How to make girls like you

Posted in Life
A little boy plays in the woods

I often drop my kids off for school and daycare in the morning. It gives me a little more time with them, and being in management now means I have more control over my schedule than my wife, which makes it easier. Lately, I’ve often also been dropping the neighbor’s daughter as well – let’s call her A. A is besties with my kids and it’s an easy thing I can do to help out a neighbor I like. She’s always well behaved and easy to have along, but lately my five year old son has gotten particularly amped up and crazy when she’s around. He has a… pretty gigantic baby crush on her. It’s cute. Mostly. What’s less cute is all the crazy that goes with being a five year old who is desperate to attract A’s attention.

After I dropped the girls off and on the way to my son’s preschool this morning, I had a conversation with him about his behavior. I told him he needed to stop yelling and getting in trouble and doing things to pester his friend. We talked about how A really doesn’t like people yelling around her and it makes her uncomfortable, and about how his failure to listen means yelling is sometimes the only way I can get through to him. I asked him how he thought that made her feel. He realized his mistake and said “bad” as his little face crumpled. He was sad. I told him I love him and it’s ok, but an opportunity to learn. We sat in silence for a moment.

He got very thoughtful and asked “so how do I get girls to like me?”

Oooooh boy…. I should have been prepared for this one, but I wasn’t. I told him I’d think about it as we drove along and listened to music.

After a little thought, I told him if you want a girl to like you and pay attention to you, you need to do three things.*

  1. Help her feel safe. Don’t yell at her or do or say mean things, things that will make her uncomfortable, or things that make her fear she’s going to get hurt.
  2. Listen to her and genuinely care about what she says and thinks. Stop when she says stop, the first time.
  3. Find the things she loves. Do things for her and with her that she loves and will bring her joy.

We went over the three things and talked about them and how he can do them the rest of the ride to his school. This isn’t a light switch moment, but I think maybe it’s the start of a learning process for him.

Thinking about my own learning process, it’s striking how different my answer is now than it would have been as a younger man or a teenager. 19 year old me would have likely said something like “just treat them like people, the same as anyone else.” And that’s good advice up to a point. But the fact is, men are dangerous and that danger colors our interactions with women far more than most men realize. To use an extreme example, women are far more likely to be killed by men than the other way around and the person most likely to kill or injure a woman is a male intimate partner. Every woman I know has stories about times men have tried to hurt them. Virtually all have stories about harassment, and most have experienced sexual assault. These things happen to men too of course, but the risk profile is pretty lopsided. Winning trust and affection in any sort of healthy relationship therefore has to start with de-risking the encounter.

At 19 I hadn’t yet realized how much I was insulated from fear of the people around me by the fact I am a tall and physically strong white man. Like me, my son is bigger and stronger than almost all of his peers – he’s in the 98th percentile for size for a boy his age and weighs a solid 50% more than A even though she’s a year older. When he gets into his rowdy crazy little boy mode there is a genuine possibility of hurting someone, even though it doesn’t come from a place of malice. To be the kind, caring, nurturing man that he has the capacity to become, he must learn to control his emotions, his behavior, and his body – something many men much older than him have not mastered. So I led by making sure that A feels safe with him. I think that’s good advice for men at any age. And of course, safety isn’t just physical! There’s strong data showing that one of the best predictors of a marriage’s longevity is the ratio of kind to unkind things the spouses say to each other.

The next point, listening to her, is one I’ve seen men and boys struggle with over the years. Pick up artists, self-proclaimed “alpha males,” and other similar scum across the internet make no secret about the way they devalue women’s speech. Those people didn’t just appear from nowhere of course, they’re reflecting and reinforcing very old modes of thinking. I remember being a teenager and having a wrestling coach who made a joke during practice that if you know what you’re doing it’s easy to turn “Don’t! Stop!” into “Don’t stop!” I remember my father saying in all seriousness that women just aren’t intellectuals and you can’t expect them to be. I remember any number of TV shows with jokes around women just talking endlessly until the man tunes out. I’d like to think things have improved in the intervening decades, but I’d be lying to myself. Our entire society tells men and boys not to value women’s words. The conditioning is pervasive and not subtle. I’m not going to attempt to solve that societal problem in this essay, but I will say that it’s impossible to build friendships and relationships with people when you devalue what they tell you and ignore boundaries.

