View from above

P.K. Subban is a player in the National Hockey League and is of African-American descent.  When he scored the winning goal against the Boston Bruins on May 1, allowing his team to advance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, people threw garbage at him and called him the n-word on Twitter.  When asked by journalist Chris Johnston to comment on these events his response was: “I don’t know.  It doesn’t even matter.”  My gut reaction to this is, but P.K., it does matter.

This reminds me of a scene in the Mira Nair film The Reluctant Fundamentalist, which chronicles the pursuit and eventual disenfranchisement with the American dream for a South Asian man.  The book is brilliant but unfortunately its merits didn’t quite translate very well on screen.  Really, you couldn’t put one more light in the Islamabad scenes which are predominantly set in the restaurant?  I can barely see their faces and it’s veering dangerously close to the problematic “Heart of Darkness” imagery.  The saving grace is Riz Ahmed and his charisma, talent and bone-structure.  As an Oxford-educated British actor and musician, Ahmed is definitely contributing to his craft in very interesting ways.  To return to the film, I want to discuss its most poignant scene because it relates to what life is like for all of us at the margins.  The protagonist named Changez is interviewing for a very competitive position with a prestigious bank.  The interviewer (Kiefer Sutherland) will eventually become his mentor and biggest supporter but in this instance he mainly discusses where Changez is “from” and how the scholarships must have really helped him attend Princeton.  God forbid that a racialized man would come from a family of means and social standing.  Finally he questions him on why he just didn’t attend school in Pakistan, I mean that’s where he belongs right?  To this Changez replies, “Because in America you can win.  And I will win whether you give me the job or not.”  That’s it, with that moment right there I feel like he summed up how we, the marginalized, are conditioned to think.  It’s like we constantly say, “What, you’re not going to let me earn it in one step?  That’s fine, whether it takes 5 or 25 steps I will get there.”  We learn to get the job done.

So perhaps P.K. Subban is right and it doesn’t matter.  I don’t know his story but I can imagine what it was like to try to breakthrough in a sport made up of predominantly middle-class White boys whose parents can afford the lessons and equipment.  I’m not suggesting that the Subban family could not, I just bet that the locker rooms weren’t always the easiest places to be.  What P.K. Subban is saying is that he will not be defined by people’s ignorance or the labels they are forcing on him.  His identity won’t be reduced to the colour of his skin.  He won’t be put in his place.  There’s poetic justice in it right?  In rising above?



Good enough

I’m going to keep this one short and sweet.  For every article out there written by women sharing their experiences, I promise you that there are 10 to 1000 individuals making fun of it.  Constructive criticism is not the same as ridicule.


Practices like that caused women to hide their gender to publish.  It made women keep their mouth shut for decades because they felt that their stories didn’t matter.  It’s for people like you that post-colonial writers integrate words from their language and not provide a translation.


My question is do you think any of these individuals would have the guts to lay their joys, fears and flaws bare to help demonstrate the complexities of the human condition?  Doubtful.  Yes entitlement is a problem and no, not everything is great or special, but that doesn’t make it any less of a contribution to the dialogue.


Dear haters: be better.



Being a full one month older than my husband, I feel that it qualifies me to give him sage advice on a regular basis.  For example “it’s the cold ones that you have to worry about because they won’t think twice before rolling you over with their car.”  Or, “no one likes getting divorced unless they have a lover to go to within the hour.”  Clearly I’m being facetious but these thoughts come from years of observation.  People fascinate me, how they primp, perform, revel and rebound from setbacks.

This interest is taken to another level through my inability to mind my own business.  It’s a problem.  I’ve tried going cold-turkey, offering myself rewards but nothing has satiated that hunger and I return once more.  I figure we all have our vices and although it’s gross there are worse things.  Maybe it’s cultural.  From my experience with the Burmese community, diasporic or not, people are constantly talking about each other.  It’s rarely malicious and they are just having a bit of fun.  So I follow that same principle with my love of gossip—I keep it light.  I could care less who is getting divorced or even who’s having babies I just like the beginnings.  I cannot help it with the love stories.

But here is where it gets interesting.  There is always the song and dance of the denial.  We have a very “special” relationship, he’s my best friend, that’s ridiculous.  Then they just start appearing in public together and after an appropriate time it’s just common knowledge that they are a partnership.  In Hollywood every couple is a brand, especially the very famous ones, so you never want to seem like you’re seeking the attention, that you’re not cool.  I would say this is the same for many public figures.  This is where I feel slightly guilty for my fascination.  In our age of social media it’s very difficult for celebrities to maintain their privacy and everyone is entitled to a private life.  With a tweet, instagram or Facebook, it’s suddenly within the public realm for consumption.  People judge you and your partner, the state of your relationship, your body, everything from that 20 second soundbyte or blurry picture.  No wonder they want to keep some things to themselves and I feel badly for prying.

