Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Musings

Going harder on my teenage years

I have more to say about my teenage years.

I really wish that I had known much earlier that my family was fucked up. That it wasn’t just cultural difference. Yes, my family is Taiwanese American (my parents are Taiwanese, full-stop), but it was also highyl dysfunctional. My parents never should have gotten married, and my mother had (and still has) very toxic ideas about family and what it means to be a woman.

I had untreated depression and anxiety. To be fair to my mother, she found me a therapist when I was fourteen or fifteen, but it was a man from the local uber-Christian college. He was pleasant enough, but he was not used to dealing with emo angst-ridden teenage girls. Who weren’t white. I was also bullied a lot in school for many reasons, including being Asian and fat. I would venture, though, the fact that I was just weird contributed to most of it. And I mostly got teased by girls, which can hurt way more. Boys are mean–girls are cruel.

The worst was a girl who picked on me every day in…I want to say chemistry. Not sure of the class. But she was just mean to me. For no reason. Except that I was a weirdo. I did not knwo how to fit in (my empathic skills did not help me out until I went to college), and I just stuck out like a sore thumb.

This girl (I still remember her name) would not let up. I tried to ignore her, but it did not work. One day, I had enough. When she teased me, I grabbed her hair (very short), yanked her head back, and calmly told her I would kill her if she did not leave me alone. Then I let go of her hair and stared down at my desk. She told me I was making a fool of myself, but there was fear in her voice for the first time. She left me alone after that. I felt horrible, and I never did that again. I took the wrong lesson from it; that violence was not the answer. I mean, it’s not, but that shouldn’t have been the sole lesson. What I should have noted was that sticking up for myself worked. Then I should have found ways to stick up for myself verbally. But, you know, I bet she learend a lesson as well–to not fuck with someone. And, yes, sometimes, might makes right.

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Teenage angst manifested

I missed my teen years when recounting my history. I mentioned it briefly, but I glided right by it because, well, to be honest with you, that was the worst decade of my life. That’s saying a lot because my whole life until my fiftes has been pretty miserable. It was my teens, though, when I actively wanted to die, had dissaciative breaks from reality, got anorexic (with a side helping of bulimia), and hated everything. I skipped to my twenties, which weren’t great–but not as bad as my teens.

Side note: When my older nephew was four or five, we were playing Uno. He was throwing a tantrum becasue he could not stand to lose. I wasn’t trying to win, mind you, but it’s hard to cheat at Uno–even in favor of someone  else. I was sympathizing with him because I hate to lose as well. I try to keep it to myself, but it comes out from time to time. He was sighing and rolling his eyes, and he was acting as if the weight of the world was on his shoulders. I asked him what was wrong. He said that he hated it. I asked what he hated. He sighed again and said, “Everything.” It broke my heart, but I understood becasue I felt like that all the time, too.

Back to my teens. I was deeply depressed and wished to die every day. I could not remember a moment of joy, and it was grueling just to slog through every day. I was a good student without even trying, but my parents ignored that. They just scolded me when I got anything less than an A. If my brother got a B, on the other hand, then he got praised to high heaven and given money. It wasn’t until much later that I realizedh he had a learning disability and was on the spectrum. School was not his thing, even though he was off-the-charts smart. My mother didn’t think about him being on the spectrum or having a learning disability. To her credit, though, she bought him a (then very expensive) Apple computer (I think it was an Apple? this was back in the late 70s/early 80s) because he was interested in all things electronic. That saved him, I’m convinced, and he still talks about it with fondness.

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My turbulent twenties (and maybe thirties)

In my last post, I wrote about my life in the naughts and my teens. I’m up to college. College was an interesting time for me. There were positives and there were negatives. The biggest plus is that I lost both my virginity and my religion in the same night! I was twenty and ready to jettison both. I’ll get to that in a minute. I fucked myself up before going to college by becoming anorexic, but it was inevitable given my mother’s obsession with being skinny. I mean, it was inevitable since she nagged me about my weight all. the. damn. time. Pro tip: there is no better way to fuck up your girl child than to constantly harp on her weight. You’re welcome.

Oh, and disguising it as concern for her health isn’t fooling anyonee, either. My mother tried that tactic, and I saw right through her. She never said a word when I was anorexic and fainting because I was not eating enough to walk. When I was at my skinniest and looked like death warmed over, the only comment she made was that my waist was tinier than hers–and it wasn’t complimentary. She’s four inches shorter than I am and has a smaller frame than I do, so it ws a double-whammy that I was skirrier than she was.