The third point, sharing her joy, is in some ways the most critical. Strong relationships, whether friendships or romantic, are based on connecting to the parts of the other person that light them up. Most people like to be around people who make them feel good. It isn’t always easy, especially when a relationship gets strained. It requires remembering that the other person is – in fact – a person with their own desires and dreams and not an object or a status symbol. I truly believe that failing here is one of the biggest reasons people break up.

I wanted to share all of this with you, dear reader, because I feel like having simple conversations with our sons about how they should relate to women is more important than ever. The current right wing backlash against feminism is powerful and well funded. From “influencers” like Andre Tate teaching boys to hate and abuse women to the fact that no one has been prosecuted based on the contents of the Epstein files to attacks on reproductive freedoms to the recent Trump-endorsed republican candidate who argued women shouldn’t have the right to vote; it’s a scary time to be a woman. It’s also a scary time to be a dad trying to teach good values when the society around me seems to want to glorify misogyny at every opportunity and teach my son to look down on his mother, his sister, his friends.

Being dad is about helping him learn and become the best version of himself. Given the number of boys and men I’ve known who legitimately have no idea how to interact with women and attract attention from smart and well adjusted women, I want to start that learning process early. He’s clearly interested so today was a good day to start. If I can help my son learn to act right early on, I can perhaps save him – and the women in his life – some heartache along the way and maybe even help him succeed.

What would you add to my list?

*In retrospect (and after talking to some of the women in my life), I probably should have added “notice the things she’s good at and give sincere compliments” and maybe “be funny.”

Leadership lessons from my garden

Posted in Life, Tech & Startups | Tagged ,
Close-up photo of a Clarkia (one of my favorite native wildflowers) from my garden.

Since leaving my most recent position, I’ve found myself with plenty of time to spend in my garden. The timing could hardly be better – October-December is planting season for most native plants here in California as the winter rains spur growth and renewal. For Californians who are in tune with our natural cycles this is a time of abundance and wonder as new life emerges everywhere. It is my absolute favorite time of year.

Some of my earliest positive memories revolve around gardens. As a child, food from our garden was an important part of how my family survived right at the bleeding edge of the poverty line. As I grew up I spent many weekends helping my parents and grandparents dig, plant, and weed. I’ve planted gardens everywhere I’ve gone in the years since.

So what does any of that have to do with leadership and startups? As it turns out, gardening has a lot to teach for those who can slow down and listen, and many of those lessons are directly applicable to the business world.

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On the Ethics of Professionalism

Posted in Life, Tech & Startups | Tagged ,

This article is a plea for human empathy, for connection, for community. For all the things that make us human. That may not come across as “professional” to some people. Which is why it’s necessary.

I recently wrote a post about the true story of a father stranded on the road with his little girl, unable to get cellphone service, and how she almost died because no one was willing to stop and help.

I ended the article by arguing that human beings need each other and have a moral obligation to be ‘the person who stops.’ Almost every religion and philosophy I know of would agree with that statement. And yet it seems oddly out of place in contemporary America – particularly in professional environments. Posts about topics of social justice on LinkedIn often garner comments about how such topics don’t belong here and aren’t “professional.

It makes me wonder what is the point of a version of professionalism that undermines human solidarity and strips away the moral framework by which ethical human beings live their lives? Yes, the goal of business is to make money, but the goal of being human is to live a good life. And it is entirely possible to deliver value for shareholders and stakeholders while also looking out for the people around us.

As I consider that moral framework and what ethical professionalism looks like, I think it comes down to two main things.

1. Be the person who stops to help

We all make choices every day about how to prioritize our time and resources and it’s very easy to get focused on our own destinations and not stop to help someone in need.

This is most evident after something like a round of layoffs where people are often thrown to the wind with little or no support. Taking the time to stop can be as simple as writing a great recommendation for a former colleague or forwarding them job listings they’d be qualified for. Over and over I’ve seen people recoil from former colleagues, as though they thought being let go was contagious, instead of leaning in to lend a hand. Everyone gets laid off sooner or later in this industry, it’s a fact of life. So why not treat former colleagues the way we would want to be treated? Besides, in a volatile startup world, professional relationships often span multiple companies. The person who you help today may well return the favor next time you’re looking for an opportunity. 

Even outside the extreme circumstances of a layoff, there are plentiful opportunities to stop and help. It might be as simple as telling a colleague that you appreciate them, that their work matters, that they did something well. It’s easy to focus on the negatives, but a simple thank you can be powerful and lift someone’s spirits when things are harder than you know.

That goes double for anyone in a management position – your people will do their best work if they know they can trust you to have their backs.   I’ve built the culture of thank you into my team management strategy – every month my entire team spends an hour together going around in a circle and each person gets the opportunity to say thank you to colleagues who’ve made a difference and gone the extra mile, after which we set goals for the next month. It sounds cheesy, but it makes a real difference in team morale. People who feel seen and appreciated are more focused and more productive. What could be more ‘professional?’

2. Be the person who stops to speak up

Stopping for people inside our circles is hard enough, but what about people outside them? I’ve written here before about what I see as the moral obligation to pay privilege forward and use whatever power one possesses to lift up others.  As a white man in a society where my identity gives me certain advantages, I have a clear moral obligation to support my colleagues from other demographics in the unique challenges they face. 

Some people may mistake this for white guilt, which is generally useless and counter-productive, but that would be missing the point. Guilt about the actions my ancestors took or didn’t take is irrelevant, what matters is that here and now I have some small degree of power and influence and so I should use it to lift up and support everyone around me.

Is doing so part of professionalism? If the Harvard Business Review is correct and diverse teams make better products, the answer is clearly yes. In fact, it would be negligent of me as a product leader not to speak up for diversity in hiring and make sure that opportunities to advance are available to all! By the same logic, advocating for things like comprehensive parental leave, speaking out against age discrimination, and other forms of advocacy that make the workplace more accessible and equitable are essential components of ethical professionalism. 

Humans are social animals, we need each other. And if I have the means and the opportunity to help someone who genuinely needs my help, I have a moral obligation to deliver it.

Further, the obligation to use one’s voice increases alongside one’s influence. Power implies responsibility and at this stage in my career as a Head of Product I have plentiful opportunities to be an advocate.


In both cases above, my concern about morality and ethics here is focused on my own behavior. The only person in the world who I control is me. My responsibility to my fellow human beings is to be the best version of myself that I can and lift up the people I interact with – it is not my place to judge them for decisions about things that do not affect me. Your morality is between you and your conscience, just as mine is mine alone. I feel like this is a crucial distinction – far too often people performatively police others’ actions as a way to distract from their own shortcomings. Doing so seems both unethical and unprofessional.

There are also, obviously, ethical considerations about what sort of work a person does which are beyond the scope of this article and about which people have strong feelings.

What does ethical professionalism mean to you? 

Paying Privilege Forward

Posted in Social Justice, Tech & Startups

I should start by saying I was hesitant to publish this because, at this moment, it is very important that black voices be heard. But after thinking it over, realized that not speaking up on issues just because I am not as directly impacted is actually a form of white privilege. Being an ally requires being willing to take risks. So this article is a risk. I am sure it will upset some people, but there are things that need to be said and if not me, who? If not now, when?

Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning

– Frederick Douglass

So let me just come out and say it – if you are just now waking up to the racial and class inequities of America, you have been part of the problem and have a debt to pay. Whether you remain part of the problem is up to you. Right now we have all been gifted with an opportunity to learn and improve. Many companies are releasing public statements, far fewer are doing the hard work of seriously re-evaluating their corporate cultures.

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The political science of product roadmapping

Posted in Tech & Startups

One of the trickiest parts of Product Management is roadmapping – figuring out what to build. There are almost as many strategies and approaches to figuring it out as there are product managers!

I’m currently working on roadmapping for a major effort at Rockbot, and so I’ve been thinking a lot about my process and how process shapes results more generally. One things that I’ve realized is that my background as a political scientist – my first career track before I pivoted into tech in my late 20’s – has shaped my approach in some unique ways. I’d like to share some of those in the hope that they may prove useful to others.

At root, Poli Sci is about using the scientific method to understand what people care about and what drives behavior at the scale of societies and cultures. A Product Manager would describe that effort in terms of defining a problem space, identifying pain points, and then finding the right solution to the right pain point. In many ways, the biggest difference is the terminology used and the scale of the problems the two disciplines address. Many of the actual tools are cross applicable or even identical.

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The Toddler: A Prestige class for Pathfinder RPG

Posted in Life
Toddler plays pathfinder

It’s an open secret that I am, to put it delicately, a gigantic nerd. One of the few pastimes that has survived becoming a father is the occasional session of Pathfinder (a D&D-based roleplaying adventure game) that I play with friends. One of the essential tools to maintain sanity is to find humor in the daily chaos of raising tiny humans; and the trail of chaos and destruction my 15 month old son leaves behind would make any fantasy adventurer proud. Heck, some of the stuff he does would be downright useful on a fantasy battlefield!

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Be the person who stops

Posted in Life, Social Justice
Scenic picture of Utah road

Let me tell you a true story.

A father goes back to Utah where he grew up to show his three year old daughter the beauty of the high desert. As they are driving, the car breaks down. He goes to call a tow truck but his cell phone has no signal. He’s worried, but is hopeful someone would stop – after all they are in the middle of mormon country where people are famously friendly and the road is far from deserted with a car every 1-5 minutes.

He tries to flag down a car for an hour to get help. Lots of people slow down and look… but then they see a brown man and keep going. No one stops.

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On being Pro-Choice, in deed as well as name

Posted in News and Politics, Social Justice

I’ve been thinking a lot about the wave of recent laws criminalizing abortion. Despite memes from my liberal friends, the divide on this issue is not gender. 60% of women and 57% of men in america are pro-choice – the difference is within the margin of polling error. Meanwhile, many of the most dedicated pro-life activists are female. That includes Kay Ivey, the Governor of Alabama who just signed one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the country.

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KPI’s for Life: Adding Beauty

Posted in Life, News and Politics, Tech & Startups | Tagged , ,

My son was born almost 11 months ago and is just starting to walk on his own.  Seeing him learn to stand on his own feet and the look of sheer glee on his face as explores his world is  magical.  Watching him and his big sister become more and more themselves is basically the best thing in my world.  I think most parents experience something similar, having kids gives us a chance to see the world through new eyes and experience familiar things for the first time once again. Continue reading

Conquest culture

Posted in Social Justice
Painting of Spanish Conquistadors by Graham Coton

I’ve been thinking about gender and culture a lot lately.  Part of that is my daughter transforming practically overnight from an infant to a walking talking little person with her own ideas and opinions, part of that is the immanent arrival of her little brother, and part of it is the ongoing string of revelations around rape and sexual harassment.  How can I raise my children to make sure that they are neither victims or abusers? Feminist writers have written at length about rape culture, and if you’re not already familiar with the term I would strongly recommend reading up.  As I’ve thought about it over the years though I’ve become more and more convinced that the issue goes much deeper – right to the heart of culture’s like ours that normalize and glorify empire. I call it “conquest culture”. Continue reading

My Daughter is not a princess

Posted in Life, Social Justice

So this last weekend my wife and I hosted a Burn’s Night dinner for a few of our friends.  It was great and we’re planning to make it an annual tradition.  My favorite part of the night was after dinner sitting in a circle drinking whiskey and having everyone recite their favorite poem (sometimes with a little help from google for folks who didn’t have something memorized).  I used to go to poetry events all the time when I was writing and performing more regularly and didn’t realize how much I had missed it.

In any case, later that night I found myself inspired to write something new for the first time in a while. This one popped up in my head half-formed as I was tossing and turning and I just had to get out of bed and write it down, knowing it would be gone by morning if I did not.

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A Close Look At Mobile Ad Fraud

Posted in Tech & Startups | Tagged , ,

I have a new article up on MediaPost looking at the various types of ad fraud in the mobile media space and how brands and their partners can combat them.

Media quality remains a top challenge for digital marketers. With mobile ad spending accounting for 70.3% of total U.S. digital advertising spending, many of the techniques used to perpetuate fraud as well as detect it have migrated from desktop to mobile. Mobile ad fraud comes in several varieties; let’s take a look at several of the most prominent.

