Hashtag-Your English Teacher is Disappointed

I spent four weeks going over satire with my seniors. Fortunately, I can say that my 18-year-olds are wiser than most of the internet. Teacher goal achieved.

Twitter makes the news way too much. It’s filled with hateful idiots who don’t think before they post, and end up as sensational news pieces for lazy journalists. The latest “news”: Stephen Colbert said something “racist,” and now people want to #CancelColbert. As usual, the geniuses (see that? That’s called sarcasm.) running the Twitter campaign did not understand the context.

Yes, you should be disgusted at his statement. But you should understand that this is the same disgust that many have to the Washington Redskins’ newest scheme to keep their actually racist name. Mocking your established view on race is an attempt to make you transfer your anger to something that you still don’t get.  Somewhere, your English teacher is pissed.

(148)

How You Shouldn’t Tell Your Indian Parents You Have a White Boyfriend (More than 150)

Boyfriend

Over five years ago, during my Christmas break, I googled “how to tell your indian parents you have a white boyfriend.” B and I had been dating for two years, so we were officially serious. My friends were asking, he was asking, his parents were asking, When are you going to tell your parents? The pressure was on, and I had no idea what to do. I was listening to “Defying Gravity” (that song is made for defiant teenage girls) and “Two Birds” (B was the bird who was ready to fly on to the next step, I was the bird holding on to the wire) on loop for years just to prep myself for the conversation that I knew had to happen.

I think the movie industry has covered Indian families enough so that most people have a basic understanding of why Indian children are so terrified to talk to their parents about dating and relationships. And, if you haven’t been exposed to The Namesake or Bend It Like Beckham or Monsoon Wedding or Touch of Pink (seriously, there are SO MANY MOVIES because Americans can’t get enough of our dysfunctional families), then hopefully you have an Indian friend or two who taught you something. If not, this girl and this wife cover the basics.

To add to your perception of Indians and marriage, let me add this shocker: not all Indian marriages are arranged. My parents, now married for 28 years, were a “love marriage,” and—at least in my tiny little subculture of Malayalee Christians and their North Indian college friends in North Texas—many modern pairings are “love marriages,” too. When I reached the marriageable age of 22, my mother was encouraging me to start dating good Indian boys. Unfortunately for her, I was already with B.

I never quite fit in with my Malayalee peers to figure out the intricacies of Indian dating (hence the white husband…), but apparently there’s lots of sneaking around and lying that goes around with just dating the “right” kind of person, too. However, when you finally come “out” to your parents with the “right” kind of Indian from the “right” kind of religious background, I imagine your family would react much differently than mine did.

What I was worried would happen if I told my parents:

  1. They would actually have the fabled “heart attack” induced by unruly children, and die. This is a basic Indian parent defense mechanism: appeal to your child’s sense of guilt by telling him/her that you have heart disease, and you will die if you hear any stressful news. Guaranteed to work unless your children hate you for stressing them out so much, and they do want you to die.
  2. They would lock me in my room until I repented. I know, this sounds like Rapunzel, but it happens. It happens in Malayalee movies, and it actually happened to one of my friends when her parents found out about her white boyfriend, or so I heard through the Indian grapevine. And that happened soon after I started dating B, so of course I was scared of this.
  3. They would increase security in the family so that my siblings and cousins would not be tempted to date unacceptable partners (or any partners). As the oldest in my generation, I was always told that my actions would affect the fates of those who came after me. If I married an undesirable, our family name would be tainted and no one would want to marry my siblings or cousins, or they’d just make sure my siblings and cousins didn’t see the light of day.
  4. They would disown me. As much as I love to complain about them, my family is really important to me. Feeling a deep tie between one’s family and one’s identity is an essential part of Indian culture. The fear of losing that tie and that part of yourself is one of the biggest reasons why Indian kids back out of “unacceptable” relationships.
  5. Honor killings. This one’s not funny. Part of the reason I was so paranoid about my parents finding out was because I heard of one happening in the States when B and I were still new. I was scared to death that my dad would snap and come after us (he didn’t).

