’t doing the exact same things at the same time. It’s time to really grow up and be able to love your life and your friends’ lives in a mature, caring, sensible manner. You’ll experience much much more that way.

Variety really is the spice of life, honey. I should know, I’m all about spice.

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.

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.


 

Working girls and workshops

After leaving the job world with Doctor’s orders to rest during my pregnancy, I became a stay at home, work at home mom, researching and writing and editing during naptimes and after bedtime, while also going through a difficult separation and divorce. To say I was exhausted is putting it very very mildly. I’ve been happy and so lucky to be a constant presence in my child’s life¬†(Thank you¬†again, amazing family support system!)¬†but I also wanted to work.

Then came the B3 Blogging Workshop from Single Edition Media. And in addition, an invitation to join the most important network for single people I’ve seen yet, Single Edition itself! Like a sudden burst of sunshine after a thunderous rainstorm, (forgive the cliche) I was shown a path towards the life I want. As I rushed to get ready and organize what I needed and what Zahara would need for the day, I felt the kind of energy that makes stomachs roll and fingertips buzz. I was amped.

Saturday, April 28th was the first time in 3 years that I have felt like a real working woman!

Scheduling conflicts meant that I had to have a babysitting alternative in place for the day. Instead of my mother who has been a second mom to Zahara since the day she was born, I had to plan ahead and pick someone with both the desire and the capability to watch my little girl. Parents who have to do this regularly, I salute you.

That was the hardest thing. Leaving my daughter anywhere without me is difficult. Maybe it’s a single parent thing or maybe it’s a “I give a damn about my child’s welfare”-every parent kind of thing. I don’t know. I’ve only ever been a single mom. But even leaving Zahara with my parents for a few hours leaves me a little sad and guilty. I had to learn that mommy needs some me-time, too but still, there’s always that nagging little bit of unease.

Fortunately for me (so very fortunately, thank you God) I have a HUGE, extended family living within 20 minutes of me. Finding a reliable caregiver wasn’t ever really about searching, but about picking one of the many who’d be available. So early Saturday morning, I stuffed as many outfit changes and Pull-ups and other necessities in multiple bags as I could packed. I’m sure the Aunt I left Zahara with was laughing at my overzealous preparations and extended explanations of just exactly how my baby had to be dealt with during meals and naps and play. She’s got 3 kids. She knows.

And the child I was so worried about “abandoning” for the day? Turns out, I was the bigger scaredy-cat.¬†She ran to find her “friend”, my cousin who is insanely patient and kind for her young age, and one of Zahara’s favorite people. I admit, the swimming fiasco from a few months ago popped in my head and I imagined having to run out of the blogging conference and hitting midtown New York traffic and running over pedestrians and bike messengers. But thankfully, my family was well prepped and Zahara was well-behaved throughout the day. ¬†:~)

*****

After dropping Zahara off, I drove into New York City, coffee mug in hand, a sense of accomplishment and excitement making said coffee redundant. I felt so good!

Music creating just the right mood, head ready to be filled with blogging know-how, I headed towards my goals.

And the conference? IT WAS PERFECT! A free, one-day workshop bursting with intelligent, inspirational people and speakers who were engaging and informative- what more could I have wanted for my first time? Single Edition‘s Sherri Langburt and Melysa Schmitt made the day fun and worthwhile. I took notes and I took pictures. I ate up the presentations and I gorged on the lunch, snacks, and dessert! (Side note, I took notes with pen and paper and yes, it’s low-tech, but actually writing things down helps me process them so a big fooey to all those who think I’m a cavewoman LOL)

I learned about copyrights and Internet laws, marketing and Public Relations, self-publishing and self-promoting. I networked and met other creative souls eager to share their own experiences and expertise with me. I enjoyed every single moment and I added this new flavor to my own personal masala of life.  :~D

Check out my pics from this amazing event!

  • Ready to learn more about blogging Ready to learn more about blogging
  • My badge My badge
  • What I've been saying! What I've been saying!
  • The image of the lone ranger-type single man, 60 years ago. The image of the lone ranger-type single man, 60 years ago.
  • So delicious So delicious
  • NOMS NOMS
  • Percentage of people living alone. Desis are LAST! Percentage of people living alone. Desis are LAST!
  • Melysa S. dressed for success Melysa S. dressed for success
  • All smiles as I drive home, pre-NYC ticket (ouch) All smiles as I drive home, pre-NYC ticket (ouch)
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You can also see all the official pictures¬†and get a sense of my day. My report is that the workshop was pure awesomeness!! I also need to send a giant THANK YOU to everyone involved: Lord & Taylor for the location and the gift card, The Fresh Diet and popchips for adding so much yum to the day, Silk’n SensEpil for the prettyfying product info, and the sensational speakers,¬†@ACGC¬†@EricKlinenberg@rosecomm¬†@baskingtheglow URBookIsURHook and¬†#johndmason.¬†I gave you links to webpages and Twitter handles because, well, I can’t think of a better way to thank these emissaries of my soon-to-be successful single life!

And to the Single Edition network, thanks for the opportunity to join you and for everything you’ve already taught me. I promise you, I’m going to make your mouth water and your belly happy with what I’m dishing out. Get ready for a sweet and spicy ride together! xoxoxo