Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Musings

All out of fucks to give

It ‘feels like’ 95, and my a/c is still busted. It’s supposed to get fixed on Thursday, which can’t come soon enough for me. I hate heat, and it really saps my energy to the point of inertia. I have a fan blowing which keeps me from tearing my hair out. I’m topless as well because I can’t stand clothes right now. I am wearing shorts, but I wish I weren’t. I’ll probably just throw on a pair of panties and be done with it (except when I’m visible to the public, of course). I crashed hard last night, too. It’s partly because I haven’t slept well this week, and it’s partly because heat makes me sleepy as well as cranky.

I really hope I’m not getting sick again, but it feels like I’m on the cusp of something. At any rate, I’m not in the mood to write anything, so here’s Locked Away because it’s on my mind and because Adam Levine is faaaaahn.

Anthony Bourdain and the legacy of depression

Content Note: In this post, I’m going to talk frankly about suicide, suicidal thoughts and ideation, and severe or chronic depression. Please don’t read if these things are trigger points for you because I want you to take good care of yourself.

I read about Anthony Bourdain’s suicide the first thing when I hopped on social media on Friday. I saw one of the people no my Twitter TL posting a clip of Bourdain and saying it was a good way to remember him. With a sinking heart, I Googled Anthony Bourdain and found out that he had died earlier that morning. For whatever reason, I immediately thought it was suicide, and I was saddened when I saw it was true. I felt even worse when I read that it was his good friend and fellow chef, Eric Ripert, who found him. I can’t imagine being in that position, and my heart hurts for Ripert.

I’ve always loved Bourdain, ever since I first saw No Reservations many years ago. His lust for life, food, culture, and people (not to mention alcohol and cigarettes) was fully displayed wherever he went. What I loved best about him is that he would approach every culture with respect, not viewing them as a curiosity or specimens in a zoo. He showed the good and the bad of the country he was in without sensationalizing it in either direction. He was a good ally, even though he probably would never use that word or recoil in horror if he heard himself being described in that fashion, which is one reason he was a good ally. But, this post isn’t about that. I will write more on that later, however.

I watched No Reservations voraciously, living vicariously through Bourdain. I like to travel, but I also…don’t. I’m very much a homebody, and I have a hard time with the actual travel. I love visiting new places and exploring, and very much like Bourdain, I prefer not doing the touristy things. I’d rather eat where the natives eat, see the funky local stuff, and go way off the beaten track. I am never as bold as Bourdain was, though, as my anxieties oftentimes got the best of me. I loved the way he would eat anything placed in front of him, and he was gracious about it, even if he didn’t care for it. He was a good model of how you should act when you visited another country. He was the opposite of an ugly American, though he’s painted as a bad boy in his own country. Or was when he was younger, at least.

I hadn’t watched his shows recently, but I saw him being fierce about #MeToo, which started because he was dating someone who had been one of Harvey Weinstein’s victim. Again, I will write more about that later, but for now, I’m going to focus on the suicide. Every time I saw a tweet or quote from Bourdain standing up for #MeToo, I smiled. Even though I no longer watched his show much, I still had a soft spot for him. And, yeah, I’ll admit I had a massive crush on him when I first started watching the show, and I still found him intriguing years later.


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Beyond freaks and geeks

Oh, you think the darkness is your ally, you merely adopted the dark. I was born in it, molded by it. I didn’t see the light until I was already a man; by then, it was nothing to me but blinding! The shadows betray you, because they belong to me. I will show you where I have made my home, I will be preparing to bring justice.

–Bane

I was born a weirdo, and I’m comfortable living on the fringe. Hell, more than comfortable–I thrive on the edges. I’ve never been a normie, even though I’ve tried hard to fit in. I wore a powder blue sweater for my senior picture, had feathered bangs, and wore makeup. Whenever I think about it or see a copy, I stare in wonder. Who was that girl, and how did I know her? When I spent a year abroad in Asia, I quit doing all the girly things I had started doing just because I felt I should. I stopped shaving my legs and armpits–I didn’t really need to especially since as a Taiwanese American person, I didn’t have much hair. I cut my hair short so I didn’t have to deal with it (and because it was too damn hot for my usual mop), and I stopped wearing makeup because it just melted off my face in a hot second, anyway.

