Last night, with the power out and the insomnia I have battled since puberty ruining whatever chance I had of making it to church on time, I resumed a familiar, loathsome dialog with the gatekeeper to the Land of Nod. He is very bored with his work and I am loquacious, so he uses me for his own amusement, claiming it helps make his job less tedious, even as I wish he would just let me in so I can finally rest.
He is he, because I am a she, and I refuse to believe that this sadist is female. I wear too much pink for that.
Me: 5am. 5am of the last day of this life.
He: Bit dramatic, innit?
Me: Not at all.
He: Your last day has long passed. You forsook that life exactly four years ago, when you chose an actual life over a virtual one.
Me: But I was coming back.
He: You always say that.
Me: But I was. Not in the way people expect, but I was. I have schemes. Schemes!
He: Annabel. How long have you been writing that one post?
Me: I am unaware of to what you might be referring.
He: Not ending a sentence with a preposition is a bit of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put.
Me: Sigh. You are karrrect, saar. I have been writing that post for three years.
He: Why? Better yet, why bother?
Me: Because. It seemed important. I owed people an explanation. Hence the whole, “Where I’ve Been”-title.
He: I mean this in the kindest way, because I really am fond of you, which is why I always force you to tarry…but I don’t think anyone cares. Or noticed.
Me: To quote a great philosopher-meth enthusiast, “HOW RUDE!”
He: Fine, they probably noticed when you didn’t post for a while, because you were vaguely prolific–
Me: 816! I wrote 816 posts. That TOTALLY counts as prolific, you hate-
He: So granted. Moving on, back to my point. They noticed your absence, then they probably shrugged, assumed you were busy and then moved on to futzing with Facebook, masturbating, getting root canals–
Me: I had a point as well, before you interrupted–
He: You? You are going to criticize someone for interrupting you? That’s RICH.
Me: HARRUMPH. I HAD A POINT YOU JERK.
He: an exaggerated gesture that indicates a zipped lip
Me: You’re going to feel terrible about all your sarcastic miming when you hear what I have to say.
Me: I…had hoped to come up with a better title, but the post itself was about mental illness. My, mental illness. Illnesses. As in multiple.
Me: I have severe anxiety. I have OCD. Some ADD. Panic Disorder, too. And I’m predisposed to getting severely depressed instead of just normal-depressed. Like, everyone gets blue if they get laid off, but I sink to a dank, dark place that even James Cameron refuses to submerge to…
He: You were going to reveal all of that?
Me: Yes. I wanted people to know why I had to walk away, because while the narrative you know is true, the greater truth had to do with self-preservation and survival, not falling in love.
He: What did you hope to accomplish with such a confession?
Me: A few things. For eight years, whenever I had finished a post, right before I hit “publish”, my heart would race, my skin would flush, I’d start shaking, my pupils would dilate and I’d be consumed with dread. There was a range to this response. Most of the time, I could handle it and remind myself that despite feeling like certain doom was around the corner, everything would be fine. Sometimes, however, it was awful. Like, chest pain awful. Drowning in terror-awful. Obviously, publishing a post like this one almost destroyed me physically and emotionally.
He: You wanted people to learn this and feel pity for you?
Me: Not exactly. There were just so many jerks who acted like this was all effortless for us, or for me specifically, that it didn’t entail anything more than a few minutes of rat-a-tat-typing and a wiki peek. The truth is, even my fluffiest, briefest posts took 30 minutes to write, edit, re-edit, re-re-edit, fact check and volumize with amusing links. My last post, the Onion-one, took over three hours!
He: You wanted people to learn this and feel pity for you?
Me: No, I just wanted them to know that it wasn’t easy. That it took effort and…an emotional toll, I guess.
He: They don’t care. I promise you.
Me: You’re…probably right.
He: I am right. And you knew it inherently and that’s why you never published it.
Me: Well, that wasn’t even my main motivation.
He: What was?
Me: We never talk about mental illness as a community. I could’ve hosted that very necessary conversation. You should see some of the missives I got over the years– “My Mother is bipolar and we are shunned; our Dad divorced her and remarried. Please talk about how we stigmatize people who suffer, because we are utterly alone.” I could’ve helped. My favorite purpose for SM, my favorite accomplishment of ours or the reason I was devoted to spending more hours per week working on it than I did at my full-time job was BECAUSE we “went there”–
He: Like Degrassi?
He: Because IT goes the–
Me: The best post I ever wrote or the best thing I ever did here was out myself and publicly disclose that I had been raped. I wrote about my friend’s abortion, too. SM’s community rallied. We shared our stories, offered each other resources, poured out support to anyone who needed it. I STILL get emails from young women who write that it happened to them and someone sent them my post, and…
He: Do you write back? What do you say?
Me: I do write back to them, but I am horrible about responding to email in general. I get several hundred messages a day, though it’s obviously gotten easier in the last few years, with my decreased participation or visibility…
He: What do you say?
Me: I tell them that it wasn’t their fault. And that a day will come when they’ll wake up and think of something else, first thing in the morning. That eventually, they will be okay. To talk to a therapist and get whatever help they need.
