Friday, July 26, 2013

Teenaged Mutant Ninja Giant Rats


So when I was in high school my parents decided to do this pull themselves up by their bootstraps American dream dumb thing and bought a house in the suburbs! OMG! It was the worst! How could those people do this to me? I didn’t care about their bootstraps! I just wanted to stay in Brooklyn with my Friiiiieeeeennnnddddds!!!! I actually had some now!! Nooooooooo!! They were taking me away from the subway and corner bagel store and my beloved Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School!! Aaahhh-and I was going to turn into a Jersey girl!! See, this is why I own leopard print leggings-it’s all my parent’s fault-them and their dumb bootstraps!!

So off we drove to Clifton New Jersey. And I don’t care about what they claim about actually being a small city as opposed to a large town or the fact that Clifton is accessible to five major highways and at least one of nearly any chain retail store that ever existed-as far as I was concerned I just moved into the desolate wilderness! I might as well have moved into a swamp! They didn’t even have a subway here! And by subway, I mean underground commuter train system, not the sandwich franchise. And worst yet, these freaks in Jersey didn’t even know how to eat bagels! They didn’t even toast them! They just spread cream cheese all over a cold bagel out of a fridge and just ate them like that! I mean seriously! Who doesn’t know how to eat an effing bagel?! What kind of place was this?

My new high school was the worst. There were all these weird things I only ever saw on TV, like cheerleaders and Jocks and girls with blond hair. I was assigned to share a locker with this one mean girl from the fancy side of town who had an oddly striped orange complexion. She got mad at me one day because some guy who everyone supposedly knew she was hooking up with wanted to know who the “new girl” was. So she went around telling everyone that she saw me BJ both him and his best friend behind a tombstone at a cemetery that her and her friends hung out at when they cut school. Which I still don’t understand. Seriously, are there no better places to go when you cut school than a plot of land full of buried corpses and “no trespassing” signs everywhere? Indian people are superstitious. We don’t mess around with dead people and cemeteries. Secretly drinking beer there could never be fun.

Well anyway, I was a bit slow so I was still trying to figure out what BJ even stood for, but I did notice this rumor made people gossip about me and boys interested in me in a pervy kinda way. So I just would go home and cry. “Stupid Jersey!” I thought, “Stupid, stupid Jersey!!” Oh yes, it was all stupid Jersey’s fault!! And Jersey was really stupid! Jersey was soooooooo stupid and stupid Jersey was ruining my life!

Until...

People realized that I was from New York. New York effing City biiiiitttttccchhhhesssss!!! For the first time in my life, I had some street cred. Not bad for a girl who couldn’t even figure out what BJ stood for. I played it up too, telling everyone stories about drive by’s and drug dealers and explaining what gunshots sound like. Luckily, I was no longer wearing homemade jeans and koolats. And really, no one had to know that I spent my weekends at church youth group and that my mom was so strict that I wasn’t allowed to wear sleeve-less shirts or have internet access for fear of me meeting a random older guy on a chat room (remember those?) who would manipulate my young innocent mind and I would fall into a crazy whirlwind romance, and run away with the tattoo covered tongue ring wearing chat room predator, cross the border to Mexico and have his baby-just like you would hear about on TV. And then what would my mother say to my aunt when she called from India and asked how I was? What would people think?

Me and my sisters, just the three of us since the girl cousin we grew up with stayed in Brooklyn, would walk home from school every day. We made friends with a new girl, a girl from Manhattan. We were all trying to get used to the rugged new terrain of living in the burbs. You know, things like grass and front yards and garden hoses and stuff. One day the four of us were walking home from school on a busy street. From far away we saw some road kill. ROAD KILL!!! See how bad it was?!

As we continued to walk and had to inevitably face the dire circumstances of getting close to the icky dead mangled animal on the street, we notice that there was something terribly wrong. Wait...What was that? A dog? A cat? No...It had a pointy nose and sharp teeth and a long skinny tail. Was it? No it can’t be…could it? There was only one explanation-it was a giant mutant rat! Now I know I saw a huge radioactive rat in the subway in the Bronx one time, but this was on a whole nother level! The thing was the size of a small dog!! What the hell kind of god-forsaken swamp did those people who I call my parents bring me to?!?.

