Je m’appelle…

Hello world! Or hello 825 followers if I’m being more precise! First post in over a month but who’s counting? Are you counting? I hope so.

A lot has happened since we chatted last. Some work. Some home. Mostly TV. More to come on that later.

Today’s post is about my name. Yep. Mi nombre. A few weeks ago my daughter’s boyfriend (adorable guy), asked if he could interview me about my first generation childhood. He said it’d take an hour and he’d ask me questions about my childhood, adolescence, etc. My answer was yes, of course. An hour to talk about myself as if I was on Oprah (not the new Super Sunday version…the old 4pm talk show version)? Who would say no to this? Not me. Not the gal who literally started a blog thinking people were dying to know crap I did and do and think about. Anyway it was so much fun. He promised to share the final version of it with me and if it’s flattering and makes me out of be some national Indian treasure, I’ll share it with you.

I’m telling you about the interview for two reasons. 1) to show off, obviously 2) because it got me thinking about my childhood. I don’t think I’ve ever spent that much time talking about how I grew up since…well since I started dating my husband and he grilled me like the FBI. But lately, something has been coming up. For some reason, in the past year, maybe 2 years – I’ve gotten a lot of questions about my name. Specifically…how my name is pronounced. Even more specifically – how I’m letting people mispronounce my name.

My name is Neha.

It’s an old-school Indian name derived from the Sanskrit version (Sneha). It means love and tenderness – which will come as a big surprise to those who usually use other words to describe me. You know who you are. In the proper Indian dialect (choose your favorite), it’s pronounced Neigh-Ha. Neigh…like what horses say, and a very soft ha. Not like a karate chop HA! That’s how my very young, wonderful parents imagined my name being said all over India.

Except my young, wonderful parents didn’t stay in India. They hauled ass to the USA. Jackson Heights, Queens to be exact – in 1979ish. To get the exact date I’d have to call my mother and disclose why I need this info, to which she’d say I’m giving super personal info to strangers on the internet who want to kill me. True story. My mother thinks the internet is out to get me. She’s right of course.

Let me set the stage. Jackson Heights today is not what Jackson Heights of the late 70s/early 80s was. Today, there’s so many Indian immigrants that have settled there, they call parts of it Little India. Back then it was still mostly immigrants, but there was a broader mix – Chinese, African, Puerto Rican, and some Italian and Irish to balance it out. In today’s Jackson Heights – my young self would have had other Nehas to mix and mingle with. My young self would have gone to a school full of other people that looked, talked, lived like me. But that’s not how it was.

My dad was a pharmacist – the reason we came to the US was for his job. My mom was a teacher in India but her certifications weren’t accepted here, so she got some random part-time work. My parents did one thing. They worked. They didn’t socialize. They didn’t have hobbies. They worked. I had a job too. One job. School. That’s all I had to do. My entire focus was school (and TV. Indians love TV. It’s a stereotype I know, but it’s also true). As was the case for most of my elementary and middle school life, I was the only Indian in my classes – and sometimes in the school.

I don’t remember the first time I said my name to someone outside my family. I wish I did. I wish I could remember how and why my name began being pronounced like Leah…as if it was spelled Neah…Knee-ya. It all makes sense. I’m sure I wanted to fit in. I’m sure I wanted to not be different, but I don’t remember making a calculated effort to change how people pronounce my name. But maybe I did. I definitely wanted to assimilate. I wanted to dress like everyone else, eat like everyone else (lost cause), date like everyone else. My idea of a perfect boy was a blonde, blue-eyed dude with a one syllable name. Speaking of names, I would have given up a limb to be called Kelly, Jane or some other really white name, so maybe this was the closest fix. I just wish I could remember that happening. I probably need some deep therapy to remember, but the irony is that I remember other things really well from that time. The Saturday night line-up…. Dance Fever followed by Love Boat and ending with Fantasy Island. I remember the slice of pizza my mom got me every Friday after school – this was early 80s NYC pizza. Big. Flat. Foldable. I remember getting a Rubix’s Cube. It was my parent’s favorite kind of toy. Quiet, cheap, and portable. I remember all kinds of useless info. The moment that changed the way people said my name? Not so much.

