I sing the body eclectic

Is there a woman out there who is actually 100 percent fine with her body? Or are we all, particularly in the West, hard-wired — thanks to media messages and peer pressure — to find constant fault with ourselves?

I ask, because I don’t go a day without disparaging how I look. It’s an exhalation of breath every morning, “God, I look like crap.” It’s a self-deprecating remark when I’m out with friends. It’s looking in the mirror and seeing my moon-shaped face, ever-widening, and sliding on jeans that are ever-tightening… and hating what I see. It’s shaming myself into not eating, or into being a calorie miser, and then shaming myself further when I “fail” and stuff my face. It’s a vicious, vicious thing. Not the pressure to be thin, but the pressure to try.

I’m a pretty together person (as neurotic, obsessive writers go). I’m intelligent and media savvy. Shouldn’t I know better than to perceive myself in such narrow strokes, than to shove my square-pegged self into the round hole of what women are “supposed to” look like? It’s weird, isn’t it? How being analytical about it doesn’t change the feeling?

Continue reading


Thanks for ruining my childhood, Charlie Sheen

I bumped my head earlier and felt along my hairline to make sure everything was okay. “Phrenology,” I thought, giggling and remembering some comedic bit from Men At Work, a movie I saw when I was 12. And then I remembered that Charlie Sheen was in it and a wave of nausea replaced any minor headaches I might have incurred.

See, I had a massive crush on Charlie Sheen when I was growing up. How massive? I rented Cadence, then bought a VHS copy, made my friends watch it with me on my birthday, and hung the movie poster on my wall. I went to sleep every night and woke up every morning with the official, begged-the-store-for-it, poster and Charlie Sheen’s big ol’ face staring down at me. Wraith? Check. Lucas? Check. Three For the Road? Check. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? Check. Courage Mountain? Yup. I saw every movie of his that I could get away with seeing. (Navy Seals was problematic, what with it being rated ‘R’. I’ve still never seen Platoon.) I was 12-13…he was my major icon, even before New Kids on the Block.

By the time the mid-90s rolled around, my Charlie Sheen phase was over. In the 2000s I would tune into Spin City once in a while, but liked the Michael J. Fox seasons better. It was no big thing. But I always remembered my early obsession with all those movies fondly. I mean Wraith is a cheesy, cheesy cheesefest, but I loved it anyhow. And whatever happened to Kerry Green and her gorgeous red hair?

But the bigger question is this: What happened to Charlie Sheen?

Continue reading

Public disservices (Never shake a lynx!)

While Albany persists in being an episode of Romper Room and the MTA keeps trying to hike fares, what is New York State busying itself with? Really annoying campaigns to control its residents’ bodies! Doesn’t the NY State Health Department have anything better to do?

First, there is the graphic anti-smoking campaign, with the amputee and the guy with the voice box warning you what will happen if you don’t put down your Marlboros. Then, there’s the anti-soda pop campaign (this is gross; watch at your own risk) and the fact that any restaurant with x or more locations has to post calorie-counts on its menus. Now…we have the WIC pro-breastfeeding campaign, and it’s the most annoying invasion of a citizen’s personal business yet!

Check out this PSA, framed very much like a perky, cheerful ad for Jenny Craig, that says breastfeeding will help you lose weight: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjoWWUYDKQM

It’s too bad that, unlike those ads for weight-loss shakes and nutrition programs, there’s no tiny disclaimer that says “results not typical” or “when combined with a daily exercise regimen.”

And then there’s this one, all about how breastfeeding is the best thing for your baby: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vyxh8RnuK3U

This one really steamed me, because, unlike the previous video, which treats breastfeeding like a freakin’ Slim Fast shake and is just stupid, this one basically indicates that women who don’t breastfeed are harming their child, that formula is substandard and antiquated. It passes judgment on mothers who don’t, for whatever reason, choose that option and uses a strong element of fearmongering as well: ZOMG, if you don’t breastfeed your child will be sickly and diiiiiiiie. That the mom in this video is basically like,”Gee, shucks, I was stupid, but my daughter will be smart with her baby” makes me want to punch someone in the face.

