Oct 22, 2008

I must away!

This Friday I will be flying out to Los Angeles for a conference. I am super excited - I'll get to visit with my grad school classmates, say hello to my friend Alli's pregnant belly, and hang with my freshman roommate. Plus, work pays for everything and I don't have to use up my precious, precious leave. Wistar has kindly agreed to bunny-sit Gilda, my flight was booked ages ago and my hotel accommodations are finally settled. But I can't shake the feeling that I'm forgetting something...

Oh, right. I haven't packed.

Packing/unpacking are not my strong suits. When my parents came to pick me up after graduation (from both college and grad school), they found that I had packed a box and half before giving up. I still had unwashed laundry and hadn't even unplugged my computer. I moved into my current residence over two years ago and I still have unpacked boxes. After the first few months I figured that if I hadn't used what was in there by now I'd never really need it. Also, I'm extremely lazy.

My family has sent me a couple none-too-subtle hints to get my packing act together. I received a lovely suitcase set from my mother on my last birthday. My father enjoys giving me ugly purses with thousands of pockets. For the winter holidays, my brother made me a toiletry kit that could be taken in a carry-on (clear plastic, with less than 4 oz bottles for shampoo and whatnot). I appreciate their efforts ... but the suitcases are full of clothes from their last trip, the purses get tossed to the back of the closet, and the carefully-assembled toiletry kit has been scattered to the wind.

When I am fabulously rich and an international jet-setter, I will need fully-furnished houses on every continent. That way I can toss some cookies in my purse and fly out at a moment's notice. I'd never own a suitcase again.

Oct 15, 2008

Even More Lessons from the Family Sri

Lesson Six: Generosity

Mom: How many bags of spicy popcorn can I give you? Five?
Me: Sure.
Mom: If you say five, I will give you six.
Me: Uh, okay. "Five."
Mom: Okay.

When I got home, I had eight bags of popcorn.

This is part of Indian hospitality, to give more than is asked. The Tamil word for "enough," pothum, actually means, "I have to tell you to stop serving me now, so you'll only give me a little bit more." And if your hostess thinks you're not eating enough, be prepared for a sneak attack.

But I wonder if there isn't a deeper meaning for my mother. In our house, food has become the physical representation for her love. She demonstrates real anxiety when we're not stuffed after a hot, homemade meal. She bemoans my cooking skills (read: lack thereof) - if I can't make dinner, how can I show my (hypothetical) husband and children that I care?

When my mother was growing up and her family didn't have enough food for all ten children, the older siblings would give back their portions. "I'm not hungry," they would shout over the growling of their empty stomachs. "Give my portion to someone else." I cannot imagine the sadness and pride my grandmother must have felt, redistributing those meager meals. And all the while the girl who would become my mother was thinking,

Never again

Oct 7, 2008

An Open Letter to the Republican Ticket

Dear Senator McCain and Governor Palin,

I see what you're doing. You trying to introduce the words "Obama" and "terrorist" into the same news cycle. You're hoping Fox News will start showing pictures of al-Qaeda and "accidentally" saying that Senator Obama is Muslim. You're trying to label him as "angry" and "dangerous." And you're counting on the fact that, in the privacy of our own voting booths, we Americans are quietly racist.

We're better than that. Stop it.

No Love,


Last night my friend Melissa and I went to see David Sedaris in Richmond. Ever the contemporary commentator, he peppered his usual slice-of-hilarious-life stories with bits of political humor. Beyond speculating whether each of the candidates was circumcised (I made sure to thank him for those disturbing images), he reported what fans had discussed with him at numerous book-signings. "America will never elect a black president," one midwesterner told him. "Maybe," he replied. "But half of America will elect a half-black president." Thunderous applause.

Is it weird that I want to be a tiny gay man when I grow up?

The thing is, I don't see Senator Obama as black. I see him as a level-headed, comparatively young Senator with a gift for oratory, who happens to be black (or half-black, as the case may be). Just as I see McCain as a hot-tempered, comparatively old Senator who doesn't share my values, and who happens to be white. I won't say that race isn't an issue for me in this election. It just comes at the bottom of my list, after the wars, health care, global warming, the economy, choice of running mate, fashion sense, favorite color, and soup vs salad preference. And I don't think I'm alone.


P.S. It's not OK to try to capitalize on prejudice, even - no, especially to win an election. Shame on you.

Oct 6, 2008

I heart my doctor

I was feeling a little under the weather the other day, so I went to my internist. He's a young guy who peppers his exam questions with chit chat (obviously meant to build a rapport, but to hilarious effect). "Any coughing? Are you coughing up anything? Are you still working in that ultrasound clinic? How do you like it? Any nausea?" Also, he handed me a prescription with someone else's name at the top.

Me: Who's Jane Doe?
Him: Oops, that's someone I was writing a prescription of {medication} for, and then didn't.
Me: Um... HIPPA violation, much?
Him: Oh. *nervous chuckle*

These gaffes might turn other people off, but I just find them endearing. I know how hard it is to talk to patients, so I can really relate to my doctor when he mucks it up. Plus, it's easier for me to like a doctor who's not also my boss.


In unrelated news, REGISTER TO VOTE! Today's the last day!

Oct 2, 2008

No, you may not call me "Joe."

Palin held her own tonight. Biden was better, but Palin did not live up to her train wreck of a reputation. After the VP debates tonight, I'm sure the questions about her credibility will subside ... somewhat. She's still not ready to hold national office.

