Weekend Links

Friday, February 27, 2009

This is one stigma I will never have to deal with: One mom on how she feels ostracized for still nursing her toddler.

Take solace: Money problems makes your marriage stronger. But maybe not if you are a Facebook junkie.

Check out the coolest rattles I've seen in a long time--perhaps this time around my child will prefer modern minimalism to glaring lights? Right?

Re-create Freida Pinto's makeup look--a step by step guide.

The latest "why didn't I think of this" product: Cliffs Notes for all the parenting books out there--on everything from sleep-training to healthy eating to sibling rivalry.

And this one might make you cry: A nine year old little girl dying of cancer has a list wish to "marry" her 7 year old sweetheart.

Have a great weekend!

Brown Girls: The Post-Slumdog World

Thursday, February 26, 2009



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Starting in March, "Brown Girls" will be published bi-monthly in India Currents--be sure to check out the debut in the March 2009 issue of the magazine.

Tasty Reading

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

In case you missed it: I can't cook. I am a master at assembling: Caprese skewers? Phyllo cups with feta and mushrooms? I'm your girl. But actual cooking--like involving heat and pots? And the "stove"? Not so much. (Much to my husband's prevailing chagrin--maybe one day S...!)

I can read though. Pretty well some say! And I love to do it. For whatever reason, I enjoy reading books about food even though I have no desire to make any of it. Perhaps it's aspirational, I don't know. I also enjoy Top Chef for what it's worth (though Bravo could make a reality show about dog walkers and I would probably be into it...)

But I digress. I know this is weird but I tend to read even more when I am the busiest--like now when the new one is constantly demanding milk and the other two are...well...still constantly demanding something or the other. Reading is a release, a few minutes of time for myself that doesn't involve a trip to the spa that I don't have time to take, or a lunch out with friends that (again) I don't have time to take...! So, I asked around for some reading material to get me through--yes--this nursing period.

These books come with highest recommendation from friends who can cook, cannot cook, and choose not to cook alike:

Entertaining Disasters: A Novel (with Recipes), by Nancy Spiller. According to my friend N, the dinner parties in this book are exactly the kind you always wish you could attend--full of drama, sprinkled with wit, and bursting with big personality.

The Big Skinny: How I Changed My Fattitude, by Carol Lay. A graphic-style memoir about cartoonist Lay's weight-loss strategies. This book is one part self-help but, more up my alley, one part cultural commentary--my friend S says that I will laugh out loud while nursing and I told her that if it disrupts the baby she is in big trouble.

The School of Essential Ingredients, by Erica Bauermeister. According to my friend E, this novel about a cooking class is really the story of 8 students, how their lives intersect, and how their personal journeys dovetail with the food they learn to make. "High concept enough for you to read without hiding an embarrassing cover on the Bart," E says--she knows me well.

Cooking and Screaming: Finding My Own Recipe for Recovery, by Adrienne Kane. This memoir about how Kane found her calling in the kitchen after suffering a paralyzing stroke at age 21 will supposedly "inspire you with the reminder that all you have to do to start doing what you want is do it," according to my friend S. Yea, that and be done with nursing...!

All these books include recipes intertwined with the narratives--I'll let you know if I develop some sort of cooking bug after I've read these. But please don't hold your breath...!

In Focus: Lisa Raja, Iniam Boutique

Tuesday, February 24, 2009
You know that girl? The one who is effortlessly stylish? Who walks around town looking like really great light is always following her, has children who eat vegetables, knows people to call if she wants to make a custom dress? Yea. That one. Even she has nothing on Lisa Raja, the chic mother of two and owner of Iniam, an upscale clothing boutique in Oakland, California.

Iniam--Lisa's maiden name spelled backwards--is a one-stop destination for fabulous contemporary style. Lisa's well-edited selection of on-trend labels makes you feel like you are getting the best choices of everything that is available in department stores and online, with the added bonus of some seriously sophisticated customer service. Lisa and her staff will tell you when the coat you loved on the mannequin isn't doing justice to your curves, or that the skinny jeans you picked might be a little bit too skinny. She also will somehow magically produce the perfect shoes, necklace, earrings to go with absolutely anything you show her--and she will always, always keep your price-point in mind.

To boot, the girl is an amazing mother. She somehow manages to full-time parent her 2 1/2 year old, nurse her 4 month old round-the-clock, and run Iniam--from the buying, to the storefront, to the finances--full time.

In the interest of full disclosure, Lisa is a good friend of mine. I am still trying to figure out how she has that good lighting wherever she goes (and how she got her 2 1/2 year old to eat vegetables, for that matter...). One day she will let me in on her secrets.

So many women talk about opening a boutique: How did you actually make it happen?

I had been itching for so long to do it. It had taken ears for me to finally quit my job and take the plunge. I wasn't scared of the risk, it was just finding the right time to do it. My dad was my biggest supporter and really gave me the extra boost to go for it.

It's an untraditional career, especially for an Indian. Did you meet resistance from your family?

My parents never pushed me to do any particular career. I'm sure they would have loved it if I had become a doctor but they wanted us to pick careers we were happy about. At my University, fashion design was under the school of natural science. Taking chemistry classes was a requirement because we were expected to learn the chemical makeup of the textiles. Of course that scared me off--and I didn't pursue what I should have. It took ten years for things to come full circle for me.

What's the hardest thing about being a boutique owner?

I know it seems so glamorous on the outside and I wouldn't trade it for a minute. But all the budgeting and financial work can become very tedious. It's the biggest part of the business; running and analyzing reports is a huge part of my work.

And the best thing about being a boutique owner?

Is it terrible to say the clothes?! Ha! That is definitely a perk, but the best thing, at this point of my life ,is the flexibility it has offered me and my children. It's because of Iniam that I am able to be with my kids as much as I am. Beyond that I have met and made friends with so many talented and wonderful people! With all the ups and downs, this has been one of the best experiences of my life and I can only hope it continues to remain so.

What about your children makes you laugh?

What doesn't make me laugh? I have two boys. The eldest is 2 1/2 and pretty much everything he does makes me laugh. The latest segment in his comedy act goes like this: “Mumma, let’s talk about it! If you do poo poo in the potty, you get ice cream?” My second child is 4 months and is just sweet and cuddly. It's nice because the oldest won't sit still for a second.

What's your favorite family ritual?

Saturday mornings. My husband and I get coffees, my eldest grabs a chocolate milk, and we all head to Noah's for bagels. Simple, but great.

Most frazzled mom moment?

Oh my god, are there moms out there that have non-frazzled moments?? All of mine are frazzled.

What do you wake up in the middle of the night thinking about?

I often wonder and hope that I'm raising my kids right. There are so many books and methods on how to raise kids. Before I had my children, I thought about all the things I would and would not do so that they would grow up "perfect." There are so many things to think about: Organic versus non-organic, daycare versus Montessori, time out versus spaking. The list could go on forever I pray that I will make the right decisions in raising them...

Do you worry about raising your kids to be "Indian" or with "Indian values"?

I never really thought about it as two separate things. I want my kids to refer to being Indian because of their Indian values. I am already a diluted version of my parents and their history/heritage. My kids will be far more diluted. It's not enough for me to say I am Indian because of being born into a family who's grandparents and forefathers came from India. I feel that today in the multicultural country we live in it's those values, tradition, religion that really allow us to refer to ourselves as "Indian."

How do you try to inject Indian culture into your kids' lives?

