Category Archives: Resident Rockstar

We are crooked souls trying to stay up straight

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Outside the post office, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

The man sitting at the table next to mine in the coffeeshop this morning left his fancy-looking sunglasses on the table as he was leaving. I glanced over and noticed them just as the shop door was closing behind his retreating figure—and just as casually glanced away, making no move to scoop them up and run after him with an “Excuse me! You forgot these!”

Luckily, he re-entered the coffeeshop just two seconds later, his glance falling unerringly on the table at which he’d been sitting. “Oh, you left your sunglasses!” I said, feigning surprise, and he smiled back at me sheepishly. But when he left again, my polite smile transitioned into the frown my father hates so much because it creates deep grooves between my eyebrows. “Your face is going to get stuck that way,” he always warns me.

These days, I fear what I’m really going to get stuck in is the emotional rut of stress and anxiety that’s plagued me for the past few weeks. My sleep is short and continuously interrupted, and I have cultivated a newfound reliance on the hated coffee to get me through the days, the caffeine making me feel only more anxious and jittery. My to-do list keeps lengthening, with no end in sight; for every item I manage to cross off, I seem to add five more. But what worries me most is mornings like these, when rather than rushing to help a stranger in something so simple, something that would require little effort on my part, I instead selfishly look away.

This is not who I am, nor whom I wish to become.

An Open Love Letter to My Parents, on the Occasion of My 30th Birthday

Table for two at the teahouse in Cordoba
Table for two at the teahouse in Cordoba, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz

Today is my 30th birthday. On this wonderfully sunny day that I’m enveloped in gratitude for the life I live, I’m most grateful for those who most helped shape me into the woman I am today — my parents. As I celebrate my birth and my blessings, I remind myself to celebrate my parents first and foremost, for starting it all. Below is something I wrote for their 35th wedding anniversary last year, and never posted.

An Open Love Letter to My Parents, on My 30th Birthday
(Originally written for their 35th wedding anniversary on 10 June 2010)

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I think the shade of you is on the brink/of changing all the ways I see the world

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Purple at Casa420, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

Walking out of work the other evening, I crossed paths yet again with everyone’s favorite security guard, he of the 86,400 seconds in a day.

As I strode past, he called out after me, “Purple is in!”

I turned back, confused. “Oh?”

“Yeah! Didn’t you know that? Purple is the color of the year!”

I laughed. “Well, clearly I’m off to a good start, then!”

This exchange, albeit brief, got me thinking about my style, which rarely follows the latest trends. I like wearing dark nailpolishes even in summer (on the extremely rare occasions I can actually manage to be non-lazy enough to paint my nails), and I hate skinny jeans, and I never know anything about the color of the year. On this particular day, I was wearing a pink dress, jeans, red shoes, and a blue-purple headwrap.

I have a lot of scarves, all organized by color in a dozen clear drawers for easy reference. Approximately thirty seconds of every morning are spent trying to figure out which scarf to wear; if I’m running late (as I usually am), I strategize this while in the shower.

Shoes are secondary. I never base an outfit around shoes, which is probably why I wear the same two pairs over and over. My main rule for shoes (except for fancy-schmancy high-heels which I wear to weddings or professional events and then promptly take off in the parking lot afterward) is based off this simple question: Would I be able to spend a day walking around the City in these? Granted, I’m not in San Francisco all the time. But any shoes that can withstand a day-long session of meandering through city streets (whether Berkeley, DC, Toronto, or Toledo) and up and down steep inclines (oh, hi, San Francisco and Granada and Fez) are the ones I want — and so far this has always meant flats and flip-flops. I may be short, but I’d rather be short and comfortable.

My only rule for pants of any sort: They must flare out from the knee. The wider the flare, the better, which is why I lovelovelove bell-bottoms.

A couple of years ago, my boss at my last job once scrutinized my outfit, head cocked to one side, and asked, “So, can you explain to me the thought process that goes through your head every morning when you’re getting dressed?”

I glanced down: Red dress, dark-pink tshirt, black cargo pants, my favorite gray sweater, unzipped. “What’s up with the way I’m dressed?”

“Nothing,” she said. “It’s just that I would never have thought of wearing those two shades together, but somehow you pull it off. And the headwrap just pulls it all together. And the earrings!”

Like much of the rest of the world, I, too, roll out of bed in the mornings after hitting ‘snooze’ too many times and stumble bleary-eyed towards the closet. Some days, the “What should I wear?” question is so overwhelming that I just opt for the most reliable combination of items. There are several things I wear together over and over, because I know they work. Other days, I spend a few extra minutes on this. But regardless of how long it takes to pull an outfit together, rarely do I not make the effort to get ready — even if it’s the weekend and I’m just going to be sitting on the couch, watching old Hindi films. I love pajamas just as much as the next person — but only at night.