Continue reading

Soap Opera Weekly: Blogging With Mala

BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL is in the midst of a big story involving Stephanie and the plight of the homeless community on L.A.’s Skid Row, and I’d like to discuss the pluses and minuses. I was actually thinking of doing it in print, but I have so much going on in my head that I don’t think it would all fit on one page. So buckle up (or bail out!) as I get myself in gear!

Conceptually and stylistically, B&B’s location scenes have been beautiful. The Angels Flight sequence last Wednesday, intercut with Stephanie, Brooke and Taylor all having flashbacks, was gorgeous. You really got the bittersweet sense that Stephanie was looking forward to ascending to another plane. And I love the following episodes being a callback to Stephanie’s time wandering the streets in 1991. I thought it was incredibly haunting and on point when she observed, “This is my town. I live 20 minutes away, yet it seems a thousand miles away. I promised I’d make a difference. Instead, when I see them, I turn away.” By the time “Lean on Me” cued up, I was sniffling. And the last shot of Friday’s air show, of Ann’s scarf floating off on the breeze, was breathtaking. (I was “off duty,” on vacation with extended family that day, and still watched. That’s how much I love this show!)

I think the idea of Stephanie deciding to fight her cancer so she can do some good is wonderful. It’s a great message to put out there: that those with privilege and power should give back to the less-fortunate. “What have I done with my life? What is my burden compared to theirs?” Stephanie mused. Those are questions more people should ask themselves! We live in a very materialistic world, where it’s all about lining up for the unveiling of the iPad and filling your Hummer’s gas tank. Punk kids from the Jersey Shore become rich and famous simply for being punk kids from the Jersey Shore while teachers get laid off and schools get shut down. So I like that B&B is shedding light on such an important, still relevant, topic. I remember when Phil Collins’ Grammy-winning “Another Day in Paradise” came out in 1989. I was 11 and it was my first real exposure to the issue of homelessness. I was floored by the power of the song and the message — as many others were. That our society and our government hasn’t really improved the homeless situation in this country since that song’s release, and since Stephanie’s initial journey, is a sad state of affairs. So, kudos to B&B for reminding us that there is still much to do.

Aaaand now for the more delicate and critical part of my entry. If you don’t want to read a lot of pontificating about racial dynamics, you can hit your ‘Back’ button now.

Continue reading

I want to believe we’ll live long and prosper.

It’s really easy to bury yourself in bubbles of pop culture, like it’s the ball pit at a Chuck E. Cheese. It’s comforting to hide amongst your fellow Trekkies and Browncoats and tell yourself, “I’ve found my people!” But then you poke your head out the window, peer around the door of the TARDIS, and realize that the real world is still out there. And in the real world, being an alien, a Big Damn Hero, an Other, isn’t nearly as cool.

I was never cool. I was one of a handful of South Asian kids in my entire school system. Not driven enough to be a top tier nerd, not stylish enough to be a prep, too square to be a stoner. I did not fit in. And, boy, did I know it. Like so many children who were bullied or shunned in school, I suffered from low self esteem, depression and anxiety. It was all I could do to get through middle school and high school with any sense of self. This pre-dated the casual use of the Internet, so I had a few fellow “weirdo” friends with whom I talked about comics and vampire novels but I still felt very much like a nonentity. I wore a lot of shapeless clothing that rendered me as amorphous and invisible on the outside as I felt on the inside. 

Thank goodness I had the X-Men — a beautiful metaphor for outsiders literally coming into their own power. And The X-Files‘ Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, nerdy FBI agents who told me, “The truth is out there.” And General Hospital‘s Robin Scorpio, a feisty teenager who contracted HIV and fought to survive it. They are who I sought solace with, the place I ran when I felt like I was nothing.

Looking back, I am both heartened and saddened by that. I’m glad that I had a safe haven, entrenched in fannish pursuits, but I’m disappointed that I had no tangible refuge from bullying, from those terrible, pervasive feelings of not belonging. What’s even sadder to consider is how, almost 20 years later, not much has changed for school-age kids. Whether you’re brown or gay or socially awkward…bullying persists and few schools do anything to stop it.

