My Life: a Soap Opera

Different. That’s noticeable.

Is it skin color? Culture? Or simply because I am dating instead of marrying?

Rich doesn’t want to meet my parents because my dad doesn’t accept him. My mom tries very hard, but he doesn’t want to meet her either because he doesn’t trust that she won’t change her mind.
My dad won’t talk to me about my relationship. He watches TV shows in which female characters date, he knows my friends date, he has nieces who date, yet the idea of me dating is inconceivable.

Rich’s family accepts me, and I still feel shy around them. It would be insurmountably worse if they ignored me, talked behind my back, made it clear that I would never be one of them.
My dad is worried. If I were to get married to a non-brown man, what culture would our kids follow? Which community would they belong in? What if I am divorced – with three kids like my grandmother was?

I understand the discomfort. But if we don’t do things that scare us, how can we grow?
Alex, Inc. is a new TV show on ABC channel in which an interracial family’s life is turned inside out when Zach Braff, who plays the father, decides to quit his job to pursue having his own company. He struggles with finding a name for his company and is inspired by his mother-in-law. Anjana, is the name settled on, the unknown.
From a distance, the unknown is truly terrifying but wading deep in it you learn just how much resolve you have in enduring.
From the beginning, I was a ballerina on fractured ice starting a new relationship while my dad disapproved. I didn’t know if Rich and I would last, but I bandaged my toes and when the tips of flats wore down, I changed into my spares. It was worth it and I worked hard to get my own hardwood floors.

It didn’t mean I wasn’t scared. Every step of the way to earn independence and my right to date Rich, it could have been easier to be the quiet homebody my dad wanted rather than the girl sneaking out for love (mind you, this was at 21). After all, I wasn’t the ideal girlfriend for Rich because we couldn’t see each other whenever we wanted and I felt like I wasn’t good enough. I was bound to lose a relationship.
Thick in the unknown, I couldn’t afford to be a coward. Because then I would have lost all my self-worth. Resiliently, I got myself a car, a job and moved out.
My biggest lesson: it’s not about enduring the ambiguity at all, it’s about embracing the anjana.

With this knowledge, I want to bridge the distrust between the boy and the man. I don’t know who will be the man first, but I want to be a woman who doesn’t depend on a male figure to establish the kind of life she wants to live.
Some days I’ll see my parents, some days I’ll see Rich. It’s not a permanent situation and one day I may have to choose. But if neither are ready to jump in to give each other a chance, then neither can rise to the occasion of acceptance. So the best choice may be prioritizing myself and Indigo.

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sunrise

I don’t need an alarm to wake me. I keep my shades open. When the big star breaks the horizon, its brightness spills onto my bed. Facing the wall or the window, my room is washed with muddled hues of a grapefruit.

Forgiveness is like burning water and boiling it the same way routinely. A festering grudge takes effort to retain like a can of beans without a can opener. A damp towel you can’t shake off, your trip to the beach will always be tainted by the crab pinching your toe than the shells you collected.

When I was a little girl, my dad took my mom and me everywhere. His enthusiasm was my calm inspiration to daydream on long car drives and energy to keep walking on my own five year old feet when exploring.
I don’t recollect more. My prime flashbulb moments are fixated in the duration of the acme of my teens. Clanging cymbals of disagreements, no math homework help or driving lesson was without verbal talons streaking across each other’s hearts.

Clouds are amorphous. On stratus days, you’re a dulled kitchen knife. But puffy cumulus days, painting with shaving cream, giggle and wonder at all possibilities.

A sailor drifts on sea to value land and appreciate the waves that carry him forward.
I wouldn’t know how to drive if it weren’t for my father. I managed to pass calculus because of him. Today when I get frustrated at work, I call him on my drive home and he listens to me rant. I can’t tell him what’s in my heart and he doesn’t ask limiting any disapproval to be spoken. Instead, we watch hours of television together, our silent communication solid through our shared laughter and tears watching comedic shows and Hallmark movies.

For every negative comment, it takes five positive comments to bring you back to state of balance. My wavering self-confidence tells me there’s still gold emotion coins to be earned. But as sun shines fiercely marking a new day, striving to be positive will set a precedent of a mindset that will react with patience and acceptance – for myself from my own eyes.

pick a day, make it a holiday

When I was a little girl, my mom kept the Christmas spirit alive. My dad wasn’t much for it, as Hindus he thought it best that I learn the value of Diwali and Holi and other special Indian days but without a strong Indian community to back them up, the excitement for those special holidays did not resonate with me. But Christmas was all around me – on radio stations and malls and house decor and movies. It was easy to wish what I wanted for Christmas and expect to be gifted as a child. But I was an only child. Most of the time Christmas could be any day. Knowing this I didn’t ask for a lot.

My parents never did buy a tree but my mom bought me a stocking that would be overfilled. It was a wonderful surprise in the morning but as I got older I would stay up later. I was twelve and watching Bride & Prejudice with my parents on Christmas Eve and at midnight I wondered where my gifts were. My mother had wanted to keep the allure of Santa alive but I pestered her until she caved. She was – is – my Santa. It makes me appreciate her more.

I do believe there is a Santa out there – as much as I believe in fairies and magic and ghosts and witches and unicorns. I believe anything is possible even if we can’t see it. But when I see my love’s eyes dim a little with sadness because my culture made me miss out on true Christmas spirit, I have to assure him I didn’t grow up waiting for a holiday to celebrate love or family.

