Underneath my yellow skin

The grand unification theory of me

This week, I finished two things. I’ve talked about both on this blog, and I’m going to do it again. The first is Spiritfarer by Thunder Lotus Games. It’s a game I had my eye on for quite some time, but I forgot about it because there was no chatter. Understandable as it’s an indie game that doesn’t neatly fit into any one genre, but, man, I really think it’s an underrated game. Those who played it and reviewed it LOVED it, but it’s not enough people. I’ve gone back and wandered about in a desultory fashion to find the secret chests I missed and because Med the community manager sent a newsletter with a BIG reveal that I didn’t get from the game itself. In retrospect, there were subtle hints, but they were easy to explain away or overlook at the time.

The other thing I finished this week was the Sabre Form in taiji. Or, as my teacher calls it, graduated from the form. The first time she said it was when she taught me the final posture of the Solo Form, and I nearly laughed in her face. I might have ‘known’ the whole form, but I wouldn’t be allowed to do it myself without heavy guidance. Now, many years later, I’ve done the form so many times, I could do it in my sleep. Well, I could have before it got radically changed by my teacher’s teacher. That’s another story for another day, though.

I can’t stop thinking about how much I hated the Sabre Form the first time my teacher taught it to me. I resented every minute, and I did not understand it at all. I wanted it to be the Sword Form, and it wasn’t. By the way, I’m beyond ecstatic that I’m learning a new Sword Form. It’s such a finesse weapon, which is not like me at all. Or at least….That’s the point of this post, and we’ll get to that later. For now, I’m musing about the Sabre Form and how it went from not to hot. While the sword is still my beloved, the saber has become my bestest friend. The karambit is the the honey of the moment, and the cane is that entertaining friend that always makes you feel better when you see them (as long as it’s not TOO often).

The saber is an infantry weapon. It’s not a thinking person’s weapon, and taiji is the scholar’s martial art. It’s about power, and I do feel powerful when I brandish it. Sometimes, I feel like a swashbuckler and sometimes I feel like a Hun. I feel as if I can do anything–and it feels good. I feel like I’m saying, “Don’t fuck with me!”, and I’m backing it all the way the fuck up.

The Sword Form is still my favorite, but it’s not about the power. It’s about elegance and grace, and it’s a finesse form. It’s about cutting someone before they know that you’ve even moved, and it’s about severing tendons. That doesn’t sound elegant or graceful, does it? The saber is about smashing and cleaving. That’s more in keeping with the nature of the weapon.

Side note: Just because the sword is a finesse weapon, it doesn’t mean it’s not deadly. It is; it’s just not the main point of the weapon.

I could talk about bladed weapons all the day long. Non-bladed weapons (such as the cane) are cool as well, but my heart is with the bladed ones. I’m all about the practical uses of the weapons, though. I’m not about the history or the different kinds of swords, for example. I mean, it’s neat information to have, but it’s not the first thing I think about when I think about my beloved weapons.

Side note II: I mentioned the deer-horn knives to my teacher because they really resonated with me. Plus, the walking the circle¬† with them meditation that she taught me really pulled me out of a rough spot, and I’ll always be grateful to them for that. She has an extra pair that she’s willing to bring to my house as soon as we can figure out the logistics. Or send them. I don’t care either way. I’m excited to try them out and continue my expansion into other internal martial arts.

It’s funny to me that I finished both these things this week. They have both been meaningful to me, but in vastly different ways. Spiritfarer is gentle, emotional, and an exploration of our complicated feelings around death and loss. Yes, there’s grief and sorrow, but there’s also laughter and love. This is my GOTY so far, and I really don’t think anything will supplant it*. I’m still thinking about it even though I’m not playing it any longer.

