Thursday, March 31, 2016

Letters to Tomorrow ~Hair, There, Everywhere

Dear Tomorrow,

vestige [ves-tij]

(Biology) a degenerate or imperfectly developed organ or structure that has little or no utility, but that in an earlier stage of the individual or preceding evolutionary forms of the organism performed a useful function. 

As cilia it performs a useful function. Heck, even pubic hair seems to protect against devastating dirt particles making their way into places I don't want them. I'll even give it to eyelashes - when they're not in my eyes, they help keep alien dust and genetically modified tobacco beetle larvae (calling Scully - are you reading this?) out of my eyes. But what really is the purpose of hair on my legs and arms? And if this hair is so purposeful, then why is there so much pressure to get rid of it all?

Hair today. Still there tomorrow.
I was 14 when I first tried to tweeze my hirsute eyebrows. The boy I then had a crush on noticed right away (much to my dual consternation and delight) - "Something's different about your eyebrows today." Immediately, I felt a pretty serious twang of guilt. No, it was more like remorse. Like I had lost a part of me that I wasn't sure I wanted to say goodbye to. The upside of my confusing feelings was that hair always, without fail, grows right back - right from the place I uprooted it from. If soil could work like follicles, we would never run out of green beans. My future boyfriend (previously mentioned crush) never cared that my skin (all over my body) had a protective layer of hair. Again, I was confused by this. Glad that he didn't care. Confused why I cared that he didn't care. I was 16 when I first waxed. It was a big coming-of-age kind of deal in which for some reason my father had as much say as anyone else. My excitement was discernible from the neighboring city. I changed into the "gown" the salon gave me and they shuffled me off into one of the many dimly lit stalls with one gurney-style bed and a solitary table topped with a bowl of hot wax, a few callously arranged strips, and enough charm to make a nightmare seem inviting. I laid down on the cold blue plastic covering of the bed with dwindling excitement and awaited my fate. What followed was a movie that replayed every single time I went to get waxed. Soon after the opening scene I painted for you, our lead antagonist walks in to inform the protagonist - me - that she, alas, doesn't have enough wax strips for the humongous quantity of hair sprouting from all my orifices and spanning the entire expanse of my body. I hope very much that the vermillion heat in my face is hidden by the poor lighting of the room. She then returns armed with more wax strips and (behold!) a companion to assist her in the herculean task of ridding my body of its pilose carpet to reveal the smooth hardwood floors that lie dormant below. At some point they have to leave the room to giggle about how much I'm tearing up with every ssstrip of the wax strip. Sometimes, one of them is kind enough to bring me some kleenex. With every snap of the strip, I feel less whole. I feel stripped off of my courage to be who I am. After the process, I feel absolutely no delight promised by hair-removal advertisements while running my hands over my red, naked, and stinging legs. 

It's hairy business.
In case you don't notice right away, I'm a brown-skinned, dark brown-haired desi ciswoman. I am grateful to the US for a lot of things, among that list is the lack of pressure (in contrast to my Indian cultural counterpart) to get rid of arm hair. I couldn't afford waxing as a graduate student and didn't want to deal with the prickly wiry sprouts that would turn up to claim their rightful land within a few days of shaving. So I just let them be. Colorado's winters (read: long sleeves) helped hide my hairy arms. That dealt with arms. One woman I knew as a graduate student, showed me her legs once and I noticed in the blonde bushiness that layered her skin that she hadn't shaved in years. I was inspired. I would try to not shave. I did it for a number of years. I would walk around in shorts, skirts, and dresses with my dark brown hair adding a few extra shades of brown to my skin. I met another woman in Berkeley who caught sight of my hairy legs one day and suggested I strongly consider either covering them up or getting that hair lasered out permanently. I went home that day and researched laser hair removal. I couldn't justify spending that kind of money on something I didn't fully believe in - that women have to be hairless. I still felt like a hypocrite for researching the possibility. On a trip back to India, another woman gawked at my arms nearly shouting, "Oh no! You forgot to wax your arms!" Nope, I didn't forget. 

Hair, there, everywhere.
So while my arms and legs were living out various stages of metamorphosis, my facial hair was being subjected to lab-like experiments with the help of many scientific tools: hair-removal cream. Tweezing. Shaving. Waxing. Threading. Trimming. Bleach is as yet an untested variable. As painful as some of these were (while getting threaded, I feel like someone is taking a serrated knife and mistaking the skin around my eyes for a tomato), they don't compare to the things I heard while holding my eyebrows taut or rolling my tongue tightly against my upper lip to tighten and aid threading. 

"You shouldn't have waited so long to come back." 
"I got them to shape, now you need to come back here every week to maintain the shape."
"Stop crying. It's hurting because you're so hairy and you waited so long to get them done."
"Gosh! You have terrible skin! Have you considered ___insert-uninvited-suggestion___?"
"Do you want to wax the rest of your face? You'll look so much prettier if you do."
"Ah! Don't you feel lighter getting rid of all that hairy weight? You sure look lighter."
"You've become fat."
"You're not as thin as you used to be."
"When you don't do your eyebrows, it makes your face look fatter."
"Let me get rid of this weird hair line you have. It's really ugly."
"Wow! It would be so much easier to thread if you didn't have so much acne."