Terrified, we all did the only thing we could do. We started to scream and run. We got ourselves together and caught our breath. Mustering all our courage and strength, we slowly approached the dead mangled beast. Oh it was a giant rat all right! We were now stars of our own horror movie-The attack of the killer rats! We ran to the corner store, sweaty and out of breath, and explained our discovery to the store owner. I guess we would eventually have to call the news or something. And the police, and animal control.

“Oh, is that all” the guy at the store said. “That’s not a giant mutant rat, it’s just a possum.”

Oh...that’s what a possum is. Dang, they just let those nasty things walk around free like that? The suburbs are dark and scary place.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Pool Side Killer! (Queue Scary Music)


I always complained to my parents that they never put me in things. And by things, I mean lessons and stuff. I knew all kinds of kids doing all kinds of things, like violin playing and soccer and origami. I even had this one friend who was an Irish River Dancer. But me, I didn’t do anything. Except this one time that my parents, sick and tired of my complaining, sent me for swim lessons, which I promptly quit after a few lessons. They always bring that back up too whenever I’d complain about how they didn’t put me in things. But I had to quit, you don’t understand! It was absolutely a matter of life or death! To explain this, I will tell you what I like to call-The Story of the Pool Side Killer! (Queue scary music)

    So of all things to enroll me in to build my self-esteem, my parents enroll me in something that involved me being the chubby girl in a bathing suit standing poolside staring at the water I was afraid to jump in. I would watch all these brave four year olds yell, “Look at me mom and dad!” and jump right in. But there I was at the ripe ol’ age of eight afraid to do it. And what makes things worst is all these dumb adults who try to “encourage” you by saying-Look even the four year old can do it! Thanks genius for pointing that out-like I couldn’t see that already. Talk about adding insult to injury!

    So anyway, swimming lessons were the worst! I had this terrible teacher, a young college student, who just couldn’t understand that I was afraid. He would say all these un-understanding things and pressure me like: “Come on, you can do it!” and “I believe in you!” and “Take all the time you need!” I mean, who says stuff like that?! And worst of all, when I would tell my parents how awful he was, they wouldn’t believe me! They insisted that they stayed and watched and that the teacher was great. These adults, always siding with each other!

    Every time I would go to swim lessons, he would have this big smile on his face! Could you believe it?-a smile! Like I wasn’t suffering enough. Then he would try to encourage me by saying he would be right there and wouldn’t let me drown! Ugh! Like I believed that one! I mean what did he think I was, born yesterday? And what did he mean “you could do it”? Obviously I couldn’t do it which is why I was in lessons in the first place! How could I trust a swim teacher who couldn’t even understand that much?

    Finally I made some progress and I learned to float. I was really proud of myself as it was a great personal victory. Well, until I realized that floating wasn’t considered actual swimming. No, I had to graduate to something called “the dog paddle”.  My swim teacher tried real hard to get me to kick my arms and legs, but every time I’d try I would lose control and start to drown! I was too young to die! “It’s okay,” He’d say, “put your feet on the floor and stand up, the pool is shallow”. “Oh” I’d answer.

    “You know, you know how to swim, you got all the actions right, but I think you are afraid and just trying too hard.” I wasn’t following. He explained and asked me if I understood. I nodded even though I didn’t. We tried again, and it was the same all over again-resulting in me nearly drowning and fighting for dear life, him telling me to put my feet on the floor and stand up and that the pool is shallow, me doing this and getting myself together again. Oh, and with all the brave four year olds laughing at me. “Are you okay” my teacher asked, as if he cared! “Yes”, I said. “Good” he said and chuckled a little. Chuckled!! The insensitive bastard!! “You know, I know you are working real hard”, just like him to patronize, “you’ll get this in no time, we just have to work on not being afraid, we'll do it together”. Then he tried to make the whole thing seem positive! “I mean think of all the great things you can do once you learn how to swim, like have a great way to exercise, have fun with your friends, save your own life if you are in a ship wreck...”

