Realizing my privilege.

I can pinpoint the exact moment I realized my privilege.

My brother once said, ‘My sister does whatever she wants’.
I was taken aback. It’s true.
But I was also dumbfounded – how else would one live their life?

I think my brother meant it in the sense that I tend to do what I like regardless of what other people think about it or expect from me. I think I sometimes do things purely for the story or the shock value, truth be told.

But it made me think. And it made me realize that there are people who have neither the means nor the freedom to pursue their wants and their whims in the way that I do.
And that is privilege.

Special Occasion Surprises.

Today I Learned:

Following a happy occasion in India like a wedding or the birth of a baby, a group of trans women come to your house. They visit under the guise of ‘offering blessings’, but are actually there to collect money.

Apparently in India trans people are viewed as somewhat mystical. The tradition is, in essence, trans people bribing families for money to remain in their good graces, lest they should use their mysterious trans abilities to bring bad luck to the newlyweds or infant.

The more you know.

It seems strangely progressive, in a way, that trans people are respected and feared so?

Also interesting – in India, when it’s your celebration – birthday, promotion, engagement – you are the one who treats. You pay for the dinner, the shots, the bottle of wine, etc. Whereas in my experience of the western world, your friends or family would typically treat you.

 

 

 

Green Grass.

There’s one way I can think of in which my boyfriend and I are exactly the same: we are both restless as fuck.

We both recently (like very recently… like 2017) landed full-time salary jobs in our field, which is wildly competitive. It’s a pretty big deal. We’re officially DINKs. Both of us working full-time is what we’ve talked about and looked forward to pretty much since we got together. All the money we’d have! The stability!

It’s been mere weeks and we’re already talking about what’s next, at length. Starting our own business, flipping a house, running a food truck. Getting our real estate licenses, getting into import/export, opening a bar. Will we even stay in Canada? We could go to India, the UK, the Cayman Islands, Australia. I have been like this as long as I can remember, always dealing in possibilities instead of the present. And I love that he shares the same ambition and thirst for adventure.

On the one hand, it’s so freeing and inspiring. On the other, it makes living in the moment a nearly insurmountable task. When he landed his new gig, his first full-time in years and also his first in Canada, his instinct was to downplay it. He immediately moves on to the next task – paying off debt, buying a house. He doesn’t give himself a moment of celebration, rest, or peace. He didn’t even want me to buy a bottle of champagne, thought the money would be put to better use in savings. And I would be so annoyed by this if I weren’t exactly the same way.

After university, and then a year abroad, I undertook a post-grad with a very specific career path in mind. It was a small group, about 30 of us, and I was among the last to land a job in the industry. In the months of obsessive linkedin-ing and interviewing, networking and sobbing, my determination to work in this industry was iron clad. I had to prove to myself, my family and my classmates that I could do it.

But now that I’m here… I’m kind of ready for the next adventure. Nothing delights me more than imagining starting a new life on the beach in Goa, renovating houses in the Greater Toronto Area, becoming an entrepreneur. I know the grass is always greener on the other side, but it would be nice to feel content.

Them’s the breaks.

My brother’s in town, I had lunch with him yesterday. He’s 5 years younger than I am, and it’s only in the past year or two it has started to feel like we’re on the same page, and can connect on an adult level.

We were very close as kids, but there was a time where he was in elementary school and I in University, when we didn’t have a lot in common. Now that we’re both in our 20s the gap is closing and it’s so, so nice.

He’s had a serious girlfriend for the past couple of years. He studies in the States and she here in Ontario, so they’ve been long distance for the majority of their relationship. He’s headed out west to play soccer for the summer, and I commented yesterday that she’s a very understanding girlfriend, that it must be difficult to be so far away from one another all the time.

He confided in me that they are actually on a break, have been since Christmas. She had been very busy with and focused on school in the fall, he began to feel neglected. When they had ample time to spend together over the holidays they decided a break might be the best thing for them. They’re still talking most days. I asked if they were seeing other people, he said they discussed that hook ups were okay, that if he’s out and it happens, it happens, but he’s not actively looking to replace her. It was kind of disarming to hear this from my baby brother, but he’s a grown up, and I did ask.

This kind of arrangement makes sense to me. When I broke up with my former long term boyfriend we too continued to occasionally see one another and be intimate. We were fully apart, not on a break, but it’s a messy business. Sometimes you need someone, and that person is already someone you know inside out and feel comfortable with. As long as both parties are on the same page, I think it’s harmless.