I felt much more myself once I stripped away all that shit. I still wore earrings, but no other jewelry, and my style of dress was lackadaisical at best. In Thailand, I had someone tell me I looked like a gratui, which is a boy who dresses/looks like a girl.  It was said with a laugh and no intention of malice, but it stung. I had enough issues with my own femininity; I didn’t need other people questioning it as well. I never felt like I was enough of a woman, though to be clear, I didn’t feel like a man, either. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a boy so badly, I would pray to God to make me a boy. I mean, hey, He created the world, right? So making me a boy shouldn’t be any big thing for Him. It never happened, and I woke up every minute feeling bitterly disappointed. Again, I want to stress that I did not want to be a boy; I just didn’t want to be a girl. To me, I saw how much better it was to be a boy (in both of my cultures), and I was like, “Sign me up.”


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Walking a tightrope

i am not grace under pressure
SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP

I know I need to keep up on what’s happening in the world because I wouldn’t feel like I’m being a good citizen if I just poked my head in the sand and ignored everything around me. More to the point, it’s not in my nature to be willfully ignorant, which is why I’m never blissful. Before the 2008 election, I became obsessed with politics because I was #TeamObama from day one. The fact that a black man was running for president made politics immediately personal to me, and I had a vested interest in following his campaign.

Let me be clear. I have been a Democrat since I could vote, and I have only voted for a non-Democrat (Nader, 1996), and I made sure Clinton carried MN before casting my vote. I did it to make a point, and I didn’t like Clinton (Bill), anyway. I’ve voted straight Dem ever since. However, it was more because there was no way in hell I would vote for the Republicans rather than I was excited by anything the Democrats had to offer. Don’t get me wrong. I believe in the basic tenets of the Democratic Party. Helping the poor and needy; equality for all; social justice, etc. However, before PBO, I felt as if I was taken for granted within the party. Being an Asian American bi agnostic woman meant I was invisible in so many ways, and I never really felt a part of the party.

When Barack Obama announced his candidacy, I felt an excitement I’d never felt before. In addition, Hillary Clinton also announced she was running, and while I didn’t care much for her, I was excited to have a female candidate as well as a black one. I really didn’t know which way I would go in the primary, but Obama won me over by being inclusive without making a big deal of it. He mentioned Asians when he talked about ‘all Americans’–probably because he has a sister who’s half-Asian, and he talked about nonbelievers without making it sound like a crime (this might have been after he was elected). He also actually uttered the word  ‘bisexual’, which made my jaw drop in amazement. No one ever acknowledged that bis existed, let alone said the actual word.

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Living in an echo chamber

think again.
Not this way.

I was talking to my brother about electric cars because he’s a Tesla fanboy*, and we are both in agreement that moving away from gas cars and towards electric cars is a good thing. However, he said something about moving towards having only electric cars, and I said, “Let’s work on making hybrid cars mainstream first, then we can talk about electric cars.” My brother said hybrids were mainstream, that they had been around for a long time. I said, yes, they had been around for some time, but they certainly weren’t mainstream. We went back and forth about this for a while, and I said mainstream as in at least half of the cars were hybrid (which I was pretty sure wasn’t the case). He said he thought it was near that, and, of course, I pulled out my phone and Googled it. In 2016, hybrids were 2% of new cars sold. 2%.  I was startled by that, honestly. I thought it would be 10% – 20%, but no. 2%. My brother was stunned. He said, “Everywhere I go, I see hybrids and electrics. Most of my clients** have hybrid/electric cars. I said, “It’s because you’re steeped in the culture. You have that you’re green on your website, so your clients are self-selecting. In addition, you hang out with people with similar values, so of course you’re going to see more hybrids/electric cars.”

My point in bringing this up isn’t because I was right (although I will not hesitate to point that out), but because it’s a good example of how our unconscious biases are reinforced without us even noticing (because, unconscious, duh). My brother truly believed that hybrids were mainstream 40%-50% of new cars bought. I truly believed it wasn’t so. Obviously, one of us was wrong, and it could have as easily been me (but, it wasn’t, as I noted before). I’ve had instances before when I really believed something to be true and later found out it wasn’t. To my brother’s credit, he accepted what I told him without too much argument, which is more than some people would do. Like me, he incorporates new information into what he currently believes, even if it takes some time to adjust.

I remember during the 2012 elections, I would go around asking people in real life about a hot-button topic on Twitter. Most of the time, the real-life person would stare at me blankly, not knowing what the hell I was saying. These are people who are well-informed when it comes to politics, too. They just didn’t wade in the weeds the way political junkies on social media did. It helped me realize the dangers of social media for those of us who are heavy users. It’s way too easy to envelop yourself in a cozy bubble of yes-people and be an amen-corner for things you already believe. It’s only natural to congregate with people with similar ideas, and it’s frighteningly easy to do online. I see it happen far too often where someone who is even slightly Twitter famous quickly starts blocking people hwo disagree with them. On the one hand, I can understand. Getting hundreds/thousands of people telling you how wrong you are, most of them in very impolite words, will grind down even the most stalwart of people. On the other hand, it shuts down debate and leaves the original tweeter with only acolytes. I’ve realized that many people if not most don’t want a real debate online (including me at times) and merely want to bleat their opinions unchecked.