Because I didn’t fit in with my South Indian peers, I didn’t have a confidant who really understood what I was going through. My best friends were Muslim, hailing from Pakistan or North India (and that’s a whole different culture–check out Aaminah Khan if you need help with that), or white. The advice that I got about how to tell my parents about B went from “OMGOMGOMGOMG be careful! You don’t want to ruin your life” to “You’re an adult and your parents have to see you as an adult now” (hahahaha yes, please try telling that to Indian parents of unmarried girls) to “Fuck it. Fuck them. Just tell them the truth and get over it.” (To my friends’ credit, those are not direct quotes.)

And that’s why, after two years of anxious diarrhea and sleepless nights, I went to Google. At the time, all I found were Indian men’s white wives whose accounts of grappling Indian culture sounded too much like a conquistador’s journal, or forums filled with people who were just as lost as I was. I couldn’t identify with Indian-male-white-female relationship problems (there is a strong double-standard regarding dating in our culture, as evidenced by the dearth of Indian-female-white-male marriages), so I went to the forums. I found people with “modern” parents, who  wholeheartedly accepted their child’s lover of another race. I found people who just had to suck it up, be brave, tell their parents, and deal with the shitstorm that happened afterwards. I found some who could only tell their parents after they had moved out, found a “grown-up” job, and supported themselves (I took this path, but apparently Indian girls aren’t supposed to get that independent. I just ended up insulting my parents further). I found some who were even more fucked up than I was: had a secret marriage, had kids, and still hadn’t told their parents.

Needless to say, Google and its endless forums didn’t really help. Rather than acting, I let my fear and fury fester while I fantasized possible ways of “coming out” for the next three years.

How I thought I would tell my parents about my white boyfriend

  1. Hollywood-style: Over a holiday meal. What better time to deliver unpleasant news than during the holidays? Everyone’s together, and you can get all your emotions out at once. In fact, Christmas Eve dinner at IHOP was how I came “out” to my siblings about B (but they already knew through Facebook, so it wasn’t really a surprise). Alas, everyone’s so happy that I could never do it.
  2. College-style: After a few shots of vodka. I talked to my parents after vodka once. I said what I wanted to say, and they thought I was funny. If it worked that one time, why not when I’m trying to tell them something important?
  3. Over the phone. I moved 300 miles away to go to graduate school. That’s definitely too far for them to make an impulsive drive to kick my ass. I thought a phone call during my four years in West Texas would be the key to finally telling them.
  4. Through a tattle-tale. Indian moms are just dying to gossip. After about four years of dating, I started getting lazy about looking out for Indians when we went on dates. I was hoping someone would find us and tell my parents so I wouldn’t have to.
  5. Through a faulty lie. Again, I was hoping my laziness would win over my fears. My excuses became less and less convincing as the years passed. Maybe my parents would find me in a hometown Wal-Mart when they thought I was away in a library at graduate school. Maybe they would see us at the movies when I said I was at a sleepover with my girlfriends. Maybe they’ll figure out that my sudden love for polar bears was inspired by my oh-so-white-and-pale boyfriend.
  6. While I’m talking in my sleep. I don’t even talk in my sleep. Just wishful thinking.
  7. While I’m on the phone with him when I’m home for the holidays. I used to be really quiet when I was on the phone. I’d hide in my closet and talk in a tiny voice that I was sure you couldn’t hear over the air conditioning. As the years went by, I stopped caring. Part of me was hoping they’d be annoying parents and take my phone and ask who was on the other line.
  8. Divine intervention. My mom did have dreams of me coming home with “the one” or “the grandchild.” Maybe this is how Gabriel intervenes. However, I didn’t take the divine hint and ask her about the color of my dream lover or baby.

We’re out now, and finishing up our first year of parent-approved marriage. But the way we did it—the way I did it—was far from what you should do. After six years of secrets, we were both fed up with lying, and we got impatient to grow up and get over it. Although we were together for six years, he and I and my parents (the “we” that I was too terrified to consider) were not. We came out suddenly and without warning to my parents, and I was not ready for what ensued.

I searched “how to tell your Indian parents you have a white boyfriend” for the first time in five years because I wanted to know if the internet had anything more to offer girls who are stuck like I was. Thanks to bloggers, the internet has much more concrete steps and advice to approach your parents than what I found during my initial search. I wish I had Madh Mama’s How To five years ago. Compared to her list and her story, I did everything wrong. So here’s my anti-How-To for any Indian girls with white boyfriends who are so desperate for advice that they will look to Google. I hope my experience can help you in some way.