When I was in my mid-to-late thirties and medically obese, I had to tell my mother that she could not mention my weight at all–no, not even under the guise of “I’m concerned about your health”. She made the face she always make when she’s not happy with what was said to her (as if she’d eaten an extremely sour lemon)  and tried to push the health angle.

I was having none of that. I knew it wasn’t abo;ut my health, and I was not going to let her gaslight me into pretending she gave a shit about my health. She still tries to find ways to sliiiiiiide it in, but I shut that down. I am not having any of that, especially since I’m in love with my body now. IN LOVE. I’ll get to that later, though, when I get to my fifties.

I made the best decision of my life in my early twenties. It was a negative decision, but that’s how I make most of my decisons. Well, not exactly. Normally, I made decision s by thinking of all the things I hate about every choice and then going with the one I least hated. In this case, though, it was a decision I joyfully embraced. When I say it was a negative decision, I just mean it was the decision not to do something rather than to do something. I’ve mentioned it many times before because it changed my life. Even more than dying twice did. And it wasn’t a conscious decision, really. It was more…look. It’s like this.

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I’ve been thinking about gender more because I watched Next in Fashion and had some really big issues with the way gender was portrayed. Or rather, how rigid gender was defined. It also darkly amused me that they were talknig about how gender didn’t matter, and yet, everything for women had to be form-fitting. And showing off nonexistent boobs.

When I was eight, I hated being a girl. Not because I felt like I was a boy–I didn’t. But because I was told by so many women in the Taiwanese church that I wsa not acting like a girl should act. Over and over again, I was admonished for liking to run outside, climb trees, and for laughing too loudly. I hated wearing dresses/skirts, and if I did stay inside, I just wanted to read. I did not want to play with dolls or makeup or clothes.

I never felt like a boy; I just did not want to be made to act like a girl. Yes, even as young as eight, I was aware that the gender I was born into was not the one that felt comfortable for me. My solution at that time was to pray to a God I didn’t really believe in to make me the other (binary at the time) gender, a boy. God was all-powerful–or at least, that was what i was told when I was a kid. It should have been very simple for him to make me a boy. Yes, I now know that God doesn’t work that way, but, honestly, why couldn’t He? I still don’t understand how the God who was presented to me when I was a kid as all-knowing and all-powerful couldn’t make me a boy if He so chose. He could have, the explanation went, but He chose not to because He works in mysterious ways.

Look. I get it. God is not a vending machine. You can put a quarter in Him and get a candy bar out of Him. He’s also not a McDonald’s in which you can have your burger made to order. At the same time, Christianity tried so hard to sell Him as the God who can do anything, you would not be remiss to wonder what you needed to do to get Him to pay attention to you.

Let me be clear. I have never felt like a boy. I never thought I was a boy. I just hated being a girl because it felt so limiting. Think about that. At eight years old, I had been fed so many poisonous beliefs about girls that I wanted to be anything but one. I used to wake up disappointed because I was still a girl. That was not a good feeling, I’ll tell you that much for free.

Then, when I was in college, I hung out with mostly dudes. I did not like so-called girly stuff like clothes and makeup. I did not want to giggle and gab because that was just not my style. I was a down-to-earth person. At the time, i liked sports. I did not like outdoor activities, which made me an anomaly in Minnesota, but I definitely leaned more towards the male side of things, and I didn’t see any reason to hide it.

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Fashion and fat-phobia go hand-in-hand

In my post yesterday, I wrote my review about the second season of Next in Fashion, a Netflix show. I have more to say about it, apparently. It’s been lurking in the back of my mind, waiting to have its day. The further I get from watching it, the more it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I think it’s because they tried so hard to be diverse and to say that everyone is welcomed  in the industry when it’s simply not true. It has never been, but I get that it’s nearly impossible to see outside your particular framework.

Or, as is often the case, the people who can see the issues have no power to change or improve the situation. there may be people at the entry level who realize what bullshit it is, but they can’t do anything about it. In addition, there are millions of hungry young people who are eager to be in the industry. They are willing to be exploited and abused. If any one individual isn’t, then they will get pushed out of the industry.

Side note: Another reason I don’t like fashion is because there is s much rigidity in the gender roles. There are men and there are women, and enevr the twain shall meet. On the show, it was considered daring to have clothing that people of any gender could wear. Or making a skirt for a man. I mean, come on. Putting a skirt on a dude is almost quaint at this point.

I was annoyed that in at least one of the briefs there was the edict to make an outfit for a woman and an outfit for a man. Yes, I know, that’s the way the industry has always been. That’s not next in fashion, is it? It’s just a little precious to me that they were saynig they were tyring to find something fashion-forward and daring when they can’t even get out of the binary and get past the fatphobia.

I know it’s asking too much. The industry is steeped with sexism and fatphobia. It’s not going to change any time soon. But, can they at least join us in this millennium? I don’t get the stubborn insistence that they have to design clothing for women who look like 12-year-old boys. Tall 12-year-old boys. No boobs, no hips, no ass. Thighs not touching, and, yeah, I’m going to say it, anorexic. It seems like the guys are getting thinner, too, which was not the direction I wanted this to go in. Equality to me means allowing every the opportunity to expand–literally. It’s really hard for me to have any interest in an industry that is actively telling women they need to be so much less.

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Next in Fashion Season 2 review

I don’t watch much TV, but one genre I like is what I call gentle competition. They are shows with contestants, but they are helpful to each other and the shows emphasize camaraderie rather than competition. Think The Great British Baking Show (you can tell when I last watched that show) or Sugar Rush. I prefer the ones that are a season long, eliminating one person per episode, but the latter’s format of four teams per show and one winner at the end of each show is fine, too.

My bestie, K, also likes these kinds of shows. She has a stressful job and it’s her way of relaxing. We talk about them and recommend shows to each other. She told me about the bartending one, which I really liked. Drink Masters, it’s called, and it’s on Netflix. I don’t love the fact that they feel the need to hire comedians for the emcee/host and feed them tired old jokes (for all the shows), but I’ve accepted that is part of the genre. Tone Bell is the host of Drink Masters, and he’s probably my favorite of all the hosts across all the shows. He’s much more laidback than the others and has a warmth that feels authentic.

I watched the first season of Next in Fashion, another Netxflix show, despite my skepticism. I am so not a fashion person. I mean, it would not be too much to say that I am the anti-fashion person because I just don’t care what I look like. Also, because my gender is undetermined at this point, I can’t with the hyper male/female emphasis in fashion. K and I talked (outside of this show) how we both were more comfortable with androgynous people in general. I have talked at length about my current identity (agender), which is mostly because gender is not important to me. I don’t see how I need to act or dress in a certain way because of my perceived gender, and it’s really hard for me to be all GIRL POWER when it’s based on something that is hyper-feminine. I’ll get to that more in a minute.

To my surprise, I really enjoyed the first season of Next in Fashion. There are a few reasons for that. One, the chemistry between the two hosts, Tan France and Alexa Chung, was strong. They seemed like two buddies who would go out and grab a meal together, just to chat about life in general. Yes, there were cringe-indiucing humor that wasn’t funny, but they seemed to be equals. I put that out there because I want you to remember it when I get to talking about the sceond season.

Another reason I really liked the first season is because the winner (spoiler, obviously), truly was different, fresh, and something that hadn’t been seen before.

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Gender! What is it good for?

In the last post, I was talking about a comment in the weekend Ask A Manager forum asking if a single woman and a married man could be friends. I digressed (as is my wont) before gettinrg to my main point about the comment. I was very sarcastic in recapping the comment (it was deleted by Alison) but in essence, it was saying that since Alison was grcious enough to allow LBGTQ+ questions, then we should STFU when straight questions are asked. It was upset by the comments from LBGTQ+ people (including me!), and it finished by asking how we would feel if they (presumably stragight people) dismissed our questions as LBGTQ+ nonsense.

Tell me you don’t consider LGBTQ+ people equal without saying you don’t consider LGBTQ+ people equal. The fact that she dared to drag Alison into the  mess is even worse (argument by authority, by proxy). It’s very much ‘This is MY house, and you are lucky that I allow you in it!” energy. The very fact that the commenter thought it was fit to mention that Alison was so graceful to allow us filthy queers to even ask questions in her pristine forum (again, not how she herself feels. At all) told me all I needed to know.

A question for the hets? All the fucking questions are for the hets! This is so fucking irritating about being the minority. There is a quote that is oft-said on this topic, but cannot be attributed (which means it’s probably a minority woman):

When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.