This bleeds over into the real world when social media users use the same jargon they do online in their real lives. Using rough metrics, there are approximately 68 million Twitter users in America. That’s a lot of users, don’t get me wrong. However, there are 326 million people in America, so roughly 1 in 5.6 people use Twitter. Honestly, that’s more than I thought it would be (displaying my own unconscious biases), but it’s still a sizable minority. So even when something is hot on Twitter, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s just as important in real life. To further extrapolate, let’s say you’re passion is electric cars (yes, using that example again), and that’s all you tweet about. All your followers and the people you follow are way into electric cars as well. If that’s all you tweet about, and they’re all, “ELECTRIC CARS ALL THE TIME”, then, yeah, you’re going to think it’s the norm.

I think by now it’s common knowledge that confirmation bias is a thing. Liberals like to point at Republicans and giggle and snort over it, but we do it as well. I’ve seen it happen more and more in the past five years or so, and I firmly believe it’s because of the echo chamber effect. As I said above, one of my saving graces is that when I’m faced with evidence that my idea is wrong, I incorporate it into my way of thinking (after a lot of research, obviously). Many people don’t seem capable of doing that, instead, contorting themselves into a pretzel in order to explain away something that threatens a deeply-held belief.

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I have a dream…or more like a nightmare

I have a dream that I’m June Cleaver with a loving husband, Ward, who goes off to work and does…work things all day long. While he’s gone, I take care of my two kids, uptight older kid, and the little scamp, the Beaver. Why is he called the Beaver? Who knows? The smarmy brat, Eddie Haskell, comes over from time to time to do whatever smarmy things he does, and I spend all day cleaning the house in heels because that’s what you do when you’re a white woman in the 50s, apparently. What the camera doesn’t show is me clutching a bottle of Valium, popping them like candy because IF ONE MORE PERSON WALKS ON MY CLEAN FLOOR I AM GOING TO LOSE MY SHIT.

Why do we never see that part of life in the 50s? How many women were sleepwalking through the day, just trying to get from one minute to another? I’ve been thinking about it for several reasons, and how in general, societal norms are so omnipresent and normative, we don’t even think to question them (society in general, not specific people). I’ve been thinking about it because of a few things I read online. One was a tweet by DJ Khaled about how he refused to go down on his wife, but expected her to do it to him because he was a man! He deserved it (but she didn’t was the implication), and given the one video of his I’ve seen, I can only conclude that it’s a business transaction for him. He gives her stuff; she gives him blowjobs. I tweeted a PSA to women who liked to get with men–don’t go down if he won’t, either. It boggles my mind that I have to say this in 2018, but there it is. I’ve also hoped that there would be less pressure on women to have kids, but apparently, it’s still pretty steady from what I’ve heard from younger women.

*sigh*

Another thing that really struck a chord with me was someone on an open thread at Ask a Manager was talking about seeing people her age (thirties) having all the ‘normal’ markers of adulting, marriage, house, kids, andd even though she didn’t want them, she was feeling as if she was falling behind. I totally empathized with that. I don’t want any of the trappings of the ‘normal’ life, but lately, I’ve been thinking how much easier it would be if I did. Not just in the big things such as marriage and kids, but in, well, almost every way.


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A general malaise

little pieces of me everywhere.
Feels like I’m coming apart.

I had two fillings put in on Thursday, and it wasn’t a big deal because they were in the front, and I had just had a root canal a few weeks ago. The dental assistant was telling me how much pain meds I could take at the end (Ibuprofen vs. Tylenol), and I said it probably wouldn’t be a problem because I didn’t take any for the root canal, and I had a Vicodin prescription filled for that. Both times, she gave me four Advil on my way out. It held me fine for the root canal, but I’m having a little more trouble this time around. My jaw still hurts–or rather, my gums–and I’m wondering if I inflamed it by brushing. I didn’t brush the first night per my dental assistant’s instructions, but I have been brushing since. I also wondered if it was because my dentist injected more numbing gel in my gums than for the root canal, but that doesn’t make sense. It might just be normal soreness, but it’s rather annoying.

