Posted by Nicole Behnam
“Whenever someone who knows you disappears, you lose one version of yourself. Yourself as you were seen, as you were judged to be. Lover or enemy, mother or friend, those who know us construct us, and their several knowings slant the different facets of our characters like diamond-cutter's tools. Each such loss is a step leading to the grave, where all versions blend and end.” -Salman Rushdie
For Physical Education in 5th grade at Sinai Temple, they used to make us run laps around the entire school. My best friend Sarina lived right across the street, and when I felt faint around the 3rd lap, her mother Leah Rubin, would come outside and sneak me a water bottle so I wouldn’t collapse. This was the type of person she was.
Every year for Sarina’s birthday, Leah would bring ice cream cones from Baskin Robbins for our entire grade. She always accompanied our class on field trips, and did the same for her son Danny. It felt like she was the “school mom,” if such a position ever existed.
During my college years, I would spend many of my weekends with Sarina and her family. Dinners with the Rubin family felt like dinner with my own family, because Irv and Leah Rubin were like a second set of parents. I opened up to them and sought advice from them often. I even confided in them, and I never left without feeling a bit wiser.
Leah Rubin was not just a mother, she was a teacher, a mentor, a wife, a cook, a housekeeper, a confidant, a best friend, but most importantly, she was a guide for her children.
A few months ago, Leah passed away due to a sudden stroke. I don’t think anybody saw it coming—I certainly didn’t. At the time I had no words—just tears.
Irv and Sarina came to my grandmother’s funeral just two weeks later. They extended sympathy and remained strong in the presence of my family. And all I kept wondering was: how? How could they keep it together to the extent that they were able to comfort and attend to other mourners?
And then I remembered a quote I had read before. “Love is stronger than death even though it can't stop death from happening, but no matter how hard death tries, it can't separate people from love. It can't take away our memories either. In the end, life is stronger than death.”
Leah’s words and the way she made people feel will never be forgotten. In fact, her presence was so strong that if ever a problem were to arise, I think her immediate family would be able to think up what she would have replied.
In honor of Leah Rubin’s life, and in her memory, some words from friends:
I'll miss her wicked sense of humor and her brilliant insight about people and relationships. I'll miss her belly laugh and the way her eyes literally sparkled when she spoke about her family. She was her children's strongest advocate and greatest fan and she loved them unconditionally. She constantly opened up her home to guests and genuinely enjoyed their company.
When my diabetic daughter asked if she could spend the night at Leah’s house while in elementary school, I tried to discourage her because I was worried about a low blood sugar episode. Leah’s response was "show me how to test her blood sugar...it's no problem," and she did in fact wake up in the middle of the night to test her and put our fears to rest. She was the one to offer help, no matter what the task and always put others needs ahead of her own.
-Loretta Helfant, friend of Leah Rubin
Leah helped me with whatever I needed. She always put others before herself and I am so lucky to have had her as a role model, support system, mentor and the list goes on. "Mother Dearest" was a second mother to all of Danny & Sarina’s friends, and in taking on this role, she helped shape the people we all are today.
-Marc Becker, friend of Danny Rubin, and “second son” to Leah
Leah was an amazing friend—she was someone that could always be depended on—always there to lend a helping hand. Her children were her #1 priority. She was a phenomenal mother and friend. If you needed anything, she would go out of her way to help you. I miss her beautiful smile, sense of humor, twinkling piercing eyes, and brilliant mind—I miss my friend.
-Michelle Halimi, friend of Leah Rubin
When I was little, my mom and I scheduled weekly dates for just the two of us. We would get dinner and go to the clay club where we would paint together and just talk about life. It is something I am never going to forget.
-Sarina Rubin, daughter of Leah Rubin
Although we are all still grieving in our own ways, we carry her love and her memories with us.
And to Irv, Sarina, and Danny: you will always be my second family.
10.30.13 at 6:36 pm | Twitter has enabled us to read news headlines. . .
9.3.13 at 5:35 pm | We are going to be spending a lot of time at. . .
6.25.13 at 1:54 pm | Unfortunately, our confidence issues do not end. . .
4.22.13 at 8:29 pm | As for the bouncers and promoters whose only form. . .
4.12.13 at 5:40 pm | We weren’t built to sit at our desks or scroll. . .
2.5.13 at 1:33 am | He tried to cut himself off immediately. He even. . .
