Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Society

Hearing the unsaid

I love my stories (advice columns). One reason is because there is so much that is not being said. Most people write a couple hundred words and leave it at that. I think Alison Green from Ask A Manager has a limit of 800 words (though I could be pulling that number out of thin air). She’s received some fairly meaty letters and even then, there are things that are not being said. I’ve been rereading old letters and one that has stuck in my brain is from 2016. It’s not that long being only three short paragraphs.

It starts out with an eyebrow-raiser when they  say: I applied for the job of my dreams, no, the job of my life — the best job you can ever have in your wildest dreams!  Then they go on to say that they got rejected and became overly eager in emailing the hiring manager. They saw more positions on Craigslist and want to apply.

Sounds fine, right? Again, the starter was wince-inducing, but I just chalked it down to a fresh-out-of-college grad who is looking for their first job. The second paragraph sees them spouting a bunch of pop psych babble about how they ‘need to do this for myself’. They say they must just take charge’ and ‘step outside my comfort zone’. This is firmly in cringe territory and I started to suspect that it was more than just a young and naive job seeker. They ask what they should say and do. Then, they say, “As a side note, the HR manager told me I was no longer allowed to email the lady I was emailing, and if I do, they will take immediate action and may call the proper authorities.”

After dropping that bombshell as an aside!, they ask whether they should call or visit in person or or email (the HR manager, who is apparently not the ‘lady’ he’s been emailing) or what in the third paragraph.

The fact that they included that bombshell as an aside is mindboggling. The commentariat agreed that that aside was doing a lot of heavy lifting in that paragraph. And the fact that they thought it was just an aside and didn’t actually list what they had done to raise the alarm like that!

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Using my intuition–or not

Yesterday’s post took off on a tangent from which I never returned. I started out talking about my intuition about people, which I want to continue now. I mentioned how there are two YouTubers on different sites that I have watched and the first time I saw them streaming together, I instantly knew they were banging. Or if they weren’t banging at the time, they  were very attracted to each other. When they came out with a tweet that they had been together for a year (at a later date), so many of their fans expressed surprise. Whereas to me, it was so obvious. Take a look at the video below and tell me if you can guess who they are.

Another time, I was talking to my brother about why I don’t like movies. He said of course I didn’t like them because I could see what was happening a mile off and they weren’t authentic enough. I was surprised he had said that not because it wasn’t true because it was pretty perceptive of him to pick up on it. He has made comments since then about my ability to intuit things about people that most people can’t.

Related, there was someone on one of the advice blogs I frequent that said empaths aren’t real. Um, what? Yes, we are. The way she stated it so confidently shook me to my care. If she had said she didn’t think it was real, that would have been one thing. But to state it as if it were a fact when it’s just her opinion? It’s the same when a woman flatly told me that women don’t imagine how strangers would be in bed after I had just told her I did that.

Then, of course there was the classic of what happened when I told my mother I was bi. Why I told her, I don’t know. Unwarranted optimism that since she had just supported my cousin as coming out as gay and she was a psychologist, I thought she’d do the same for me. Nope. She was horrified, to say the least, and she trotted out the classic, “But what next? Animals?” Which, why is it always animals????

When someone denies who you are, it’s hard not to let that shake you. When it comes to the perception thing, I have such a heightened sense of others, it can be intrusive. You know how we all have masks when we’re out and about in the world? It’s a necessary thing and one that I support. Unfortunately, I’m someone who can pierce that veil without even trying. I learned at an early age that I can unerringly know the cruelest way to hurt someone without even really thinking about it.

If I talk to you (general you) for ten minutes, I can find it. 90% of people will hand me the information I need to cut you to pieces. And when I get angry, of course I want to go for the jugular. I try really hard not to do it, but I can’t say that I have never hit a low blow.