I guess every little bit helps. I make every effort to teach them about religion and prayers. I sing them Indian lullabies, we eat Indian food, and between the grandparents and my husband and I, we try speaking in as much Hindi and Gujarati as possible. I will make every effort to celebrate holidays such as Diwali etc. I must say that here in the Bay Area, I have found to it to be very difficult to give them the culture I had growing up. Of course my mother was the conduit for Indian religion and culture in our home when I was growing up, but there were also so many mundirs and social Indian functions and gatherings. On top of that, we traveled back to India every summer to see family. It is something that I often worry and wonder about.


What do you wish you had done before you had kids?

I really wish my husband and I had more time to travel. We took on a lot of big projects right after we got married and flew right through the "honeymoon" stage. I wish we enjoyed being more carefee. I wouldn't trade my kids for anything but I would have loved to have had more time with my husband, just exploring the world.


What's your:

-Guilty pleasure?


Dessert. Multiple times a day!

-Ideal get-away?

Ideally I would like to visit one of those health farms in India where ou eat fruits all day and then enjoy yoga/meditation, body massages, scalp massages and body wraps. In between all the pampering I would sleep or read.

-Favorite clothing item?

Right now I'm obsessed with my Gryphon trench coat. It has a faux fur trim. It has been cold and gloomy in the Bay--the perfect excuse to wear it all the time.

-Chocolate or cheese?

Please, both.


What's the biggest mistake women make when buying new clothes?

I often hear my friends and customers say they bought something because they got a great deal on it. It wasn't necessarily something thy loved or that filled a void in their wardrobe. Those items usually end up buried in teh back of their closet.

Any specific issues you see in Indian women and how we dress?

In general, I feel that Indian women don't take as many risks with their style. we tend to stay a bit more conservative.

Do you have 5 key pieces?

1. SKINNY JEANS

2. TUNICS

3. WHITE BLOUSE/WHITE TSHIRT

4. BLACK WIDE LEG PANTS

5. LONG DRESS

6. BONUS – JEWELRY. LONG LAYERING NECKLACES AND I LOVE FUN COCKTAIL RINGS

Where to scrimp and where to splurge in this economy?

In my opinion, if you spend a little extra on a nice handbag and shoes you can fudge everything in between.

When in doubt, put on a___________.

DRESS. It's a complete outfit. You don't have to worry about coordinating pieces. Throw it on and you're done. Especially if it's a solid color dress--then you can keep reinventing it with heels, boots or flats. Add some sensational jewelry and change the dress from a day to night look. Most importantly: Learn how to dress for your body.

What are the trends for this season you're most excited about:

1. METALLICS - Add a little something to anything you wear.

2. NUDE COLOR PALETTE – I find clothing in the natural/nude tones soft and romantic.

3. SHEER FABRICS – The best way to feel sexy without having to have it all out there.

4. BLACK ON WHITE PRINT – What's not to like about black & white!

5. GREAT ACCESSORIES –A girl can never have enough. It's the easiest way to change your look without changing your outfit.

What's in your purse right now?


*wallet
*makeup bag
*checkbook
*half eaten banana
*tangerine
*1 unused breast pad (glamorous!)
*pen
*headband
*3 hair clips and 2 rubberbands

What's something somebody who met you now would be surprised to learn about you before you were married/a mom?

Now that I am a mom, it's hard to do things on a whim. Everything has to have a plan and even then I seem to be late or a little off the mark. Before I was married, I had this inclination to move away from my home in Houston. I traveled and studied away from home, but I always came back to Houston. I needed to leave so I could spread my wings so of speak. So I did. I packed my bags and shipped my car to San Francisco. The crazy thing was I didn't have a job and I didn't have friends to lean on. I stayed with a friend of a friend and 5 days later I found a room on craigslist . I took a bunch of temporary jobs till I found a real one. A few months later I met my husband and BAM...here I am.

If you could have one magical power what would it be?

I wish I had fairy dust to sprinkle on my kids so that they would both sleep through the night AND in their own beds!

If you weren't a boutique owner, what would you be doing?

I would definitely be in this field somewhere and would love to do some combination of the following:
1.Design and produce a clothing line.
2.Freelance as a consultant that helped young retail businesses thrive.
3.Manage a boutique that had 3 to5 stores in which I would do the buying/merchandising.

What's new for Iniam in 2009?

Obviously we are aware of the economy and we understand that everyone is tightening pursestrings. We hope to continue helping our customers feel confident and taken care of, within their budgets. We've also re-launched our website and our blog--we would love to hear from your readers, and are always happy to answer any style questions or dilemmas!

Iniam is located at 5902 College Avenue, in Oakland, California. Lisa is happy to field any questions you guys have on all things style so feel free to ask her about everything from skinny jeans to how to find that perfect mom-on-the-go outfit in the comments section, or on the iniam blog.

Booby Trapped

Monday, February 23, 2009

Nursing didn't come easy to me the first time around. Or the second. Here I am, round three and: Lo and behold, a minor miracle, it isn't as bad as before...! Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the whole practice or in line with the idea that breastfeeding is this whole wonderful bonding experience...but I'll take it. Basically I am glad that (TMI to follow this parenthetical) my breasts are not oozing blood this time around, so...

But still--no matter how much "easier" it is, relatively, than before, it is still mind-boggling to me how much time I will spend doing it. Most of you know the drill: For the next few months, I will nurse this little baby every 3 hours, for an average of 30 minutes at a time. Not to belabor the point but think about it--that means if I do one feeding at, say, noon; by the time I am done it is 12:30; by the time she is burped, diapered etc., is is likely closer to 1. Then--two hours later, at the most, it is time to do it again. And there is no rest for the weary: No recession is going to impact this 24-hour-a-day job.

I have friends who look back on nursing with pie-eyes and memories of hour after hour of blissfully gazing at their newborn, imagining who she will become, how she will grow up, what their lives will be like as she grows. For whatever reason that has never been me. Even this time around, with the knowledge that such behavior is possible, I can focus on those sorts of thoughts for a maximum--an absolute maximum--of about 32 seconds. That leaves approximately 29 minutes and 28 seconds each feeding that I have to figure out other things to think about.

So here are some of the Random Thoughts I Have Had in My First Week of Round-the-Clock Nursing:

-Why are the "most natural things in the world"--pregnancy, labor, childbirth, breastfeeding come to mind--the most painful?

-How odd is it that so many rites of passage are connected with our boobs. Getting them; puberty; getting a first bra; the first time they are touched; giving them to your husband; giving them to your baby.

-Where does the expression "booby trapped" come from? What does it mean??

-Who made up the words for all the colors? Like, did a caveman see fire and make up the word "red" or "blue"? How did the caveman come up with that?

-I wonder if panjiri really works?

-Poor Frieda Pinto's husband.

-Am I the only one who finds the word "tits" offensive? I don't even know why but hearing the word makes my hair stand up. (I know that if certain people are reading this they will now find a way to incorporate the word into every single conversation we ever have...just beware: I am coming up with an appropriate counter-strategy as we speak, or nurse as the case may be...)

-Am I the only one who thinks it counts as saving money when you add tons of stuff to your cart on shopbop.com...but then close your window without purchasing? (Note to husband: This is rhetorical, please allow me my delusional sources of pride).

-It really is different to be gazing down at a girl, as opposed to a boy. Sure it may be in my head, but what thoughts do we have to go on besides the ones in our head. Our heads are our worlds no?

-Three kids is hard.

-What's the difference between "sound editing" and "sound mixing"?

-What's that drug they gave me? Before the epidural? Fentenol? That was fun.

