Flabby, Funny, Forty, and of course Fabulous!!!

Just this past weekend, The Telegraph in their article “Why your Forties are the most fabulous years” writes, “David Beckham is a prime example of why being in your Forties is no bad thing,” and, wait for it… “he looks better now than he did in his twenties!” I did not quite continue reading the article as I found myself just drooling over this…

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At this age there are some crimes you indulge in, like stealing this photo off the internet.

His photo gives me encouragement that as I age, my taste in men continue to grow better. And, unlike me,  if you are able to stop drooling and continue reading this post, you will find 15 reasons why I think stepping into my 40’s this weekend will be as fabulous, just maybe not in a Beckhamish way.

  1. The top two ads that show up on my Facebook feed are: (a) The Miracle Slimming Cami that skims, sculpts, and gives you great posture and (b) The Mini Portable Hair Remover that keeps your face peach fuzz-free.
  2. Eerily, their target marketing is not too off. Most parts of my body need to be skimmed while hair, let’s just say, is not only a problem on my face.
  3. Talking about hair, the grays are unstoppable like they are on some kind of growth hormone or something. Neither my energy, nor my wallet can seem to keep up with them.
  4. Add to that, what hubby dearest so lovingly puts it, “raccoon eyes.” At any given time of day, my eyes look like they have not slept in months.
  5. Which, come to think of it, might be true. Seems like my bladder is mad at me for turning 40 and needs to take me to the bathroom at all odd hours into the night.
  6. If it’s not my bladder it is my hubby’s. And if it’s not him rolling out of bed and slamming his toe religiously every night at his corner of the bed, it is my lovely daughter who wakes up around midnight asking for oatmeal because she’s sleep walking/talking and thinks it’s time to go to school. We’ve decided, next time we’re just going to roll with it.
  7. That brings me to, who the hell convinced me having kids was a good idea in the first place?
  8. Sadly, no one. And at 40 you begin to realize how dumb you were in your 20’s and 30’s.
  9. Dumb thinking your body can do anything and everything you once did till standing up from a sitting position makes you now look and feel like an 80-year-old.
  10. Sitting and standing at this age comes with other issues as well. While seated, your boobs have now started resting on your tummy and then when you eventually stand, you realize they are taken over by gravity, and no matter how expensive your bra is, you just need duct tape to keep them in any kind of place or shape.
  11. Bringing me to the moment when my man recently pointed out the fancy lace panties at Costco (yup, way past buying sexy lingerie from Victoria’s Secret phase!) and I picked up spandex shorts that go under skirts instead. To which he exclaimed wide-eyed, “what even are those???”
  12. I hate Costco. I don’t think I will ever wear those shorts under my skirt. But Costco made me think it was a brilliant idea and forced me to buy them just like those two new pairs of yoga pants that are sitting in my closet, well, because I don’t really do yoga, or any form of exercise so as to not break any other part of my body that is still intact. Come to think of it, maybe wearing those pants to grocery shop at Whole Foods might boost my 40th morale.
  13. But I love Costco too. I just found this garment steamer there that seems to solve all my problems. My latest hobby is steaming wrinkles out of my garments, the ones that have been lying in my closet for years because I have been too lazy and too cheap to take them to the dry cleaners. I just wish it worked great with the wrinkles under my eyes too. In your 40’s it is the simplest things that make you horny happy.
  14. The fact that I just included two bullet points talking about Costco and underwear makes me feel very hip and young.
  15. My relationships are finally long-term and mature. Just look at how from my “torching vodka in my mouth phase” from when I was in my 20’s to me and my wine having matured and bonded throughout my 30’s. This relationship is stepping in strong in my 40’s and I see both of us together for many, many more years to come.

As I write this, I am just three days shy from bidding adieu to my 30’s. It has been harder than I imagined it would be, only because this past decade has been a roller coaster ride to who I have become stepping into my 40’s. The best part is, irrespective of my flabs and freckles, grays and dark circles, hormones and crackling bones, I like who I see in the mirror. But most importantly, I also like who I see beside me, embracing every bit of my imperfections, joining me in my journey to come, and know there could not be a better way to ring in the next decade.

Step aside Beckham. Fabulous 40’s, here I come!!!

