Thursday, July 14, 2011

Who defines your family?

Hurray! Same-sex marriage got its New York seal of approval!

This is good news. For gays and lesbians, and probably our consumer-oriented wedding industry and corporation-sponsored health insurance industry.

However, people like me, with families like mine, are still left out in the cold.

By all likelihoods, this should not be the case--I'm straight and single with no existing conditions and able to work. It shouldn't be too hard for me to find work that lets me support myself and get enough health coverage.

But that's assuming that being single means you have no responsibilities to anyone. Which is not the case for me.

Let me explain. I like my family of origin. Really, they're quite lovely people. I have better conversations with them than I do with most people, and whatever issues we may have with each other, I don't doubt that my parents and brother love me unconditionally.

So, while I support gay rights and am proud that New York finally caught up with Iowa, I find it curious that the state is more willing (along with people who like to police co-dependency in the world) to say I have a family if I marry a woman and adopt a child than if I try to claim either of my parents or brother as my family. True, they are not dependents, but neither are working spouses. Yet a sexual relationship seems to warrant a tax break, while a loving, familial relationship for 34 years does not.

It appears that progeny is the defining trait of family, according to a recent ABC news report. But what if I don't want children? What if I've decided against bringing new people into the world to suffer? (I know, it's not all that bad, and I've made peace with life and its difficulties, but really, I don't see any reason to recruit.)

Can I get a population-reduction credit? Like how corporations get a carbon credits?

It all seems so arbitrary at this point. My first job at McGraw-Hill had a nice system allowing employees to choose "self+one" health coverage, allowing single parents and gay couples in domestic partnerships to get covered without too many questions. It seems that we should all be able to do at least that. In an ideal world, maybe we could elect to pay higher premiums according to the number of people on our insurance, not conditions or dependency status.

But the debate goes beyond health insurance. Even salaries are less negotiable if you're single. But why shouldn't I be able to demand a salary that lets me contribute to the well-being of the people I'm related to? Yes, I'm not the sole bread winner. But they are still my first priority and responsibility after myself.

At one recent interview, I asked about work-life balance and the interviewer and I enthusiastically agreed that it's very important. The interviewer then asked, "Do you have family?"

My response: "Yes. Not in the traditional American way. But I have family."

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Complete and Utter Boredom of Being Chased

I hated playing tag as a kid. I couldn't understand running around in circles, pretending that your friend was a threat. Worse was having to chase other people--I found it annoying to run after them only to be evaded or start up again if I caught them.

I'm starting to wonder if this is why I hate dating so much. I know how to get guys to chase me (full disclosure: it took me longer than the average American woman to figure this out). It's not that hard--mainly you just need to be aloof. But it's so incredibly boring. I mean really, what a ridiculous waste of energy that could be better spend building something with that person.

I can see how some women may like the ego-boost inherent in this game, i.e., the one who cares less has more power. But power isn't love. It isn't even close. It's eventually toxic, like too many Flintstone vitamins (I nearly OD'd on Spider-Man vitamins as a kid, perhaps another reason I'm not intoxicated by this game--I know the downside of too much artificial boosting.)

Am I alone in this, dear readers? Is there some appeal to this whole game of dating that I'm missing?

I think not. Which means I'm doomed to die alone in a house with 9 cats. But I suppose I'd have to chase after them, too.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Indian Work Ethic

Ever wonder why jobs are getting exported to India? These two videos explain why.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

In (reluctant) Defense of Kate Middleton

Occasionally, I like to boycott major television events, like the Super Bowl and the Oscars. I find it keeps me saner and more benevolent (neurosis and envy being my two big character flaws). But I couldn't pull it off for William and Kate's wedding. My mother woke me up at 6am to watch it live, and even The Economist ran a homepage story titled "Who made it on to the Westminster Abbey invite list, and who didn't."

There is a thrill in watching such an event--an adrenaline rush that can make our hearts soar. It feels good, like love or admiration.

The problem is that it's not. At least not for me. I've come to realize that that particular thrill, the one that also makes me rehearse my Oscar acceptance speech in the shower, is the seduction of envy. After all, I wouldn't be envious if it felt bad from the start. Envy sneaks in disguised as admiration and attraction. I don't want to be the other person, I just want what they have. I blame the seduction of envy for my many relationships with white men. I didn't want to be them, but oh, to be close to that life of relative ease. Imagine--a name everyone could pronounce, a demographic everyone catered to, from politicians to reality TV. (I should also admit that this insight has not diminished my attraction to white men.)

