Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Musings

If you can’t handle me at my worst

I am not my best when I am around my parents. To be clear, I am not the best ever, but it’s even worse when they’re around. I find myself acting like a child again, and I have walls a mile high erected around me. “They know which buttons to press because they installed them” is so true, and I hate that I react to it almost every time. I wanted to be like David Attenborough and be the detached social scientist, but something in my lizard brain overrides as soon as one of my parents talks to me. It’s almost atavistic, and I feel as if I’m out of control. My mouth is saying things before I can censor myself, and it’s as if my filters are on the fritz.

Side note: I know the meme, “If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best” is mostly lighthearted, but I really hate the message it sends. That’s what abusers say or imply, and there isn’t anything funny in that. In addition, that’s a strong component of codependent relationships, which is another big no for me.

Anyway, I remember with my last therapist during a yearly visit from my parents, I was saying how I feel like a complete failure as a daughter because I was nothing my mother (and father, but I wasn’t really talking to him at that point) wanted me to be. I wasn’t married (nor wanted to be), didn’t have children (nor wanted them), did not have a steady 9-to-5 job (nor wanted one), was not a Christian (and so did not want to return), and a litany of other things. She pointed out that they were not the parents I wanted/needed them to be, either, and it was as if the clouds had parted, allowing the sun to shine into the fog. I had been so focused on how I was failing them, I never thought about what I needed from the relationship.

That’s part of growing up in a dysfunctional family–I was never allowed to consider my wants and needs as valid. I was made to feel ashamed for wanting anything other than what my parents wanted (which was mostly my father as dictated by my mother). There’s an anecdote that my father still loves to tell about how when I was a kid, he would tell me to put on a coat, and I would refuse. He insists I said it was because he didn’t ask nicely (which, yes, that’s true, but not the whole point) whereas I know it’s because I wasn’t fucking cold at the time. How do I know this? Because I am never cold. I also had Graves’ disease (hyperthyroidism) when I was younger, and one of the symptoms is not being cold.

He tells it now to show how recalcitrant I was as a child, I think, but it reads very differently to me. It reminds me how unreasonable he was and how autocratic. He’s a raging narcissist, and he sees everything through the lens of how himself. My biggest issue with what he said to me, at least in the memory of it, is that he wanted me to put on a coat because he is cold. He couldn’t fathom that if he was cold, someone else might not be, especially a child of his.

I made my peace many moons ago that my parents don’t know the real me, can’t know the real me, and wouldn’t want to know the real me. I keep things close to my vest because I don’t want to expose the real me to ridicule, disbelief, or scorn. It’s difficult because Taiwanese culture in families is more porous than American culture. Much of what I took to be normal in my family is not in America, and there are parts of it that I think would even be extreme in Taiwan. However, everyone is much more in everyone else’s business there (again, within the family), so it’s hard to tease out what is specific to my family and what is culture.

What I do know is that I felt like a complete failure growing up and that feeling returns around my parents. I am the polar opposite of them in almost every conceivable way, and it’s hard to say if it’s more because that’s just who I am or if it’s reactionary. I think it’s a mix of both, but I can’t say with certainty.


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Grasping for a reason

The countdown to enforced family time is ticking, and as a result, my health is taking a nosedive. Oh, I can’t say for sure it’s related (see what I did there?), but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were. Let me amend. I know my mental health takes a hit during family time, but I can’t say for sure my physical decline is a direct correlation. I would not be surprised if it were, given that stress is really bad for health, but I can’t say it’s 100% true. I do know, however, that my brain starts thinking darker thoughts that get worse every day. I know that my sleep issues, which are problematic at the best of times, become even worse. The chattering in my brain that I can usually keep to a bare minimum grows louder, and it’s harder to block it out.