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Photo credit: Memories by Michelle

Love Simply

It is absolutely amazing how we adapt ourselves to social norms and how they change so drastically as we move through the different phases of our lives. 17 years ago I got married because I had to. No one asked me if I really wanted to, or if I had thought this whole thing through, or if it was indeed the right thing for me to do. For most, it was the natural progression of life. You get to a certain age and you get married. Then, before you get to a certain age, you have a child. But wait, one is not enough. That child needs company, so you hurry up and have another so that there isn’t a huge age gap between the siblings and you hope they will grow up as best buddies and all your troubles will be over. No one asks you if you really want a child or if it is indeed the right choice for you. No one shows concern when you get pregnant the second time about whether the kids will indeed get along. What if they make your life a living hell? Again, just our natural way of following norms and living our lives that seem to be in par with everyone around us.

So, what happens when you follow those same norms on your own terms?
You notice how quickly people around you react drastically different to similar situations.

Are you sure you want to get married?
Shouldn’t you wait it out a bit more?
You are so social and he’s not, how will that work?
Are you sure the kids will get along?
What if they don’t?
Have you thought this through?

Oh, the irony!

It took me a long while to be able to shed my inhibitions and follow my heart. To do things that brought me simple joy, live for myself, and not be led to feel guilty for putting myself first. Through all my hardships I realized, catering to myself was the only way I could cater to others. There were so many who tried really hard to make me believe I was ruining my child’s life by carving out my own life-path. Of all the battles and stigma I have fought in my life, this was by far the hardest. And once I overcame that, life was not only beautiful, but simple. From thereon, there was no going back.

My next chapter in life is based on simplicity and love. In those two ways, me and my now husband are very similar.

From the time we met till now, “a whirlwind romance” as described by many, with all of the imperfections of blending families, we knew two things. We loved each other and wanted to continue to be who we are, together. It was as simple and real as that. And simple is beautiful. As was our wedding, with my flabby tummy with all its stretch marks that my beautiful daughter gifted me so unconditionally popping out of my beautiful wedding dress (it did take a while to get over that one), with us arguing about the kids and them driving us insane the night before the wedding, with my not-so-social now-husband staying up till the wee hours and hanging out with friends, with the wind screwing up almost everyone’s photos with hair covered faces, was the most imperfectly perfect way of coming together.

That being said, my answer to all those questions you had for me when as a mom at almost 40 I decided to marry the love of my life is, “this wedding is truly my first. It is everything I had ever dreamed of as a little girl of how love should be (read: husband cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, grocery shopping, and serving me wine in the evenings). I don’t know or care what the future holds. I want to live every day and every moment soaking in the love showered on me like I’ve never had before. I want to overcome hurdles together. I want us to take as many beach vacations as possible (does not always have to be together). As for the kids, they will figure it out, they kinda have to, right? We all did. Simple.

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Getting Married: The Retake

When you get remarried at 40 39:

  1. You tend to forget your body is no longer like it was in your 20’s and absolutely nothing you wear can make you look like the movie stars modeling outrageously priced outfits in magazines and online stores.
  2. You realize designers don’t make clothes for your size or body type anymore, no matter how many designer outfits you pin to that damned Pinterest board.
  3. Talking about Pinterest – absolutely nothing comes to fruition from your “wedding board” you had so enthusiastically started out with.
  4. Your biggest fear is that your guests will be better dressed than you.
  5. Weddings look better in Bollywood films and Facebook posts.
  6. Everyone keeps telling you how happy you finally look, like you were some sort of  advertisement for Xanax this whole time.
  7. People don’t realize the “glow” they see in you is in reality from gaining weight and not just being in love.
  8. All those people who didn’t care much about you and/or engaged in a whole bunch of gossip are all of a sudden offended for not being invited to the wedding.
  9. Your friends are more excited with your wedding than you are, because they feel the next wedding they will get to attend is that of their kids, in about 15 more years.
  10. You tell vendors it is just a “small party” so you can be cheap and not pay “wedding party” prices.
  11. You are almost ready to pass out from sticker shock and tell yourself you should have just listened to your fiancé in the first place and eloped.
  12. Just that eloping with kids makes it feel like way more work than throwing a party for a hundred.
  13. For the first time ever, desi parents ask you if you are absolutely sure you want to get married.
  14. So much shit happens all around you with kids, work, friends, and life in general, that you go back to thinking eloping thoughts again.
  15. But then you receive a card from your daughter, a hand-written poem from your childhood best friend, a blast-from-the-past gift from your cousins, snuggles from your stepson, so much love and care from your partner, and most importantly three cases of margaritas from your co-worker, and you are reminded instantly what all this is truly about.

