Tuesday, February, 11, 14

My Body. Not Myself.

Filed under: a moment in my head — theradishpress @ 2:12 pm
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I naively thought that as soon as I was out of New York – perhaps as soon as I was on the plane leaving New York – all my troubles would go away. The things that had been weighing heavily upon me mentally and emotionally would dissipate into a thin layer of fog – one more piece of someone to cloud the murky skyline. But of course, that did not happen. Once I was alone in Denver I was faced with myself. As a friend later pointed out to me, I was busy helping take care of other people in New York. Too busy to focus on myself. Here I was, alone, forced to really look at myself, inside and out. I was faced with fears I had buried for survival, and self-hating thoughts. Perhaps the biggest challenge was something that began to surface when I was packing for my trip back in New York. After my last day at work and the frenzy of a quick trip to Virginia and Christmas had died down, I was left to to turn my room into a small storage space. My days were dedicated to inviting friends to hang out while I packed up my room and all I could need for my trip into a hiking bag and waist pack.

My mind wandered to my body. I began to scrutinize every part of me. Back in August I weighed myself at a friend’s house. It was the first time I stepped onto a scale – outside of a doctor’s office – in perhaps ten years. I learned that weighing myself caused me to fixate on the number, obsess over bringing it down. In my younger years, I had done very unhealthy things to lose weight: thrown up and followed a horrific diet that made me lose ten pounds in three days. When I weighed myself in August, I was giving into the temptation to obsess, to know what number I was at, to hopefully disprove my suspicions of weight gain. I discovered I had gained almost twenty pounds in a little over a year. The next few days were a spiral of downward emotions. I had a breakdown and was so angry and disappointed in myself. I told two friends at first who I thought might help offer me some comfort, but I was not made to feel better – rather worse – by their assurances that I looked great. The point was, I didn’t think I looked great, and I felt even worse having known for certain I put on weight.

After feeling myself sink deeply into sadness, I decided to do something I never had. I reached out for help. I wrote out exactly what the issue was, how I was feeling, the despair that encased me. This – my body and my weight – has been a lifelong struggle. I have always been overweight. I have always been treated unkindly and often cruelly because of my weight. This isn’t just about wanting to look a certain way, it’s about wanting to have some sort of control over my emotions, and to not feel so badly about myself. In addition to being a lifelong fat person, I’ve always been an emotional eater. Food has suppressed my anxiety and comforted my depression. It has brought me moments of ease. It still does. Of course,  the irony is that food has also greatly contributed to my anxiety and depression, as well as physical ailments.

I have had digestive issues as far back as I can remember. By the summer of 2011 I was so sick that everything I ate practically passed right through me. I soon was eating primarily rice, potatoes, avocados, and bananas. I feared anything else would incapacitate me. Even those foods were not always kind. Finally, after feeling a serious impact on my school, work, and social life, and being told by my general physician I simply had IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), I saw a holistic doctor. I was afraid to leave the house most days, for fear I wouldn’t make a short subway ride without needing an emergency bathroom break. The holistic doctor did something called Nutrition Response Testing and told me I had Candida – an overgrowth of yeast in my stomach. I was put on a strict diet of no yeast, no sugar, and nothing fermented (in summary). This was a three week intensive diet that once cleared the Candida would require I keep to it 80% of the time for the rest of my life. Additionally, I was given supplements to help me detox and later probiotics to repair the damage done to my stomach. Due to my illness, I had already lost a significant amount of weight from my inability to eat. The detox caused even more weight to drop. For the first time in years, I did not feel physically sick, and I was admittedly excited about the weight loss. I could finally fit into clothes I liked. I could shop in the not plus sized section. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying being plus sized is bad, I am saying that I felt excited about how I looked and what it meant in terms of my shopping. I am fully admitting that I liked being smaller.