I bring it up because that’s my life in general right now. Nothing big or horrific is going on, but I’m feeling a general malaise. It’s hard because logically, I know I have no reason to feel this way*, which actually makes it harder to deal with. When things are shitty in my life, I can accept that depression is the way I respond. When things aren’t shitty (and they really aren’t right now. I have great friends; my relationship with my family is the best it’s ever been; I’m writing every day; and I’m also doing taiji every day), what’s my excuse? It’s one of the problems with being intelligent and more than conversant about psychological concepts–I’m aware where I’m fucking up and how. Usually. We all have our blind spots, and therapy has helped me figure out mine In general, though, I know what’s wrong with me, and even know the ways to fix most of the problems; I just don’t do them for whatever reasons. Even when I know the reasons, it’s frustrating and embarrassing to me.

I feel aimless. There are too many things I want to do, but I just…don’t do them. I have a lot of shame about the fact that I’m a lazy bastard, but it’s not enough to motivate me to change. I’ve written before about how I’m my worst enemy, and I can talk myself out of anything by listing all the things that could possibly go wrong. I’ve been brainstorming podcasts, streaming, live-tweeting, and YouTube ideas, and all of them sound good to me, but have I done them? No, I haven’t. I know what I have to do. After all my planning, I have to just pick one and do it. The way I got myself to move to California and get my MA in Writing & Consciousness was by agonizing over it for several months, and then just doing it. It’s how I make all my big decisions, actually. My BFF reminded me once about how it looked to her when I got my cats. She said, “I said to _____ (her husband), “Minna just got cats! It’s so sudden!”.” In thinking about it, though, she realized I’d been talking about it for years before actually doing.

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Getting out of my own damn way

I’m my own worst enemy, and I know it. I can think about a hundred things I want to do or should do, but when I actually get down to the nitty-gritty, I start throwing roadblocks in my own way. I immediately think about a million of things that will go wrong, and then, more often than not, I end up doing–nothing. One big decision I made in my life was going to SF for grad school in writing. Writing & Consciousness, to be more specific. Yeah, it’s SF. Whaddya going to do?

Immediately, I was inundated with doubts. I poured them all out to my therapist, one after the other. After listening to me for twenty minutes or so, she stopped me and said, “Minna. Half of the things you imagine will never happen, and things will happen that you can’t even dream of right now.” I know it sounds cliched, but it really hit me hard. I didn’t have much control in my early life, so now, I worry obsessively as a way of trying to feel as if I’m in control. Her timely reminder that I can’t control what happens was what I needed, and it emboldened me to go forward with the move. The results were mixed, but I at least fucking did it.

You’d think I’d learn something from it, like, yeah, do something, anything, and just keep it moving. I’ve said it before, but one thing I really admire about my brother is that he’ll get an idea and just do it. If it doesn’t work, he’ll move on to the next thing. Now, obviously, there are downsides to that (like wasting time on unfinished projects), but it also means he can shrug it off when something fails or when he goes to the next project. Plus, he actually finishes a lot more things than I do. He once told me he had no regrets in his life, which blew me away. I regret everything in my life–everything! Even the good things, I can find a reason for regret.

You know what? I should take a positive example in my life–taiji. I had taken it before, and it was a terrible experience. Once I was recovered from it, I decided that I wasn’t going to throw out the baby with the bathwater. I liked taiji itself, and I wanted to take classes again. Of course, my brain was telling me a million reasons why it was a bad idea, but I managed to push through it and started researching nearby studios. I had a few things I were looking for–one was Asian-led. I let that one go pretty quickly, though, because I live in Minnesota. the second one was that the teacher was a woman. That one was a bit more fruitful, and I was encouraged. The third was no payment schemes. What I mean is, there are some martial arts schools that are more interested in getting paid than in teaching. A common way is to have paid belts. (There are no belts in taiji, or shouldn’t be.) There was one studio that insisted on a uniform and that you had to buy everything through them. NOPE.

I came across my teacher after hours of searching, and I have to say, it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. I’ve learned so much from taiji, and it keeps giving to me (even if I’m currently frustrated with it because of all the changes). It’s hard for me not to think of all the ways I’ve failed, though. All the bad decisions I’ve made, many of them in my personal life, are scarred deeply in my soul. Sometimes, I can’t help thinking about them and picking over what I’ve done wrong. Or, I Google my exes just to torture myself. (Not all of them, just the ones I regret where things went wrong.)

I tend to let things happen to me rather than actually be proactive about things. There are things I want to do, but I have a real fear of actually doing them. All these doubts besiege me, and I end up paralyzed emotionally. Let me give you a current example. I blog (duh), but I know that podcasts and vlogging are the ways of the future. Or, having a strong social media presence and piggybacking off that. Or streaming if you’re into video games, which I am. I *know* all this, but am I doing any of it? No. Why not? I’ll tell you why, one by one.