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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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I’m no one’s inspiration

I am not anyone’s inspiration p0rn. Abbreviated inspo p0rn, apparently, which I appreciate. I was reading an Ask A Manager post about disability and the workplace, and it’s really frustrating how even the most woke of women (the vast majority of her commentariat are female-presenting people) felt the need to say that the actions of the company were well-intended before going on with their comment. It became almost comical because it was a compunction to note that the company was well-meaning.

Who the fuck cares? Intent is not magic and the knee-jerk reaction shows how little we value people with disabilities. But, the commenters said, it’s would be worse if they meant to be malicious! Would it really, though? The end result is the same. In fact, in some ways, the fact that they were trying to be nice, but missed the mark by so much is almost worse because as the comments showed, there was not an insignificant portion of people who feel that the OP should have been grateful, regardless of the delivery.

There was one commenter who was oddly insistent that the OP needed to apologize or at least treat her coworkers/manager with kids gloves because they (the manager/coworkers) had to be crushed that their ‘good intentions’ landed so flatly. The commenter said that she would have been devastated if that happened to her and the other person reacted so poorly (in her eyes). Which, while not helpful, does underscore the point that there are people who only care about their own feelings and their own intentions.

Several people tried to argue with this commenter, but she was not swayed. The feelings of the manager and coworkers were more important than the feelings of the person aggrieved! And to be clear, the actions of the coworkers/manager were egregious.

Side Note: The golden rule is a bad rule. Treating others as you would want to be treated is part of the problem in this case. The platinum rule (which was mentioned in the comments) is better. Treat others as THEY want to be treated. And in this case, it was so simple. They only had to ask her what she wanted. Instead, they did it all behind her back (including making a cartoon caricature of her to place on the handicapped sign in the parking lot!!!!) and made a big display of it, expecting her to be grateful.

There are so many things wrong with what they did, it’s hard to enumerate them all. And in the end, their intentions don’t matter because they did it all without her input. There’s a phrase for any minority group that goes something like ‘nothing about us without us’. It’s paternalistic to decide something for someone else without asking them what they want.

In my case, I have gone round and round about being inspo p0rn because of what happened to me seven months ago. I understand that it’s highly-unusual. In fact, I can comfortably use the word ‘miracle’ to describe it. I defied death–twice. I was hit with walking pneumonia, two cardiac arrests, and a stroke within twenty minutes. I should be dead. I’ve accepted that. The fact that I’m not dead IS a miracle. I accept that as well.

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Tradition? TRADITION!

I’ve been musing about tradition for several posts, and I want to continue that gravy train. When I start thinking about something, I keep going until I am beyond tired of the subject. Then I think about it some more until I’m ready to drop it and never speak of it again. I’m not there yet with this topic so let’s roll!

I’ve talked about several topics that opened my eyes to the fact that what I was raised with wasn’t necessarily what I believed in. The one that really stands out, even thirty years later, is having sex for the first time. I was very much a wait-until-I-get-married gal when I was young. That was what I was raised with and it was what was pounded in my skull in my church. Sex is evil, bad, and will put your soul in eternal damnation. Until you get married and then it’s pure and holy. Angels will sing as you have sex, but only for procreation reasons!

By the time I entered college, I was what I called a TV–technical virgin. I had done everything with a man except P-I-V (or P-I-A, but that wasn’t even a possibility to me back then). It really was a matter of inches at that point, and I became less and less convinced that it mattered. To be clear, I never really believed in the Christian God with a capital G. I tried really hard, but I could never truly believe. Which made me feel crappy, obviously. i thought there was something wrong with me that I never felt that connection to God. It didn’t occur to me that maybe there was no connection to feel.

I prayed for God to change me into a boy when I was seven. Every night before I went to sleep, I prayed that I would wake up a boy. If God was that powerful, then it should be a breeze for Him, right? It never happened, obviously, and I would wake up, bitterly disappointed to still be a girl.

To be clear, it wasn’t that I felt as if I were a boy; I did not. I never have. I am not a man. I am very clear about that. However, because of all the shit I got as a young female-shaped person, mostly from older Taiwanese women (internalized misogyny is a bitch, yo), I thought the only solution was for me to be a boy instead.

“Girls don’t _____” was a recurring theme in my childhood. Fill in the blank with climb trees, play roughly, sit with your legs open, laugh loudly, and the list went on and on. It was some toxic, retro bullshit, even for the time, that I didn’t recognize was firmly not my problem.

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More than one deviation from the norm; part two

My I wrote about being weird all my life, but not really realizing it for several decades. You can read part one here. The realization did not hit all at once, but it came in drips and drabs over time.

I came out publicly during an acting class. The two leaders were queer Asian women, and I thought, “What the hell.” They told me later that they looked at each other and were like, “Is she coming out?” Which, I was, indeed. I naively thought that telling my mother would be if not positive, then at least neutral because she’s a therapist and because she had just listened to my cousin come out as gay and was very supportive.

I wish I could have told the younger me to not come out. At least even then, I knew that I should not bring it up in front of my father. I’m not even sure he knows about it now–that I’m not straight, I mean. At the time, I reluctantly called myself bisexual, though I was never completely comfortable with it. I couldn’t find a descriptor that I actually like, so it was more default than anything else.

When I was in my twenties, I declared I didn’t want to be in a relationship, which was a lie. I wanted it desperately. What I didn’t want, however, was to get married. That realization really hit me in my thirties and that started me really questioning the whole romance bullshit. In our society, it’s still considered the normal trajectory to get married in your late twenties/early thirties and then to squeeze out children soon thereafter. I’m really discouraged that this hasn’t changed much at all. In fact, when queers fought for marriage equality, I wasn’t enthused about it because it was still upholding a rigid traditional institution that I did not believe in. I really wish the first push had been for workplace equality, but that’s neither here nor there.

So I don’t care about marriage at all. It seems more misery than pleasure, but I will fully admit that’s my bias. It’s partly because I read advice columns and they are never letters about happy marriages. It’s also because of my parents’ marriage, which is fifty-plus years in the making, which is a sticking point with my mother. I know she thinks that I’ve repudiated her entire life–and she’s not wrong, but she’s not right, either.

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More than one deviation from the norm: part one

I’m a weirdo. This is not a shock to me or anyone who knows me. I have been a weirdo all my life, but I didn’t realize it until I was…well, that’s a complicated answer. Here’s the thing. I never felt like I fit in, but I just thought it was because–well, I wasn’t sure. I was depressed from a young age. I was six when I first remember being miserable. I was in first grade and got teased by a much older girl every day on my way home from school. I learned to dread the walk home because she would be hanging out in front of her apartment with a sneer on her pretty face. And she was pretty. To little me, she was so glamorous–why the hell did she need to pick on me? My stomach started knotting up every time I saw her. One day, she started in on me, which made me burst into tears. Instantly, she stopped picking on me and started complimented me. She told me how pretty my hair was as she brushed it from my shoulders. She never picked on me again after that, but it still confused the hell out of me. Why did she pick on me in the first place? Many years later, I realized she probably had a shitty life of her own and was taking it out on me. Did it make me feel any better? No. I’m very sympathetic to other people’s woes–until they take it out on me. But that was an early indication of the cruelty of my fellow kids. Kids are assholes, yo! It most certainly wasn’t the last, though.

I was shunned by others for a variety of reasons. One, I was Asian. This was before we were exotic and/or trendy., so I was viewed with suspicion. My food was stinky. I dressed funny (my mother made my clothes). I didn’t know any of their references because I didn’t  watch TV or movies. Everything was wrong about me, and I was miserable.

I first wanted to kill myself when I was seven–right around the same time I realized that death was a thing. That began a decades-long love/hate relationship with death that governed most of my behavior. I wasn’t actively suicidal most of the time, but I  wouldn’t have been sad to die if it did happen. Until I thought of what it actually meant.

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Using my powers for good

So. Since talking to my brother about my ability to read people, I’ve been thinking more about it. For most of my life, I’ve thought of it as something to tamp down and block myself from to the best of my ability. It’s difficult to deal with that kind of input on a daily basis without it overwhelming me. Whether you call it highly-sensitive or empathetic, it’s not something I consider a boon most of the time.