I also began to notice a shift in my mental and emotional states. I realized that gluten made me sluggish and depressed. Dairy and caffeine made me anxious. It was amazing to finally make connections between what I ate and how I felt – physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically. The thing about being an emotional eater is that I was never really aware of what I had eaten. If I was asked at the end of the day what I had eaten, I couldn’t remember most of the time. I ate to push emotions down, to cover feelings, to hide myself deep down inside. For at least five months I stuck strictly to the Candida diet. Once I began to eat outside of it, I slowly felt more and more that I could eat whatever I wanted without getting sick. It’s a funny thing, my stomach still gets upset from time to time, and I can’t help but momentarily panic that I am sick all over again. I found that mental health was just as important to treat in conjunction with my physical health. I was already seeing a therapist, but I needed to talk about these issues specifically and draw more connections between all the aspects of me.

The thing about weight is, no one really wants to talk about it. Yes, I could discuss it with my doctor and therapist, but weight and body image conversations still border on taboo. It took me years to even broach the subject with my therapist, mostly because I didn’t want to acknowledge that my weight was in any way contributing to my states of anxiety and depression. And most of the time, I didn’t even think about it. I learned to not think about my weight. My residual self image was so far removed from my actual body – I so often thought of myself as much smaller than I was. It was a sort of way to cope with my actual size. I found that I was getting a lot of compliments on my weight loss, never mind it was all due to sickness. But it got to a point where some people expressed concern, and specifically about how much I talked about diet. I suddenly felt I needed to keep my mouth shut about my diet and weight. It was so central to my life at this point, and having never been thin, it was all new to me. I needed to talk about it. I had this new body and felt lonely in it. As with so many things in my life, I learned to bury what I was feeling. And so, as addicts do, I returned to food. My occasional strays from the diet became daily acts of consumption. I kept telling myself that I could get back to a healthy diet, that one meal a day with something unhealthy wasn’t bad, and then two meals a day, then maybe three, snacks. I began to wonder if in order for me to succeed at healthy eating habits, I would need to completely cut junk out.

I have an ability to maintain focus and follow strict rules, but once I falter, I lose sight of myself and my goals. It’s not only with food, but with food it’s the most difficult. So much of my day is me thinking about what I will eat, and what I will eat based on where I am going and what I am doing, and what will I eat for the next few days and how much will I eat. Food consumes me as much, if not more so, as I consume it. In order to be able to heal from this body hatred and to move forward in a healthy fashion, I need to be open and honest about the role(s) food plays in my life. I need to learn to love myself, to truly love the body that I have, no matter its state. And at the same time, I need and want to work on my relationship with food.

I could write so much more about this. I could write essay upon essay about the impact weight and food have had on my life. I am going to take a break here because even opening up – despite being helpful – brings so much focus to the issue that I need to step back and not fixate and obsess.

Friday, February, 7, 14

12 Years a Slave

When the film ends – over two hours of a harsh reality I have never seen so blatantly exposed on a Hollywood screen – words come across the screen declaring that there is no knowledge of how, when, or where Solomon Northup died. There it is, the value of Black life in our society. Solomon Northup survived being drugged and sold into slavery, wrote his own story, and then worked as an abolitionist, only to be forgotten and swept under the proverbial rug. I began to think back on my public school education in Fairfax County Virginia – one of the wealthiest and (boasting) most diverse school districts in the United States. The topic of slavery was glossed over. There was never any room for debate – an agreed upon bad thing from our past, but there was never any examination of slavery and its impact on African-Americans and the entire country. 

While slavery was never up for debate in the classroom (I guess good job on that front teachers), there was a definite period – primarily in elementary school – when we were taught about Columbus, Ponce de Leon, and other colonizers as if they were heroes. If these men were heroes then presumably their actions were heroic. Thankfully, I was raised in a house where we were told the truth in regard to colonization – after all, I am from two heritages that have been colonized – and the subsequent genocide of indigenous tribes on North and South American soil, and then the slave trade. But still, that was my fortune at home – the school system made little effort to expose the horrors of colonization and slavery.