The finst time I read that quote, it hit me hard. I am a minority in so many ways, and I just dealt with the frustration of trying to explain my position to the majority by mentally shrugging my shoulders and moving on. But it still hurt. It still was frustrating. And this quote perfectly encapsulated why people in the majority push back so relentlessly on equality. They ARE losing something because they had a bigger piece of the pie for so long. It’s natural to feel upset when you get leess. That’s human nature.

In this case, though, as with many cases, it’s laughable. Heterosexual relationships/marriages are still the norm. Yes, being queer is more acceptable these days. We have same-sex marriage (still to my surprise), but that doesn’t mean discrimination still doesn’t happen. It doesn’t mean that het monogamous marriage isn’t still considered the norm.

The fact that this commenter STARTED by trying to put queer people in their place was very telling. It showed that we were there on the sufferance of Alison (in the commenter’s mind) and that we were outsiders and interlopers. The funny thing is that most of the queer people had thoughtful, nuanced comments. The lesbian who wrote that it was straight people nonsense, well, she wasn’t wrong.

Jealousy isn’t a straight thing, obviously. Neither is navigating friendships with people you’re attracted to/are attracted to you, but the way it was stated was very het. Single woman and married man. Marriage equality has been the law of the land in the States for less than a decade at this point. That means a lot of queer people didn’t have the legal protection that straight people had for much of our country’s existence.

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Friends of another gender flock together

In the weekend Ask A Manager, there was a question asked if a single woman and a married man could be friends.


Well! Glad that was an easy question to–oh, wait. What? Not everyone agrees with me? Oh dear. Do I really want to–


What year are we in again?

Checks calendar. 

2023. We’re in the year of our grumpiness 2023, and it’s still a question whether men and women can be friends*.

Now, with that out of the way, let’s tackle the thread and what was said. Remember, the site is overwhelmingly progressive women (in the commentariat). There were plenty of people saying why do you need different rules for differently-gendered friendships, and those are my people. But, there were sitll more than a small minority of people who had all these rules for a friendship of a single woman nda a married man. Funnily enough, most of them assumed you bcame friends after the man was married, not before.

In general, there was an undercurrent of ‘you can be friends, but not good friends’ for those on the ‘men are from mars and women are from venus’ crowd. There was even one who actually said something about that old saw about bisexuals…um, I may be old, but I’m not a saw! She tried to dance around it by saying that it was different culturalization, but not really. I gerw up in the same society she did–though I do have a Taiwanese background, which makes it doubly sexist. So you would think I would be more entrenched in sexist beliefs. But since my twenties, I have been questioning needless gender roles and tossing them aside.

That woman I just mentioned was a hot mess. She believed that every man wants to have sex with every woman, apparently, because she does not believe men and women can truly be friends. Which, fine for her (albeit very limiting), but she states it as if it were facts. Which it simply isn’t. It just is not. I have had many friends of different genders who have not wanted to bone me and/or vice-versa (including men!). Anectdote is not data, and my experience is just as valid as hers.

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Cause and effect in the wrong order

After I got out of the hospital, I had to deal with my parents. This was by far the hardest part of the whole ordeal. My mother sent my brother and me this long email about Taiwanese culture and respecting your elders. She said that my brother and I needed to love and respect my father more. She actually wrote that down without wincing at how gross that was.

I’m not saynig that Taiwanese culture is not heavy on elder respect. It is. It’s a patrilineal society–at least it was back in the day. Countries change in time, much as people do. Taiwan was the first Asian countrty to make same-sex marriage legal, and though there have been legislation proposed to change this, it’s still currently legal–more or less. Since that’s not the purpose of this post, I’ll leave it at that for now.They also have a female president and have had her since 2016. In other words, they are more progressive in some ways than we are.

In addition, even though my mother likes to pull out Taiwanese culture like a trump card when she wants to get her way, she refuses to recognize that my brother and I were born and raised in Minnesota. Which, in case you can’t tell, is in the United States of America. We don’t give a shit about elders here! That’s not true, but I’m tempted to say that to my mother when she trots out Taiwanese culture.

The other thing is that not everything about every culture is good. Obviously. There are bad things in every culture so just saying something is part of a culture does not automatically make it worth venerating. I am not against showing respect towards elders, but…and I say this as an elder, it shouldn’t be mindless respect. I’m not saying you have to be disrespectful until they prove their worth, but so many things are covered under the guise of ‘respect your elders’. It’s adjacent to ‘but faaaaaaaaamily’.