-Did D ever smell like popcorn? S smells sort of like popcorn right now.

-Thank you whoever invented Lanolin.

-...Who will she become?

-...How will she grow up?

-...What will our lives be like?

Weekend Links

Friday, February 20, 2009

Some of what I am reading this weekend. While I'm breastfeeding. All the time...:

-Never really thought about it too much but it's true: There are very few examples of good parents on t.v.

-Stop the presses: I'm not as hot as I think I am. And, apparently, neither are you.

-Having pest problems? Here's a solution that is being tried in India: Marry your infant off to the neighbor's dog.

-Did you read about the baby gorilla abandoned by its mother? The story broke many peoples' hearts but, luckily, the 2 month old baby is currently doing well...and is in search of a name...

-And lastly, in preparation for Sunday's Oscars (my money is on Slumdog), check out this gallery of the glamorous pregnant stars who have walked the red carpet over the last 15 years. I looked just as amazing when I was pregnant for sure...!

Brown Girls: Economic Stimulus Plans

Thursday, February 19, 2009


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Starting in March, "Brown Girls" will be published bi-monthly in India Currents--be sure to check out the debut in the March 2009 issue of the magazine.

Say Cheese Goddamit!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

So... It's sort of impossible to write the "perfect" follow-up blurb to summarize or crystallize the last 10 posts. (This would be the case under the best of circumstances. And, last I checked, being a mom of a 3 day old and nursing 23 1/2 hours a day do not constitute the best of circumstances!) There is so much I want to say and I hope to continue many of the threads of conversation--and controversy--through many future posts...

Also, rewind, what about the small fact that: I am a mom of a 3 day old! And, as I'm sure you've noticed, I sort of write something that, much to my chagrin at times, would be characterized as a "mommy blog." As such, therefore, Q.E.D. (I know that means something, maybe something mathematical? Trig comes to mind?): I should probably shoot off some of my oh-so-brilliant thoughts and musings about new motherhood right?

Of course! And I will. Minus the brilliant part. Very soon. But in the meantime, let me tell you this: It is really really difficult to take a photo of three children. There were two non-breastfeeding things on my to-do list for the day: Take a shower, and take a photo of all three kids to send around to friends and family. (In my "bonus points" column--come on, you know your to-do list has a "bonus points" column!--I included: (1) Brush my hair; and (2) Read about this so-called "economic stimulus plan" so that, um, I'm not the most idiotic person in America. All I can say is: Better luck tomorrow on the bonus points).

Back to the photo: It's incredibly difficult. You got the 3 year old with the attention span of an MTV crack addict; the 1 year old who for some preposterous reason is more interested in crawling and putting pennies into his ears than in posing for the camera; the newborn who is awake for periods of 27 seconds of a time...There are logistics to handle, cattle/children to herd, faces to get pointed the same way. What's a sleep-deprived camera-retarded girl to do? Lucky for me, I stumbled upon this brilliant suggestion: Throw all the kids in a pack-and-play. Seriously, think about it. A natural frame, a discrete amount of space, lots of fun layering...! I can't really do this just yet seeing that my new baby girl would, um, die under the weight of her two brothers--but soon, soon, a perfect Pack-and-Play photo will be mine. Survival of the fittest my beautiful little S....

Sort of related, I used to think the idea of these cameras with built-in slimming and air-brushing functions were, in a word: Lameweirdvain. However: The dark bags under my eyes in the one photo I managed to procure today of me and my are begging me to reconsider. The Casio version apparently makes your photos "magazine ready" by smoothing out skin-tone and softening shadow. Thoughts? Has anybody tried these? I'm imagining a whole pretend world in which I look like the girl in one camera's photos...but how would I shield myself from the evil world of All Other Cameras?!?

In a note of seriousness: A final thanks to all the guest-writers over the last week or so. I have gotten so many email messages from people thanking me for giving men a forum, asking follow-up questions, inquiring about the breadth of commentary. It's been such a great series to read and I am toying with the idea of doing a follow-up feature with women writers, so please email me at deviswithbabies@gmail.com if you are interested in writing something--would love to hear from you. If you have photo tips, all the better...!

Roleplaying

Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Here we are at the vaguely overdue last article on Man Week/Testosterone Week/Into the Wild, er, Male Mind Week, whatever I have called it previously...! Tomorrow, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Today, I give you Sandeep Sood, who happens to be my husband and, even as I am writing this intro, I am not exactly sure what he is going to be writing about.

It's kind of odd to write a bio for my own husband--so here is what he wants you to know:

Sandeep Sood married up.


ROLE PLAYING

I've been surprised by the response to many of the posts on this blog over the past week. Although many comments have been funny or insightful, there have been a great deal that are sad, even angry. It seems to me that most of these comments come from disappointment over the failure of a husband to understand his role.

Our parents didn't really have this problem. Despite the fact that my sister and I were raised in the US, our parents' roles were set back in the place they left behind: India in the 1970s. When we were in diapers, there was no question of who was supposed to raise the children, just as there was no question of who was supposed to support the family financially. For better, worse, or sexist, everyone understood their role.

I am more active in raising my children and helping out around the house than my father ever was, mainly because I am a product of the era I live in. Given the unique challenges of both time periods, I couldn't tell you whether I am more exemplary as a father or not. But, because I am more often confused about my role, I am sure that I examine and reexamine it more frequently than my father ever did. He was clear; he knew what his role was.

Much of the frustration and resentment I've been reading over the past week has to do with men who, according to their wives, still think that their father's role is the same as their own. Dudes, it's not. And wives, it's also not easy to figure out what our new role is supposed to be.

In my case, I'm still just as confused as most of my friends. I'm not sure about what kind of father, husband, breadwinner, son-in-law, etc. I want to be. I take comfort in the fact that at least I've figured out who I want to be those things for. With that said, here are a few stories, (some meaningful, and some not so much) about me defining (and redefining) my various roles.

I AM NOT A FIREMAN

I realized the other day that I'm not a fireman.

I was out for dinner with three male friends, an event that happens so rarely, it has been dubbed with a formal title: "Guys' Night". For the four of us to get motivated enough to find the time again, I am considering paper invitations and boutonnieres (which would be fitting, because this was the first "Guys' Night" I've been to that included wine pairings - not that I'm arguing...that was some good shit!).

Anyway, while standing at the urinal after dinner (standing at the urinal seems to happen more often during "Guys' Night" than on a "Regular Night"), I found myself singing this song:

"When he hears that fire alarm,
Sam is always cool and calm! Da Duh Da!"

Don't know it? That's because it's from Fireman Sam, a children's show. A children's show that sucks (it's no Pixar movie, let's leave it at that). There was this older guy urinating next to me, and he smiled knowingly, looking right at me. I couldn't tell whether he had children who like the show, and I should smile back, or whether I should immediately get the fuck out of the bathroom - to be safe, I did the latter.

The point of this story is that my older son likes to play this game where he's a fireman (Fireman Sam, to be precise), and I'm, well I guess I'm a fireman too (actually, I think I'm also Fireman Sam). We run around the house, and we use 'hoses' (pencils and cell phone charger wires) to put out raging fires in dangerous places like 'the shower' and 'mommy's hair'.

So, the other day, I'm picking up my older son from school. This is hands-down the best moment of my day, because I feel 10 feet tall, because my son usually runs and gives me a bear hug, screaming "DADDDEEEE!!!" at the top of his lungs, and it is so frickin' awesome that I forget everything and anything that is bad or stressful or stupid or sucks.