As I watched 12 Years a Slave I kept thinking about how important Northup’s story is. Steve McQueen does a brilliant job of not shying away from the brutality of slavery. And there are no white saviors. Yes, Brad Pitt portrays a man (Bass) who assists Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) in regaining his freedom, but when Bass is first introduced he uses the “n” word when speaking in reference to the enslaved men he is working with – at the same time, arguing with Epps (Michael Fassbender) over the immorality of slavery. Bass’ use of the word and hesitation at helping Northup set him apart as not a clear hero – too often stories about oppressions against people of color are told from a White perspective (Dances With Wolves, Geronimo, Cry Freedom), and the writers could have easily tried to make Bass a completely likable character. But this is Northup’s story, not Bass’, not Epps’, no one but his.

The film is a reminder of the ways in which slavery and the oppression of African-Americans is still so engrained in US culture. That Northup could not trust White people, the rifts created between Black and White women, pitting Black folks against each other, denying proper education and disenfranchising Black youth – all these experiences that Northup and other Black folks in the film endured, are in effect today as well. Yes, I know that Black folks are not in shackles, so don’t bother commenting that. And I know that there are people who would argue this point – White people, let’s be real – and ask for specific examples. The thing is, if you don’t know this to be the case and refuse to believe it, I have zero interest in engaging in a debate. There is nothing to debate. There are DC public schools that are a reflection of how our country values or devalues Black life and education, there is Trayvon Martin’s death and George Zimmerman’s current celebrity status, there is Miley Cyrus co-opting Black culture and identity along with a long list of other White pop stars, there is the fact that the majority of men in prisons are Black, and I could continue. But these are only the blatant discriminations, not even the micro-aggressions that occur on a daily basis. And as I stated, there is no debate.

When Mistress Epps (Sarah Paulson) throws the liquor bottle at Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o) I was so stunned by the pure cruelty of the act. As Mistress Epps’ jealousy of Patsey grew and violence toward Patsey escalated, I began to think about the layers of complexity within the story. There are moments of sadness for Mistress Epps – I was shocked at the sadness I felt for Mistress Epps, stuck in a marriage to a cruel man who has no interest in her sexually. Slavery and the constant rape of Black women by White men created animosity from White women, only the anger was directed at Black women. As if Patsey and other Black women had some say in the actions of these White men. That Mistress Epps’ rage was directed at Patsey and not her husband goes to show the depth and reach of racism. I was also reminded of the ways in which patriarchy prevails, pitting women against each other, while men remain without fault. 

Armsby (Garret Dillahunt) and Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch) were fascinating characters as well. tHe latter because he seems in some ways genuinely kind, but when it came down to it, he was just as scary as Epps. In some ways, a man like Ford is more terrifying because at least Epps was clear in his cruelty. There was no question that Epps could not be trusted. Ford seemed perhaps to have goodness to him, but ultimately, Ford only wanted to protect himself and refused to hear Northup’s truth. Ford also gave Northup to Epps. Armsby though, is the perfect example of White guilt and White supremacy. Armsby works the cotton fields along the African-Americans who have been enslaved. It is a reminder that poor White people were also subjected to some of the labors of slavery. Armsby, though, is not beaten and is publicly forgiven and shown kindness for doing a terrible job, while the African-Americans are whipped and beaten routinely. Armsby reveals to Northup – as he helps salve Northup’s lashed back – that he was once in charge of regulating slaves for a plantation owner. Armsby became a drunk and could not work, and was then sentenced to the cotton fields. Armsby tells Northup that the task of hitting another human takes its toll, which led him to drink. He said that some men buried the pain of it, and others drank it away. Armsby’s acknowledgment that his work was inhumane causes Northup to think he can trust Armsby with the task of helping him regain his freedom. Armsby’s quick betrayal is yet another reminder of White supremacy – Armsby saw a way to gain himself loyalty from Epps and get money from Northup. By the time Bass was on screen all I could think was “No, don’t trust him! He’s white!” 