I liked Christmas as a kid because all the movies playing during the season always had a positive and hopeful end. By the time I was a teenager though, Valentine’s Day became my favorite. Mind you I was always single on Valentine’s Day until this year but I still loved it. Celebrating love made me happy. I would make posters of all my favorite couples filled with love quotes and make handmade valentines with glitter and personal poems for my friends. I still love Valentine’s Day but I don’t like that it’s just a day.

I don’t have a favorite holiday. I have learned from my parents that spending time together and giving gifts does not have to wait for a certain time. Of course it was easier when I still lived with them. However, despite the 8 miles between us, we are frequently in contact. A loner girl, I am most grateful of having my parents. I was so afraid I was going to lose them as I embarked on my path to independence but they’re still here caring – texting to make sure I get home safe, offering to pay my cellphone bill, buying me food when they’re out grocery shopping for themselves – I don’t need a tangible gift. I have more than I could ask for.

what do you do when a distant cousin contacts you?

My family and I are a simple power of three. We have family around the world and sometimes we travel to see them. Mostly it’s just us.

My parents are old school; they contact their relatives by phone or WhatsApp. For them it makes sense to be in touch; they’ve grown up with them before they moved here. But I’ve never met so many of them. Shy, self-conscious and uncomfortable, I make sure I’m not around when the calls are made. I have to answer the same questions: what grade are you in? I graduated! When are you coming to visit? Um…*awkward laugh, look at my mom for help*

With the access of Facebook searches, I’ve had cousins add me. I cross check with my parents to make sure they’re really my cousins before I accept their request. It’s how I see posts from my cousins from different countries. Yet, I can’t find my voice to establish a direct communication line with them. Just as a genealogy paper, we just appear to be family on the web.

But how can blood lines make up family? My parents and I are the nuclear family. They are a constant in my life. I have friends who are more constant in my life than my cousins. Blood does not negate family; they have to earn that title.

And that’s not easy. My parents are loners too. They are mistrustful of people’s intentions regardless of relation. Having seen their fair share of their parents’ gullible mistakes, when they do host dinners, they make sure the night is filled with cards, board games, movies and lots of food to keep everyone occupied from asking for handouts or weeping their woes to get my parents’ sympathy. Having witnessed this growing up, it takes me a long time to open up to people. I didn’t fully open up to my best friend Chit for two years! And I already called her my best friend.

Now as a pending message awaits in my Facebook inbox from a cousin, I contemplate how to address, “how you doing?” I predict the conversation to be short without details. But if I don’t give us a chance to warm up to each other, I won’t be giving her a chance to earn being family. Here’s to trying.

 

dear tomorrow

when i was a little girl, my dad and i would get into fights. i don’t even recall why anymore; my grades and outspoken attitude would disappoint him then. twelve, i wanted to talk about what i liked than be talked at for what i needed to succeed in my future. i swallowed the words instead and my dad never pried those words out. we wouldn’t talk for days. that’s when i would wait for a family function because i knew in front of family we would act like everything was okay and let go of what was eating us. i would be happy to have my dad back to joke with.

but just as easily an argument about who i wanted to be versus who he wanted me to be would render us silent for weeks. those stretches have grown longer since i’ve gone to college and graduated. i don’t know how to connect to him and he doesn’t know either.

today was a rare day i want to remember. he drove me to wegmans because i needed mixed frozen vegetables to make chicken potpie for my potluck at work tomorrow. we talked a little bit about how my work was going. mostly we hit it off talking about tv shows because we have the same taste: love and family and happy endings are simply a must. when he saw me making anchor charts for my class while playing Once Upon a Time on my work laptop, he suggested i do my work outside in the living room so i could watch the show on our large smartTV. i know he just wanted to enjoy my presence. and it did feel good to be watching a show with him that made him tear up just like me. as i shuffled around the kitchen cooking, even though it is my mother’s primary domain, i asked my dad for advice and he helped.

today we felt like father and daughter. but we didn’t get personal. that never works. when i talk about my love for writing, he only expects me to churn out a book like a machine. when i talk of my love, he is repulsed that i would date instead of being married already because despite being family, our cultures are different. when he prays to god, i pray to Love. when i bring prep work home and complain about not enough time, he uses that as an excuse to be upset when i go out to hang out with friends.

but underneath it all, he’s still my dad who only wants the best for me. i want to believe that. even if we can’t be more than tv buddies. our views may be different, but i know i inherited upholding my beliefs firmly and passionately from him.

our road is rocky. but today was nice. i want to remember today.

 

vow

bound by a contract
her faith compels her to keep it intact.
he and she were arranged to meet
she complied because of society
already thirty, what would people think
she worried about her parents’ image
so she said yes to not give them stress
never factoring her own happiness.
same religion but different culture
she was his for his bidding and no one else’s
he forbade her going to her mother’s house
isolated with the strangers she married into
she prevailed in concealing her tears
in secret phone calls home so they not worry
and after they were long gone she still remained
to not tarnish their memory, their last wish
she have a cornucopia of security and stability

pity

the man of the house
at twice my age plus sixteen
he dabbles in stock investments
in the expanse of his early retirement
but mostly i see him news scrolling.
when middle-aged and struggling
he said life’s a rigged game
he gave up then, settled on the couch
with his excuse to raise me
my mother the sole breadwinner
the newly appointed matriarch
rightfully so, she dealt with patients
came home cooked and cleaned and
criticized him with her newfound voice
that he loathed – he raised me to be
financially independent but decreed
i not move out until i marry.
an antiquated being
he kept me close i burned him too
even his spit could not subdue my fire.
insular he rigged his own fate
alone and waiting
the man of the house.