Podcasts and vlogging: I hate the way I sound and look. Now, I know the former is pretty common because we can’t hear our voices as they sound to others. I’ve accepted that I have a voice that others find soothing and pleasant, so I can deal with it. Barely. As for the latter, I hate the way I look. A lot. For several reasons. As I’ve noted before, I don’t look in the mirror unless I actually have to, and every time I do, I cringe. I don’t know if I can get past that barrier, either for vlogging or for streaming, but I know that people respond better to face cam than when there isn’t one (for streaming), especially with women, but that brings up another issue with women and streaming–the rampant sexism that women have to face online. On the one hand, there’s the death threats, the rape threats, the ‘you don’t belong here, bitch’ threats, and such. On the other hand, there’s the stalkers, the obsessed fans, and the “I want to get in your panties” assholes. For whatever reason*, misogyny just spirals out of control online.


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Let it snow, let it snow, fuck yeah!, let it snow

april snow brings may...rainbows?
It sure is purty!

I am a happy camper right now, and I’ll tell you why. It’s been snowing steadily since Friday night now Sunday afternoon), and we’ve gotten 12.5 inches of snow so far (and still counting). Yes, it’s mid-April, and no, this isn’t an April Fool’s Day joke. When I saw earlier in the week that we were supposed to get 8-12 inches, I was stoked, but skeptical. The last time we were supposed to get a lot of snow, it turned out to just be a big, fat lot of nothing. I was not about to get my hopes up only to have them dashed again. I woke up Friday morning to nothing. I tweeted about WHERE IS MY SNOW?, and a fellow Minnesotan reminded me that it wasn’t supposed to start until night. I knew that, but I was so excited, I wanted it to come early.

A light sleet started to fall around 1 p.m. Then, hail. Then, nothing. Intellectually, I knew that it wasn’t really supposed to start until late evening, but I still kept an eye out for it. Around ten, it started to snow steadily, and by the time I woke up Saturday, we had a few inches. It was lightly snowing, but I wasn’t sure we would get the real snow we were promised. Around ten a.m., it started snowing for real. Taiji was cancelled as the snow continued to fall. It made me so happy, and it kept. on. falling. By the time I went to bed, we had 7.5 inches (with other areas having a foot already), and I was pretty content with that. By the time I woke up Sunday morning, we had 12.5 inches (and it was still snowing, which it still is).

I have a longstanding agreement with myself that if we get over a foot of snow at a time, I will do nekkid midnight dancing in the snow. I haven’t had to put this into practice, but now, I actually do. Of course, there’s the small problem that I’m still sick, which means dancing naked in snow probably isn’t a good thing. Still. How many chances do I get to do this? Not many. It’ll be brief, and, disappointing the few people who ask for it every time, video-free. We’ll see if it’s actually at midnight because my sleep schedule has been all over the map since I’ve been sick. I’ve been going to bed at weird times, sleeping for longer than I normally would, and having to deal with a very cross cat when I wake up (my current theory is that he thinks he’s DYING because breakfast is at a different time every day now).

I want to say, I know most of my fellow Minnesotans are thoroughly sick and tired of the snow and cold, and I don’t blame them at all. It’s mid-April, so it should be spring! I love it, but I also know that I’ve very lucky because I have a snow guy and a garage, and I work from home so I don’t have to deal with driving to and from work. I’m totally privileged in this situation, and I fully acknowledge it. That’s part of the reason I can really sympathize with other Minnesotans. That said, I’m loving it. I love snow. I love the way it looks as it’s falling. I love the way it feels on my body. I love everything about it (until it melts and turns everything brown and muddy), and I make no bones about that.

Anyway, it’s supposed to be cold enough to stick around for a few days, and we’re supposed to get maybe an inch more on Tuesday/Wednesday (along with a little more today). I’m just going to enjoy it while I can. To my fellow Minnesotans, remember what Prince sang, “Sometimes, it snows in April.”

Waving the white flag

That’s it. I’m done. Just as I was 80% better, I got hit with the third wave of the crud. It’s my ears again, and they burn like the fire of a thousand suns. I’m sleeping way more than I normally do, which is probably good for my body, but is disconcerting to someone like me. I’m exhausted all the time, and I just want to sleep. I may see the doctor, which is a huge deal because I hate going to the doctor. I hate my immune system so much right now. Ugh.

Oh, also, I’m having strange dreams about college and relationships. I don’t know quite what to think about them, but it’s been some time since I’ve had those kind of dreams. Here’s a video of Maangchi making Korean pickles.