Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Relationships

Objecting to objectification

There was an interesting discussion between Jessica and Rich on How to Do It about objectification and how to do it in a meaningful and thoughtful way. My immediate reaction was that you can’t. I was pretty adamant about it and upset by the concept. Even with Rich’s caveat about sapiosexuals, I still thought they were being too flip about it.

Then I calmed the fuck down and read it with a more tempered eye. I had my own objections to objectification, but I think Jessica and Rich are two of the most thoughtful columnists on the net. Rich a little less so than Jessica, but they are both heads and shoulders above many of the other advice columnists.

Here’s the thing. I get objectified all the time. All. The. Time. The further out from the norm you are, the more objectified you are by society. Being Asian growing up was a whole traumatic thing. That’s the one Rich mentions in passing, that objectifying someone who might be very sensitive about race would make the sex not great. Which, while he’s right, I think really undersold how undermining it can be.

When I was a teenager, no one wanted to date me. There were many reasons for it, but a big one was being Asian in a white Minnesotan suburb. Then, I hit my twenties when Asian women started becoming exotic. This was….not great. I had an argument with my bestie in our late twenties when I declared that I was done with white guys. Every single one who wanted to date me had an Asian fetish, which fucking sucked. She argued that I was being discriminatory and I should give the white dudes a chance. Not because they were white dudes, per se, but because no one should be discriminated against.

Which, nope. When it comes to dating, I am all about discrimination. Or rather, I would not want someone to date me because they feel obligated to or because they fetishize me. My argument was this. In that time of nascent Asian fetishization, most people in Minnesota did not consider Asian women datable. Therefore, those who were attracted to Asian women, had to overcome the societal indoctrination that only white women were worthy of dating. In other words, they had to be predisposed to dating Asian women, which quickly turned into fetishization. And, every single white dude I dated in my twenties had an Asian fetish. I did not want to waste my time, emotional bandwidth, and energy on someone who had a 90+% chance of only being attracted to my race.

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Upon reflection

One of my biggest assets–and flaws–is that I am a chameleon when I talk to people. I have exemplary people skills, but it’s more a burden than a blessing. I’ve written before that I’m excellent at reading people. I rarely tell them about themselves, but it’s knowledge I silently file away.

Simultaneously, I was raised to believe that as a girl, my entire worth was what I could do for others. Physically, emotionally, and mentally. I have a narcissistic father who relates everything and everyone to himself.  I remember a time when we were having an argument about something, don’t remember what, when I was a  teenager. We were yelling at each other and I ran to my room, slamming the door behind me. It burst open a few seconds later, my father livid. He started screaming at me about how dare I yell at him and that I was so disrespectful of him. He added that it was his house and I was not allowed to slam the doors in it.

Granted, I did not behave well during this argument. I can admit to that. But him responding by yelling even louder at me and slamming the door open himself, well, that’s just hypocritical. But it also demonstrated clearly how he was very much ‘do as I say and not as I do’.

He was the only one allowed to have emotions in the family, especially negative ones. The rest of us were expected to tiptoe around him, making sure not to upset him. One of the problems with that is that it’s nearly impossible to gauge what will upset him and what won’t. He can take offense at just about anything–I get it from him.

He’s big on saving face, which is a part of his culture, but to an extreme that isn’t seen in his compatriots. For example, one time he and my mother went out to play tennis with some friends. Another (female) friend (trust me, this is important) called and asked where he was. I told her that he was out playing tennis.

I mentioned this to my father when my parents returned, and he grew furious with me. He said I shouldn’t have told her where he’d gone because she would be upset and something about saving face. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but it was ridiculous. Years later, I realized that the reason he didn’t want me to tell her was because he was out with his current lady of the moment and the one calling was either a past one or a future one, and he did not want her to know who he was with.

Side Note: I remember watching my father play tennis with his current lady-of-the-moment and it was so obvious that she was different from his other friends. It was nothing blatant on his part, but just the way she played up to him and he took all her attention as what was due to him. This was when I was ten or eleven, but I knew about his special ladyfriends by the time I was eight or nine. Everyone did.

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Birthing a new life

It’s almost nine months since I died twice–and came back twice! The latter fact is very important to the narrative. Obviously. If that hadn’t happened, then I wouldn’t be able to write this. That still trips me up when I think about it, by the way. The fact that I should be dead. It’s also not something I find easy to talk about because it’s pretty much a conversation stopper. It’s not something I want to whip out casually, but it’s also very important. It literally changed my life, even if it didn’t change the day-to-day aspects of said life.

When I came out of the hospital, I said that I did not want to talk about what I was doing with my life for six months. I had the luxury and privilege of focusing on my recovery, not that I needed it. The biggest issue I had was my stamina, which was roughly 10% of what it was pre-trauma. But even that is lucky because so many people could not even get out of bed.