It doesn’t help that I’m good at research and am an observant person.  I was born with a natural curiosity that is a source of pride and trouble all at the same time.  When someone’s behaviour does not match their public representation in the media I look for more information, I build my case and I’m usually right.  My favourite gossip queen and media personality Elaine Lui or Lainey calls this the “smutty tingles.”  Trust, I was right about Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart (I choose to believe that they were not a showmance in the “buffet that is gossip” as Lainey would say) and I’m pretty sure I’m right about my current one.  If I’m not, well I’ll eat my words and my hat.  The allure of it all is widespread, I mean there are whole fandoms out there.  After always observing the public show I sometimes wish that I was a representative for a public figure.  I would love to manage their image and cultivate interest.  Maybe next lifetime.

UPDATE: I was probably wrong.  I don’t know, they are confusing but I’m beyond caring.


Raising a man

I have no qualms admitting that I’ve always thought that I was better suited to raise a daughter.  For my entire life I’ve just related more easily to women and it’s not surprising.  My parents are both one of 5 children and all but one had daughters.  So basically, I was amongst an army of girls and empowered, smart girls at that.  Men, well at least men I’m attracted to, always turn me into gobbley goop.  In fact I’m even surprised that I managed to get married and if I wasn’t, the dating world would have eaten me alive.

So, when I found out that I was having a son, a part of me was a bit nervous.  God, I didn’t even know how to shop for his clothes.  Me.  Not knowing how to shop for clothes.  Well, it’s two years later, I’ve figured all that stuff out and I feel like the luckiest person in the world to have C. in my life.  I would never say that he is easy.  When he was in the womb the doctor always marvelled at how strong and fast his heart was.  Well, he came running into the world, ready to live and know everything.  I think he practices the concept of “joie de vivre” better than most people.  But with that strong will comes frustration.  Thankfully, he gets frustrated less easily now because he has the language to articulate his questions, opinions and charm.  To me he’s smart, lovely and at times my everything.  But I am conscious of all the pressures and expectations that he’ll face in his life.  Therefore, I try my best to prepare him for it all, to have the solid foundation of his parents to turn to when he’s finding a place for himself in this world.

I once told one of Andrew’s colleagues that I’ve always wanted a daughter because of my politics and feminist beliefs.  She said something to me then that made so much sense.  A mother of two sons herself she said, “I want to raise kind, good men because I think that’s important too.”  And it’s so true.  We can always use more men who are secure enough to not be intimidated or slighted by strong women.  We need men who love women and themselves, not their ego.  He definitely has a great role model in his father.  My husband has never been afraid to take chances and to find a path that reflects his wants and wishes.  He is secure enough in himself that very few things bother him.

Unfortunately, so much of the performance of masculinity is based on disrespecting others.  So that’s what I’m trying to counter.  In truth, I will be the first to sign him up for hockey, soccer, golf and ski lessons.  It’s not necessarily because I expect him to act a certain way, I just want him to be around driven people and to be inspired by them.  What’s wrong with expecting excellence in yourself?  People speak so much of the negativity of pressure but there are positives to competition too.  I will try to teach him to acknowledge his fears but to overcome them.  Because lets face it, growing up as a male in North America he will be taught soon enough that he can’t fear anything.  There are always rewards to performing a certain type of masculinity and I want him to find himself amongst all of that but to strive for more.  So he’ll play the piano, learn to appreciate art and what makes the world beautiful and worthwhile.  I hope that he will understand his privilege and the different (not lesser) state of others in the world.

Because there’s going to be a point when my job will be done and he’s going to have to decide what is right or wrong for him.  I’m just trying to equip him with the empathy, morals and values to influence those choices.  That’s when I hope our relationship will change.  Where we are there for him as parents but that he will have his own life and privacy, much like we have ours.  This is when we can’t and won’t really judge his decisions anymore.  I’ve always told my husband that I’ll know that we’ve done a good job if he wants to vacation with us, to spend time with us.  But at the moment he’s my snuggle monster and that’s my favourite part of the day.  It’s when we’re lounging in bed, when he’s in my arms telling me about his friends, toys and snacks at daycare.  You, me and Freud know that this won’t last forever but I hope that he’ll grow up not being afraid to treat others well, that it doesn’t make him a lesser person.  Knowing that love does not make him weak.