Thick-Skinned

I admire people who can comfortably deal with emotional complexity and odd settings. They are those who seem to have a perpetual smile in their eyes. They seem integrated, and their presence temporarily provides a fresh imputes to inner-peace.

Taffy is one of them. She comes around excitedly. With a calm demeanor, she demands attention. If lack of empathy in odd situations was an Olympic sports, Taffy would be accused of doping. You’re forced to believe that she is somebody closer to you than she really is.

I, on the other hand, would get eliminated in the first round of this sport. I am not emotionally thick-skinned. The dynamic of uncomfortable situations flattens me. If that’s a sign of dimness, I’m awfully dim. Though, I take comfort in the supposition that such trait makes me more patent.

Nowadays, we don’t instantly realize how many social rules we’re observing and inherently accepting. Unverified social norms, such as forced face-upkeep during uncomfortable setting, dictates a very set idea of who we are, or who we should be. The identity is often prescribed or just designed based on a series of widely advertised notions in magazines and social media. But these notions are just a construct, and when you take that construct apart as a free person you feel liberated.

Taffy Needs To Paint

I was sure of three things growing up: that I adored my parents, that I respected all parents, and that I never wanted to be like my parents. I wanted my legacy to be less genetic. I knew all along that I had chosen a different path. I believed this path could result in living in seclusion. But I also knew that this path could prevent me from becoming yet another painting of flowers on the foreground, and shiny houses in the background.

Taffy, a confidant of mine, is an essentialist. She believes that joy and pleasure are sensory matters -where it’s highly important where things come from. Essentialism is the idea that there is more to an object than its actual structure. For instance the physical features of a painting may be its color and its shape and its size, but the essence of the painting is its invisible history that gave rise to it.

The problem with essentialism is that it exchanges the importance of a story with rigid historical attributes. The color, shape, and size of a painting are just a bunch of disjointed characteristics. What distinguishes a painting remains to be the story that gave birth to it.

Taffy isn’t necessarily wrong -but she lets the depth of her eyes lie to her. Taffy dismisses the brush of her imagination, the colors of her heart, and the canvas of possibilities … Taffy needs to paint.

Post More Selfies

Every day, I find myself in the middle of two groups of people who are theatrically different -in terms of their online presence. The first group, mostly college friends and (former) coworkers, are those who carefully curate their LinkedIn profiles and maintain executive pages with a nicely erected headshot. The second group are the ones who fall into deep depression without their facebook posts.

I have personally embraced the online presence to a large degree. For instance, I have two facebook accounts. The first one is dead in terms of activity. I opened it literally a day after Facebook got liberated out of the college circle. Most of my college friends, former and present coworkers are connected to me via that account. The second account is more active. I use it to keep in touch with my close circle of friends.

Last week and during my flight from Seattle to SF, I connected an analyzer to both accounts to study the nature of the news feeds on each account. Counting by the number of ‘likes’, here are the most disliked feed themes on my dead account :

– 41% : Political messages
– 24% : Self Promotion
– 14% : Baby photos
– 13% : Pictures of partying
– 7% : Fundraising

The result on the second (active) account is much more interesting. Here are the most disliked themes on my personal account:

– 51% : Self Promotion
– 32% : Baby photos
– 10% : Pictures of partying
– 5% : Selfies
– 0.9% : Relationship status update

Measured by data, most of my close friends are apparently a bunch of insecure motherfuckers. Besides, can you imagine how much they talk about each other given these themes? That should be a very abutting experience if that’s what gossip does. One might assert, I am gossiping too -given the nature of this post. But at least I’m doing it publicly since most of my friends read this blog.

Mass emails, facebook posts and tweets are guilt-free ways to brag about accomplishments and acquisitions. After all, the sender doesn’t get true feedback on reader response, as most people know better than to respond angrily and leave a negative e-trail. One of the sad things about the one-sidedness of social media communication is that it allows people to live the fantasy that their mundanities and complacencies are anything but.

According to thousands of near death experiences or survivors, many of them faced a life-review. A full holographic display of moment to moment, since their birth to their death. What stood out in these reliving moments was that they were able to see the impact and ripples of their conduct, behavior, thought, word and deed, on not just on the person they spoke about, but also on those connected to that person. Now if this kind of knowledge was made public, people would pause before they went about talking ill about others. The ultimate matrix watches us and plays back to us every tiny thing we have ever done in our life, or in every life.

