The Boy Who Wears Bows

We are in a new time in our lives. When I was growing up, the ideas of what boys wear and what girls wear were pretty established.

Now, if you were growing up like me, it was okay to be a tomboy. You could wear boys’ clothing and play sports and video games and it was no big deal. But if you were a boy, the same gender neutrality wasn’t the case.

I have a son and a daughter. My son is the baby so he follows his sister everywhere. She is a tomboy in princess’s clothing. She wears dresses, does her hair, and puts on a necklace and then goes to climb mountains and play baseball. There is no separation of what is acceptable for her to do or wear from any other child.

My son likes to do the same thing his sister does plus a few things she didn’t do. He loves cars and trains and trucks in a way she was never into. And he will participate in all of it with a bow on his head. He sees his sister wear bows and asks for them as well. Because we have never established something was a “girl thing” or a “boy thing”, we put the bow on and let him rock it.

It definitely raises interest especially in our South Asian circles. We have heard “that’s for girls” a few times. But really is it? Or is it just something that we have established as a “girl thing” in society? If boys were given a fair chance to express themselves, would they themselves have immersed in the bow culture?

The next question that arises is what happens when my son wants to wear something else his sister wears. What about princess dresses or necklaces or bangles?

What do we do when we have let the kids live in a gender neutral zone where they can be free to do or wear whatever they want? Is it better to follow society’s gender norms at least for now so we can protect our son from the chance of being bullied until he can understand how to protect himself? Would we follow the same rules of parental protection as we would with climbing structures and riding bikes? Would we do whatever we could to protect them in the real world until the real world catches up with the way we think?

As parents, what is the correct path? I don’t know if there is one. I think we are in a new territory where children have the freedom to become who they really are, who they are truly comfortable with. I want to be able to be there for my children for whatever choices they make. I want to be there for them to fall back on and to be their shield when they need it. My parents did that for me when I was breaking society’s norms and I don’t want to be any less for my kids.

It may turn out that our son doesn’t care for “girl things” as he gets older. It may turn out that he loves them.

It may turn out that he may go on to drive monster trucks with a multitude of bows in his hair.

The Good Indian Girl

As an Indian girl, I’ve been taught by society to always be “perfect”. We are required to fit a whole host of stereotypes. We are supposed to know how to cook, clean, raise children, and even hold down a job now. On top of it, no matter how modern we are, we are supposed to hold our heads down when it comes to speaking with our elders or voicing our own opinions. Sharing your thoughts or having a different point of view makes us the not so good Indian girl.

But seriously, how long can we do this for? I can’t. This past weekend, at the wedding I was attending, I ran into a man who decided to say that the groom was on his last night of freedom. And me being me decided to reply “freedom from what?” I didn’t understand that statement. The groom was just as lucky as the bride in entering this marriage. If he thought that he was losing his freedom, he should not be getting married. It wasn’t the most thoughtful statement to make and I wanted to let that man know that it was unacceptable.

Should I have just let him say whatever we wanted even if it was insulting to the whole institution of marriage? Should I have just kept quiet while he put down the bride in the sense that she was taking away the groom’s freedom?

Lately, I’ve been dealing with a barrage of opinions on how I am raising my kid. Now, her doctor has said that she is in perfect health. So, the opinions are just that….opinions. There is nothing wrong with my kid.. But regardless, I continuously hear these opinions over and over again. As a stay-at-home mom, that means that the people who share these opinions believe I am failing at my job.

So am I supposed to be the “good Indian girl” and not say anything back? Am I supposed to just keep my head down and let people insult me? Am I never supposed to stand up for myself as a parent?

It’s time that people realize that this stereotype needs to change. And those of us who adhere to this stereotype needs to start standing up for ourselves. If we keep trying to fit the mold, how can we expect anyone else to change their view of us?

I am tired of being the good Indian girl. I just want to be real.

LA Chicks

I was out at a dinner with a few girlfriends yesterday and one of them brought up the fact that she was being favorably compared against a typical LA girl. Meaning the person making the assessment was telling her that she seemed so much more down-to-earth and not as fake as the typical LA girl can be. I’m not sure if this comparison was based on a South Asian Indian LA girl or just LA girls in general.

I thought it was worth bringing up though because I was born and raised in LA. I’ve never lived anywhere else (except for 2 years in college until I realized I’d never be happy anywhere but home). Am I that typical LA girl? What does this typical LA girl look like? There is obviously some stereotype out there about us but I’m honestly not sure what it is.

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard about this mysterious girl. I’ve heard about this girl chasing men based on the things he has and not the type of person he is. I believe this girl also is not exactly the nicest to her fellow women. She’s self-centered and believes the world revolves around her but doesn’t realize that she tends to make it about herself. At least, that’s what I think.

If you know anything else about these LA chicks, please do share because I’m not a 100% sure who they are. It could be that if they are full of drama, I walked away from them on my own because I couldn’t handle it. It could be that it’s just a stereotype that someone created a long time ago and isn’t really a reality anymore.