I knew envy was creeping in when I was trolling the Web on Friday for some feminist critique of the wedding, especially Kate. And some writers made some good points, like Kate's lack of career focus. Or so I thought. Until I thought some more.

What is so wrong with Kate choosing a conservative lifestyle? Is it really so antithetical to feminism? I agree that feminism should knock down the barriers to equal pay, but does that mean every woman must work (or every man)? I agree that feminism should end the misogyny that lets men treat women like property. But if William is protective of Kate because he loves her, not because he thinks he (or the royal family) own her, is that so bad?

Is it so wrong that a woman chose to marry for love, is gentle in nature, and chooses to be a supportive stateswoman of a wife? Granted, I would have loved to have seen William marry a woman more likely to be a Queen like Draupadi, or even the Buddha's wife, Yashodra, but I don't think the Royal family wouldn't have looked kindly on a brown woman, even if she was of royal birth.

And therein lies the real rub. I'm not envious of Kate's dress, or wedding, or even her great pick of a husband. It's the life of relative ease. and that only seems accessible to rich (and mostly white) people, that I envy. Sure, the paparazzi will hound her. But to be raised in comfort, to go to one of the best universities, to know that one illness or accident will not knock out your savings account, to meet the love of your life in your 20s, and to know that he's got your back--it's a privilege and fortune that turns me green. I can't help thinking it's all worth an occasional embarrassing photo. The pettier side of me wants to say she's a bad feminist role model and the whole event is "atavistic." But that's a cop out. Not simply because I have a soft spot for the return of monarchies. (Unlike the Corporate democracy we have now, a monarchy would let us hold someone squarely responsible if, say, the economy tanked.) But because my criticisms--she lacks focus, she's timid, it's an antiquated event--are all hollow. A lack of focus, timidity, and maintaining conservative rituals are not moral ills to society. They're just not a privilege I get to have.

And that's Kate's big "sin"-- she gets the good fortune of happiness, while the rest of us imagine it. At least for now. There's still Prince Harry...

Friday, April 8, 2011

Why You Should Stop Donating -- And Volunteering -- Now

A journalist friend of mine recently posted a great video by Good Intentions that brilliantly highlights why we should all stop donating our used clothes to international charities.

I love this video mainly because it does what I try to do every day: turn complex issues into compelling messages that stick and spread like wildfire.

But I also loved this video because it speaks to me as a writer and journalist. It's becoming increasingly difficult for people who are skilled and talented at their craft to make a living wage off their years of hardwork. Not that anyone goes into writing with the expectation of being a billionaire, but the plethora of "citizen journalists" and Craiglist writers willing to write for $15/hour is forcing those of us with years in the trade to justify rates that would allow us to eat, keep a roof over our heads and pay for vital necessities like healthcare and retirement plans.

It's only with the advent of social entrepreneurship that people have begun to believe that, perhaps, we can have an economy that rewards people for doing good--isn't that the best way to get more people to do good, afterall? But writers and journalists seem to be excluded from this social enterprise movement, even though we provide a vital function, especially my non-fiction breathren.

As a writer, it's important to me and my conscience that I write about things that matter in a way that respects readers. But this year, I've been forced to write for a company that markets products through lifestyle articles (with no mention of their advertorial nature) just to pay the bills. Every day it eats away at me, but every time I pitch nonprofits AND social enterprises, for that matter, I'm asked if I'll work for free like the rest of their volunteers (i.e., slave writing labor).

Wouldn't it be nice if all writers stood in solidarity and simply refused to write for free anymore? Would you join me?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

MyLARC Update: The Approach

So I was talking to a friend about my experiences with online dating, and strangely enough, I found myself saying, "I actually do want to learn how to write that first message to someone you meet online. It's definitely an art form, and as a writer, I'm just interested in knowing how to do it."

Now, I never consciously thought of writing an introductory message on an online dating site as an art form, but here's why it is:

*Unlike a business introduction, it MUST be short. Anything more than 3 sentences is a monologue that makes you come off as a self-important bore

*It must be breezy but not stupid. So less formal than an Jane Austen letter, but with the appropriate use of capital letters, i.e., do not write "i'm really impressed w/ ur profile"

*It must not be lame or stalker-like. And while this is relatively easy for me to avoid in real-life, it's actually quite hard online. Mainly because a person's profile can give you a lot of clues and info about a person, but it's still stalker-like to open cold with what you read about them. And personally, I try not to be witty in e-mails to people I've never met--if they don't know the cadence of my voice, there's a high chance they'll misinterpret what I'm saying.