He: And you thought you could do this for the crazies, too?
Me: That’s rude.
He: And it’s exactly why you should’ve published it. Much like I no longer use the sad acronyms “FOB” or “ABCD” because I was reeducated by SM, I’d probably have more compassionate jokes about straightjacket-afficionados. Cancer is an abstract concept until someone you love is diagnosed with it. Then it’s brutally real and demands to be understood.
Me: That’s another thing I’m really proud of. I HATE “FOB” and “ABCD”. My parents didn’t sail here and I am not confused about a damned thing. The fact that our readers regularly employed fairer, more accurate acronyms like “DBD” and “ABD” elated me. We were choosing to be smarter. And kinder.
He: I hate to break it to you, but I don’t think your current readers are aware of such a fine, conscious improvement to throwaway insults. I don’t think it took.
Me: It’s fine. We accomplished plenty in eight years.
He: This is the part where you look at me hopefully with those very round eyes and wait for me to ask a helpful, leading question. Well, I’m not playing.
Me: Do you really think I NEED that sort of conversational assist? Have we met? I’m going to tell you whatever I feel like telling you whether you prompt me or not.
Me: Shit. Now I con’t remember. Um…I’m proud of the fact that we were formed in reaction to our exclusion from the conventions and then we were at both of them, four years later. OH! I remember!
He: gestures expansively
Me: That still counts as a prompt, even if it was non-verbal, for your information. The other thing I was so proud of was how we made people feel. We didn’t intend to, but we created a fantastic, dynamic, global community. Whenever we had meetups, no matter what city I was in, I’d hear the same exact thing: “I never fit in with the other Desis in my life…[I wasn’t in SASA/I didn’t go to Bhangra Blowout/I’m South Indian, not Punjabi or Guju/I avoided Indus’ shows like the plague/I grew up in a rural place where I was the only Indian kid for 50 miles]…but for the first time ever, I felt…welcome. Like I was where I belonged.” That was gratifying.
He: How many times, truthfully now, did you hear some version of that palaver?
Me: Every meetup I ever hosted or attended. Sometimes two or three times at the same event, independently, from different people I’d rush to shout out so they could immediately meet likeminded new friends. I’d hear it at non-SM events, too! DJ Rekha at the Black Cat? I heard it there, too. I’d say, “Yes, we understand completely, that’s why we grabbed you and your similarly lonely counterpart from every college in the country. We all thought we were suffering alone, that we were the only ones. Nope. Just the only ones at our school. Then came Katamari Mutiny, sweeping every oddball up and making them a Mutineer…that’s how we rolled.”
He: That was terrible. Also, it was a tee-shirt.
Me: Anyway. Once upon a time, we created something magical, something addictive, something special. I should’ve known it wouldn’t last forever. It was too fantastic.
He: Why didn’t it last?
Me: I used to blame people or certain incidents but now I just realize that it wasn’t sustainable. In 2007, at what I consider to be our peak, I spent up to fifteen hours a day on SM. I’d wake up in the morning, immediately check comments (remember, we were read globally, so there was nearly always something to moderate, even at 7am), get ready for work, leave. I’d arrive at my office, immediately check comments, THEN open my Outlook. I used to check our comments every 15 minutes– every ten if something huge had broken. Ennis used to worry about me. “You’re going to get in trouble. Stay off the internet while at work.” The internet meant “Sepia Mutiny”. But I couldn’t. Because the way we were (dis)organized meant that we were each responsible for moderating our own posts. And if I’m not mistaken, eight of the top ten most-commented-on posts were mine.
He: So you created a lot of work for yourself.
Me: It was more than that. The reason people loved to stop in (all day, e’ery day) is because we were “curating a conversation” before anyone abused that gerund in such a nasty way. People felt safe at SM. We were not going to tolerate racism, religious fundamentalism, sexism…those comments were getting nuked, fairly quickly. The more elevated the discourse, the more mutineers we attracted. I know the actual identities of some of our more celebrated or infamous commenters– a few of them are famous. Legit-famous. Authors, actors, politicians. They wasted their time with us because we were severely allergic to bullshit– and I was the helicopter Mom with an Epi pen in my purse at all times.
He: That doesn’t make sense– theoretically, compelling people to register to comment should’ve lightened your load, automated the process–
Me: Erm…too little, too late, I think. We needed to do that when we were addictive and indispensable, not after our moment had passed. Right now, Justin Bieber can get millions of fans to do whatever he wishes. Five years from now, he may not have that power. When people were hitting refresh like trained monkeys desperate for a new comment-war-post-fix, THEN we should’ve asked them to sign up. Who knows. Maybe that would’ve killed us sooner. Still, I remember going to Poynter or certain J-schools and the first question out of their mouths would be some variant of, “You’re far too nice to anonymous commenters. When are you going to move to moderation?” I’d always cheerily raise my hand and chirp, “You’re looking at it!” They’d be aghast.
He: So commenting-related decisions killed the Mutiny?
Me: No. That doesn’t sound right. Abhi listed a few reasons why on his Ides post. Life killed the Mutiny. I wanted a life. I wanted to fall in love. I met someone and I wanted to enjoy the butterflies, the third date, the sense of possibility. Other people got married, some had babies. We all got promoted at our day jobs, which meant more responsibility and less time for blogging.
He: So bitches and babies killed the Mutiny?
Me: Wha-? Bitches?
He: Four guys, one girl. You were all straight, as far as we know. That means four wives or girlfriends.
Me: Oh. Well…no…it was more that THAT. When the NYT and the WSJ have professional versions of SM staffed by well-paid, seasoned journalists…how can we compete? Wait, how come it wasn’t “A guy AND bitches and bab–“
He: Because you’re a spinster!
Me: I am not single!
He: You are not married!
Me: You sound like my Mother.
He: She is probably very wise, under-appreciated, devastatingly handsome…
Me: Scratch that. You sound like one of my worst exes.
He: Define “worst”.
Me: Well…in 2006, during a fight over how much time I was spending on SM, he said…
“How does it feel, knowing you wasted your prime childbearing years on a ‘blog’? I’m sure that’ll work out really well for you when you’re 80 and your Depends need changing. Because a blog will be there to diaper you, right?”
He: He was jealous? Of a blog?
Me: He wasn’t the only one. There was at least one other.
Me: And then! Then there was the opposite!
Me: TWICE, guys befriended me, flirted with me, asked me out…and a few dates in, inquired about guest blogging.
Me: Nope. Truth. I remember how one of the times, Abhi just marveled at the chicanery, then promised me that the a-hole would never write for us, ever.
He: He had your back.
Me: He usually did. More than I realized.
He: Did you think otherwise?
Me: No? I don’t know? It was weird. I may have come up with the name of our baby, and I wrote the first post, but I didn’t always feel at ease in the bunker. Then, when we changed our design, I really stopped feeling at home. When we left MT for WordPress? Oy. I knew I’d never really be back. I literally didn’t recognize the space, neither the front nor back ends of it. But how shitty and ungrateful does that sound, when our technical team is all-volunteer, too? And made up of some of my favorites? And it’s not like I wasn’t asked for input, fifty or sixty times– I was. It’s just…I thought everything would be fine. Only when it was too late would I realize it wasn’t.
He: How helpful of you.
Me: I know, right?
He: You really didn’t feel comfortable? You were a cofounder, for Chrissakes.
Me: 1) Watch your mouth. 2) No, not always. I mean, I don’t think there’s a pic of me or a bio on our “About” page, you know? That always felt apposite. I was a part of the Mutiny, but…apart.
He: So too many comments, not enough comments, marriage, childbirth (though neither of those for you, heh), careers, redesigns, and now pro-journos killed the brown uprising?
Me: It was never meant to live forever. We were Super Friends, responding to emergencies, summoned together by the massive TroubAlert computer in the Hall of Justice. Is that show still on the air?
He: How…old…are you??
Me: Old enough to have wanted Wonder Woman underoos to flash during first-grade recess…I ended up with the R2D2 set, because those were on sale and my parents weren’t rich. But we were all obsessed with Star Wars too, so it worked out well.
He: Do you regret anything?
Me: I’m sure I regret a lot, like not doing the mental illness post, or not writing more, period…not coming back sooner? I don’t know. It’s not like I didn’t want to…for example, I fully committed to writing about Dharun Ravi and I did all the research for a doozy of a post…but I haven’t had a free hour, let alone three to get it done.
He: Aren’t you unemployed?
He: And didn’t you just spend three hours on a humor post on Friday?
Me: Yeah, that’s the thing, that three hours? That was actually for THIS post. But I couldn’t bring myself to write it just yet. And I also couldn’t bring myself to write about Dharun, because I thought, “Oh, it’s too late, it’s been too many days” and worse, “What’s the point, we’re ending, won’t that just artificially keep us on comment life support?” I don’t think we’re accepting comments after Wednesday.
He: You are weird.
Me: I know.
He: Like really weird.
Me: I am mentally ill! Also, like attracts like. Did I ever tell you about the time I was on a date with my current partner and SM almost borked it for me?
Me: You know, sometimes, as a 37-year old, “boyfriend” seems lame.
He: What. Ever. No, go ahead. How did SM intrude on your date? Comment emergency?
Me: Worse. An…odd duck. It was early in my relationship…like, fourth or fifth date-territory. I was head over heels for this guy. I lost 15 pounds in the first month we dated because he made me so nervous, I couldn’t eat AND I was burning off extra calories from all the excited twitching.
He: EXCITED TWITCHING?!
Me: STOP INTERRUPTING. Have you any idea how long this is going to take me to type??
He: You type 75 wpm!
Me: STILL! Anyway, we were out at some excruciatingly hip new music venue and we were both intoxicated and super in luuurve…
He: Sorry, that was me throwing up in my mouth a little.