My major problem is that she talks like a girl from my high school. Not any specific person, she just sounds like someone sitting in College Prep Government, talking to us "straight up" and telling us that John McCain is "right on!" When using present participles, she drops the 'g.' She throws around terms like Second Holocaust with no sense of gravitas, and she actually thinks that the war in Iraq is about Defending Democracy. She doesn't stumble over the names of foreign (and domestic) leaders - she tramples them. When she doesn't like or understand a question, she retreats to her happy place - Alaska. And the more flustered she becomes, the more folksy her speech patterns - "Doggone it, say it ain't so! *wink*"

It's not fair. She's a political light-weight, a decorative bit of fluff on John McCain's sleeve. But she gets to meet Gwen Ifill and Joe Biden, Henry Kissinger and Manmohan Singh. She may come closer to leading this country than I ever will. Just like all those other girls from high school, she'll get ahead by being pretty.

Bridesmaid Bootcamp

By popular demand, my latest Toastmasters speech. This was speech #4, "How to Say It."


Your best friend comes to you with stars in her eyes and a spring in her step. She flashes you a bright smile and a brand new diamond ring. “I’m getting married,” she squeals. “And I want you to be my maid of honor!” Don’t answer just yet! Take a moment to think. Being a bridesmaid is more than buying a dress and standing up during the “I Dos.” Your friend (or sister, or cousin, or college roommate) is charging you with a sacred duty. If you accept, it will be your job to make sure her Special Day stays “special.” Are you up for the challenge?

First, you’ll need a uniform. If you’re lucky, you’ll end up with a reasonably attractive dress. “You can totally wear this again,” your friend the bride will say. You will never wear this dress again. If you’re unlucky, or your so-called friend is particularly cruel, you’ll end up with an organza monstrosity that makes you look like you’re colorblind and on the way to the prom … in 1984. Regardless, you will also need a regulation haircut, make-up and accessories. And while it may seem like wearing flip flops beneath your floor-length gown could not possibly ruin your friend’s marriage, trust me on this one. It can, and it does.

Now, you’re all outfitted and the wedding is still months away. It’s time to kick back, relax, and wait for the nuptials, right? Wrong! It’s time to plan your friend’s bridal shower. The bridal shower is an exciting opportunity for female friends and family to shower the bride with even more gifts. You, as the bridesmaid, will be in charge of keeping track of who sent which gift so that the bride can (eventually) write thank-you notes. You will also be forced to play inane party games, like Tissue Bride – an excuse for the bride’s younger sisters to wrap you in toilet paper. This humiliation is nothing compared to the dangers you face if the bride should also demand a bachelorette party. You will drink. You will dance. You will make sure the bride doesn’t do anything that will lead to an annulment.

Let’s assume you survive the shower and the bachelorette party, and make it to the Big Day. It's time to rally the troops. You'll have ushers and groomsmen, who often have been given no further direction than "show up." You'll also have junior bridesmaids, flower girls and ring bearers; a passel of children who may or may not decide to behave. It's important to realize that everyone in the wedding party - including the groom - is merely window dressing for the bride. Once everyone accepts their role as scenery, things will go a lot smoother. The bride and her groom will come together before family and friends and declare their undying love for one another. The music swells, the couple kisses, everyone cries. The end? Not hardly.

The reception. In many ways this is the most arduous task of the bridesmaid. It is a new tradition for bridesmaids to "get the dance floor going." You will be expected to step into a big open space in front of a group of strangers and begin dancing like a fool. Typically the bride will have selected songs out of nostalgia, music that was popular when she was growing up. This will cause you to flashback to every awkward middle school social you ever attended. You will begin to sweat appropriately. The point is not, as you might think, to look good. Good dancing intimidates people. The point is to look like you're having fun - even if inside, a part of you is dying. This will encourage other wedding guests to brave the floor with you. Only when you are surrounding by a dozen aunts and uncles doing a colorful rendition of the Macarena will you be allowed to duck away for a piece of cake.

Halfway through the reception, you will be tempted to call it a night. You've done your part, and your friends seems happy. But there is one odious tradition left ... the bouquet toss. You'll have to herd all the single women onto the dance floor, and suffer in silence as overeager cousins jostle you for position. You may end up catching the darn thing, at which point you hope against hope that your friend the bride has not scheduled a garter toss. If she has, you may have to endure being pawed at by a drunk uncle who caught the garter, as he slips the used lingerie onto your leg. But all of these trials - the dress, the shower, the wedding and reception - pale in comparison to what you'll face if you try to leave with the bouquet in hand. Inevitably, you will be stopped by an older relative, who will pinch your cheek and say,

"You'll be next!"

Oct 1, 2008

September at TV Sluts

This past month I've intentionally posted nothing but politics. But let me remind you I also write for a TV blog, which has so far remained free of campaign coverage. This may change after the Vice Presidential debate, which has the potential to be hi-larious. Anyway, here are my most recent entries:
Asian Persuasion (Samurai Girl, 9/22/08)
The real villain is Sendhil's hairstylist (Heroes, 9/23/08)
Appointment TV - can I get a rain check? (9/25/08)
The Mentalist - it's like deja vu all over again (9/26/08)
Number one in the 'hood, G. (Aqua Teen Hunger Force, 9/29/08)
Pushing Daisies: Back for Seconds (9/30/08)