12.22.11 at 12:31 am | People often joke that a New Year's resolution is. . . (58)
8.8.12 at 4:04 pm | Rarely have I spent a day out of the house. . . (9)
12.2.12 at 11:23 pm | Leah passed away due to a sudden stroke. I. . . (9)
October 12, 2012 | 2:11 am
Posted by Nicole Behnam
“You think of yourself as a citizen of the universe. You think you belong to this world of dust and matter. Out of this dust you have created a personal image, and have forgotten about the essence of your true origin” ― Rumi.
‘Argo’ is a true story based on the efforts of a man named Tony Mendez, who helped six Americans pose as a sci-fi film crew to escape the 1979 Iran hostage crisis during Jimmy Carter’s presidency.
Director Ben Affleck espouses the virtues of country, teamwork, and compassion, and decries violence, deceit, and abuse of power in a mighty struggle against revolution and the corrupting forces of power.
The film opens with a gripping rehash of Iranian history up until the revolution. Clips of Mike Wallace interviewing Shah Reza Pahlavi and the Ayatollah were played on cue throughout the film.
But what’s this got to do with me?
Last week I attended the premier of Argo. Among its cast, George Clooney, and Bryan Cranston, I listened to Ben Affleck as he thanked virtually every member of its production before introducing the film. Finally, he thanked the hero his character was based on—Tony Mendez.
I watched Tony stand up as Ben Affleck thanked him last. The room was full of applause, and my face was blank, tears streaming down my face. I was sitting in the same room as a war hero—in fact, I was looking right at him.
After six Americans escaped the Islamic student militant attack on the American Embassy in Tehran, Mendez, an exfiltration specialist, trained each of them to persuasively act as members of the pseudo-film crew.
Tension spanned across the room as the film depicted a throng of protesters savagely rocking the van (led by Mendez) transporting the hostages through the Grand Bazaar on the way to the airport.
The Argo Operation stayed Top Secret until Clinton declassified it in 1997. Even then, Mendez earned no fame—until now.
Working in the entertainment industry, I attend several movie premiers and award shows. But this experience was different. It changed me. It stirred up a feeling of pride, and at the same time, revolt.
I am an Iranian Jew. I belong to a community of Iranian Jews who love Israel, and see Iran as a nuclear threat. We plan our vacations in Israel, never in Iran, because we are afraid. And we refer to ourselves as “Persian.”
For the first time ever, I am disturbed by this. Yes, I love Israel and will fight for its people, but what about Iran? What about the country both of my parents came from?
Before he escaped, my father served in the army under the Shah, and was unable to leave for 3 entire years because of the revolution.
Iranian immigrants, like my parents, have a different set of social constraints put on them because of their unique positions as having to bear the expectations of their people and the new realities of belonging to American society.
And here we have a brilliant film that depicts a very sensitive, chaotic era for Iranians, but we still refuse to take pride in Iran and speak up against Ahmadinejad for our other—former—homeland.
No dictator could rise if men exercised their inalienable rights as much as they exercised their submission to their faith and “the common good,” but in order for that to work, we need to take pride in our country, and fight for its people too, before a Nuclear Iran really does come into fruition.
In the United States of America, we seek the achievement of happiness. Iranians seek escape from pain. We exist for the sake of earning rewards. They exist for the sake of avoiding punishment. Fear is not our incentive. It is not execution that we wish to avoid, but life that we wish to live.
Throughout history, no tyrant ever risen to power except on the claim of representing “the common good.” Hitler was serving “the common good” of Germany just as Napoleon served “the common good” of France. And Ahmadinejad is now serving “the common good” of Iran—did you watch his interview with Piers Morgan on CNN last week?
If you are going to watch a movie tomorrow, or anytime soon, watch ‘Argo.’
Bringing to life such a wide-ranging story with technical proficiency and visual dazzle is an unprecedented achievement for even Affleck and Clooney.
And while scores of filmgoers clamor to see the nearly impossible rescue of the six hostages, no one is eager for the journey to end.
Mohammad Reza Pahlavi & Farah Pahlavi
Jon Hamm, Nicole Behnam, Bryan Cranston
at the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards
October 10, 2012 | 12:43 am
Posted By Ilan LaKritz, contributing writer
If New York is the city that never sleeps, Los Angeles is the city happily dreaming. Dreaming like we cheer for our sports, eager for more and more. ‘Cause when it comes to sports in Los Angeles, fans only get more and more. Just look around! The Lakers, Clippers, Angels, Dodgers, Kings, Galaxy, all star-studded at the same time. Like never before, the city has become a magnet to athletes, pulling away small-market heroes from cities nation-wide. And it’s been this influx of stars from all major sports that continues the city’s commitment to the biggest, best, and brightest, and L.A. has never been brighter.
