May 27, 2018

Fortune Cookies: A Controversial Subject



I understand fortune cookies are a very controversial subject.
Not because of the monopoly certain companies have on making them, or because the term has been used as a racial slur and in derogatory hate-speech.
But because, I recently discovered, some people harbor, and kind of nurse unnecessarily, a mix of what I perceive as personal offence, feelings of inadequacy and, to spice it up like paprika, an odd sense of victimization that seems to be sprinkled across this minuscule yet ornery population, regarding small pieces of not always grammatically correct statements they feel are trying to boss them around and tell them how to live their lives. Because they know, ok? They know the fortune cookie is telling that they’re doing it wrong.
And god forbid, you hint that they may be projecting the feeling that they're doing it wrong onto a tiny slip of paper because, somewhere in their mind, they are actually aware of how wrong they’re doing it.

In a Chinese restaurant, mildly recently, someone said to me, acerbically and with a quietly vicious eyeroll, that there was no way in hell (paraphrasing) that they were even going to touch the plastic wrapper of their fortune cookie. So yeah, I could have it.
“Those fuckin’ fortune cookies are just tryin’ to screw you over.”
“... Cuz the sugar?” That seemed to be the most obvious reason to me. 
My friend looked at me in a serious yet dramatic way. “Nah, cuz, say you just made some big decision. Then comes this fortune cookie being all, ‘oooohh, heard you made some decision, bitch, well it was wrong and yah gonna fuckin’ regret for the rest of yah short miserable life.’ Then yer screwed. It’s like, suddenly, yer in a motherfuckin’ catch-22. There’s no right. But there is definitely a wrong, and that is fucking everything. And, you know what, that is fucked up. And I ain’t about to be inviting that kind of negativity inna my life. Like I been sayin', I’m on a negativity purge.”
“But you’re not talkin’ ‘bout negativity, you’re just talkin’ about doubt—”
“Doubt is negativity,” She said, with absolute certainty.
...Well, I wasn’t gonna touch that one.
“Where the hell you been gettin' your fortune cookies anyway, Hot Topic?”
“Bitch, I ain’t shopped at Hot Topic since…”
“When?”
“Since—”
“Last week?”
“—Middle school.”
“Ha! No way that’s true. I don’t believe you.”
“Fine, last year.”
“Last year? Like, the last year of four months ago?”
“Whatever, I don’t buy fortune cookies there anyway.”
“….So does this negativity purge include not speaking about things, like fortune cookies, negatively?”
“Nah, that part’s bullshit.”
“Uh, really? Cuz that strikes me as, like, the most important part.”
“That whole avoiding speaking negatively about anything shit is impossible. No one does that. It’s like the breathing part of yoga.”
That struck me as wrong, too. “... Are you sure?”
“A negativity purge isn’t about not speaking negatively, it’s about stopping negative things from entering your life.”
“Woman, you need this fortune cookie more than I do. Cuz, I think you’re doing it wrong.”
“Excuse me?!”
“Speaking negatively all the time is, like, the number one, actually scientifically proven way of increasing how negative you feel. Cuz you’re expressing and hearing yourself at the same time, you're experiencing it twice. If you’re expressing something negative, then you’re also taking it in only, like, multiplied. It’s like a vicious cycle. You’re just feeding your own negative thoughts.”
She seemed to think this over.
“…You’re not cute, you know.”
“Watch yourself! Negative statement. And I don’t need to be cute. I’m the most fucking gorgeous woman here!” I hadn’t brushed my hair in three days and I hadn’t washed it in nine. 
“Oh my gawd, Parisa. Shut up! Don’t yell! And you’ve got shit in your teeth.”
“I don’t care, I want it there. You’ve had shit in your teeth this whole time, I wanted us to be twins.”
“Ughhhh, why didn’t you tell me earlier?”
“I didn’t want you to take it…negatively.” 
She just sighed and shook her head, trying to pick out some broccoli from between a canine and an incisor in the reflection of her smartphone screen. 

