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Tuesday
Apr012008

Jack Shephard

Be warned that if you don't watch "Lost," because this post is not going to make any sense to you.

I happen to be addicted to "Lost," which given the show's popularity is not so unusual.  I do belong, though, to the silent minority of fans who think that Dr. Jack Shephard, despite his dashing good looks and heroic tendencies, is totally annoying.  In fact, there are times that, and I'm not afraid of the persecution that will follow this comment, I hate Jack Shephard.


Imagine my disgust, then, when the results of the most recent facebook quiz I took entitled, "Which Lost Character Are You?" said that I'm Jack Shephard.  Clearly, this quiz is completely whacked.  I'd much rather be McGyver-like Sayyid or compassionate and sweet Hurley.  Besides, this is just a facebook quiz, written by some computer nerd who has nothing better to do than to torture me with the fact that I might be like Jack Shephard.  By the way, the irony doesn't escape me that I'm currently writing a blog about said quiz thereby rendering me ten times more geeky than the guy who wrote that quiz.

First of all, Jack Shephard is really bossy.  He's also annoyingly dogmatic (For example, why does he still "love" Kate even though she's always coming up with new and innovative ways to humiliate him?)  And although he occasionally listens to the opinions of others, he doesn't flinch from his decided course of action unless circumstances prove so dire that he has no choice other than abandoning his way. (Remember that time in season 1 where he was trying to save that rich kids life and it ended up turning into a torture session?  The only reason Jack stopped trying to save him was because he died.)

In Dr. Jack's mind, he's always the best man for the job, regardless of what that job might be. In his head, he is always right.  Finally, despite all his stubborness, Jack is always unsure of himself, and is annoyingly insecure.  He acts like he has the right and the ability to make all the hard decisions on the island, then he sits around moaning about how he might not have done the right thing.

Oh.  My. God.

I am Jack Shephard!!  Excuse me, I need a minute to collect myself.

Hmm, I guess that explains why I love "Lost" so much.  It obviously gives me the opportunity to practice self loathing in new, innovative and interesting ways.  Here I thought that the criticism of a fictional character bore no repercussions.  Criticizing a T.V. character should afford you the safety to openly disparage another's choices and character without offending anyone or appearing too judgmental, right?

Wrong.  It's true of T.V. characters as it is of real people, the qualities we despise in others may simply represent our deepest, darkest fears about ourselves.  Furthermore, I assert that the more fervent our dislike is of someone, be they real or fictional, the more that last statement is true.

That in mind, I could give Jack Shephard a break, just every now and then.  I could start to try and understand that when he's bossy, it's just because he wants to do the right thing.  I could start to understand that when he's being obstinate about a decision, it's because he wants what's best for everyone.

I could cut him some slack and realize that his questioning of himself could just be an attempt at humility.

After all, Jack's motives are sincere and his heart is in the right place.  Being nicer to Jack, could be an exercise in being nicer to myself.  An act of personal development, if you will.  (Did I mention Jack's superhero ability to rationalize even the most questionable details?)

Yes, from now on, I will give Jack Shephard (and myself) a break every now and then.  There are worse characters than Jack Shephard.

Like Benjamin Linus.

You'd have to be real sociopath to get that one.

Friday
Feb012008

Aaachoo, You're Welcome.

Growing up, I never had allergies or asthma.  In fact, I remember wishing that I did have them when those lucky few were gently ushered to the bleachers during PhysEd as the rest of us ran mile after torturous mile in the hot and humid Florida spring.  It's true that you should be careful what you wish for (fast forward an undisclosed number of years into adulthood...).


I've had bronchitis about three times in the past twelve months, and I was beginning to wonder if maybe my robot of a primary care physician wasn't missing something.  I didn't really think much of it until the last bout of bronchitis was accompanied by an excruciating pain right behind my ear.  As you can imagine, this was both bothersome and a little scary.


I'm lucky enough to have insurance that allows me to bypass my PCP and see a specialist without a referral, so I went to an ENT.  She ordered a CT of my ear just to rule out the big "C," then casually mentioned that I should get tested for allergies.  I agreed and made an appointment for the following week.