Me: ANYWAY. We’ve been enjoying the show for an hour, I mean, straight up slow dancing like it was the triumphant ending to a teen prom flick and right after I throw my arms around his neck–
He: If you were slow-dancing, weren’t they already there?
Me: They were around his waist. He has a really cute little butt.
Me: I throw my arms around his neck and he freezes. At first I don’t notice anything’s wrong, then he subtly indicates that I should look to our right. There, at 3 o’clock. A guy. Staring. Without blinking. For several minutes. I shrug, too happy to care. I ignore it. But he can’t. He actually steps away from me with this disturbed look and says, “He’s been watching us the whole time. It’s mad creepy. Maybe we should go.”
He: Define: “whole time”.
Me: Um…close to an hour?
Me: Yeah. And right then, the guy slowly approaches us and tells us he’s been watching us (no shit!) and am I ‘Anna from Sepia’. I say that I am and he mentions how much he likes reading our blog and my personal blogs, too and how he’s always wanted to meet me. Again, I’m not that bothered because it’s an honor to be recognized, right? Except the conversation just sort of ends, abruptly. And he’s still standing really close to us. Staring. Smiling. Not blinking. I finally say that it was nice to meet him and that we’re heading back to the stage and I can tell my bf is rattled. Later, he points out that the guy has moved to the other side of the room and retreated in the shadows, but is still staring intently.
He: That’s…one crazy person. I mean, the not-blinking should’ve given that away.
Me: Right, except it happened on our next date, too, but this time it was a girl.
He: Did she blink?
Me: I guess?
He: How often did you get recognized?
Me: More than people expected, realized, believed.
He: Well aren’t you special.
Me: I’m not, actually. And it wasn’t always nice. I was in SF on my Dad’s five-year death anniversary, and my friends took me out to console and comfort me. I was dancing and drinking and crying my eyes out. And people kept coming up to me and asking about blog-related shit. And then they’d ask why I was crying and some of them took pictures of me. I wasn’t feeling…public or social right then, but I didn’t feel like I had a choice.
He: It’s not like they knew…
Me: No, I told them.
He: And then?
Me: I was like, “Sorry, I wish I could chat more but I’m really blue right now. Someone died.” And they just whipped out their camera and took a picture of my puffy face and muttered that they couldn’t wait to show their friends.
He: That’s bizarre.
Me: It was. It was surreal. Then there was the time I was walking back to work on E street NW. I was leaving the National Press Club in a super-good mood because I’d had this yummy samosa/pepper lemonade combo and I passed this Desi guy on his phone. A few seconds later, we were both stopped at a traffic light, waiting for the “Walk” signal. He was like, “Oh, hey, guess who’s in front of me…yeah, that Anna-bitch from Sipia whatever. Yeah. The blog. Uh-huh. Um? Hm. Well, she’s shorter in real life. And darker. Not as pretty. No, she’s still pretty, she’s just…not AS pretty. Oh, hilarious, she just turned around and now she’s looking at me. Yes? May I help you? This is a private conversation, thanks for eavesdropping…yeah, can you believe that shit? What is her deal?”
Me: Then there was the time that I was walking home to my apartment in Kalorama. I passed a random Desi and they had a similar convo, except this time, they added, “Wasn’t your friend wondering where she lived? Because I can see her building right now. No, she’s not visiting, she has a key fob.”
Me: Yeah. That was epically terrifying because we were dealing with a crazy person who had launched a hate site about us. Ostensibly it was to attack all of us, but the site’s name was “Unsuitable Girl” or something directly aimed at me. That was the worst thing that happened with regards to Sepia. Here we were, an all volunteer-crew working on a true labor of love…and these anonymous assholes decided to try and harm us any way they knew how. My sister contacted me and asked who “so and so” was because they had sent an odd and threatening email. They said they’d go after my Mom…
He: For what?
Me: I don’t know…giving birth to me?
He: SERIOUSLY. WHAT THE FUCK. IT’S A BLOG.
Me: Yeah, I know. It’s hard to believe now, five years later, that people used to get so bat shit crazy and combative, but they did. And there were plenty of threats. This one crazy M.F. used to invite me to India so I could be raped and murdered and never discovered again. I got a few death threats, we all probably did. But internet trollery is often a gendered clusterfuck, so I would get emails like, “You dumb bitch. I used to feel sorry for you but now I’m glad you got raped. You deserved it.” Shit like that.
Me: Speechless? Word, that’s a normal reaction. None of what we went through was normal, though. These hate site fiends were going after us in the grimiest ways. Threatening our jobs, our families, our…everything.
He: Wow, seriously, I’m–
Me: Let me change directions, then, and tell you something different. Several years ago, we had this epic meetup in Washington, D.C. at Heritage India, which was always good to the Mutiny– R.I.P. Amma Vegetarian…you were the only place that was better. Anyway, we’re all eating and having a blast, anywhere from 10-20 of us, and I mention to a friend that I had just caught an interview with Desi porn star Sunny Leone…of course dropping the p-bomb immediately gets EVERYONE’s attention so now the table is silent except for requests for me to repeat myself, slowly and loudly. I end up standing up and doing an impromptu reenactment that involved gestures that were…um…well, as loyal reader Salil put it, “Anna had more-or-less kick-started puberty in a few kids that day, and that there would be some interesting Q&A sessions with the parents in the Accord / Camry on the way home that night. ‘Mommy, I feel funny…in my pants.'”