Side note: I’ve been grappling with the idea that I may have ADHD/ADD or at least some of the traits. I’ve never thought about it in the past because the stereotype is the hyperactive young boy who can’t sit still for five minutes, talks a mile a minute, and careening into things at a high velocity. None of that is me except on occasion the middle one, and I tend towards inertia whenever possible. In addition, I already know I have OCD tendencies, and to my mind, these two disorders are on the opposite sides of the spectrum. Also, I’m a woman, and ADD is notoriously overlooked in people of my gender in part because of the aforementioned stereotype. Here are the symptoms as they may present in women, and I match many of them. I also have four of the five comorbidities, which doesn’t make me feel any better. The only reason I hesitate with the label is because I have a good memory and don’t forget things. Other than that, though, everything else fits.

What really opened my eyes to the fact that I may have ADD (no H here) is when someone who has it explained that the ‘look, squirrel’ syndrome was followed by hyper-focus when he was really interested in something. That’s what tripped me up. I can do several things at one time, but if I’m really into something, I lose sight of everything else. I cannot be distracted once I latch onto one thing (or, worse, one person), and once I learned that was part of ADHD, things started clicking. Reading the list above, I’m struck by how I was just thinking this week how I couldn’t work in an office because so much of the social bullshit was such an anathema to me. I felt that way when I was in an office, and even though I can fake it because I’m really good at small talk (even though I hate it), I don’t understand the reasons behind much of it. I feel that way in general with social interactions and especially with the office. There was a letter at Ask A Manager this week in which the letter writer said she didn’t answer every time her coworker said hi in the morning, and he would confront her about it. Sometimes, it was because she had her headphones on, but also because she didn’t feel like it once in a while. She asked how she could push back on the confrontation and why he NEEDED her to say hi every day, and I wished she hadn’t added the part about not feeling like it once in a while because I knew the commentariat would focus on that–and they did.

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Not down with the illness

Remember the incipient migraine I mentioned a few posts ago? Well, it turned out not to be that, but it kinda was that at the same time. The pills I took were, indeed, migraine meds, but not the extra-strength ones I normally take. How do I know? Because I bought more migraine meds that had the same letter/number combo printed on them, and they were the regular migraine pills not the super-strong one. That’s why taking two didn’t do the job, and now I’m taking three at a time. Is it helping? Yes…and no. I still have the low-level mini-graine symptoms (headache, even more sensitivity to stimuli, nausea), but it took a backseat because other shit has hit me hard. Thursday night, I was hit with extreme diarrhea. The kind that has you glued to the toilet for a half hour, and then you’re back ten minutes later. Shadow did not know what to do with this except lie down by my feet and meow loudly in a demand to be petted. Which, fair enough, but it’s not something I could concentrate on when I was having internal issues.

I had to rush to the bathroom more than once that night, and it was the same when I got up in the morning. Before that bout, I had a four-hour nap because I was just so fucking tired. The reason I’m bringing up the nap is not just to complain–though that’s part of it. It’s because normally, when I have an issue with a diarrhea, it’s related to something I ate. This time, that doesn’t seem to be the case in that I hadn’t eaten in six hours, and the urge to shit came over me suddenly. That’s normal for when I’m dealing with this (literal) shit, by the way. It’s sudden, and it’s dire if I don’t make it to the bathroom. It was better on Friday by a margin, and it was much better yesterday (Saturday), but today it’s come back. Not with a vengeance, but I am uncomfortably aware of it. I had to go to Cubs earlier today, and it wasn’t a pleasant experience.

The other reason it was a bad experience is because it’s fucking hot again. It ‘feels like’ 94, and I felt it the second I stepped outside. Hot, oppressive, and life-sucking. I was outside for less than a minute between my garage door and my car door, and I just wanted to go back inside. I can feel my mood sour no matter how little or long I’m outside. There have been studies done about heat and aggression, and it seems pretty conclusive that the hotter it gets, the more aggressive we get. I can attest to that on a personal level, and I don’t seem to be able to do anything about it.