When Bass came through for Northup I wondered at the casting of Brad Pitt. I could not help but think that as one of the producers Pitt would rather be in a favorable light. And I wondered at the extent to which White guilt can dictate actions. Did Pitt want to be a “good guy” in a film with so many horrible White characters? And can we blame him? I can’t say that I wouldn’t necessarily want the same. It made me wonder at Ejiofor and Fassbender as well. The former is an English native of Nigerian heritage and the latter a German native of Irish and German descent. This particular story is not native to their homes, but as Fassbender stated in his Daily Show interview, it is a universal and important story. Slavery was common in other colonizing parts of the world – it lasted longer in the United States, but not exclusive to it. And I wondered more at McQueen, a Black Englishman. Perhaps this story is best told from an outsider perspective. There is no desire to hide behind guilt or shame. The first McQueen film I saw was Hunger (starring Fassbender) about Irish nationals who went on a hunger strike under English imprisonment. I wondered at an Englishman telling this story, but upon realizing McQueen is Black my thought was “oh, he gets it. He knows what it’s like to be Othered”. The point is, Northup’s story, and the story of slavery in the United States is an important part of our history. It is part of what has shaped our nation, and we cannot ignore that fact. We cannot ignore the fact that its impact is prevalent. There are Black folks alive today who have relatives not that long dead who were enslaved, and there are Black folks alive today who lived under Jim Crow. To argue that slavery is a thing of the past is to diminish or straight out ignore the consequences of its existence. 



Wednesday, January, 22, 14

Everything Not in Its Right Place

Filed under: Uncategorized — theradishpress @ 7:47 pm
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I went to visit my Aunt Loretta the other day. She mentioned several times that I was an outgoing little girl. I wanted to be the center of attention. Anyone who knows me now, and has known me most of my life would have a hard time believing that.

I remember, I told her, always wanting to wear a dress my mother had made me: it was white with small purple flowers. It had a small ruffle at the bottom. And all I wanted to do was summersaults and flips while this dress flew up over me. Aunt Loretta said I would laugh and lift my dress up too. Lots of little girls do things like this. It’s funny and innocent. The thing is, the child Aunt Loretta spoke of is so far from who I soon became. I do remember these things – as young as I was. I remember being social and loving attention. But it took me a long time to remember. My outgoing and attention seeking behaviors were squashed at a young age. When I think back to my childhood, so much centers around the year I once referred to as “the year I became cynical.”

The truth of it is, that things that ruined my innocence and changed my outlook and behavior, happened over more than a year. It was so much to handle and all happened so quickly in a short period of time, that I have compacted it into one year.

When I was seven years old I was molested. I was on a playground at night with my siblings and friends – this was behind a family friend’s house. I approached the merry-go-round – a larger one with seats and a wheel in the center you could use to spin yourself around. I had n ever been on one like it before and was very excited. I sat on the merry-go-round and began to spin it. Two men soon approached and offered to help me get it spinning. The men sat next to me, and I don’t remember all that was said to me. What I do remember is the feeling of panic and fear that soon hit me. perceiving the surrounding world to go black and feeling miles and miles away from the other children. A hand reached under my shirt and tried to move down from my stomach. I managed to say “no” and ran away. What I remember next is sitting in the large dining room of the family friend’s house being comforted by my mom while all the men ran out to try and find these two invaders.

At this point I will now admit that the order of some of the next events is muddled. I really don’t remember what happened first. What I do remember is that this first violation happened in the summer. When that summer ended I began my first year of public school. Fat round me in sometimes homemade and sometimes ill-fitting clothes and a scarf on my head and name that no one seemed to even try and pronounce correctly. I was miserable. I was made to feel miserable. I so badly wanted to wear my scarf but felt alienated. It didn’t help that the first invasion of Iraq was underway – 1991 Persian Gulf War as they say. I was called a lover of Saddam and a terrorist. The latter name is something I still get called today. Hooray racism. No matter how much I tried to prove my Whiteness, I was dismissed. That Irish counts for nothing when you’ve got Other blood in you. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t Iraqi – it was all the same to them. (Still is). And I got my first taste of a “Persian.” There was another half Iranian in my class, but he Anglicized his name and made sure to publicly distance himself from me. I was getting my scarf pulled regularly with no help from a teacher or guidance counselor. I was being ridiculed for my weight and the poor kid and sometimes foreign food I ate. It was a fucking terrible school year.