He: You playacted porn in a crowded restaurant?
Me: No! It had cleared out by then…it was really just us and them. Our meetups sometimes lasted for hours…like six or even 12.
He: Weren’t there supposed to be final NY and DC meetups?
Me: Yes. I feel really bad about this.
He: You got busy?
Me: No. I got…I don’t know how to say this without alarming you and triggering a really panicked reaction in me…
He: What happened?
Me: My boyfriend is a boxing writer who took me to NYC to see my first fight at the Garden. Sergio Martinez is my favorite boxer and he was taking on this Irish guy, Macklin on St. Patrick’s Day. We drove up for it and got a hotel room, etc. It was a treat for me but I was also “working”, in a way. One of the new projects I work on is Stiff Jab, a boxing blog he runs. I had a press pass, I was a photographer that evening.
He: Did something happen at the fight? They can get pretty rowdy-
Me: No! I loved the fight! It was exhilarating and my future ex-husband Sergio cemented his place in my heart. He’s fantastic to watch and the atmosphere at MSG? That was the best St. Patty’s day EVER. I LOVE being AT boxing matches. There’s nothing else like it.
Me: We went back to our hotel so he could file his story and upload my pics. I took the dog for a walk so he’d have peace and quiet. While I was out, I noticed two late-night places and noted them, because he said we’d be grabbing food later since all we’d had at the fight was popcorn and soda.
Me: When I got back, he was passed out. Exhausted. He has an amazing new job that requires him to start working at 6am. I was bummed though. And wide awake, like I am right now, thanks to your c-blocking my way into Nod. And I was hungry. So, I decided to go back out and grab food at this 24-hour joint…
Me: I really don’t want to go in to details. It started as normal street harassment but it escalated. I was followed. Then the guy grabbed me. It was ugly. I was legitimately scared for my life, especially because no one moved to help me, they all just whipped out their cell phones and started taping
He: You got attacked in the street and people were filming it?
Me: “Attacked” sounds so crazy and serious. But…yeah. Kind of. He grabbed me. He hurt me. I’m still in pain a few weeks later. I managed to run away so it didn’t go further but…I was so rattled. It didn’t help me with my productivity these past two weeks, and I certainly didn’t want to even think about going back to NY. It would trigger…I mean, I’d remember what happened and then I’d have a panic attack. There I said it.
He: I can’t believe people were filming it.
Me: I couldn’t believe it either, when I witnessed an unrelated, earlier altercation while I was leaving my hotel for food. Huge fight tumbling out of a cab, on to the sidewalk on Sixth avenue. Guy getting his head bashed in. And people just…filming it.
Me: Yeah. But now I feel bad, because the right coast deserves meetups too. So if people are still willing to help me grab a venue, I’m happy to go up…
He: The blog ends today.
Me: Yeah, you know what? I’m sick of that. I have always, ALWAYS let “perfect” be the enemy of “good”. Several hundred unwritten or unpublished posts languish, because they weren’t “perfect”. F that noise. Who cares what the date of a get-together is?
He: Fair enough. Also…I feel really bad about what happened in New York. Why don’t you get some rest.
There are days in my life when I know, with a quiet, insistent urgency that I need to go to church.
Having typed that, I am amused. I was raised by two ultra-Orthodox Malayalees and had perfect attendance at Sunday School, so technically, I guess I should require the assurance and comfort faith provides constantly, not occasionally. But life intervenes, or I’m traveling, or my two decade-old battle with insomnia means that I wake up when the liturgy is ending vs.at 9am.
Today, I woke up without an alarm, despite having just fallen asleep.
“I need to go.”
I didn’t have access to a functioning shower (it’s a long story and this post is already 5,000 words), I had nothing to wear and my dog was whimpering for my attention. I briefly considered not going– obstacles were piling up and besides, I owed Abhi, nay, I owed all of you this post. Time was running out.
“I need to go.”
And so I did, for the first time in several weeks.
And the moment I walked through those imposing doors, I knew I had done the right thing.
How do you process loss? Endings? The stirrings of new entities that will not be ignored?
Because I wasn’t doing well with any of that, in fact, I was doing so unwell that I sought refuge at a Cathedral where I meditated and prayed.
Where I gave thanks for this opportunity, even as I begged for new ones. I’ve been avoiding writing this post for weeks, if not years and yet I knew I had to get through it, somehow.
“Please, G-d. Fill me with inspiration until the right words flow through my fingers on to that page. Help me bear witness. Help me do it justice. Amen.”
When I walked down the cathedral’s stairs, I felt peaceful.
And I was ready to write.
For eight years, no matter what was going on in my life, I had this anchor, this haven of sorts– and as a Delta Gamma, I don’t employ the word “anchor” without considerable love and devotion.
