Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Self Esteem

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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Another layer peeled

I’ve known since I was very young that there was something wrong with me. I wasn’t like other kids and they didn’t seem to think the way I did. I didn’t have any real friends–not the way other kids had friends. They talked about the tv shows they watched (I didn’t watch much tv) or the movies they went to (I never went to the movies) or the latest songs (I didn’t listen to music. Apocryphal story that I’ve been telling for decades. The first pop song I ever heard was Electric Avenue by Eddy Grant when I was in sixth grade.) I read in most of my free time, which was not popular to talk about.

I was fat, Taiwanese (before it was hot/sexy/in to be Asian), brainy, and had no sense of what would make me fit in. Second-generation American struggles are real, yo. I constantly felt like I was an alien in a strange world. I had no idea what I was supposed to say or do. It was a miserable experience and I became deeply depressed when I was seven. I spent the next twenty years wanting to die, but not having the guts to do it. I learned to act like a normal person, but I felt as if the rules were always changing. And, of course, what was normal for one person or group of people was not the same for others.

One thing I’ve learned in my many decades on this planet. People love to categorize other people. Maybe this is just an American thing, but I doubt it. We tend to be attracted to people who are like us. It’s human nature; I don’t begrudge that. It’s the way to know if you’re safe or not in a quick heuristic glance. But, there are limits to the heuristics, and I’m finding them not useful at all these days.

Here’s the thing. Most people are black-and-white thinkers. They are binary in their beliefs, even when it comes to ideas that don’t lend themselves to being so concrete. When we talk about racial issues, it’s always black and white. MAYBE brown thrown in for good measures from time to time, but I wouldn’t hold my breath as an Asian and forget about indigenous folks at all. We Asians came up for a hot second with the corona virus causing many people to lose their minds and start outright hating on Asians, rather than just doing it quietly. I’ve given up a long time ago about anyone caring about Asian people in America except for the quick sentence when anti-Asian violence happens.

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Nine months and birthing a new person

It’s been nine months since that fateful night. That’s enough time to create a new person–which is pretty much what I did. Yes, I’m the same person as I was before that night, but I’m also–not. This is something I’ve had to live with for the past nine months–the tension between two seemingly disparate things. I’ve mused often about how everything is the same and everything is not the same at the same time.

I’m sitting on my couch, sipping coffee, watching YouTube videos (in this case, an infuriating video by Legal Eagle about how cops don’t have a legal duty to protect individuals) while eating grocery store sushi. Shadow is in his little cat house taking a long cat nap. The sun is shining, but it’s not too hot out. I’m sipping a low sodium V8 as I’m typing this post. This is on the actual 9-month anniversary and will be posted the day after.

Up until this point, I’ve been coasting along and just appreciating the fact that I’m still here. I call these my bonus days, savoring each and every one. I should not be here so the fact that I am with nothing more than a bit of short-term memory issues is truly miraculous.

The first two months, I worked on getting back my stamina. Wait. Getting even more granular, the first week out of the hospital, I was waiting for my eyesight to get better. I spent most of my time at my computer. Not being able to read computer fonts was frustrating, not to mention worrying. My brother enlarged the font on my laptop, which helped, but I still took twice as long to read something as I normally would have.

In addition, the faces of all people (and my cat) were melty/fused. Everyone had one big eye and a candle wax-looking mouth. It was really bizarre and disconcerting. I could gauge how my eyesight was improving by how Shadow’s face was doing. His was the first to revert back to normal. I rejoiced when he had two eyes and a distinct mouth again.

The first two months, I had a nurse’s aide who came every week to wash my hair. I didn’t need her after a month, but my mother kept pushing to have her (and the weekly nurse check). When I pushed her on it, it turned out that it was more superstitious than practical. She wanted the weekly nurse check because they could catch anything wrong with me. But that wasn’t their job. Yes, they took my vitals, but it wasn’t as if they were doing a full physical every week. my mom helped me dry off after my showers, but I didn’t need her help after a few weeks. I allowed her to do it for a few more weeks just because it made her feel better.

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Empty positivity is toxic

I hate positive mantras with a passion. Or rather, I hate empty positive mantras with a passion. It’s been a bugaboo all my life–positive affirmations that had no basis in reality. I know that there have been studies that say that positive affirmations are, ahem, a positive thing and that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT, which I hate) uses them, but I disagree vehemently. And in Googling it, I found this article that pretty much says exactly what I was going to write, so go read that instead.

Only kidding. Come back. Please! I was reading one of my stories this morning, Care and Feeding, which has a subsection of Ask a Teacher. There is one teacher who responds who I think gives the most schlocky advice ever–and sees things from a cis het white male (liberal, yes, but still) point of view. I’m not saying he’s all of those things, but that’s how he comes across.

I read the question about how to help a child deal with bullies using positive mantras (CRINGE) and then started reading the response without checking who wrote it. As I continued, I knew. It was him. Not only because of his writing style, but because of his positivity bullshit, which is a big component of his responses.

Side note: America is so caught up in toxic positivity and believing that we have much more control in our personal lives than we actually do. “We can think it into being” is such bullshit and a neat way to keep people perpetually oppressed. Your life is shitty? It’s your fault because you didn’t believe hard enough.

Side Note to the Side Note: This is one of my issues with Christianity. Anything goes wrong, it’s your fault. You should pray to God to help you, but if He doesn’t, then you just didn’t believe enough. There’s no accountability there. Much like toxic positivity. It’s a neat trick as it puts all the blame on the person and not on, say society.

