I’d Paint My Body ‘Til All My Skin Was Gone Or, Wear Your Heart On Your Skin In This Life

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I have wanted a tattoo since I was in high school but never really took the leap and actually got one because:

- Pain. However, the older I get, the more I realize that Westley was right (as he always is because there is a shortage of perfect breasts in this world and true love doesn’t happen every day) – “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

- I’m flighty. Like the flightiest little bird that ever took to the skies. If I’m going to get something indelibly inked onto my flesh, it damn well better mean something instead of just being a flight of fancy.

Over the years, I’ve thought the following would be good tattoos: stars, the nataraja, a number of quotes from The West Wing (including Josh’s line about how President Bartlet’s a good man with a good heart and he doesn’t hold grudges. That’s what he pays Josh for), various words written in various languages that are not English and a Sailor Jerry style swallow.

These are all terrible ideas.

Among my less terrible ideas – the last lines of The Great Gatsby:

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning —
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

But that’s a whole lotta text for a girl that doesn’t have a whole lotta real estate on her body.

Also, Baz Luhrmann did his level best to ruin Gatsby for me with his stupid plastic zebras and fixation on ALL THE WRONG THINGS (the shitty millennial music video aspects of the story – Pretty people! Money! Champagne! – instead of focusing on how the hope that sustains a man is the same hope that will destroy him. J.R. Jones was so right when he called it, “a ghastly Roaring 20s blowout at a sorority house.”), so my veneration has waned a little.

Among my decent ideas are Bruce and Bukowski.

There’s a lyric from Badlands that I’ve been chasing around my head for years – “It ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive.”

Happiness should be the default setting for humanity but as I grow older, I realize that this is not the case. Happiness is often hard won and the pursuit of it is something that people feel they have to apologize for.

Yeah. That’s bullshit.

Your happiness matters. You should strive towards it and to hell with anyone who begrudges, condemns or demands atonement from you for being glad you’re alive.

It’s tough, though and every now and then – you need reminding of this very simple fact. Every day, you wake up to absolution.

I’m sure there’s at least one cautionary tale about dating someone with a Bukowski line tattooed on their body.

Hell, if I was dating a guy and I found out he had a Bukowski tattoo, I would consider it:

A) a massive car dealership sized red flag. Like dude. No. This is going to end badly. Danger Will Robinson. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.
B) ridiculously hot.

What? I am large; I contain multitudes.

For all his piss and vinegar and bile, Bukowski had this sense of hope. He kept it caged like the bluebird in his heart and the booze and the cigarettes and the whores and the broken hearts couldn’t keep it from singing out:

What matters most is how you walk through the fire.
Life is as kind as you let it be.
It has been a beautiful fight. Still is.
We have all this beauty in the world and all we have to do is reach out and touch it.
No one can save you but yourself and you’re worth saving

And of course – Hey baby, when I write – I’m the hero of my shit.

I probably wouldn’t get those last lines inked on me (despite the fact that I am certainly the heroine of my shit) but the rest of his work? Definitely worth deliberation.

I don’t want a tattoo because it’s cool or because a majority of my friends have one (those days have long passed me by). I want one because it would be a conscious decision I made regarding the state of who I am.

I’ve got scars I never requested. Tiny marks from wounds that never healed properly I never sought out. Freckles that have bloomed all over my neck and decolletage, giving me the appearance of an Everything Bagel. Even my pierced ears were a decision made for me as a child, but a tattoo?

That’s an alteration I have full control over. A permanent addition to a body that has served me well for the past 30+ years. A body that has survived hell and heartbreak and sickness and scrapes. A body that I don’t always love (as evidenced by my penchant to yelp out, “Oh, what in the unholy fuck is that all about?” while looking in the mirror) but manages to surprise me more often than not (yoga has made me realize how alternately strong and weak I am).

A body that is completely mine.

And what better way to honor it than by adorning it with something I love?

Don’t Panic Or, Teddy Roosevelt Was Right

​M​y 31st birthday is less than a week away and when I realized this, I freaked out.

Actually, no. To say I freaked out is stretching the truth to the point of breaking it.

I went full Muppet.

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You never go full Muppet.

And in between the panicked screaming, my inner monologue kicked in:

Dude. You have no idea what you’re doing, you know that right? Oh and everyone else knows it too

You know what everyone else’s lives look like? Anthropologie spreads. They’ve formed their lives on the bedrock of financial stability, they’ve got super cute and precocious kids and they are so stupid in love that they make McAdams and Gosling from The Notebook look like DiCaprio and Winslet from Revolutionary Road.