There was someone in an Ask A Manager thread a month ago who talked about having a stroke in January. She was unable to drive any longer and had to work from home on a reduced schedule. She had trouble typing and basically, her quality of life was dramatically reduced. Her whole life was turned upside down in the matter of minutes.

This is one of my issues with finding a support group. First of all, to put it bluntly, there aren’t many people who survive one cardiac arrest, let alone two–and a stroke. Those who do, have stories like the commenter on AAM. It feels almost cruel to stroll in with my story about evading death without a scratch. I know my story is my own and that I don’t need to feel guilty about it, but I do.

I’ve said many times that I don’t question why this happened to me. I’m not in great shape, don’t always eat the best, and am pretty sedentary. Why NOT me? I’m susceptible to bronchial issues, which is how it all started. Non-COVID-related walking pneumonia. That stressed my heart enough to trigger two cardiac arrests and then a stroke. I have no problem accepting that this all happened to me.

But, what happened next just may surprise you as it did me (yes, I just Buzzfeeded that sentence. What of it?).

I should have died. I did die. Twice. But I should not have come back. I. Should. Be. Dead.

You know what gets to me the most? Survivor’s guilt. I don’t ask why the initial events happened to me, but I question why I was the one who lived. Why me? My mom insists its because I’m a fighter, but that’s giving me way too much credit. I’m sure she also thinks it’s an act of God, but I think that’s giving ‘Him’ too much credit.

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Looking in the mirror, darkly

When I was a little girl, I assumed I’d grow up, get married, and have children. Oh, going to college should be in there before the getting married bit. In fact, that’s where it was assumed I would find my husband. This was just a given, and it did not fill me with any joy.

Some women say that they’ve wanted to be mothers since they were really young. They played with their dolls and pretended the dolls were their babies. It was the main goal in their lives, which I accepted was the norm. I never felt the urge myself, but I resigned myself to having children.

Then, when I was in my early twenties, it hit me that I didn’t have to have children. I no longer know how that thought came about, but once it entered my brain, I was so relieved and happy, I’ve remembered it for the rest of my life. It really was a pivotal moment and still the best decision I’ve ever made.

I don’t think about it that often because, well, quite frankly, why would I? People rarely think about the absence of something they never wanted in the first place. The whole discussion about childfree versus childless is necessary and good, but I don’t care for either label because it still puts an emphasis on something that has absolutely no effect on my life.

I’ve said in the past that I’m as likely to call myself childfree as I am to call myself dogfree or guitarfree. I’m not equating children to dogs or guitars, of course, but just pointing out how little I think about any of these things.  No shade to having children, but it’s nowhere on my radar.

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Alien isolation

I’m a weirdo and I know it. Now. I did not know it for the first thirty years of my life or so. Or rather, I knew I was different than most people, but I thought it was just one standard deviation from the norm. I didn’t realize until much later that I was several deviations apart from ‘regular’ people, and I really wish I had been aware of it earlier in my life.

It’s difficult, though, because we are all our own standard. It’s not surprising that people think of themselves as normal as they have never lived in any one else’s skin. And the more in the norm you are, the less reason you have to question anything. So it stands to reason that white straight dudes think they’re the expert in everything because they have never been put in the position of being the minority–in any way.

Side Note: I find that many gay white dudes still feel this way because they think of their sexuality of who they are. Or rather, the other ways in which they are in the majority are enough to buffer them from the negativities of being gay. If they are cis, middle-class, college-educated, etc., then they aren’t necessary more illuminated about issues other than queer issues. And even then, it’s more specifically gay issues rather than the umbrella of queer.

Side Note to the Side Note: It’s why intersectionality is so difficult and frustrating. Just because someone experiences discrimination in one area, it doesn’t mean they’re sympathetic to discrimination in another area. Hell, it doesn’t even mean they’re sympathetic to others in their same group (that is being discriminated against). There are plenty of stories of women who made their way up the ladder only to yank it up after they made it to the top. It’s the old “I went through hell to get here and you should, too”. It’s internalized whatever-ism, and it’s really sad to see.

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Know myself

I know myself pretty well. That’s not a humblebrag; it’s just a flat-out brag. Heh. I kid. It’s just reality. I have a pretty clear view on my negatives and a little less strong grasp on my positives. For example, there’s a famous survey that says 80% of the people surveyed think they’re better-than-average drivers. Which, as you can note, is statistically impossible. What I did not know was that all the respondents had been in a car accident at some point. Also, there’s another study that said fewer than 1% of the people surveyed believed they were worse-than-average drivers. Basically, people think they are above average in everything. An interesting corollary effect is that being around people who are overconfident makes you overconfident as well. All of this is from an article in Inc., by the way.