But today, that doesn't happen. No running, no screaming. He is sitting, enraptured, in a circle with other children, listening to Ms. Miller read a book about firemen. The book has real pictures, and it's about these firemen with names like Luis and Doug, who save dogs with names like Pickles from burning houses. After a long day of saving dogs and old women from burning to death, the firemen eat salisbury steak and go to sleep thinking they have the best jobs ever.

I know what you're thinking - that book sounds like it sucks! And it did - it sucked. I don't care if you're three years old - that was a shitty book. The graphics were horrible, there was no arc, and the characters had no depth whatsoever. I tried to explain this to my son and any other three-year-olds who would listen, but they shrugged. "I wanna be fireman!!!" they all screamed and ran around me, spraying imaginary hoses into my face. I was like, "Screw firemen! What about 'I wanna be Web Programmer'? Or Flash Animator? or Serial Entrepreneur?" Where's the shitty picture book for those noble professions, Ms. Miller? The kids thought I was being funny, so I gave up, found the kid that was mine, and went home.

The point is that I'm not qualified to be a fireman. I'm not even good at fixing things around the house, and at three years old, my son knows it. When something around the house breaks, he insists that I call Gregory, our handyman. When he turns 5, I'm just going to give him a cell phone, so that he can call Gregory himself. He better negotiate a good rate or do that shit on fixed bid, is all I'm saying.

My sons are going to notice several other unfiremanly things about me as they grow older. My muscles might be a tad smaller than Fireman Sam's (just a tad, though). When they come home from school, it'll probably be daddy who cooked up the amazing dinner they are about to eat (and it's definitely not going to be a nasty-looking salisbury steak). And I'll be around for a lot more diaper changes, vomit clean-ups, and sloppy kisses than most firemen would be (at least more than the ones in the picture book).

SHE IS MUCH BETTER AT THIS THAN I AM

"Sandeep? Change his diaper - it's your turn."

I grunt, mumble something about Obama needing my help, and go back to sleep. This happens more often than I like to admit, even though I'm admitting it on a blog. Sometimes I mumble something about being attacked by killer rolling pins or swimming with dolphins in a tub of guacamole. But, no matter what I mumble, I go back to an entertaining dream, and Deepa is stuck with a poopy diaper.

This doesn't happen all the time. Often, I'm up all night, walking and singing to a crying baby for hours. Okay, frequently...maybe sporadically. In any case, it's not nearly as often as Deepa is up with our children.

And of course, this isn't the only scenario where my wife kicks my ass on the parenting front. Whether she is working all day or not, she knows all the vitals of our house and can spit them out to you rapid-fire on demand: how much milk we have, how much clothing is in the wash, which kid is going to be snotty and possibly up all night when we get home, how much our children have probably eaten, the 7 things I was supposed to do for our kids that I have forgotten to do in the past month, when she reminded me to do each of those things, and what I was probably thinking about instead when she was reminding me to do them.

I can't tell you whether this happens because she has a genetic instinct to be a better caregiver, or that our roles have been socialized, or because I'm just, in this regard, a lazier or more aloof person than she is. But I can tell you, on the whole, she takes better care of our children than I do (and looks A LOT better than I do doing it).

There are things that I excel at. Sleep-training. Meal-cooking. Rough-housing. Doctor-appointing. School-pickuping. Ice-cream-buying. Hyphenation.

But, overall, she is simply the better parent, just like she is the better friend, more attentive listener, and better-looking human being. And, we're not sure what this means in terms of our 'roles' yet. We'll probably figure it out around the time that our 3 day old daughter turns 18. I'll come back and guest-blog again then, I promise.

BUT, I'M BETTER AT THIS

My wife doesn't like to cook. I wax profound about roasted brussel sprouts, find shopping at Farmer's Markets exhilarating, and fantasize about winning Top Chef almost as often as I fantasize about winning an Oscar, selling my company to Google, or free-styling with Jay-Z.

Although I still need a couple of hours of solid therapy to calm the offended Punjabi man inside of me, I'm beginning to revel in my role as family cook, no matter how unfiremanly this is of me.

BEING A GUY

We're about 2 or maybe 7 cocktails into Guys' Night. The food is amazing, and conversation is flowing - our wives, the economy, famous women who are also hot, our children, women from the past, food, how we want more sex with our wives, basketball, women from the past we should have had sex with, how obama is potentially betting his presidency on a poorly-negotiated stimulus package, and in conclusion, sex with women. Pretty standard and just what I needed.

In his earlier post, KB put this really well - it's the friendships from the past that may always be the deepest ones we had with other men. There are moments during this night that I feel like I'm back in college, hanging out with my close friends before I got married or even imagined the possibility of my children. For most men, nothing will replace that experience, and we spend many drunken nights reaching. Reaching for dorm room laughter following a night of drunken debauchery and regrettable hookups. Reaching for those moments after a hard fought win on a basketball court, that if you checked the dictionary in my head, equal brotherhood. And yes, reaching for those teary-eyed conversations about how to overcome a heart-wrenching break-up, talk to a suicidal girlfriend, or understand the death of a family member.

Of course, it's the friendships that successfully transition out of the past that become the most meaningful to us. I called a friend about an hour after my daughter was born Thursday night. His daughter was born only 6 hours earlier. We spoke for about a minute, sharing inexplicable joy with weary, emotionally-spent voices. There was nothing to reach for in that conversation; it was all right now.

BEING NEW AT IT AGAIN

Deepa and I welcomed our third child and first daughter a few days ago. With each child, it's all new. And I get to try to be the dad, husband, etc. etc. I want to be all over again. So, here we go, yo.

Monday Musing: Two Men and Two Babies

Monday, February 16, 2009
Thank so much for all of you who tuned into, commented on, and emailed me about last week's posts delving into the male mind. Truth be told I am still overwhelmed by all the reaction and commentary and hope you'll go back and check out the posts and comments again, especially since many of the authors chimed in to answer the questions you posed. Thanks again to all the guest-bloggers--every piece provided a diving board for robust debate that definitely got people talking, both in and outside this blog.

There were actually two more pieces that were supposed to run on Friday to close out "Testosterone Week." However, I was a bit predisposed and couldn't post them--My husband and I had our little baby girl S on (oh so lucky) Friday, February 13th! My husband Sandeep actually authored one of the pieces that was supposed to run last Friday--it will run, with some modification, tomorrow morning.

And--believe it or not--the other guest writer, Satya Patel, whose piece was supposed to run on Friday ALSO had a baby girl over the weekend! He and my husband now joke that, if you want your wife to go into labor, write a guest-blog and call them in the morning.

More on new motherhood--for the third time--in the coming weeks. In the meantime, welcome to the better-late-than-never last two days of Man Week. Here is Satya Patel, brand new father for the second time, on some tips for a successful marriage.

Satya Patel lives in the Bay Area, where he spends other people's money by day and plays "Daddy" and "Boo" by night. When he wrote this post, he was busy trying to come up with a name for his soon-to-be-born baby girl. Now I can only guess he is busy overprotecting her...!


My son was born a nearly bewildering three years ago. My amazing wife of almost seven years is due to give birth to our precious baby girl very soon. My wife's jovial father lost an excruciating two year battle with cancer at the beginning of this year. My own father underwent double bypass surgery four months before my wedding day. Life delivers perspective with all of the subtlety of a woman in labor demanding an epidural.