How you shouldn’t tell your parents about your white boyfriend

  1. Hold on to your secret for six years. Chances are, if you’ve got problems telling your parents about your boyfriend, you’re young. If you have a white boyfriend when your parents told you not to, you will probably hold a lot of anger and resentment in you for however long you keep it a secret. You will be angry that you can’t share this wonderful part of you because of your parents’ “backwards” ideas. Holding on to anger for as long as I did, especially when you’re young and growing up into your own, hurts you and all your relationships. Anger will define you and haunt you, and you may not know how to let go.
  2. Tell them not to attend your graduation because you don’t want them to see you living in sin. I did a bitch move and decided not to walk at my Master’s graduation because I was scared my parents would see B in my apartment. They were always supportive parents, and they were hurt that I denied them the chance to congratulate me.
  3. Only tell Mom because Dad’s too scary, and hopefully he’ll just figure it out. #3 from “How I thought I would tell my parents” actually happened… but only with Mom. She knew my dad wouldn’t take it well, so she told me I had to take care of that announcement on my own without her help. So I never did. And I just ended up hurting my dad more when I finally came out because he was the only one who didn’t know.
  4. Announce a surprise engagement. Yeah, so… this is how I came “out” to my parents. B got tired of asking me when he would finally meet my parents, and just got down on one knee and gave me a ring. Getting engaged before meeting parents seems so normal in the movies
  5. Post your engagement on Facebook because they won’t pick up the phone or talk to you about it. I called my parents immediately after the engagement to tell them. But. My mom picked up. So I said, “I need to talk to Dad. It’s important.” She got suspicious, said he was busy, and asked if she could give him a message. I insisted on talking to Dad because, for once, I wanted to do things right. And (here’s where you see that I’m my father’s daughter) he was too scared of the news I would have to give him, so he never called me back. He never picked up the phone when I called. For. Three. Months. He didn’t say a word to me, even after I came home for the summer and lived under the same roof. So I got tired of not being able to tell anyone else, and I posted our engagement on Facebook. The rest of the family found out through Facebook and was outraged that no one told them in person.
  6. Over text messages. My dad, now angry that over the Facebook announcement, would talk to me, but only through text messages. And man, were they ugly text messages. We were both terrible to each other and hurt each other more deeply than we ever had before.
  7. Through aunts, uncles, siblings, and cousins. Still unable to face each other, we had family members intercede for us to each other. It sounds like a good idea, but it ended up with the whole family getting angry and picking sides.

If you’re like me, and you have a tendency to be a bit rebellious, and you have or will do any of the things I just told you not to do, here’s what you can expect. Because they all happened to me. Somehow, it all worked out in my family, and although we’re far from the picture-perfect, lovey-dovey Bollywood family, we’re still together. And I hope you have the same hope that I do, because sometimes our families love us so much that they surprise us.

What you can expect if you do it the WRONG way (like I did)

  1. They will get angry. They told you not to do this one thing for years. Let them get pissed.
  2. They will cry. You heard them guilt-trip you about the hopes and dreams that they pinned on you from birth. They’re going to bring all that back up and guilt-trip you some more, but this time, with tears.
  3. They will try to convince you not to do it. They’ll pick on whatever they can pick on to persuade you to leave him. My dad even told me that Indians and white people have different libidos and that I may not be able to please my husband once I reach middle age (because white people are sex-crazed and Indians can do without…). It’s OK to laugh. My dad’s weird.
  4. They will tear him down. That one thing that he’s insecure about? They’ll find it, and use it against you.

    This face: It WILL happen.
    But if your parents are polite, it’ll be directed at you and not him.

