Nina Bhattacharya just finished teaching English in Indonesia on a Fulbright scholarship, and we emailed about it a few weeks ago.
Edith Zimmerman: Was there a moment when you realized that you were making such a huge change to your life? And then just said, “yeah, I’m doing that”? Essentially — what was it like to decide to do this?
Nina Bhattacharya: Oh god, did I agonize about making the commitment. Even though I had been to Indonesia before, my brain could not process the length of time I would be away. Nine months? It seemed unfathomable. While I publicly announced my decision to go almost immediately, it took many long conversations with my parents before I felt certain enough to accept the grant.
I distinctly remember the day when I signed the papers to accept the Fulbright grant. I even made a housemate take my picture as I was signing.
Now I laugh a little when I think about how difficult the decision seemed at the time. The last eight months have flown by, and it’s starting to hit me that I’ll have to leave in four weeks. I don’t feel ready to leave just yet. Which is not to say that living here has always been easy, but the decision to come here was one of the best I’ve ever made.
So, what do you know about your birth parents?
Not much! I know she was 17, he was 19, and they weren’t married. I think my biological father had just joined the military service, and it was sort of a fork in the road—either they could get married and raise the child, or he could stay in the service, but not both.
How old were you when you were adopted?
I was born in September 1985, and I got to America on January 15, 1986.
Did your adoptive parents fly to Korea to get you?
Actually, no—I was flown to O’Hare with a minder. That’s the thing about Korea—there are lots of international adoption agencies, but when I was born in the mid-’80s, Korea was the one country that would send a baby to you. Very convenient!
Nicki likes Lip Gloss, Purses, Yoga, Pole Dancing, Uggs, Louboutins, Juice Cleanses, Iced coffee and Tattoos. @blingringmovie
— Emma Watson (@EmWatson) May 2, 2012
Nancy Jo Sales published “The Suspects Wore Louboutins” in Vanity Fair in March of 2010. Sofia Coppola announced optioning the article by December of 2011; Emma Watson was cast by February of 2012; the resulting movie, The Bling Ring, opens in a month. But first! Tomorrow comes The Bling Ring—the book. Nancy Jo Sales started afresh. She already had, after all, endless hours of interviews with the crowd of young people in Southern California who burgled celebrity homes. In case you missed the original story, or have buried its fuzzy outline under later tabloid scandals, the case concerns five kiddos (and two friends who did reselling) who best liked to steal outfits, shoes, photos, watches and anything else that felt personal. And they did it quite a bit: they hit Brian Austin Green’s house just a week after Lindsay Lohan’s house, back in August of 2009. Poor Brian Austin Green!
Anyone who’s alone at a bar fidgeting, smiling then not smiling, glancing at a phone screen, over and over — and over — is often on the verge of meeting a wonderful stranger. A wonderful stranger who fits some essential criteria on a website. One of the few and true delights I’ve found as a bartender is watching the online date unfold. It’s like watching a rom-com except you actually never know how it’s going to end.
I love it when I hear things like:
“Just so you know, I have a terrible headache. I can totally sit here with you, but my focus might be off. It’s NOT that I’m not intrigued, it’s that I’m hurting.”
“I’m mainly interested in Asia, that’s my favorite country, I mean continent, my favorite continent that I’ve been to, my favorite continent that I’ve been to that I liked. I would go to another continent though. If there was a problem and I was required or whatever.”
Intoxicating dialogue aside, I’ve noticed some basic patterns. These advisements, you should note, are created by an observer. I’m too cowardly to meet someone online. Consequently, I view all of you with great respect and awe, as I would a surgeon, Navy Seal, or vegan.
Additionally, it’s hard to mention the central protagonist, DATER #1, as well as the other person who shows up, DATER #2, without using gender-specific pronouns at times. My hand being forced, I’ve loosely designated the protagonist as a female and the other person who shows up as male. Still, no matter what the inclination, the general idea remains the same.
Whether godless or godly, we all consult a private pantheon of authorities, living or dead, to gauge our comportment. We read ethics columns on subway trains and in cafes for vicarious solutions to our secret troubles. Since the days of Dear Abby and Ann Landers, the availability of emotional and behavioral self-help information has grown exponentially. In the digital age, now adrift in a wide, shallow sea of media outlets, wondering where to turn for advice only increases our anxiety. Cable TV and the Internet have left us splintered and atomized; they’ve negated the comforting clarity of our few favorite go-to gurus.
One such erstwhile guru has just left us for official divinity. You probably hadn’t seen Dr. Joyce Brothers on the small screen in a while (though you may still catch the AlertUSA emergency response ad in some TV markets) and were perhaps surprised that she had been yet among us. But if you are of a certain age, she was already wedged into your psyche, an unacknowledged aspect of your superego guiding your attitudes and behavior. For a significant hunk of the 20th century, millions of us asked: “What Would Dr. Joyce Brothers Do?”