    I know this was supposed to convince me, but I figured that I can do other things for exercise, like jumping jacks or something and make friends in other places besides pools. And as for the ship wreck...if that were to ever happen, I got the floating thing down pack. I can always float until the coast guard found me. That takes less energy than swimming after all so I actually will last a lot longer and have a better shot at surviving. I was satisfied with this. But this relentless swim teacher who seemed to think swimming was the center of the universe wasn’t! Ugh!

    My friend Sean from school used to go to the YMCA too. He laughed at me along with the four year olds so I wasn’t talking to him. He was trying to get me to play with him at recess the next day but I wasn’t having it. As far as I was concerned, we weren’t friends anymore. “If I told you my secret to being a great swimmer, will you be my friend again?” he asked. What? There’s a secret?! No wonder I wasn’t learning! Just like that evil sadistic swim teacher to withhold this from me!! I agreed and Sean told me his secret. “No matter how scared you are, you have to jump in and try. Just jump in and start kicking your arms and legs, and you’ll start swimming.” This seemed sketchy to me so I confirmed a few times, but Sean insisted. He was a great swimmer after all...

    So the next time I went to my evil swim lesson, I mustered all the courage I had in me. “I am just going to jump in!” I said. “Great idea! You can do it!” my swim teacher said. See how awful he was! He must have known it was a bad idea, he is a swim teacher after all! And he had to know that I couldn’t do it-that’s why I was in these damn lessons to begin with! How can he not even know that much?! “I’m right here!” he said. And those were the last words I heard before I jumped right in! I furiously kicked my arms and legs, I must be doing it, I must be swimming. I kicked harder and harder but something was going terribly wrong! I wasn’t swimming, I was drowning! I didn’t even know which way was up! I was full of panic and my short life flashed before my eyes. I vaguely heard my swim teacher’s voice call out “Put your feet on the floor and stand up, the pool is shallow” as I experienced my life fade away under the waters of the treacherous pool. I knew it was it for me until suddenly, I felt a pair of strong arms around me lifting me up out of the water and seating on the side of the pool. “You okay?” asked my instructor with a concerned look on his face. I nodded and coughed even though I wasn’t. “Looks like you had a little scare there,” he said with a gentle smile. Again with the smile! What the hell was the deal with this guy and that maniacal smile?!

    That was it for me, after that, I had to quit! I couldn’t die! I had way too much to live for! Dyeing young under the murky pool water of the god-forsaken YMCA couldn’t be my legacy in life! I know that everyone else thought he was being nice, but they didn’t get it. He was just someone who knew all the right things to say. But behind his kind and encouraging demeanor, I saw the maniacal look in his eyes every time he said he believed in me. He was just pulling the wool over everyone else’s eyes. I just knew better and no one would believe me so I carried this with me all my life.
    Well until that day, years later, when I was a grown adult and the story broke out in the news. I still remember walking past a local newspaper stand when the headline caught my eye. Chills went down my spine and the sensory memory of the smell of chlorine-filled pool water wafted around my nostrils. “The Pool Side Killer” it read, and there it was, a mug shot of my old swim teacher on the front page. After all these years, I was finally vindicated! Okay fine, I made that up. But you never know-it could happen

Friday, July 5, 2013

This one's for the Fella's


      It took me longer than most kids to figure out how girls and boys are different. It took me longer than most kids to figure out a lot of things. It’s okay though. As my teacher’s assistant in kindergarten told me, it’s because I’m special. She really did tell me that by the way, and I fell for it hook line and sinker. ‘The other kids are just jealous’ she said. ‘Yeah, jealous’ I thought proudly. In retrospect, I don’t think that’s really why they made fun of me.
       There are other reasons why I didn’t know how boys and girls are different besides my specialness. I grew up with sisters, a girl cousin, and no cable.