So, let the countdown begin…

I Let You Go

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Photo credit: Memories by Michelle

I let you go
A very long time ago
So much so
That I have nothing to hold back to anymore

I close my eyes
Trying hard to rely
On memories that fail me
However hard I try

I remember though
The bedroom closet I hid behind
Tears streaming down my eyes
Trying to shut off the noise
Praying the knife
Would not penetrate the precious soul

I remember your beauty
That faded so fast
Which sits now on my bedside
In a frame
Hollow with the pain it casts

Forgive me
For I cannot be there for you now
To hold you, to comfort you
Like I needed
All those years growing up

I let you go
A very long time ago
Because deep down
That was the only thing I could control

Rants of the Overworked Single Mother

No offence to my fiancé with the “Single Mom” title, but even though I am no longer single, when it comes to daily parenting shenanigans, I still feel very much that way. (Honey, if you are reading this, you still do need to take her to gymnastics tomorrow, please.)

Take for example last night. My daughter who has been sleeping in her own bed for quite some time now, has recently decided to wake up in the middle of the nights and throw herself into my bed, actually more like throw herself right under me, so when I have to turn around, there is every chance of crushing every bone in her body. In simpler turns (I mean terms), most nights now, I am held a prisoner in the tiniest corner of MY king-sized bed. Last night was no different apart from the fact I completely lost my mind and kept waking up and yelling at her at all odd times into the night.

I think my state of mind also had something to do with the overall sleepless weekend I had. As my loving fiancé would point out yet again how I bring this upon myself, I have to say my most stressful point was not that I had five or six activities/events to be at, but an elementary school Halloween party. For a change it was not the kids who stressed me out, but their elaborate costumes made by some over-achieving parents who I am going to go on a limb here and assume have no jobs.

Before you get all judgmental thinking I am being mean, I will be the first to admit I am a wee bit jealous. Well…a whole lot jealous. There, I said it!

My daughter was lucky enough to get a costume the weekend right before Halloween, thanks to Spirit Halloween forty dollars later. She originally wanted to be a genie. I did spend a few minutes some weeks ago to look for something online, but Miss Iamfussyaboutmyclothes decided she liked none. I had already run out of patience and setting all my fears aside of being the slightest bit crafty, I offered to dig through old piles of ethnic wear and manage to make her one. I guess she was smart enough to not take me on that offer. So, when her brother’s school Halloween party descended upon us, we made a mad dash to the local costume store. After looking through the entire store, multiple times, almost 45 minutes later, she came up to me and said, “I want to be an Indian.” My momentary look of dismay had her explaining to me she liked the Native American costume the best especially since she was learning about their history at school. One Indian wanting to dress up as another Indian was good enough reason for me to pay for the costume and get the hell out of there before I lost my effing mind.

So here I am, sitting at the school, watching the kids run around in their crafty costumes and wishing I had the lives of the moms who dressed their kids as Mt. Rushmore, Regional Transit, and a tornado to name a few. While I sit there feeling jealous, my mind is running a thousand miles per hour trying to figure out what important task I am forgetting to do this week which will either have me left with no food in the fridge or something not turned in at my daughter’s school on time. Time is one luxury that seems to be failing me every single day and if I am not at work, I am in my car, driving somewhere ALL the time.

As I write this, my house is a mess, I really don’t have any food in the fridge, my clean laundry is still in the dryer to be sorted, I cannot remember what color clothing my daughter is supposed to wear for spirit week at school tomorrow, I am afraid she will leave either her homework or her musical instruments at school yet again, my hair desperately needs a color and cut, my nail polish is peeling off, my eyebrows are turning grey, and I am afraid if that girl shows up in my bed again tonight, I might just kill her.

Since this week commences my last year in my thirties, and next month marks the completion of five years of single parenthood, I think I’m going to give myself (and copious amounts of wine) credit for being crafty about one thing – making it alive and even better not having killed anyone in the process. Here’s to a Happy Halloween folks!

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“The only way mom got crafty was by tying the dreamcatcher to my hair!”

Advent of the Devi

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Mahalaya commenced last night due to the time difference between my two home countries, but I waited till the wee hours of this morning to turn it on. Memories of being woken up by my grandmother and huddling in front of the old radio was replaced with a bluetooth connected Bose speaker and the ageless voice of Birendra Krishna Bhadra streaming on Youtube. With the invocation of the goddess, begins the heart-wrenching feeling of the times left behind, the times lost, and an eagerness that I might one day be able to go back and immerse myself into one of the traditions I am so fond of.