It's this perspective that I've learned to try to keep in mind as I wage war on myself and others in my role as a son, father and husband. I'm no wiser or less fallible than any other man or woman, nor do I try to be. I'm simply satisfied knowing that I attempt to live each day so that at its end I can say that it was, in sum, a happy one (not a perfect one). Not that they have always been or will always be happy days (I can recall many tough days and nights during the first year of marriage!). But it's the goal of happiness for me, my wife and my children, and the example set by my parents, that helps me make better decisions and take better actions than I might otherwise. I'm blessed to have a family that I adore, a job that's more fun than work and friends that I cherish. When I have those things, how much can it really matter that I do more chores around the house than I would like to do or that I have less time to play golf with the boys than I used to have? Those seem like small sacrifices, when I can remind myself to have perspective.


Unfortunately, actually remembering is certainly harder to do than just wanting to remember. But hey, I'm just a man, and we know that no one (especially women!) expects us to get it right all of the time!


So in the spirit of "Desiderata" and "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten," two of my favorite guides to life, here is my far-from-complete list of reminders for maintaining the perspective needed for a successful marriage. Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back!


Marriage is work. If you don't, it doesn't.


Listen (with your ears AND eyes). Women talk to be heard. Men act to be heard. Neither wants to be ignored.


Bend but don't break. It's hard to repair shattered glass.


Let go of expectations. Expectations are usually based on assumptions. And you know what they say when you assume. So assume nothing.


Over-communicate. On the stuff that matters to you. Pick your battles. Know when to say you're wrong, even if you're right.


Ask, don't tell. No one likes to be told to do something. Or how to do it.


There are no wrong feelings, only those that you don't understand. Don't try to understand them or change them. Accommodate them.


Sex. There can never be too much (yes, even the oral kind).


You are important. You can't make anyone else happy unless you are yourself. Find your other passion and chase it. Your spouse and children are only part of what defines you.


Make time to live like newlyweds. Your children will thank you.


Say thank you (often). For the big and small. To each other and your kids.


Kids are built to survive. You will do more good than harm, as long as you try.


Want it all. But take your time getting it. Our parents had less but seem somehow to have gotten pleasure from more.


Perspective. Cling to it. Everyone is both worse off and better off than you.

Brown Girls: Chocolate and Hearts and All That Jazz

Friday, February 13, 2009



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Starting in March, "Brown Girls" will be published bi-monthly in India Currents--be sure to check out the debut in the March 2009 issue of the magazine.

Becoming Jeffuchi

Thursday, February 12, 2009
THE MALE MIND

Yesterday, Gopal G. suggested that we try to remember the person we fell in love with and married. Think back to those heady days when you were dating your partner; when you were figuring out how to enter forever together and all that jazz. Here, Jeff Weber talks about his imminent entry into a crazy Indian family (which happens to be mine), on the eve of marrying his crazy lady (who happens to be my sister).

Jeff Weber lives in San Francisco and designs humanoid robots, prosthetic limbs, and machines that entertain. The off switch is always within arms reach so you don’t have to worry.

(Did you catch that? He designs robots! He is super cool.)

On a sunny day, the joke always goes like this:
Me: “Am I golden brown?”
P: “No, you are burnt red!”
Me: “No, really I’m turning golden brown, like toast? Aren’t I?”
P: (silence)

The reality arrives when I lay in bed and the sheets feel like sandpaper on my skin. In the morning I see more similarities between me and strawberry jam than golden crust on my toast. When I have kids, will they give me a hard time too? What will their jokes be? Will they get a laugh at me for being the whitest guy on the beach? Will they get a laugh at me being the only one to pause for sunscreen application at family gatherings involving my new family? I certainly hope so because my fiancĂ©e P does. It makes her laugh, which is inevitably followed by her touting her built in sun-block, and then complaining about her chances of becoming burnt toast. Our children will probably complain about the same thing – Woohoo! (at least they won’t have to look like dad the lobster). Thinking of them doing this as I search for the ultimate SPF makes me happy. It brings me back to the present, and the events that will lead up to my kids making fun of me.

I’m getting married this summer. I’m engaged to the one girl it scares me to think I might not have met, but did, and now can’t imagine living without. Polaroid cameras, riding the zipper at the fair, and our rowboat quest for fried dough that almost ended in MIT sending out a search party brought us together. Building bicycles, animation machines, and a life and family together has made us inseparable.

Bringing our families together has and will be fun, a little bit chaotic, and at times confusing. For me it was a learning experience to maneuver myself into the thanksgiving chaat line, and my voice into her family’s excited conversations, but I’m almost a pro. Although I’m pretty sure I’ll never shake off the “too quiet” ruling (which every non-Indian seems to get), really it’s because I have a hard time talking while I’m eating. At least I won’t get the “doesn’t eat enough” ruling. I’m not being polite with my trips back to the kitchen I just love eating at P’s house.

We are planning our wedding with P’s parents, MotaDad (he is by all means a BIG DAD, the Indian Papa, a true Ganesh, and I’m excited to say my future father-in-law) and Ammi (who made my jaw drop and my heart grow the first day she referred to me at ‘beta’ (which was four years after we met!). I’ve been to almost every kind of wedding now, and let’s face it, Indians know how to celebrate. My first experience was P’s sister’s wedding (MD and Ammi’s first daughter and my soon-to-be super-sister-in-law) and it was a labor of love that will be remembered for generations. I remember MotaDad greeting us: barefoot, stick dancing, and bear hugs all around. I also recall my attempts at bhangra dancing, 3 suit changes, and 300 Aunties and Uncles wanting to make sure I was “enjoying the festivities”. I think I still am. (Occasionally I’ll get an email to confirm that. Thanks Uncle!) Slowly I started to feel like part of the family as more and more my name became “Jeffuchi.”

Soon I’ll be on the mandap with P. Our wedding ceremony will be mostly Hindu but not entirely traditional. I won’t ride an elephant (I would if I could) or a horse in the barat, or wear a kurta or sherwani. But the barat! Holy Moly I’m excited for it, and it’s just the beginning. My family will probably need a little help……ok a lot of help. P jokingly suggested we help by starting the barat at the bar. I want it to involve both families – my brother, my mom, and hopefully my soon-to- be brother-in law, as well as all of the aunties and uncles and cousins that have shown me how it’s done. I’m sure my family will get the hang of it, and I predict any formal separation of families (i.e. who’s dancing and who’s not) will end when the dhol drummers begin. I know P’s family will be jumping.

Ever since I’ve been engaged that’s how I picture MotaDad and Ammi – joyous and jumping. It makes me happy. I remember visiting last spring to talk with them about my future with P. I was so nervous the first half of my visit I couldn’t sit still or eat, and somehow tea time that day involved a table of food. I did eventually talk, and asked MotaDad and Ammi for their blessing. MotaDad stared at me for what seemed an eternity, tried to give me a hard time being the jokester he is, but couldn’t hold his laughter.

For that split second of eternity waiting for his reaction, I had a strange thought. I looked at my arm and imagined it turning golden brown.

But it didn’t have to. Now I’m “Jeffuchi"...

But yeah, I still get sunburned.

Venutians Have Issues!

Male Mind Week continues! First up: Kiran Belur's answer to whether dads want daddy groups.

Kiran Belur is a 35 year old husband and father. He lives in Emeryville, California with his wife, Shirin, and his son Dhilan. He is a member of the hip hop group, Karmacy (new album, Wooden Bling, available now on iTunes), and cant wait to coach little league. In his spare time, he is an Intellectual Property Attorney.