I am part of that fewer than 1%. I know that  I’m a bad driver and I have no difficulty saying so .I also know that I am very bad at spatial recognizing, and I am not a patient person. I am not great with money (paying bills and such. Good at not spending it) and I’m very weird compared to normies.

I don’t like kids in general. I don’t think babies are cute and I would rather not spend time with them if I don’t have to. There are individual exceptions, of course, but in general, I’m not a fan of babies. Don’t much like toddlers, either. I find them boring and their need for repetition irritating–probably because it rubs up against my own need for repetition. I like kids starting around nine or ten, when they can talk about real-world things rather than just kid stuff. Funnily enough, kids love me. I think it’s precisely because I treat them like human beings and not kids. I don’t talk to them in any special voice (I save that for my cat), nor do I treat them like babies. It’s just not my style. I don’t talk over their heads, obviously, but that’s because I’m not a jerk. Not in that sense, anyway.

It’s how I treat everyone, really. I meet them where they are and don’t expect them to be something they’re not. There’s a cashier at my local grocery store that loves me. The other day, she told me that I was her favorite, which was flattering. I think it’s because she’s Native American and thinks I am, too. We bonded over Wes Studi (a hot indigenous actor) who was on the cover of a magazine, which prompted her to tell me that she was Native American. She’s also disclosed that she loves masa tortillas, that she’s been having car trouble, and her son had to leave his sick puppy with her. I think the fact that we are both BIPOC and female-presenting added to the bond.

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Looking for love in all the wrong places

I love Elden Ring, but it doesn’t love me back. Story of my life, really. I always want what/who I cannot have for reasons as long as my arm. Back when I was dating, I was attracted to gay men, straight women, and anyone who was attached in a monogamous way. Even if someone fit into the category of who I was attracted to and theoretically available, they had no interest in me. The people I did manage to date ended up being not good for me in many ways. Rinse, lather, repeat.

Part of this is because I’m contrary. I could sugarcoat it by saying I point out things other people don’t see (which, true), but the practical outcome is that I am usually the minority voice. This can be a strong point, but it can also be fucking annoying. I fully acknowledge the latter point.

Because of this, I rarely take things at face value. There is always an underlying reason for everything. Again, while this may be true, it doesn’t exactly make me the most popular person when I voice these opinions. I’ve learned how to keep these things to myself when the other person shows they don’t understand what I’m talking about or aren’t interested in my perspective.

Side Note: One of the most insightful things my last therapist said to me was that people literally could not understand what I was saying. Not that they were misunderstanding, but they could not comprehend the concepts I was spitting at them. “Minna,” she said. “They are at a level 2 and you are speaking at a level 5. It’s like Maslow’s hierarchy. They are focused on food and shelter while you’re up to self-actualization.” Something about what she said flipped a switch in my head. Along with her pointing out the lesser-known results of the Dunning-Kruger study; that people who are good at something seriously underestimate the gap between them and other people in that area. Because you can’t get an outside perspective on yourself, what you can do is normal to you.

I see this in FromSoft games all the time, by the way. People who are good at the games can’t grasp that their experiences are not the norm. And it’s circular because those who are good at it are the ones who play the games, making them better at the games, thus making it easier for them to forget the difficulty in the beginning. I adore Aoife Wilson from Eurogamer, but she is especially guilty of this. She firmly believes anyone can play the games and that you just have to learn the moves. She calls Sekiro a rhythm game and says once you click with the system, it’s so easy!

Except, some of us do not click with the system. I did not. But Minna, says other people. I thought you could not beat the game if you did not click with the combat! Oh, you can. But you’re not going to have fun and it’s going to be very grueling. Because instead of the posture-breaking at the core of the game, you have to whittle away at the health in agonizing slowness until the boss finally dies. I remember fighting the Boss of Hatred and just hating everything about my life. It’s a three health pip boss and it took me hours to beat him. I have talked about how transcendent it was to beat Isshin, the Sword Saint, but was it worth it? I have to say no. That game just made me feel like a total failure DESPITE me beating it.

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The gift of no gift at all

I’m a good gift-giver. I wanted to put that out there before I get into a rant about why I prefer not getting gifts. I used to think it was a no-brainer to get a good gift for someone. You just think about what they like and get them something from those categories. I can take hours to find the perfect gift if I’m not careful. And, I’m pretty dang good at it.

In return, very few people are good at getting me gifts. I’ve done Secret Santa twice in my life. Once in college when I was a Junior Counselor with my corridor and once in my first job. I went overboard both times and got nothing in return (first time) and things I didn’t want for the most part (second time). In the former case, I can make a direct comparison because the person I got had me as well. We were supposed to give little gifts to each other throughout the week in our PO boxes in the main center building. I gave my person something every day whereas she gave me nothing. I think she gave me a big candy cane at the end when we gave each other a big gift and revealed who we were. I did puzzles or a maze or something like that. I think I did a “On the _______ day of Christmas list”. For the job one, I think that’s the one I did the maze? The person who had me misheard me saying I hated Christmas stuff as I loved Christmas stuff, apparently. I had one friend at that workplace who I bitched about the whole Secret Santa thing to and it turned out she was my Secret Santa. Whoops. She did give me a yin-yang poster, though, which I appreciated.

