I picked up this book from a Book Riot list of the two books I keep going back to when things get rough. Well, things have been rough, so I picked it up.
What I wasn't expecting was a book of essays, which tells me, hey, I'm growing, I'm expanding. I am delighted by the essays, mostly because Scaachi is great at writing, writing meaningfully, and writing humourously (oh, the number of times I laughed out loud were too many to count!). While I can't relate to a number of parts of her story (the being Indian in Canada part, or the being the victim of subtle racism part, in particular), the part of being a woman online and being a woman in tech, and having the world rage at you, and loving your parents even as you rage at them, well, those parts I could relate to.
Turns out, Scaachi caused an uproar on twitter when she asked for books from non-white, non-male authors. Wait, what? I suspect she was the topic of the day on twitter, because there is one every f'ing day, but I was off twitter when she uproared, and well, missed it. I'm sorta sorry I did, as I would have nodded, then +1'd, and tweeted at her "I understand." Likely wouldn't have done much, but sometimes you need the "I'm with you" and the +1 to balance out the negative in your world.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I recommend it.
No one finds anything in France except bread and pretension, and frankly, both of those are in my lap right now.
Nothing bad can happen to you if you’re with your mom. Your mom can stop a bullet from lodging in your heart. She can prop you up when you can’t. Your mom is your blood and bone before your body even knows how to make any.
Nothing, it seems, scares you into perpetual fear quite like becoming one of the oldest in your bloodline.
When you leave the protective wing of your family for the first time, it takes a while before you learn that the only person now tasked with taking care of you is you.
Being afraid of the world, of unknown beasts, only makes you feel alone. Sometimes you just need to get on the plane and hope nothing bad happens.
But it wasn’t real fear because I was with my mom. Nothing bad happens when you’re with your mom.
It was embarrassing to be mistaken for a boy. Not a girl with masculine tendencies, not a girl rejecting traditional gender roles, but a boy.
As someone who is very, very frequently mistaken for a boy, I'm used to it by now.
And so her life would be (and is) different than mine, because her race is a footnote instead of the title.
“Why not?” I worried here, because I want her to like it there, or at least to be indifferent about it the way you get to be indifferent about a home when you don’t realize you’ll miss it one day.
Do not talk to me about how you love the “colours” of an Indian wedding—the main colours come from blood and shit, not necessarily respectively.
Teenage girls of all creeds and colours so often think their bodies are too big, or too small, or too misshapen to be acceptable—we are conditioned to hate ourselves and the ways we’re built. So it’s surprising when you try to wedge your pancake breasts into a decade-old chiffon top, your arms unable to bend back down, your soft biceps straining the tensile strength of a factory stitching, only to learn that your teenage body was, in fact, fine, it was just fine. (For all you know, despite your current physical hang-ups, it might still be.)
I tried to not get too wrapped up in the process—what is, physically or morally, wrong with being of a certain size? Where do I get off feeling sorry for myself based on an arbitrary metric that I already know to be bullshit?—but when a shopkeeper looks at your frame and shakes his head solemnly, it’s hard not to take it personally.
Home, somehow, is always the last place you left, and never the place you’re in.
Arguing over traditions that have been in place forever is so consuming that neither of us even began to try.
Most people use Twitter to drain their brains of the things you can’t say in public, the minor irritations of existence, passive aggression so sharp that if you acted it out at your office you would immediately be fired.
People ask me how I handle this. “Doesn’t it wear you down?” one friend asked after I showed her my Twitter mentions, filling with men calling me a cunt or a whore or threatening to detach my limbs and toss me into a dumpster. It doesn’t—or, rather, it didn’t—for the same reason that you’re not supposed to be afraid of non-poisonous spiders. They’re more afraid of you, and they’re only displaying a panic response when their legs freak out and they start running around your walls in circles. Why waste my finite fear and rage on what is, ultimately, something my cat can trap and eat out of her little pink paws?
After a year or so of mocking them, I started asking, directly, what happened to them. Sometimes I’d just apologize preemptively for what was so obviously a personal destruction they were trying to soothe.
Or they just hate women. They hate brown women who do not fit a stereotype they’re comfortable with, but frankly, they hate those women too. Sometimes there isn’t logic. Sometimes they just think I’m a cunt.
It is taxing to consider the circumstances that can take an unmarked human canvas and make it rage-filled and petty and lost. It’s not fun to have sympathy for the people who are trying to hurt you. But their actions can sometimes make sense: what’s easier than trying to get better is trying to break something else down. It gives credence to your power, a power you might not always feel.
These men who harass women online were all owed something very simple at one time—respect, love, affection, the basic decency of living upwards and not curling inwards, a humane education—and someone, along the line, failed them.
It changes you, when you see someone similar to you, doing the thing you might want to do yourself.
