Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Family

Resting Blank Face

When I was young, I was taught that my emotions were not allowed. More specifically, my negative emotions. I was not supposed to be angry or sad or upset. I was not supposed to disagree with my parents in any way. I was supposed to paste a smile on my face and act like I was happy/grateful/upbeat all the time.

I have to say. Upbeat is not in my vocabulary. Not by a long shot. Even when I’m happy or elated about something, I’m very lowkey. I have had to learn in online communication that I can come across as flat, so I need to add emojis and exclamation points. I’m verbose, yet, but I’m also factual. I don’t tend to be flowery in my writing, so I can come across as dry.

In real life, I have perefcted the blank face. It’s my resting face, and I have to actively add emotion to it if I don’t want to be perceived as being emotionless. I had a Taiwanese roommate once tell me that he could not see a guy asking me out. This did not come out of nowhere, by the way. I was complaining about being hit on as I did my moring walk. At least once a week, a guy would try to come onto me. It was always white and black guys, though–never Asian guys.

When my Taiwanese roommate said this, I retorted that not all guys were afraid of a strong womnan. It wasn’t very tactful of me, but he hadn’t been tactful, either. He was very much into the steretoypical Asian woman, but then he would complain about how bored he was of the women he was dating.

Not only had I trained myself not to show my emotions, but I also trained myself not to show pain. Physical pain, I mean. As a result, my pain threshold is insanely high. When we were doing chin na (joint manipulation) techniques in Taiji, this was a problem. You’re supposed to tap out when the pain was too much, but I would never tap out. Not because I was trying to be hard, but because I truly could not feel it.

My teacher finally decided that I could only practice with her because she did not want me to be hurt. She was the only one experienced enough to realize when to back off without me having to tap out. She talked to her teacher about it and one time, he was in our class to practice/watch. He suggested i stand on my tiptoes, and then i was abble to feel the pain. I did, and he demonstrated. I automatically felt the pain and tapped out. He said that when you were on your toes (generic you), you can’t tense up your muscles/joints.

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The new and improved me

I am perfect the way I am. No, that’ is not true. I am joking, obviously. I have as many flaws as my arm is long, but I have realized the older I get that there is only so much I can do about it. Back in the day, I would set goals and/or resolutions and then fail miserably at them. It’s beacuse I am an all-or-nothing kind of person. I don’t know moderation, which is one of my flaws. Ironic, really.

I used to do the ‘lose fifty pounds in a month’ thing–which is ridiculous. Trying to lose weight in general is futile. There is a stat that has been bandied about that 97% of people who lose weight gain it back–and more. There was a letter to How To Do It (Slate’s sexxxxxytimes advice column) in which the letter writer told his wife (they had kids) that he was no longer attracted to her because she gained thirty pounds in the last two years–and her health, though. To be more precise, she gained 31 pounds. Yes, he knew precisely how much it was.

She agreed to lose the weight, which meant she  made two dinners every day (one for her and one ofr her husband and the kids) and went to the gym to work out. Her hubby complained that it meant more work for him at home, but he was very ‘patient’ about it. Imagine heavily-laid sarcasm infused into the word ‘patient’.

She got down to a weight that he deemed acceptable, but then she wrapped herself in huge clothing, complaining about being too cold and too tired for sex. She had it, but she wasn’t as adventurous as she was before. She wouldn’t derss in the hot clothes he wanted her  to and he was at a loss as to what to do. She also didn’t want to have sex with the lights on. He noticed other men eyeing her up and down, but she seemed oblivious to the stares.

Rich took him to task for being the sexist pig that he was an utterly repugnant. The commentariat was nearly unanimous in condemning him (which, frankly surprised me as they were pretty fatphobic), but more than one person commented that gaining thirty pounds in two years (gee, what happened in the last two years that might have made it easier to gain weight?) was a bad thing.

First of all, no.

See how easy that was? Look, I know that this country worships at the altar of painful skinniness, but there is not any sustained research that says being fat in and of itself is a bad thing. In fact, I have read more research saying being underweight is worse for you than being overweight, but you never, ever hear anyone say they’re concerned about a too-thin person ‘for their health’.

In addition, several people had antiquated ideas of what is a normal weight for a person, especially a woman. I’m 5’6″. When I was at my skinniest–fainting on the dance floor with a 27″ waist–I weighed 138 pounds on my homescale (which meant probably five more pounds on the doctor’s scale).That was JUST under overweight on the BMI scale. I have very dense muscles and look like I weigh tthirty pounds less than I do.