       Once, a boy who lived next door came over to play Super Mario Brothers on our Nintendo. He went to use the bathroom. I was holding it in forever, unable to tear myself away from stomping on zombie mushrooms and jumping over fire-breathing Venus fly traps. I finally hit pause on my control and ran into the bathroom and jumped on the seat without looking. Not being used to boys or knowing what to expect I splashed right in! I had no idea what was going on!! I was terrified!! OMG!! A toilet with the seat up is just the grossest thing! No, urinals. Urinals are the grossest thing!
       Anyway, I was terribly startled and upset. I didn’t know how to help myself and all I could manage to do was to start wailing on the top of my lungs. My mother came to the door but unfortunately, I used the little step stool we had in the bathroom to help me and my sisters reach the sink to brush our teeth to reach the lock on the door that was located way high for just this reason and locked it. “What happened? Are you okay?” my mother cried out! “NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!” I cried back! It was all I could manage. With the door locked I was trapped forever! I would die in that god-forsaken toilet! The super eventually came and unlocked the door from the outside and all the adults found me wailing in the toilet with the seat up. They may have got a good laugh out of it, but I was traumatized!

       There was no excuse for that though. I should have known better based on an incident that happened sometime before. I just didn’t make the connections. Once I was at my aunt’s house because she used to babysit me. Her nephew Kumar who was about my age was also over. All the adults used to tease us and say we were girlfriend and boyfriend, but I thought he was a little bastard and I hated him. We were painting and he made a big mess and then he threw paint on me. My aunty drew a bath and put both of us in the tub. And then I saw it!! Oooooo eeeemmmm Ggggeeeee!!! WTF was that?!?! Well, besides being the ugliest thing I ever seen!! I was a timid child so I waited quietly for my aunty to pay attention to me. “What is that?” I whispered. “What is what?” she said looking confused. “That” I said, pointing this time. Surely she had to see what I was seeing! Why was she not as startled as I was? He must be sick with some kind of disease; we needed to get him to a doctor pronto! None of this was making sense! “Oh!” she laughed a little. These damn adults! Why are they always laughing while you are having a crisis? “That’s no big deal; it’s just how boys’ private parts are.” “Like that?” I knew there was something mysterious about boys and girls that I haven’t figured out yet but I could have never fathomed something like this! “But...but...his privates look like they threw up!!” Again all this laughter!! What the hell was wrong with this woman!! And to make matters worse, this hurt Kumar’s feelings and he began to cry.
      After we were both dried off, dressed and calmed down, I did what adults tell us children to do. I went and apologized to him. “Sorry Kumar that I said you look like your private parts looked like they threw up. Your privates don’t look like that at all. They look very nice.” “Okay” he said and found his heart to forgive me.

Friday, May 31, 2013

God is a Comprehensive Psychology Test and other Heresies


          I hate on-line dating. I wish there were other ways to meet people these days! I have an e-harmony account. And like any sensible person I chose the most flattering picture I can find that looks way more attractive than what I look like in real life for my profile. Sure they may be a little disappointed when they meet me, but I figure once I got them where I want them, I’ll win them over with my winning personality. There are a lot of super creepy and intense men out there in e-harmony land. It’s crazy who will initiate communication with you. It really makes a girl wonder, considering that it is considered one of the safest dating sites out there. It gets even worst if you list that you are a Christian in the religion part on your account. Don’t believe me? Try it.

There all these hyper religious guys who answer Jesus for every question. And for the question, ‘What is the last book you read and enjoyed?’ they simply answer ‘the Bible’, or something like, ‘the Bible, the holy and infallible living word of almighty God-if it’s the King James Version- of which I’ve been anointed to preach to the nations’. Like they just sat down with a glass of lemonade one day and read the whole thing or something. If they can’t think of anything else but ‘the bible’ to answer that question with, it can only mean one thing-they don’t read. Just be honest, there’s no shame in it. I don’t really read either. See, we actually have something in common!
You know what I think is really weird? The way some religious guys list the things they can’t live without in the can’t live without list. iPod, fantasy football, laptop, Jesus, a cold beer. Really? And this in an attempt to come off deeply spiritual. Jesus, lord and savior, Son of God, God incarnate, prince of peace, lover of my soul, is right up there with fantasy football? I don’t know, I mean I know an iPod is important, but at the end of the day, it is a highly useful electronic commodity. I mean, a person wouldn’t list their spouse or family members along with intimate objects and beer, why almighty God? I may be missing something.