I have to admit that when Deepa asked me to “guest-host” Devis With Babies, I was both intrigued and a bit intimidated. Intrigued because I really enjoy reading some of the posts (I say some, because I don’t get much out of the make-up and women’s fashion tip posts – those send me right back over to ESPN), and have enjoyed a number of lively debates as a result. Intimidated because (a) let’s be honest, Deepa is a tough act to follow, and (b) since I tend to be somewhat of a purveyor of unpopular opinions generally, unleashing my particular dialect of Martian in this forum could get ugly. Alas, I decided to give it a shot...what the hell, I’ll probably never run for office anyway.

I thought a lot about various topics, as the only direction I was given was to provide a male’s perspective. After some deliberation, I decided to write a response to Deepa’s November 25, 2008 post (“What A Boy Wants, What A Boy Needs”) and try to provide a “male’s-eye view” on the major question raised in that post: Do men want or need a forum similar to mommy’s groups?

Let me start by offering a suggestion with which to read this piece: Throw political correctness out the window. It’s just going to get in the way. Obviously, every person and every couple are different. However, sometimes blanket statements are accurate, and more importantly, necessary, if we are going to shed light on certain issues – particularly gender-based issues relating to marriage and parenthood. And frankly, since this is a blog post, and not a doctoral dissertation, we don’t have the cyber time or space to acknowledge all of the exceptions to every stereotype.

All right, now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it….

Do Men Want or Need a Forum Similar to Mommy's Groups?

Or, to put it more precisely, do married men with babies want or need such an outlet? Well, to be perfectly honest, the answer is “yes with a but.” Yes, men need an outlet to discuss what’s going on in their lives and blow off steam. Between work, family, and whatever else each of us is juggling, we all relish the opportunity to get together with our peers to share, vent, etc. The “but” is that it’s not going to happen in the way that women might expect, and this may be part of the problem. Married men have actually been fighting for these groups for years, but I don’t think it’s ever been explained properly. Perhaps it’s never been presented in the context of what my wife refers to as a “teachable moment.” Well, not to fear, you asked for the guy’s perspective and I’m here to give it to you.

So here’s the drill. You may not like it, but here it is, ladies: If you’re serious about wanting this for your husbands, you need to encourage your husbands to spend more time with “the boys.” Yes, that’s right. And it gets worse! By “boys,” I don’t mean your friends’ husbands. I’m talking about your husband’s homies. His college buddies…the ones who you tried to become real tight with back in the day to get your husband to like you...YEAH, them. This is the only way your husband is truly going to be able to have open dialog about what’s going on with him.

You see, the reality is, a bunch of married guys are not going to have weekly get-togethers with the idea of talking about their feelings, even on an informal basis (and even if they are “mimosa-sodden”). This is not to say that men aren’t capable of these types of friendships, as Deepa suggested may be the case. Quite the contrary. I’ve had plenty of great friendships with my male friends, during which we’ve managed to balance our discussions about sports, women, and video games, with discussions about our goals, fears, and yes, the minutia of our lives. I’m pretty sure most guys out there have had similar experiences with their closest friends.

So, you may ask, why don’t you see your husbands interacting with their friends like this, now? Well, the difference is that it takes guys a long time to get to this point with each other….like, a LONG time. And, even once you get there, it’s very hard to keep the relationship at the point where you can just jump into the more personal topics. See, feelings are not our go-to topic of discussion. Before we can even broach the subject of how we’re feeling about things, we have to get past the “snarkiness,” the sports debates, clowning on each other like there’s no tomorrow, and myriad other topics (which you might think are pointless, but that we really look forward to). This is why pretty much all of the closest relationships I’ve had with my male friends were prior to getting married. And for the most part, I’m not as close with most of those guys now. I’ve heard the exact same sentiment from virtually all of my male friends.

This is not in any way meant as an indictment on marriage. I’m just trying to explain that getting married changes the dynamic of how guys interact with each other, by mere virtue of the fact that there is less time for guys to spend together. The most common manifestation of this is when guys say that now that they’re married, the only other guys they get to hang out with regularly are the ones married to, or dating, their wives’ friends. And while that can be cool, it’s just not the same thing.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that your husband isn’t close to his boys anymore, it’s just that they’re probably not close enough anymore that they already know each others “stuff.” So, when they see each other at a monthly poker night, they’re not at the point where they can just launch into the minutia. And frankly, they’re probably just so happy to see each other that that’s not what they want to talk about anyway. The idea is for your husbands to see their friends often enough that they can get past that. More on how to practically achieve this in the midst of a marriage and new baby later…but first, let me address:

How your husband can ever have a meaningful conversation with his friends about anything real, when all his boys want to do is go to clubs, play poker or watch sports.

Excellent question. You know, the thing about guys is that we just can. I remember one night when my wife was pregnant and a friend was having a birthday party at a club. I really wanted to go, because I hadn’t seen some of my friends in quite a while, but she wasn’t feeling up to it. So I went for a few hours. We all celebrated…the single guys hitting on women (or at least trying to), and the married guys drinking in the corner and talking shit about the single guys who couldn’t get any numbers. Pretty typical night.

In retrospect, however, the thing I remember most about that night is a half hour conversation I had with my buddy, in the middle of the club, about how he and his wife were potty training his daughter. He told me about the difficulties they had had and how great it felt when things went well. He also shared some of the funnier stories (it turns out potty training is fodder for good comedy). Now, normally, this conversation would have been kind of weird, especially at a club. But, since I had a kid on the way, I was totally intrigued by everything he had to say. Moreover, these types of conversations have become more and more common since more of my friends are becoming fathers. When we’re together, whether at the gym, sports bar, lounge, etc., a portion of the conversation is always dedicated to what’s going on in each other’s lives, with each other’s kids, and how each of us, and our wives, are coping with sleep issues, eating, nannys, etc. I suspect the same is true in your husbands' circles. You just may not see it because it’s couched in some form of debauchery.

So, how do you wrap your brain around the idea of your husbands spending more time with their friends, when you now need them to be at home, and accountable, more than ever? Here’s my advice:

1. Embrace the idea of a regular guys’ night. Don’t just tolerate it, but encourage it. This is important. Be excited for your husbands beforehand. And most importantly, when they come home, even if you’ve had a rough night with the kid(s), show them that you’re happy that they went. Don’t be passive aggressive and take your frustrations out on them. Here’s a little secret…guys start worrying on their way home, because they don’t know what kind of mood you’re going to be in. It can be a complete buzz-kill. (Obviously, this has to go both ways, and you should have your girls’ nights, as well).

2. Make a concerted effort to incorporate your husband’s friends into your lives. This is HUGE for both of you. Essentially, it kills two birds with one stone. Your husband gets to spend time with his friends and you get to have your husband with you and your child. Plus, the more time that your husband gets to spend with his buddies outside of a guy’s night environment, the easier it is for them to get back to that point where they’re apt to discuss family, etc. I can’t express enough, how important I think this is.

3. Be patient. This is not going to be an overnight process. The first few times your husbands go out, they may just get drunk. Again, the idea here is not about “allowing” them to have more fun while you stay at home. Rather, it’s about a change in both their and your attitudes that will allow them to feel more comfortable getting back into the comfort zone with their friends so they can have an outlet.

4. Communicate. This one is pretty generic, but it’s important. For any of this to work, you and your husband have to be able to tell each other what’s going on in your mind and how you’re feeling about things. My wife and I have been together for 13 years; and it’s only because we’ve both been willing to put our egos aside and listen to each other, that we’ve been able to work our way through issues like this one.

