Chivalry – Fighting for it, and resisting it

I remember being around nine years old, and watching my mom getting ready to go out. I loved it. She always looked so beautiful; and I was fascinated by how she could color in her eyes and lips so steadily, without going outside the lines. I was so intrigued by how she could seemingly go for hours wearing shoes that looked like they had chopsticks strapped underneath them and was curious to try them out for myself one day. But most of all, I used to ogle at her clothes; blouses, skirts, and dresses, they all seemed to be beaded, sequenced, or embellished in some way, and they glittered with her every movement.

I couldn’t wait for my turn, and nine years later, dressing up had become a part of my life too. I was walking around – after a night out – looking for a cab with three boys and my best girlfriend, Shannon. It had snowed that day so the pavements were slippery and the breeze was strong; Shannon and I were wearing dresses and stilettoes – just like the ones I had envied on my mom – so the boys walked ahead. After a few minutes of teetering around I saw the boys flag down a cab, “Shannon, look! That’s so sweet of them, they got us a cab” I was elated and ready to get into the warmth.  But before she could reply me, we saw our three “gentlemen” hop in and speed off around the corner. We looked at each other, speechless, and after several beats Shannon finally found her tongue, “What the hell just happened?”

As ladies today, we are under so much pressure to conform to an “ideal” image set by society. Have curves, but don’t be too voluptuous; wear make-up, but make it look natural; wear heels, but make sure you can walk properly; be friendly, but don’t be overbearing; wear short dresses, but still maintain elegance and class; and finally, speak with poise, but don’t appear over-intelligent. No woman in existence actually satisfies these criteria wholly, yet we still strive towards it. Why? Because we want to please, capture, and hang on to our men. And it is these men who impose those rules of beauty on us; as Amanda Bynes so eloquently put it in She’s the Man, “Heels are a male invention designed to make a woman’s butt look smaller… and to make it harder for them to run away.”

And so we comply. We squeeze into body-fitting clothes, we cringe in those painful heels, and we spend huge sums of our allowances on make up. But in return, women expect chivalry. We want men to appreciate our efforts, to be fawned over, and showered with complements. If we’re wearing heels, we want them to offer their hands; if we’re carrying bags, we want them to carry the bags for us; and if we’re wearing dresses, we want them to give us their jacket. Unfortunately for the female population though, we are today’s generation and the attention bestowed onto our mothers and grandmothers rarely apply to us. And why should they? Men seem to think that feminism has redeemed them from all display of manners and courtesy. The men of our generation refuse to comply with the standards we set them by and now function to the beat of their own drum.

So women sit and wonder why it is that their needs of belonging and affection are seldom met, while men seem to be relatively satisfied with having their wants met. This is because women are emotional, and men are visual. Sure, having a good looking man on your arm doesn’t hurt but that doesn’t mean women will just settle; we want to be wooed. In 10 Things I Hate About You, Bianca gives up the sexy – but arrogant – model, Joey, for Cameron – the sweet, affectionate, and dependable guy. And much like the way she quickly grew tired of Joey’s ego, Shannon and I were unimpressed with the boys who were supposedly our escorts. It did not matter to us that they were charming, or had invited us out that night, but it mattered that they believed it acceptable to leave two girls stranded in the cold at 3:00 am.

This is why women put up with discomfort over and over again; their need for affection overcomes all the failed attempts of the past. They cling to the hope that they will one day be “rewarded” by the male population. Their wish is to be the recipient of chivalry; of a man who notices them and opens the door, or of one who realizes they’re alone and walks them home. Because the moment they are exposed to a chivalrous act – even in its most insignificant form – they are hooked. And so, women never give up, always primping and grooming to better their exterior.