I just feel a bit sad in the fact that I am categorized as an LA chick and that’s a bad thing. As far as I know, I don’t fit the stereotype. I also wish I wasn’t judged on where I was raised or how I dress or what you think you know about me.

Some of us are still pretty normal. I think.

Dowry

So, yes, it still exists in India. One of the drivers we met in India told us that he was working as hard as he was because he had three daughters that still needed to get married. That means that not only does he have to pay for the cost of the wedding (which will be over-extravagant and way beyond the family’s means) but he has to give the groom’s family a variety of gifts.

The official definition of dowry according to Google is the property or money brought by a bride to her husband on their marriage. In India, as far as I know (and you can correct me if I’m wrong), the groom’s side asks for a bunch of things from the bride’s family as part of the requirement to marry her. Yup, that’s right. The bride’s family is required to give him all sorts of stuff in order to marry her. Now you tell me how that makes you feel if you’re a woman.

My mother-in-law told me the other day that the ratio of men to women in India is now 6:1. That means there are so many more men than women there. Women are valuable and in high demand. So why and how the dowry system still exist? And I know it does because I’ve heard accounts of people dealing with a situation where the demands of the groom’s family are getting out of hand.

My big question is what if that driver invested the money he was saving for his daughters’ weddings into their education instead? Wouldn’t that then provide these girls of a way to become independent and financially support themselves? They wouldn’t need to marry unless they wanted to. They wouldn’t need a husband to take care of them. They could choose a partner based on mutual respect and equality.

Is that even a possibility? Could you imagine what would happen if so many more women were able to take care of themselves?

If these women could get an education and financially support themselves, would they have the confidence to refuse to marry someone who was asking for a dowry?

How Can I Become That Girl Who Has Everything?

Sometimes, I go through this thing where I want things to change but honestly, I don’t want to do any work to change them. Then, occasionally, motivation comes along and I manage to actually work on making the changes to help me achieve my goals. But, seriously, does it ever just seem like some people have it easier than others?

I know that everyone has a story we don’t know about. Everyone has “stuff”. It’s not necessarily the same as ours but it is there and it is valid. But still, it seems like things just fall into some people’s laps. You know that guy/girl. That one who has everything. That one who hasn’t really had a day of trouble or stress. That one who seems to have gotten everything handed to them and all the obstacles are usually more of a formality.

It doesn’t quite feel fair. Some people seem to have the looks, the intelligence, the talent, the personality. Why do I feel like I was shorted out on one or more of those things?

So what do we do? How can we make our life better? Happier? Perfect?

I don’t know for sure but I’m guessing that even almost all of those people had to work to get to where they are at. So that’s what we have to do. Work at it. If you’ve seen some of my recent posts about post-childbirth, I do talk about how I’ve been dealing with a lot of changes in my life and finding myself again has been work. I have been trying to put in my time though.

Life isn’t fair. And it’s not going to just hand you everything you want. You also have to find a way to appreciate the things that you do have. It’s so easy to see what you’re missing but, sometimes, you have so much that another person might really want in their life. Somehow, we have to learn to value these little things that do make things good for us.

Something my sister-in-law once said to me that stays with me all the time is “You are exactly where you are supposed to be”. It helps to ground me and make sure that I remember to live in the moment. Then, I don’t keep trying to watch what other people are doing and I only enjoy what I’m doing instead.

Life can be hard for most of us. It involves a lot of change that sometimes is expected, sometimes unexpected. We can only keep trying to improve ourselves and find our own happiness wherever we can. Once I start doing that, I might start seeing myself as that girl who has everything.

Halloween: Frumpy or Sexy?

Simran: I saw a great post on Reddit today on the evolution of women & halloween.

Halloween is coming and we are shopping for costumes for our baby’s first halloween. It has to be CUTE! A tootsie roll, a puppy, a little monster, a cute bunny… AHHH! So much cuteness, I can’t take it! But there are hardly any good options for my wife to complement her cuteness. Majority of the things out there are short skirts and skin-tight dresses. We are looking to make our little one Snow White. Come on, let’s hear it… “awwww”. So my wife thought she would be the evil queen. Enter the evil queen costume hunt:

halloweenEvilQueenCostumes

 

I think the safest thing is the apple she’s holding.

Yeah there is stuff out there that is a little more conservative but enter psychological price manipulation:

halloweenCosutmePrices

Sexy is cheaper!

As our little girl gets older her options turn into shorter and tighter fitting costumes. They go from “aww what a cute little girl” to “dayummm girl”.

That’s it! My little girl is wearing knee high funky socks that don’t match and skirts that go up to these knees. I rather be weird and funky than an objectified.

SofiaVargaraAt theEmmys.