This is not, by any means, an exhaustive list. I just thought about some of the couples that I admire and who I feel are very happy, and tried to articulate things that they do which seem to work. One disclaimer: The above will not work with every single guy. However, if you married a guy who is incapable of this type of expression, you really should have known that before you married him and set your expectations accordingly.

In conclusion, I really want to thank Deepa for bringing this topic to the forefront. Reading her post, and all of the subsequent comments, really made me think. I know that this may seem more like a guy’s wish list, but that’s truly not the intention. I also applaud the women on this board who said that they wished their husbands had this kind of an outlet. I hope that this piece has shed some light on this topic from the male perspective.

Happy husband, happy life?

Fathering Raya

Wednesday, February 11, 2009
THE MALE MIND

This writer wishes to remain anonymous.

I read through some of the posts on Devis with Babies before writing my piece, trying to guage exactly the type of audience I was writing for. I heard about the blog through a friend of mine who is a newspaper columnist. He was approached by Deepa but was unable to write a piece because of internal policies against "potentially embarrassing moonlighting". Something about the phrase "potentially embarrassing," I suppose made him think of me. I have been known to embarrass everyone I know on multiple occasions. I think it's why they keep me around.

Imagine all the cultural and gender issues you guys have had with your partner, your parents, your communities, your friends--based on you being Indian and based on you being a parent--writ even larger. The mom pushing buttons. The in laws disagreeing with you. The confusion over what tradition mandates of you. All of it. See, I am a gay Indian man; and I am a gay Indian man with a partner of 6 years; and we are raising a 4 year old daughter. The story of what we went through to obtain the privilege to raise Raya is a subject too big not only for this post but apparently for my heart and for my head: I still don't have perspective on it and I am not sure I ever will. I have tried writing about it as many times as I have put pen to paper and nothing can do it justice. Sort of like you can't describe, I imagine, exactly what it felt like to give birth, I can't describe exactly what it feels like to get to parent this little girl. It is a joy that levels me. I can imagine it is vaguely "maternal" or "female" if I were in the business of throwing labels.

And at the same time, I am a man and I do consider myself to be Raya's father. So does my partner. So it's double time in terms of the slippery slope fears about your little baby dating one day, losing her virginity, having her heart broken. Except for us, those things seem so simple compared to the issues she is going to have to deal with way before those ones. Being without a mother. Having gay fathers. Trying to figure out an Indian identity within the whole puzzle.

Already we get so many stares. We are used to the stares. We have dealt with them our entire adult lives. But what will it be like for our daughter? Will she have to defend us? Will she be ashamed?

And will she ever know where she comes from? My parents have not met Raya. Their friends do not know I am gay. My parents know. I told them eight years ago. But after the conversation in which I told them it was never spoken of again. Ever. Before Raya, I had taken my partner home to my house. In fact, the very first time I took him home it was to celebrate Diwali with my parents and my grandmother who was visiting from India. My mother begged me not to come out to my grandmother. I agreed immediately, almost relieved. My partner was my "friend" from college and this didn't seem too much of a sham for me as my parents referred to the girlfriends I had had through the years as "friends" anyway (don't all Indian parents?). My parents were extremely nice to my partner. They have always been hospitable, I can't remember a time my mom wasn't offering somebody a snack. And after that visit I had this feeling of hope that, despite where my parents came from, despite how traditional they were and are, despite the fact that they think "the gays" are distasteful--that they loved me and would eventually accept who I was.

But when my partner and I decided to get married that changed. My parents wouldn't come. And, what was worse in my eyes, they wouldn't discuss it with me. They just told me they couldn't be there. When I sent photos of our ceremony in Massachusetts, they didn't respond. When, two year later, I called to tell them about Raya, my mom cried and my dad said they had to go. I don't call them anymore. But I write them letters every month. Raya has begun writing letters to them too. She calls them Ba and Dada. She has seen pictures and she knows about them. Every Diwali, we send them a diya that we make together.

I can understand where they are coming from. I was born in India, though I moved here when I was a baby. I don't blame them their cultural heritage. But I do wonder how much of it I am supposed to pass onto my daughter. How do I give her the very thing that has robbed her of her grandparents?I have written a few drafts of this and have gone back and forth on what to include about my partner, who, even now, is not as "out" as I am. I have struggled with whether I want you to know that he is Indian. That he is first-generation Indian. That, the three times his parents have visited since I have known him, I have stayed at friends' homes. That they don't know who Raya is. I don't want you to judge him harshly. But what I do want you to know is this: In your struggles as parents, remember that others are struggling too. I don't say struggling "more." That would be presumptuous. But there are many struggles to be had and, as Deepa wrote in her email to me convincing me to write this piece--after I had said yes, and then no--we should all be in this together.

And at the same time, apropos of many of the comments that began this series of posts, I think we have an almost exactly even co-parenting situation. I don't know if it's because we are both men or because our values and priorities are almost exactly in line. To paraphrase, we would both know how much milk is in the fridge.

Pros and cons right?

Your mother in law may judge you. Mine doesn't know I exists.

Your husband may ignore you at times. Mine won't hold my hand in public.

You may find juggling all your roles post-parenthood to be exhausting. I find it to be both exhausting, alienating, uncharted and, more often than I care to remember, ostracizing.

But (and here comes the cheesy part, you know it was coming) I love my partner in a way I didn't believe was possible. I look at Raya's face and I wouldn't trade anything that led me to it for anything in the world. I hope my parents and my community can come around but I know that if they don't I will still have my place, in the arms of my partner, in the sphere of my life, doing my thing, fathering Raya.



Whatchu Talking About Wifey?

THE MALE MIND

Welcome to Day 3 of Devis Do Man Week. Today we have Gopal G. on what men really want, and in the afternoon we have a father who discusses the unique set of issues involved in raising a child when you are gay. Many thanks to all the guest-bloggers so far--Swap, Dileepan, Tarik, and Bill; I'm loving the ongoing debate and commentary.


Gopal G. is a father of two and writer who lives in New York City.

I approached Devis with Babies about writing a response after the "What Do Boys Want" piece was posted on a dad blog I read. (Yes. There are dad blogs. Yes. We talk about our kids. Maybe just not the same as you guys.) At many people's prompting, I read the Motherlode article about how angry you all are with us too. How we don't do anything. How when we watch the kids we don't do it how you would. How you have all the details in your head. How we don't help you. In response to that I have some simple words: Tell us what you want. What I absolutely cannot stand is the dance of "what is wrong"/"nothing." My wife and I, who I love dearly and who is very hot (and I promised I would write that she did not ask me to say that), do this dance often. We could go on Dancing with the Dysfunctional Stars with it. I understand where it comes from. She doesn't want to "nag". She wants me to "figure out what's wrong on my own." But if we had limited time to figure out these things before Lord help us we have no time now. So here is my Modest Proposal. No I don't think we should eat our kids. I think we should tell each other what we want.

Along those lines, here is my wishlist. Feel free to wrap any of these up in a big red bow for your husbands. We want things too.

1) Dress up. For me. Not always, but once in a while. You know all that effort you used to make? The effort you still make for a party or for the girls? Do it for me too.