More to the point, people who say that they’re worried about someone’s health is lying. You cannot tell how healthy someone is by looking at them. Or what they eat. In general, yes, you’ll probably be in better shape if you eat plenty of veggies and fruit. But it varies with each person and it’s not as you’re innoculated from anything bad happen if you eat ten fruits and veggies a day.

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New year–let it snow!

It’s snowing. We are supposed to get 4-7 inches. It’s the best kind of snow, too. Large, fulffy flakes gently wafting to the ground. I got Thai carryout yesterday so I’m set for the next few days. I am so lucky that I don’t HAVE to drive anywhere and have a guy to plow. Therefore, I can enjoy the snow from the safety of inside my house.

It’s white and cheery outside my window. Well, white is a fact and cheery is how I feel. I love snow. I will say that in the RKG Discord, there is a channel for grot called #slug-love. It’s also the channel in which we support each other, and it’s my favorite channel. It’s the last channel (they’re alpha within the category), which is fitting.

I have a running gag of reporting how much snow we are supposed to get, but with no context so it sounds like I’m talking about sex. I did this yesterday, and someone gave a treatise on the average size of the male penis and how me looking for half of what is expected is unrealistic. At the end, he said, “Unless you’re talking about rain or snow. I can’t tell.”

I could have kept going, but I took pity on him and said that I was actually takling about snow. But it’s fun to be able to riff on that with like-minded people. And it’s contained in one channel so you don’t have to dip in it if you don’t want. There are a half-dozen of us who are regulars, and then there are probably a dozen people who drop in semi-regularly. Then another half-dozen or so who say hey infrequently. It’s always fun to see new faces, though! One person came in to tell us that we were all really inventive, which was a nice boost.

It’s funny. I used to be very dirty when I was in my twenties. It was in reaction to being raised in a very fundie, restrictive, Evangelical Christian household. I’ve written about how I was taught that having premarital sex would send me to hell, which was such bullshit. Once I went to college, I let my imagination run wild, and it was so much fucking fun. I talked about sex all the time (way too much), and I felt so free.

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Two days into the new year

It’s funny. I’m not a holdiay person or a traditional person by any means, but I cannot escape the trappings of societal beliefs surrounding certain days. New Year’s Day is one of those. I don’t know why as intellectually, I know January 1st is just another day. I don’t feel like a birthday is a big day, so why do I put so much importance on the first day of the new year? It’s just the same as the old year, really. It’s not as if there is some big change on the day itself.

Saying this, I do want to do the goal a month thing. It has to be big enough that I’m not going to shrug it off, but it can’t be so big, it’ll be impossible for me to complete.

Before I get to it, let’s talk about Elden Ring a bit more. That’s what I ended the last post on, and, let’s face it–it’s the game I obsessed over for much of last year. I probably will play it more this year as there are a few things I had’nt done before, but not much. I am looking  forward to Armored Core 6, but I’m curious to see what FromSoft will be doing with it.

Let’s talk about Malenia some more. She is in an optional section that is really difficult to access in the first place. You have to light these three beacons or something like that in an optional ‘town’–which, in and of itself isn’t that bad. But, this is the town of the Black Knife Assassins, and–a little-known fact: the BLack Knife Assassins are all women. I love this. There is always a faction in the From games that is made of women. In the Souls series, it’s the butchers. In Bloodborne, it’s….ah….OK, this is not a thing in BB, apparently. Of course I looked it up. In Sekiro, it’s the Sunken Valley Clan. They are all women, including the two mini-bosses, Snake Eyes Shirafuji and Snake Eyes Shirahagi. They are badass shooters who are really hard. The enemies, I mean. The mini-bosses are…not fun. And also optional.

In Elden Ring, it’s the Black Knife Assassins. They are insanely hard, and they are invisible until you’re right up in their grill. There is a torch that can reveal them, but that means not having a shield. I mean, you can equip it in your weapon hand, but then you can’t attack them, obviously. Or maybe you can, but it’s not going to do that much damage. They do an incredible amount of damage themselves, and they do bleed, which will quickly build up and take a chunk of health at a go. One weapon I used for a time was the Black Knife, it’s a dagger that does bleed damage and you have to beat a really difficult Black Knife Assassin in the Altus Plateau to get it. It’s fast and does loads of damage, though.