We are deeply afraid of making marginalized voices stronger, because we think it makes privileged ones that much weaker.
And when that message comes from a non-white non-male person themselves, someone young enough to not yet have any inherent gravitas and—this part is important—just enough privilege to be powerful, that’s when they target you.
Years ago, when another writer accused me of fabricating sources in my work, I went to Jordan, devastated and furious. “The thing to remember about him,” he said, “is that he’s nobody. Nobody at all. Fuck that guy in the ear.”
Jordan is, in all the best ways, the opposite of me: he is incredibly calm, methodical, patient, and he can wait a full five minutes between a thought forming in his head and hurtling its way out of his mouth.
I laughed at this one. I laughed at a lot of Scaachi's writing.
“There is no cowardice in removing yourself from a wildly unhealthy and unwinnable situation,” he said when I told him about my Twitter account burning down before my eyes.
No, I was right the first time: there is no bottom. You just sink and sink and sink until the force of your fall pulls the skin clean off your bones.
Above all, I like bothering people. I like being present in spaces where I am not welcome because you do not deserve to feel comfortable just because you’re racist or sexist or small-minded.
I can understand this.
Most didn’t have much to say at all, because when you die, a shocking few will be sad.
No one cares more about your successes and your foibles than you.
I was dumb enough to want a hug from a machine.
I understand this. Wow, I understand so much of these essays.
What they say to me online is the purest distillation of the rage they feel — statements that would get them fired or arrested in real life but get them a moderate fan base or begrudging attention online.
(I wouldn’t, like, go to yoga, but I’d talk about it. If I’ve learned anything from white women, it’s that the best kind of yoga is the kind you talk about fucking constantly.)
Alcohol is the great equalizer. Alcohol makes you brave. Alcohol makes you beautiful. Alcohol makes you fall in love.
When I was a teenager, the world told me that a girl is responsible for her own body if she’s raped or assaulted when she’s drunk: that’s her fault, it’s on her to not get so drunk she stops being fun and starts being a liability.
Women can’t be fun all the time, can’t drink without consequence. Frankly, few people can, but who feels the consequences of their otherwise harmless actions quite like women?
After you shoot out into the world and build a community, and people leave, you feel the loneliest you’ve ever been in your life.
I had been angry for myself for such a long time that I forgot to be sad for him.
The first time I was roofied,
Okay, this had me sitting back and going, "Uh." The FIRST time?
And yet, being surveilled with the intention of assault or rape is practically mundane, it happens so often. It’s such an ingrained part of the female experience that it doesn’t register as unusual. The danger of it, then, is in its routine, in how normalized it is for a woman to feel monitored, so much so that she might not know she’s in trouble until that invisible line is crossed from “typical patriarchy” to “you should run.”
There was shame in having to admit that you had a little moustache when all the white girls at school didn’t even get wispy hairs on the backs of their thighs.
There’s something so carnal about pulling little parts of your body off or out of yourself.
It’s rarely you who decides there’s something wrong with you; instead, you get your cues from someone who is the right combination of bored, cruel, and insecure about themselves to begin with.
It’s easier to rebel against hair norms if you’re a woman generally unburdened by them in the first place.
But of course, the secret to Indian hair is merely to be Indian.
Do I just get it waxed like a strawberry blond might, and hope that it doesn’t look like I walked into a controlled fire, labia first?
Laughing. So. Hard.
It’s a quintessential encapsulation of running after an unattainable goal: we turned this basic fact about our bodies into something ugly.
But the only way to do better, to have better, is to lose pieces of what was.
It’s been so long, it’s so far now, the only thing you can do is remember it as perfect.
“Falling in love” sounds so passive, but it did feel unintentional, like tripping into a pit that happened to be filled with downy gold.
I don’t like changing my personal status quo even when my status quo isn’t comfortable.
It wasn’t fair, but it was predictable.
Few things get less complicated as you age, but your family, that at least should become easier. You should eventually make peace with everyone, with their decisions and their quirks.
We talked about my work or his crushing ennui or about how the biggest tree in the backyard rotted and he had to get it taken out or how Raisin started to yell “HOW RUDE” anytime someone did something she didn’t care for.
Papa’s sun is the brightest, so when he decides to set, it makes for some very long, cold winters.
Once, while in the car together, he half stated, half muttered, apropos of nothing, “You live, you create things, you become a footnote in history. That’s what happens when you get old. It’s a trage—IT’S A TRAGEDY.”
I get angry at toaster ovens (TERRIBLE FOR POP TARTS), and irate when people don’t follow my advice.
Or at least I need to believe in his ability to let things go when they are ultimately out of his control, because otherwise we’re both just alone, spinning separately when we’re supposed to be in this together.