Read more at:

Tying digital media and actions to in-store behaviors

Posted in Tech & Startups | Tagged , ,

Many brands struggle to prove ROI for their digital media spend. These 3 simple strategies can to tie real-world conversions to digital advertising.

Unlike TV and Radio advertising, digital media offers the possibility of tracking individual ad views to purchases. Many brands have made this leap for their online and in-app purchases, but a much smaller number have taken the next step and started tying digital media to real-world activity – or even realized that it’s possible!

That’s a huge missed opportunity – for modern advertisers being able to accurately link media to sales is an essential step in proving the value of campaigns. There are three main strategies that can be used to do this deterministically. Continue reading

There be Dragons!

Posted in Life

My daughter took her first steps this week and my heart almost exploded.  Being a parent is something I was scared of for a long time but found myself wanting more and more.  I find it’s changed the way I think in all sorts of unexpected ways. – for example I suddenly spend a lot more time thinking about children’s stories. I’ve believed for a long time that the stories we tell each other are one of the most powerful ways we transmit values and a sense of belonging as a culture.

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A Thanksgiving recipe

Posted in Uncategorized
Water is Life

Start with one fresh-baked rant about the inherently imperialistic origins of the “thanksgiving” holiday.

Add a bitter comment about what’s happening right now at Standing Rock under a Democratic president and what that says about how little progress America has made.

Season with notes of despair and impotent rage at the recently concluded election (the whole thing, not just the conclusion).

Add tearful reflections on how movements for change that could make a difference get destroyed over and over again in a political system designed to render the vast majority powerless.

Take the resulting steaming cauldron and cover it in ashes and burning coals until it cooks down into a hard stone weight of grief and despair.

And then bury it, deep under the clay soil, and go sit someplace green with a glass of something potent and watch the wind in the trees.


None of the Above

Posted in News and Politics | Tagged
None of the Above

Bernie Sanders was the first presidential candidate I’ve ever donated to or knocked on doors for and I am proud to say that the CNP platform takes the best of his ideas and expands on them.  Unfortunately, he’s out of the race.

So am I Bernie or Bust?  No.  My refusal to vote for a kleptocrat who ran the State Department as the acquisitions arm of her bogus “charity” in order to enrich herself has nothing to do with Sanders.

Clinton’s foreign policy record is atrocious.  She not only voted for the Iraq war, she lobbied for it and called it a business opportunity.  She deported orphaned Honduran children to a country where they would be executed by a dictatorship that she helped put into power.  She was also the biggest advocate for overthrowing Libya’s government. Declassified emails show her explicitly saying she advocated that war to gain access to Libya’s gold and oil. Libya is now a major ISIS stronghold and the millions of refugees fleeing their homes can thank Clinton.  Republican strategist Steve Schmidt recently said during an interview on MSNBC that “the candidate in the race most like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney from a foreign policy perspective is in fact Hillary Clinton, not the Republican nominee.”

The last Clinton administration pushed through NAFTA and permanent normal trade relations with China which together destroyed millions of good-paying working class jobs – the rust belt is rusting because of the Clinton’s.  Further, Bill’s bank deregulation directly led to the housing market collapse that forced millions of Americans out of their homes and wiped out 53% of black America’s wealth.  Hillary’s longstanding support for the TPP (and the fact that she picked a man who voted to fast-track the TPP as her VP after pretending to oppose it due to pressure from Sanders) indicate her administration will be more of the same.

She described opposing gay marriage as a “fundamental bedrock principle… a foundational institution of humanity.”   Even now after switching her public position to fit popular trends she continues to take tens of millions of dollars in donations to the Clinton foundation from countries where being gay carries the death penalty.   She has repeatedly changed positions on major issues after receiving campaign contributions. Don’t take my word for it, ask Elizabeth Warren.  As Obama said, “she’ll say anything and change nothing.”

During the primary she sent spies to infiltrate the Sanders campaign and paid online trolls to make the internet a worse place.  She spent months talking up how much money she was raising for the party, but spent more than 99% of the money on herself. Her allies in the DNC used every dirty trick to tilt the race in her favor.  When they were exposed and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was forced to resign, Hillary hired her onto her campaign the same day.  She’s so brazenly corrupt she doesn’t even attempt to hide it.

