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Spinning Sex

The makers of  “18 Again” vaginal tightening cream want Indian women to believe that the product makes you feel like a virgin.

It’s the first cream of its kind sold in India, where conservative social norms prevail and sex toys are banned.

Here’s a peak at the commercial that’s running in Mumbai.

If I thought that the cream was advancing women’s sexual freedom in India, I’d throw a Tupperware-like product party for it next week and invite everyone in my neighborhood.

But I have a problem with this one.

It isn’t being sold to enhance women’s sexual pleasure.  It’s being sold to men who want women’s bodies to feel tight like a teenager’s.  The ad and the product objectifies women and makes them feel inferior for having the pleasure of age and experience.

Do woman want to feel tighter?  Of course.   Kegels (if you are lucky) and surgery (if you dare) are probably the only paths to pelvic health.

But do we want to feel like a virgin again?  No way!  There’s little pleasure in that.

Obsession with virginity is creepy in a country that fails repeatedly to take care of its women.  Gender injustice ranks high on so many social indexes from maternal death, to child brides and human trafficking.  It’s a society that grossly promotes being virtuous and chaste and often cruelly punishes offenders.  Conservative and traditional mores interfere with equal access to education, healthcare, safety, and employment.

This cream follows another one marketed  to Indian woman a few months back to whiten and “brighten” the color of the vagina.

Ugh… Why would anyone want to do that?

And who wants to sleep with a Humbert?

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Other than my fury over the above, all is well and chugging along.  Lala is the lead in the school play and I think the director wants to include a song for her to sing.  The school productions are particularly creative and professional.  We are lucky to have a full-time dance teacher and choreographer who does wonders for the stage, and a theatre director who soars with her students to extraordinary creative heights.  Go Lala!

George is shedding his baby pudge and loving 5th grade.  Today I watched him talk smack and play basketball with a group of high school boys.  He’s such a charmer with older kids and adults.

Eddie is acquiring the Yardley pudge, the Yardley temper, and the well-known Yardley stubbornness.  (Had Jim written that sentence, he would have replaced “Yardley” with “Livieratos”.  Either way, our kids have no prayer at being placid. )

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The Monsoon:  The Spin on the monsoon is all about the romance of rain.  The reality of the monsoon is all about soggy feet and soggy kids…

Akbar and Durga are growing fast.  He sleeps with Eddie most nights and she sleeps with George.  But on a rainy Saturday afternoon, Akbar slumbered next to, and just like, mama:

And Sweet Durga:

I teach on Fridays until noon.  After class, I try to go on a little adventure.  Here are shots from last’s week’s visit to Hauz Khas, a neighborhood I frequent for its shopping and restaurants:

On one end of Hauz Khas sits this 900-year-old madras from the Turkic reign of Sultan Firoz Shah, 1325-ish.  Mid-day, students sat in the windows of the old school on their lunch breaks.  It reminded me of my father’s stories of studying Greek as a teenager on the steps on the Parthenon when he emigrated from China.

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“The Naming of Cats”

The greatest of India’s Mughal emperors reigns with a fuzzy paw in the Yardley home.  Meet Akbar, one of two new additions to our family.  He is six weeks old and ridiculously cute:

The historic Akbar ruled India in the 16th century and probably wasn’t as hairy.  He is mythologized as  the greatest of the Mughal emperors for expanding and unifying the country.  Akbar studied the teachings of Sufi Islam which may explain why he was a more reasonable invading Muslim ruler.  He was fair to his Hindu subjects and he loved to debate faith and philosophy.  Akbar took several dozen wives, some of whom were Hindu and Christian as well as Muslim.  It wasn’t unusual for a Mughal king to have wives of different faith.  What was unusual is that he apparently treated them with the same privileges given to his muslim wives.

The kitty Akbar shares the Yardley kingdom with another fuzzy feline – Durga, the Hindu warrior goddess:

Like many Hindu Gods, Durga has several incarnations but her warrior image defines her most.  Durga is also Divine Mother, Wife of Shiva, Mistress of Destiny and Fierce Protector.  She is often depicted with ten or more arms and adorned with weapons.  Durga destroys, creates and preserves.  She rules Supreme.

The kitties Akbar and Durga playfully acquiesce to the whims of George and Eddie.  Here, they romp and entertain in George’s wrestling ring:

Me… caught in the guilty pleasure of anthropomorphizing:

We debated names for several days.  The kids liked “Ganga” and “Goa”.  I voted for “Chutney” and “Curry”.  Jim ignored the Indian theme and opted for “Gaudi” and “Butch”.

Thinking that no one but Jim would understand my silly sense of humor, I suggested “Kama and “Sutra”.  Lala gasped,  “The Indian sex book?”  (Now I know she knows…)

All this reminds me of T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Naming of Cats”.  It ends:

“When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Effanineffable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.”

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I think three (3) is the magic number of years to live in Delhi.  I’m on year four (4) and my commitment feels empty.  Maybe I’m suffering more from living away from home for nearly ten years than I am from suffering India.  I promised to embrace the goodness in my last post but it’s more difficult this go-around and I’m not sure why.