Surprisingly, I have run into quite a few strangely antagonistic people since then who feel personally victimized by fortune cookies. Which makes me wonder – how do they go about reading a fortune cookie? It’s not like picking the petals off a daisy or asking a special 8-ball a question. You can’t go into it with expectations. I love fortune cookies. Partly because I love the crunchy sugary waffle-cone like sensation of eating one that has remained sealed in an airtight plastic bag for an indeterminant amount of time. And also, partly because they’ve basically always told me that I’m doing it right. Their predictions are spot on, as well as timeless, meaning that there is no time limit. I save fortune cookie fortunes religiously. Seriously, I might actually have hundreds.
One of my favorites: 
Or, 
They have also sometimes given me excellent advice.
This morning, I was wondering whether I should pay another $140 to go to the last day of Boston Calling, a music festival. I had gone to the first day and made some friends who were going to be there, as well as Eminem, and I was trying to think if it would be worth it. With my breakfast of left-over Chinese food from last night, I opened a fortune cookie and got: 
That stuck with me. So I decided save money and clean my room instead. The young man I was thinking about going home with will have to find someone else.

I’ve had some fortune cookies that gave me advice I probably wouldn’t have absorbed if it had come from a parent or someone in an authority position. Or any person I interacted with.
Like: 

And: 



(Tiger was such a beautiful cat.)
Some fortunes can be a little sappy, like: 
I would not call this a negative sentiment, however.

I have a bunch saved up that are essentially telling me I made the correct choices from an early age. Like that one above, "You have the uncommon gift of common sense."  And:


(It’s not that flattering, guys. If you’ve worked in customer service, you know why many people are drawn to you for your wisdom and insights. Into the commercial enterprise you work for.)








Yes, that's pre-braces me, back when my mom did my eyebrows.
 Sometimes, when I come across a fortune cookie that is particularly poignant at that point in my life, I’ll carry it around with me for a while.

Searching through the detritus and mementos of my room, I found one fortune-cookie fortune that I think is probably the best fortune for all those people who go into their fortune cookies ready to be offended.

Mar 15, 2018

My Inability to Take Life Seriously PART I

Picking up guys while being myself has never been my forté. I mean, I can do it as long as I keep every expression of my personality minimal. But If my actual opinion slips out, it seems to scare them away. Most of the things that I scare people away with aren’t even my actual opinions, because I don’t really trust people with those. People can be idiots. Look at the internet. Look at our president.

Upon reflection, I think I must have a much more serious-looking face than I was aware. One time I was among a group of my adolescent cohorts, years ago in a high school history class, and in a discussion about feminism a bunch of people (boys and girls) decided to come out and say they were feminists and talk about why they thought about themselves that way. But then one girl interrupted with this annoyingly loud declaration of, “I am an equalist, because I think men and women should be equal.”
My first thought was, Did she think we were making up words?
It was like she was correcting the feminists in the room. There was no time for reflection, just action.
So in the silence of everyone, including the teacher, staring at this girl, I said, “Well, I think men should be kept in caves underground and only brought out for breeding purposes.”
I tried to mimic the way she spoke as much as possible, and I thought I did a great job until I looked up and noticed a large group of people staring at me, for some reason, in horror.
The friends I had in that class were no help. One was staring out the window, another had suddenly and suspiciously gone face down on her desk, and the third was staring down the equalist girl, who was still staring at me. Equalist girl turned back to the teacher and pointed at me and said, “See? This is why I am an equalist.” She said this with pride. My friend who had been intensely staring at her, burst out, “There’s no such thing as an equalist!”  And I said to her, “Hey, I don’t want to be associated with you either,” pointing at her the way she had pointed at me.
“Equalist” was a little too close to “separatist,” which reminded me of the phrase “separate but equal”. And if we have learned anything from “Separate but Equal,” it’s that it is about anything but equality. I have an extremely visceral, instinctively negative reaction to phrases of exclusion like that. I have felt this way my entire life. I even hate those ads about exclusive offers because I am deeply suspicious of any attitude that tries to teach me that being better than this other group of people is good and rewarding.
I wasn’t one of those kids who wanted to be special. I was one of those kids whose relatives quoted, what I used to think was just a saying, that goes, “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.*  This was, in fact, regularly recited at holiday parties and family get-togethers in my childhood. I actually have a very specific memory of a relative turning to me and following-up with, “Now you have all three of those groups in your blood, in your family, and you’re half Muslim. Iranian. Which is not the best thing to be. But you’re very light so maybe you can pretend to be Hispanic.” Occasionally, other labels would sneak their way in there, like “teachers,” or “Shakespearean actors.”  It was a fine line my uncles walked, between contemplating who of our relatives would be the victims of the next holocaust and just joking around. The sarcasm runs deep in my family. Some might call our levity misplaced. We don’t think it’s misplaced but rather, well-invested. If we can’t joke about these issues when we’re happy and healthy, and in no immediate danger, how are we going to handle finding ourselves in altered circumstances?  Not that we’ve made any contingency plans. We haven’t. We’re very spontaneous, mildly secretive, last-minute types. We only talk about things after they’ve happened. There’s something to be said about growing up with an older sibling/parent/grandparent/uncle or aunt over your shoulder, always ready with a sarcastic comeback, or criticism.
If there is one thing that unites us, it’s our wry wit and inability to take much seriously while speaking with a straight face.
And if there’s something that drives us apart, it’s our inability to take each other seriously.