So there’s that. The next two things are what I confuse in terms of timing. That’s the thing about being molested – it has a tricky way of feeling like it’s happened every fucking day of your life. It invades even the happiest of memories. My aunt (not Loretta mentioned above) and her husband were visiting. It was a bright sunny day. I remember that so clearly for some reason. Like damned Rebecca Hall in The Town – how can sunny days feel so shitty? Oh you know, when assholes do bad things. At this point, I was eight. I was walking in the upper level of our house in front of the bathroom, between the three bedrooms. I don’t remember what room he emerged from, but my uncle told me I was sweet or beautiful or some bullshit line, pulled my pants down, and kissed me on the butt. I again said “no” and managed to get away before anything else could happen.

I told immediately. That’s something else I remember vividly. Where I was sitting – the lighting, my surroundings. The reaction was different this time. I was met with a declaration that I was too friendly. Somehow what happened was on me. My expectation that my uncle be thrown out and beaten was not met. Because I was blamed, for years I forgot that the two previous men had been persued. I was devastated. For years I not want to talk about either incident at all. I didn’t even want to think about them. I felt ashamed and at the same time convinced myself that what happened in both cases was so minor compared to violations other people experience that I was overreacting. I hid myself as best I could. Weight seemed to be a good way to evade sexual advances. As was a generally unapproachable attitude. That once extroverted, attention seeking girl diminished into a depressed, anxiety ridden person – fear of judgment, fear of touch, fear of trust, fear of intimacy…. To top it all off, when I was eight, my Amu Hossein died.

Amu Hossein was my dad’s best friend. He was like a real uncle to us. He was part of family vacations, visited us regularly, and just generally amazing. Turns out we were distant cousins too. I loved him dearly. We all did. When he was sick, he had deteriorated so much he did not want us kids to visit him. I remember the night we were told he had died. We were sitting around the table eating Walt Disney popsicles. I had a cherry flavored Mickey Mouse. Once the news was shared I did not finish that popsicle. It was in my hand, no longer a clear mouse. A sort of rounded mound of what once was. I don’t know that I have ever cried like that again. I felt completely at a loss. It has been over twenty years since he died and not a day passes that Amu Hossein isn’t somewhere in my mind.

I have never, since the first time they happened, told anyone the details of the molestations. There is still a great sense of shame. Sometimes even the word “molested” feels too strong to describe what happened to me. I have to remind myself that that is because I love in a society and world where women are taught that we do not matter, and children are taught to submit to authority. Women are questioned regarding all violations. We are expected to ease up and be happy someone pays us any mind. Any person who thinks like that has no business associating themselves with me.  I am tired of hiding. Hiding behind weight and shame and sadness and mistrust. I am tired of being forced to deal with the reality of what happened to me on my own – and thankfully, in the last few years I’ve found some strong advocates for my feelings, and I am so grateful.

I don’t know that I will ever again be like the child I once was. It’s been so long since she was around. Maybe it’s just a matter of telling her it’s okay to be herself – it’s okay to come out – it’s okay.

The uncle who molested me died when I was eleven. I remember being happy. I would never have to see him again. Of course, despite the years, what he did still violates me – emotionally, mentally, psychologically, and even physically. I have often fantasized about brutally beating him, publicly humiliating him – maybe castration? It brings me comfort. But what I really needed was to be rescued then, to know I was not at fault, to be comforted. The loss o trust that occurred has in many ways had longer lasting effects. I felt completely alone.

Even after all the therapy I’ve had and the ability to do things I once thought impossible, I know I can never escape the pain of what happened and its aftermath. Things resurface. I still manage to forget, until reminded, that at one point I was boisterous and outgoing and loved talking to people. I am glad to be reminded. I think I need to be.  Yes, it causes me to reflect on what changed, but as I continue to navigate my way through self discoveries, I want to know who I was and I want to remember how I got here. I want to no longer feel alone. And who knows.  maybe opening up like this will help even one person. I strongly believe in telling our stories. Keeping quiet is not an option.