I walked into the "allergy testing" section of the office and a very pleasant and kind allergy nurse asked me to sit down.  She drew my blood to test for food allergies and I thought, "Hey, that wasn't so bad."  Then her head spun around, she vomited pea green soup and asked me to sit down for the rest of my testing.  Over the course of the next twenty minutes, this demonic plague of a person stuck me with eighty, yes, eighty needles.  These needles were not, of course, standard injection needles, but they were about as long as the needle on a thumbtack.  This test is idiotically called a "scratch test."  Scratch?  They should call it a "Poke you with thumbtacks until you feel homicidal test."


But, I guess it was a good thing I went because it turns out that I have a lot of allergies.  A couple of allergens didn't surprise me, like dust, mold and roaches.  (There goes my dream of becoming a homeless person living in downtown.)  I did find out, however, that I am also allergic to corn and milk.  In case you didn't know, every edible item not made from fresh ingredients has a milk or corn product in it.  It turns out that these are the real culprits behind my health problems.


My physician explained that I had a couple of options.  I could take medication to control the symptoms.  I didn't like this one because, well, I always find that taking one pill inevitably leads to taking another and on and on.  Next option was allergy shots.  I would get one allergy shot a week for about three months, then one shot every month, then every other month until a year had gone by.  Given that the allergy testing itself had put me in a homicidal frame of mind, I declined that option so that the allergy nurse could continue to live a long and happy life.  Last option, stop eating milk and corn, and start a "rotation diet."


To me, the change in diet was the only viable option, yet it was and is still extremely overwhelming to even think about the magnitude of this lifestyle overhaul.  I'm either going to have to prepare everything I eat myself with fresh ingredients or take out a second mortgage and shop only at Whole Foods.  Then, as always, I got to thinking.


Here I was feeling sorry for myself when I had been handed an incredible gift.  My body told me that it was sick, and I listened to it.  Every relationship should be this simple and rewarding.  I went to a doctor and after some Inquisition style testing I found out exactly what was wrong and exactly how I could fix it.  It turns out I finally understand and appreciate the gift of physical discomfort.  It is not an indicator of the way things will always be, but the first step towards helping us live life energetically and passionately.


In the end, besides learning that I might have actually been eligible for bleacher time in high school PhysEd, I have also learned that when we feel well we rarely think about our body and our health.  Because, when we feel good, we are too busy living life to its fullest.  And that is the way it should be.

It just so happens that, for me, a full and energetic life will only be had sans cornbread.  Sigh.




Thursday
Jan172008

I'm not a feminist or anything, but...

I was sitting in the ninth circle of hell yesterday, or what some people call a "training session."

Just as I was going to try to muster up my long forgotten high school talent of sleeping with my eyes open, our moderator, an unnaturally chipper young woman in her 20s, said, "So, we have such and such speaker coming next month who will be discussing the evolution of the feminist movement over the past few decades in this and that room."  Then she rolled her eyes and said, "I mean, I'm not a feminist or anything, but, if that's your thing, you should come."



Hmmm, I found this young woman's imperative need to assert that feminism was not "her thing" interesting enough to keep me awake for at least the next hour or so.  I found it so interesting, in fact, that I am going to blog about it today.





After much deliberation I have decided that this young woman simply does not know what feminism really is and that is the only logical explanation why such a bright person would be so negative about feminism.



So, I asked around to find out how other people define feminists. Apparently, people think that feminists are almost always lesbians with an aversion to depilatory procedures who hate men and think the world would be a better place without them.  This is not only untrue, it is just stupid.


I know that's harsh, but facing up to our stupidity is perhaps the ugliest of all human burdens.


Believing that a feminist is always the above described person (who by the way is a perfectly acceptable sample of a human being) is as stupid as believing that one particular race of people are inferior due to the color of their skin or believing that Lindsay Lohan is never going to rehab again.


So, let's discuss the American feminist movement as painlessly and quickly as possible.