Men, however, feel less of a need for affection. They simply want to enjoy the company of a good-looking girl, or be seen with one as a sign of achievement to others. A couple of years ago, a movie called The Women told a comparable story. Mr. Haines – a married man – cheats on Meg Ryan, his devoted wife and the mother of his child, with Eva Mendes. Eva plays a saucy sales lady with a gorgeous body that is permanently on display in the tight dresses she is pictured in. Shannon and I experienced something to a similar effect with our friends; the boys were happy to be in our company during the party, being seen with two pretty girls. However, when it came to the end of the night, they were satisfied with their time and did not think it necessary to see Shannon and I through the end of our night.

And so, it becomes more evident that men rarely find it necessary to comply to the standards ladies expect them to meet; because their rationale is: if girls are always going to make the effort to look amazing in order to get our attention, then there is no need for us to try anymore. Regardless of our actions – chivalrous or not – we’re getting what we want out of the ladies. So the men’s visual requirements are continuously satisfied, while the women’s emotional desires are not. Consequently, we find ourselves in a vicious and inescapable cycle, surrounded by a different breed of men altogether than that of our grandfathers, or even our fathers.

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Posted by on December 5, 2011 in Uncategorized


My Memoir: I Won’t Change

That day, Mom and I walked into Dr. Chia’s waiting room, the scent of hand sanitizer stung my nose, the florescent lights seemed to taunt me, and the room was unnecessarily cold. I mean, I know we live in the tropics and all, but come on. We sat together in the waiting room; I wanted to avoid another conversation about the big dinner tomorrow night so I reached for my book. But just as I was about to pull it out, Mom said, “I really think you should consider wearing a dress tomorrow, Shaheena, there are going to be a lot of people there.” I cringed, “Mom, I’ve already picked out my outfit, I’m not going shopping again.” It came out harsher than I had intended but she just clicked her tongue and complained, “I don’t understand why you’re so stubborn, you’ll never change for anything.”

I took this as my cue to begin reading, but again I was interrupted, this time by the receptionist. She was a small middle-aged lady and wore tan slacks that were too long for her, a grey knit sweater, and a bright pink scarf. She peeked over her glasses at the clipboard, “Sa-nee-ah? Sha-nee-ha? Dr. Chia is ready for you.” Mom giggled at her accent, growing up in Asia my name was always being mispronounced, but this was an all-new low for me. I simply made a face at my mom, marched into Dr. Chia’s office, sunk into the patient’s chair, and barely managed a smile at the doctor.

This was just our annual check up, and by eighteen, I could go through this routine with my eyes closed: fast for a day, draw some blood, pee in a cup, then take my blood pressure – which is what Dr. Chia started doing when my mind drifted off and I stared out the window. The city was busy, but that wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, I tuned out of Mom’s rapid fire of questions to Dr. Chia and focused on the playground of the neighboring kindergarten.

I felt a twinge of nostalgia when I saw the two boys throwing sand at each other, one was laughing as the other started to cry, little did I know there was going to be more of that happening later on in the day. I thought about how much I’d rather be in the sandbox with them. The sun was shining that day, and I saw the leaves on a few trees rustle in the wind. The wind! There was an actual breeze that day, an outlier in the scorching, humid days that we had been facing in the past week; the day was too perfect.

“Shaheena, you need to turn around” Dr. Chia’s face was suddenly in my line of vision; “I’m just going to feel for anything out of the ordinary,” she announced. Oh great, this part was always a favorite, I got to be poked and prodded for the next couple of minutes. She inched her small hands up my neck and gently pressed it in several different areas. I hated moments like these, they were so awkward and I never knew what to look at. Finally, my eyes settled on the curtains, they were a pastel yellow with purple sunflowers all over them; I remember thinking: on what planet are sunflowers ever purple? But my thoughts were quickly interrupted by Dr. Chia’s examination, “hmmm that’s strange,” she muttered.

This prompted another round of questions from my mother; “What’s strange? Is something wrong? Can you feel anything?” I sighed and began to tune her out again when I heard Dr. Chia say, “It seems to be inflamed.” She then launched into an explanation about how one in every eight people generally have larger thyroids, and so that was probably what was wrong with my neck, “but let’s do an ultrasound anyway.” So I hopped onto the tiny bed that was in her office and watched the screen; this was the first time I had ever heard of an ultrasound being done on someone who wasn’t pregnant, let alone on my own neck.