“Mommy, can you please turn it off?” said the little voice while gulping down cereal, terribly annoyed to have been woken up to these sounds she did not quite understand. I almost choked from the utter disregard to something that was so important to me. Yet, I had to take a moment, and assess her reaction through her perspective. I probably sound the same when I ask her to switch off her TV shows with similar disregard and disdain towards their content.

What followed was an explanation to make her understand this was my holiday month, my Thanksgiving and Christmas all tied in one, and it was hers too, to learn about, to experience, to embrace. “But I am not Indian. Everyone in school thinks I am. But I was born here.”

That itself will raise a lot of eyebrows, critiques about how this is my fault that I’ve raised my girl so “American,” how I should always speak my language and force her to do the same, how with my deeds I have not taught her any Indian values, and many more. But that is a topic for another day. Today for me is about acknowledging she is indeed an American born to Indian parents. Today is about her acknowledging that I feel the same way she felt when she had to spend Christmas in India last year. Difference is, I have been feeling that way for 16 years.

I walked into a flurry of Fall decorations being put up at work this morning. While my co-workers hustled and bustled over trying to make things look perfect, I could not help but notice the excitement in their eyes, knowing they were counting down to the holidays too. We greeted each other like we do every morning, knowing very well they did not have the slightest idea regarding what this time of the year meant to me. My personal need to adapt, to blend in to a lifestyle that does not make me look or be different, to avoid conflict, but most importantly to show respect to a country that embraced me often times leads me to a place where sometimes I cannot understand if I belong. Will I ever be stopped asking if I speak Indian, make curry at home, or the expression of shock that follows by knowing I have not watched <insert a  popular 70’s Hollywood movie>, the last answer to which is often times “have you watched Sholay?”

Out of no fault of anyone, it does get annoying. But most importantly, it raises in me an unrealistic expectation that people around me learn to adapt to my life too, just like I have been adapting to theirs for years. So today is about acknowledging one of the most unique and historic festivals in the world, a month-long celebration of some of the most powerful and baddest women in Hindu mythology, a time to celebrate good over evil, a time to bask in the glory of friends and family, a time to adorn yourself in new yards of some of the world’s finest fabrics, a time to let go, sing, dance, and be merry, but most importantly, a time to hold on to my culture and my traditions in a far-away land that make me uniquely me. And that, my dear daughter, is the treasure you have of two widely different cultures colliding together and making you both American and Indian, but most importantly, uniquely you.

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The Desi Dream

I had never been academically inclined like majority of the Indians who migrate to this country. Not having a degree in engineering, medicine or any other science related field was a huge roadblock. I was constantly advised to study and take tests for admin jobs with the state of California. This, I was told would open doors for me and secure my future with solid benefits and a great pension plan. There was just one problem; I was young and restless and had absolutely no interest in doing anything I did not quite care for. Who am I kidding. I’m much older and wiser now and still won’t do a thing I don’t give a rat’s ass about. So, I decided to pursue my design career instead and spent my meager savings on out-of-state fees at a community college to brush up my graphic design skills.

This was in complete contrast to the Desi Dream in America and meant I would never be prestigious enough, earn tons of money, live in humongous homes in the best school districts, throw fancy parties, and drive fancy cars among other things.

Back in those days, if you were from India, and a woman, it was most likely you did not know how to drive. Which meant going to school in a public transport became quite the adventure in this California suburb. Most times I was not quite sure if the passengers were plain sleeping, drunk, drugged, or actually lived in that bus. This might sound terrible, but I think I was happy to know poor people existed because I had never felt poorer during my first few years of moving here. I converted everything to Rupees and was severely confused as to why nothing had a fixed price. The fact that the same bottle of shampoo was priced differently at each store I visited was mind-boggling. This meant, no matter how much research I did, there always remained the possibility I paid more. This, I believe led to the onset of stress in my previously simple life.

Little did I know that the words “simple” and “life” would soon not gel. It all started when our friends began to graduate from their two-bedroom apartment to their four-bedroom “starter homes.” Inevitably one bedroom was for the future child, a guest room for visiting family, and of course the fourth bedroom to always be converted to an “office” room. I immediately wanted all of that, including that darned “office” room because I was a poor design intern earning minimum wage and really needed an office at home to make me feel I did important work too. So we spent money we did not have to own a 2,300 sq. ft. house with a two-car garage, four bedrooms, large backyard, and yes, good elementary school. Now my parents, or their parents, and all generations above, (I guess you get my point here) had never taken a loan from any bank or living being their entire lives for anything. So the first time I had to sign a loan for 30 years, my heart almost skipped a beat. But I told myself the whitewashed walls, the new cream carpet, and my ginormous walk-in closet were all worth it. To make things sweeter, I convinced myself, like most of us do, that the house was actually an investment. Several years later I had a good laugh though my bank balance probably did not think it to be the least bit funny.