Amy Poehler has a pretty solid resume as both a comedian and a person. After spending time studying at Second City and iO in Chicago, Poehler moved to New York with friends Matt Besser, Matt Walsh, and Ian Roberts to found the Upright Citizens Brigade, which has since grown into the massive community of learners and performers of long-form improv and sketch that it is today. In more recent years, on her off time from her TV work on SNL and Parks and Recreation, Poehler and friends Meredith Walker and Amy Miles started Smart Girls at the Party, an online network to encourage and educate young women about being smart by being themselves. Along the way, Amy Poehler has proven in countless interviews, podcasts, and articles, that she is smart, kind, and funny, about every topic from feminism to Hell to old TV. Check it:
At the age of 15, King Edward VI was dying. For his last act as king, he excluded both of his half-sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, from the line of succession. (To get Mary out of the line, he had to ditch them both.) His Protestant cousin, Lady Jane Grey, was named the Queen of England.
Two days after his death, Mary raised an army of nearly twenty thousand. It took just nine days for Mary—the only child born to Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon—to correct her half-brother’s final request. Coercion by force was an effective instrument, and it would come to define her reign.
At 37, Mary finally got that throne, and she intended to stay to there.
The Queen was indeed her father’s daughter, but she would avenge her mother’s unceremonious banishment, and restore the kingdom to the sovereign nation she was born into: England would once again be Catholic, Spain would be an ally, and threats to monarchy would be quelled immediately.
- Wait, is this a thing where, like, now they’re going to go on a crime spree and commit suicide by cop and this was their last meal (no joke, this was my first thought).
- Stolen credit card. I mean, people steal credit cards and they have to use them somewhere. Like that time someone stole my credit card and immediately spent $600 at Porn Palace, and my mom had to call and ask me if I had done it, and should she just let it slide, and then I wept in Thailand on the phone with a skeptical Wachovia associate who kept asking me what had happened to my card. Dude, I don’t know. Someone stole it. It got stolen, is what happened to it. Can you not just write “stolen”? Jesus Christ, he’s probably at Porn Citadel right now, can we not hurry on this a little tiny bit?
- Maybe he has a thing? With numbers? And he liked how those numbers kind of … make sense together? You never do know what goes on in the minds of others, after all.
- Haha, oh wait I’m terrible at math. That’s just 20%.
- I’m an idiot.
Late Friday afternoon, NBC announced that it has declined to pick up John Mulaney’s sitcom, Mulaney. It was a surprising move, given that the highly anticipated and already buzzy show had Lorne Michaels as a producer and an incredible cast. Having seen a version of the script, and based on Brad’s on-the-scene reporting, I can say that it was a good pilot and that the series had enormous potential. It’s a shame that it won’t be on NBC’s schedule this fall. But in the long run, what NBC will really regret is not just picking up the show Mulaney, but adding John Mulaney to its primetime ranks.
There are no surefire bets in comedy or television, but I stand by this as a truism: Lorne Michaels picks winners. Regardless of the near-constant din about the quality of Saturday Night Live‘s writing that has lingered for decades, it’s impossible to dispute his eye for talent. The list of major stars who got their first exposure from Michaels is thoroughly impressive, with everyone from Bill Murray to Kristen Wiig owing huge debts of success to their SNL breaks. The most amazing rags-to-riches (or awkward-to-megastar) story will always be Conan O’Brien — not many people saw what Michaels did in the early of years of Late Night with Conan O’Brien (as the ratings proved). Now it’s impossible to imagine the modern day comedy scene without Conan’s influence. And remember the reaction when Jimmy Fallon was announced as his late night successor? That guy? Who wants to watch him giggle for an hour every night? And yet, it was the now-68-year-old Michaels who saw Fallon’s potential to build a light-hearted late night show that appeals to the young audience rapidly deserting the format.
Hi Mom! A few years ago on my birthday you described some of your memories from the day I was born, in an email, and I don’t think I told you, but I printed it out and carry it around with me in my wallet. Thank you — for the email, and for having me. Also I know I was big, so I especially appreciate that.
You were a fabulous baby — big and lovely, so you could sleep and feed more than smaller ones. Because you came 11 days after the due date, I had wondered whether nature was playing a joke on me, making me the only woman to be permanently pregnant.
Oh my god — I misread that as “feed on the smaller ones”!
Speaking of food, what would you want me to make for you if we were having dinner together tonight? I guess because I don’t cook much, I’m curious what you’d like me to know.
My mother sauteed soft-shelled crabs for her birthday and mine, serving them on toast. Another treat was shad roe, floured, cooked quickly in butter, and topped with crossed pieces of bacon, also on toast. (They spatter if the egg sacks rupture, so you want to avoid that.) So rich but so delicious! Both dishes require lemon slices. Asparagus or fiddle-head ferns would taste great with either.
Do you remember the time I made a lemon meringue pie, which you used to love, and dropped it as I took off the pastry ring, burning my hand? You cried (age 3?), and I felt like it, too. But I scooped it onto a plate and we all enjoyed it anyway. Funny memory — crying over spilt pie.