My entire life, I have seen and heard of horrible stories about disease, loss, and time running out. But that’s something people have to go through, as unfortunate as it is. Just not me, scary things aren’t meant to actually happen for me to go through.

“You see that?” the doctor pointed at what I could only describe as a blob in the center of the screen, “that looks like a tumor to me… but I can’t tell if it’s malignant or benign.” I froze. Tumors are only associated with one word, one “sickness”, but I immediately pushed that thought away and instead stared ahead. Mom – obviously – was already choking up, and it had only taken her all of six seconds to get there too: record time! “How do we find out?” she asked. I had to do a biopsy then and there, and let me state for the record that getting four needles stuck into your neck is highly uncomfortable. “There are three things we’ll be looking for in these samples,” Dr. Chia said, “we don’t want to find calcium, we don’t want to find blood, and we definitely only want to find cells with a smooth exterior.”

I went back to sitting by the window while we waited and blinked furiously but my eyes were surprisingly dry. The boys outside the window had deserted the sandbox; it was probably because their parents had come to pick them up and take them home, and again I was jealous of them. Nothing else about the view held my attention, so I gave up and turned my gaze back to the curtains; I felt like my world was a part of those slow motion scenes you always see in action movies. I found that if I stared at the pastel yellow of the curtains for long enough they began to resemble the color of jaundice skin. And the purple sunflowers? They weren’t a pretty indigo, they were more like the color of bruises.

The room was pin-drop-silent as Dr. Chia looked at the four samples underneath a microscope. When she turned around, I almost laughed out loud, for a doctor, Dr. Chia needed some serious acting lessons because what she had found under the microscope was written all over her face. “Everything is there,” her voice was low “it’s a malignant tumor.” My slow-motion world jolted back to reality and utter commotion. Mom immediately erupted into tears and Dr. Chia awkwardly sat there in an attempt to comfort her, pouring out statistics, and trying her very hardest to stress that I was very easily treatable.

And me? I went a little bit numb and found myself consoling Mom too, like she was the one just diagnosed. As if on cue, a nurse came in with a glass of water and offered it to her; but this was all in vain, Mom just whipped out her phone and called Dad instead. She sat sobbing on the phone and completely failed at being coherent. He had to come in, right now, something was wrong with their daughter.

About an hour later, both my parents were sitting with me. “It’s the most superficial organ in the body, “ the doctor explained “all she needs is a surgery to remove her thyroid, and one round of liquid radiation, and it will all be over, there aren’t any long-lasting effects of a thyroid tumor.” She rambled on for ages longer while I struggled to pay attention to her medical jargon over Mom’s constant sniffing and Dad’s nervous twitching. I hated that she talked about me like I wasn’t there, but the message eventually got through: I would be fine. So I let my eyes glaze over as my parents chose a surgeon and scheduled a surgery date; though for reasons I cannot grasp, I was not included in the making of this decision.

That night, I didn’t sleep, I didn’t eat, and I didn’t cry. But Mom made up for my lack of emotion. I thought back to those kindergarten boys, crying about losing a sand-throwing battle, the scene was so far away from my situation but it seemed to make more sense than ultrasounds and tumors; that day was only supposed to be an annual check up. But today, this phrase is obsolete; my check ups are now every six months, intensive, and always involve sleepovers in different hospitals. I take daily medication in order to ingest the hormones that my thyroid would have been producing; it’s just about over, as Dr. Chia promised. But I’m okay with everything, I won’t be changed, and I’ll always have my scar as a reminder of that, it sits like a little necklace around my throat.

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Posted by on December 5, 2011 in Uncategorized


Love and Food

So, for our latest Communications assignment, we were asked to write just a few paragraphs on any question from the given prompt. This task was a creative challenge trying to combine various concepts into one story with a commonality. I chose to write about Food and Love. Below is an example of how I perceive food, and the sparks of love and affection that it can ignite.