It took about 5 years of repeatedly hearing these messages until I realized I didn't have to give a hair about what people, especially people I was paying to cause me pain in a salon, thought of me. On my wedding day, my aunt said she'd never waxed or threaded her eyebrows. I just thought, "You're lucky you're not hairy." My mother is not hairy. Neither is my sister. I think I could grow a beard if I let myself. Recently I am relocating some of my misplaced courage to be myself. It might be a little heretic by some cultural standards, but I think we'll all survive and the world will spin just fine even if it's a slightly hairier place. 

I dread locks.
I fear being locked in stereotypical heteronormative -ist boxes. So every few years I succumb to the urge of rejecting feminine associations with long hair and chop off my head-hair. I have gone through many cycles of not shaving and being my whole hairy self. I always find it amusing how blonde white women or men tell me, "Oh, it's not a big deal. Just don't shave." Well, it's different when instead of looking like a smooth cozy carpet of luscious blonde, your leg looks like someone forgot to vacuum leftover brown colored confetti from the dance floor. Or when you aren't judged by the quantity of your facial hair.

Hairbrained Ideas. Or are they?
When I bring a child to this world, when you are here, Tomorrow, I want to be prepared (among a gazillion other things that I will of course try and fail at being prepared) to answer the question, "Ma, why are you doing that to your eyebrows?" or "Why do your eyebrows look different from that other woman's?" I don't have an answer today. But maybe some day, maybe Tomorrow, I will.

Hairrowed but still lovingly,


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Letters to Tomorrow ~ Each Little Drop

I watched with intrigue,
Each drop, as it fell,
Caressing the landscape of its path,
Swallowing each littler drop on the way.
Gravity, slowly prevailing.
Hastily, they plunge downward.
Running toward what?
Rushing from whom?

Each drop gathering others,
Gathering momentum,
Till it can hold no more.
And in shedding a part of itself,
A little dew from its whole,
It lightens enough to grow strong again.
Whole again.
After letting go that which
Pulled it down,
To icy puddles of grays.
Puddles that drink them alive
Into bogs of homogeneity.

I can't find that first drop.
It's either drowning in the puddle,
Or holding on for a quick ride
On my windshield wipers.
Either way it was just a little drop,
And it came all the way to my car,
From some distant unknowing ocean.

Dear Tomorrow,

It snowed today. Rain slowly turned into fat fluffy flakes that seemed to disintegrate into delicate delicious drops, the instant they kissed the hot concrete. Rainy days are my favorite, especially because they represent a reprieve from smoldering summer days of my childhood. Rainy days are rare here in dry Colorado, so I treated myself to hot chai and samosas. Somehow nothing feels more perfect to chew on and hold a steaming mug of while dancing to the pitter-patter music those elusive drops make. Today's noisy rain quickly turned into a silent movie-like shower of soft cottony snowflakes. The kind that just make me want to stick my tongue out and let their cold edges fall gracefully and tastelessly into my playful mouth. I decided to drive into the hills to watch the snow fall from a higher point between errands. I parked my car at the edge of a hill, gazing at a deer family skittishly grazing on cold spring grass, and zooming out to focus on the drops of ice and snow dancing on my windshield. I watched each little drop become bigger - from something so small to a monumental cluster. Only to wither away. And there was so much poetry in it. 

I can't wait to go on gazing adventures with you.



Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Letters to Tomorrow ~ Still Celebrating

Dear Tomorrow,

Today we had a lot to celebrate. We continued Dan's celebrations (remember how I shared how big a deal and elongated our celebrations are?) for his birthday and taking each moment at a time. Today, I got to share my day with Dan's mom and enjoyed the rain as it fell slowly and steadily turning puddles into dancing mirrors and tulips to closed treasures.

I hope you too will find many reasons to celebrate each and every day.



Monday, March 28, 2016

Letters to Tomorrow ~ Solo Picnics

Dear Tomorrow,
Our world is every changing. We don't have enough time to do all the things we need to and want to, let alone enough time to be. Over-working is overrated and being busy is considered a virtue. It was a hard transition for me coming from an Indian experience that allowed me to live and be in the moment rather than rushing to the next stop. I acknowledge my privilege allowed me to be cushioned from not rushing to make the next salary, to feed the next mouth, to pay the next bill. But even people who don't have that need here in the US, and now increasingly around the world, are rushing everywhere, all the time. I don't know to what and I'm not sure why.
I've worked at jobs where there is a trend to brag about how much work happened on the weekend or how many "things" were squeezed in to feel productive. Meandering, being, self-care, caring for others is sometimes considered unproductive, lazy, and useless.
I never felt that as intensely as I have in the US. It is an innovative place filled with creative problem-solvers and change-makers. But it is also a leader in a culture of glorifying "busyness" and work. It's days like today that help center me in a world that feels like a treadmill moving at 20 miles per hour.
Taking time to just be, soak up the sun, notice the changing tulip petals with the ironic backdrop of snow drafts, and sending a thanks for the privilege of slowing down a breath in an out-of-breath world.