My point, though, is that you can’t make someone respect or love someone else. It’s galling that my mother would even think that she had the right to order my brother and me to do that. It’s not surprising, mind, as she’s spent her whole adult life catering to my father and slavering over him. She has made being subjugated to him her entire identity and it’s only gotten worse with time. But it’s frustrating that as a therapist, she cannot understand that you can make anyone feel positive about someone.

She seems to think she can order my brother and me to have different feelings for our father. It smacks my gob that she can’t see that my father is getting the amount of love and respect he deserves. They both think that as parents, they should automatically get both because they are our parents. It’s circular reasoning at best. And, yes, this is probably a more Western way of thinking about things, but I don’t give fealty for no reason.

If my parents were not my parents, I would feel more pity for my mother. She has spent 55 years scraping and bowing to my father, who has only taken it as his just due and gets mad when her attention is off him for even a second. She has bent herself into an unrecognizable pretzel, and she doesn’t even realize it.

Making excuses for him is like second nature to her by now. There is an unspoken code in the family that he is not to be upset in any shape, matter, or size. My mother treats him like a baby/toddler who cannot self-soothe. To be clear, he has a low frustration tolerance (so do I, actually), but I do wonder if back in the first years of their marriage, what would have happened if my mother had put her foot down to my father’s nonsense.

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Private and personal

I was reading some old Ask A Manager posts and came across one that was from a manager who was curious about their report, Adam. The letter writer (LW) said that Adam never volunteered anything about his personal life despite having worked on the team for six years. Two months before the LW wrote in, they noticed a ring on Adam’s left third finger and wondered if he had gotten married. In the past, whenever he put in for time off, LW would casually ask if he was going on vacation and he would say yes. Nothing more.

The LW, while emphasizing several times that it was fine that Adam was private, really, really wanted Alison to give them a way to pry. No matter how many times they said it was fine that Adam didn’t want to talk, the undercurrent was that it was very much not fine. Not in a ‘it’s bad for the tieam’ way, but in a ‘I really, really want to know’ way.

Which, I get. If you’re around someone eight hours a day, then it’s natural that you want to know something about them. But, I’m on the other side because I’m the freak. If I were in an office, I would have nothing to talk about. I don’t hate the snow–I love it. I hate the summer and the heat. I don’t watch movies or TV shows. I haven’t read a book in quite some time. I really need to start that up again, bu even that would be me just reading Asian women writers. Which, I can tell you, is not ‘normal’ at all.

I’m not partnered and have no kids. I don’t take vacations. There was a weekend thread asking for small talk questions. The ones people were suggesting were right out for me as well, such as food. What’s your favorite food? What my favorite food is and what I can actually eat are two very different things.

I am not religious. I do not want to talk about religion. At all.I am agender, not into monogamy, marriage, or anything like that. Someone in the commentariat said that they would be more inclined to go the extra mile for someone they knew something about. People argued, but I got what she was saying (I don’t like her in general). I don’t necessarily agree with her because you can have a warm relationship with someone without it being personal (so many people think I’m their best friend when I tolerate them at best), and a big part of it is listening. Most people want to talk about themselves so it’s a good way to seem engaged. Asking a few well-timed questions can aid this process.

In addition, my hobbies are writing (currently struggling with a memoir about dying twice), FromSoft games (video games in general, From in particular), and Taiji weapons. The first in general is a suitable topic, but then I have to explain the background if I want to talk about why I’m writing about it. Which I would not want to bring up in a workplace.

K likes to remind me that my dying (twice!) is a big part of my life story and that I should be ok with talking about it. Which, yeah, but in a work setting, it’s way too heavy. I guess if it’s one I’d been in for years, they would know what happened to me. At least the basics. It’s weird, though. I was up and walking in less than two weeks of the initial incidences. So in theory, I could have been back at work within two weeks. I would have been a hot mess and could not do anything for more than five minutes, but I could have been there. In a month, I would have been back to ‘normal’.

Side note: I’ve realized more and more how the stroke has affected me in small ways. My short-term memory is dodgy. I can take in some information, store it away, and then promptly forget it. It happened in my last private Taiji lesson. I wanted to learn some Bagua (a different internal martial art), so we’re walking the circle. I already knew how to do it with the DeerHorn Knives, but she’s teaching me the basics.

There is the Single Palm Change and the Double Palm Change. I’ve done the former and assumed the latter was, well, changing the palms twice. It’s not. It’s hard to explain, but single and double palm changes are called that because they have the palms doing one thing and two things respectively. One turns to the inside and one to the outside.

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