And when it’s difficult, things like this happen:

I was not in the right mood when this sad man stuck his gnarled and impoverished hand into my taxi window:

The weather was desperately hot and humid and the car didn’t have AC.  I was exhausted and not game for feeling generous.  I raised my voice, told him to leave, waved my hands in histrionic sign language that said “bugger off”.   He didn’t understand my English, my antics or my frustration.  I even took out my camera and snapped photos to scare him away.

The taxi drove off and in the wake of this incident, I felt guilty for being mad, for not doing more to make this man’s day better.

I felt angry because I sincerely try to accept and to give, but you can never give enough  and the trying seems in vain.

I felt weak because I confessed my vacillating emotions to a stranger in the locker room at the American Club.

(She probably thinks I’m a nutter and just another spoiled expat who lives in a bubble…)

The truth of the matter is this:  There is no absolution.  There is just next time to get it right.

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Work is a small blessing.

Meet my new class:  This is the generation that will change the country and free it from the weight of itself….

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We are trying to limit the time our boys spend on the computer and the iPad.  George has a wonderful capacity to sit for hours and work on puzzles and Legos:

Eddie doesn’t have the sit-still gene.  To accommodate him while he’s at home and off the soccer field, we have turned the dining room table into a ping-pong court:

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Season Four


I watched “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” on the flight to Delhi this week.  If you don’t know the movie, it’s about a group of British retirees in various states of elder-hood who move into a retirement hotel in Rajasthan.   I thought that the movie’s romanticized prism of India’s charms would put me in the right mood for returning home.

The movie has a talented cast but it doesn’t move beyond the stereotypes of what makes India incredible.  There are a few sweet moments and a healthy offering of funny ones.  The rest only lightly scratches the grimy surface of this country.  However, it did make me feel good about coming home because for all the chaos and the sadness and the absurdities that prevail here, India is an interesting place to live.

(Remind me that I wrote this if I whine in later posts…!)

I landed in Delhi just after India’s staggering power blackout.  More than a colossal  600 million people didn’t have electricity for over two days.  That’s nearly two times the population of the US.  It’s still unclear whether egregious mismanagement or a perfect storm of risks caused the grids to collapse.

The Government of India proved itself removed from its constituents when, in the middle of the black-out, it promoted the Power Minister to Home Minister.

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I am easy prey to jet lag.

Tired of reading yet still awake last night, I watched my second movie in two days.   This time it was one that took me out of India and back to my summer:  Vicky Cristina Barcelona.  Ah, Barcelona… what a civilized city!  I rented an apartment there for two weeks and enrolled the boys in soccer camp.  Barcelona is beautiful, flanked by sea and mountains, and hums with a pleasantness that’s highly inviting.  There weren’t enough scenes of the city in the movie to satisfy me completely, but it was still fun to revisit on-screen the unforgettable Sagrada Familia and other structures designed by the Catalan architect, Antoni Gaudi.

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We spent a good amount of time on the highway driving across Spain, into Bordeaux and up to Paris.  The long drives led to many silly road conversations.  Eddie says that I’m a “sarcasm-er” and I learned that he thinks the word “biodegradable” means sex.  (This is what happens when information filters through older siblings.)

I am grateful for the ubiquitous traffic circle in Spain and France.  I know only a few polite words in Spanish or French and I am unfamiliar with the roads in both countries.   I rarely took a “wrong” turn because I would drive in circles until my brain registered the correct exit.  I can still hear the kids screaming, “We’re dizzy!”

We also survived seemingly endless hours on the road by listening to iTunes and local radio stations.  Lala can belt Titanium (“You shoot me down, but I won’t fall… I am titanium”)  like no other 13-year-old that I know, but she has to sing scary-loud to hit the high notes.  I think there are still echos of her somewhere in France.  I discovered Train’s new album “California 37” which has Drive By, the most-perfect road song.  (“Oh I swear to you, I will be there for you, this is not a drive by — eye eye eye eye eye…”)  The kids BEGGED me to stop singing.

I didn’t.

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I can’t say whether this is our last season in India, but I am going to pretend that it is and savor the goodness of it all.  The stuff that drives me batty will be OK… because, as one of the characters insists in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,  “Everything will be OK in the end, and if it’s not OK, then it’s not the end.”

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(Pardon the many photos – they’re for the moms.)

We started our summer in Greece on a Livieratos family adventure to search for my grandfather’s village.  In Athens:

On the Ionian island of Kefalonia – with my brothers Alec and Cole, the island historian (in green) and our English interpreter:

Views from Agia Thecla, my grandfather’s village:

Beach days with the uncles were always a blast:

I call this one a beer with a view:

Our last day in Greece:

On to Barcelona and Futbol camp.  Stretching beneath the Olympic torch:

Lala on top of Casa Mila:

A reunion of Global Girlfriends, Park Guell:

George in Sitges:

San Sebastián:

Eddie learning how to carry his surf board in Hossegor, France: (There are other great photos of him “surfing” on my Facebook page.)

Our nightly walks after dinner in Medoc:

Mud wars.  This is what happens when mommy takes too long (and fails) to get the fishing rod to work.  The beasts get restless and make their own fun…

I was running up a long hill one morning in Medoc and a cyclist, cruising down the hill at a fast pace held out his hand for me to catch this rose.  I was reluctant to reach for it, fearing that I may knock him off balance, but I did, and it landed squarely in my hand:

On our last day in France we rode a ferris wheel in the Tuileries….

… and the kids declared it their best last day of vacation: