The BLOG: Sex & Dating

NBC’s New Show “I Feel Bad” Has A South Asian Female Lead – But It’s Still Problematic

This past Sunday, NBC released an official trailer for its new show, “I Feel Bad,” which is set to premiere this fall. Up-and-coming Indian-American actress Sarayu Rao plays the lead role of Emet, American actor Paul Adelstein plays Emet’s love interest.

NBC’s casting decision is a pretty big deal. Only two other Indian actresses, Mindy Kaling and Priyanka Chopra, either currently have or have had their own shows. But while “I Feel Bad” is receiving praise for casting a South Asian female lead – a pro-diversity cue in line with other long-standing big names in the media industry – the show is still problematic for one reason: Rao’s character is in an on-screen interracial relationship with a white man. Yet again.

The thing is, diversity means more than simply casting the token brown girl. Audiences crave to see interracial relationships that more accurately reflect real life, and those are the facts. In her Jezebel piece “I’m Tired of Watching Brown Men Fall in Love With White Women On Screen,” writer Aditi Natasha Kini argues that choosing white partners for on-screen interracial relationships is a discreet slap in the face to other races:

“…the pursuit of white love is a mode of acceptance into American culture, and a way of ‘transcending’ the confines of immigrant culture—the notion that white love is a gateway drug to the American dream.”

She’s right. What’s even a bigger disappointment is that when the people producing the shows or movies are people of color, they’re still letting audiences down by failing to use their privilege and platforms as a way to showcase more inclusivity. Mindy Kaling’s “The Mindy Project” and Kumail Nanjiani’s film “The Big Sick” are just two examples of that disappointment manifested.

Real inclusivity means showing the full spectrum of interracial relationships: Gay ones. Transgender ones. Brown people falling in love with black people, and brown people falling in love with other brown people.

The good news is that even though the silver screen has yet to catch on, the big screen has already started to. “Crazy Rich Asians,” which has been referred to as “the Asian version of Black Panther,” shows Asian-Americans in relationships with other Asian-Americans. People are freaking out about it, and rightfully so:

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Let’s hope the coming years begin to show more… erhm, interesting interracial relationships on screen.


“Black Girl Sunscreen” Is A Summer Necessity For Women Of Color

As a woman of color, I loathe wearing sunscreen in the summer, even though I have more melanin in my skin than white people and tan easier. But my reasons for forgoing the sunscreen have nothing to do with laziness and everything to do with the fact that most sunscreens turn into clumpy, gooey, white globs on my skin – and stay like that, no matter how much I try to rub them in.

Well, women of color, rejoice! Black Girl Sunscreen is the new sunscreen for women of color. Unlike your average sunscreen, this one sells for an affordable $18.99, dries clear and is melanin-reinforcing. Reddit user khaleesidee boasts:

“Hey guys! I’ve spent a lot of time lurking around here and on r/asianbeauty, looking for the perfect sunscreen. And I think I finally found it! It’s called Black Girl Sunscreen and I believe it’s the best sunscreen for POC. It feels lightweight, moisturizing, has a natural finish and leaves absolutely no white cast or stickiness. It sinks in the skin in a minute or so and feels smooth but not silicony. It is basically like putting on a very lightweight moisturizer. It does not peel either. I’m absolutely in love, and I highly recommend it! It cost $18. I hope this will help anyone looking for a sunscreen right now!”

What makes Black Girl Sunscreen different than other sunscreens is that it’s a chemical product, which means it’s made without zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Blame these two chemicals for leaving that white residue on your skin after application.

The revolutionary sunscreen has been a long time coming. Back in 2015, The Washington Post published an article that discredited the need for a sunscreen specifically for people of color. Dermatologist Ron Moy confirmed there is no medical reason that prohibits people of color from using non-chemical sunscreens, saying, “They can just use regular sunscreen.”

People of color, though, would disagree. Though regular sunscreens may be just as effective at preventing skin cancer for people of color, Black Girl Sunscreen is a cosmetic win for anyone with dark skin.