When I think about the Indian dream in this country, I notice a shift between the generations. Here I will tell you a little story to hopefully explain what I mean. Several years ago, an older couple once bought a new leather couch for their house from an outlet store. It was a great leather couch and was not cheap by any means. However it was at a discounted price than it would be at Macy’s. Two things happened right after the new couch found its new home. The couple threw a party to display their new living room and made sure everyone knew the couch was from Macy’s and bought at full price. Their friends in turn would go back and look into redoing a part of their homes with more expensive furniture from a better store and the parties would continue. My generation on the other hand loves a bargain and will boast about the deal that was found while friends will try to beat that deal by a cheaper bargain on their end. But what has changed is that these days, the competition does not end at mere furniture, but homes, cars, designer stuff and kids.

Yes, kids! A key ingredient to this Desi dream is our kids and as they grow older, which school they go to and how many extra-curricular activities they are involved in. If you thought my previous couch story was bad, this gets worse. Our kids are expected to be good at everything, especially math and piano because they are related like asthma and eczema. Bad analogy, I know. The pressure is tremendous to be enrolled in the advanced learning programs since Kindergarten to then move on to IB programs/private schools, and eventually become a doctor or an engineer while performing piano recitals or earning Indian classical dance diplomas (because we want to stay true to our roots), which later in life these over-achieving kids will never have time to pursue. Along with homes getting bigger, cars more expensive, vacations more exotic, chaotic party schedules, Michael Kors being replaced by Loui Vuittons, comes extensive resume of our kids that become key to measuring the family’s success.

Living the dream continued for me after moving into my first house followed by the path to earn more money, buying more stuff, having a baby, showing up at parties, shopping, and socializing with people I did not care about, till one day I woke up and realized I would never have enough money, I would never be good enough, my child would never be good at piano, and I was going to lose my mind if I tried to keep up with this insanity. So here I am today, falling in love instead, and dreaming that our lives are full of living in the moment, love, laughter, and an urge to be true to not only ourselves but also to those around us. As for my kiddo, my dream for her is to continue being the rock star she is now and know she can be ANYTHING in life she wants to be. Namaste!

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My utmost regard to all immigrant families who have come to this country, worked exceptionally hard and become successful in many aspects of life. This post is in no way to disregard my people and their efforts or my culture, but mere personal experiences that were and still are a part of my journey here.

Coming up…”The Desi Dilemma”

Fresh Off the Plane

Cannot believe it has now been 15 years for me living in this country. I will never forget the plane ride that brought me here, changed my life so dramatically, the look on my dad’s face as he bid me farewell at the airport, the blue track pants I wore during my journey, my hair that I cut super short (I had heard rumors about haircuts being very expensive), the guy who sat next to me, Gaurav, a total stranger who I chatted with for hours.

I was 23 and brave, and in my heart knew I would figure this out. I was going to America, to the land where dreams come true and even though I hated leaving home, I was equally excited to get my own taste of this great country I had only seen in movies or from the endless tourist videos my brother sent dad and me.

I will admit, I had never heard of Sacramento. I was surprised to hear that San Francisco nor Los Angeles were the capital of California. But then again, I was moving to the Golden State and all was good, till I embarked on my first car ride from SF airport to Sacramento. The gigantic fields, golden hills, and grazing cows with no human or high-rise in sight, thwarted my Hollywood version of big cities buzzing with people, traffic, arts, and romance.

I read the sign for Vallejo with a ‘j’ versus ‘h’ and remember being laughed at. At that moment I was shocked to realize I had been mispronouncing San Jose from the days my brother had sent dad a map of Silicon Valley, which he in turn framed and hung on his bedroom wall. It still hangs in our Kolkata flat.

As I laid my first step into my in-laws house, I was immediately reprimanded for my hair, clothes, and was given a booklet on the history of American women, asked to watch a show by this lady named Martha Stewart, and at our first dinner together, asked to learn to make spaghetti. From there on, each step was a lesson to be learned on how to seamlessly blend into the Indian population living here for years, walk the walk, talk the talk, and not be that awkward FOB Desi.