My comment in history class was not the first, nor the last time my straight face and my inability to take much seriously has gotten me in trouble. And that may be the root of my problem with finding true love. Because I am 100% serious 100% of the time, while taking very little seriously. Certain exceptions for matters of life or death.

“This is the deadline. No papers will be accepted after this date.” Five days after that date, I go up to the teacher, “Here is that paper that was due on this date.”

“The topic of discussion will be the role of technology in society.” What I end up talking about – how certain movie theaters make me feel seasick.

Assignment: What have you learned in this English class?
My response: When my cat looks at my mom and meows, it sounds like she is saying the word “mom”. I am not sure if this is just in my head or real because my mom is slightly deaf and can’t confirm anything for me.

Driving laws? More like, driving guidelines. Why bother making one-way streets that are less than thirty feet long? Entrances and exits are basically the same thing.  Over the past six years, I have been inside the bank I use most maybe three times, I usually walk through the drive-thru. I see no reason why McDonald’s shouldn’t let me do this too.

Criticisms of my character? Sure that’s about me? I’m not convinced. There’s always this other girl who looks remarkably like me and can be a little rude.  No, really— no matter the lengths I go to distinguish myself, there’s always a couple brown-eyed, brown-haired girls of slightly below average height.

I need to change?  There is no such thing as change. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

My mom: “Parisa, take this to the basement. I don’t want this suitcase living here.” Weeks later: “Parisa, take this suitcase to the basement or move out of my house.”
Weeks later: “Goddamnit, Parisa, I was so happy because I didn’t see the suitcase and I thought you had moved it to the basement. But you just put it in the kitchen!”
Weeks later: “Why does the suitcase need to be in the kitchen?”
Weeks later: “Parisa! The cat jumped on the suitcase and knocked it down just as I was walking into the kitchen and I couldn’t stop myself from walking right into it and falling! My ankle has swollen to twice it’s normal size, and I can’t walk. I think I need to be taken to the emergency room!”
Afterwards: “This is all your fucking fault, Parisa.”


