Chicago comedian and producer Sonal Aggarwal discusses growing up in an Indian family and the parental pressure to marry. Sonal and Karen discuss dating: How kinky are folks on the apps exactly? Who’s picking up the tab? Plus how being a massage therapist is an added benefit with partners.
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Wild & Sublime Podcast Transcript
S5E4 | Sex with Comedians: Sonal Aggarwal
Sonal Aggarwal: [to live audience] I’m just trying to outrun her on the apps. She’s got me out this app called marriage.com. It’s very aggressive. Shaadi dot com.
Karen Yates: Welcome to Wild & Sublime, a sexy spin on infotainment, no matter your preferences, orientation or relationship style. Based on the popular live Chicago show I chat about sex and relationships with citizens from the world of sex positivity and comedy. You’ll hear meaningful conversations, dialogues that go deeper, and information that can help you become more free in your sexual expression. I’m sex educator and intimacy coach Karen Yates. Our monthly patreon supporters paper are large part of our operating expenses. Their contributions from $5 on up help us big time. Plus members get discounts on show tickets and merch and receive Wild & Sublime news before anyone else and more interested in helping us spread the message of sex positivity, go to patreon.com forward slash Wild & Sublime.
Karen Yates: Sonal Aggarwal is a stand up, actor, artist, and producer of the live show the Theory of Comedy here in Chicago. She grew up in the southwest suburbs of Chicago then after college began traveling the world, eventually finding herself in India living a life as an artist and emcee. She’s also making me crack up right now. In 2016, after a motorcycle accident, she returned to the US and while in recovery, realized she was meant to do stand up comedy, so now performs on many Chicago stages and was repeatedly recommended to me by a ton of comics to come on this show. Welcome. Sonal, or should I say “Namaste?”
Sonal Aggarwal: Namaste. You shouldn’t say Namaste ever. No one should ever say namaste.
Karen Yates: [laughing] This was on this was on your website. “Namaste. Please stop saying it. If you are not saying it right,”
Sonal Aggarwal: That’s for you.
Karen Yates: Right? And I know it is for me, a white person, or a person–
Sonal Aggarwal: It doesn’t have to be white. It’s an easy word to say. Namaste. It’s not like Ramayana. It doesn’t have like Aggarwal. It doesn’t have any weird sounds that are outside of the English group of phonemes. But it’s basically no one should say it. Except you can say it but ask how to say it. And you know, investigate, okay? Instead of there’s a lot of entitlement around Namaste. That’s a notion there.
Karen Yates: I actually looked it up on multiple platforms.
Sonal Aggarwal: And it says namaSTAY? No, no, no, it was Namaste.
Sonal Aggarwal: Yeah, I know, I would have to say that for him. Because Namaste, NaMAHste. Like the, the emphasis on the second syllable, stay. It’s a pretty universal, you know, greeting, it’s like, Hi, what’s up, I’m this great, the Divine Light, whatever, you know, you were
Karen Yates: It’s shining in me; it’s shining in you, you you’re the teacher.
Sonal Aggarwal: If you feel that when you say it, that’s great. That’s a that’s a vibration that people should have and should not put on anyone else. Especially if it’s from outside of your culture, just say hi. So, hey, what’s up?
Karen Yates: So I’ve had a look at a lot of your clips on social. And one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you today was, I don’t think people understand maybe, oh, maybe they do now because of the Netflix show. But a lot of the pressure that’s put on people in India, young people, to get married. And that is a… that is a regular bit on your, on your in your act of your mom and getting married? And what is that? Like? What does that like for you? She pressures you? Is this an ever present thing is has it kind of calmed down over time?
Sonal Aggarwal: My current mantra or MANtra, or whatever you guys say–but which is a really important concept. The idea of a mantra is just what is our inner dialogue look like? What are the things that we are saying? We’re saying to ourselves, how do we shape our inner reality, and mine that I constantly remind myself is that understanding is limited. And love is limitless. Love is also a choice. Love is conditional, unconditional. With most immigrant household, it’s very conditional, you know, like, you gotta be not a homosexual! you know, you gotta leave the house, which is insane to me that people still care so much about who you’re attracted to, as if it was a choice. You know, I’ve seen some straight people and it’s like, maybe you could go gay. This is not cute at all. This is not a cute look. But anyway, and there are so many super cute gay Indians and they have to live in sin or in hiding from their parents and the lying just becomes really exhausting. I think that growing up in a household where I was lying about being at the library often you know, when I was even over the neighbor girl’s house, I met Julie Macaluso his house, you know, and we’re watching porno on her brother’s VHS cassettes or something that was actually fine and normal in Julie’s house, and her brother’s like, “don’t mess on my tapes, make sure you rewind my my porno before you you know, don’t steal them!” would have been something so unimaginable to tell to my parents. So from very early on, we’re taught to protect their feelings, and to hide our truth and hide our authentic experience because it would be outside of the realm of understanding. And that caused me to leave the country after my undergrad. And I’m like, I need to get as far away as possible from these people who won’t recognize anything that I do, because it’s constantly measured against the people who are getting married. And that’s still very much the reality.