For three of the last eight years, I have not worked. Yet I never lacked for an answer at cocktail parties, when people interrogated me regarding what I “do”.
One of those three years, the first one, I did not work by choice– I have the world’s most amazing Indian mother and I say that after meeting a Tamil Amma who sings along to the Smiths covers her daughters and granddaughters sing in their all-girl, all brown band.
In 2004, my mother told me that if I wanted to, I could write. If I needed to, I could write. She would support me in that endeavor.
“I won’t pay for any fancy gym memberships, but you will have a roof over your head and food to eat. Just…write.”
During that year of magical thinking and typing, I was offered a book deal and my personal sites rocketed to the attention of a few thousand people, including an astronaut named Abhi. He read my original blog, HERstory and noticed that I was writing about grimy shit that was going down with regards to Desis and that year’s presidential campaigns. He wrote to me and told me about how he knew too many people who were still undecided regarding for whom to vote.
“But when I send them to your blog, or Manish’s, they’re incensed. Suddenly they know what they’re going to do. And that’s powerful. What if all those posts were in one place, instead of on five individual blogs? What would that do for our community? What if we worked together on something new?”
So the third amazing thing that happened during my parental writing fellowship was the birth of this big brown blog. I used to joke that Manish and Abhi were its dads and I was its Mom. Vinod was the cheerful but busy Uncle and Ennis was still an enigma, wrapped in a mystery, wearing a turban with a cape to match as he swooped into my life and became my guardian angel, a role I was unaware needed filling until he stepped up and made everything better.
I can tell you more stories about how I first met Vinod (scandalous!) or how he ended up on top of me at a crazy SF party at his loft (SCANDALOUS!) or how Manish and I were in each other’s lives years before we’d ever write our own blogs, but bartender Abhi has flashed me that sympathetic smile, the one that says it’s almost closing time. The register has been counted, the tips divvied up. Even the glasses are gleaming and clean.
Still, he’s buying me time, pretending to tidy up as I type…and as I type, I realize that this is now 5400 words and I’m not done.
I’m not done.
I’m. not. done.
Maybe I’ll never be done, G-d willing.
So here is what I am going to do. What I must do. I am going to make a list of several important things, including where you can find me and what’s in store if you’re looking for more. If I write lists, I don’t have to notice that my heart is cracking, that my knees are growing weak, that my anxiety, which has crippled me far too many times is slithering around me, squeezing my chest tightly, making it hard to breathe.
So lists, then. And a hurried conclusion. Because that is all we have time for and you need to go, also I need to go– my puppy is tethered to a bench outside of Baked and Wired, which is where I ran to finish this mega-post after my laptop died on M street, at a cafe with no outlets. She can’t see me and that makes her anxious. I know how that feels; I’d never inflict that on anyone, least of all her.
So lists, then.
Next, from me– three sites where you can find me:
1) So many of you have asked what site could follow this– my answer: nothing. It’s time to go somewhere different, somewhere more…suitable. Welcome to Pink & Navy. I have noticed the shift away from blogs that Abhi already explained, but I would add Tumblr to his list of sites that have stolen our thunder. Tumblr is popular, especially with the youths, and it is dead simple. Posts are ridiculously shareable and here’s the important thing for sustainability– they’re usually short. Look, if there’s ANYONE who appreciates a good long-form piece it’s ME (5720 words and counting) but that’s not doable daily. Tumblr is. And the lack of comments generated is also appropriate for a world where Sepia Mutiny posts go unremarked upon. I welcome collaborations and contributors and as soon as Network Solutions calls me, PinkAndNavy.com will be live, but until then, go here. And get excited. As for longer discussions and posts, those should still exist, too. I’m open to creating a closed Facebook group where you can let loose; that may sound like an odd idea, but I’m part of three different “secret” FB groups and let me tell you, they are awesome. Follow Pink And Navy on Twitter, too. More to come, more to come! Whee!
2) So when my boyfriend isn’t an Editor at CQ he’s a boxing writer with a great site– Stiff Jab. Stiff Jab is what made me a believer in Tumblr. 5000+ ardent fight fans follow the site, which features write-ups of every major bout, plus photographs. I thought Tumblr was just for hitting “reblog” for pretty pictures, but Stiff Jab functions like a news outlet–it even gets credentialed. I occasionally write for it and I’m one of its photographers, too. As I learn to box (it’s only been a few months!), I’ll write even more. If you like the sweet science (or know someone who does) surf on by. I think you’ll like it.
3) Last…but most definitely not least…I have some REALLY BIG NEWS. 🙂
No, really, are you ready for this?
I’m joining forces with the phenomenal men and women of Racialicious, the intersection of race and pop culture, another labor of love with criminally under-appreciated writers whose hearts are so big, they have to type truth. I’ll be bringing the funny while hopefully also being the catalyst behind a few special projects, including a new podcast. I’m already learning how to bark for my new character, “Anti-racist DMX”. See? It’s going to be off-the-chain levels of good and fun.
So those are the three “new” sites where you can find me. Here are two more things I owe you– meetups.