Here’s the thing. I’m a terrible person to buy gifts for. There are many reasons for this. One, I have a whole mess of allergies that makes it nearly impossible to give me anything related to the senses. I’m allergic to almost everything in the great outdoors, for example.

Side Note: All the people who enthuse about the great outdoors crack me up. I did a hilarious rant on white people and camping on Twitter many years ago. I got a bunch of people of color chiming in with me and it was so much fun. But, it’s also real talk in that I can’t walk around outside without being reminded that many of the things are not good for me. I’m allergic to almost every flower. I like to say I’m allergic to air itself.

My brother is really into essential oils and likes to insist that I smell the bottle he carries around. The first time he did that, it was lavender, which I’m really allergic to and hate the smell of. My head snapped back and I pushed the bottle away with prejudice. I’m also severely allergic to poinsettias.

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Piercing the veil

I was re-watching a video with two people who are a couple (from different websites), but didn’t announce it until they were together for a year. There were so many messages to them on Twitter gasping in delight (and shock) that they were able to hide it so well.

Except, they didn’t. The first video with the both of them (included in this post)that I saw, I immediately thought, “They’re bonking.” This might have been before they officially hooked up, but it was just so obvious to me. Have a look and see if you can tell. It was just a flash of thought and I did not dwell on it, but something about the way they were bantering screamed ‘couple’ to me.

I’ve always had this ability to read people–and it’s more a negative than a plus. It’s one reason I prefer being on my own The inundation of unwanted emotions from other people was always getting in the way of day-to-day life.

It’s a question of chicken and egg to an extent. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t responsible for my parents’ emotions, which meant that I had to attune my sensitivity radar to eleven to make sure I never made a misstep. My father was the only one allowed to have big emotions whereas my mother couldn’t stop whining in my ear since I was eleven. I really struggle with the concept that we can’t hold the victims of abuse responsible for their own actions when they in turn abuse other people, including their children.

There’s a letter to Ask A Manager about a woman who was being abused, given the name ‘Jane’. In order to talk to the cops, she framed her coworker, named….ah, Mary? Sandra? Let’s say Mary for fraud. The cops came and arrested Mary, who was forced to move out of her house and in with her father because of the turmoil. It was Jane’s manager who wrote in–and it was an investment firm so fraud is a big deal. oh, and the husband, ‘Joe’, worked at the firm as well–and after the investigation, Joe was arrested, but Mary’s life was in tatters. She wanted to know how to deal with the situation.

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The refinement of me by the decade

I’ve had many big realizations throughout my life. They started when I was in my twenties and have continued throughout my fifties. Actually, they started when I was a kid, but they were more incoherent back then. And more in the vein of realizing what I didn’t want rather than what I did want–which is very much my M.O. Such as not liking dolls. I rarely played with them and I especially did not like the realistic crying, pooping, eating ones. I had a few Barbies (plus a Dorothy Hamill doll and a Oscar Goldman from The Six Million Dollar Man/The Bionic Woman). I hacked the hair of my Barbies and used black shoe polish to make their hair darker. I had them have sex with each other, which was  my extent of playing with dolls. I much preferred plushies which I could squoosh and cuddle.

I was taught many sexist beliefs by my parents throughout my childhood. One, that my main purpose was to marry and have children. Yes, I had to go to college and have a career, but that was a distant second to the whole breeding bit.

Side Note: My niece decided to not go straight to college after graduating high school. My mom wanted me to talk to her and convince her to go because we’re close. First of all, that’s my mother who saw her maybe once a year and had no day-to-day interaction with her. Second, I really resented being made to feel like I had to go to college right after high school, so, no, I wasn’t going to do that.

This was several years ago. This year, my nephew, her brother, is a senior in high school. He does not want to go to college because he thinks he’s too smart for it. Which is funny, but beside the point. My mom told me she emailed him with all the reasons why he should go to college, but he didn’t answer. Which, of course he wouldn’t. He has even less a connection with her than my niece does and what a boundary break that email is. And it shows her narcissism that she thought this was a reasonable thing to do.

Anyway, I realized when I was in my early twenties that I was Asian and that racism existed. That was followed quickly by the discovery that sexism was a thing. Then, that I did not want to have kids. Which is still the best decision of my life. Then, I realized I was bi, but put that on the shelf because, frankly, I could not deal with biphobia as well as sexism and racism.

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