Sonal Aggarwal: I mean, I just turned 40 and I made the mistake of, and I shouldn’t say that. I made a choice. I spoke to my mom about this show on Amazon Prime called Made in Heaven, which I really recommend to anybody who’s into any sort of HBO -level drama show and it’s about this Indian company, and they are wedding producers, they’re wedding planners, and they have to show this side–it’s called Made in Heaven because these are very other worldly weddings where there are multiday events. And it looks so beautiful from the outside. It’s a very grass is always greener, and just without spoiling too much in the very first episode of the first season, they’re hired by the super wealthy, just disgusting wealth family that tells them “okay, now we need you to run a little private investigation on this girl that our son is marrying because we don’t trust her. We think she’s a gold digger.” And the wedding planners are like, “okay, that’s not really our job. We’re here to do like lighting and to plan the henna guy, you know,” and they’re like, “Okay, well, we’re not going to hire you then if you don’t do this illegal, shady work.” And then of course, there’s the drama that ensues. It’s so much drama all this inlaws disliking each other, I think is insane. And these like behavioral patterns, where it’s like, I have aunties that don’t say hi to each other because somebody disrespected somebody, like 30 years ago. And I remember as a kid growing up into these stories, like, why would you make a choice to stay mad, you know? As as a petty person, I feel like, I tried to investigate within myself, like, does this anger serve me at all right now, you know? And if it doesn’t, I tried to do my best to release it through dance or punching.
Karen Yates: So when you left …when you left the US for India, you then came back because of… you needed to to rehab your body.
Sonal Aggarwal: Yeah, I was in a motorcycle accident. I wasn’t being treated properly. And it just I couldn’t walk for over a year.
Karen Yates: Wow. And so you came back. You left to ostensibly get away from your parents, and then you came back. And now obviously, your parents are a part of your life. They come up a lot.
Sonal Aggarwal: And my mom is like “that motorcycle accident was the best thing that ever happened to us. Because you you came back.” Yeah. And she makes a joke. She’s like, “I should have broken your leg like 10 years before that, I would have brought you home.” And I’m like, Haha, that’s hilarious and scary. That’s our whole vibe.
Karen Yates: So yeah, like, how is it? Now? You left now you’ve come back. And I assume that part of this whole stew? Is this you keeping your own personal integrity in light of your parents pressure? Is this true or not true?
Sonal Aggarwal: You know, to even be able to be more open and honest with my mom about things is, I think really healing for both of us and for the community at large. Because now, the age that I am now the number of kids that have been lying to their parents the whole time, their parents don’t know anything about them. And even I don’t think he’ll ever listen to this. But my mom’s older brother, my uncle, his oldest son, my cousin, he was in an arranged marriage that led to divorce. And now he is in a cult, and doesn’t talk to most of the family. So I’m the chosen one now.
Karen Yates: So what is, like, can you explain a bit about the culture of arranged marriage for folks that don’t know? Because I think a lot of people have heard about it, but like, Can you can you just explain the phenomenon?
Sonal Aggarwal: Even I thought that arranged marriage was something archaic. That was more of my parents’ generation that was no longer in practice until I was in my early 20s. And I was meeting people in India that were getting arranged marriage and I couldn’t possibly get my head around that. And I use that as you know, culturally, it’s just something that’s so totally different. I mean, imagine if you were just used to putting yak butter in your coffee. You know, like, that would be so gross. If you had never seen yak butter before, but then you coffee without yak butter, it would be so gross to you, depending on cultural upbringing. And my mom, I told her, I wanted to take her to a drag brunch, you know, because I have a lot of gay and trans friends and just as a queer bisexual person, you know, that’s the communities that I’m that I’m in and my mom’s like, “I think I would be really uncomfortable” and I’m like, “Why? you got an arranged marriage, people think that you’re totally insane and backwards and from a village with one cow.” And she’s like, “we did have a nice cow in my village.” I’m like, everybody, we just have different experiences. So you can be open to learn about people’s experiences, or you can be like, that seems really weird and backwards. And like you’re from a village, you know, and she’s like, “I am, I am from a village.” I mean, literally, my dad picked my mom from like, a couple of photos. You know, and my mom is very like, because then I go on, there’s a website called shaadi.com, which means marriage.com. And I’ve been on a couple of dates with these suitors candidates, they feel like job interviews, you know, and I told my mom, I’m like, why went on a date with this guy, he talked the whole time, which I don’t know if you can imagine me being in a situation where I didn’t talk at all. I’m a big talker. And she goes, “you know, the first time I met your father, I didn’t say anything, for the first couple of times that we hung out. So you need to lower your expectations.” And I’m like, “whoa, whoa, what the fuck see mind you, like we no longer live in a lower your expectations, marriage is compromise. And you know, you must suffer in silence because that is what it is to be in partnership,” you know.