I’m tired. I’m depressed.  I just want to make the world go away. I was going to write a whole post about something else, but I just don’t have it in me right now. Hopefully, this bug or whatever it is will go away soon.

Hating everything…including myself

I hate the summer. I hate everything about it. I hate it with the intensity of *irony alert* a thousand burning suns. I’ve tried to describe how much I hate summer, but it’s hard to find the words to do my feelings justice. If I were to try to use my words without filters, it would just be a stream of curse words whenever I think of summer. I know I bitch the most about the heat because I am a delicate fucking flower who wilts in anything above 70.

Side Note: On Friday, one of my taiji classmates said that we could go to the lovely park on Saturday for class. Quick context: we had been going to her condo and using the rec room for the last few Saturdays, but it had already been booked for this week. That’s when she said we could go to the park (my teacher offered her house, which was where we met on Friday as well), and I said with a laugh, “You can, but I won’t be there.” It was supposed to be ‘feels like’ 95 on Saturday, and while it ended up more like ‘feels like’ 89 or so, no way in hell I was going to do anything remotely physical in the heat. Right now, the ‘real feel’ is 81, and it’s not even 11 a.m. yet. I know I sound like I’m whining when I bitch about the heat, and I am. It has such a great effect on me, however, that I can’t even think after a minute or two of being in the heat. On the way back from taiji Friday, I stopped at the gas station to buy some snacks. That’s another post for another day. I step out of the car, and–by the way. The A/C on the driver side is broken. Only the driver side. That’s how I know there is no god.

Anyhoooo. Two minutes in the heat, and I’m a wreck for the next hour. Not only am I exhausted and sweating profusely, I am angry. Not just irritated, but actually angry. I’m enough of a bitch as it is; I do not need the hotness to shorten my temper. When I’m in the heat, I’m acutely aware of how miserable I am. It’s all I can think of, and my whole world has narrowed to how fucking hot it is. Earlier, I said that anything over 70 starts that miserable feeling, but if I were going to be real with you, I’d say 65 is really the upper limit of my comfort zone. It makes it interesting for me to read debates on hot vs. cold because even the cold people are more like ’65’ is perfect. I have my heat set for 62 during the day and 60 at night (in the winter). Some of the cold people were saying that 68 was good. That’s considered cold? That’s me shorts and a tank top if I have to be civilized.


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The me I wish I could be

One thing that is amusing to me because I’m a weirdo is how people view themselves versus how they actually are. One truism I have learned over the years is that if someone insists they are, say, “Not really into drama”, then they are really into drama. Or rather, they cause a lot of drama. People are not really good at self-assessment in general, and I’m sure I can be included in that bunch. I can give you a rundown of my flaws–of which there are many–but I’m sure I’m overlooking/minimizing a few. And, to be fair to me, exaggerating others.

That said, there are many things I wished I were/liked, but I simply am not/don’t. I was thinking about this last night in terms of pop culture. I would like to be an erudite, literary person who was into highbrow culture. I am not. My preferred genre of reading: mysteries and thrillers. Preferably psychological thrillers. Music: pop/indie folk. Also hair metal bands of the ’80s, specifically power ballads. I like musicals. Movie-wise, I like smaller indie films such as Once.

I wish I could write elegant and beautiful prose, but I don’t. My writing is common, earthy, and is full of vernacular. I don’t spent ten hours on one phrase, and if I did, it would probably be worse than when I first wrote it. I don’t do descriptions, either, for the most part. When I’m reading, if a description goes for more than a few sentences, my eyes just glaze over. I’d rather picture it in my mind than read about it.

Veering wildly, I was listening to This American Life while I was in the car, and it was a repeat from the time Ira Glass toured Paris with David Sedaris (2000). I didn’t know it was a repeat at the time or that it was so long ago, but that’s neither here nor there.