Filed under: Uncategorized — theradishpress @ 6:42 pm
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basquiat spoke truth with simple strokes
dickinson sang songs with a silent voice
hands create what eyes can see
hands feel what hearts can breathe
pages and walls are canvas -

Saturday, January, 11, 14

Breaking and Entering

Filed under: Uncategorized — theradishpress @ 2:27 pm

I didn’t realize how terrified I would be, sleeping in a big house by myself. I was fine the first night – the second night I was suddenly so scared. Every sound I heard was alarming. I was convinced that each noise was the sound of someone getting into the house. I was no longer surrounded by the constant noises of Brooklyn (I guess I do miss some things from NY). Normally I can talk myself out of whatever is scaring me, because the things I am generally so scared of are monsters and spirits from movies. I can convince myself they are not there almost as easily as convincing myself they are. For the first time in my life, what’s scaring me is grounded in reality.

Back in October our apartment was broken into – while I was home. Actually, “broken” isn’t the right word because that would mean we had functioning locks on our windows. We didn’t. Still don’t on at least one. But you know, according to the landlord we just don’t know how to lock them. Also, despite the window having been closed, according to the landlord, we can’t just leave it open. Riiiight. So, the burglar/assailant/largely built person was able to just raise the window and enter. I heard a noise from my room, called out thinking my roommate had returned home. When there was no answer, I got up and called out again, to see a large person scrambling out the window. I was terrified. I ran back into my room, locked the door, and called 911. Of course, I had to leave my room, with the operator still on the phone, to let the cops in. Luckily, I did scare the person off. That would have been bad had I not.

Oh, and don’t worry, after some back and forth and victim blaming, our landlord had bars put on windows. Even one she insisted didn’t need it despite being about a foot up from the adjoining roof. Somehow that was not necessary to her? We got the bars.

Anyway, since this incident, I have not been alone. I have slept with more than a nightlight and had nightmares, but never been alone. Having my roommates – even just one – around has been a comfort. 

Then here comes early January – take Andrew to the airport for his trip and head back home to a people free house. Cats and a dog yes, but cats aren’t exactly comforting.. And the dog sleeps in her crate at night. None of the bedroom or bathroom doors lock, so I can’t give myself a false sense of security that way either. I lay in bed for four nights so terrified that someone would burst into the place and I had no dog or weapon to help protect me. Not that I would know how to use any number of weapons mind you. And I certainly wouldn’t want any of the animals hurt either. I was convinced someone might already be hiding in the house, waiting to get me. (I have a vivid imagination). My big sister talked me to sleep more than once. I woke in the middle of the night though, and couldn’t sleep again.

Finally on the fourth night I had a breakdown. I felt exhausted from being scared and restless sleep, not to mention little sleep. I could barely function outside of the house, and all the adventures I had planned were being cut short to half days or blurred experiences and groggy drives. The next morning I cried again. I had to reach out to my therapist and take sleeping pills. Sleeping pills can make me groggy too, but at least I would sleep. My therapist recommended EFT/tapping exercises that helped almost immediately. I’m still scared, and my second night with tapping and sleeping pills wasn’t as easy as the first. I was woken by a crying dog needing to go out and then kept awake by rowdy cats. Something (almost comedic) about my head hitting the pillow and my brain flooding with fearful thoughts. I couldn’t and can’t keep them out, but can tap them away. 

Here’s the thing, ultimately, that whole robber experience could have been a lot worsse. I am grateful i wasn’t because I don’t know how I would cope. I would be a complete wreck. As it is, I’m scared I can never live alone. I know from childhood experience with molestation that I am not equipped to handle violations on a grand scale. Who the hell is, right? What I mean is that I was molested twice as a child, both incidents were minor compared to things I know could have happened and other people have had happen. Thankfully, nothing further did happen because I’m a bit of a wreck from those incidents. It was the actual violations coupled with responses to them from people who should have protected me that made me so fearful and lonely. So my landlord responding the way she did – didn’t even ask if I was okay and then made the whole thing a headache – brought back a lot of that mistrust and pain. 