It’s the worst when eHarmony sends you an email like ‘meet John, a guy who matches up with the real you, who you are inside’. Then you see John’s profile, and he all weird and has no personality. He’s all like, ‘I like sitting around on my free time scratching my belly and try not to think too much’, and/or like ‘I am a prophet of God here to bring the ultimate message and prepare the believers to be cleansed of their impurities and board the mother craft as we launch off to the holy planet Zoran. Would you like to come over for a glass of Kool-Aid?’  And you end up going into a downward spiral as you wonder in full panic mode, ‘who is the real me, who am I inside?!?!’

Something I find really creepy is this one time when this guy did not follow the eHarmony guided communication at all and just sent me an icebreaker- ‘Nice pic, I would like to see more photos of you’. Eeeewwww...like I’m just going to send a bunch of pics of myself to a complete stranger. No way, I have class! I would only display them on an internet website available to anyone willing to pay the membership fee in hopes of scoring a date in order to have something to do on a Saturday night. I have standards! Damn you, much more attractive than real life pro-pic!! That’s what I get!! I should just email him and tell him that it’s just a damn good pic and I look nothing like that in real life. Or maybe take a pic of myself first thing in the morning in flannel granny pj’s yawning and making a face and send it to him. That would be funny. Naw too much work, I just deleted that match.

I especially like guys who, when they are asked to describe what they are looking for in a woman, write some ridiculous bullshit. Like, I want a woman who is attractive, takes good care of her appearance, beautiful, but modest, not into looks, down to earth, and not vain. A woman who is strong, independent, and has her own opinions, and knows how to make me feel like a man, does not talk too much and would be a good submissive homemaker. Good luck to you finding that non-existent fantasy woman!

What really sucks is when you actually come across a decent match and then he sends you his must have and can’t stand lists and you just don’t fit the bill. I noticed that many of the more decent seeming ones list patience as a must have. The definition is something like ‘must be able to handle life’s setbacks and frustrations with a calm even steady demeanor.’ Oh no, that’s not me at all. I’m super all over the place. That could be exciting though-every day a surprise!

Of course a person always has the option of trying match.com. However, who really wants to get winks from anyone (they're totally creepy) let alone from guys who swear the have abs and take selfies with their phones in their dirty bathroom mirrors. Fella's trust me, this is always a no, comparable only to wearing socks with sandals, especially the type of sandals that separate the big toe from the rest so you really have to cram your foot in to get your thick Costco tube socks around the toe part. And if you have some strange disease/disorder that gives you an uncontrollable impulse and you absolutely must take shirtless pics of yourself in the bathroom mirror, please, grab a bottle of Windex and a paper towel and wipe that nasty mirror down to a streak-free shine.

My mother really wants me to meet a Christian man. So she suggested a site called Christianmingle.com. Well the slogan says, “Meet God’s Match for You”. God’s match? I didn’t realize that God is a comprehensive psychology test designed to match singles based on major points of compatibility. Lol! Apparently you can send a person a smile, kinda like poking someone, but only someone of the opposite sex. If you try to send a smile to someone of the same sex, a little pop-up comes up and tells you that you can’t do that. No same-sex smiling folks...on account of it being an abomination to God.  Aahh...there’s nothing more romantic than a little religiously based discriminatory  anti-gay sentiment to set the mood for love.
I shouldn’t make fun; I have a friend who met a woman on a Christian dating site. They fell in love and got married. He later found out that she was plotting to kill him so he had to get divorced. But at least he put himself out there.


    Hmm...I think I’ll try speed-dating.

Friday, May 24, 2013

A Good Elephant is Hard to Find


          There is a reason why I point out that I don’t make chapattis. It’s because people always ask. I cringe whenever someone approaches me and tells me about how much they love Indian food. Then they invite me over so we can all cook together sometime. Sigh...just more people in my life for me to disappoint. Anyway, when you invite me over to your house, shouldn’t you be cooking for me and not the other way around?

            I remember my ex-boyfriend who is Dominican. He would talk about how nice it would be to grow old together. He would wear a flowery button down shirt like the old folks do on the Island of Hispaniola and I would wear a sari around the house. I would make chapattis in the kitchen and hum Bollywood songs while he took care of the garden growing us fresh organic fruits and veggies and then play dominoes with the grandkids on the front porch. I would tell him that fantasy would never come true, mainly because I wear ratty sweat pants and oversized men’s shirts around the house and rarely ever cook. That, and I’m super tone deaf and he really wouldn’t want me torturing him with my bad humming in his old age. He was welcome to tend to the garden though.