Until the New Normal

We tell stories to make sense of the world and our lives. We make stories because we want them mean something to us. A good story has to do with describing a journey. All good stories have a character that has to change.

In that way, we are all intellectually simple in that we do like a beginning, a middle and end. A beginning which is normal. The middle, which is the change and challenge. And the end, which is the new normal. Underlying songs during the change and challenge help forming the new normal. So here are a few songs …

– Banshee, Kendra Morris
– A Shadow, n*grandjean
– Raggamuffin, Selah Sue
– J’me Tire, Maitre Gims

… until the new normal, when I won’t listen to these anymore.

The Sun-Dried Man

This is not a love story. This post isn’t trying to tell another tale of boy meets girl, either. This is a true story about a childhood friend who taught me a thing or two about life.

Mo was tall, dark, and handsome in a way that no one could dispute the qualities. He was a smooth and gentle man who got involved in conversations being armed with charm but no dialogue. During gatherings he used to plant his feet evenly to hold himself erect and his body still. His face appeared a bit wrinkled with dry skin as if he had been exposed to the sun for too long. Although he had inviting hazel eyes, he always tended to look away from people. His long battle against stuttering made him selective about getting engaged with strangers. Mo was the only guy who could get a PG-13 rating and still say “Fuck You”. He carried veiled sadness and dreamy vulnerability that had to do with the pain of being sincere at heart.

On a warm day when the sun had an overbearingly exposing presence, Mo met Bita around the place where he used to hang out with me. Bita had a measured and purposeful walking style that made her more attractive. She used to walk as if she was pausing and thinking about each step. I remember; every time I looked at her, I had an involuntarily thought that honked “fuck, she’s gorgeous”. Bita seemed honest. But her brand of honesty was prophylactic. The most pronounced attribute of hers was her pride, which showed itself in the form of relating every conversation to her experiences. Her most used phrase involved “I’ve always been around fantastic people.”

Mo and Bita went through the whole cycle of falling in love, breaking up, deciding to get married, and eventually separating for good –during the 18 months they were in a relationship. I recall; Mo was deeply hurt after their separation, but his feelings for Bita had been clouded long before they separated. Mo knew he couldn’t accept her view of “happy life”. He also believed the timing and circumstances were not right because he was a struggling processional athlete. In fact, one day Mo confided in me and expressed his reasoning to stay in the relationship for as long as he did. He said that he could never convince himself to be the one to end the relationship. Because he couldn’t bear the consequences or the potential damage to Bita’s pride. The phrase he used was “She needs to continue feeling flawless”. So Mo waited intentionally for Bita to bring up the idea of breaking up. This is one of those things that no one could understand or follow these days because we live in such rugged-man society where the acts of selflessness, greatness, and empathy sound cowardice.

Years passed. Bita got married to another man and moved to Toronto. I briefly met her during the summer of 2011 when she still felt the need to remind me of her view of the relationship by saying, “It was a life changing relationship but I had to end it”.

Mo died last week. He lived a hard life with all that he went through -from his unfinished career as an athlete –to his daily struggle of connecting with people. That’s why mortality never fazed him. He was always interested in the thing that happens where there is a breaking point for some people and not for others. For him, it was utterly important to let go of his ego when it came to giving, forgiving, and love. He passed away, and never mentioned a word about what went on in that ordeal of a relationship. In his view, it was all part of the deal.

In loving memory of Mo Shojaee…

Eyebrows

Eyebrows are counterfactual. Like shoes, you don’t notice eyebrows unless they are particularly right or tragically wrong. As someone who has spent many years in an intense relationship with his own intentional brows, I’ve come to realize that they are not trivial. Eyebrows matter. In a sense, eyebrows serve the face’s highest function — that of communication, intention, and more importantly seduction. Eyebrows show interest, engagement and understanding. Raising, furrowing or shifting them ever so slightly registers and interchanges attention.

Incidentally (or not), all of those attributes are important elements of expressive personalities. Expressive people are context-lover, storyteller, competitive, and exaggerator. Expressive personalities consider emotions as well as the facts. For them, respect stands higher than fairness, spirited is better than considerate, popular sits on higher ground than peaceful. Expressive people have an active role in conversations. They just don’t sit on the side and take notes. They can’t bear misunderstanding.