Let’s have a look at the five major sports teams “based” in L.A.:
Los Angeles Dodgers
Golden Acquisitions: Led by Magic Johnson and the Guggenheim Partners, the new Dodgers ownership wasted little time jockeying for prominence. First they re-signed one of baseball’s most dynamic talents, outfielder Matt Kemp, to a long-term extension. Then they re-signed their 2011 Cy Young Award winner, 24-year-old Clayton Kershaw, for two more years at Chavez Ravine. Later in July, three weeks after the Lakers traded for Steve Nash, the Dodgers traded for former NL batting champion Hanley Ramirez. And again in August, two weeks after the Lakers traded for Dwight Howard, the Dodgers traded for a $250 million star-trio of Josh Beckett (3x All-Star), Carl Crawford (4x All-Star), and Adrian Gonzalez (4x All-Star).
2012 performance: Finished 86-76, 2 games back from NL wild-card berth.
Cost: Matt Kemp- 8 years, $160 million; Clayton Kershaw- 2 years, $19 million; Hanley Ramirez- 6 years, $70 million; Josh Beckett- 2 years, $31.5 million; Carl Crawford- 5 years, $102 million; Adrian Gonzalez- 6 years, $127 million.
Star Grade: A-
Los Angeles Kings
Golden Acquisitions: Looking to spark their offense, Kings management traded defenseman Josh Johnson and a conditional first-round pick for former All-Star, forward Jeff Carter. It was a golden transaction for Kings general manager Dean Lombardi, who watched his team finish 27-9 to win their first Stanley Cup. In an effort to keep their championship pieces intact, the Kings have already extended Stanley Cup MVP Jonathan Quick, and re-signed forwards Dustin Penner and Dwight King.
2012 performance: Stanley Cup Champions.
Cost: Jeff Carter- 10 years, $52 million; Jonathan Quick- 10 years, $58 million; Dustin Penner- 1 year, $3.25 million; Dwight King- 2 years, $1.5 million.
Star Grade: B+
Los Angeles Clippers
Golden Acquistions: If Jay-Z is the East Coast’s rags-to-riches romance, it’s time for Angelenos to consider the Clippers as their own. The Clippers still haven’t won anything of significance, but for a team with an all-time regular season winning percentage of .357%, they’ve had quit the Hollywood facelift. It started with their heist of Team USA’s starting point guard Chris Paul, a player who single handedly and instaneously renewed hope and excitement in the team. Then it was the turn of Slam Dunk champion Blake Griffin, whose five-year contract opened the roads to Los Angeles more than Carmageddon. And it was the pledges of support from Lamar Odom, Jamal Crawford, Chauncey Billups, Grant Hill and Matt Barnes, that added the finishing touches to the team’s radical transformation.
2012 performance: Finished 40-26, Eliminated 4-0 in the Western Conference Semifinals by San Antonio Spurs.
Cost: Chris Paul- 1 year, $17.7 million; Blake Griffin- 5 years $95 million; Lamar Odom- 1 year, $8.2 million; Jamal Crawford- 4 years; $21.35 million; Chauncey Billups- 1 year, $3 million; Grant Hill- 2 years, $4 milion.
Star Grade: A-
Lost Angeles Lakers
Golden Acquisitions: What more can be said? They wrestled away two-time MVP Steve Nash from their conference rivals and kept 5x All-NBA First Team player Dwight Howard from forming one super-team by forming their own. Led by the ever-imaginative Mitch Kupchak and Jerry Buss, the Lakers continue to flourish as the NBA’s model franchise, a title achieved not by the demographic of their fans at games but rather by the standard to which they field their team. The standard is a simple one: win, and win with style. And following the summer moves they’ve made, the Lakers are poised to do both, emphatically.
2012 performance: Finished 41-25, eliminated 4-1 in the Western Conference Semifinals by Oklahoma City Thunder.
Cost: Steve Nash- 3 years, $27 million, Dwight Howard- 1 year, $19.4 million (and a likely 5 year, $117.9 million contract offer next offseason), Jordan Hill- 2 years, $7.13 million; Antawn Jamison- 1 year, $1.4 million. And because of their being so high above the salary cap, they’ll pay an additional $30 million in luxury taxes next summer.