Karen Yates: But when I went on shaadi.com, because you mentioned it in a bit. So I went on, and I was like, Okay, what’s going on here? Because at the bottom of I scrolled down, and I saw like, firstly, it was it felt to me, like, “We WILL deliver you a coupleness. We WILL do this for you!”
Sonal Aggarwal: 100% guarantee good marriage! not happiness! But definitely a marriage!
Karen Yates: And then I scroll down, and then they have like, thumbnails of all the couples successfully matched. So and they’re all in their, in their, in their ceremonial wedding garb. And they’re just like, II they’re really smiling. And then it’s like, “Dear shaadi.com, Thank you so much!” Like, the testimonial was how can I say it like, like, this is the most happy day of my life. It’s almost as if right after the wedding, they like … They like put–
Sonal Aggarwal: Like an AI generated, you know, chatGPT is like, what would you say? If you had the best wedding ever write it? Yeah, you know, and then they just post it because you have to sell the product, obviously.
Karen Yates: You know, so you just identified as queer and bisexual and what happened? When are you you’re out obviously to your mother, are you out?
Sonal Aggarwal: I mean, she doesn’t know anything about anyone that I’ve dated, really, like I’ve dated a couple of different Irish guys like from Ireland. And I mean, not from Beverly, which is like–
Karen Yates: Wait. Did you just say IreLAND?
Sonal Aggarwal: IreLAND. That’s how you properly pronunciate it. I don’t know how you guys are pronounciating it, but it would always annoy the shit out of Ronan. And my ex and I’m like, counted three, you fucking I just like a man who can talk in a funny voice, you know, and those guys are really committed just like one two tree. I’m like what kinda tree? But I lived in Cork, I lived in County Cork. And I mean, I mean, I was being introduced as a future daughter in law by his parents to the entire family. Meanwhile, my mom thinks that I’m with a colleague, you know, she doesn’t, she thinks that we’re friends. She has no idea that this man is my boyfriend. And I called her. And this was the first boyfriend that I ever called her about. And I think it was 2009 or 10. And I was like, Mom, and I was on Skype. You know, that’s like FaceTime, but in the computer, and, and I was on Skype, and I’m talking to my mom, I’m like, Mom, I need to tell you something. Ronan is not just my friend that I’m staying with in Ireland here in Ireland. He is my boyfriend. And she was like, oh, okay, that’s fine. And then she just like hung up the phone, you know. And then she called back within 30 seconds. And she was like,” if you get pregnant, our lives are ruined!!! And I just want you to know that you’re ruining your life right now!” And I was like, I mean, he’s in the room. He’s not in frame, but he can hear and see you and I’m gonna have to close the computer because you’re making him uncomfortable. You’re making my little delicate Irish boyfriend uncomfortable. And I was so embarrassed. I was like, “I’m so sorry. She’s really nice. I mean, she probably never will be to you, but she’s really sweet and nice to me, you know? Because I’m her daughter.” And she just you know if if my ex was more into in alignment with like wanting to make lots of money then then maybe that’s somebody that we would still be together but I don’t think so I didn’t I didn’t want to… Visiting Ireland is great, go visit go visit. They got great fields, great rainbows.
Karen Yates: One of the things you talked about how is how your your mother’s expectations are like lowering over time. And
Sonal Aggarwal: she’s like, I’m aging out of arranged marriage. She’s like, maybe you should go out with more divorced people, you know, they’re at least they have some idea of what they want. It used to be like divorced people are losers. That’s forbidden.
Karen Yates: right? And now it’s like, Hey, as long as you’re seeing as long as you’re seeing someone…
Sonal Aggarwal: She was like, should I get a Tesla or we should we freeze your eggs? I’m like, Oh my god. Get the Tesla. Don’t bother!
Karen Yates: Seriously, Tesla or freeze your eggs?
Sonal Aggarwal: Yeah, that’s where she’s at right now.
Karen Yates: Okay, so she’s got the Tesla?
Sonal Aggarwal: No, she hasn’t yet she’s–
Karen Yates: Still on the fence? eggs, Tesla, Tesla eggs?
Sonal Aggarwal: I mean, I’m 40. Now, I don’t know whether or not we really need to go into cryo department. There are so many kids around, like, why do they have to be my biological kids?
Karen Yates: Are you still dating?
Sonal Aggarwal: I’ve always Oh, yeah, I’m out here. I’m hoping to the best of my abilities, you know, as a very emotionally present, because I think that there’s a lot of value to bad dating. You know, there’s a lot of
Karen Yates: I 100% agree. So what so bad dating, let’s talk, let’s talk bad dating.
Sonal Aggarwal: What do you think is one of the values of bad dating?
Karen Yates: It allows you to… The funnel was once large. And then the funnel becomes becomes more narrow over time, meaning what you accept–
Sonal Aggarwal: yeah,
Karen Yates: Accepts and then you, you mature, and you realize I accept less and less.
Sonal Aggarwal: And you get a lot of clarity about yourself,
Karen Yates: you do.
Sonal Aggarwal: And you’re like, This is what I want. I want somebody that can be present with me in this here and now and then go off and be present with whatever they’re doing.