So no, I will not vote for Hillary Clinton. Not that my vote matters! California is reliably blue and if the Democrats had nominated a bag of avocados it would get California’s electoral college votes.  Which is of course why they don’t even pretend to care about our issues. Clinton couldn’t even be bothered to keep her promise to debate here!

So what’s the alternative? Trump isn’t even worth considering, he’s a pathological liar, a cheat who makes a regular habit of stiffing the people he does business with, and is such a phenomenally bad business man that he would be wealthier if he had just stuck his inheritance in a market-indexed fund and spent his life golfing with his buddy Bill Clinton.  That’s before you even talk about the fact that he’s built his campaign on white nationalism(1 2 3) and borrows rhetoric from Mussolini.  The man is truly scary.   Fortunately he’s made it clear he doesn’t intend to actually do the job of president and will leave governing to his VP.   Not that Pence is much better!

The fact that one of these two will be America’s next president is proof of how dysfunctional American politics have become.

Unfortunately, no third party can win a US presidential election because the US uses first past the post voting instead of proportional representation (the system used by most other democracies), so the majority either don’t vote or hold their noses and vote for a “lesser evil”.  

Even if a third party for president could win, neither Stein nor Johnson moves the needle for me – Stein talks the talk and I have great respect for her as a dedicated activist for social justice, but her only elected experience is two terms on a city council.  She is very valuable to the larger progressive movement as an activist but bluntly lacks any experience that would qualify her for the presidency.  As a former governor Johnson has experience and his advocacy for civil liberties and against war makes him clearly a lesser evil than Trump or Clinton; but his economic platform is every bit as bad as Clinton at her worst.  I can’t vote for either of them in good conscience.

I will vote on all the local elections where third parties can actually compete and on the ballot initiatives, but as a Californian who cares about the issues there is no candidate for US president I can support.

A bag of Avocados

Posted in News and Politics | Tagged ,

I was working on an article on the US presidential elections for another website earlier today and made an offhand remark that if the Democrats nominated a bag of Avocados for the presidency that California would faithfully line up and vote for it.  And then it hit me – a bag of Avocados would actually be a better nominee than either American party’s candidates.  Here’s 10 reasons you should join me in writing in a bag of avocados on your presidential ballot this fall.  Continue reading

Deep links and Cross-platform targeting

Posted in Tech & Startups | Tagged , , ,

Two new posts up on corporate blogs for my job.  One is a product announcement on our new deeplinking solution:

Announcing: Smart Link

The second is an explanation of how data from that tool is being used along with other data to power our new cross-platform and cross-device targeting technology:

Cross-Device and Cross-Platform Targeting

(Hopefully) interesting stuff if you work in the mobile advertising and media space!

PII, Analytics, and Advertising

Posted in Tech & Startups | Tagged ,

I’ve been thinking about privacy and the inherent conflict between the drive by advertisers to want to know more and the need to respect end users personal information.  I ended up writing two articles about it.  The first is up on the RadiumOne corporate blog and talks about threats to end user Personally Identifiable Information (PII) presented by the growing trend toward integrating mobile analytics tools with programatic media buying solutions and how RadiumOne is addressing that issue.

The second post is up on iCrunchData news and goes a bit more into the nuts and bolts of digital media targeting, as well as some of the threats to user data posed by solutions that don’t use the data themselves but store it on behalf of third parties.



Posted in Fiction

Vedika was tired and angry, but mostly tired. Anger was exhausting. Her husband’s father was infuriating even in the best of times – he belonged firmly to a generation that seemed stubbornly incapable of thinking of women as equals and seemed to regard her dedication to her career as a character flaw. The deafening silence of his judgement for the fact that the apartment she shared with his son was not spotless made it difficult to hear anything else. The old man wasn’t overtly rude of course, but it was clear he believed his son would have been better to marry a nice girl from back home than this half-breed woman with an Indian name and green eyes. She did not want him in her home and she especially did not want him passing on his ideas about a woman’s place in the world to her son, Arvind.