Star Grade: A+
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Golden Acquisitions: The Angels made the biggest splash of the offseason when they signed Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, the two top free agents, both in the same hour. Wilson, a 2x All-Star, was regarded as the best pitcher of the offseason, while Pujols, a 9x All-Star, was recognized as the best batter of his generation. Then, a little more than a month into the season, the Angels struck gold when rookie-phenom Mike Trout* emerged as an instant superstar, producing MVP-like offense and Gold Glove-caliber defense. And in true L.A.-fashion, the Angels struck gold once again when they acquired former AL Cy Young Award winner, Zack Greinke, the prized pitcher of the 2012 trade deadline.
Cost: Albert Pujols- 10 years, $254 million; C.J. Wilson- 5 years, $77.5 million; Zack Greinke- 2 months, $5.15 million, 3 top prospects, an offseason bidding war to come.
2012 performance: Finished 89-73, 4 games back from AL wild-card berth.
Star Grade: A
In less than ten-months time, the sports world stood idly by while Angelenos celebrated 7 major trades and 5 major signings. And thanks to the generosity of cities like New Orleans, Orlando, and Columbus, Los Angeles now features 5 teams with at least two former All-Stars on their current roster. To put that in perspective, 25 U.S. states don’t even have a team. And incredibly, this article has spotlighted a three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year (Howard), a two-time NBA MVP (Nash), two CY Young Award winners (Greinke, Kershaw), a three-time NL MVP (Pujols), a World Series MVP (Beckett), a Stanley Cup MVP (Brown), 11 more All-Stars, all without a single mention of Landon Danovan or Pau Gasol and their kind-of famous teammates David Beckham and Kobe Bryant. A wealth of this measure this can only be dreamt of in the city of Los Angeles, in the City of Angels.
September 25, 2012 | 12:26 am
Posted by Nicole Behnam
From birth, philosopher John Locke contends, human beings are born on a blank slate: tabula rasa. So from day one, we are being influenced by the society around us, our environment, and what we are learning, yet we are still different from one another. We are still individuals, and although our thought-processes may be different from our parents’ or teachers’ thought processes, we are somehow “independent thinkers.” American author Mary Higgins Clark, argues the following:
“. . . the best hope of humankind is to maintain as rich a diversity of social types as possible, with the expectation that each of these experiments in the human future will cross-fertilize with others, and thus maintain the vital diversity essential for indefinite survival…Competition for ascendancy in world trade, power, or military might are simply empty, meaningless concepts for the future. By encouraging diversity elsewhere, each society ensures a rich source of ideas and techniques for its own future.”
Her point is that even though societies have different tendencies that unite the people who belong to them, if diversity is encouraged, then critical thinking skills, which are essential to human thought processes, will help people’s mental development. In this way, we can understand how unity and diversity are both existing together, and we can continue to absorb information from our surroundings (teachers, parents, religious affiliations, etc.) and still maintain critical thinking skills which will help us become good debaters. And let’s admit it, good debaters are good winners. They prosper.
In understanding the concept of unity, we need to acknowledge that universal principles exist according to nature. These principles bring birth to values and morals that apply to each and every human being, but there is one problem: separating factors. Every religion, culture, and society maintains different values. In America, for example, we value brotherhood (eg. “I am my brothers’ keeper), love for our neighbors, and treating others as we ourselves wish to be treated. In fact, these values seem to be universal for the most part, but are not necessarily valued by each individual person (eg. murders, priests who molest children, Michael Jackson).
These values espouse social union and friendship—an Aristotalean priority—and at the same time, are thought to make each individual person a moral person. Some philosophers, however, will argue that morality is relative—that each person has already adopted a sense of what is right and wrong, and will create his/her own values and act on them. But science, which is like mathematics in the sense that there are proven theories, cannot be ignored.
Scientist (microbiologist) and author René Dubos, asserted in one of his philosophical essays that:
“The remarkable compatibility between all fields of science, whether they deal with inanimate objects or with living things has implications that affect deeply the culture of our times. The validity of these implications is supported by the fact that the various scientific disciplines strengthen each other when, perchance, they can establish contact. Despite the immense diversity of creation, we all accept that there exists in nature a profound underlying unity. The search for this unity provides the motivation for the lives of many different men--some who, like Einstein, search for it in general natural laws and others who, like Teilhard de Chardin, would trace cosmic evolution to a divine origin.”
Einstein abandoned school, which is our society at least, is a social “must.” Like Einstein, if we want to see ourselves as “one,” we must ignore whatever separates us, because the interdependence implied by the notion of the oneness of humanity requires the abandonment of any idea or activity that contradicts what society wants.