People Of Color Don’t Hate White People. We Just Hate Their Microaggressions.

This past weekend, I went to a bar with my white boyfriend. We happened to meet another interracial couple: the man, an Indian born in England but raised in the states, and his white-American girlfriend. Before I could formally introduce myself to the white girlfriend, she and my boyfriend decided they both needed to go to the bathroom.

As I stayed outside talking to the Indian man who shared a name with my father, the white girlfriend turned to my boyfriend before entering the ladies’ room.

“We’re doing it right, aren’t we?” she said to him.
“Pardon?” he said back.
“Our partners. You know… we’re doing it right.” She winked, swung open the bathroom door and went on her merry way.

When my boyfriend came back and told me about their little exchange, he couldn’t help but emphasize how odd it was. “It’s weird she had to make a comment about you and her boyfriend being Indian,” he said. “Like, I don’t think of you as my Indian girlfriend. I just think of you as… a brunette.”

I began to go over her words in my head. Paranoia struck, and struck hard. What did she mean by “we’re doing it ‘right?’” How can she even know? I didn’t so much as say “hi” to her, which can only mean she’s making assumptions about my character based on the color of my skin. Why did she choose to see my color before my character?

Then, I tried putting myself in her shoes: if I were to have gone to the bathroom with the Indian guy, would I have made a passive-aggressive comment to him about the fact that we’re both dating white people? No, I wouldn’t have. Because white is the “norm.” Because I’m constantly surrounded by white people, and even though they look different than I do, I can identify with them because I’m also American.

But even after trying to be my most logical, empathetic self, all I could conclude was that this woman’s comment was nothing more than a microaggression. There, standing side-by-side with my loving boyfriend on the balcony of a karaoke bar, I questioned my worth: as a girlfriend to a white man, as an Indian-American woman, and as a human being.

A microaggression is “a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial minority).” I like to think of microaggressions as discrete forms of racism, ones that are not as jarring as a racially charged shooting of an Indian man, but that are just as impactful on both the safety and mental health of minorities.

There are subtle microaggressions and there are those that are blatant. NowThis News, an online news publisher, recently tweeted the following.

As excited as I was to see a big publisher finally recognize the importance of South Asian storytelling, I was just as let down to see the comments that followed. These comments were from people who are either ignorant, uneducated, misinformed (or all of the above) about minority representation in mainstream media:

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It wasn’t a surprise to me that the comments were made by white men. And by telling us people of color that we, especially, are not entitled to have our stories told, these white men remind us of their failure to acknowledge that voices of white men have drowned out the voices of POC for decades, and that POC are practically begging white men and women in power to help them catch up for lost time.

And then, there was this comment:

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Again, this person is misinformed. Yes, you nimrod, there is Bollywood. But Bollywood tells the stories of Indians living in India, while Hollywood mostly tells the stories of white people all over the world. For this reason, girls who look and think and act like me – Indian girls born and raised in Long Island, New York who oscillate between feeling more Indian-ized than Americanized and more Americanized than Indian-ized – have no such forum of representation. Girls like me count on Hollywood and Vogue and Cosmopolitan to tell stories of first-generation Americans; after all, these are the pieces of media we grew up with, fell in love with and hoped to see ourselves reflected back in.

But they all continue to fail us.

It hurts my heart to have to even write this post. It hurts to have to explain why South Asian women deserve to be represented, but it’s these microaggressions that shape the identities of first-generation Americans – or lack thereof. It’s thesemicroaggressions that contribute a great deal to why so many of my Indian-American girlfriends have little-to-no sense of self: because we are made to feel as though we’re nameless, faceless.

The theory goes something like this: if women like me were given a place to be justas seen and just as heard as white people, then we’d become part of the “norm” just like that Indian man’s white girlfriend, and we wouldn’t get hot flashes every time we went to a majority-white gathering with our white boyfriends. People wouldn’t be shocked or scared or threatened by us. They’d welcome us freely, treat us respectfully… and, well, we’d love ourselves just a little bit more.