Karen Yates: Do you find that there’s an abundance of people being present?
Sonal Aggarwal: Absolutely not. Know what, excuse me? I have to text right now, actually. Oh, can you hold on a sec? Yeah. I mean, the fact that the amount of phones that people do when we have these moments of human interaction, because I feel like we’re already on our devices all the time, and we’re already we spend so much time on our own on our devices. I mean, I can’t believe anybody takes out their phone ever when they’re with other people. You know, unless it’s work-related fine. But I mean, yeah, the the dating that I’m on Feeld, do you know Feeld?
Karen Yates: Yes, of course.
Sonal Aggarwal: Are you on Feeld?
Karen Yates: No, I keep I keep thinking, should I get on yet one more dating app? I have… I have thought about it, though. I mean,
Sonal Aggarwal: The comedy of Feeld as a comedian, the center of my universe is funniness and whether or not I’m investigating for jokes to do in my work, or just to make myself laugh, you know, that’s, that’s always been my, my primary motivator. And Feeld is so funny because the whole world of kink is so broad. You know, there’s there was a comedian who had a joke about it, who’s like, I’m trying to get into kink, but how do you say I don’t need to be like tied up and have a collar on my neck and be like, I’m somebody’s pet. I’m into like a feather. Ya know, get a feather!
Karen Yates: This is it. This is the thing I’m seeing and you know, our have been seeing for years on like, OKCupid recently Bumble, but like Bumble, like doesn’t even go there. Like OKCupid is gonna be is gonna,
Sonal Aggarwal: is that the most vanilla? Of the?
Karen Yates: No, that’s the one that’s most, like, into poly, like you can put everything out. But it’s like, you can’t really gauge 100% unless someone is so out there. Like, how, how? How extreme is the kink? Is it a feather? Is it you know, blood play? Like where are you? Um, it’s, it’s it’s hard to ascertain as you go through someone’s profile? Like, what? Just because there’s questions that have to be answered–
Sonal Aggarwal: Blood play! Because you asked if I had a profile on FetLife. And I was like, I wish. I couldn’t even get through the login procedure. Because there’s a there’s a drop down menu where it’s like, Are you a Dom? Are you a nadir? Are you a Dom a neuter? Are you a dominator? You know, like, Are you a top bottom sideways diagonal? Like there were so many options.
Karen Yates: Clarity, clarity?
Sonal Aggarwal: Well, I also think that then, I mean, if you are so specific, I want people to be, you know, open minded to new experiences and potential but if you’re already so decided that it’s like, I can only fuck wearing my furry outfit from 1994 in this sideways position. And that’s the only way you know, that’s very specific. And then good luck.
Karen Yates: But not everyone is that specific. But you… Yeah, the filtering mechanism was overwhelming.
Sonal Aggarwal: I think sense of humor is something that I’m really starting to get a better understanding of as I get older. I think that men think that they want somebody who is funny, but they want somebody who thinks that they are funny.
Karen Yates: Yes. 100% 100% I will agree with you.
Sonal Aggarwal: And they want their own jokes to be laughed at because they’re insecure in themselves. And and can’t be because I laugh at a lot of stuff that I don’t have any expectation of anyone else laughing And I’m like, “That one’s for me.”
Karen Yates: Well, and also I just find with humor in general, you know, if people put on their profiles, “sarcasm is my sense of humor.” I’m like, No, actually, that’s… You’re angry.
Sonal Aggarwal: And you’re deflecting, and you’re not good at communicating your needs.
Karen Yates: Right? So yeah, so the funny thing is a very weird subject. We’ll return to our conversation in a moment. Just a few simple sentences can change your intimate life Want to know what they are? Download the free guide, save better in bed three practical ways to improve intimate communication to get easy tools to put into action immediately. Go to wildandsublime.com to get yours.
Sonal Aggarwal: I have a girlfriend that just came in, she drove into the city from Bolingbrook, which is the suburbs that’s about 45 minutes away. She came all the way to an event in the City to meet a guy that she met on the apps. They have never met or spoken in real life. And he wrote in the app, do you want to come with me to this event? And she wrote, are you inviting me? And he said, Yeah, I’m inviting you. Do you think that that means that he’s paying for the ticket?
Karen Yates: Yeah.
Sonal Aggarwal: Oh, wowwwwww. You hear in that–?
Karen Yates: No, no, it’s an assumption. It’s an assumption. It’s an assumption. Because let me tell you this. And let me let me get the story straight. I remember recently, someone that I know, an acquaintance, said, Oh, he texted me, because I do a show. Wild & Sublime is a live show. So he texted me and he says, I’m taking, okay, I’m taking this woman that I’ve just met through the apps, I am taking her to Wild & Sublime. Okay, okay. Are there tickets left? And I said, Yes. And he said, Okay, I’m gonna buy my ticket. And can you just put her ticket on hold? And I was like,
Sonal Aggarwal: what does that mean?