Feminist movements of the 19th and 20th century centered upon suffrage, or the right to vote.


The feminist movements of the 60s centered upon social issues, such as women's right to equal access to education, equality in the workplace and reproductive choices (this includes but is not limited to the issue of abortion).  A few feminists in this era burned some bras, but the majority of them, contrary to popular belief, did not.


These days, feminism builds upon these past concepts, but also recognizes that Western white women should not be dictating feminist agendas to the world's diverse populations (or even the diverse populations within their own countries.)


The Oxford American Dictionary defines feminism as "the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social and economic equality to men."  If you live in the United States of America, you really should not have a problem with that.  In fact, you should be for that.


If you live outside of the United States, well, according to most new generation feminists, also called "post feminists," we might not agree with how women are treated in your country, but we believe that they should be the ones who set the agenda for those changes, not us.  (This is a particularly complicated issue, so I'm not going to delve too deeply here.)


I find it ironic that many Americans will roll their eyes at the mention of feminism, but quickly jump on the "Saudi's need to let their women drive" bandwagon.  Interestingly, we decry feminism at home, but champion its cause as we attempt to denigrate cultures and value systems outside our own with the intent of subjugating them.  I wonder if the rest of the world realizes that it is not American feminists who stand at the forefront of these criticisms, but the people I believe to be the enemies of American feminism itself.


Let me wrap this up by telling you what I believe American feminism is not.


American feminism is not an excuse to point out the flaws of men.  As a matter of fact, many men are feminists, too.  Not because they are afraid their "butch" wives are going to beat them up, but because they believe women are their social, political and economic equals.


Feminism is not a platform that decries motherhood, staying at home or family values.


Feminism is not the reason kids in our society seem to be from another planet (I personally believe this one can be attributed to Nicole Ritchie and Paris Hilton who are, in fact, from another planet).


When someone brings up the movement for racial equality in the United States, do you go out of your way to distance yourself from it?  Do you roll your eyes or get a stupid grin on your face like someone has just said something very funny?  No, you don't.


Unless of course your white hood and robe are drying on a gentle setting and you're running a few minutes late for your weekly cross burning.  So, why do Americans do this when the feminist movement is brought up?


I'll end with the following correspondence, which I have no intention of sending:



Dear Ms. 20-something,


American feminism has a long history, over 130 years in its making.


You don't have to be feminist if you don't want to, I don't mind if it's not your thing.


However, since you are a woman living in America, I respectfully ask that you appreciate what these women did for you and treat them with more respect by refraining from acting like they are crazy PETA members who throw red paint on celebrities wearing fur.


They gave you choices and opportunities that women in other parts of the world are literally dying to have.


They fought for your right to vote, your right to be educated in any field of your choosing, your right to work in any field of your choice, your right to make decisions regarding your reproductive system, your right to have legal recourse if someone says or does sexually inappropriate things to you in your workplace and many other rights that you now take for granted.


No, feminism may not be your thing, but, Ms. 20-something, feminism is your blessing.


P.S. Please stop calling other women your age "girls."  Girls play with Barbies and Little Ponies. You are a woman, as are other women your age.


P.P.S. And stop saying "like" every two minutes.


P.P.P.S.  And don't bounce when you talk.  It's distracting.








Tuesday
Jan012008

Where I'm From...Originally.


Most of the time, the hyphen is a generally useless symbol of punctuation. A few years ago, though, the hyphen made big news with those of us in the American citizenry who have a decidedly "ethnic" flair. I'm specifically referring to the debate of whether to include a hyphen in the phrases used to describe those of us who were born on U.S. soil, but don't look like we were born here. For example, does one write "Arab American" or "Arab-American"?

The great debate centered on the appropriateness of whether to include this hyphen or not. Some people said that when you write "Arab-American" (hyphen included), you are implying that the status of "Arab," because it is a descriptor, in the term "Arab-American" is somehow secondary or substandard to the "American" status.