To The Girl Who’s Always Half-Loved: What Falling In REAL Love Feels Like

The other night, my new boyfriend and I stayed up all night just talking, his hands in mine, his head on my belly. Sometimes, we talk so much we lose track of time: the clock strikes 12, then 2, and before we know it, the sun’s rising.

We talked about picking up and leaving, and where we’d go if we actually could.

“Africa!” I exclaimed.

“Where in Africa?!” he asked. “Cape Town? A gringo and a beautiful Indian girl  ,” he continued, in a half-decent South African accent.

“Ha. Maybe Egypt? I’ve always wanted to go on an African safari…”

“How much do you think all that’d cost?”

“I’ve got a trust fund we could dip into…” We laughed. “I don’t care where we go,” I said. “As long as I’m with you.”

I thought I’d been in love once or twice before, but being with my boyfriend made me realize I’ve usually just been in an intense state of lust. With fuckboys, it was always about sex, every. Damn. Time. Sure, I had a connection with them, but it was just that: a connection, and not a very good one, at that. It was shaky and unpredictable and there was always static and we could hear each other, but we sure as hell didn’t listen.

When you fall in love, it feels like more than just a connection. It’s a living, breathing truth you can’t deny. It’s about friendship. Compassion. Sex, too, but also all this other stuff I’d been neglecting for far too long. It is 100% mutual. It is unconditional. It isn’t more convenient for one than it is for the other. And this person truly feels like the other half of your soul.

I wanted to put into words what falling in love feels like for a few different reasons. One of my readers messaged me the other day telling me she is 27 and has never been in love. Another reader messaged me asking if the back-and-forth she has with a guy who will only text her once a week is love. And, of course, I wanted to remember the feelings as they are happening to me in real time.

I’d like to point out that every relationship is different. But falling in love is one feeling that is uniform across all relationships; when you fall in love, for real for real, this is what it feels like…

Falling in love feels like someone’s picked you up and won’t stop twirling you around.

Falling in love feels like you’re on all the best drugs (but in a totally cool, totally non-toxic sort of way).

Falling in love feels like hearing music in your head all the time, only for once, it isn’t sad songs; it’s airy, acoustic vocals and soft, sweet sounds. It’s “oohs” and “aahs” to a melody your imagination made up just for this one very special occasion, the one of falling in love.

Falling in love feels like an irrepressible urge to cry and laugh and sing all at the same time because you never thought you’d feel this feeling.

Falling in love feels natural and right when it’s real, and you just can’t fight it, no matter what happens to him or you or the state of the world. You two are bound together by everything that makes you, you and him, him. There’s nothing you don’t want to experience by his side.

Because with him, everything is just better.

With him, it’s love.


The Dark Truth Of Being In A Relationship When You Have Anxiety & Depression

I’ve suffered from anxiety and depression ever since I was a teen, and I’ve been in therapy for almost 10 years now. I’ve taken medicine in the past, but as of right now, therapy twice a week, daily exercise and the support of my family, friends (and new boyfriend) have been my “medicine.”

A few months ago, I began dating someone new. He’s different from the other guys I’ve dated: he’s fun, gentlemanly, kind (but not boring). It is hard (read: close to impossible) to find a guy like him.

It’s been a couple of months now, and he’s seen me at my cloud-nine highs and shit-storm lows. Unlike other guys I’ve dated, he’s well-aware of my mental handicaps and has chosen not to run away. (As for why not, I couldn’t tell you. But if I had to guess, I’d say it’s a combination of A) his otherworldly open-mindedness and B) all the great stuff we’ve got, which is often enough to cancel out the bad stuff).

My whole life, I’ve operated under the false misconception that love would “cure” my anxiety and depression; that they would disappear once I met a guy who, for once, didn’t aggravate it. Fuckboys made me more anxious than ever, and I was convinced they were the purveyors of any anxious feelings I felt.