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Sliding into a new year like….

In the last post, I talked about my mother and how she was not going to change. Which means it’s up to me to adjust how I react to her. Before I ended up in the hospital, I had managed to find a faux-equilibrium. I say faux because I still did not want to deal with her and dreaded it, but it didn’t send me into a deep depression the way it did when I was in my twenties. We talked maybe once a month and then I put her out of my mind for the rest of the time. She would send me an email once a month or so when she wanted me to edit something.

Then, they came here and everything was thrown into chaos. I found out how little they actually cared about me–or rather, it was confirmed. I already knew, but it had never been clearer. And it made it nearly impossible for me to go back to being fiercely noncommittal.

Theoretically, nothing had changed. I already knew that my parents didn’t see me as an individual person with thoughts, feelings, hopes, and emotions of my own. I was simply their child and everything that they foisted upon that ideal.

My mother has commented in the past about all the ways I have disappointed her. As much as I don’t care on a conscious level, there is still a part of me that wanted that approval. I was tweeting about it a few months ago (before the Eloning), and a Twitter friend responded that his mother had been dead for years, and he still did things to try to happy. He knows he wouldn’t (even if she were alive, she would not look at him with anything other than utter disdain). If I remember correctly, he had not been talking to her when she died.

The idea of ‘but, faaaaamily’ is so endemic in our society. In most societies, probably. There is a reason for that, naturally. Strong families would be the foundation of a strong society. I actually don’t have a problem with that. There should be ties between people who have the same blood–at least I guess that makes sense.

Honestly, I have seen so much family fuckups, I’m not sure that’s even true. Here’s the thing. Should it be the case? That people with the same blood should be closer, I mean. It’s something people don’t want to talk about much, and in fact, many people would not be happy if you brought it up (that blood is not necessarily thicker than water).

I wonder if we would be happier if we let go of that fiction. I read several advice columns, and there is always the obligatory lip service to how important family is. Unfairly so, I think. Especially over at Slate. I appreciate that Alison Green of Ask A Manager is very pragmatic about family. She doesn’t waste time chastising writers for having familial issues. In fact, she’s often the one to tell them to, well, not cut the cord, but not talk to their parents about work stuff that isn’t their business. She’s very frank about how parents often don’t understand the working world, and sometimes, she strayed into personal life as well. Such as with the letter wrtier who got a job as the personal assistant to her father’s girlfriend, and it went spectacularly horribly. The boss/girlfriend wanted the LW to go to therapy with her (the boss) and the boyfriend/father, which was what caused the LW to write into Ask A Manager. The LW’s mother was downplaying it, and Alison said the LW may need to cut down on info to her mother as well.

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New gooals for a new year

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. I have tried them in the past, but I find it too much pressure. It’s because the tendency is to go big and to go hard for a week or so and then fall off. It’s why gyms sell so many memberships in the first few weeks of the year (and probably why they make them yearly.  Or at least did. I’m hoping that’s an outdated mode of operation).

In addition, it’s artifical to set it up to do things differently in a new year. I get it. It makes sense to have a fresh start in a fresh year. And there is something about mentally tearing off that December page that signifies the end of an era. Especially since for me, last year was the first whole bonus year that I had.

The beginning of 2022 was me coming to terms with still being alive. Then, Elden Ring was released at the end of February and that was the next six months sorted. Time flew and before I knew it, it was the end of the year.

2023. It seems so weird to write that. I do have a few goals that I would like to reach in the new year. It may just be a matter of semantics, but I have decided that goals are better than resolutions. The latter are too declarative and like a fait accompli. It feels much more like pressure, which I don’t need. The latter are more like suggestions or rather, something to aim for. Plus, it can be year-long rather than just doing it in discrete moments. Discrete, not discreet, by the way. That was one of my pet peeves when I was using Craigslist personals, by the way (yes, I’m that old). People saying they wanted ‘discrete’ lovers, not ‘discreet’ lovers. Not that I was going to help someone cheat on their partner, but if I were, I certainly was not going to do it for someone who could not discenrn discrete from discreet.

So. What are my goals for 2023? I have three. Well, more than that, but three serious ones. The not-so-serious ones are to get laid and get paid. Well, the former, anyway. I have not had sex in quite some time, and I started thinking about dating before I ended up in the hopsital. Seriously, it was a few months before my medical crisis that I was girding my loins to return to the apps. Obviously, that was put on the backburner after I left the hospital. I had other things I needed to concentrate on.