I’m going to interrupt this line of thought for a quick moment. One of the things I get asked often when i’m trying to explain why my name is pronounced the way it is, is this question,” well how does your family say your name? Do they use the wrong version too?” No. No they don’t use the “wrong” version. They don’t use any version. My family almost never, and I mean literally almost never, calls me by my given name. For the majority of my childhood I was known by a pet name – a loving moniker – Bittu. And it’s pronounced how it looks. Bit-To. It means “little one” or “little thing” or something like that. That’s what my parents, aunts and uncles called me. Once I had cousins old enough to talk, they called me Didi. Which means “big sister”. I know what you’re thinking…I’m a cousin, so why call me a sister? It gets even better. Now every member of the family calls me Didi, including my parents. Confusing, right? Listen – I can’t explain why all Indians are confusing – I can only explain the ways I’m confusing. Are you still with me? Are you over it? Bored? How many times have you checked your insta? Tell the truth. I just needed you to have some background since I assume you’re making a case in your head about why I’m a psycho.

So after Jackson Heights my parents moved us to the hub of diversity and inclusiveness known as Albany, NY. No offense if it’s gone through some major change and my sarcasm no longer applies. Remember when I said I was the only Indian in the school growing up? Well in Albany I was the only person of color in the entire school! And it was middle school to boot. Good times. Actually they were good times. I have been incredibly lucky in my life and have always met friends who helped me through. In 7th grade something amazing happened. Two Pakistani girls moved to town. Twins. Huma and Asma. We immediately became friends. They were my first ethnic friends! I mean I tried being friends with a girl named Chang back in Queens but she was allowed to hang out less than I was so it didn’t work. I enjoyed my white friends whose parents let them come to my house for hours with no issue. Anyway – back to my first brown friends. They had just moved here from London. Dad was a doctor and divorced (scandal!). They came to the US to be closer to his sister. They all had these amazing accents which somehow cancelled out their “otherness” and made them hugely popular. It didn’t hurt that they were loaded and had a house with a pool (a rare jewel in Albany). Their dad worked crazy hours and the girls were mostly home alone – another bonus. I loved their house. It was the opposite of my house. No one cooked. My house smelled of ginger and garlic all day. Their house smelled of…nothing. Heaven. The twins’ dad was the first person to tell me that I was mispronouncing my name. Lucky for me his daughters were mortified and told him to never to talk to me again and I moved on.

Actually my family moved on. We moved from Albany to Harrisburg, PA. Again, Harrisburg today has a full, lively Indian culture. Back then? Nada.

My dad believed any religion was good religion – so I went to a Catholic High School. It was diverse”ish”….but guess which population there was only one of? That’s right people. Still me representing all Indians. Dot. Not feather.

It wasn’t until I went to college in NYC, where I minored in religion (by mistake) and had to join a club as part of my Religions of the World class, that I met a whole bunch of Indians. I joined The South Asian Club for two long months. They were a nice bunch – most of them had grown-up in Queens, in the exact neighborhood that I’d started out in. Turns out Queens went full-on Indian soon after we moved out. On another side note – by this time I was dating a half Irish/half Ukrainian New Yorker. That’s right people, he’s blonde, blue-eyed and most of the time has a one syllable name. All my dreams really did come true. Anyway this new bunch of friends all tried to educate me on the correct way to say my name. I left soon after. Not just because I didn’t want to be lectured to, in all honesty, I left because they met on Friday mornings at 8am – which didn’t work with my Thursday night at Terminal Bar schedule.

I’ll speed up. The 90s were vapid. No one really cared what the origins of my name were or how to say it correctly. Easy peasy. Even the early 2,000s were a non-issue. It wasn’t really until the last few years when people started getting “woke” that it came up again.

The 20 year old intern who asked me gently if I knew how to correctly pronounce my name. Yes, thank you. Next. The well meaning friends who have other friends who pronounce the same name differently. Yes, I know. I get it. You feel like you’ve been doing me wrong. But you haven’t! I swear. It’s not you. It’s me. Well, technically it’s not me, it’s my name.

You know I even went through a real immersion-into-my-culture phase in high school. We would go to India every year at that time to visit relatives (relatives who also never ever called me by my formal name). I was way into the culture, the movies, the food, the language – all of it. I was a Junior in high school and all I wanted to do was be different. I was thrilled to show-off my funky jewelry and henna’d hand. But even during that time – I never thought about changing the way people say my name. What does that mean? What does that say about me? I dunno. I’m sure there’s a million ways to dissect it. To “help me”. I’ll have to find a therapist and have them give me an answer. Or maybe I’ll Google it.