I’ve learned that though fuckboys did aggravate the anxiety and depression because they weren’t interested in getting to know me beyond surface-level, anxiety and depression don’t just go away with the guy who’s right for you. In fact, with the right guy, your mental disabilities might even be heightened because your depression tells you you don’t deserve a guy like him. I’m learning that anxiety and depression are little monsters you carry around in your pockets at all times, no matter where you are in life or who you’re with, and you constantly have to work to manage them.

Even though I’ve learned  the tools to manage them, at times, my anxiety and depression take complete control of me in my new relationship. I’ve never been with such a great guy, and I don’t know how to handle the feelings that come with it. If you’re anything like me, you end up thinking this person is too good for you and all your stupid shit. You care about this person so much that you don’t want to drag him down into that dark hole you sink into every now and then for reasons you can’t explain (or for absolutely no reason at all other than your hormones).

And so you sabotage the best thing that’s ever happened to you. You start explosive fights, then push him away, and he calls you a cold-hearted bitch: not because he’s a dick, but because you’re too ashamed to admit the extent of your crippling disability.

You have days where you break down on the couch while he holds you and kisses your forehead. You have nights where all you want to do is lie in bed with your headphones in and back towards him because you just “need” to be alone.

My therapist tells me the time during which people like me push away people like him is actually the time we need them most. You know you’re dating the right person, though, if he doesn’t turn you away during this time. He will welcome you and be willing to push through the pain with you because that’s how much he loves you.

I never thought I’d be able to have a functioning relationship because of my mental handicaps. I wrote this post because anyone out there who suffers from anxiety or depression (or both, quite possibly the most harrowing combination to deal with) needs to know that they can, in fact, find love. And not only that, but they can keep it, as long as they are willing to work on themselves while accepting the love they’re being given. Depressed people are often the most compassionate of people, making us kind, warm lovers. We just tend to forget that sometimes.

You will both have to be patient; him, with you, and you, with your demons. But if both partners are willing to be patient – a virtue I am slowly but surely learning to practice on the reg – you’ve got yourself the opportunity to build an incredible life together.


Where All The “Good” Men (And Women) Are Hiding

I get a lot of questions from my readers asking me where I met the ~awesome~ guy I’m currently dating.

Now, all the good peeps aren’t hiding in one place. There’s no, like, Hot Man Convention (but wouldn’t that be so much easier)? You just have to go to the right places.

I met my guy at a bar in downtown Austin. Normally, I caution against meeting people in bars because all the guys I’ve met in bars in the past just wanted to bang. (Although one guy I met in a bar turned out to be my bang buddy for a solid year and a half. No regrets). But this time, I happened to be alone, with no girlfriends to protect me. I’d like to think one of the reasons he came up to me is because I was just sippin’ on some wine, all by myself, nonchalantly reading a book and enjoying myself. 

What’s the verdict of my successful experiment? Do more stuff alone. You’re less intimidating to men this way. There’s nothing scarier than a good-looking girl gang.

The other day, a woman in her late 20’s told me she isn’t really a “bar person” and also isn’t willing to try online dating. Then, I asked her what her hobbies are. She told me she doesn’t have any hobbies other than getting her nails done with her girlfriends, but after thinking for a little bit, she wrote back that she also likes to travel.

OK. Let’s take a look-see here. She doesn’t go out, is either too lazy (or too proud) to try online dating and has zero hobbies. It’s no wonder to anyone but herself that she’s still single.

PEOPLE. You can’t not be a bar person and not be an online dating person! It doesn’t work that way! How do you expect to meet someone when over 75% of the population goes to bars and uses dating apps to try and find love?

To find love, you’ve either got to be a bar person (extrovert) or an online dating person (introvert). And even better if you’re both a bar person and an online dating person, because you’ve increased your chances of meeting someone by twofold. (Also, the extrovert-introvert hybrid is probably the best possible romantic partner, because you’re pretty much down to do whatever and easy to get along with). 

Back to this not-bar-not-online-dating girl. I suggested she travel alone. Because when I traveled solo to Switzerland, I met a ton of cool new people. Folks flock to lone travelers – especially the local singles.