Karen Yates: It means she has to buy her own ticket. Can you put her like her her name? Like, he wanted me to do some sort of fandango where he would purchase his own ticket. But then she would purchase her ticket. He just wanted to make sure that it wasn’t as the show wasn’t sold out.
Sonal Aggarwal: Eeew.
Karen Yates: And I thought, Really? like, I’m TAKING this person. And I thought, wow, that is…. I don’t know. I look, I don’t expect, you know, I’m one of those people that like in early dates, I don’t expect anybody to be picking up the tab, right? I mean, that becomes a nicety that, you know, can happen later on. Like, I’m just one of those people like first date, we split the date, whatever, blah, blah, blah.
Sonal Aggarwal: Yeah, there’s a lot of you know, we’re generalizing, right? Yeah, this is, like, it’s super general. If I went on a date, and you order a bunch of food that I don’t eat, and then we’re splitting the check that yeah, that’s a good bye forever.
Karen Yates: That’s a that’s a whatever
Sonal Aggarwal: That’s a wrap.
Karen Yates: Yeah. But But I think this idea of, of like, as you just said, so I’m assuming she assumed he was picked, like, what did she assume driving to this event?
Sonal Aggarwal: She drove her dumb ass all the way from Bolingbrook, Illinois, to downtown Chicago on a weekend on an assumption.
Karen Yates: So then what happened?
Sonal Aggarwal: She got disappointed, and she got mad. And then he actually offered she goes, Well, did you buy my ticket? And he goes, Oh, I didn’t want No, I wasn’t going to buy Do you want me to buy your ticket? I’ll buy the ticket for you. And she was like, nevermind. And then she left. So I’m like, see, that’s not even sustainable. Because that’s very emotionally fragile. If you already know that you’re going to get mad. Yeah. Operating based on an assumption, then liberate yourself of that assumption. And just get the clarity before you drive for an hour. Well, for sure, for sure. Even with friends that I know and trust, I’d be like, when you say inviting. Do you mean like you’ve got my ticket covered?
Karen Yates: Right? Right. So but but let’s go back to this moment. If if he said then to her, Would you like me to buy your ticket? If she said, yeah, that’d be awesome. I drove all this way. Then what? Then? What’s your take on it?
Sonal Aggarwal: Well, he didn’t offer he was covering his bases after she was like, Oh, wait, you didn’t get me a ticket? And then it was already feels like well, now I’m asking you to buy me this ticket. There was no offer.
Karen Yates: See, I think the way to always play these things is like hey, do you want to come with me to this concert? The tickets are $27 You know, then it’s like really clear.
Sonal Aggarwal: Yeah, but you’re like a smart, intelligent beautiful woman. We’re talking about stupid dickhead’s name. And I mean, to go back to the identity —
Karen Yates: I’m sensing rage.
Sonal Aggarwal: I feel like you need to chill. I feel
Sonal Aggarwal: Namaste. my heart your heart.
Sonal Aggarwal: Do you feel the light Do you feel the light? Get away from me, Karen! These Karens! Karen
Karen Yates: Oh! We’re not going there.
Sonal Aggarwal: The Beyonce lyrics? We’re not going there? Are you mad at Beyonce?
Karen Yates: No! I’m mad at you for bringing up the Karen issue.
Sonal Aggarwal: It’s yours! It’s your issue?
Karen Yates: It’s my issue. Oh my god.
Sonal Aggarwal: Well, going back to the —
Karen Yates: You’re a handful. Yes?
Sonal Aggarwal: I have been on a few dates with women and it’s so hard because you’re like, who’s paying? Oh my god, you brought me a present. What the fuck? Was I supposed to bring a present? You know? And it’s been so nice and in terms of like, who you vibe with, I had, you know, when I was traveling in India so many years ago, I had like this 10 days where I was dating this girl for 10 days, and we were riding on the back of each other’s scooters. And we were, you know, just very intimate together on the beaches. And then she left me for this English guy on a motorcycle with like, some bag full of drugs. And I’m like, Okay, bye. You never loved me!! [laughs] And then he ended up being a psycho. Ha! And I saw that coming a mile away.
Karen Yates: A bag full of drugs on the scooter, I mean that–
Sonal Aggarwal: There are a lot of nice people. I know a lot of nice people with bags full of drugs, too. I’m like, that sounds like all of my friends. [laughs] I don’t want to disparage anyone with a scooter with a bag full of drugs. But you know, I’m not. It’s it’s so as as I don’t know, if it’s a woman thing. And if men just in general can feel attracted to, to way more things or if it’s like, because their hardware is on the outside, the idea of like sticking it into anyone or like a piece of fruit is more but as a woman we’re receiving. So when you’re receiving it’s way more vulnerable. So who you actually feel open and who you feel connected to because I can be very touchy. I am a massage therapist, and all these comedians think that I’m trying to fuck and I’m like, you wish! Disgusting. I’m just making eye contact you losers. You know…
Karen Yates: But do you get but do you get consent before you’re touchy? Touchy-feely?
Sonal Aggarwal: No, no. That’s a very American concept. No, I’m kidding.