Eating Love

Nayla shuffled to the kitchen, forlorn. She was home alone on yet another Saturday night while her roommate, Krista, was out on a date with Prince Charming at that new seafood restaurant in the city. She turned on some music and sighed heavily when a romantic song came on, but chose not to change it. Instead, Nayla rustled through her fridge trying to find something for dinner, her eyes immediately fell on the bouillabaisse that Krista had made yesterday; so she took out the pot and began to heat it up.

She padded to the dining table and set everything down, then she grabbed a spoon and began to eat. Her mind drifted off to her own Prince Charming, he had been away for almost a month now and she was itching for him to come back soon. She took a spoonful of the bouillabaisse and smiled, he was the kind of person who was adventurous and not afraid to try exotic things. She added some chili flakes to her plate, he was also such a spontaneous person; for their first date, he had taken her salsa dancing, and even though they had both miserably failed, it was an experience she would never forget.

Nayla put her plate in the sink, but she was still hungry so she decided on making herself a grilled cheese sandwich. She glanced around the kitchen, looking for the loaf of bread that was permanently on the counter. She also loved the way he was always there for her, no matter what time of the day it was that she called him; after eight months of dating, he had become a staple part of her life. When the sandwich was made, Nayla turned up the music and took a big bite. The warm cheese simply melted in her mouth, she loved how his warm hugs always made her melt and feel secure.

Finally satisfied, she made her way back to her room and sat down in front her laptop hoping to find a message from him. She took out a bar of chocolate from the stash she kept in her desk drawer; this could be her dessert. As she took a bite of the rich chocolate, she remembered his kisses; they were always so deep and passionate, but sweet at the same time. At last, she licked her lips, turned off her laptop and crawled into bed. Her last thought was the sound of his easy and friendly laugh, she would make pancakes for breakfast tomorrow.

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Posted by on November 10, 2011 in Uncategorized


Movie Review – Taken

If government agents were as skilled as Bryan Mills, then Osama Bin Laden would have been an American prisoner by 2002, at the very latest. Luc Besson and Pierre Morel’s, Taken, is a suspenseful action-thriller in which all real-world logic flies out the window. It shows Bryan Mills as a one-man rescue squad in the eye-opening workings of what fuels the sex-trafficking business. The majority of Taken is situated in Paris, which coincidently, is one of the largest feeding grounds for sex traffickers in the world.

Bryan (Liam Neeson) is a retired CIA agent, whose wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen) divorced him because of his secretive and demanding government job. Now a retiree, Bryan attempts to make more time for his 17-year-old daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), and tries to be the father he never was. Unfortunately, the only way for him to bond with Kim and get into her good books is to realize his worst nightmare: consent to a vacation where she travels to France with her best friend, Amanda.

Liam Neeson, who is usually one for passive, supporting roles, breaks all his stereotypical barriers with a stellar performance of the heroic dad and is on screen for pretty much the entire movie. Fortunately, he easily maintains the spotlight without turning drab or monotonous; simply by playing the role, Neeson is able to bring credibility to an otherwise unrealistic plot and character. He amplifies through Bryan a hard-edged, ruthless anger intent on hurtling through action sequences – and opponents – at a head-spinning velocity.

Almost immediately into the movie, Albanian sex traders abduct Kim from her Parisian apartment, which sends Bryan on a private jet to Paris to do some of his own investigating. Once there, the movie kicks in to high energy and doesn’t let up. Bryan contacts an old French ally, Jean-Claude, and asks for his help while numerous chases and fights, which are terrifically choreographed, then ensue. Bryan stumbles upon a prostitution house where he finds his daughter’s jacket in the arms of another – heavily drug-induced – girl. But even though Bryan does a brilliant job ass-kicking anyone who gets in his way, it is here that reality slips up. Somehow, he manages to single-handedly annihilate opponents, blow up the building, and steal a car, all while maintaining his rescue of this girl; his first clue.