Before you file this information in the "I Have No Idea Why This is Important" category of your brain, some feel that both of these identities (in this particular example, "Arab" and "American") are equally important to their individual identity. In other words, one of them is not more important than the other, and the hyphenated expression somehow diminishes that point .

People (and by "people," I mean individuals who read too many books and have too much time on their hands) got tired about making such a fuss over this teeny, tiny little punctuation mark and decided to do away with it all together. As a result, the correct and "modern" way to describe a citizen of the United States with Arab origins is "Arab American." No hyphen.

I, personally, find this all very confusing. Since my parents came here from Pakistan in the 70s, and I was born here, I am a Pakistani American. But, their parents migrated from India almost seven years after the partition of India and Pakistan. So, I guess that makes me Indian Pakistani American. Oh, and I almost forgot, my parents were born before the partition of India and Pakistan, while India was under British rule, and were thus born as British subjects. Does that mean I am actually British Indian Pakistani American? And what about my daughter whose father is Indian? Is she British Indian Pakistani American Indian American?

Truth be told, I've never really accepted this label of "Pakistani American" with any real seriousness. (Oh, by the way, since I just used both "Pakistan" and "Arab" in this blog post, I just want to give a shout out to the Homeland Security intern who got saddled with the fruitless task of monitoring my blog for the next few months.)

Don't get me wrong, when I was living under a fairly strict dress code or threatened with death if I even thought about dating a boy in high school, I was very aware of my status as a "Pakistani American." And when I got married to an Indian, I became even more aware of it. And, I pretty much prefer to dress in Pakistani clothes and eat Pakistani food. Still, if I were about to die in five minutes and someone handed me an indestructible scrap of paper that would thousands of years later reveal the very core of my existence to future generations, I am certain the term "Pakistani American" would not be written on it.

I was forced, though, to examine this status of "Pakistani American" with a more keen eye when a friend, who happens to be an immigrant, turned to me and innocently said, "You know, when most Americans that don't know you look at you, I don't think they think of you as an American."

I still gasp at the utter horror of the implication, given that I have resided every minute of my life in this country. I said the pledge of allegiance every day in elementary school, junior high and until we weren't allowed to say it anymore because it wasn't politically correct. I watch baseball and football (which is a different sport than soccer). Additionally, I vehemently deride the false athleticism of table tennis and badminton as well as the utter stodginess of cricket. I even shop at Wal-Mart from time to time, just to assert my God given right as an American to pay extra low prices for cheap crap I don't need.

The truth is, though, that most Americans might not think I'm an American at first glance, but, then again, most Pakistanis might not think I'm very Pakistani after they get to know me. I figure that I have been asked "Where are you from, originally?" over 2,304 times. I just did the math on a Post-It, so I could be off by couple of hundred. Still, that's a lot of times to have to assert you are an American and a Pakistani.

Let me just say this question does not, in any way, offend me. I'm proud of my heritage. I'm proud that the possibility exists that my difference might actually expand someone's awareness regarding the amazing diversity of this country. I do have to admit, though, that this question and my friend's comment do bring to light a topic that I personally am sick of talking about. Apparently, it still begs clarification, so let me clarify. Here's where I am from, originally.

  • I come from the place where my authenticity is always questioned. When I'm with certain Americans, I'm not American enough. When I'm with certain Pakistanis, I'm not Pakistani enough. The truth is, I am more authentic than most people I know because every cultural, political and even linguistic choice I make is both conscious and deliberate. Most of the world just inherits its preferences from their superculture, but I am incredibly lucky because I was offered a variety of choices.

  • I come from the place where people call me names like "ABCD" (American Born Confused Desi) when, in reality, I know exactly who I am. Actually, the people who use that term are the ones who are confused by my superhuman ability to fit in and not fit in simultaneously all in a single bound.

  • I come from a place where my nationality is something that is written in my passport. This has no bearing on the clothes I choose to wear, whether I choose to eat spicy food or sweet potato casserole, or how and to whom I pray.

  • I come from the place where my compatriots are individuals with whom I identify politically and intellectually. I am thankful that I am among the few people blessed with the means to actually make those choices for myself.