My point is this…aren’t you glad you made it to the point! Mazel. You’re almost done. My point is that however it started, and whatever reason I did it or maybe someone just started calling me that and I went with it – whatever – it’s how I’d like you to pronounce my name. Yes, the wrong way.

Trust me – it’s a daily struggle. People say my name in all different ways. Correct, incorrect, messed up, etc. I don’t mind any of it. I met a wonderful friend last year through work who is French. We had a long discussion about this. She told me that in French – the direct translation of Je m’appelle isn’t “what is your name?”. The meaning is “what do you want to be called?”. I love that. Je m’appelle Neha (knee-ya).

In conclusion, I’m moving to France. Au revoir.

Things that are currently driving me crazy…

1) How much I talk about weather.

2) Someone (my husband) threw the stick part of my wet Swiffer out and even though it took me months to realize it, I wanted to use it today and now I can’t.

3) Jussie Smollet. Why?? You won the lottery. You are an actor with a full-time job. A steady paycheck. Probably enough money to change the way you were living. Why. WHY throw it all away with a career-ending stunt?? In the words of Cardi B,” you ruined Black History Month bro”.

4) Jordyn Woods. Why?? You won the lottery. Your best friend is a billionaire. She’s letting you live her life with her. Not enough? WHY?? Krazy with a Kardashian K.

5) Can someone invent a pantry door that shuts itself? It may save the lives of the people who live at my house.

6) Abducted in Plain Sight omg. OMG. Two hours of shouting at the TV.

Thank you for listening. Happy Weekend everyone!

Blanket love

This is not an ad. This is my favorite napping blanket. This is the company we found a few years ago in Woodstock, Vermont. Maybe it was more than a few years ago. We loved it so much we bought many other people this blanket. If you didn’t get one and want one, and are related to me or plan to buy me something nice – tell me and I’ll get you one too.

It’s attractive enough. But that’s not the reason you love it. The reason you love it is that it’s heavy. I know weighted blankets are all the rage now, but this is naturally heavy. You sink deeper into the coach or chair when it’s on you. This is not the blanket you want if you’re binge watching a show, or curling up with a good book. You’ll be snoring 5 minutes in. Not that that’s a bad thing.

It’s like anesthesia.

And if you’re like me, you enjoy anything that makes you numb, sleepy and out of it.

Or maybe you’re not like me and you like to live life, do things and feel all emotions. To each his own.

I literally just yawned writing this.

Happy weekend.

And when they met….it was Murdah….

Only kids who grew up in the 80s with no outside hobbies will know that reference. It’s the opening line from Hart to Hart, said by the butler with a very strong New York City accent. Here’s the IMDB blurb:

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Self-made millionaire Jonathan and freelance writer Jennifer are the Harts – a globetrotting married couple with a talent for finding mysteries wherever they go. And even when they’re uncovering thefts, espionage and assorted skullduggery, they still find time for romance.

I mean what’s there not to like? Thefts, espionage, skullduggery (really?), and romance!  Welcome to the 80s. Pretend you’re a young Indian gal in Harrisburg, PA with a really bad haircut watching upstairs in her parent’s bedroom. Or pretend you’re a not-so-young Indian gal in Yardley, PA watching reruns on the Hallmark Network on her phone so no one sees – either way – set the scene.

Side note – I was also completely unaware of the whole Robert Wagner/Natalie Wood thing. Which takes the whole murder thing in another direction.

Anyway I have always enjoyed a murder mystery. In all honesty there doesn’t even need to be a mystery. I’ve just always enjoyed….murder. Let that sink in. I did start out lightheartedly. Hart to Hart. Remington Steele. Murder, she Wrote. But it went downhill fast. I blame Law and Order. I just love a gruesome tale.

Turns out, I’m not the only one. Michelle McNamara was obsessed with The Golden State Killer case for years. The notorious unsolved crime of someone who had committed upward of 50 sexual assaults and at least 10 murders in California in the 1970s and 1980s, was left untouched until her book (published posthumously), I’ll be Gone in the Dark, came out.

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The book and her research fueled blogs, podcasts, etc. and relaunched the search. The killer was captured within a year using a DNA website. I read the book. Listened to the podcasts. Read all the blogs. I couldn’t get enough. And neither could a million other people. Just sayin’, I’m not the only weirdo.

Now here’s where my interest takes a turn…so maybe I am a weirdo.