1) NYC- Help me plan it, I will come. And I will not go out by myself at 3am, even though I LIVED in Manhattan ten years ago and ran around 24 hours a day with nary an issue, let alone cell phone evidence of it.
2) DC- I think I have a spot– now to hash out dates. Let’s pour some out for the best community of Desis in D.C.
Three, two, one. One more sentence, filled with the usual list of assorted social media sites and links.
My original, “personal” blog, HERstory is still alive, though like Ennis, if I’m guaranteed to be anywhere these days it’s on Twitter, where I am a suitablegirl. You can also find me on Facebook, but if you add me, please do me the kindness of dropping me a quick line regarding who you are, i.e. what your SM handle was. I am 37 and senile, after all.
Thank you, Abhi.
Thank you ManishVinodEnnis.
Thank you guests and contributors who became my family and friends.
Thank you, mutineers.
Thank you for opening your arms to me, when I admitted that I had survived being raped.
Thank you for your gentle, constructive criticism, for teaching me to be a better writer.
Thank you for thousands of emails, most of which I never got to answer and feel so guilty about…I read them all.
Thank you for giving me a chance, for giving me a purpose.
Even if I do nothing else with my life, I know I have accomplished something massive because I once named a blog, found a home in its community and was graced by the presence of each one of you.
You have changed my life in ways that I will never be able to repay. I found jobs because of the Mutiny, found my voice because of the Mutiny…I even found my love through the Mutiny. Is it any wonder why I can’t bear to let you go?
Pinne kannam, Mutineers. I refuse to say Good-bye. I refuse to end this. I will see you again, I will meet each of you some day and when I do, I will gratefully look you in the eye and thank you in person for the ways you changed my life.
Oh, Sepia Mutiny. You’ll always be my baby and now, even after you are gone, I’ll still brag about you and glow at the realization that I helped create you.
Mama loves you, baby blog. I always will. <3
Thanks for all your hard work and all your inspiration, Anna. This is the end of an era, of course it means that another era is beginning. If you do decide to do a closed FB group, send me an invite – I agree that the secret groups rock!
Thanks, A. Will do. I’m so glad we got to meet, even if it was just for one magical afternoon in Berkeley.
Thank you (and everyone) for birthing this amazing site. I’ll certainly miss it!
Thanks, Surya. 🙂 And you (and everyone else) are welcome. We’ll miss commenters (and story leads!) like YOU.
Thank all of you. I have been reading this blog since I met Anna at Blogher’05. I will greatly miss all of the voices, both the writers and commenters at SM.
!!! I can’t believe you kept up with SM or even remember me, seven years later. What a gift to hear from you, Ms. Jen. Thank you.
Thank you! I will miss this blog and the new posts I looked forward to reding. Most of all, I wll miss your posts Anna! They were my favorites and some of the only ones I would comment on.
Curly, you are too kind. Thank you.
Anna: There will be an answer….Let it Be ! Take care.
Oh, Yo Dad. Like every mutineer, I loved pretending you weren’t just Abhi’s father. Thank you for being a huge part of why this was a special place. You are such a wonderful Uncle.
I’m kidding! I missed you when you stopped writing. I went threw withdrawals. I tried stalking your Flickr account as a substitute (like methadone) but your pictures just didn’t satisfy me like your words. No offense.
Um, thanks? 😉 No, really. Thank you so much.
Great post Anna. You guys were fantastic. More power to you for whatever you do next.
What a shame! I was so hoping that Sepia Mutiny would sponsor a team at NASCAR and hold a tandoori tailgate in the parking lot.
How awesome it would have been to see Melvin Durai driving a souped-up autorickshaw at 200 mph down the track!
get thee to a restaurant, post haste. Maybe Heritage, so we can write the final chapter on how puberty turned out for that poor kid.
SJM! Anytime. I’d love to see you. And discuss porn. <3
Anna – Thanks for all of the awesome posts. I enjoyed your posts and shared them with my friends. Thanks for your humility and humanity – something others can emulate. Most of all – thanks for your brave attempts to maintain a sense of balance on this blog, but for you this blog would have become home of the malicious agenda-dhari propaganda.
What a kind comment, Sulabh. Thank you for seeing and appreciating what I attempted to do.
Thank you very much for everything, Anna. I’ve had an awesome time reading all your posts and everyone else’s on the blog, and while I understand it’s time to move on, I wish we could have moved on later. It is what it is, I guess. But before the blog goes out into the light, we must have one more meetup here in DC. I hate to use the word ‘final’, you see. 🙁 Please do let us know when and where, and I plus one will be there.
Mr. Wise! Long time. We will have our meetup, sir. It will be so nice to see you (+1!) again. Thank you. 🙂
Anna! Am so glad you remember me 🙂 Indeed, long time no see, but we’re going to do something about that! It will be really nice to catch up with you and all the other folks…Can’t wait 😀
I wouldn’t call that “mental illness”. You’re just extremely sensitive and high strung.
Me? In the last 5 years I’ve been married and divorced almost twice. Married and divorced, as well as almost married (hence almost divorced too LOL).
