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.

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.

I was promised a snow storm

I’m here on the couch moping with the cat. Where is my storm?? I really wanted it. I am so ready for it. I mean I didn’t buy bread or milk or anything, but mentally I’m ready for it. I’m ready to cancel plans. Ready to not leave the house for the next 48 hours. Ready to not shower, stay in my pjs, and take intermittent naps all day long. I had planned on making my husband feel guilty for not getting firewood. I was looking forward to that all week. Now I got nothing.

And it’s almost 40 degrees outside. WTF. I think I just saw a peek of sun. So frustrating.

Now I’ll be expected to do things. Empty the dishwasher. Put my contacts in. Get off the couch. This isn’t what America is about! I can’t even depend on weather I was promised.

My daughter drove back to school yesterday so she’d beat the storm up in New York. I bet they’ll get a foot. Or two. Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania, you make me sad. I’m not mad at you. Just really disappointed.

Monday confessional

Ok let’s just say today wasn’t the winningest day I’ve ever had. The theme for my day would be, “two steps forward, three steps back”. Or is it,”three steps forward, two back”? You know what I mean.

Things that were done got undone. Technology was not my friend today. I went to go pick-up dry cleaning that I never dropped off. True story.

Anyway – not my day.

It was time for chocolate cake and tv.

But because this is opposite of good day – I didn’t even get this right.

The cake looks good in that pic, because I FaceTuned it. What is that you ask? New favorite app. Spend the $3.99. Treat yo self. As I was saying, the cake looks good but it was just ok. Not that I expected anything else from it. It’s a boxed, aisle cake. I wish it no ill will. It was a sad attempt at saving my day.

And the tv… I know I know. I should have known better. Even with my low-brow tv habits I haven’t succumbed to The Bachelor (ok I watched season 1-3 but those weren’t bad). But there’s been so much chatter about it that I gave in. It was a weak night.

Oh god was it bad. Like so bad I am shook people aren’t talking about how bad it is.

The premise is interesting. He’s a virgin. There’s a house full of vipers after him. It could be so bad it’s good, but it’s so bad that it’s sad. Weird and uncomfortable. Perfect for my day.

I’m just going to bed. We can try this all again tomorrow.

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…

Is your underwear drawer full of joy?

Thank you Patty for letting me know about Tidying up, my new Netflix binge. I know I’m late to the party. Marie Kondo and her tidy revolution have been around for a couple of years. I’d never heard of her or her books or her YouTube videos. Where have I been?? I know… living in filth and wearing clothes that basically drain my soul! Here’s her books which I’ll never read now that she has a show on Netflix and videos on YouTube…

I’m hooked! I’m folding shit into neat little rectangles that stand up as we speak. You’ll know what I’m talking about after you watch her or read her… yeah right, just watch her. At first I was weary. I’ve seen enough Hoarders to know the basics. But never has a clean-up show started with a tiny, tidy Japanese lady greeting the house, kneeling on the floor, with eyes closed in meditation. Never has a hoarder been asked,” does that pile of newspapers bring you joy?”. The idea that you need to feel joy from every item in your home is crazy. And nuts. And wonderful.

In her theory, if an object no longer brings you joy – you say thank you and goodby to it. Easy. And so hard.

There’s something so mesmerizing about her folding things. Go on YouTube and spend some time watching her fold shirts, pants, and underwear. I did. For hours.

She goes by KonMari. And whatever KonMari is telling me to do – by Buddha I’ll do it!

I started this weekend. Here’s a peek into what one of my drawers looked like before… don’t judge! KonMari would not approve of judgement…. this is a sock, underwear, Spanx drawer.

I kept the dryer sheet in for the pic to keep it real. Incase you needed more realness.

So I dumped everything out. And with each piece I said to myself,”does this bring you joy?”. And to be honest – the majority didn’t. I had underwear older than my kids. That was easy. But I had moments of doubt too. Do my Spanx really bring me joy? Hell-to-the-no. But being able to eat a bagel does, and so in the end… yes there is some indirect joy in those straight jackets. I bet KonMari never had this issue, why would she, she’s wallet sized.

Anyway here’s my JOYFUL new drawer…

Not a bad start! I see the bottom of my drawer… you know what that means? Time to shop! Kidding. Maybe.

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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