Now, however, it’s been over a year and I’ve gotten a clean bill of health. I’ve had it for a year. I’ve been back to my old self (or some facsimile of) for nearly a year as well. I have no desire to be with someone because that brings out the worst in me, but I am ready to have sex.

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New year, new me, who dis?

2022 was the year of faffing about and just taking stock of where I was. It was me being grateful to be alive and counting each day as a bonus day. It was me marveling at being not dead. I was moved to tears at times at how incredible the vista outside my window was.

I should be dead. This is something that I am always cognizant of. Fifty years was my alloted time on this earth, and I cheated death. I feel quite scandalous about it. Not scandalous, exactly, but like I got away with something. Which I did. I mean, I’m alive. I shouldn’t be. That’s the very epitome of getting away with something.

This is the year that I integrate that knowledge into my every day life. I really have an obstacle in my brain against talking about it because it’s just so bizarre. In addition, there really isn’t a lesson to be learned from it. I mean, there is for me. It’s to enjoy life and to truly internalize that it can end at any moment.

For anyone else, though, what can they take from my experience? This is frustrating because I have learned valuable lessons. Lessons I would like to impart to others. The biggest one being that your body is a wonderland, even though I dislike John Mayer. In America, women are made to feel their bodies are trash from a very early age. Americans worship at the altar of thinness for women, but it’s a very sparse range of thinness that is acceptable. Too thin and murmurs of eating disorder can be heard. But just a few pounds overweight or even ‘normal’ weight, and the person is excoriated. Woman.

I have watched a lot of YouTube content creators. A lot. The women are, to a T, thin and gorgeous. Well, that’s not completely true. If they are not white, there is a bit more variety (though, usually it’s skinnier if they are Asian. I am from two cultures that demand women waste away to nothing). White women, though, have to be skinny. But with boobs. And look very feminine.

Men, on the other hand, are allowed to be pretty much any shape, size, and pulchritude. I’m not talking about nonbinary/genderfluid people because, let’s face it, there aren’t that many high profile people who are not male or female.

I would be considered female or at least female-presenting. I am tired. It’s not on my list of things to care about. I am hoping to continue that in the new year. I don’t really relate to being a woman, but I don’t NOT relate to it, either. I would say that I feel closer to women than to men in general and we have shared experiences. On the other hand, I find women can be the worst when it comes to oppressing women, too. Something about upholding the patriarchy and being the ‘good’ woman.

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Saying the unspoken parts out loud

It’s interesting thet things that get left unsaid. When I talk about my medical crisis, for example, I have no problems saying taht I was in a coma for a week, but I don’t like to mention what actually happened. Why? Because it seems…almost like bragging? I’m not sure exactly why. It’s partly because, and I don’t mean this to sound dismissive, but it really hasn’t affected my life in the day-to-day. I don’t have issues because of it except for some very minor ones. Like my periphery is worse and I have a few memory issues. Oh, and my reaction time is much worse as based on how I react to flashing button prompts in games.

None of that is life-thretaning or even something I really need to be concerned about. The fact that I can’t do simple math in my head? So what? I can pull up a calculator at any moment. I don’t remember a word? I can look it up or just keep searching my memory bank until it finally pops up.

It doesn’t hinder me, is what I’m trying to say. So it seems like I shouldn’t bring it up. A month or so after I left the hospital, I was telling K that it was weird to bring it up because it was such a conversation-stopper and seemed to be a ploy for grabbing attention. She said, “Minna, it’s part of your story. You don’t have to bring it up if you don’t want, but you shouldn’t feel like you can’t, eeither.”

But I do. I feel like I have to keep it to myself. it’s not something other people have pressured me about, but it’s just something that I feel self-conscious about. In part, it’s beacuse I know how incredibly lucky I am and how it truly is a miracle I’m alive. And I feel like I’m wasting it. In addition, there is just no way to slide that into a conversation casually.

“How about them Vikings?”

“Yeah, they’re doing great, man.”

“How you doing?”

“Great! I’m alive, which is a miracle after surviving walking non-COVID-related pneumonia, two ccardiac arrests, and a stroke.”