  5. They will tear you down. Those memories that they said they’d forgive and forget? They’ll show you that they did not forgive or forget.
  6. You will tear them down (and not in the “Yeah! I just won over my parents!” way). You’re their child, and you learned to hit them wear it hurts. You will probably lash out just as much poison as they’re serving you. Be careful. You don’t have control over what they’re saying, but you do have control over what you say.
  7. (Hopefully) You will both get over it. My family and I got to a point where we realized we loved each other too much to abandon the other. And it’s hard, and we’re still dealing with some of the hurt feelings that started two years ago, but we’re trying.
  8. They will approach your wedding with the attitude that if they’re “allowing” you to marry a white guy, then you must allow them to do whatever they want with your wedding plans. If you have been watching Say Yes to the Dress or any other wedding shows on TLC where they tell you that this is your day and you should exercise your ascent into adulthood, forget it. I kept hearing Randy’s voice telling me it’s my day, and my parents saw me as a spoiled brat when I put my foot down during planning. My family wanted me to let them have some say in my wedding planning because I didn’t let them have any say in my guy. 
  9. Your engagement and the first months of your marriage will feel like what the first year of dating should have felt like. Meeting the family was something you should have done years ago. Remember how you felt when you first met his family: awkward, scared out of your wits, and more conscious of your skin color than you ever were before? He’s feeling that, except ten times more because you spent years avoiding this moment and telling him how scary your family is.
  10. (Hopefully) It will get better, and you and your family will grow. I can’t speak for every family. I know some families are rough. I know some families are fucking crazy, and some are just downright dangerous. I can’t tell you that your story will end positively. But I hope it does. Our family problems didn’t stop after our wedding. Actually, they got worse during the holidays, probably because everyone was still traumatized and oversensitive from the wedding. But I do feel that we are all getting better and growing together. I have hope for our family, and I hope you can say the same for yours. Good luck.

I hope you have this moment.

Have you been there, done that, too? What other advice do you have for those who don’t know how to approach their parents about an “unacceptable” or “unconventional” relationship?

Nothing.

I thought putting GRAD SCHOOL in huge letters across the top would motivate me. Instead, it paralyzed me and kept me from doing anything else.

I set out to do a whole lot of Somethings during Spring Break, but ended up pensively sitting in nothing. B was at work, I didn’t socialize—just read and sat in nothing. Sometimes, nothing is necessary. I’m not going to pretend that I reached Enlightenment under my oak tree, but in the nothingness I saw myself better.

I’m petrified of facing and reliving stressful memories, whether it’s making my wedding album after a dreadful year of planning, finishing a book that defeated me, or completing grad school applications to add a measly six hours to my transcript when I don’t even know what I want to be when I grow up anymore. All of these were Somethings on my to-do list, and none of them got done. Illustrating my grad school insecurities helped me face my anxiety somewhat.

1 Grad

2 Grad

3 Grad

Fuck it. Maybe I’ll just suck this up and deal with it.

(149)

To My Brother: An Earnest Plea

Dear Brother,

Please come back to Facebook. There’s a void in my “About” section. It still has your name with an empty silhouette for your face, but no active link. I look like a sad person who wants to remind the world that I do, indeed, have a brother.

All that’s left of you.

I’m sorry I made a status update about your appendectomy three years ago and scared you with the vast number of well-wishers (stalkers) that followed. I see now that surgery is when things become too personal for statuses.

I don’t know where else to share videos like these:

Or let you know about the latest Whovian news.

I want to wish you happy birthday with embarrassingly adorable baby pictures.

And post ridiculous references to our childhood on your wall to see how many of your friends “get” it—us.

Wishbone

My internet identity is incomplete without you. Come back.

Love,

Sister

(149)

15 Things You Can Do Instead of Whatever’s on Your Spring Break To-Do List

Everyone knows you mean well when Spring Break starts, but let’s face it: your brain sees “break” and brakes.

#1: Put stupid tasks on your to-do list and celebrate after accomplishing them.


#2: Read…


…but be sure to daydream frequently.


#3: Half-ass your way through chores.


#4: Let the internet do its magic.


#5: Complete some Pinterest-housewife-worthy projects.


#6: Watch your favorite shows again.


#7: Facebook-stalk your high school acquaintances.


#8: Blog: read, write, comment.


#9: Make your family’s favorite meals.


#10: Drink.

#11: Pick up all the dog shit in the backyard and pretend you’re Dr. Malcolm, Dr. Sattler, or both.

#12: Watch TED Talks and think deep thoughts like you did when you were in college.


#13: Lounge with your dogs and pretend you’re in a scene from Breaking Bad.

Screenshot_2014-03-13-14-37-40
#14: Watch YouTube videos like this and try to convince your partner to do something just as cute. Get this face from him/her:

#15: Make stupid lists. 