Now, if you’re not into going out – or just don’t have the stamina to drink like you used to – you could also research hobby groups in your city or try I know they sound kind of lame, but they really are an awesome way to mingle with people that love doing the same stuff you love to do. Isn’t that what you want, anyway? A boyfriend that you don’t have to drag to an indie concert, but that will accompany you gladly because he loves the band as much as or even more than you do?

Remember: We don’t attract who we want. We attract who we are. My guy is more-or-less the male version of me: very active, super outgoing,  flails arms to Chris Brown. 

If you’ve exhausted all the above options, I suggest sucking up your pride and trying online dating. I have a few friends who’ve met some wonderful people on there. Of course, you will need some bomb-ass pics and an interesting bio; something to set you apart from the rest of the horny, lonely souls of the world.

But in regards to how to navigate the Tinder trenches and Bumble beehives, I’ll save that for another day.


How To Get Out Of The FriendZone

Ah, the dreaded FriendZone. I get a lot of questions from mostly guys during my Snapchat daily advice log (follow me: Sheenybeanz) about how to get out of the FriendZone, so I thought I’d write up a post.

There’s a really good episode of “New Girl” – one of my all-time favorite shows – that deals really well with the FriendZone.

In the episode, Nick does all these mundane life things for his best girl friend, Jess, like taking her to Ikea and building her furniture. But Nick isn’t getting laid for his worthy services because Jess happens to have a boyfriend who isn’t ever around, so Nick is like her surrogate boyfriend, only without the sex benefits. (The show refers to Nick as a “fluffer,” a word I enjoy as much as “fuckboy,” which is the complete opposite of “fluffer.”)

If she’s FriendZoning you, it usually means one of two things you don’t wanna hear: A) she’s either not sexually attracted to you, or B) you’re just too nice (or A because of B). I can’t really help you guys much if she doesn’t think you’re her type, but I can help you if your problem is being too damn nice. (And hey: if your problem is indeed B, by unleashing your inner bad boy, you could even end up making her more sexually attracted to you, ‘cuz that’s usually the way that goes).

Here’s what you’ve got to do to go from FriendZone to potential boyfriend:

Stop being so available to her whenever she needs you. Stop being so nice.

Girls want guys they feel are valuable. What makes something valuable? It’s limited in quantity and everyone wants it.

As seen with the Nick and Jess phenomenon, if you’re there for her all the time, she won’t value you or take you seriously. The next time she asks you to build her something just because you’re around and she knows you’ll jump at the opportunity, say “no.”

See what happens. She’ll get the opportunity to – gasp – miss you for the very first time. Missing leads to longing, which leads to her realizing your value. She’ll realize you’re the friggin’ limited edition.

Don’t be her gay BFF.

If the girl you like tries to vent to you about guy drama/some asshole she likes, politely tell her you’re not interested in talking about that with her. Make it clear you’re not her gay best friend. Stick up for yourself a little! If you’re a dude, you’ve been given balls for a reason. Fuckin’ use ’em.

A boyfriend wouldn’t wanna hear that kind of talk – duh – so do as boyfriends do.

Just… y’know… act like you have a life. 

Dude, you’re awesome. Act like it. Act like you have other girls interested in you (even if you don’t); this will only up your appeal. A little white lie never hurt no one. There’s a reason they say “fake it ’till you make it.”

Escaping the dreaded FriendZone isn’t so much about playing games as it is about being ~sly.~ If you’re not a sly guy, you’ve gotta learn how to be sly. Being sly in this life will not only get you the girl, but it’ll help you with pretty much anything in life, like making a sale to a client, or convincing your parents to help you out financially when you’re down. I can attest to the efficacy of slyness because I’m really good at all of those thangs. Be sly to get what you want.

I can pretty much guarantee you’ll stay out of the FriendZone if you follow these rules to a T. Navigating your way out of the Zone doesn’t necessarily mean being untrue to yourself or changing who you are. At the end of the day, it’s really just about respecting yourself enough to get what (and who!) you want.


A Letter To Single People Who Feel Extra Lonely On Holidays

Happy Easter, bunnies! I hope you’re all having a wonderful holiday.