I don’t remember if I’ve shared this with you before. If I’ve already talked about my massive crush on Frances Glessner Lee, I’m sorry to repeat myself. But she is so freaking cool. Or was so freaking cool. She grew up in the 30’s and 40’s in a wealthy family. Her passion was police work from an early age, a profession that was considered both beneath her class and out of her league as a woman. She tried to join the police force, but her family objected. Instead she started spending time volunteering in police stations. She noticed that during murder investigations, there was no way to re-create the crime scene. Because most of her leisure time was spent on sewing, painting, etc., she started recreating crime scenes using dollhouse miniatures. Genius. And weird. And useful. All things I love in a person.

Long morbid story short, she became the “mother of forensic science”, eventually joining the police force and also becoming the first female police captain in the country. The techniques she developed helped revolutionize the way police reports were created. She was bad-ass.

You’re probably wondering how I found out about her? You’re not? I’ll tell you anyway. I decided last year that in the near future, say 10 or 15 years from now, I’m going to start working on a dollhouse. Obviously I plan to get creepier with age. As I was researching dollhouses and the weirdos who work on them, I found a podcast called,”Murder is Her Hobby”. It had me at hello. It might as well have been called,”Listen to this Neha, you’ll love it”.

I think you’ll love it too. What’s not to love about a crocheted crime scene?

Another podcast that speaks my name is, My Favorite Murder. 

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Until some years ago I had no people named April in my life. Now I have two. The first one is like family and lives a few houses down. She introduced me to the second one during a girl’s weekend. The second one introduced me to this podcast – and that’s when I knew I’d found a friend for life. That and her love for tequila.

Tonight, both my Aprils and I are heading into Philadelphia (which is sometimes called Killadelphia by smart alecks but really fits with everything we’re talking about here, don’t you think?).

We are going to see that podcast, My Favorite Murder, live! In person. Geeky and edgy all at the same time.

A night of murdah…what could be better? Don’t answer that.

I like big hoops and I cannot lie…

I’ve never met a big earring I didn’t like. I can’t help it. And the queen of all big earrings is the hoop. Yes people, the hoops you stopped wearing in 1987. I never put mine away, they left high school with me and are alive and well in 2019! I also brought my smokey eye and love for tights with me from the 80s. It’s all working out fine for me.

Actually I got even bigger, hoopier hoops from a dear friend (love ya Julie!). These are the size of a baby’s head… in other words, perfect. I think the only other people still rocking them are the Real Housewives of NJ and maybe Jlo. I’m in good company.

Ok… go continue your Sunday. I just needed to tell you that right now.

Girls girls girls

This is a short little story about my baby girl and her group of baby girls.

Random fact… all their names start with either A or B or J or K. I’m not sure what that means but it means something… right?

They’ve known each other for years, some longer than others. They’ve gone to the same schools and different schools. They’ve made good and bad choices together. They’ve drifted apart and drifted back to together.

Each is on a different path, in a different place. But when they come home, they come together. In the past few years they’ve created traditions of their own, kept connected. It makes me so happy.

It doesn’t just make me happy for them, it makes me happy for us. The world. I’m so excited to see what they will do. Where they will go.

When Kera was little and she’d bring home a new friend, I could always tell the ones that were the real deal. They would be the girls who said hello, came into the kitchen, sat down for a chat. These are those girls.

She has a great group of guy friends too – but nothing makes me happier about the future then seeing these smart, witty, beautiful gals. We are going to be ok.

Now if only they’d let me hang out with them…

My favorite night out…

Is in. Bed. Ya dig?

Aperol spritz+tv+bed= unbeatable evening of fun.

Where are you? At a club? A bar? Vegas? Good for you! Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good night out. I love being with friends and family. I’m all about it.

But a good night in is a beautiful thing. And when you’re in for the evening you have choices. What will you do? Where will you sit? The living room is a nice, solid choice. It’s got the biggest tv, it’s near snacks… it’s a no brainer. Maybe you watch in your den or basement, we have neither so that’s out. We do have a family room, but it’s near the laundry room and sitting in there sometimes reminds me of, you know, laundry. And other things I’m avoiding.

My go-to place is always the same – it’s my bed. And it’s not even a King. I still love it. I could rule the world from here.

So I’ll raise my glass, send you good wishes. Here’s to you, out in the world, in real clothes. I applaud you. Have one for me. I’ll have one for you too. If you need me, you know where to find me.

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