It feels like the more time that passes, the less I’m able to bring it up. Again, this is completely on me. It’s not like anyone is saying, “SHUT UP, MINNA! NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR STUPID MEDICAL HISTORY!” But it just feels weird. There’s someone in the RKG Discord who is in the hospital for unknown reasons, and I want to relate some of my experience, but I have been very careful not to mention my own medical crisis. In part because it’s not about me. But I did ask if he got the pure ox because that was the best. Oxygen for the uninitiated.

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Set phasers to neutral

I’ve been watching a lot of reaction videos to Tim Minchin songs lately. Why? Because! I’ve been into Tim for decades and I thought he was pretty niche. Well, he was. He’s gotten bigger (and, sadly, more conservative not in politics, maybe, but in ideas) over the years.

My favorite to watch is White Wine in the Sun because people do not expect it at all. Tim is hilarious in a dark way, saynig things you don’t say out loud. He’s an atheist and very outspoken about it. So you’d think the song would be bitingly acerbic. You might not even know it’s about Christmas–which it is.

Then, there’s the dawning realization that while it des have a few digs at Christianity, it’s mostly a heartwarming song about his love for his baby daughter. It’s just a really sweet song and one of two Christmas songs that I actually like. It makes me tear up every time I listen to it.

Last year and this year, however, it hits especially hard. See, I think of it as an atheist Christmas carol, but it’s really an ode to family. And family is something I have written endlessly on, about how dysfuctional my family is.

I’ve also mentioned a time or a hundred that it was when I died and came back again–

By the way, I want to get a t-shirt that says, “I rose from the dead twice” on the front and “That makes me better than Jesus” on the back, but I won’t because that would be rude. But it’s funny. I told it to K and she burst out laughing. And she’s spiritual!

Anyway, dying puts things in perspective. It can bring out the best in people like my brother. He was my rock and held it down while I was unconscious. He did it all without a word of complaint. He talked to my medical team every day, and it was on him to make decisions for me because I did not have a partner.

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But faaaaaaaaam–*slap*

Yes, we’re talking about family gaain. It’s the holiday sesaon, which can make or break a family. There are so many expectiatons during this time that rarely get met. I honestly believe that if people just chilled the fuck out and thought, “We’ll hang and have fun no matter what”, so much family drama would be avoided.

But faaaaamily.

And Anut Ethel expects that there be three different kinds of pumpkin pie while Aunt Mabel will chew you out if you dare bring cranberries because that’s her thing. Uncle Bill is just there for the turkey and the Lions game, yo. Whereas the cousins just run around and play hide and seek while they wait for dinner to be served.

That’s not how any of my childhood Thanksgivings went, by the way, because I am a second generation Taiwanese American and we carved out (get it?) our own holiday traditions. I don’t remember what we did for Thanksgiving. I’m sure there was turkey and my mother made this cranberry jello salad with Cool Whip and marshmallows, mandarin oranges, and walnuts. It was really good.

Side note: My ex-SIL held a grudge for years apparently that my mother brought that to our first shared Thanksgiving because to her cranberries means just cranberries with a bit of sugar for the sauce. It’s her favorite part of the dinner and not to have it really ruined Thanksgiving for her.

I asked my brother why she didn’t just get some regular cranberries if it bothered her so much. She had assumed that was what our mother was bringing and didn’t buy any. That makes sense. And I do get that if you have a tradition, it can be hard when that tradition doesn’t happen. So, yeah, I can understand being upset for a day or two, but to hold a grudge for years? That’s my ex-SIL, for you. She can hold a grudge longer than some of my relationships lasted. I have to respect it because I have held a grudge or two in my time. They tend to fade out, though, because, well, I get bored. Also, why do I want to think about someone who I’m over?

Here’s the thing. I am very good at giving the benefit of the doubt until I’m not. When that line is crossed, then I’m done. No more benefit of the doubt given. When I’m done, I’m done.

My last therapist told me sternly that wasn’t a good thing. I retorted, “I know. But it’s who I am.” Her point was that I should set boundaries earlier, and she is right. That way I wouldn’t explode later and go scorched earth.

I’ve gotten better at setting boundaries except with my parents. My eternal bane. When I was in my twenties, I was a hot mess. I was a complete and utter mess. There was a semester in college when I was disassociating on the daily. I had anorexia and bulimia, and my mother only cared that my waist was tinier than hers. She was jealous, you see, because she had been trying to lose five pounds since she came to America and discovered butter pecan ice cream.

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