I think these two things (Spiritfarer and Sabre Form) are good stand-ins for the split in my personality. The hard exterior that I present to the world at large and the softer side that I keep under wraps. More to the point, it reminds me that I am multitudes. We all are, but there’s a tendency to portray yourself as one thing or the other, especially online.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, especially in terms of gender–which I’ve also written about. I don’t feel comfortable with any of the labels concerning gender. I’ve said the same thing about sexual identity, and, really, just me in general. I’m fine with ‘I’m Taiwanese American’ as long as I don’t examine it too closely (way more American than Taiwanese, except my outsides). But, start throwing in terms such as bisexual and woman, and I’m not as comfortable with it. The first I settled on because it’s the closest to being not disagreeable to me. Honestly, I’d prefer just to say I was sexual if it didn’t have a whiff of preciousness about it. I’m attracted to whomever I’m attracted to (and I don’t really have a type. I have many not-types, but not a solid type), and there are several complex reasons for it. It also depends on the situation. Attracted for a night is much different than attracted for the long run.

Woman. The word has been fucking with me for quite some time. I wanted to be a boy when I was six or seven, but that was more because of what I was told I could and couldn’t do based on how others perceived my gender. I didn’t want to be a boy because I felt like a boy; I wanted to be a boy so I didn’t have to wear skirts and I could climb trees. It was the same when I wanted to be white. It was more I didn’t want to be singled out as the slanty-eyed Oriental than any burning desire to be a blond.

So this is what trips me up. Most of my issues I have with ‘woman’ is still the definition and expectation that comes with the word. I don’t fit most of them. I never wanted to be a mother, and I have no maternal instinct. I never played baby with dolls when I was a kid (much more likely to just cuddle stuffed animals), and I’ve always found babies anywhere from vaguely to intensely annoying/irritating. I used to say I didn’t want kids, but I liked them until I realized that wasn’t really true, either. Or rather, I don’t want to spend time with them. I will if I have to, and it’s fine, but I would choose to do almost anything else. I like certain individual children, but as a category of people, they interest me very little.

I don’t wear makeup and I don’t give a shit about clothing. Part of this is because I am allergic to absolutely everything and when I tried to wear makeup back in the nineties, well, let’s just say that hypoallergenic makeup was not really a thing back then. As for clothes, I hate the feel of it on my skin. Doesn’t matter what kind of clothing–the less the better. That’s a sensitivity issue, and I wear as little of it as possible.

Just about everything deemed womanly, I either don’t get or don’t care much about. Cooking? Don’t care. Shopping? Hate, hate, hate. Rom-coms disgust me in general, and I could go on and on. Perfume? Allergic to most of it. The only thing ‘girly’ about me is my hair. Oh, and my tits, but there’s not much I can do about them.

Here’s the rub, though. I don’t want to be a man. I don’t feel like a man, and they’re also an anathema to me. I did like sports once upon a time, and the video games I play tend to skew more towards the ‘masculine’ side, Spiritfarer, notwithstanding. I do a martial art, but it *is* taiji, so that probably negates the masculine factor. I’m intensely competitive, but not in a put down other people sort of way.

And, again, I’m getting hung up on the fact that most of what I feel about gender is because of how heavily proscribed gender expectations are in this society. My push-back is on the expectations, not on what I do and don’t like. Oh! Forgot one. I like sex much better than relationships and I’m much better at the former than the latter. That’s been a particularly toxic one to unwrap–how hard it was to accept that part of myself given my fundamentalist upbringing.

I don’t feel comfortable with nonbinary or genderfluid, but it could just be because they’re new concepts to me. I haven’t had time to really ruminate over them. I doubt it’ll matter, though, because I spent so much time thinking about my sexual identity before coming up empty-handed. Partly because of the real limitations of words and definitions, but partly because it’s changed over time and keeps changing. It’s the same with gender, but it’s more pressing because it’s something that’s always with me whereas I haven’t had sex in…quite some time.

There’s a part of me that says, “What the hell does it matter, Hong?” I call myself by my last name. Dunno why. It really doesn’t, honestly, but it still bugs me. I would like to be able to fit in somewhere, but I should know by now that what I’d need to do to fit in is not an acceptable trade-off to me. One of these days, maybe that lesson will actually sink in.


*Always with the asterisk that this would change if Elden Ring came out this year.


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