As a child, I retreated into myself and thought that if I hid from the world than no one would touch me, literally. So this robbery was another violation. Space I occupied was invaded. All I could do was retreat, call police, and wait. I was glad I did not see the person’s face. I wanted them to be gone – to have never been. So here I am, far from where this happened, terrified it will happen again. It’s amazing how being alone just makes it worse – and each violation happened while I was alone. And my biggest fear is to be physically violated again. The worst thing about how I am reacting is that, as in the past, I feel stupid for being scared. As if fault lies in my feelings, and not in the actions of the perpetrators.

What kind of society do we live in where victims feel responsible for things done to them? Seems to me like it’s a society that excuses invasions – be they of the body, mind, space, heart, or any other piece of existence. And I guess we do live in a society built on invasion, don’t we? That’s how “we” got this land anyway.

Monday, January, 6, 14

I Do Not Miss New York

Filed under: Uncategorized — theradishpress @ 6:53 pm
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I don’t miss New York. Took me about three days to realize that. I was looking around Denver and suddenly thought “it used to be that at this point I was missing home.” I don’t know that New York qualifies as home though. Yes, it’s where I have lived for the past 6 years and 5 months, but is it home? Truthfully, I don’t know that any one place qualifies as home. My two closest friends and my parents are in Virginia, the state I grew up in. But I don’t consider Virginia home. My partner is in North Carolina, and while I am considering it as an option to settle into at some point – possibly, maybe – I don’t call it home either. New York is full of friends and a sister. California is occupied by three siblings. Arizona has a cousin I consider a sibling. I guess all these places are some strange variation of home. People I love live in these places. I am on a trip that will take me to at least seven states, possibly four countries, and I am not certain where I will end up. I have belongings in New York, Virginia, and some soon to be in Maryland. Maybe I don’t need all those belongings. Why does any one person need that much stuff? But I digress. Maybe the point is that anywhere I go becomes home. 

My mother’s family came to the United States from Ireland, escaping the Potato Famine. As far as I know, after settling in New Jersey, they never really left. My mother seems to be one of the very “strange” to have left. Not only did she get out of New Jersey, she’s lived in a few states, traveled to almost all fifty states, and other countries, and she’s lived in Iran. My father came to the United States about fifty years ago from Iran. He’s also lived in a few states – having started in New York – traveled this country, and even more of the world than my mom. He’s been to five continents. That is impressive. Apparently the Iranian side of the family has some Bedouin blood from way back when – nomadic blood. Then of course there’s the fact that the Iranian/Aryan people migrated some thousands of years ago west (from present day Russia) to present day Germany and Iran.

Point is, movement is in my blood. That’s nothing special, I know. Doesn’t particularly set me apart from anyone really. What does though, is the feeling within me to move. I feel connected to all the past experiences and identities – as if they’ve been leading up to this point of travel. But I don’t want this to be my only big trip – it can’t. I want to go to Iran in a few years. I want to visit Vietnam and South Korea. I want to see Serbia and Peru. I want to go to Ghana and Australia. Everywhere. I want to go everywhere. 

I want to live in a world without borders and where travel is easy for everyone. 

And I don’t miss New York. I miss certain things – like the strange comfort in a never quiet street. That fact that everywhere is crowded. I miss that.


Art outside the Denver Public Library


Thursday, December, 12, 13

Check it out!

Filed under: Uncategorized — theradishpress @ 1:48 pm
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My friend Lisa wrote this, and I illustrated it.

Curse of the Imaginative Class

Tuesday, October, 8, 13

Being Iranian Often Means Being Invisible

Filed under: Uncategorized — theradishpress @ 1:50 pm

Racialicious posted an entry calling out SNL and Iranian cast member Nasim Pedrad for casting her in brown face to play Indian-American Aziz Ansari. 