In case you haven't figured it out, I'm the new global citizen, originally from the 21st century.

Nationality is paperwork, culture is negotiable, affinities and alliances exist in the mind. Leave your hyphens at the door.
Saturday
Dec082007

Rule #1 - No Parenting Magazines in the Tub

A few months ago, I thought about starting a blog for my daughter. First, every parent reading this should know that I think starting a blog for your child is a fantastic idea. Unless, of course, like me, you are a breath away from needing medication for your OCD, perfectionist, guilt-ridden personality. I positively know that if I had not kept up that blog I would have felt like the worst mom in the world.
I stay at home with my daughter and she is not in school yet. I am with her every moment of the day, and most nights she sleeps in my bed. We go to the park three times a week, "mommy and me" twice a week and usually one play date a week. Do I really need the added pressure of physical documentation to this routine??

"Today, my daughter and I had a play date. Now, I am writing about that play date..."
I do deeply respect and recognize the fact that many mothers enjoy writing blogs for their kids. I also love looking at those blogs, but I sincerely hope that all the parents writing those blogs have caught up on all the books they have been meaning to read, gotten their roots done, called their friends back, gone to the gym, answered their personal e-mails, gotten manicures and pedicures and watched Oprah that day. If you have done all that, and are not a gazillionaire with a foreign accented nanny, and still have time to write a blog, please start another blog detailing how I, too, can learn to be as fabulous as you are.

Essentially, I think it's best for a stay at home parent to devote a significant portion of his or her free time to something that has nothing to do with children. Honestly, I think it's best for our children, too. The other day I caught myself obsessing over my daughter's cautious nature and how I could construct play dates that would help her become more outgoing. When I say obsessing, I mean I was pretty much in tears because I believed that my inability to make her "come out of her shell" was going to scar her socialization skills for the rest of her life.
At the end of that painstaking night, though, I realized that my daughter doesn't have to be outgoing if she doesn't want to be. Because I am fairly intelligent and a natural problem solver, I actually ended up creating a problem for my daughter that I needed to solve. Not only was this emotionally exhausting for me, it was totally unfair to my child.
This is also precisely the reason why an intelligent woman who stays at home full time should carefully and consciously pursue interests outside the realm of child care. If you do not find projects for yourself, your child will become your project. I'm beginning to learn that it's possible to focus so much on a child that you risk not actually seeing them at all. More specifically, because you are so "mommied out," you're always seeing that little person as someone you have to teach, protect and mold instead of occasionally seeing them as a distinct and separate person with their own identity.
When your husband or sigot offers to take your children to the park when he or she gets home from work, do not clean the house while they are gone. Do not make dinner, fold laundry, put away toys, or work on your kids' photo albums during this time. Do not call home every fifteen minutes if you are out and they are being watched by someone else. If you find a few minutes to take a hot bath, do not take a parenting book or Parents magazine with you. Somehow, the human race perpetuated itself without parenting books and magazines, if you don't get to read them your child will be fine.
If you find the time to call a friend, especially one with children, please do not spend more than ten minutes talking about your kids. This is neurotic and annoying.

Having been a teenager myself, I can absolutely guarantee that when your children are old enough to know that you are obsessing over them in this manner, it will drive them crazy and they will dislike you intensely because of it.
Following my own advice regarding this matter has been the hardest thing about motherhood so far. People assume that if we are not focusing every spare minute on our children that we are somehow being selfish. I maintain, however, if you do not carve out time for yourself, you are being even more selfish. It's selfish to focus constantly on your child, especially if they are a baby or toddler, because they are delightful, beautiful and fun. You also happen to be the center of their universe which is great for your ego.
But, there is a selflessness in realizing that it's not just you that needs space, but that your child needs a little space, too. I think there's merit in starting to experiment with that concept right now instead of in response to slammed doors and inappropriate body piercings. Learning to prioritize yourself, even if it's only for a few minutes a day, is a daunting and difficult task, but definitely a necessary one for the sanity of your entire family.

So, stop reading this and start practicing.
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