 

(144)

So, 2 Indians, a white guy, and 3 dogs go to a park…

During a walk with B, Brother and our dogs, I smelled barbecue, heard foreign voices, and saw brown skin. Trained by my mother to always be on the lookout for fellow Indians, I stretched my ears to pinpoint their ethnicity.

Not only were they Indian, they were Malayalee: they saw our dogs and shouted, “Patti!

From “The Malayalee Alphabet” by Taarika John.

We kept going and ignoring them. They were strangers, after all. I looked over at Brother and said, “Remember when we were young and the Malayalee community seemed so small? People actually knew everyone else. I remember Mom giving a random Malayalee lady a ride home from Sack’N’Save just because she was Malayalee and needed a ride.”

B, usually quiet when my siblings and I start talking about childhood memories or being Indian, added, “Yeah, you’d never see us white people doing that. ‘Come with me, my white brother!’ would never happen.”

(147)

The Salon Dilemma

There’s nothing like getting your hair styled in a fashionable uptown salon by a hip gay man who’s the perfect combination of adorable and edgy to remind you just how boring you are.  A terrible conversationalist, I always dread the 30-minute tête-à-tête of the haircut. Should I talk or read or play on my phone? Am I talking about myself too much? Should I ask him questions? Why are the client-stylist couples around us getting along so much better?

We talked about each other’s careers, mates, hometowns, and cities we’ve visited and want to visit. 15 minutes. And then… “What do you like to do in your spare time?”

Fuck.

This is where I should say something interesting.

Um…

Silence. I failed the cool test. We jealously listened to the other clients and stylists yammering like besties for the rest of the appointment.

(143)

The Happy Kitty Dance (+some other cute kitties to make you smile)

I was the A++ student. Since becoming a teacher, I feel like a solid C. This school year, the challenges of learning how to teach a different grade level while acclimating to a new school district have left me wondering if I learned anything at all while I was in school.

But, today, I read “Interpreter of Maladies” and I analyzed the shit out of it. I’m pretty sure I reached flow while I dissected characters, interpreted symbols, and applied theory. A friend of mine has a “happy kitty” dance, and I was doing it.

Unfortunately, there are no videos or .GIFs of THE Happy Kitty Dance, but there are plenty of happy kitties on the internet. Celebrate my brief moment of feeling competent and intelligent with me.

The HKD looks something like this:

Mixed with this:

And this face:

And these cuties popped up in my online search. Enjoy! 

(150)

Dreams of Home

My parents were able to design our first house, and it became their baby, in every sense of the word. Mom was in a rare pink phase, picking pink bricks, pink backsplash, and pink faux-granite countertops for the place on Princess Street. Dad would take his camcorder to the property and record its progress while I soaked in the smells of sawdust and paint. Tucked away in our movie collection, you can still find his VHS titled “The American Dream.”

Maybe this is why I don’t like pink anymore.

For me, it was devouring my pile of library books while hanging upside down, running in circles in the yard with my dogs, watching the shadows of leaves dance on my eyelids in the summer sun—the life.

My sister. She was always cuter than me.

It was the one of the few reveries my parents and I shared. And even though we only lived there for five years, it’s the only home that exists in my dreams.

(150)

Daily Prompt: Our House

Why Walter White is the perfect example of today’s frustrated teachers.

We have a trail of regrets that led us to this career.

 

 

We yearn to inspire…

…and pass on our passion…

 

 

…to kids who couldn’t care less.

We’re just a little bit odd…

 

…and half the time, we’re just acting tough.

We work for parents and students who demean us, not just as professionals, but as humans.

Our bosses used to be one of us, but forgot what that was like.

 

We are micromanaged to no end.

 

And then, we snap.

Because all we wanted was some control…

…and to tell people to back the fuck off so we can do our fucking job…

…because we really do did want to help…

…until you fucked us over.

Thank you, public education, for turning us into grizzled beasts unworthy of the dreams we had when we entered this profession.

(138)

PS – In case some fool misreads this as the manifesto of an up-and-coming murderous drug lord: it’s not. I have neither the chemistry skills nor the 1970’s RV to make anything illegal, and it makes me sick to even think of people hurting other people. I just need to vent so I can make it through this school year.