The thing is, what Racialicious did is exactly what I have encountered repeatedly in my life – being Iranian often means you don’t exist. Not as an Iranian anyway. Instead, I’ve been called and categorized as Arab, as Middle Eastern, and then of course there is the legal categorization of Iranians as White/Caucasian. 

Here is my response to the post – awaiting moderator approval:

On the one hand I completely get this and am annoyed that this happened – and continues to happen in media. On the other hand, I cannot help but be triggered because I feel like there is a subtle and not subtle way in which Nassim Pedrad’s identity as a not White person is being ignored. I, like Pedrad, am Iranian (I happen to be half) and I find that so often we Iranians and many other of us Others from that general part of the West Asian/East African world who are classified in the we-didn’t-choose-this-name title of Middle Eastern are ignored as being not White people. What annoys me about SNL is the use of a brown person to portray another brown person from that same general-ish area. And then I am annoyed that Pedrad’s brownness is also ignored. Here’s the deal, I know that as Iranians we are legally considered White. I have filled out enough paperwork that leaves me out to know this. And because of White supremacy and colonization and ll those lovely things, many Iranians love the idea of being classified as white. At the same time, ask me when a white person treated me like I am white…ZERO times. We are Others. Like so many other Others we sometimes can hide it, but the clues are always there. Pedrad’s name and physical features are give aways. 


And, I am annoyed at Pedrad. I don’t know the circumstances of this situation. Maybe she thought it was funny. Maybe she thought it was terrible. I don’t know. I do know I wish she had said no.”


Tuesday, September, 10, 13

Verizon Reality Check is an Advertising Reality Check

Filed under: Uncategorized — theradishpress @ 2:58 pm
Tags: , , ,

Have you seen the new Verizon “Reality Check” campaign? One ad in particular caught my attention. At first I wasn’t quite sure what felt so different about the ad. After a few views of it on my hulu watching binge I realized what it is: the ad features two queer coded people.

Disclaimer – I realize below that I am making some assumptions. It is how I am reading things. And at the same time, this is something new in advertising – seeing queer people as just part of the group, as opposed to a very clear focus with a specific purpose to target the community.

It’s sort of brilliant in its subtlety. Much like the Cheerios inter-racial couple with mixed kid ad was brilliant. No big deal is made about it, because why should it be? The reality (check) is that our culture is filled with mixed people and queer people. If you don’t like that, then perhaps you should find yourself an island where you can go be angry and alone with other hateful people.

There are at least two cuts of this particular ad – I’ve only seen the two anyway. In the one copied here the first queer coded person feels almost like a secret message put out there for those in the know. Like, you only see him/her/hir because you are in the community or closely tied to it. I don’t assign a pronoun because I can’t. The person is not performing in any sort of binary way. Neither clearly male nor female. But also, not clearly female masculine or male feminine or male masculine or female feminine or any other lovely mix. There is an effeminacy to the person, which could perhaps cause one to infer that they are looking at and hearing an effeminate man, but that is too binary a way of thinking, and too easy, and without taking into account the vast ways in which we as humans can show ourselves and be seen and how we simply are.

The second person shows up immediately after. This person reads more masculine/male with a slight effeminacy to him. So let’s assume he’s gay. Perhaps a little stereotypical with his hand gestures and voice, but still, he’s there. He’s right there.

These two people are in this ad as just part of the group. It is not an ad targeting queer couples or individuals. It is an ad targeting anyone with a cell phone. So, as much as I hate to congratulate a corporation – congratulations Verizon. You’re normalizing queerness.

Tuesday, September, 3, 13

you see…the thing is….

Filed under: Uncategorized — theradishpress @ 11:35 am

I can read your Facebook posts and articles and watch the clips you tag me in and know how aware you are and how sad you are and know where you stand and what you think, but when I start to speak up about how I feel you want to shut it down. Your opinion is more valuable than my emotions. And my intuition and anxiety and fear are signals of paranoia to you – that I am wrong. Not the situation. But me. Like he said, ‘just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not after you.’

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