And, of course, there are a few “rules” I swear by. Here, then, is a little bit of my methodology, for those of you who may be interested as well.
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One morning, I woke up and I was suddenly twelve feet tall

One morning, I woke up and I was suddenly twelve feet tall
Originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

Last Wednesday, I went to a Mohja Kahf poetry reading at Mudraker’s in Berkeley (it was rocking, by the way!), and ended up seeing some old buddies and making a couple of new friends. One guy I shook hands with towards the end of the evening exclaimed, “You have a really firm handshake!”

I laughed. “I get that a lot.”

His friend said, surprised, “Oh, yeah?”

“Here, I’ll shake your hand, too, so you can see.” So, I did.

“Really strong!”

“I have to compensate for my short height in some way, you know,” I joked. “At least I have strong handshakes.”

A few minutes later, the first hand-shaker asked curiously, “How old are you?”

“How old do you think I am?”

He thought about it for a minute, then confessed, “I can’t really tell. You’re short.”

SIGH. As my friend, Hashim, says of my photography, “You seem to be looking up a lot (trees towards sky) – or down (at grates or odd pink cemented things). This implies you are short…”

Someday, I will grow up to be tall, and Hashim will stop making basketball-related jokes at my expense, bastid. One can only hope. Meanwhile, I’m content with lots of fist-shaking.

Headwrapping 101

Headwrapping 101
TARGET dressing rooms have rocking red walls, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

Last June, my buddy A left me a voicemessage late one night after having watched the film, Paris je t’aime, which actually consists of eighteen short films by 21 directors, each of the stories taking place in different arrondissements (municipal boroughs) of Paris. Walking home through downtown San Jose, he talked into the phone about the short film with the Muslim girl – she trips and falls, her headscarf flies off, and a nice young guy runs over to assist her. “He tries to help her put her hijab back on, but he wraps it around her head like a bandanna.” Retelling the story, A started laughing. “Yaz, if your hijab fell off, I don’t think I would ever be able to help you. Probably, no one would.”

Listening to A’s voicemessage later, I laughed, too. And replayed the message a few times. And retold the story to several friends. My coworker-in-crime, B, pointed out, “Yasmine, your hijab’s pinned so tightly, I don’t think that thing could EVER fall off.” I ending up watching Paris je t’aime three times – once with A, the second time with N and AyeshaZ and B, and finally just last week with my sister, who had heard me mention this film often over the past year. Every single time, I have laughed my way through the short film about the Muslim girl and her hijab.

B is right – my hijab is its own free-standing structure. It has stayed put through running and rain storms and lecture-hall naps while slumped in my seat and roller-coaster rides at amusement parks and hiking (and hitchhikes) and skipping down the street and crackstar nieces crawling all over me while bombarding me with their botanical carnage.

HijabMan has harassed me for a long time about collaborating on a headwrap-how-to video. We briefly talked about it over IM during the last year or two, and in Philadelphia and DC in July, and in Chicago in August. I just kind of nodded along vaguely. “Yeah, okay, sounds like a plan.” But when I was stranded in Philadelphia for the night last December, on the way to DC after Ottawa, HMan and I hung out with his friends, then pulled J into being my model for a headwrapping session.

I was drunk off boulani and gelato and the incredibly rich drinking-chocolate from Naked Chocolate Cafe, apparently the best dessert place in Philly, J off her bowlful of chocolate chip cookies & milk; HMan was his usual hyperactive self. It made perfect sense to create videos past midnight. I was groggy and tired from what had been a sh*tty day of travel involving many expletives, but when rockstars come along and pick you up from the airport and take you out to dinner and made you laugh and open up their homes to you, you too would do whatever they want you to.

So, the headwrapping video that came out of that night is sort of a thank-you to HMan and Philadelphia for their rockstar hospitality and open-hearted lowve. It’s also a thank-you to every single person who ever stopped me and asked with genuine curiosity, “How do you do your hijab like that?” I’m honored they took the time to ask. The question came up at an ice cream shop in Washington, DC, last summer; at a conference in Chicago last October and at December hanging-out sessions in Ottawa and Toronto; and at a friend’s wedding just last week. Not to mention the grocery store, the sidewalk outside my workplace, places I stop by for lunch, and all kinds of events and gatherings I attend, as well as questions on flickr and facebook. Since I’m pretty ridiculous about properly responding to compliments or any sort of warm comments regarding the way I dress, I usually just laugh a bit and shuffle my feet a little and toss off my twenty-second explanation of how the headwrap stays in place. Then, I smile brightly and run away, usually to find food.

This, in contrast, is a much better explanation. HMan has posted the video HERE. Check it out:

I’ve already watched it about three times because:

1. I’m surprised I managed a pretty smooth explanation while doing J’s headwrap. Multitasking is usually not my forte, and the fact that I spent six minutes explaining headwrapping techniques while actually implementing them on someone else is slightly mind-boggling.

2. All the references to “stabbing” amuse me. J was so patient with me. I would have been freaked out if someone kept wielding safety pins near my head and cackling gleefully about stabbing.

3. My laugh makes me laugh.

4. My favorite part is my verbal smackdown of HMan.

Highfive to HMan’s camerawork!
Let us know what you think.

PS: If my hijab ever fell off, I now hope you would know how to help me with it, if necessary.