Letters to Tomorrow ~ Flying High

Dear Tomorrow,

Today was our last day in Wisconsin celebrating two special people and the legacy they created. It rained over the beautiful river we neighbored and we spent the day saying our goodbyes and giving and getting hugs. There was a lot to celebrate and I feel grateful to have been able to celebrate and be part of such a loving and incredible family.


Sunday, March 27, 2016

Letters to Tomorrow ~ La Familia

Dear Tomorrow,

Families are fun, families are quirky
Some families have a little funky

Families are kind, families are loving
Some families eat together at Thanksgiving

Families are sweet, families are caring
Some families can also be annoying

Families are joyful, families are silly
Some families are like a rhyming simile

Families are supportive, families are there
Some families find ways to show they care

Families are numerous, families are rare
When you need them, families are there

I hope one day you will have a family to call yours
Yours to love, care for, be loved by, and adore



Letters to Tomorrow ~ Birthdays are a big deal

Dear Tomorrow,

It's not everyday that my very own Winnie the Pooh turns 29! Today, began in many different time zones. You will come into a family that takes birthdays very very seriously! I have met many people who don't care much for birthdays, but I truly think that every single day we get to be alive is a big deal. Actually, I won't speak for everyone, for me - every single day I get on this planet is a very big deal. The day we are born is a milestone that we randomly accord importance to every 365 (or 366) days, but it's an important one. So many around the world don't even get a chance at that. Life is a privilege. Many concern themselves with the life after or life later or life in eternity. But while we're here, it makes me sad that so many don't make the best of this one. This one is the one we all get to co-exist in; and in the next one or the after-one, we all may not make it - some may not accompany us in our version of nothingness, heaven, नर्क, reincarnation, purgatory - depending on our beliefs. But I hope that while we share paths in this life, we get to be kind, loving, and caring - no matter what happens at the end of this life.

Every single year that we continue to be - is a privilege, a gift, and a beautiful thing. Every year, every day, every moment that Dan has been here has been a gift to those around him, and I am pretty darn happy that I get to be one of them. When you get to be from different parts of the world, you get to celebrate a very long birthday and for someone who likes birthdays - it's a fun thing to have such a long birthday. 

Today was extra super special because we got to be back in Wisconsin celebrating Dan where his story began and celebrated with his whole family. This Pooh bear turned 29 and it's a pretty big deal.

I wish you many many years - you deserve it - you'll be a pretty big deal to someone(s).



Thursday, March 24, 2016

Letters to Tomorrow ~ Being Alive

Dear Tomorrow,

Celebrating my sweet Dan with sweetness and snow!
Today, we celebrated Grandma and Grandpa’s 60th wedding anniversary! Sixty years!! Snow came following us from Colorado and we got to enjoy some rain right before it turned icy. We also go to see Dan’s old family friends and visit some historic sites in Delavan! So much history and so much love everywhere. I love seeing things from our past. They remind me just how small I am. I love watching mountains and rivers for the same reason – they were here long before I was, and will be long after me. My arrival and departure made and will make absolutely no difference to these monumental beings.
Celebrating the G's!
The Delavan Art Tour!
Today, I had many moments filled with gratitude, wonder, and peace. These moments are rare. Some days it’s so easy to see how much life there is all around us, and on others, I struggle to take in all this beauty that’s always been there. It’s on difficult days like those, that I will remember today. I noticed more of my own self changing and growing, and today, as Dan’s birthday began in many parts of the world and the G’s celebrated 60 years, I felt so alive, so grateful, and so lucky.

Wishing you many days like today.




Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Letters to Tomorrow ~ Wishes for Tomorrow

Dear Tomorrow,

Moonbeam and Sunshine!
Today, I have some wishes for you. Today, we got to see Mary, Mom’s old friend, and after all the years that Mom has known this wonderful person, it’s so special to see their relationship almost just as it used to be! Her sense of life and humor are contagious and it’s so wonderful to be around that. Then we got to spend time with Uncle Scott, who’s love for life and generous joy bring warmth! In the evening, we celebrated Dad’s birthday. It was a rainy day, but all the laughter and memories held enough metaphorical sunshine for me. I love watching and being around Grandma and Grandpa. I love seeing their love and experiencing their legacy. It’s really something to see a couple after 60 years (minus 1 day) and be a part of their loving family.

Happy Birthday, Dad!!

So, Tomorrow, I have some wishes for you.

I wish that…
When life becomes tighter than a gnat’s butt,
and I might be dipped in weasel snot when it’s hotter,
I hope I will have a big enough gut,
to stomach buttered kumquats and rainwater!

I wish that…
When I’ve got a hand like a foot,
I have the sense to know,
it’s no good cob crushing, all goes kaput,
and there’s a methane buildup that could blow!

I wish that…
Life is a pot licker,
like rolling balls on a grapefruit,
that when I encounter a rotten leaker,
I know to tell them the truth!

I wish that…
I could sometimes be honest and real,
and tell it like it is,
“May the fleas of a 1,000 camels,
infest in your armpits!”

There’s so much wisdom,
hiding in each saying.
In addition to the wisdom,
there's entertainment during card playing!