Full disclosure: I do not like David Sedaris. I do not find him funny at all, and I find his writing to be arch, smug, and overly-precious. An ex-friend made me read his book once, I think it was Me Talk Pretty, and she promised she’d ‘refund’ the money for the book if I didn’t laugh. After I was done, I went back to her and demanded my refund. I didn’t get it, but my point is that I didn’t laugh once while reading the book. In fact, I cringed the whole time I was reading.

As I listened to him explain to Ira how he was motivated by fear and avoidance while living in Paris, I found myself getting irritated. The first story I heard was how his lighter had run out of fluid, and he dreaded having to ask for fire from random people on the streets. For that very reason, he carried spare lighters with him.


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How I want to play the dating game

i'm on the edge.
On the edge of a broken heart.

I was reading my stories yesterday (Ask A Manager weekend thread), and there was someone asking for some outside perspective on her relationship and whether she should leave. The issue was that her common-law husband would never admit he was wrong, and it came to a head when she was out of town for a wedding, and he went out with friends. That wasn’t the issue. What was the issue was that he had a flirty friend (FF) he’s known forever, and she and another friend spent the night with hubby. FF wore his boxers and slept in the spare room. Hubby didn’t tell his wife, and she found out from someone else.

The OP (original poster) kept stressing that she wasn’t the jealous type and how fine she would have been if he had just told her–though maybe not about the boxers part. It was interesting to see the responses. Some took her at face value at her not being the jealous type, some questioned her on that. Some didn’t see the boxers as a big deal, but most did. Some gently told her she didn’t need to have a reason to get out, and others mused that by focusing so much on how the message was delivered (by a third party), she might be not owning her hurt feelings. Still others pointed out how her husband brushing away her feelings is the real issue and how he probably won’t change. One person suggested he might be trying to push her to leave (because the behaviors have been escalating, and they’d already tried couples counseling for a few sessions until he quit).

By the time I finished reading the post, I was exhausted, and I was on the side of leave him. Not because of the incident itself, necessarily (though I am on the side of wearing someone’s boxers being too intimate. You couldn’t give her shorts or sweats? And not telling your wife isn’t good either), but because the OP sounded done with the relationship, but not sure she had a good enough reason to walk away.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from reading advice columns, it’s that you can end a relationship at any time. You don’t need what other people would consider a good reason–but because our society is so invested in the narrative of coupledom and that you’re not a complete person without someone attached to your hip (especially as a het woman, even in 2019), and you still here how a bird in the hand, etc., etc., etc., it’s no wonder that people hold onto relationships for way past their expiration date. Not to mention sunken cost fallacy, and it’s understandable.

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Wedding showers brings out my David Attenborough powers

My niece’s wedding shower was yesterday, and I managed to pull it together enough to actually go. What’s more, I got the wedding shower gift sent to her house, and Amazon sent her birthday gifts to me on time, and I had the gift bag and tissue paper ready to go. By the way, whoever invented the gift bag has my undying gratitude. I used to take pleasure in wrapping gifts by hand, but ever since I discovered gift bags, there is no going back.

I wanted to channel my inner David Attenborough before I went. I was joking on Twitter that I should study the party-goers as if they were a different species, but it was really more about cultivating Attenborough’s inquisitive and attentive attitude. He goes into any situation with an open mind, and his tone is always one of wonderment. I have never heard him be judgmental or censorious, which is quite the feat. Plus, his voice is so warm and soothing. It’s like pouring maple syrup over your problems, and it’s a balm to my soul.

I knew going into the shower that much of the issue was my own shit. Yes, I have philosophical reasons for being against weddings and showers, but I have to be honest with myself–most of my anxiety was over me being a freak and worrying about whether I would do anything to embarrass myself or my niece.

Confession: I felt an immediate connection with my niece from the moment I saw her. As I said at her shower, I never knew I could love someone like that until that moment. She looked like me when I was that age, and more than one person assumed she was my daughter when we were out and about together. Which did not go down well with her real mother. I’m sure it was complicated by the fact that she’s white with Danish/Swedish (I think) background and did not at first glance look like my niece. You can see the resemblance if you look harder, but on the surface, it wasn’t as apparent.