I will give him credit for ‘What is wrong with you?” as a response to bullies. I don’t have a problem with that one. But the ones like, “My future is bright. Bullies can’t stand that.” and “You tease me because you fear me.”? Hard no. Not only because it’s not true, but because that’s just going to make the beatdown/ostracization worse.

Want to know what worked best for me? When a girl in my high school teased me every day in homeroom, I tried to ignore her. I was also given that as advice, and, guess what? It never worked. So when this girl teased me (and I still remember her name and face) for months on end, I snapped. I grabbed her by the hair, yanked her head back, and told her that I would fucking kill her if she ever bothered me again. She tried to scoff and say that I looked foolish, but I saw the fear in her eyes. I replied that she was the fool as I let her head go.

She never bothered me again. I wished the takeaway from that would have been that I could stand up for myself and not be pushed around. Instead, I was mortified that I had lost control and castigated myself for years after that.

Decades ago, K (my BFF) and I were at a bar, grousing about platitudes. Why? Who knows? That’s just how we roll. I really hate ‘that which does not kill you makes you stronger’, in part because it’s so smarmy, but mostly because it’s flat-out untrue. Like when women used to say it was different when you had your own kids (that I would automatically love them). Which is bullshit, right? Obvious bullshit! There are plenty of people who hate their own children and/or abuse them.

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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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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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What is normal?

I’m weird. I have always been weird, and I most likely will always be weird. I’m an arty type ho is considered a freak by the normies. However, I am not weird enough to be accepted by the arty types. Or rather, I’m too straight-edged for them. I don’t drink or do drugs, and I prefer being around people who don’t do either as well. That cuts out vast swathes of artists, which is understandable. Here’s the thing, though. Most people are not fun to be around when they’re smashed out of their faces if you’re not also  smashed out of your face. The long rambling incoherent messages. The declarations of love. The breaks from reality. None of it is fun or interesting if you’re not right there. And everyone I’ve dated has had an issue with alcohol–whether it was liking it a bit too much or being an alcoholic. I grew up with a father who acted like a dry drunk in many ways and it was not something I wanted to do on the regular. At some point, I realized that I did not want to date someone who drank or did drugs. At all. Which is difficult because I DO want to date someone who is an artist type.

I adore creative people. We are the freaks and the geeks, on the fringe of normal society. I am more comfortable in the dark of the night with the weirdos than I am in broad daylight with the normies.

But, this post isn’t about alcohol or freaks, well, not exactly. I was reading my stories and re-read a Dear Prudence about a woman whose husband was dragging his feet on having children. And it reminded me once again why I don’t like this Prudie at all. Her viewpoint is so….myopic and more traditional than I am comfortable with. She did a follow-up with the Uncensored (in which she asked a guest to help her out), and I was even more uncomfortable with her answer. I admit that some of my unease comes from being someone who does not want children at all, but the fact that she doesn’t try to look deeper on the regular bothers me. For example, there was one question from a woman who didn’t want ta wear heavy makeup in a specific TikTok pattern  as a bridesmaid. Prudie essentially told her to suck it up and that when she agreed to be a bridesmaid, she basically had to let the bride have her way unless it was a matter of life or death (the friend hadn’t known about the makeup before agreeing).

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Hard truths about ‘but faaaaaaamily!’

In my last post, I talked some more about the dysfunction within my family. I mentioned at the end of the post that I wanted to talk about how being constantly abused changes you as a person–and not in a good way. I have been reading several posts on Ask A Manager about abusive behavior (in a relationship that spills over into work life) and a few on Captain Awkward as well. In one of them, someone said they hated their mother for not leaving their abusive father (the commenter’s  father). I think it was Captain Awkward because that is more the ethos of that site than of Ask A Manager, but other people quickly chimed in to agree. Each of them recounted the damage they had suffered in their childhood because their mothers rationalized staying by saying it was for the children.

To give my mother credit, she never used that as an excuse. In her case, it was religion (fundie Christianity) and culture (Taiwanese) that made divorce verboten for her. I started begging her to divorce my father when I was eleven (when she forced me into a confidante role), but that was just unthinkable. I gave up at some point, but it was still what I truly believed in my heart.

I learned how to tiptoe around my father when he was home and in a mood. Meaning, when he was angry at someone (usually my mother, but not always) and refused to talk to anyone. It wasn’t just that he would sit quietly. Oh, no. He made it VERY clear that he was UPSET by pointedly being silent AT everyone around him. You know how when a cat is mad at you, it will sit a few feet away from you with its back to you? An if its really mad at you, it will deliberately point its ear back towards you? At least, my cat does that to clearly express his displeasure. That’s my father when he’s mad. He’s scrupulously silent AT you. If you try to talk to him, he will pointedly ignore you and not say anything.

Here’s the thing. I’ve done it myself. The silent treatment, I mean. When I’m furious enough, I can’t say anything nice so I keep my mouth shut. And I go as still as a stone. I know I look like a statue. It’s not something I’m proud of; it’s what
I do, though.  I learned it from my father and I still do it, but only around them. Because abuse is a gift that keeps on giving.

While they were here, there were a few really bad fights that started with my father being angry at my mother for some reason or another. He is a narcissist who is edging into dementia and is exhibiting paranoid behavior (he thinks my mother, my brother, and I are trying to steal all his money). He has called me by my niece’s name and has forgotten who I am. Same with my brother (thinking he was my mother’s brother). It doesn’t help that my mother indulges his paranoia and tries to rope me in as well. Such as trying to find a document he swears he put in a certain place, but it wasn’t there. My mother spent hours looking for it because he would be unpleasant to her if she didn’t. But, I contended that he was equally unpleasant when she gave in and it only fed his delusions.

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