Bryan then sobers up the shaken girl, who remains nameless, and in her incoherent state manages to give him another lead: the house with the red door, on Rue de Paradis. This place is apparently where she met the nice girl who gave her the jacket she now wore. For an audience, the shuddering reality of kidnapping women is intensified when Bryan tracks down this house where he finds roughly six, fairly threatening looking, Albanian men. Bryan is able to enter the house under the pretense that he is their new government ally, and demands a greater percentage of the profit from their “business.”

This scene, although incredibly intriguing, is an unrealistic one. Through much of his blathering, Bryan actually attempts to recognize the men’s voices from the responses he receives; his aim is to match it to caller who kidnapped his daughter. Once again, a far-fetched moment occurs: He identifies the man and then proceeds to incapacitate everyone in the room without incurring a single scratch himself. Cue heart-wrenching moment: while searching the rooms upstairs, Bryan finds Amanda’s dead body, apparently due to drug overdose. With progress being made at this kind of a pace, the CIA should have been able to shut down every single Bin Laden contact in the US ten years ago.

Unfortunately, the rest of the cast does not live up to Neeson’s standards and can all be classified as throwaway characters. They lack depth, development, and possess less-than-persuasive acting skills. Maggie Grace’s attempt to play a 17-year-old can be defined simply as “try-hard.” In her struggle to portray a buoyant and carefree teenager, she overdoes the childishness projecting more of a naïve 12-year-old onto her character, Kim. Famke Janssen, plays the distraught mother, and basically covers a lot of crying and shooting dirty looks in the direction of her ex-husband, while her current husband, Stuart (Xander Berkeley) is a vague – albeit wealthy – one-liner character with no substance and is completely forgettable.

Taken stands to be compared to action movies of the likes of the Bourne Identity and The Transporter series. Generally described as satisfying thrillers, with grimly professional dialogues, and efficient heroes, if any of these movies were enjoyed, then rest assured that Taken more that qualifies as a top ranked action-thriller. Morel succeeds in stepping outside his comfort zone in the making of this film, creating one that is entertaining and gripping, yet simple to grasp.

Besson and Morel do a better-than-average job in portraying the French sex-trade industry, which is made even more successful by Liam Neeson’s pleasantly brilliant performance. The choreographing of the action scenes and the overall cinematography of the movie was also incredibly well done. Unfortunately, the intricacy of the supporting actors left little to be desired, and the general plot of the story can be deemed extremely unlikely. Overall, definitely a movie which allows audiences to pass time enjoyably.

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Posted by on November 2, 2011 in Uncategorized


BUPD Patrol on Campus

BUPD’s Increased Patrol – Will it Affect Students’ Social Lives

Students – new and continuing – came back to BU this August, eager to get settled in and scope out the social scene on campus. A very noticeable “welcome back” element at BU was the obvious number of BUPD officers patrolling Commonwealth Avenue on foot and in cars.

According to the university’s online newspaper, BU Today, BUPD states that the main reason for “beefed up” police patrols in popular party neighborhoods is due to alcohol abuse, public intoxication, and the dispersion of loud parties. An info graphic that BUPD published shows that during the weekend of September 9th to 11th – the first weekend back this academic year – there were: 10 hospital transports, 12 summonses for underage drinking, 5 citations for public drinking, 7 parties broken up, and 1 student was taken into protective custody.

In an interview with BU Today, Dave McBride, the director of Student Health Services at Boston University, cited this reason for the cause of additional BUPD patrol. “250 students, most of them freshmen, went to the hospital [last year] for acute intoxication. The University hopes to convey to students that “we’re not trying to keep you from having fun, but you need to keep it under control.””

McBride also said that BU pays Boston police to patrol the “Gardner Street–Ashford Street–Pratt Street neighborhood,” also known as GAP in the Allston area by West Campus. “There’s going to be a marked cruiser in that neighborhood issuing citations, talking to people having loud parties, and gathering information about what’s going on.” BUPD has boosted its presence on the part of campus bordering GAP as well. This includes St. Paul Street, Babcock Street, the Dexter Park apartment complex, Pleasant Street, and Freeman Street.