I relayed the news about my brother’s new situation to my boyfriend, and he had a very different reaction. He genuinely had a hard time wrapping his head around it. ‘White people, man. Sometimes I don’t understand.’

He wanted to know how you could sleep with someone after breaking up with them. How someone could be so casual about a relationship. If it’s just a need for sex, he said, why not just pick someone up from a bar?

He’s not The One.

My boyfriend and I approach romantic love very differently. It caused many fights and misunderstandings in the early days – at times I’m surprised we made it through.

Some of this is due to personality, I know. But I believe a lot of it also has to do with culture.  He is a hopeless, passionate romantic. He often says – and began saying early on – ‘we are one’. He is not shy about needing me and my time. He is anti-divorce, and even anti-breakup. He truly believes that love conquers all.

I’m more cynical. I believe in love, but I don’t believe in fairy tales. I think relationships take work and compromise, maintenance and effort. I don’t aspire to divorce, but I do think it’s the best choice in some situations, and I don’t think there is any shame in admitting it and moving on. I think love is crucial to a successful relationship, but it can’t replace practical, boring stuff like compatibility, trust, etc – that needs to be in place as a foundation.

I don’t believe in The One. It’s ludicrous, almost vain to believe that there is just one worthy person out there waiting. I think we could be happy with a great number of people. The concept of a soul mate is naive. And worse, it invites complacency. If you’re both in the headspace of ‘this is meant to be’, why try? If you both know you would never break up because of cultural pressures, why make an effort with one another? Why be kind, polite, romantic? They’re not going anywhere, they’re The One.

My boyfriend is not the sole person in the universe meant for me, that I could ever conceive of loving. He is the one I choose to be with. The one I choose to work for. And I think that is so much more meaningful.

blankethug

America does not belong to you.

Last week there were at least two incidents in the United States of white Americans shooting immigrant POC after expressing a sentiment along the lines of ‘Get out of my country’.

I get the fear. I don’t empathize and I don’t condone, but I understand. Many working class Americans are simply straight-up ignorant. They haven’t interacted in a significant way with anyone who isn’t also a white, working class American. They fear change, and they fear what they don’t know.

What angers me most is this rhetoric of ‘Get out of my country’. It’s so outrageous it’s almost laughable – except not, because people are actually being shot.

So let’s get one thing straight: It’s not your country. You are American, and that guy Indian, for no reason other than your mama and his mama were in those respective countries when they went into labour. You’re not American because you’re better, smarter, or more deserving. You did not earn America. And in fact, he did.

Immigrants earn America. They plan their entire lives in a way that makes them appealing to the immigration process. They learn a new language, go to the right school, study the right program to learn the right skills, to be rewarded with a completely alien place and culture far away from their families, friends, and everything they have ever known. They have worked extremely hard to be American. America belongs to immigrants.

Speaking of cultural appropriation.

I like to think I’m pretty woke. I majored in Anthropology, I grew up in the GTA. Toronto is allegedly THE most multicultural city in the world, and I’m proud to be a part of it.

I love that I can jump on the subway and resurface in a neighbourhood full of authentic culture from almost any part of the globe. Learning and experiencing different ways of living is eye-opening, inspiring, humbling and fascinating. It’s good for both parties – the learner expands their world view, and the teacher reconnects with their own customs.

For me, this is cultural appropriation. This is commercializing culture, and taking it out of context. It’s turning aboriginal symbols and dress into a farce in the name of branding. Not cool.

But like, dreads? Justin Bieber, for example, took so much heat for having his hair in dreads last year. People cried ‘cultural appropriation’ and accused him of trying to be black. I don’t think that’s fair, and I think it negates legitimate cases of cultural appropriation. Trying out a style is not a hateful act, and Justin Bieber is not turning a profit based on the exploitation of dreadlocks. Interestingly, dreadlocks are traced back to Hindus in Asia, long before they were embraced by black culture.

What about yoga? Sushi? Fucking denim, for christ’s sake. Should we all stop wearing jeans because they originate in France? Jeans were invented for labourers, factory workers wore denim because it was tough and durable. Now designer jeans sell for thousands of dollars. Is that appropriating ‘working-class culture’? Is it appropriating French culture?

I think we should encourage curiosity, exploration and experimentation. Culture is made to be shared.