Perhaps you'd like some examples of failed approaches I've received:

"sorry for bothering you. I am new to this so wanted to give it a try. I came across your profile so thought to message you.
I am tall white good looking from doctor from Pakistan currently here for my interviews in different hospitals. I was bored so thought to explore few things here. If you are interested kindly reply"

Also, I personally think that calling yourself white when you're from Pakistan is a possible sign of some serious self-hate.

"...think you're absolutely adorable. And I'd like to
get to know you better.

Who am I?

Hmm....I was born in England, have lived in
Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island, Los Angeles and now
NYC. I work in NYC as well.

After discovering the cure for cancer, I climbed Mt.
Everest (without supplemental oxygen), studied with
the Dalai Lama, and dated (briefly) Cindy Crawford.

My career as a Yankees third baseman was going
nowhere, and rather than accept the grant from the
Salk Institute, I went to work at a television
network in New York.

And you?

Please write back because it would put a smile on my face."

"how are you? so, did you find anyone interesting here yet? "
"So how is this whole okcupid thing working out for you?"
It's a bit like asking a girl at a bar, "So how do you like the single's scene?" Best not bring attention to the elephant in the room just yet. Maybe after 2 dates.

If any of these have made you gringe, then I need your help! Clearly, there's a need for someone to market-test how to effectively approach guys online. Send me your opening lines, and I'll test the top 3 on some of the hottest guys on the site to see what kind of a response they get overall.

Just add your best opening lines to the comments box below.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My Life As a Romantic Comedy (MLARC) update

So I had a blind date last night. I thought it went well enough (meaning, I wasn't completely repulsed by the idea of kissing him but wasn't so inclined to do so either).

We decided to meet at Ayza. Funnily enough, my co-worker told me just before leaving that she was heading there to meet a friend. We decided it would be best to act like we didn't know about each other's plans if we saw each other. So when I got there and settled down at the bar, she didn't say anything when she saw me, assuming maybe I was pretending I didn't see her. In all honesty, I didn't.

So I talked to blind date guy for about an hour, and had to cut it a bit short because I had an important meeting today to prep for. We end the night by putting on our coats and he asks where I'm headed. He says he's headed in the other direction, and that he's just going to go to the restroom before taking off. Which is fine by me. I'm a big girl and don't need him to walk me to the bus stop. So I take off.

But then this morning, I come in to work and my co-worker starts giving me crap for not seeing her. THEN she says, "Yeah, he stayed for about an hour talking to another girl at the bar."

Which makes me laugh out loud. Cuz honestly, I never thought of placing spies at a date spot, but now see the strategic importance of it. After all, a modern woman has to know how to do good reconnaissance.

Monday, January 10, 2011

My Life as a Romantic Comedy

I recently signed up for OKCupid, mainly because I heard about it on NPR, and while I hate dating, I was encouraged by the idea of meeting other people who actually listen to NPR. That being said, I'm really hoping I don't meet anyone promising, as it would disallow me to use the site as a source of comic fodder. And let me tell you, it's rich with comedy. I only filled out my profile 48 hours ago, and here are some gems I've already received:

"How are you? I just saw your page and thought I'd say hi. My wife and I were hoping to meet someone cool on here and thought you were really attractive. How is your weekend going? Up to... anything fun? Anyway, hope all is well!"

What I really appreciate about this is it's breezy tone. As if trolling for a threesome partner is the most normal thing a married couple would do on a Sunday afternoon.

And then last night I missed an IM that simple said: "I will see you in my dream..."

I wish there was an emoticon for being creeped out. But I take comfort that Carrie Fisher (aka Princess Leia) once had a fan tell her that he thought about her every day from age 12 to 22. She asked, "Really? Every day?" And he said, "Well, 4 times a day."

(I should also note that I heard this bit when watching Fisher's one-woman show "Wishful Drinking" on HBO with my dad and had to then explain to him what that joke meant.)

And here's one that just confused me:
"hey there pather panchali, [I think he meant "panther" but I don't know why] you should answer more okc questions because your comments there are cracking me up :) Very straightforward with your opinions, arent you; its refreshing and i guess i'm the same way.
we could have some great fights :) despite being a 91% match so far. I'll bet the "3% enemy" part is a doosey ;)... You're relatively young (I think i'm looking for late 30s to be honest) but I feel like you could crush a man with your words and well I just wanted to give you some props. :) Good luck out there; and if you ever want a good argument or fight, game on as you say ;)"

Why would I want to meet someone to fight with? And when have I ever said "game on"?

Now I don't attribtue this to the Y chromosomes--my male friends have told me the ladies are just as likely to write weird stuff. So keep that in mind when you're laughing your head off at the tragic-comedy story of my love life.