            Anyway, I digress. What was I talking about? Oh yes, chapattis. I find that I come across a lot of people who are fascinated with the possibility that I may be able to cook Indian food. I think there are a lot of people who are fascinated by my Indian-ness in general. I usually don’t mind the questions people ask, sometimes I enjoy them mainly because I like attention, unless they’re rude or racist. Sometimes they are downright gross. Mostly made by horny guys who are turned on by “exotic” women. This one guy approached me at a bar one time and asked me if it’s true that I’m just more flexible on accounts of doing yoga with my mother growing up with a pervy look in his eyes. Eeeeeewwwwww!!! Anyway, both me and mother hate to exercise.

            And for the record, Indian people don’t really care about the “Kama Sutra”. We don’t want to work that hard in bed. Most people in India don’t even know what it is-it’s really something that is popular in the West. Those who do know about it consider it silly at best and misogynistic at worst. Sorry Cosmo readers. You mean just because something is featured over and over on the cover women’s fashion mags doesn’t make it non-sexist and female-empowering?

            I find it super awkward when people approach me and say, ‘Indian women are so beautiful’. I don’t know if this is an indirect compliment and I am supposed to say thank you, or if it is just a general statement about their perception of Indian women from which I may or may not be personally excluded. Then do I just agree or disagree and then state my case? I usually just stand there looking confused. This guy I go to grad school with used to come up to me all the time and tell me that Indian women had the most beautiful eyes to look into. Again, I would just stand there looking confused. “You’re Indian,” he one day brilliantly pointed out, “you have beautiful eyes.” “Oh...thanks...I guess” I stammered. “Oh, I was meaning to tell you, the most beautiful woman I ever met was Indian,” he continued, “She just walked up to me at Costco one day.” Again, confused. I waited for a point to the story but there wasn’t one. He started laying it on so thick every time I saw him that I felt like I was standing there exposing myself in front of him on accounts of my bare-naked eyes. I started thinking it would be wise to carry around a pair of very dark sunglasses with me and keep them accessible in the case of chance encounters with him.

            I used to work for enterprise rent-a-car. I once delivered a cargo van to this glass etching company. I walked into an office full of six guys. They all perked up when I walked in. “So do you mind if I ask you what you are?” The one guy asked, “No, let me guess, Indian?” “Yup” I answered. “I knew it!” he exclaimed, “I think that I’ll call you Princess Jasmine!” I am pretty sure she is supposed to be Middle Eastern and why was he trying to name me anyway? I’m not some poor homeless mutt he brought home from the pound in need of a name. Anyway, I hate the Princess Jasmine one, I get it all the time and when a creepy drunk guy at a bar gets really ballsy, the second part goes, “Let me take you on my magic carpet ride.”

            That was a big problem working at enterprise. Guys would get really excited to see a woman working there. I would do deliveries to dealerships and body shops full of horny men all the time. Any day where I had a significant number of people make actual eye contact with me was a good day.

            Oh, let me throw in a non-sexually offensive Indian comment/question I got one time. I was temping at the Linen’s and Things corporate office as a file clerk between jobs and this permanent employee and I were taking our lunch break. He asked me if my father rode an elephant to work when he lived in India. Lol, lol!! What kind of highways did he think folks out there had that can handle elephant traffic? And what would my father do, ride the elephant to work and park it in the elephant parking lot? Could you imagine how much elephant crap that parking lot would be covered in? Mountains and mountains of it! And imagine the cost of feeding that thing? It would make our exorbitant gas prices here in California look good! If you had to ride an animal to work, I would suggest a horse or donkey, it’s just more practical. “Well no”, I answered, “I think he drove a car”. The poor guy’s face fell and he looked super disappointed. “Oh”, he said, “I always dreamed of going to India.”

I felt kinda bad as it occurred to me that I just crushed the poor guy’s life-long dream of going to India and riding around on elephants alongside all the other elephant commuters on the way to their respective destinations. “Nice elephant,” he’d say to another guy at elephant parking lot as he gave him a pound. “Thanks,” the other guy would answer, “I just took her to the elephant car wash and they waxed her tusks up real nice. I swear I can see my reflection in them.”