For his part, the old man kept his counsel to himself. He hardly spoke to his son and even less to his daughter in law. Ajay, her husband, sat on the couch with a mound of papers fanned out on the coffee table in front of him. Medical records from India and America both, alongside a pile of insurance papers and another pile of brochures for assisted living facilities.

Pita, I know you value your independence and I don’t want to take that away from you, but after your fall last week we need to make sure you are someplace safe.

Pita had fallen on the steps up to his apartment and lain there for several hours until a young couple coming down had found him and helped him to his apartment. Vedika and Ajay had tried to get him a cell phone several times but he complained that the numbers were too small and refused to carry it or keep it charged. When his landlord had called to tell them about the fall, Ajay had panicked.

The old man was, well, getting old. He had worked hard his whole life and, while he had never managed to amass much money, had paid Ajay’s way through college without a lot of student debt. It had not been a gift – it was a contract, an obligation. Ajay had dreamed of being an artist and drawn constantly as a young man but when he had expressed interest in art college the old man had gone into a rage and burned his sketch books. He had not travelled to this strange land and worked and saved for so long so his son could be a starving artist! Ajay would be an engineer and that was the end of the discussion. There had been tears and words of rage but in the end the old man got his way. The two had hardly spoken since, it was only her husband’s sense of duty that made him insist on the old man moving in. Ajay and Vedika had fought bitterly, she did not want Pita in her home! But they could not afford to put him in one of those assisted care homes. In the end, tears or no, it was as simple as that: Pita could not live alone any longer and there was nowhere else for him to go.

The old man didn’t like it any more than she did, it was obvious. He had always been independent and didn’t see any reason why something as mundane as old age should keep him down. She almost admired him, in spite of herself. Meanwhile, the conversation was getting heated and both men were starting to get louder. She hushed them, it would not do to have the neighbors talking and Arvind was asleep in the next room for his after-school nap.

Pita gave her a look of disdain but lowered his voice and turned to his son: “Ajay, I raised you to be responsible and respect your elders – not bully them!”

I am not bullying anyone, but it is not safe to leave you alone at your age. You took care of me alone for years after mom died. Let me do my duty as a son and take care of you now.

Pita was silent, struggling with the fact that he knew his son was right but could not bear the thought of life as an invalid. The thought of giving up his independence to be a guest in someone else’s house, even his son’s, was unbearable; but there was no way out. He was trapped. His shoulders slumped.

All right son, you win. I will give notice on my apartment this month.

It’s not what I want, I’m not winning anything dad. I’m just trying to be a good son and take care of you.

Fine! What do you want from me? Do you want me to be grateful?

Ajay noted with shock that the old man’s eyes were filling with tears. He tried to embrace him but was rebuffed.

I will be alright, I am not some invalid that needs to be coddled. Just give me time.


Posted in Fiction | Tagged ,

Jake sighed as he slumped against the steering wheel of his truck and moved back into the lane.  He had moved over to the side to let a motorcycle past because the truck filled the whole lane.  It had been years since he’d been on a bike, the girl who loved to ride on the back of his cruiser when they were dating had mysteriously morphed into a wife who made him sell his bike because she was worried he’d get killed riding it.  At least that meant she wanted him to make it home, right?  Things could be worse.  Some couples burned hot for a few years and then faded but they still lay in bed on Saturday mornings laughing and cuddling like newlyweds.  He smiled, thinking about her eyes looking up at him. Continue reading


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The airstrike rattled the city, everything shook. Dust rattled down from the rafters and somewhere in the basement below an infant cried. Mo sat as still as he could amidst the crush of strangers and tried to focus on breathing. The air was thin, too many lungs sucking oxygen and not enough ventilation. The earth shook again beneath the roar of planes overhead, and the thunder of bombs; aggravating the ringing in his ears.

He had ended up here by sheer good luck, if you could call it that. The university had closed months ago because of the protests and never re-opened. When the military had opened fire on protests in the capital the shock waves went right across the country. Many of the students had joined militias, others fled. Mo headed for the border, he couldn’t muster enough faith to believe in a revolution and the fundamentalists were even worse than the soldiers. On foot it was a long journey and the war overtook him. Continue reading