Einstein went against social norms and even conquered “Natural Law” by questioning it, and benefitted everyone through his research, which helped mankind further their understanding in physics and math. He abandoned social morality (going to school) and still succeeded—and we all benefitted from it. In essence, he was different (diverse) in that he abandoned social laws, but he was similar, in that he was just like any other human being—he wanted to survive and succeed. And he did both.
If we examine and understand unity and diversity from a medical perspective, we can see how the existence of both simultaneously, is not only possible, but essential to our prosperity as humans. When a person receives an injury to one part of the body, the entire system of that person is affected as the body attempts to heal itself. In fact, if the injury is severe enough—like cancer—doctors will tell you the whole body, not just the affected part, will become debilitated, and thus the doctors’ treatment will become multifaceted. Not only will the injured area be treated with specific remedies (in cancer’s case—chemotherapy), but the whole body will also benefit of nutrients that are provided to assist in the healing.
Understanding religion and religious differences will also assist human beings in their quest to survive and prosper. Even though we are all religiously diverse, we all feel like we have a moral duty to be good people (except for murders, I suppose). Different religions, however, separate us and cause conflict, which creates hatred. We can see this in the Middle East, and particularly, Israel (or Palestine, for the sake of fairness).
Neither Jews nor Muslims are bad people, but their religious differences and assertion of which part of Israel’s land belongs to which religious group creates hatred. However, understanding will create prosperity for both Islamics and Jews in this case. Each religious group clearly knows that their differences are threatening to the preservation of their own traditions, but if they truly understand and accept this fundamental truth—I guess I can even call it a “natural law,” the Islamics and Jews will *most likely* cease to fight and will be able to live harmoniously, and still practice their different religious traditions.
Focusing on the natural law, science, religion, or medicine to understand how the dichotomous existence of unity and diversity is actually beneficial to human beings is not enough. We are human beings—complex creatures who have a relationship to nature because we need nature to survive. At the same time, we have a relationship to each other because we need each other to survive. If we seek to understand how human interaction with nature is as important as human interaction with human interaction, we will be balanced. And by balanced, I mean happier and more successful.
Let’s admit it—isn’t this what we all want? We will learn to be interdependent instead of dependent on other people or on interaction with nature (though we must satisfy our biological needs, like eating and sleeping). And this balance will help us maintain our individual sense of self (which makes us diverse) while at the same time, will help us learn when to rely on each other in times of need. The understanding of the simultaneous dichotomy between unity and diversity is really that simple.
August 20, 2012 | 10:07 pm
Posted Arta Wildeboer, JD, Contributing Author
Because I’ve never made a bad decision or mistake in my life, I have decided to pen an advice column.
I’m anxious regarding what to talk about when I attend Persian family parties. What is acceptable conversation fodder to avoid social awkwardness?
Keep it light and keep it brief. Perhaps perplexingly, no one cares about your problems and everyone cares too much at the same time—neither is good. One must remember, a party is not the venue to splay open your soul to an unsuspecting aunt or to keep your mom’s dad’s sister’s son-in-law’s wife’s brother from getting to the bathroom with your sob stories.
People are there to do a few things at these gatherings, including, but not limited to, in no particular order: play backgammon, re-gift the same bottle of Chivas Regal that has been going around the family since 1986, wonder aloud why kids wear shalvar’eh goshad, eat tahdiq, and ask any relative in high school if he/she is going to go to Harvard or UCLA.
No one is expecting you to say “bad” when they ask how you are doing. Just say you’re doing well and move on. Which brings me to another point: If you are at any time dealing with someone over 60 disregard these rules and simply ask them how they are doing 300 times, then ask them if they have seen your mother, and get the heck out of there before you smell like Brut aftershave for the rest of your life.
For your convenience, I have complied a list of acceptable topics one can discuss at a party: Jokes about Armenians, jokes about Muslims, jokes about the opposite sex, jokes about Elat Market, jokes about how fat your cousin got, the Lakers, Downtown LA, living anywhere other than Beverly Hills, being a doctor, being a lawyer, or simply make a joke about how if you don’t get married within 5 years everyone will start talking behind your back.
For extra credit, if you end up getting cornered by a past-his-prime uncle, mention your multiple American girlfriends as often as possible, even if you’re 11, and they are a complete fantasy. Lindsay, Katie, and Vickie are example of names every Persian boy should memorize to aid in convincing your 20 years-married cousin that the gene pool is indeed thriving in your guise.