Students outwardly appreciate the increased safety and security now present in their everyday lives – or don’t they? A number of students relayed their experiences in order to evaluate the effects the increase in BUPD protection had on them.

A sophomore in the School of Education, who lives in Warren Towers, admitted to being decidedly more cautious in her social habits and chooses to avoid drinking as much as she did last year. When asked whether or not she would alter her choices of party locations because of the increase, she said, “BUPD really puts me off going to Allston because the chance of getting caught in a risky situation is so much higher.”

McBride says that his aim from publicizing numbers is to make an impression on students before the weekend. He hopes that students will recognize the visible, higher police presence and make decisions based on that; “‘Gosh, 50 people were cited for public intoxication or have to appear in court. Maybe I won’t go out this weekend; maybe I’ll do something on campus instead.’” After all, the legal age in Massachusetts for the consumption of alcohol is 21.

Some students are in fact being intimidated out of their regular partying and drinking habits. A junior living on Bay State Road – where, according to officers is an area under permanent patrol – said, “Yeah, I’ve noticed more cops on Bay State, it’s kind of annoying [but] I know that parties tend to get busted, so being aware of BUPD’s presence in any given area would definitely make me avoid going there, especially in Allston.”

Modeled on the positive outcomes that the University of California had with their program, BU’s main aim is to “discourage dangerous drinking.” According to BU Today, researchers studying the effects the campaign program had on the west coast found “significant reductions in the incidence and likelihood of intoxication at off-campus parties, bars, and restaurants.” Thus it appears that the stricter the enforcement, the greater the effects.

Unfortunately, though evidence points towards a legitimate cause for BUPD’s increase in patrol, the desired outcome doesn’t always prevail.  A sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences who lives in West campus put it simply by saying, “Increased BUPD patrols isn’t going to make me avoid them even if I was drunk.” She also reiterated the now noticeable BUPD officers, “When I lived in South last year, I never saw BUPD… there are definitely more patrols around West campus.”

Thus, the battle with party-loving students is not completely over. BUPD still has to face those that are adamant to sticking to their ways and ignorant of the refreshed enforcements. A sophomore in the School of Management, who actually lives in an off-campus apartment on Babcock Street, – an area of increased surveillance – has already had an encounter with them.

He described the scenario that took place in his best friend’s apartment on a Saturday night with around 15 others present. “We had on music – it was pretty loud I guess – and we were just chilling. After an hour, police banged down the door and asked everyone to evacuate. They surveyed the apartment, found beer cans, and a friend who had passed out on a mattress in the kitchen after too many drinks… I think the cops were most upset about him.”

This student’s experience is one of many which reinforces the message that West Campus is under strict patrols compared to other parts of BU campus. “I see so much more BUPD this year” is a common sentiment around campus, however, students like this one are still willing to take the risk. When asked why he wouldn’t change the way he lived his social life, he said defiantly, “Nope, I’d still do it… this is college, shit happens… BUPD isn’t going to change this experience for me.”

With similar stories having the potential to occur, BUPD has their work cut out for them this academic year. McBride’s hope is that after the first two months are over, the workload will get the better of students, and the initial spike in alcohol-related hospital transports will taper off. For many freshmen, this is the time when they face their first exposure to alcohol, so the University is focusing its efforts and enforcements on the beginning of the semester.

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Posted by on October 25, 2011 in Uncategorized


Depression Awareness

So, for my first assignment in the College of Communications we were to participate in a PSA contest for depression. So my team – Danielle Johns and Alyssa Forstman – and I, put our heads together and came up with this creation. It was a lot of fun to put together, and gave us a chance to bond with friends who we had to coerce into acting for us! Credits to Danielle for shooting the whole thing, Alyssa for letting her use her house as set, and me for composing the background music! Check it out:

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Posted by on September 25, 2011 in Uncategorized


An Infograph on the Locations of the Highest Crime Rates in the World

Preview of your graph

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Posted by on September 19, 2011 in Uncategorized