Shailee: When we got our daughter a Snow White costume, my first thought was that I’d be the Evil Queen from the movie. She is pretty cool with all that magic she can do down in her basement. So I googled “Snow White Evil Queen” to find outfits. My two options are something that is completely revealing or something that is huge and frumpy. We are planning on taking my kid around the neighborhood trick or treating. I honestly don’t want to wear something that makes me feel like I’m not even a woman anymore. We are also having super hot weather over here and wearing something that big would guarantee I come home as one big sweat stain. And I never wore costumes that sexy prior to having a baby so wearing them now isn’t even an option. Besides, I just don’t think it’s appropriate to go around the neighborhood where a bunch of kids are trick or treating wearing something that barely belongs in a club.

So I’ll turn to my third option: making the outfit myself. That’s the only way I can get something middle-of-the-road that I’d feel comfortable wearing. It’ll take some work but I’ll feel better in that than either of the options I can buy ready-made from a store. I’ve had to do this before as well. A few years ago, a few of my friends and I decided to be Batman villains and I chose Poison Ivy. I made a green dress, attached leaves to it, and had green leaves and vines drawn on my body where there was some skin showing. I was comfortable.

I’ve always appreciated the costumes that are innovative and unique more than something that just shows skin (of course, I’m not a guy so maybe I’m the wrong person to ask). One year, I saw a guy wearing the Quail Man costume. It’s still one of my favorite costumes that I have ever seen.

As long as I’ve known, Halloween has been an excuse for women to wear extremely sexy costumes (let’s be honest, most don’t buy the big, frumpy ones). Why is that? Why do we use it as an excuse to wear less than we would on a daily basis? Is it insecurity? Do we need to feel like we need to show skin in order to compete with the others dressed sexy when we go out partying for Halloween? Are the women in the sexy costumes the only people who get attention?

I want to set a good example for my daughter that you don’t have to wear a sexy Halloween costume to get attention. You can get the same attention by using your imagination and creativity.A couple of years ago, my husband made a Wall-E costume from scratch. Last year, he made us a coffee mug and donut costume. We received plenty of attention because both costumes were so unique. My hope is that she gets into Halloween every year and really has fun coming up with creative ideas. My hope is that she has enough confidence to know that she doesn’t need to show a ton of skin in order to feel good about herself.

Just Because I’m American Doesn’t Mean I’m Not Indian

You would think the typical problem for someone first generation born in America would be racism against the fact that you are Indian even though you’re as American as the next person. I do know that this is the case for a lot of people throughout the country. It’s a sad fact and hopefully, we are getting to a point where people are enlightened enough that this isn’t an issue anymore.

My problem is a little different from the typical racism. I want to talk about the stereotypes I dealt with growing up. From other Indian people.

There was an Indian movie that came out in the 90s called Pardes. It basically told a story about a girl from India who was marrying a boy who grew up in the US. This boy was a horrible human being. He drank, he smoked, he had girlfriends prior to marriage. All of this was a direct result from the fact that he had grown up in America.

Seriously??

I’m not going to comment on the fact about whether all of these things are right or wrong. Instead I’m going to focus on the fact that all the “bad” stuff happened because a person wasn’t raised in India. And if you think this is just something that was portrayed in a movie, let me tell you that it actually happens.

When I was 19, I brought a guy around to our family parties. This was someone my parents had met and liked and they were fine with him coming with us. All of a sudden, as of that day, I was a bad influence on the other children within our group. Because I had a boyfriend. And this was the type of guy who the same people would have been trying to set me up with maybe 2-3 years down the line. Same nationality, same religion, good family, etc. I couldn’t understand it. I was a super nerd in school. I didn’t drink, I didn’t really have many boyfriends, I had been teaching dance to their children, I had good grades, and was attending college on a scholarship. Yet, all of that history wasn’t enough. I was now this American girl who was going to take everyone else’s children down the wrong path. I was lucky that my parents stood by me and stood up for me. Now, as I watch all of these people’s children get married to people that are not the same heritage as we are, I wonder if they realize how unfairly they judged me back then.

There was a friend I had whose mom did not like me because she felt threatened or something by the relationship I had with “her little boy”. We were just friends but for whatever reason, I wasn’t a good person. One day, she saw me wearing a sari. She asked me who tied the sari for me (it takes a lot of practice). I told her I did it myself and I’ve known how to do it for the last 7 years. My friend later told me that his own sister-in-law from India can’t tie her own sari. Why did this woman assume that I was so American just because I was born here that I didn’t know anything about my own culture?

Most of the people I have been friends with here can speak more languages than just English. Most of them can understand at least 3 languages. I have friends who have been born and raised here in America and friends who have been born in India and came over after spending their childhood there. My own husband came to this country at the age of 11. Yet, there’s not really a significant difference between us. We are both proud of our culture and we share it. We also adopt parts of the American culture that are more progressive and really have been creating a new culture in which future generations will be a part of.

So, Indian people who think that they are better than I am just because I was born here and not there, get over it. We are all the same. The sooner you start thinking that way, the more we will all get along.