Karen Yates: You grew up in the southwest suburbs! Come on, give me a break!
Sonal Aggarwal: I mean, what do you mean? Like, can I find that so awkward when people are like, is it okay, if I give you a hug before I give you a hug, because there’s a lot there’s a nonverbal communication nonverbal consent…
Karen Yates: But you can I mean, there have been people, whoever’s, okay, give you a hug. And I’m like, no.
Sonal Aggarwal: Yeah, I mean, that’s–
Karen Yates: Right?
Sonal Aggarwal: Yeah. I just find it more weird to consent is so weird. You know, I’m not anti consent, obviously. Like you should get enthusiastic. Verbal.
Karen Yates: As a massage therapist [laughing]
Sonal Aggarwal: Exactly. Like that’s non verbal consent. You know, like, I’m not asking my clients like, are you good? I’m gonna touch you now. Because they’d be like, yeah, the fuck am I doing here? Obviously, you’re gonna touch me. Why are you asking? This is so weird. They have to sign a release form at ThaiBlossomchicago.com. You should check us out. Because I’m not on the website. I don’t tell anybody about the massage stuff. Because I just get paid to go in and work in this office. My boss is Eastern European. She’s totally bonkers. You know, her sense of humor is terrible. And she gets, she does when she first hired me. She’s like, if anybody asks for happy ending, tell them “Yeah, we got a guy. My husband, he’s really good. I feel happy at the end every time.” That’s one of her good jokes. But then
Karen Yates: Oof. that’s that’s like, that’s not even that. I mean, come on.
Sonal Aggarwal: It’s pretty funny,
Karen Yates: Is it? Yeah.
Sonal Aggarwal: Oh, yeah. Especially to address the topic of like, because everybody wants to know, but they don’t want to ask like, sure. Do you guys do hand jobs? You know? And it’s like, no, but there are places that do that, like her husband. There are places you can go. And because they do Thai massage, they do a specific modality. So this, I mean, it’s really interesting, actually, the topic of, you know, if I was hugging somebody, and I felt even when you’re massaging you can feel when the central nervous system kicks on, right away. And that’s when you’re like, Okay, let’s stay here, let’s take a breath. And let’s just do a little like, we call it you know, shaking, where you just give them a light little shake, so that you can release because once the central nervous system kicks on, then you can’t really get in and do deep work, right? Anyway. So you need to do a little reset. And it’s crazy, the amount of people that are doing terrible massage that are doing that, like it doesn’t feel good to like–
Karen Yates: Oh, for sure. I mean, I’ve done bodywork all my life, and I, you know, trained in somatic work. So it’s, it’s, um, it is when you talk about the central nervous system, and going into this place where there can be some settling, yes, settling in, and none of us are as we make our way. Do we have to be so intentional to get to that place.
Sonal Aggarwal: And most people are so trained to avoid discomfort? You know, and I’ve been I’ve gotten for a massage. And I was like, you know, I was in a motorcycle accident and my fibula was broken on the right leg and the guy goes, All right, well, let’s just avoid the right leg. And I’m like, going, let’s just stop right now. That’s exactly where I need the most directed work. And that’s where I need your best intentions. And I need the deepest breath work, you know, and this whole idea of avoiding discomfort is, is really such a terrible model, because, you know, we’re all just so scared to be the slightest bit uncomfortable all the time.
Karen Yates: Yeah. And it’s interesting. A couple of interviews ago, Rae McDaniel was on the show, the live show, and talking about how like, discomfort is not harm, and it’s just like, it’s this large idea that like, it can it can be applied to many different things but but like, just because we’re uncomfortable in various situations, it’s not that we’re being harmed. But like, also, when it comes to the nervous system, moving into a new zone, which can be uncomfortable isn’t necessarily harmful.
Sonal Aggarwal: It can be growth.
Karen Yates: Right.
Sonal Aggarwal: It can be growth, it can be surrender, it can be, you know, and we say things that to prompt the client, we say, we want to be right on the edge of sensation. And that feeling of pain versus pleasure versus release. And we don’t want to stay in pain. And if something feels really uncomfortable then say, like, Oh, that’s too much, you know, but otherwise, just take a breath and move through. We want to move through these sensations that we translate how we address these sensations, we address them as that feels ticklish, or that feels intense, you know, instead of painful and that these things will pass.
Karen Yates: Right.
Sonal Aggarwal: You know, and then there can be great release on the other side.
Karen Yates: So do you find…Do you find that being a massage therapist, some of these like insights you’ve gleaned, do you take them into relationship? I mean, do you see yourself in maybe new situations with people being able to fall back on that? Okay, I’m gonna breathe,
Sonal Aggarwal: Absolutely
Karen Yates: Like, yeah, like dating situations? Like, how do you see it manifest.