My crop tops were soon to be replaced with blouses, my pants with sarees, and every weekend I would have to adorn myself in bride-like attire and show up at homes of friends of my in-laws and compliment the home cooked food they had labored on for a whole week. I stumbled upon an entirely new world of how to cook and freeze food for 70 people, Mikasa and Noritake chinaware, and endless crystal vases, bowls and platters that were the inevitable gifts for our hosts. I was never quite sure what purpose those gifts really had, to later find out they would be recycled as future gifts to future friends such as me.

I failed miserably. I never had enough jewelry on me, or my sarees were too simple, and worst of all, I spoke my mind. I hated eating anything from the freezer and the party leftovers stuffed in Ziploc bags from the humongous aluminum trays brimming with food made me want to throw up. I did not want to go to parties, I did not want to spend money, buying gifts for people I did not know and worst of all I did not want to be someone I was not. It made me feel like I was the village idiot who was brought into civilization and now required to be taught to be a certain way so I was no longer an embarrassment to be presented to the outside world. I had traveled far and wide to know adjusting to a foreign country was hard, but I also knew it did not require you to sell your soul.

I guess all of it was not bad. I remember inviting friends over to our place for dinner one night, getting drunk, passing out, leaving my guests to clean up for the night. What can I say? That’s how I partied in my 20’s. I was thoroughly embarrassed by what I did, but I guess I was breaking the shitty mold I was thrown in to. It seemed like I had landed up in another India far away from India that existed only in pathetic television soap operas.

On the other hand I was trying to make the most of my new American life with unlimited access to a computer, Internet, and a new Juno email account. There were things I was beginning to enjoy like my walks to the library, our $5 Chinese dinner, and discovering the Blockbuster store.

For some reason in my mind, weather in America was always cold. I remember my sister-in-law mentioning to me once how coconut oil in this country was always solid. That my dear readers, is nature’s thermometer for Bengalis. We determine the weather based on the solid or liquid state of our hair oil. Little did I know, Sacramento in May is HOT. One afternoon out in the lake had turned me several shades darker. This was horrifying on levels only an Indian woman can understand, especially when you are under the impression that this glorified country is also supposed to make you fair. That is what a friend’s mom told me in her moment of shock and confusion at her first encounter with me here. I was an anomaly.

Being an anomaly was only the beginning of my journey here. It helped me venture out, find myself, learn the true essence of this country and its people, and helped me carve out a place for myself in this world.

Coming up…“The Desi Dream in America”

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My first appearance as the “bride” in Sacramento.

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My first Tahoe trip.

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My first Point Reyes trip.

The Bad Girl

The morning sun shone bright and strong
Like the day that is now by bygone
Of a little girl buying a rose
To give someone she adored
For she was told later on
It is not something that should be done

It took her years to comprehend
What it is that was actually meant
She was a girl who bought a rose
For another girl with the sole purpose
Of love….

That morning on the terrace the sun shone bright
While flocks of birds were taking flight
The little girl paced with her dad
Fighting her tears, trying not to be a bad
Bad girl.

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The Saga of the Red Saree

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The weavers probably wove their own stories into the gold threads that embroider this deep red silk cloth in hopes to adorn a beautiful bride full of love and hope. In fifteen years, these yards chose to weave their own tales that are now hidden behind its each crease and fold. The red is richer, the gold brighter, and more beautiful than ever before.

I gently take her in my arms. She feels heavy, pregnant with the weight of being with me all these years. Remembering our first night together wrapped tightly around my body, covering all its imperfections and fears to the stark contrast of being stripped and being exposed, confused and sad, mortified and angry.

I unfold her and throw her up in the air. After all this time, she finally breathes. Wonders if I want to be captive again in her twists and turns that transform my body from what it truly is, to a divine ornament for someone else, to be peeled off and disregarded again.

Not this time. Not anymore. She is her own being as am I. And as we spend an afternoon together in conversation, tears, and laughter, I realize my journey has not ended. My stories are yet to be written. To be weaved into the cloth that will now follow each curve of my body, to protect and to free what is inevitably mine.

A huge thanks to my dearest friend and amazingly talented photographer, Michelle McDaid from Memories by Michelle, for joining me in this tête-à-tête and documenting this so perfectly. What an honor to be the first person to be featured in her Butterfly Project. You can read more about it here.