2) Don't ask me to do stuff and then get mad when I don't do it exactly how you would. You know the old adage, "if you want something done right, do it yourself?" It's crap. But this one, though less catchy, is true: "If you want something done exactly how you would do it don't ask me to do it." This is mostly true for things involving feeding/bathing/caring for our children. Just because you manage to watch the kids while doing the laundry and making them wear pristine clothes and brushing their hair doesn't mean that when we watch the kids and eat lunch on the floor and don't take baths that it's bad. Obviously it isn't what you would do. But it works doesn't it? We aren't you.

3) Once in a while stroke our egos. Even if you don't want to. Even if it makes you roll your eyes and wonder where feminism went. Trust me, it's not that hard and it keeps us going.

4) Let me win at sports. Just kidding. Except not really: My wife beats me at everything.

5) Try to remember why you married us. We never had candle-lit dinners, looked into each other's eyes, and said things like "I can't wait to co-parent equally with you" or "I know you'll be the kind of guy who will remember to pick up your socks." Sweet nothings aren't really nothing.

6) Be patient with us. Especially if you really know we are trying.

7) If you choose only one of my wishes choose this one: Please please please have sex with us. More. Even more. As much as you can.

One more thing: From what I can tell, most of us men really love you women. Most of us are in awe of what you are able to do. Most of us really want you guys to be happy. In part so that we don't have to be scared of you, it's true, but in part because your happiness is independently important to us. I can't be happy unless my wife is. Seeing her sad is bad enough; seeing her sad because of something I did destroys me. I vowed to make her happy and I intend to keep that vow. I just think I can watch a little football too, forget to do some stuff, and let my kids live in some filth along the way.

Protecting Your Poohbutt

Tuesday, February 10, 2009
THE MALE MIND

Here is the second of the two pieces for today on the subject of raising daughters.

Author of two novels (Sunshine Patriots and My Booty Novel), Bill Campbell now spends his days chasing his toddling, 15-month-old daughter, blogging on Tome of the Unknown Writer, and wondering why he doesn't have the time, wits, or energy to write that third novel.

This past holiday season, I saw my future as the father of a little girl, and it wasn’t pretty. It contained a shotgun.

It started innocently enough. My 14-month-old daughter, Poohbutt, was playing alongside a two-year-old boy. A cute, little picture of holiday cheer. Suddenly, the boy abandoned his blocks, “yawned” dramatically, and slid his arm across my little girl’s shoulders. Before I could react, he turned her head and kissed her square on the mouth. Yours truly said, “Hey” (Note the lack of exclamation points), and the boy snapped back to his blocks while Poohbutt swift-crawled to Daddy’s protective leg. All to a chorus of “Aaahhhh”s.

All the adults thought it was cute. Some chuckled. Others giggled. The boy’s father high-fived him. Me? I thought I wasn’t going to have to suffer this scene for at least another decade. I suddenly found myself paraphrasing the beleaguered brother in the Loretta Swit comedy classic, Beer, thinking, “This black man has worked too long and hard to come home to a pregnant teenager.”

I know. A lot of you think I’m overreacting. But you fathers out there understand my plight. As soon as we saw a future womb emerge from our wife’s womb on the delivery table, we were immediately concerned with how to protect it. And our concerns are immediate: How did that toddler already know the “yawn” move?

Now, Little Girls’ Daddies the world over have spent billions of dollars and countless hours researching scientific means to protect their daughters since the chastity belt was ruled unconstitutional in 1810. The most promising is “the Lesbian Switch.” This handy, little device is activated upon the first menses and will shut off on your girls 28th birthday. The subject reportedly credits her previous sexual experience as “youthful experimentation” and is soon ready to pump out the grandkids.

However, researchers say the technology’s decades away from being perfected, and Staples refuses to release the “Not Easy” Button to the general public. So, we fathers are left to more traditional approaches.

Physical intimidation’s a tried and true device, but I’ll be in my 50s when Poohbutt hits puberty. I’ve hit the gym and have taken up boxing and street-fighting training. But let’s face it: My future, geriatric ass trying to kick a teenager’s ass will be tragicomic at best. I have to come up with something better.

There’s always the shotgun, but those can be messy. I’ve ordered some mounted animal heads for the den. I can show the young man around, regaling him with tales of “how I bagged the big one” and finish off the introduction with my lovely speech, “The Beauties of Hollow-Point Bullets.” I’ve also gotten Lasik surgery and have enrolled in sniper training. But seriously, I don’t want my little girl to grow up with a bunch of sexual hang-ups, and a trail of dead boyfriends can give the girl a bit of a complex.

Also, all these avenues lead to Dad the Bad Guy Boulevard. I don’t want to be the bad guy. Sure, I want to be in my daughter’s head. I don’t want to be her friend. I’m her Dad. I want her to think, when handed her first joint in second grade (these kids are fast!), “Dad’s gonna kill me!” However, I don’t want Poohbutt to picture me with horns and cloven hooves. There have got to be subtler, more passive-aggressive ways for Daddy to protect his baby.

Fortunately, Pops, there are. Studies have shown that education, the arts, and athletics all lessen the chances unexpected grandchildren. In other words, keep ‘em busy! Idle loins are the Devil’s handiwork. However, while activities are definitely important, the kinds of activities your daughter engages in are what really matter. I’ve devised a list of fields you should pursue with the girl. Please take heed. You can’t afford not to.

1) Quantum Physics.

This is the most sexless field of study your daughter can get into. I strongly recommend it. Yes, nerds wanna get laid, too, but they’re generally too timid to try anything. Your daughter will be safe. Besides, when was the last time Playboy ran “Those Sexy Sluts of String Theory”?

2) The Drums.

Many fathers make the mistake in pointing their daughters towards classical music and the violin. Sure, the boys in the orchestra are nerds, but you’ve seen the movies, that conductor is one lascivious bastard. And remember, that bow don’t come with no arrow. How will she fend the lecher off? No, my brother, she needs to hit the drums—not the skins. A proper drum kit is a mighty fine barrier that will keep the barbarians at the gate. If they do breech it, however, she has two mighty fine weapon in each hand, and a skillfully placed cymbal crash can leave a boy writhing in pain. Besides, drumming for hours in a rock band can be a heck of a workout. James Brown didn’t call Clyde Stubblefield “the Funky Drummer” for nothin’. Your girl’s “funk” will fend off possible suitors.

3) Field Hockey.

It’s the closest thing to a “Lesbian Switch” we fathers have right now. There’s also softball, but the girls don’t get to take the bats home with them. That hockey stick is a nice, little weapon. Have your girl repeatedly watch Braveheart to learn how to properly wield it.

4) Akido.

As a pacifist, my wife’s against martial arts training for Poohbutt. Me? I want her to know some ‘80s Gymkata stealthy ninja shit. I want her to be a deadly mix of Bruce Leroy in The Last Dragon (“He catches bullets with his teeth?!”) and Patrick Swayze in Roadhouse (who actually ripped some dude’s throat out). A nice compromise is akido, which uses the opponent’s attacks against him. While leaving the larynx intact, your girl will be able to fend off any pimply-faced playa without hardly breaking a sweat.

5) 1-800-NUNNERY.

As a recovering Catholic, I was a bit hesitant to go this route, but, after the “yawn” move, I got this bad boy on speed dial. At the first hint of trouble, Our Ladies of Vengeance and Blood are getting a call. No matter what, until girls start serving as altar boys, your girl will be safe in the convent. Give ‘em a call, visit. They make the best pierogies.

If none of these tactics work for you, Dad, pray. Pray hard. And if that doesn’t work, shotguns are running for less than $300 (I recommend the Mossberg) online. While they don’t make hollow points for shotguns, a load of buckshot in the ass will make any boy think twice.