They never eat popcorn for dinner and they stay skinny no matter what they eat but they also order steamed vegetables as a side instead of saying things like, “Yeah. I want to shovel as many cheese fries in my face as you’re legally allowed to serve me.”

They can do crow pose without crashing on their faces, their nails are always manicured and they all know how to do that stupid sock bun thing. And tie it up with a bow.

Regina George ain’t got shit on my inner monologue.

​Then I stopped, I took a deep breath and I ran Regina George over with a damn bus. ​

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Dudes. My life is awesome.

I live in paradise where the average yearly temperature is 75 ​degrees. ​​ I am rocking the hell out of pigeon pose in yoga, I love where I work, I talk to my best friends every single day, there’s a solid chance I might be going to Austin City Limits this year, I’m definitely seeing Lionel Richie, Cee-Lo and The Bangles live, I’m never more than 24 hours and a phone call away from fancy gin cocktails or amazing tacos and I get to hang out with cute boys and their cuter dogs.

​Oh and when I eat popcorn for dinner? It’s fancy as fuck because I top it with chili powder, cumin, salt and fresh lime zest. ​

​I could focus on all the things I don’t have or all the things I should have but Roosevelt was right – comparison is the thief of joy and when I’ve got so much great stuff in my life, how could I possibly not be ecstatically joyful for every damn minute of it?

So, here’s to 31. Here’s to appreciating the good, living a life beyond compare and being happy, wild and free like all good things.

And gin. Because God, what are we – savages?

Sometimes You Just Have To Put On Lip Gloss and Pretend To Be Psyched Or, Mindy Kaling is My Spirit Animal

I was never a Carrie.

Nor was I ever a Miranda, a Samantha, a Rachel, a Monica, a Summer, a Cordy, a Sookie, a Veronica or even a Liz Lemon (although I can relate to night cheese).

The women on television were merely that – women on television.

Growing up, I didn’t have on-screen role models.

If I wanted to see a dusky, doe-eyed dame, I had to resort to Bollywood…and I’m the girl least likely to twirl around on a mountaintop with some swarthy young suitor, coyly waiting for a kiss to be blown in my general direction.

Despite the fact that I grew up in a town where everyone looked like me, the people on the telly were mostly white, sometimes black and all my little dollies had blonde hair because they didn’t make Cabbage Patch Kids with tawny skin and dark brown eyes.

And this was the norm.

Twenty years later, The Office introduced Kelly Kapoor.

Initially a throwaway role intended to highlight Michael Scott’s racism, Kelly Kapoor grew into a much larger character and is responsible for some of the show’s funniest moments (watch any interaction between Kelly and Ryan).

And for the first time, there was a character on network television like me.

I’m not even talking about the implications of someone who looks like me (although, that is huge because fucking finally, right?) but at long last here was an Indian character who didn’t have a thick accent nor an advanced degree in engineering. An Indian character who wasn’t a spelling bee winner or a mathlete (no disrespect to math enthusiast/bad-ass MC Kevin Gnapoor). An Indian character who didn’t drive a cab or work at a 7/11.

There was an Indian character like me – someone who likes pink (the color), Pink (the singer) and basically anything that’s awesome. A smart girl who wasn’t a nebbish social misfit. Someone whose middle name was her father’s name and she hates it! She hates it!

The Office ended and Mindy Kaling went on to create, write and star in The Mindy Project – a sitcom where she plays a doctor, briefly dates Timothy Olyphant and names her bad-ass alter-ego, Beyonce Pad Thai.

Sista did it for herself.

And now, not only is there someone like me on television, but there’s someone in the public eye who is like me.

A curvy Indian woman who likes to play dress-up. .

An Indian female writer (who named her character ‘Mindy Lahiri’ after one of my favorite writers, Jhumpa Lahiri) who can opine about both Modern American literature and how the series would have been different had Neville Longbottom been The Chosen One.

Someone who consumes pop culture like popcorn and has probably had popcorn and wine for dinner more times than she can count.

Someone who fangirls the fuck out over a pair of glittery Jimmy Choos and the ridiculous jewelry at Forever 21 that turns your fingers green.

Mindy Kaling is totally the girl I’d most like to get dosas and gin cocktails with. Because Indian food is fucking delicious and I’m sure that both of our mothers probably made way better sambar.

Mindy Kaling is my long-awaited role model. Mindy Kaling is my homegirl. Mindy Kaling is my spirit animal.

And this isn’t just because she likes the same shit I do or because I can relate to being a curvy brown girl.

Mindy Kaling is my role model because she did it.

She grew up in the same era as me and instead of resigning herself to the fact that people like her aren’t represented in the media, she basically said, “Fuck that noise” and wrote her own damn fairytale.