Sonal Aggarwal: Um, even I would consider my relationship to the audience like my my very intimate relationship. And it’s some of my favorite forms of jokes. When you feel your body physically tense up where you’re like, I don’t like this. I don’t like where this joke is going. And then you feel that release and this surrender. And it’s like, the laughter is almost bigger. Like my I have an example I have. There’s this white man, comedian, and he’s got this joke that’s like, Have you heard about these They Thems? And right away, you feel your body? Where you’re like, well, but but it will just kind of tensed up, you know? And you’re like, Whoa, what’s that? He’s like, so as I heard about these guys, I’m like, I gotta start hooking up with one of these They Thems. Because it just sounds like sex with way more people. How cool is that? Oh, they were very satisfied. And now you feel your heart open and feel that tension of like, oh, this is gonna be bad. And then you feel you know, and I talk a lot of shit because it’s just, you know, it’s like, it’s fun when you’re bullying with the best intentions. You know, I have this joke. That’s like in India, we say, there was no abuse only discipline, which is a joke there is abuse–it exists also, but it is very, like you feel pain. Good. That means you are feeling so feeling is good. It means you are alive. So they say thank you. Hello to the pain.
Sonal Aggarwal: Getting back to the massage therapy in relationships, do you ever find because sometimes I’ll go into interviewer mode when I’m on dates, and I can feel it. I can feel the click in and be like goddam it.
Sonal Aggarwal: Oh, that’s so funny. And you’re like, this would be great on the pod. Should I get him on?
Karen Yates: But like, do you find yourself going oh, now I’m a massage therapist. I’m in bed with you. I’m doing massage therapy things? Do you ever find that happening?
Sonal Aggarwal: I feel like, I’ll definitely be like, there’s a better way for you to put pressure on my inner thigh. Like, [laughing]
Karen Yates: For health reasons.
Sonal Aggarwal: And I’m like, let’s let’s put weight, you know, that’s that I start using like these massage therapist modality-like techniques. And I’ll be like, “Give me a nice inhale!” [laughs]
Sonal Aggarwal: “Nice audible inhale. Through the nose–
Karen Yates: Did you just say “audible inhale”?? [laughs]
Sonal Aggarwal: Audible, the more you communicate through breath, the deeper I will come! [laughs] Oh my God, yeah, yeah, for sure. You know, and I’m like, “I want you to massage and I want you to… I want us to both be learning.” [laughs] I love learning, I just want us to be learning. And I’m always like, if I’m hooking up with someone, I’ll be sending them like moves because I do like acro yoga stuff. And I was a fire dancer before–
Karen Yates: Oh, wow. Okay–
Sonal Aggarwal: I did stand up. So a lot of just exploration of movement, you know? And how are different ways that we can relate to movement and all different ways that we can relate to each other? Because traveling, people are so scared, because they’re like, oh, no, I can’t go to Mexico. I don’t speak Spanish. You know, and it’s like you speak dance. You speak song, you know, and you speak, to be to be vulnerable and I love being in countries where I don’t speak the language. I’m like, I’m excused! I’m dumb. I’m a dumb, dumb American. Just treat me like the dumbest person you’ve ever met. You know, it’s because there’s a lot of pressure being an Indian person in America. People are like, could you give me a medical diagnosis? Like that’s racist and illegal? You know, people ask us for medical advice all the time. I could literally just be like, you have lupus and people are like, Oh, is that true? It’s amazing, the power and infuriating, but then to be in other countries.
Karen Yates: I’m still like, what? Yeah, I don’t even understand why.
Sonal Aggarwal: Because we… see, because Indians are allowed in this country because they got all the smartest ones because of the 1965 bill that was passed, where it’s like, let’s get other immigrants over so they can like spread out racism more, and have it be like so direct the drama between black people and white people, let’s involve other races and disrespect them to make them feel good, and pitch them on this American dream. And then they went and got like, the smartest, that’s why you see the stereotypes that Indians are doctors and engineers, because those were the ones that were allowed over. Okay, we that dumb people do but they good. They couldn’t get it together to get their visas and their documents.
Karen Yates: Okay. Now I understand, right? I mean, still
Sonal Aggarwal: Still, if you start to pay attention, like all of these shows, they’d be like, oh, there’s an Indian guy. And he’s the doctor, you know, or learners. And when whenever it’s like, their roles, you know, and as an actor, or you still get so many roles that are like, Oh, nurse, one, nurse, two, doctor, one doctor or two? It’s like, what about the lead? It’s like, no, they got they got somebody white for that. You know? And that’s, that’s still something that we see. Yeah, for sure.
Karen Yates: So you’re a producer of live shows. And so what, why did you become a producer? And what’s what’s that all about? And like–
Sonal Aggarwal: To get stage time.
Sonal Aggarwal: To get stage time, okay?