And I’m a mom now, to a cute little mixed euro-desi toddler with curly black hair and green eyes. That’s the upside 🙂
Good luck all!
Oh, Pardesi Gori! My goodness, how delightful to hear from you. I am honored that you chose to de-lurk for my humble farewell. It’s so interesting to me that out of 7,000 words conveying multiple bombshells and revelations, you chose to zero in on my health and leave such an epically “PG” comment.
I must say, I had no idea you were an experienced psychiatrist or an MD! What a huge bit of news to share with us. I completely get it now– all those comment threads you ruined, you were just procrastinating during particularly boring rotations, yes?
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to call all my doctors and let them know that I shan’t be needing their services anymore because an erstwhile internet troll who has never met me or considered my medical history figured out what is wrong with me and expertly disputed their findings. You are right, I am extremely sensitive, especially when I’m exposed to bullshit. I’m also a drama queen who would prefer to let the entire world know she’s mentally ill when she’s actually just “high strung”, because there are so many benefits to outing oneself as crazy, right? Anyway– thanks for stopping by. Now the party is REALLY over. Felicitations on your beautiful little girl. I wish her all the best. Seriously.
Trifling heifer till the end. Rock on, PG.
What else would you expect from a mleccha? 😉
I bow to your superior sanskriti, oh luscious brown deva. I lick thy toes and the bejewelled toes of my ex-saas (who will never see her wheatish complected grandchild by the way. Bwahahaha. Karma’s a bigger bitch than a desi aunty.)
Amazing. “Karma” is the bitch, not the person who is bragging about keeping an innocent child away from her grandmother. Again, thanks for stopping by. What a great reminder of how this blog was (in part) ruined when our discussions were repeatedly derailed by selfish people with suspect motives. Vaya con whatever Dios, my friend.
Thanks, A N N A. Looking forward to reading you elsewhere. Love!
Thank you for the love and offer of continued support. 🙂
My favorite Rude Boy leaves my favorite compliment. Fust class.
Great post, A N N A. Thanks to the mutineers- you did something historic. You guys are beautiful. 🙂
Thank you for slogging through it. 😉 I completely agree; this community did feel historic. And you’re not so rough on the eyes yourself!
Anna – with the eloquence that first drew me to SM you now bid us farewell. Thank you all for everything. It has been an experience like nothing else. It isn’t Friday, but I make one finally offering for old times’ sake:
For one last time he drew his eyes over the pages. Memories of people he never met – laughter, tears, wisdom and friendship. Did this have to end? Surely every story must have its end. “In my beginning is my end… In my end is my beginning.” We have grown. And the world has changed.
Flash-fiction in your farewell? Swoon-worthy. Thank you so much.
i’m really sad Sepia Mutiny is ending – wish I had been able to make it to the SF meet up but I was invited to a “Bollywood Bible Study Party” .
This has been my go to place for Desi news. And like others have said before, I felt like I wasn’t alone – that there were other like minded brown folk out there and there was a great comfort in that fact.
I wish all the bloggers and posters the best. Thanks for creating this great community.
Thank you! And remember, you are definitely not alone. I go to bible study occasionally, too! 😉
I miss Siddhartha, Razib, Siddartha’s alter ego, Manju, MoorNam, the SM Intern, and all the other glorious ABDs, DBDs, half-castes, and hybrids that made this place the witty, cerebral jostling grounds of everyone asking essentially one question: “Who are we?” The great thing that Sepia Mutiny taught me is that there isn’t one answer.
Good bye, with love.
Thank you for such a beautiful comment, with love.
Thanks for everything, peeps.
We would’ve been nothing without our readers, lurkers, commenters. Thank you, ARC.
SM RIP. You were great once. Too bad the increasing politicization of this blog [at times the posts came off as something you might read on the leftist DailyKos] drove folks like me away in recent years.
PS. Does anybody know of any other good websites that have news feeds of brown folks-related news items?
Funny! We were usually told that we were too far to the right, too establishment, not crusading or edgy enough. The blog was too lefty? Wow.
Thank you for handling that one, E.
Love you all unconditionally. Whether or not I agreed with you every bit of the time, I am thankful for the big brown blog giving voice to others in our communities. Nothing could have driven me away. Good luck.
Priya, thank you for leaving this comment, and erasing the bitterness. What kind words. Love to you, too.
Tears in my eyes. Thank you SM, I learned SO much from you. <3
Aw, thanks. We learned so much from all of you, too.
Love and Respect. I appreciate the effort that you and others (Manish, Abhi, Ennis, Vinod, Amardeep, Siddharth & Taz ) have put into this blog. Following you on tumblr. -V
Thank you so much for the follow! I appreciate it and your words. So good to hear from you, right at the end.
Thank you, ANNA, for the sharing, the soul-baring, and for putting yourself through an endless spin and tumble-dry for us- all of us. I leave a wiser Poonjabi than the one who blithely stumbled in years ago and part fulfilled, with but one question, ANNA-san: how does lemur skin reflect the sea?