Continue reading

Outsourced is outrageously unpalatable

Earlier this year, when the initial promos for NBC’s half-hour comedy, Outsourced, began circulating, I cringed. Rife with racial stereotypes, relying on juvenile humor, I just knew “here there be unfunny.” Having watched the full premiere last night, that opinion has only strengthened. This show left a seriously bad taste in my mouth.

Affable white guy Todd (Ben Rappaport) works for a mail order novelty catalog, and transfers to its call center in India. He’s assigned the company’s “B team,” a ragtag group of misfits who knows just as much about America as he does India. There’s ambitious Rajiv (Rizwan Manji), boyish, ready-to-idolize-the-American, Manmeet (Sacha Dhawan), painfully shy Madhuri (Anisha Nagarajan) and overtly friendly Gupta (Parvesh Cheena, who seems to be channeling Boman Irani).

Cue the obligatory jokes about holy cows, warnings about spicy food that will make you “crap for five days,” and making fun of the weird names. Todd giggles at “Manmeet” and, in the next breath, dubs “Asha” a beautiful name, because it belongs to a pretty girl (Rebecca Hazlewood). At that point, I knew we were in for nothing but trouble. This is a show relying on only the culture clash for its humor, and it just doesn’t work. It’s both obvious and incredibly offensive. “Hey, isn’t it fun to have the socially awkward Indian guy sing the Pussycat Dolls?” Um, no. It’s lame. How about writing something more imaginative? The absence of a laugh track only heightened the resounding thud every time a joke fell flat.

Continue reading

Sound and fury, signifying nothing

A Bangladeshi cab driver was attacked this week, after allegedly being asked if he was Muslim. The comments on this Yahoo news article make me want to throw up. We are living in a powder keg of hate, of intolerance, where the diversity of New York, its greatest strength, is being turned against it.

If there is one thing that has stood out to me during this current brouhaha over the lower Manhattan Islamic community center, it’s how the media and the political machine have perpetuated a cycle of misinformation and fear-mongering. Buzz words have obfuscated the facts (which, okay, is ‘business as usual’) and indignant screaming has drowned out so many things that the public needs to hear. Like that there are already mosques near the World Trade Center site. (And, you know, strip clubs and a McDonald’s and stuff, too.) The Daily Show, now the nation’s top investigative news team (and isn’t that sad?) uncovered that the man behind the so-called radical Islamic foundation funding the Park51 project also owns stock in News Corp. He’s Rupert Murdoch’s partner and owns part of Fox News!

Why is none of this being reported more widely? Because it would get in the way of well-timed election season soapboxing? Because, God forbid, it would actually be accurate? What should be a local issue, handled by the Park51 people, zoning boards and neighborhood groups, has become a national circus, with people who have no vested interest in the daily workings of New York City making judgment calls on what should be done.

What’s most distasteful is that in the name of “sparing” and “protecting” those who lost someone on 9/11, all this righteousness and noise is exploiting them. Why torment survivors of a tragedy like this?

And where is the outrage over building office space, a subway station and a shopping mall at the actual WTC site? Er, sorry, make that a “transportation and retail concourse below grade connected to the central PATH terminal.” (Per RenewNYC.com.) I mean, hey, maybe I’m a bad capitalist or something, but the idea of a Pinkberry or something on the WTC site is a little more hinky to me to me than a house of worship and cultural center going up a few blocks away. And, of course, Conde Nast will be in the new complex, too. Let nothing stand in the way of progress! Unless it’s progress by people who don’t look like you… 

When our nation is already so divided, with so much nativism and racism being cloaked in political rhetoric, the public is being misled. And it is completely irresponsible.

I’m not religious, and I don’t live in lower Manhattan. I have no personal stake in where the Islamic center goes. But I am a New Yorker with a personal stake in my own safety and the safety of my fellow man. I’m brown, and I don’t want to walk out the door every morning with the sense that just because I’ve picked out a kurta to wear over my jeans, I might have painted a target on my back. But hate is everywhere, isn’t it? On Staten Island right now, it’s not the assumption that you’re Muslim that will get you beaten; it’s the assumption that you’re Mexican. Bigotry is inescapable. It’s alive and well and powerful.

And, all too frequently, it starts because of a tale told by an idiot.