Sonal Aggarwal: I mean, that’s the very entry level answer, you know, because if you’re, if you’re not at a position yet where you can be traveling around and just paid to show up and do the gig, then you should learn all of the bits of the gig. So, you know, actually, in my fire dancing days, I wish I had been more available to learn these lessons, because I was so focused on just technique and training and keeping my fire dancing. You know, and whatever elements of that movement stuff, it was more like, Okay, I have to hold the body, and I’m a performer. And then there are the people that produce and put on events. And I mean, the most successful ones that you see now who are going to do a three-month contract in Dubai, or something and, you know, really next level circus performers, I have a very, very good friend from Quebec named Pierrick St-Pierre, I will very happily shout out Pierrick, you can look them up, Mr. Banana, the Mr. Banana Show. And he would he does this performance, where it takes him like an hour to set up a structure where he has a rope hanging between the structure and then he gets up and he does a little tightrope walk on the rope. And he makes it look like it’s much more difficult than it is for him, because at this point is very easy. And he gets a kid involved. And then he finally gets on the rope. And he juggles five balls just for a second. But that’s the big crescendo of the show. And he has sold the show all over Europe and that site. So he is a self produced production team, where he knows his tech writer, he knows what lighting he needs, he knows what audio elements he needs. You know, I wouldn’t be able to walk into a theater and be I’d be like this lighting is is good. And I know if the sound is bad, but I couldn’t go to a soundboard and and be like, here’s what we’re going to adjust to take the tininess out of the mic, you know, you still need a sound guy around, or you need a sound person. And there’s a difference between free events and ticketed events. I mean, I really encourage everybody to put on free events, because there’s such an abundance of venues, and you could do a donation-based thing and maybe come out even or cover your costs. And that’s a great way of learning and a great way of networking, you know, the rhythm of a good show, I think a good comedy show is between 70 and 90 minutes, and even that it has to be really good show, otherwise, the audience starts to lose the momentum and they get tired. And if it’s one bad comedian after another, then you know, it’s even okay to shut the show off a little bit earlier, you know, you want to leave on a high note. And, you know, interacting with the audience is very different when you’re producing the show. Because what happens to a lot of producers is you’re putting so much energy into the production, you’re not thinking about your set, and you’re not thinking about your material. So that’s happened to me a lot over the years, where I’m like, Oh, God it’s my turn to go up. And I don’t even know what I’m gonna say!
Karen Yates: Well, it’s interesting when you’re talking about being a producer, when I was in school, you know, working with various somatic things, I basically started putting my show together. And so I started thinking of it as a somatic exercise for the audience, like, how does the audience in a way become the client from a somatic perspective? And that kind of changed everything for me about how I looked at producing, it’s like, somehow–
Sonal Aggarwal: and so when you say somatic, that means through the senses?
Karen Yates: Yeah, but also through, like, how is the audience experiencing this event in their body?
Sonal Aggarwal: Okay!
Karen Yates: you know, right. So like, are they going to be jittery? Or is it going to be activating their nervous system in the way like you were talking about working with a client like, will it help them to settle? Will it help them? Will this will they feel comfortable in the space? Do you know I don’t want people feeling like on that edge in that unhappy edge? Do you know what I mean?
Sonal Aggarwal: You don’t want people hot, right? You don’t want people melting and you don’t because I didn’t realize that theaters are so cold so that people don’t fall asleep. I didn’t even know that till recently.
Karen Yates: Right. And also, like, if you’re during a summer show, you gotta really that’s difficult because you don’t know you just don’t know what the, the elements are. So you just did. Theory of Comedy show, right? Do you have another one in the works?
Sonal Aggarwal: Yes, which will be on my social media because they haven’t texted me back about the September date. I know our October date is October 22. And I’m bringing a headliner over from New York. This guy Shafi Hossain, who is a Bangladeshi comedian and he does just such brilliant crowd work and I’ve never met him in real life. So this is really fun to get to experience your community and to build friendship and relationship through through the craft cool, you know, and I don’t know if Shafi would consider me his friend but he’s, you’re my friend Shafi. We haven’t met yet.
Karen Yates: So people can find out more on Instagram at social media on all the social media, okay? On TikTok.
Sonal Aggarwal: All right, yeah, I’m learning what the social media is. It’s so funny to be a live performer because, you know, you you also have to be a video editor and in a sound editor and a podcaster, and a lighting technician and all of these different things, you know, and when you’re like, nobody really thinks about all the behind the scenes.
Karen Yates: Yeah. Well, Sonal thanks for coming on.
Sonal Aggarwal: Oh, this was great. This is so awesome.
Karen Yates: Wild & Sublime is supported in part by our sublime supporter, full color life therapy therapy for all of you at full color life. therapy.com Thank you for listening. Know someone who’d liked this episode, send it to them. You can follow us on Facebook Tiktok and Instagram at Wild & Sublime and sign up for newsletters at Wild & sublime.com. Got feedback or an inquiry, contact us at info at Wildandsublime.com And we’d love a review or rating on your podcast player. I’d like to thank our design guru Jean-François Gervais music by David Ben-Porat This episode was produced and edited by Christine Ferrera at the Lincoln lodge podcast studio as part of the Lincoln lodge Podcast Network.
Click on guest name(s) for all podcast appearances
- Sonal Aggarwal – Standup, actor, producer– @sonalmedia on all social platforms
- Karen Yates – Sex educator, performer, energy worker
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