This is literally all these people want to hear and there does not have to be a shred of truth coming out of your mouth, nor should you feel bad for it. You know you’re lying, they know you’re lying; EVERYONE knows you’re lying. It’s ok, no one cares, they would rather hear a good story about some mystery blondes, or at least an allusion to one, rather than hear about how you can’t find a job, still live at home and couldn’t get into USC etc.
In fact, if you are ever in a jam and need to instantly impress/throw off any male relative, do what I do and simply say the word “Amsterdam.” After that, the less you say the better. No story you could hope to conjure up will compare to anything their imaginations will dream up and telling them anything will only serve to diminish the power of what you have just invoked.
“If you can remember any part of your trip other than the airport you probably wasted your time there.” That sentence has turned me into a living legend in my family. Of course, not everyone is so blessed to have engaged in their own European escapades and to those of you longing for a place to call your own to be the backdrop of your own lies, I have two words for you: Las Vegas.
August 8, 2012 | 4:04 pm
Posted by Nicole Behnam
Rarely have I spent a day out of the house without coming across a smoker. The surgeon general’s warning on the cigarette cartons mean nothing to them. The electronic billboards that count smoking deaths per year are overlooked. It doesn’t scare them when they are informed that every cigarette they smoke takes approximately 12 minutes from their lives. People have become complacent as a result of our culture’s ignorance and defiance.
In 1960, philosopher Ayn Rand delivered a lecture at Yale University about the “modern world.” She said, “What you are seeing today is the neurotic anxiety of an entire culture. People do not want to find any answers to avert their danger: all they want, all they are looking for, is only some excuse to yell: ‘I couldn’t help it!’”
I believe this explains the mindset of a smoker today, who, when asked why he doesn’t quit, replies with “it’s too hard” or “I’m already addicted.” Granted, that’s probably true, but instead of asking himself “what is required of me to quit?” he asks, “can I do it?” and then becomes crippled by his own uncertainty. Observe the unsuccessful quitter, whose every success only augments his anxiety and whose every failure confirms his belief that he will never be able to quit. It’s his mentality, not his inability to quit that keeps him addicted.
But the real question is, why do people—especially adults—start smoking when they are fully aware of the many detrimental health effects of smoking and of the difficulty quitters experience?
One of the most common reasons among teenage girls today is that they want to lose weight. This is understandable because the illnesses that smoking can potentially cause, like cancer or lung diseases, do propel weight loss, but who really wants to lose weight that way?
Others smoke because they think smoking is relaxing, because their friends smoke, or just because it gives them something to do. Smoking isn’t relaxing. In fact, it makes the heart beat considerably faster. Hanging around friends that smoke is a detriment in and of itself. The best way to deal with smoking friends is to ask them not to smoke in your presence. Also, having nothing to do is no reason to damage your lungs either. Try reading.
On May 31, 2007, NPR interviewed Lloyd Johnston, a social psychologist at the University of Michigan with 32 years of experience, who said “the decline in teen smoking seems to be about over.”
Cigarette ads targeting teenagers illustrate smokers as cool and hip, sophisticated and elegant, or attractive and sexy. Luckily, the government has passed laws limiting where and how tobacco companies are allowed to advertise in order to prevent young kids from smoking.
I decided to ask the smokers themselves—teens and adults—how they started smoking. They replied with various answers from “The first time, I just wanted to try it” to “all my friends smoked so I felt out of place being the only one without a cigarette.”
One girl replied with “I’m only a social smoker and I usually only smoke when I’m drunk.”
These excuses weren’t good enough. No excuse is good enough. The best way to avoid social traps or unwarranted cravings is to come up with reasons for why smoking is unacceptable and stick to them. The internet provides many resourceful websites that can help you choose which negative effects of smoking stick out to you the most.
From experience, I have found that coming up with responses to uncomfortable social situations with friends who smoke is very helpful. For example, you could reply with “smoking makes me cough” or “I have to stay in shape and I can’t breathe too well when I smoke.” Anyone who doesn’t accept your replies isn’t your friend.
We all know people who smoke, whether they are friends or family members or co-workers. This doesn’t mean that they are “bad people” or “immoral people” either. Smoking has nothing to do with morality, but it has everything to do with health. Let them know what you think or even try to help them quit. If they resist, let it go.
For smokers and non-smokers, just remember that staying smoke-free will give you more of everything you really want: more money in your wallet, more energy, better performance, healthier physique, good skin, and ultimately, more life.
