Most of the time, I’m fine with being a weirdo. Sometimes, I take a perverse amount of pride in not being traditional. My mom once said with much irritation after I–oh, I know what it was. My cousin had gotten engaged by her husband (fiancé at the time) and my mom was relating how it happened. Or at least, we were talking about it. He had collaborated with her boss to make it appear as if she had a professional meeting in another country. Unbeknownst to her, he was flying out to the same country a day early to propose to her.
My mom thought this was the most romantic thing I had ever heard. I, on the other hand, was horrified by it, as I would be by any flamboyant/public proposal. Sad to say, I went on a rant about it because I hated the whole idea and thought it was a way of one-upping other people. I also hate people having secrets about me so everything about this proposal hit me in the worst way possible.
Now, decades later, I can see that it was more about me than the actual proposal. To be clear, I would still hate it, but it wasn’t about me. It was about my cousin and what she would like–and she loved it. It made her feel loved and cherished, and it was a great proposal story she could share with people.
Just because my idea of the ideal proposal if I were into getting married, which I’m not, is for me or my lover to roll over in bed and say, ‘Hey, wanna get married?’ before hoofing it for the JoP, there’s no reason to rain on other people’s parades. Fortunately, I never said any of this to my cousin because I had a higher EQ than that.
My point is that I’m weird. I’ve always been weird. When I was younger, I couldn’t understand why I didn’t think the way other people did and I was miserable all the time. I got picked on all the time for being Asian, fat, and smart. I didn’t really have any friends and I didn’t know how to go about making them. I didn’t watch TV or go to the movies. I ate mostly Taiwanese/Chinese food before it was chic and took a lot of teasing about it at school.
I first learned about death when I was seven, which freaked me out. But, at the same time, I became inexplicitly drawn to it. It became my boon companion, both lover and bogeyman. I used to sit up in bed, my heart pounding in terror at the idea of simply not existing forever. And yet, I looked for death wherever I went because it was calling to me. I wanted to kill myself as early as eleven and that lasted…well, it’s still around in a lesser form. And it’s not that I want to kill myself, but rather than I don’t want to live. It’s hard to explain the difference. I’m not actively seeking to die and haven’t been for decades. However, I’m not sold on this life thing, either.
Partly, it’s because I’m so different in so many ways, but not different enough. I’m not mainstream by far, but I’m also not comfortable on the fringe. Mostly because I’m straight-edged and most creative types are indulgers of drink, drugs, weed, etc.
Let’s count the ways in which I’m just not like the others. There are the big ones I talk about often. I’m Taiwanese American (NOT Chinese), bisexual, agnostic, not married, and child-free. I don’t work in an office, and I don’t drink. Oh, and I don’t watch TV or movies, either, for the most part. Shall we keep going? I’m questioning my gender, but I don’t like any of the available possibilities. I was talking about it with my brother who is not known for his emotional astuteness and when I finished talking about how I felt about it, he said, “Oh, you just want to be known an Minna.”
I was blown away because he had nailed it on the head. If we’re going to talk pronouns, I don’t want one at all. I am most definitely not ‘he/him’ so that one is off the table. They/them, I just don’t like personally for the singular. I have no problem now with using it for people who prefer it, but not for me. She/her is the one that is most fraught because it’s the one I’ve used all my life. However, as with many things in my life, I feel as if it’s more default than anything else.
I’m bi because there’s nothing better. I’m agnostic because I’m neither a theist nor an atheist. I hate defining myself as what I’m not, but that’s how I figure out who I am. I’m not this or that, so maybe I’m this other thing? It’s the same with romance. Back in my teens, I wanted desperately to have a boyfriend because I thought that was what you did. I carried this mentality with me through my early twenties. I wanted a boyfriend more than almost anything because, well, I wasn’t even sure.
I think it was a way to validate that I was normal (ha!). It was also what I was taught from birth that I should want more than anything else. Well, marriage and kids, I mean. I was expected to go to college because education was important, but in part to pick up a husband. Then have kids. Which my mom bugged me about for fifteen years. The one thing I knew I never wanted! Now that my birthing years are almost behind me, I can gloat at all those people who said I would change my mind. Women. Let’s be real. It’s women.
Getting a boyfriend was also a way of proving I was loveable. I never felt I was at a kid because it wasn’t the Taiwanese way to say you love your kid. Or praise them at all. Or say anything nice about them, really. There’s always room for improvement and you would never want your child to get too big for their britches. I was a hot mess in college and not a good partner in any way. In addition, I chose guys (pre-bi years) who reinforced my worst fears about myself, especially when they dumped me.
Now that I’m reaching half a century on this earth, there is so much I’ve figured out about myself and so much more to go. It’s hard shedding one tradition after the other. Speaking of tradition, my mother said to me once in deep frustration that just because something is traditional, it doesn’t mean it’s bad. My retort was that just because it’s tradition doesn’t mean it’s good, either. Yeah, I pushed back strongly at that time because I was just tired of being told to conform.
Now, I’m old. I’m tired. I just don’t have the energy to be so mad at my age. In addition, the more I know about myself, the less I feel the need to defend myself. Maybe one day, I won’t feel the need at all.