One time at a party in college, a boy I’d been chatting with but not actually paying attention to randomly leaned towards me and sort of angled his mouth to my ear – “What would you do if I just shoved my penis at you right now?”
 Not sure what brought this on, too busy sailing through a world of my own making while trying not to say anything out loud, I had only tuned back in to hear this part because of his change in posture.
I looked at him, trying to figure out if this was a joke or some bizarre type of seduction for rough sex, and I couldn’t really tell, so I said quite pleasantly back to him, “I’d cut it off,” with a friendly grin, like the one he was giving me.
He promptly recoiled, then turned to his buddy next to him and claimed that I’d threatened to cut off his penis. Seemingly with no provocation. This other boy then turned to me and said, “That’s sexual harassment,” with finality.
I stared at him. I had just met these two fools but part of their introduction had included saying that one of them was a junior police officer, or something like that. Probationary-junior-police-officer-in-training, I don’t know, there were too many words, but he was the one who said threatening to cut off a penis was sexual harassment.
And the worst part of it was, I was suddenly pulled into this internal debate with myself about whether threatening to cut off a man’s penis unprovoked was sexual harassment, even though that was not precisely what I had done. I was so caught up in thinking about it, I didn’t even notice when a third boy joined the other two and they began lecturing me about threatening to dismember their member. I suddenly snapped back into the real world when they took a dive into “hypothetical situations” and interrupted them with, “Yes, but he-“ I pointed at the original doofus and apparent victim of sexual harassment, “asked me what I would do with his penis if he shoved it at me. I was only answering his hypothetical question. If he did that, I would do this, you know… Cut it off.”
A short silence.
The policeman-in-training, or whatever he was, changed the angle of his body a bit and looked at the original doofus with slightly narrowed eyes. I could tell that, intellectually, they were beginning to part ways.  The third one took a step closer to me with his drink in one hand, pointing his finger, and said with a condescending tone, “Well that’s not very nice-” like he was talking to a small child who somehow didn’t understand social obligation yet. I did something I very rarely do with people I have just met, because for some reason my ability to move my eyebrows independently is quite off-putting to people I don’t really know. That, and I have never become friends with anyone I have given this expression to in our first meeting, I don’t know why. I raised one single eyebrow at him without moving any other muscle in my face, which is my most sarcastic expression. I actually don’t know if it’s my most sarcastic expression, but it’s definitely my most discouraging one. He stopped talking and leaned a little away from me. It’s kind of like my secret power, that I don’t even really understand myself. I use it on people who think they can boss me around because it gets them to shut up with minimal effort on my part. I’m not very aware of what I look like. My mother thinks I’m beautiful.
Anyway, by this time cop-in-training had looked back at me, as well as at the third doofus. I waited a little more so that the silence became awkward as a moment of male bonding quickly turned into….. something else.
“So I would like you to reverse the charges of sexual harassment, officer, since this situation has actually turned out to be more of a stand my ground, protect-the-castle type thing.”
They looked at me in confusion. “The castle being my body.” I clarified.
The cop-in-training said, “But that law is about home invasion.”
“My body is my home,” I said, “And a penis being shoved at it is an invasion.”
“Nooo,” said the condescending asshole, who may have been too drunk for my sarcastic and derisive expression to properly work on. Cretin.
“Actually, I can see her point.” A mysterious fourth person, who I had not even been aware of, said from off to the side. I looked at that person in amazement. How had he even heard what was going on? He was like four feet away from us.
I realized that I had been drinking to avoid speaking at this party and decided to put down the third beer I was currently holding. But I also knew that I probably had bad breath because I hadn’t had a chance to brush my teeth and I needed the alcohol to mask the stench as I told all these idiots off. I picked up my drink again.
And realized that while I had been preoccupied, one of these idiots was spreading misinformation and bringing down the average IQ of the room. I yelled over him while gesturing, “If you shove your penis at me, without my inviting you to, that’s an uninvited guest. What are home invaders, but uninvited guests?”  I crossed my arms.
Suddenly my friend popped up out of nowhere. “What’s going on here!?” She said, frowning fiercely at the group of guys. I gestured to the first guy and said, “This guy asked me what I would do with his penis if he shoved it at me. And then this other guy accused me of sexual harassment. Because I said I would cut it off.”
She turned back to the guys, “You people are disgusting,” she told them. She grabbed my arm and began dragging me away.
“No, wait!” The ‘cop’ shouted after us, “We wouldn’t have actually let him shove his penis at her!”
“Get away from us!” My friend shouted back. My friend is a highly reactive, defensive type of feminist. Everyone needs a friend like that. She had heard my voice shouting about invasion from across the room.
I waved at the guys and shouted, “Bye!” sweetly.
They waved and shouted “Bye!” back to me. All of them.
We ended up leaving that party early.


Essentially, I have this vague feeling that my inability to take much seriously is beginning to impact (or maybe has always impacted) my life in ways I had not considered but recognize from observing my relatives’ lives. This makes me wonder about a lot of things. Like changing. I don’t really want to change, and I don’t really know in what way or manner, but I have this niggling feeling that I should. I doubt it’s like applying for a passport or moving. I kinda feel like the best I can do is keep going on with my life, besieged by doubt and indecision. Who knows. It’s easy to get lost in the details. I’m a big picture type of person. If there’s something wrong with the big picture, I change it. Or, I’m overwhelmed by the fear of change and commitment, so I bury my head in the sand and shoot myself in the foot. I prefer shooting myself in the foot, because then, at least, I’m aware. And it’s always better to be aware. There are excuses for almost everything else, except being unaware. It’s called Negligence. And you can get sued for it, because it means you are at fault. Who's fault is it? Yours. 



NEXT: MY INABILITY TO TAKE LIFE SERIOUSLY PART II