July 12, 2012 | 3:17 am
Posted by Nicole Behnam
Every year we seem to accumulate more and more responsibilities. Sure, the feeling of independence is great and somewhat liberating, but this summer, as I drive around and watch children and teenagers interact, my mind races back to a time when summer merely meant beaches and road trips, not chores and appointments and dreaded Mondays. Remember those days?
The air always carried the same heavy, lethargic feeling, characterized solely with summer heat, as its humid moisture seeped into your every single pore. The scent of freedom would permeate your hair, your skin, your soul, waiting for a rebellious release. The day had no set agenda. There were no obligations, no due dates, a nowhere-to-go, nothing-to-do boredom that was somewhat satisfying and seemingly easy to deal with.
We would lounge pool side with our friends, the venomous rays of sun branding our skin with tan and pink tints, and streaking our hair with baby strands of blond. The stench of chlorine would replace our usual perfume, and sunburned cheeks required no rouge. We would sit on the rooftops as we watched the fireflies ripple around us, and we blew dandelion seeds into the air, to be carried off to mysterious lands. We swore to be best friends forever and always.
Our daylight hours were a regression back into childhood, filled with cut-off shorts, straggly ponytails, melty ice-cream cones, and water balloon fights. Come night, we would attend the party of a friend of a friend, and leave with a ringing in our ears caused by music that was too loud. We would come home late, disappointing our parents, and would spend way too much time thinking unnecessary thoughts before we slept.
As adolescents, hidden in some deep crevice of our minds, we were somehow convinced that the whole entire world revolved around us—an eternal display of theatrics starring us as the lead players. We would pine for accolades to add color to our transparent lives. And now we have it—the splash of paint on our biographical canvases: a degree, a job, an engagement ring, some kind of validation.
Now we are all adults, but are we really all that happy? I hold in contempt the individuals who become so absorbed with their futile attempts to conform to what others think they should be, because they have forgotten themselves. But who am I to judge?
Let us be realistic. There are six billion people alive today, and I know, I mean I really know, maybe ten. That leaves an anonymous five billion, nine-hundred ninety nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety souls out there. What is the probability that you, or even I, at 23, are where we should be in life? Which one of us has it figured out?
My mind is only able to capture my twenty two years of knowledge and experience, thus excusing my unrelenting insistence that I have all there is to want, right here. However, I must question this, as it explicitly contradicts my theory that humans were created to yearn, to crave, to desire.
Because of this insatiable instinct, it is virtually impossible to reach a place of satisfaction with what you have or what you are given. It is a handicap, this wanting, but it is also the basis of our day to day survival, for in the want, there is room for hope, and in the hope, amity, and in the amity, love, and in love, life.
This summer is different. To make change a success, one must embrace it. I will continue to help out around the house and commit to my chores and job. I will enjoy it. I will cook for my family and hope they taste the love in my intricate dishes. I will secretly hope for much praise—my adult gold star. I will lounge in the sun half as much as I used to, and wear twice as much sunscreen, because the threat of skin cancer doesn’t appeal to me.
There will be a clock, a constantly ticking reminder that I do not have all the time in the world. I will make my own coffee and wear slacks with a button-up. My hair will be in a ponytail so as to prevent me from playing with it. I will be the new, adult me.
“Nothing gold can stay.” This is true. The new, the treasured, will not survive unscathed. But who is to say gold is what we want? I believe it is the tarnish that makes it worth treasuring. The battle wounds, the age, the marks of love—these are the tools of preservation. I will be different. And when I look back on the productive summers 10 years from now, I will feel proud and accomplished. I will have benefitted from the adult me.
This summer I have finally said goodbye to blowing dandelion seeds into the wind. They just fall to the ground anyway. I have switched from ice cream to frozen yogurt, and I have distanced myself from a summer carelessly spent. Of course, we all still have careless moments where there is nothing to do, but not for months at a time.
This summer I have learned to take in every minute, to taste it, to turn it over in my hands, and to catalog each precious moment. And each precious moment I will cherish as a memory. I will take more pictures with my iPhone than I ever did with my disposable cameras, and it will save me later when I want to remind myself that while I worked hard, I still enjoyed myself—I still had love and friendship and art around me.