Well, there are always business savvy villagers around who would let him ride a small elephant up and down the side of a road in exchange for a couple of rupees, but that’s just not as glamorous.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Guilt, Suicide Threats, and other Parenting Techniques I learned from my Mother


My mother was the type of woman who just loved modesty. In other words, she is an uptight prude. She is very uncomfortable with female sexual expression but thought it was important to be just pretty enough to snag a good husband. Kinda like Goldy-Locks, not too much, not too little, but just right.

 Me and my sisters grew up in New York City. Guys hoot and holler at you all the time there, walking across the street, driving past you in their cars with their windows rolled down, walking to church with their grandmoms on a Sunday mornings. It didn’t matter what you looked like either. Fat or skinny, rollers in your hair, missing your front teeth and with a twitch in your left eye-you always knew you were a woman.

My mother always thought it was a lady’s responsibility to minimize this type of attention. Unfortunately she had three busty daughters with full lips and big hair. I love the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit? My favorite character is Jessica Rabbit. I always remember the part when she says, “I’m not bad, I was just drawn this way.” Preach it sister! What I got is mine; I was just born this way! Well maybe not born having to wear plus-sized maximum coverage support bras with thick ugly straps that embarrass you when your top accidentally slips off your shoulder, but you know what I mean.

My mother worked really hard to regulate her daughters' behavior and fashion choices which earned her the knick-name “The Warden”. Unfortunately for her, she didn’t even have one good Indian daughter. When we didn’t listen, which was often, she would resort to what any good Indian mother would do. She would use guilt.

“I’ll jump in a well and die!!” she would yell with all the Bollywood dramatics that she can muster. Now when you read this to yourself, imagine it with your best high pitched Indian accent coming from a petite middle-aged Indian woman with large tear-filled brown eyes and three daughters she just couldn’t control. Now, for any of you who are not Indian, these types of suicide threats may seem like severe verbal and emotional abuse. But those of you who are Indian and know Indian mothers know that it’s just funny.

“I will jump in a well and die! Then will you be satisfied? Then you’ll feel sorry! You won’t appreciate me until I’m dead!” I think my mother would go into these dissociative states when she would forget that she no longer lived in her childhood home in India that may have had a well in the backyard which can make suicide threats of jumping in actually affective. Growing up in an apartment building in Brooklyn, a well was just an abstract idea for us and my mother’s threats of jumping in one were not very potent. “Whatever Ma!” we would disrespectfully retort, “Where are you going to find a well in New York City?” “Fine,” she cleverly responded, “I will jump into the subway tracks and die, but I will die!” This worked for a while; folks got hit by trains and electrocuted on the tracks all the time. Well it worked until I realized my mother wasn’t really going to take her own life on accounts of my wearing big hoopy earrings that she thought looked slutty. My parents eventually moved our family into the New Jersey so without even the subway tracks to jump into, my mother was left disempowered and alone.

Why it is that all my moms are crazy? It’s impossible to tell a crazy mom story to your friends without them relating and telling you stories of their own. Maybe it’s because we are their kids and they know we got to love them no matter what face of crazy we see them in? It has to be something like that. All I know is that every time I hear someone giving someone parenting advice, saying things like, “Your kids will the kinds of kids you were when you were growing up” I shake in my boots. Then I think of all ways that life can be perfectly fulfilling without children, and how wonderful my life is right now, and how there is no need to change things by doing something like getting preggo and going into labor and bringing the beauty of the miracle life into this world and stuff.