And because of her – I’m not a Carrie or a Charlotte or some sniveling whiny little cry Buffy.

I’m a Mindy.

mkal

And that is fucking awesome.

So, This Happened…

This week was kinda all over the place.

I got some bad news, got some more bad news and spent several hours just being quiet, sad and introspective.

BUT, a lot of good things happened too and since 2014 is the year we aspire towards happiness, we’re gonna focus on them:

- Piglet races. How did I go thirty years without experiencing this glory? Cute little piggies dash towards victory and little nibble bits of Oreos. It’s the cutest thing in the world and the fact that I didn’t steal one, bring him home and rename him Harry Trotter? Nothing short of a miracle.

- I hung out with rad people and discovered that little girls who eat ribs and rock Hello Kitty are even more awesome than they sound.

- I know that everyone’s all about bowing down to Queen Bey, but hand to God – I just don’t get it. She’s fine. She’s got a killer body. Her Superbowl halftime show was perfectly serviceable, Crazy in Love is totally my jam and I am all about the Carters because THIS:

blueivy

But Queen? Really? Yeah, no.

D and I had a pretty epic conversation about that this week and basically decided that if there’s gotta be a queen, it’s gonna be Diana Ross.

She’s all big hair, big eyelashes and badassery and Bey? Watch the Throne but don’t take a seat because that space is occupado. Seriously. Listen to anything Miss Ross did – solo or with The Supremes – and then, come at me.

Also, Prince is King (because obviously), the Right Reverend Al Green has been elevated to Archbishop, Aretha is High Priestess and Janet is a straight up Warrior Goddess because seriously bro, what HAVE you done for me lately?

- This Week I Ate: Cupcakes for Paps’ Birthday (edible glitter, y’all), vegetarian pho with a super flavorful broth (which is a total rarity), a ridic amount of Mom’s lemon pickle, a deep-fried buckeye (a glob of chocolate-covered peanut butter about the size of a child’s fist, covered in batter and deep-fried), a piece of toffee enshrined in chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt (pretty sure I now know what crack feels like) and a garbage-ass coconut cream pie Larabar that tasted like lies.

- Holy Shit, I Love: Shimmery gold nail polish, the Lana Del Rey cover of Once Upon A Dream from Maleficent, pretty much any conversation between Raylan and Boyd, Bonkers Awesome with Joy the Baker and Mindy Kaling’s Instagram because cute shoes, cuter puppies and consistently fucking fabulous eye-makeup.

Adventures in Culinary Assembly Or, Spicy Avocado Chutney

I went to New Orleans last week and did a lot of this:

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So, upon returning I decided that it was time for a little detox.

I signed up for yoga, I upped my water intake (a quart a day as opposed to the…nothing a day I was drinking) and I decided to eat more raw vegetables.

You would think that this wouldn’t be a problem for a vegetarian, right? I mean, what the hell do vegetarians eat if not shitloads of raw vegetables?

We eat bread, dudes. We eat bread and fried okra and great big slices of pizza where the mozzarella melts into the sauce giving it this transcendent creamy quality and risotto with fistfuls of parmesan and chilaquiles and cheese fries and ALL THINGS DELICIOUS.

You know what I don’t eat? Baby carrots sticks dunked in hummus or low-fat ranch dressing because they taste like crushing loneliness.

Luckily, my favorite food in this world happens to be The Good Salad.

The Good Salad is not one of those wanky afterthoughts with bagged iceberg, some watery tomatoes and bottled Italian.

It is the Garden of Eden in a bowl.
It is rife and resplendent with a bountiful cornucopia of different tastes and textures.
It is a night with George Clooney as it will leave you happy and completely satisfied.

I whipped one up tonight for dinner and figured Southwestern was a good way to go because Southwestern is always a good way to go. I made a quick salsa (tomatoes, corn, onion, lime juice and salt) and tossed it in a bowl with some black beans and kale.

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So far, so good.

I had no clue how to dress the thing so I did what all grown adults do when confronted with an issue.

I called my mom.

I know everyone thinks their mom is a great cook but mine is pretty much an alchemist when it comes to spices. She makes a lilli chutney (the green stuff made of coriander) so delicious, I would punch you in the throat to get at it…and I like you. And her pickled lemons? I cannot even.

I lose the ability to even when confronted with the glory that are pickled lemons.

So, I call Mom and we have the following conversation.