I have grown up. In 20 years, there will be children, barbecues, and reunions. I will have slightly conformed to a new mold by then. I will inhale the scent of Los Angeles smog and sand as I escape into the dark blanket of night that is my savior, my shield. I will see the stars, iridescent time tunnels back to another place. And I will jump onto a dandelion seed that is passing by on a hazy gale and let it carry me back to a time when I thought I knew who I was. To a place where it is summer and I am allowed to be careless.
December 22, 2011 | 12:31 am
Posted by Nicole Behnam
People often joke that a New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other.
If you type “most popular new year’s resolutions” into the Google search engine, you will notice that most resolution lists stay relatively static from year to year.
Are we convinced that only a small handful of the same determinations will transform our level of happiness? Or are we just becoming less creative?
The most popular resolutions include, but are not limited to:
Drink Less Alcohol
Get a Better Education
Get a Better Job
Manage Debt & Save Money
These resolutions sound mundane and cliché. In fact, they don’t even sound like resolutions. They sound like goals that almost everybody strives to reach every single day, or at some point in their lives.
If you really want to make positive changes in your life, change the way you think by implementing the following, more unique resolutions:
1. Reevaluate your relationships. Accept only what you DESERVE. Take a look around you. Which friends do you interact with on a consistent basis? Are they supportive, generous, and understanding, or do they often make statements characterized by comparison, jealousy, or doubt. Like I said previously, people can be supportive and loving, but they can also be cruel and condescending. The moment you develop self-respect, you will begin to eliminate the people who disrespect or doubt you. Friendship is a two-way street, and people should be as selective about their friendships as they are about their spouses. In 2012, uplift yourself with the spirited people who inspire you to succeed and persist.
2. Motivate yourself. DAILY. Have you ever sat through a commencement speech, mesmerized by the speaker who you were convinced would change your life forever? Or have you ever read a book and paused because the last sentence you just read completely redefined your mindset? Just for a moment, you think “wow, I’m going to start thinking this way from now on!” and you envision a better version of yourself in 5 years that you will grow into. The thoughts can get grandiose. Within weeks, every goal you set for yourself seems unattainable. You tell yourself that eventually, you will have it all figured out. And eventually gets closer and closer every day, and you’re still standing in the same spot, wondering why your motivation has dwindled so drastically.
The answer, once again, is to motivate yourself daily. Read books, watch movies—watch the news. Interact with positive people and learn from their stories. If they say something you admire, write it down. Allow positive words and affirmations to play a pivotal role in your success. In 2012, be constantly inspired.
3. Practice being a skeptic, not a cynic. I stole this concept from Pulitzer Prize-Winner Thomas Friedman, who wrote:
Skepticism is about asking questions, being dubious, being wary, not being gullible but always being open to being convinced of a new fact or angle. Cynicism is about already having the answers—or thinking you do—answers about a person or an event. The skeptic says, “I don’t think that’s true; I’m going to check it out.” The cynic says, “I know that’s not true. It couldn’t be. I’m going to slam him.”
Cynics say no to the world. They not only doubt, but completely close themselves off from people. Skepticism fuels creativity. It fuels you to inquire, to constantly seek knowledge. And that way, you will always be ahead of the game, because you will always be learning. In 2012, be a curious skeptic.
4. Nurture your negative feelings, then MOVE ON. Face it, you’re not always in a good mood. You have good days, you have bad days. Your life, like anyone else’s, will be like a roller-coaster forever. In fact, it always has been. You’ve experienced highs and lows—feelings of elation and feelings of despair. But are you brushing off the negative feelings or are you nurturing them? If you feel guilt, for example do you brush it off, or question and nurture it? This is an important distinction.
Treat your negative feelings like wounds that need healing. If you scrape and pick at your scab, it will start bleeding again, but if you nurture the wound and take care of it well, you will experience minimal scarring. Negative feelings are like wounds. Don’t let them bleed through tomorrow’s joys. Address them at the brink, and move on. You can’t continue driving if you keep looking at a car-crash in your rear-view mirror. In 2012, identify and nurture your negative feelings before they consume you.
5. Reach out to someone who could use you as a Role Model. Most people are reluctant to seek help when they’re down. In much the same way, they are reluctant to ask for advice when things are going well. But everyone needs a role model to look up to and seek advice from, and at some point, everyone needs to be a role model to someone else. Knowing that somebody looks up to you and wants to follow in your footsteps will encourage you to always be your best self—to develop an impeccable character and set a standard that you will always strive to live up to. In 2012, set an example for someone else, in order to bring out the best in yourself.
And if your number one goal this year is to be successful, always remember the wise words of Bob Dylan: “A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.”