I thought of my niece as the upgraded version of me. There were many things that we had in common, including a love for boys at an early age, a fearlessness that, sadly, we both lost over time, a wild imagination that translated into a writing ability (and in her case, an artistic ability as well), and a few other things as well. In other ways, however, she was unlike me. She was a stunning girl who turned heads wherever she went. Rail-thin like her mother, and she had a keen interest in makeup and fashion since she was young. She wanted to shave her legs when she was eleven, and she started wearing makeup on the daily a few years later. Her favorite colors were purple and pink, which is most definitely not like me.

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I am, but. And, again, but.

I’ve struggled with identity all my life. Growing up as a fat, brainy, weirdo Asian chick in a very white Minnesota suburb was all but guaranteed to make me feel like a freak. I got picked on almost every day, and the days I didn’t, it pretty much was me wandering around lost in my own thoughts and never quite understanding what was expected of me. I like to joke that I was raised by wolves, but it’s pretty true. I have an apocryphal story about how the first pop song I heard was Electric Avenue by Eddy Grant when I was in sixth grade. The first movie I remembered seeing was Star Wars (the original, whatever the fuck it’s called) when I was seven or eight, and I hated it. I also saw Superman at the time with my youth group roughly around the same time and had nightmares for a month.

I’m just going to say it. I don’t like movies and TV for the most part. I once told a professor I had in grad school that I didn’t like movies, and she looked at me as if I said I ate puppies for fun. She said it was like saying I didn’t like sandwiches, which was a bad analogy for me because sandwiches are delicious. I realized then that my opinion was objectively Bad, and I should keep it to myself.

Side note: I wasn’t going to get into why I don’t like movies and television shows for the most part, but it’s actually an integral part of this post, so here we go, the Cliff Notes version. I have a vast imagination, and I like to let it run wild. It’s one reason I can write fiction almost endlessly, and I’ve only had one serious writer’s block in my life. Tandem to that is that my brain never. stops. thinking. Worrying, ruminating, chewing over every goddamn thing. It’s exhausting, but it’s something I’ve dealt with most of my life as well.

Put these two things together, and you might be able to see why I don’t really care for movies or television. The whole time I’m watching a movie, the criticizing part of my brain is chattering on and on about what is wrong whatever I’m watching while the other side of my brain, the creative side, is thinking of a dozen ways it would have done the scene differently–and better. I can never forget that I’m watching a movie or television, and I never really get into it.

To that end, most of the shows/movies I like either are based on the premise that the theatricality is part and parcel of the show (one reason I love musicals), or the writing is good enough to pull me in and allow me to override the chattering in my brain.


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Long groovy hair

why is this considered unprofessional?
Would it matter if this was four inches shorter?

Reading advice columns is my guilty pleasure (and I’m someone who doesn’t believe in guilty pleasures. All pleasure, no guilt!), and I’ve been fascinated by older posts in Ask A Manager about hair. One was from a woman whose husband had grown his hair in his last job and wore it in a low bun (at the nape of his neck). She was wondering if he should cut it for interviews, and the responses were fascinating. This was from April of 2017, which wasn’t that long ago. He worked in accounting, which is a pretty conservative industry. The responses were all over the map with one person actually naming herself ‘boys shouldn’t look like girls’ and labeled herself as a female, then had a incoherent answer about how the men in her job (she’s the only woman, the guys work in what she calls dirty jobs, but in customer-facing roles) had to have short hair and be clean-shaven because they needed to look professional. She was by far the outlier on the conservative side, but she wasn’t the only one who was hesitant about it.