Me: So, I got the stuff for the salad but I don’t know what to do about the dressing. I think I want it to be like that avocado salsa from Tacos al Carbon.
Mom (with barely-conceal disgust in her voice because Mom doesn’t trust “outside food” much less “outside food” that came from a sketchy taco truck): I don’t know what that is.
Me: Think lili chutney but with avocados.
Mom: Oh, that’s easier than lili chutney. Buy the avocado and I’ll make it for you.

Ethnic mothers – they exist to feed their offspring.

So, to make Mom’s Avocado Chutney, you will need:

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1 avocado
1/2 jalapeno pepper (ours was hot)
1/4 cup cilantro (not pictured)
Lime juice to taste
Salt and sugar (not pictured)

Stick all ingredients in a blender and hit puree. It’s gonna be pretty thick so drizzle in small amounts of water until you reach the desired consistency. Some people like a thicker chutney while others prefer something a little more runny.

Yeah. It’s that easy.

I drizzled it over my salad and like most things that come out of my mom’s kitchen – it was magical.

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The finished product is fresh, bright, spicy and creamy – it’s a delicious condiment and involves way less petty theft than me stealing plastic drizzle bottles from my local taco joint…which I’ve considered doing on numerous occasions.

If you’re looking to detox from the holidays but also want to eat like a goddamn boss – make The Good Salad. There are no rules to it – it’s organized chaos. In a bowl. That you can eat.

Cuckoo for cukes? Toss ‘em in there.
Chickpeas make your skirt fly up? Crack open a can, drain that bastard and go to town.
Dig on some celery? Dude, no. Just no. What’s wrong with you, man? Celery tastes good IN things but you don’t eat it raw. Jesus…

If you decide to make the spicy avocado chutney, please let me know so I can tell Mom. She’ll be kind of stoked to know that people who read, “that thing on the internet where you curse too much,” like her more than they like me.

Just like real life.

Eat well. Be happy.

An Open Letter To Myself Or, Happy New Year

Dear Me:

Firstly, our hair looks great. Did you blowdry it upside down again? Yeah. That’s the only way we’re gonna get any volume.

Anyway, 2013. Kinda a rough year for us. We didn’t so much learn lessons as lessons came up to us, said – “Hi! Are you Jaime?” and then, punched us in the mouth.

We went through break-ups, quit our job, moved back to South Florida and got an awesome new job.

We started the year being stupid unhealthy (due to subsisting on hot chocolate and a cup of pretzels a day) and ended it getting back to normal because Mom is ethnic and we live like, three miles from the greatest taco joint in the world.

2013 was the year we turned 30, got bangs for the first time ever, walked on the field at Dolphins Stadium, flew to New York City for a concert, drove to New Orleans for a Bougie Girl adventure and had our existence acknowledged by Rob Sheffield.

There was a lot of good but it was also pretty tumultuous so I’m kindly requesting that 2014 being The Year Jaime Doesn’t Make The Same Mistakes Again Because Are You Fucking Kidding Me? Come On, Dude. Be Better Than That.

To help us with that, here are some lessons I think we’d be wise to remember.

- People are who they are and they don’t change. You can’t make someone love you and you can’t make someone be who you need them to be. You are too old to lie to yourself and call it honor.

- You want to find out what you’re made of and who really loves you? Raze your life and see who’ll help you comb through the ashes. The people in your life right now love you so much. Take the time to appreciate them.

- Your self-esteem is a mess. No. Stop it. Don’t write this off. Don’t make a clever little quip. It’s bad. I know you’ve been working on it and I know it’s hard but 2014? We’re gonna grab that beastie by the horns. Wear dresses, stop doing that thing where you look in the mirror and grimace and listen the fuck up – you’re a helluva dame and you could make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window.

Goals For 2014

DO.

That’s it.

Just DO things. There is a whole world out there – ripe with promise and waiting to be devoured – and you are starving.

Seek out adventure – keep an eye on flight and hotel deals. This world is meant to be explored and the way you travel, you can see a lot in a long weekend.
Eat good food – eat more arugula, start cooking again, perfect your mutter paneer recipe, pickle some vegetables and let’s try Ethiopian food. It seems kinda tasty.
Drink more small batch gin, find a pinot noir you really love and set up a Bloody Mary bar for brunch.
Meet new people. Your spirit animal may as well be a labrador. This is a good thing. Use it to your advantage.
Get a tattoo – something to do with Bruce or Bukowski.
Moisturize.
Drink more water.
WRITE.

See how happy you are here?

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Strive for this. Every day.

Say ‘Yes’ more often. Nothing ever happens to those who live their lives on their couches.

Oh and read the collected works of Shakespeare. Look, dude. You’ve been banging on about it for the past couple of years and you own the collection, so just do it. Because you know what the coolest thing in the world is?

