Call me Manisha Koirala. That’s not me and it is definitely not my name, but a girl can dream. Open up Google, type in “Manish Koirala”, and then click on Google images. She’s cute, right? Okay now close your eyes. Just pretend that I’m this below-average, dollar-store, could-be-Koirala if you squinted and were a mildly racist person and add the voice of a 20-something, neutral Indian-American. And call me Manisha. Or, if you feel a personal connection to me, I give you permission to call me “Misha”.
This is the story of how internalized white gaze and an inferiority complex made me fall in love with an astronaut boy. Astronaut boy, like young Matthew McCounaughey in Interstellar astronaut boy. I wish this was as funny of a story as my incredibly comedic timing but, being completely honest, it’s just kind of dumb– much like my comedic content. Love can be dumb and time-consuming and problematic as hell, but I would not change it for the world. To wax (and wane) romantically for a moment, go to your favorite streaming service and type in “When the Day Met the Night” by Panic! At the Disco. Listen to it while wrapped up in a blanket, staring out a window, imagining yourself in an indie music video. Get lost in the idea of being in love. Revisit this song when you read Chapter 2 because, trust me, music makes everything make sense. Every song fits a story, an image, a feeling, explaining my life better than my own words. As such, certain chapters will come with a song recommendation and there will most definitely be an appendix. Read my footnotes. They are hella necessary.
Now I’ll warn you this story ends pretty disappointingly. I really, really, really thought about how I wanted to finish this story. Logically, telling the truth makes the most sense. Be a reliable narrator, you know? But then I thought about Atonement. I’m not gonna spoil it for you, but bitch, I realized how easy it would be to make my story funnier, happier, cuter- better. But, unfortunately, I can’t. It just wouldn’t be right because this isn’t the story about how “the guy gets the girl” or how “I found out I was actually fucking amazing”. This is just the story of how Manisha fell hard and learned a whole lot about life in the process by being a good friend, a bad friend, and everything in between. It is what it is (and for my personal gratification, please say “it is what it is” out loud once you finish this line).
Chapter One: Napoleon and Becoming Reacquainted with My Arch Nemesis
When I took AP European History sophomore year of highschool, I fell in love with two people. The first was Napoleon Bonaparte, born Napoleone di Buonaparte. For some reason, I admired and empathized with Bonaparte’s egotistical, 6’2” vision for France despite his glaring problems of height, deference to authority, and temper. What really did it for me was the painting he commissioned of his coronation in 1804, “The Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon and the Coronation of Empress Joséphine on December 2, 1804”, done by Jacques Louis David. One of the most glaring alterations of his and his hunny’s coronation depiction is his demand that his mother be added to the scene. Now, Letizia Ramolino had said a big “fuck you” to Napoleon and refused to attend his coronation because of the friction between Napoleon and his brother (he said his brother could not be part of the imperial succession which rubbed his mother the wrong way), but Napoleon simply snapped his fingers and demanded that David highlight her front and center. And thou shalt provide.
Was it a dick move? Yes, absolutely. But I like to believe that it wasn’t as big of dick move as everybody thinks it was. Personal account, correspondances, and historians’ understanding of Napoleon and his mother’s relationship points to one of respect and devotion. Napoleon respected the hell out of his mother, admiring her resilience and pragmatism. And, I think it really bothered him that his mother hated Josephine. She thought Josephine was fast, indifferent, and spendthrift, very far from the frugality and conservative elegance of Letizia, herself. Napoleon was a dick to literally everyone else– the pope who did attend the coronation, Haitians, a majority of the era’s world powers, women, particularly after his marriage with Josephine failed due to her many affairs. But, despite it all, Napoleon would always love his mother and perhaps, that’s why I have a soft spot for Napoleon despite his outrageous dictatorial leadership. I mean something has to fuel a man who finds a way to escape his first exile and stage a coup. Some would argue it was wit, his incredible military stratagem and prowess, survival instinct, his inherent underdog status despite being such a prolific leader, or literally a million things other than familial relation, but I’d like to believe at least 1/100th of his strength was drawn from his love for his mother and hers for him, his inherent wish to be in her good graces, to fulfill the destiny she continually told him was his birthright. But, I digress.
Almost by association, I consequently fell in love with Jaques Louis David, the world’s most prolific hype man. Now, side note, I would like to quickly self proclaim that I am a wannabe art hoe. It’s true and this class did wonders for my examination and appreciation of Renaissance-era art and sculpture, as well as Neoclassical work of which Jacques Louis David was the preeminent authority, the CEO of the company if you will. I mean if you don’t love “Oath of the Horatii”, you are blind. But, it was his commissions from Napoleon that transfixed me. Just take a deeper look at “Napoleon Crossing the Alps” from 1805 for a brief second. Blows your mind.
While I was falling in love with two historical figures, I had been sitting front and center of the classroom. At some point, I shifted to the sides, had a moment, lived a life, and then shifted to the back row, back seat. But, bitch...
I hate the back row. I have glasses and because I lie to an optometrist, they are nearly always off. I’m a smart ass, but I also just want to be right in the center of the class action. I need attention and I crave validation. Truly, I have always been the individual who had, from an early age, strove to clarify that I am here to learn, I respect your time, and I would like to be acknowledged that I care. Student first baby and, while I will never stoop so low as to be an obvious suck-up, you better believe I wanted my phenomenal performance as a student to be remembered if my grades were ever in question, my eager attitude and work ethic a shining beacon. But, being placed in the back was frustrating as none of my charms could be evident from here. And, to my suprise, that would be the day I was reacquainted with one of my many arch nemeses.
Enter Bradley James Crenshaw. And holy mother of God, I was not prepared.