A very interesting side conversation developed around whether it was more professional for a man to wear his long hair in a ponytail or a bun. Someone threw out the term man bun, which annoyed the fuck out of me. Someone else said, “Why not just call it a bun?” And, yes! I get that it was started as a way of poking fun, but there’s an undercurrent of, “Hey, it’s not really a girly thing at all–see, it’s a MAN _______.” Man bun, man purse, man boobs. None of that is needed. Someone explained that with the man bun, it was more about men scraping together barely enough hair to make a bun whereas most women have enough hair to make a big fat bun. I can see that point, but I still hate affixing man in front of things that are traditionally feminine.

Anyway, one person said that a topknot was unprofessional in general which was news to me. There was some regional difference as to whether a ponytail or a bun on a guy was more professional. Top of the head vs. nape of the nap. It was a robust argument, and all I could think was, “Who the fuck cares?”

There was another post about women and long hair and how it had to be pulled back to be considered professional. This was straight from Alison, and there was a lot of robust discussion in the comments. I have hair that goes past my butt–

Side Note: My hair has been waist length for nearly two decades. I cut about three inches off the ends every year or so and I’m done with it. However, in the last year or so, it’s grown about four inches and is now past my flattish yellow ass (used to be completely flat, but now there’s some ass, and it’s all in thanks to taiji). Initially, I attributed it to taiji because why not? But it makes more sense that it’s diet-related.

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What is ‘normal’ isn’t universal

run, run away.
Just looking at her makes me tired.

It’s wearing to always be the weird one. I have to get that out there before I start blathering about whatever is on my mind. Fair warning: I woke up feeling as if I was hit by a dump truck (not as bad as a Mack truck, but still), and I’m slightly dizzy and nauseated. So, I’m going to write until my brain gives out, which could be in five minutes or it could be in an hour.

One common wisdom people give about depression is to write about your feelings as a way of tracking them. It makes sense, but I refuse to do it. Why? Because I write a lot on a regular basis, and I don’t want to make it a chore, rather than something I enjoy doing. Telling myself that I have to jot down every feeling I feel is a sure way to make me not want to write. I do it, anyway, in these posts, so making myself journal seems excessive to me.

Another common wisdom to counter depression is to get some sun and to exercise. I’ve heard the latter so much, it’s embedded in my brain. My experience with exercise, however, begs to differ.

Side Note: I have SAD in the summer instead of winter, which is yet another way in which I am not normal. I love winter. I roll down the windows in my car until it’s zero degrees. I used to do it sub-zero, but I’m more sensitive to cold now that I’m an Old. My thermostat is set at 62º during the day and 60º during the night. I did not wear a coat all of last winter, but I also didn’t go out during the coldest days. I think we reached something like  -50º including the windchill, which is cold, even for me. I do appreciate the sun, but in small doses. I like it better than gloomy weather, but it has to be paired with cold.

Back to exercise. I’ve heard it all my life, and I’m sure you have, too. “Exercise drives away the depression!” Well, no. That’s not true. I found that it didn’t make my mood worse, but it didn’t help, either. No endorphin boost for me, except when I did dancing as exercise. Fast walking (and I used to do four miles a day) just made me actively angry, in part because I was getting hot and sweaty while doing it. I sweat. A lot. More than most people. I don’t have a problem with that, but it’s not fun to be bathing in it. Also, being in the heat makes me actively angry. Anything over seventy is not my happy place. I read about the office temperature wars, and I have to shake my head. Most people seem to think 70º to 75º is the comfort zone. In fact, women in general prefer a higher temp than men do. Me, I would cuss everybody out if I had to be that hot every day.

People who like it warmer complain that they have to cater to people who like colder temps, but it’s because at some point, we can’t take off any more clothing. One person on this temp war thread said their dad started a new job at a place where a woman kept the thermometer cranked to 85+º. Eighty-fucking-five. PLUS. The commenter said their dad almost fainted, and I would have fainted. The dad also kept his thermostat at 62º during the winter, so he’s my kind of people.

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