Don’t feel too bad about the well thing btw. I think a certain level of abuse was normal for all Indian kids my generation. I still shudder when I think about the spatula my mother used while she made us chapattis for dinner. I swear, this is why I still can’t make chapattis to this day. That or because of how cheap you can buy them these days and my decent proximity to an Indian grocery store. Yeah, it’s probably that. I just can’t labor over a hot stove like that, hand frying bread, one piece at a time however delicious they may be-or however connected it may make me feel to my Indian woman roots. Well anyway, the moral of the story is, I don’t make chapattis.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Nobody Understands You When You're a Tylanol Fiend

 


Nobody understands you when you’re a Tylenol Fiend

 

Aahhh Brooklyn, those were the days!! My grandfather used to live with us when I was a kid. My grandfather-may he rest in peace-was a bit wacky. He used to take two extra strength Tylenol every morning because he thought it would give him extra strength. To this day, I can’t look at a bottle of over-the-counter pain meds without sighing over fond memories of my granddad. Or Thatha as I would call him. That means maternal grandfather in my mother’s language.

He also used to use ben-gay preventatively. He’d cover his body with it in advance every morning for the aches and pains that may come later on in the day. He also used to put ben-gay on his cheeks and said it helped his toothaches. What? I told you he was wacky. We lived in this small Brooklyn apartment with a rusty old fire escape in an old crumbly apartment building on a concrete treeless block filled with old crumbly buildings with rusty old fire escapes. Secluded on the top floor, it was all we could do but stick our heads out the window to escape the smell.

The smell of ben-gay is pretty invasive. It got into everything. The carpet, the furniture, the sheets, the walls. Oh and of course, my clothes and my hair. Everywhere I’d go, people would sniff the air and would ask me what “that smell” was. It was ben-gay mixed with Metamucil mixed with the smell of the curry my mother would cook every day in our small non-ventilated apartment. Sigh...there was a reason I was not popular in school. Well, many reasons, but that was one of them. At least this one had nothing to do with me...I love it when I can fairly blame my problems on other people...

My mother frantically tried to get my grandfather to drop his legal over-the-counter-drug abuse lifestyle. But he never listened. He was a grown man, he reminded my mother. He would shout it though because he was legally deaf and that was the only way he could hear himself speak. He was legally blind too. My mother refused to buy him any more extra-strength Tylenol. There was a serious need for an intervention. But the man was hooked and that didn’t stop him.

My Thatha was pretty bad-ass in his ways. Blind and deaf as he was, he would roam the streets of Brooklyn (old-school, pre-hipster Brooklyn) with a fist full of cash and never got hit by a car or mugged-ever! He would find his way to the drugstore and his way back home. I could barely manage that without getting lost with vision. I have no sense of direction though.

How he was able to find the Tylenol on the drug store shelves and know which one was extra-strength was anyone’s guess, but he managed to do it. Without fail. He made friends with everyone on the way and was cool with everyone on the block. The pharmacy cashiers, the lady who owned the corner Korean grocery store diagonally across the street. The kids coming home from school and the drug dealers on the street corners. Everybody called him Thatha. He would run a sewing machine too as my mother would pace around anxiety-stricken hoping she wouldn’t have to take her blind aging father to the E.R. that day so they can stitched up his mangled fingers. It kind of amazes me because I get nervous running the sewing machine because of my somewhat irrational fear of running over my fingers even with the 20/20 vision I bought and paid for.

He would come home from his pharmacy runs with bags of his beloved over-the-counter meds and his filled diabetes prescriptions and organize them all and hide them under his bed along with bags of oranges he’d buy from the little Korean grocery store that was diagonally across the street. He’d keep the meds under the bed to hide them from my mother, but I was not quite sure about the bags of oranges. That too was anybody’s guess. He eventually got his aching teeth pulled out and would often walk around the apartment with his dentures in his hands putting them in at the dinner table. It was embarrassing when we had friends over.

He used to also always complain about American doctors every time he’d go for his check-ups. “They don’t do anything but give you pills,” he’d whine, “In India they give you a shot with a nice big needle, not the sissy ones they use here, but the big ones. Those ones hurt real bad, those ones work real good!” Like many old folks, for my thatha, pain is how you know something works. That’s why he only let us use Listerine and never scope.

My grandfather did his own thing and never let anyone treat him like he was old or disabled. He was a man who was born into British occupancy and despite being an over-the-counter pain med junkie, died a truly free man. Maybe I’m missing something. He must have deep truths and wisdom after all he’s seen. Maybe there was something more to his hoarding of legal pain-killers. Or maybe he was just a Tylenol fiend.

 

Here’s to you Thatha, till we meet again!