Every holiday, I wonder what it would be like to bring someone special home to meet my family. I’ve never brought someone home before; I’ve always wanted to wait until the moment – and person – was just right.

(That’s because I never want my family to get invested in someone that won’t last. Sometimes, I think they want me to be in love more than I do, and if I were to get my heart broken, I wouldn’t want their hearts to break, too).

For the first time in almost a decade, I’m with someone that I could see myself bringing home, because he doesn’t feel “wrong.” My family would LOVE him. I love picturing him in a room with my family. Everyone would have such a blast.

One of my readers is chasing a married woman. One of them keeps getting stood up. One just ended things with her emotionally abusive ex, and one has given up on love entirely.

I’ve been all of you. I know what it’s like to have nothing to say when your family asks “how’s your love life?” (In actuality, you have plenty to say, but you don’t say anything because your love life is too embarrassing to talk about for one of many reasons).

I also know how much it sucks having to hide your hook-ups and break-ups and affairs and almost-relationships from your family. It’s almost like you’re living a double life: your family is your happy, safe place, and your love life is the place where all your dreams go to die.

You are all incredibly courageous. I want to remind you to trust the process. It’s normal not to get it right on the first or third or tenth try. And I bet a million dollars that your family would rather you bring home one special man in ten years, than ten unspecial men in one year.

This Easter, keep the faith. Every “wrong” person you chase is just getting you closer to the right person, because each and every “wrong” person you date teaches you to respect yourself just a little bit more.

The journey is fucking long, but your loving family deserves to meet someone who loves YOU endlessly.

And you will find that person. ❤️


In Matters Of Dating, Listen To Your Body

Back in the day, I would get all dolled up to meet my “Asshole Of The Week” out at a bar with his friends. I’d skip there, grinning like an idiot with butterflies in my stomach the whole way there, as if what he had to offer me was somehow going to change my world; make me a happier girl.

We’d go back to his place. Sometimes, I’d stay holed up with him for an entire weekend at a time.

Then, poof. Gone. The weekend would end, and so would my short-lived happiness. He’d disappear on me and I wouldn’t hear from him for a week. Wondering where he was, I always felt like the pit of my stomach was going to drop straight out of my body. I felt anxious. Unwanted. A raging cynic and a man-hater. He wasn’t the guy I’d imagined I’d be with; I wasn’t the girl I’d always wanted to be.

This is how it feels to be chasing the wrong person: your body will literally TELL you to get away from him. I didn’t fully realize the significance of the body’s signals until I felt so sick to my stomach that I had to take a break from men for a few months. (And thank God I did, because I’m currently dating someone who’s wonderful. I never thought I’d get here!)

The next time you’re dating, pursuing or sleeping with, I want you to pay attention to the way your body feels.

We over-complicate. It’s simple, really: You’re supposed to feel better after seeing the person you’re dating, not worse.

(I know, it seems like common sense. But the reason great girls keep finding themselves in these shitty situations with these shitty men is because they ignore the signals are bodies are sending them).

I say you should listen to your body rather than your mind is because when we really like someone, our mind twists the truth. It’ll take the signals our body is sending us, regardless of how tummy-twisting they are, and put a rose gold filter over them. Your head’s in the fucking clouds, but your body will never steer you wrong.

There’s a reason that exercise, yoga and meditation can solve almost all of life’s problems: When we are in tune with our bodies, we are in tune with ourselves – and that includes our romantic needs and desires.

When you are with the right person, you will come with butterflies and leave with even more.

The right relationship can be likened to that 80/20 dieting rule we all love so much: at the very least, you should feel happy with this person in your life 80% of the time. That 80% includes the way you feel when you leave him. He doesn’t get to treat you like a queen whenever it’s convenient for him, then disappear on you.

If you feel anxious, insecure and like your stomach is Jell-O, you’re banging the wrong dude. You should feel happy and secure in your relationship even when you aren’t with him.

Never compromise on butterflies. Oh, and if you’re lucky like me, you’ll feel those butterflies a solid 90% of the time.


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