Basically, remember the advice that you’re planning on giving your daughter (if you ever have one):

What’s the most important thing in the world?
To be kind.
And what else?
To be smart.
Why?
Because smart girls gets the joke and the really smart girls? They write the joke.
Be smart, be kind and remember – I love you.

That’s solid advice, dude. You should consider taking it.

2014 is going to be good to us. I promise.

Love:

Me xx

P.S. – Volumizer. Let’s have big hair in 2014. Like Lilly from Shahs of Sunset big. She’s insufferable but goddamn, that hair is fabulous.

John Hughes Did Not Direct My Life Or, A Girl And Her Desire To Recapture The Maybe

I had this bad habit.

Heroin.

Kidding.

Two cups of Cuban coffee will send me to rehab….as it rightfully should because if you make it right, that shit is rocket fuel (I love you, Havana. Never change).

Anyway.

You know how some people wear their hearts on their sleeves? Well, I’m the girl who took it a step further. Sleeves are for rookies. I basically slapped a bow on mine and handed it off with nothing more than a, “Dude, seriously. Be careful…”

Needless to say, this doesn’t always work out as well as anticipated and as a result, I’ve done a little masonry and put up a bit of a wall.

Made of Supermax concrete with barbed wire lacing across the top.

Little girl
Little girl
Let me in?
Not by the hair on my chinny-chinny-chin (I’m ethnic. We’re hirsute. What do you want?)

I didn’t even realize just how high these walls were until a couple of months ago.

I was watching Sliding Doors – an innocuous bit of late 90s fluff starring Gwyneth Paltrow – and charmingly cheeky Scotsman James (John Hannah) gets into a misunderstanding with Helen (Paltrow with her sterling English accent).

So, he heads over to her place, bangs on the door and starts howling for her.

I managed to both roll and cut my eyes simultaneously (a fancy bit of ocular yoga if there ever was one) and huffed, “Please. That would never happen.”

Because it wouldn’t. No-one would show up at your door and bang away as if seeking any port in a storm.

People don’t do that.

They send text messages. They leave voicemails. They email.

No-one shows up at your door with a boombox or flowers or even an apology. It just isn’t done.

Seeing this on-screen irked me and I reacted to it in a way I never have before – weary disbelief.

I never used to be like this.

I was the girl who believed in silly little love songs and movie endings. If your life wasn’t cinematic, well – that just meant you weren’t trying hard enough and I tried really damn hard to bring that sense of magic into my life.

I was the proto-Taylor Swift…without that obnoxious “Ohmygod! Really?!” face she does every five minutes….and the millions of dollars…and the annoying penchant for writing contrived, shitty songs about her exes.

Then, adulthood smashed into me and totally disabused me of that belief.

I know movie endings don’t happen in real life. That’s why they’re the movies, right? They’re escapist. I mean, I’m a smart girl. I minored in cinema studies. I get it.

I know that my one true love will never lead me safely through the Fire Swamp or engage in a battle of wits with a Sicilian when death is on the line.
He will never race through the streets on New Year’s Eve to find me, kiss me and tell me that he loves that I get cold when it’s 62 72 degrees out or that he loves that after spending the day with me, he can smell my perfume on his clothes.
He will never get off the train in a completely different country just to keep talking to me.

This doesn’t happen. I know this, but in the back of my head – I always kinda sorta believed it might.

Then, I stopped believing in the might. The maybe. The hope and the promise and the sheer, dumb serendipity of it all.

It got lost and idiot that I am, I didn’t put a tracking chip in it so I have no idea how find it.

I don’t want to be like this.
I want to be the girl who understands that it probably won’t but maybe, just maybe…

So, how does one recapture hope?

Maybe I have approach it A Clockwork Orange style – forcing my eyelids open while marathon-watching Love Actually, The Notebook, Dirty Dancing and Sleepless in Seattle? But, I get the feeling that would just result in dry eyes and a desire to listen to the Dirty Dancing Soundtrack (Look, if Hungry Eyes doesn’t do it for you, your soul is dead).

Maybe I have to stop mocking those shitty romance novels and actually read one….but no. Yeah. No. That’s just not gonna happen. If I’m looking for love stories – I skew towards Bukowski writing about Jane or Bourdain writing about pork.

Maybe I have to ixnay the Jay and ‘Ye and incorporate a little more John Legend into my life. This might actually work because the new John Legend? Kinda legit.

Or maybe there is no answer. Maybe it’s just something I have to figure out by living, man. L-I-V-I-N’….which is a real sonofabitch because let’s face it, a rom-com movie marathon takes a weekend but that whole living thing? Takes pretty much your whole life.