Expressions have some downsides. Expression inherently contests impassivity. Any measured behavior that requires absence of emotions contrasts expression. If you’re expressive, you can’t hide feelings and you’re in need of telling your story. That will eventually come back to haunt you. These days, such incongruities are all too common. Frequently, I blame my expressiveness on my eyebrows. But great eyebrows are not easy to come by, because you can’t have great eyebrows by just leaving them alone.

No Work Tomorrow

The strangest feeling to bear in the ever-changing life circus remains to be the one that signals the time of parting ways with a friend. The initial feeling comes in as a hot potato stuffed with chewy doubts. You keep questioning yourself “what part did I play in this ordeal?” and sadly, you will find some of your mistakes. So you try to push yourself back into it to pay back for your own share of the blame. But at the end everything is back to square one where it seems the friendship has seen the banshee. That’s when your past comes back to you with ferocious fangs.

loud was the sound of the birds when they landed in spite of noise from the boys with the rocks in their fists

looking to bring a man down to the bottom of a thousand ton well
… one tiny push send that man into hell

he hit with a thud, there’ll be no work tomorrow
… just a funeral for a guy with time that he borrowed

Cupcake

I only lived with my parents for twelve years. For variety of self inflicted reasons I was shipped off at early age to live with my maternal and paternal grandparents, and then I immigrated after that. I’ve always considered that historical context to be one of the main reasons as to why I have a tendency to fortify what my parents might have imagined for me. Often times, when my parents want me to do something specific with my personal life, I only do the part I can do from my computer.

I met Irna back in 1998. She was my coworker. She was very straightforward. After a couple of months we ended up going out on a date. At the end of the dinner on the first date, she let me know that she wanted to get married. She shared that wish while she was having a cupcake at the end of the dinner. Though she seemed very smart and beautiful, I remember my initial and implicit reaction featured reluctance, mainly because I didn’t like the way she ate the cupcake. That’s how we made decisions back in Canada.

A couple of years passed and all of our friends got married. We went to countless weddings together and played flawless we-are-a-beautiful-couple. But make no mistake the pressure was on and so I sheepishly decided to initiate an appropriate conversation to gauge her interest. Only, to find out that she needed to consult with her mother. The next day, her mother showed up at my work and seemed like a person who had been kicked by a drunken horse. She then offered to take me out to lunch. During lunch she opened up the conversation and set out an impossible set of requirements. For some odd reason, she kept finishing each requirement by saying “if you’re interested in Irna”, which I found to be probing. I quietly listened to what she had to say. My only defense mechanism was a smartass stare from the corner of my eyes while my head formed a 45-degree angle towards her. In an awkward moment of silence, she seemed as if she was waiting for me to say something, but I just called the waitress and ordered a cupcake.

Parents raise their children to make them a part of the future. Parents know so well they won’t be alive to see a big part of that future. The irony with first generation immigrants hides beneath the fact that they’ve chosen to leave their past in hope of a better future, but sadly when it comes to their children, they force back that abandoned past into the wishful future of their children.

Parents are amongst the most important people in our lives. But that doesn’t warrant a blindfolded relationship where they tell, and we get told. There should be room for reasonable discourse and pragmatic give and take. If I had listened to my parents when I was younger, I could have never been able to do this part on my computer. More importantly, there would be no opportunity to discuss relationship issues while having cupcakes.

Mother Nature

Mother Nature features contradictory narratives from time to time. She creates the best of spectacles that rhyme with unbelievable rhythm, and she takes them away in a blink of an eye as if father-time has caught up with her.

When something unexpected happens to a friend, I’d like to think Mother Nature is playing practical jokes that are not funny. Or, it feels like she makes promises of tomorrow that show no sign of realization in the present. At the end however, Mother Nature does act like she loves humanity; but sadly, she has a hard time getting along with people.

Common Man

For the longest time I failed to understand the sense of nostalgia. I could never come to terms with the reasons as to why one should yearn the past.

The other conflicting thought of mine has had to do with attempting to make sense of the circumstances, events, and emotions that push one away from the sense of purity and innocence. The sense we’ve all felt during childhood. The feelings we felt in our cheerful memories, pure thoughts, and high places.

I’m developing a theory that argues the sense of nostalgia has something to do with yearning the years of purity -when everything seemed so homely and simple. We attach ourselves to old circumstances and objects to relate to what we used to feel -or- what we seem to have lost. That is what’s sitting in the soul of a common man.