There are a few exceptions to that. One, when I’m helping friends with problems. Then it helps to let a little bit of that feeling in so I can understand what they’re going through. Two, it’s a good way to screen people when I meet them. In addition to my general ability to read people’s emotions/feelings. I am exceedingly adept at sussing out narcissism. It’s from growing up with one and it’s saved my bacon more than once. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work 100% so when a narcissist slips past my filters, it turns out really bad. But in general, I can spot them miles away and flee in the opposite direction.

I’ve told this story several times, but once I spotted one on Twitter and was able to see that he was not what he was positioning himself to be. My group of friends on Twitter were enamored with him. I tried to drop a hint or two that he wasn’t what he seemed, but I was totally ignored (like Cassandra). I gave up and kept well away from him. A few months later, he showed his ass in a spectacular way and everyone realized what a charlatan he was. I tried not to be smug about it, but I was crowing a bit inside.

Most of the time, I don’t tell people about themselves. Again, I understand how weird/creepy/scary it can be if someone else knows you better than you know yourself. I could do it with my brother  because he has thick skin and won’t take offense. Also, he forgets negative things fairly easily so it won’t stay with him long. But in general, people are not going to appreciate you giving them insight to themselves.

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For thee, but not for me

I gave up Twitter some years ago. I still tweet from time to time, but I rarely check my timeline any longer. Why? There are many reasons, but a big one is how quick people are to jump on you for anything you say. I don’t mean the big stuff that should be jumped on, but the smallest thing can be called out. For example, I like snow and cold. Every winter, I will tweet excitedly when we  get snow.

Every damn time, there will be someone who points out that I don’t have to shovel it (which I make perfectly clear and that I would feel differently if I had to shovel it). To which I say that I wouldn’t like to shovel it, but that doesn’t dampen my enjoyment of the snow itself. It doesn’t matter how much I preempt my declaration of enjoyment with caveats, I still get negged about the fact that I don’t have to shovel.

And yet.

I hate the heat with a passion. It makes me grumpy, lethargic, and as it gets hotter, drained, sick, and nearly catatonic. But I don’t go around bleating about how I hate the heat when other people are enjoying their days on the beach, am I? No, I am not. I am not yucking their yum as the saying goes, but I’m supposed to grin and bear it when others slam me for liking snow and cold?

It’s partly because what is popular/considered normal. Most people do not like cold and snow so the fact that I do is weird. Heat and sun? Liking that is normal and, indeed, even welcomed. I’ve learned to diss the cold with the best of them for daily Minnesotan chat, but is it too much that I be allowed to enjoy the snow? Who is it hurting?

Another example of this is Christmas. I used to hate it. I used to hate all holidays except Halloween, and, yes, that includes my birthday. When I joined Facebook, you had to put your birthday and they advertised it. I lied about my birthday and would be surprised every year when I got birthday wishes on the wrong day on my FB wall. Fortunately, they no longer require that your birthday be mandatorily visible on your page.

Anyway, Christmas! For many years, I hated it. And I would make my hatred known on my socials. I’d use profile pics of Grumpy Cat dissing Christmas and post about my hatred. Not a lot–but at least once a Christmas. And without fail, I’d see people posting about how they hated their joy being dimmed by other people posting about our hatred for Christmas. We should just shut up about it and not diminish other people’s enjoyment! Except, I’m allowed to say that I don’t like something on my own goddamn FB wall or Twitter feed. Why should I have to hide that?

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The injustice of grief

When I was a kid, whenever I used to complain about something, my mother would tell me, “Life isn’t fair!” Even as a young child, this filled me with instant rage and I would retort, “Well, it should be!” At six or seven, I couldn’t articulate why that phrase filled me with such fury, but I’ve given it plenty of thought since then. First of all, I know life is not fair. You’re not telling me anything new with that statement. Secondly, it’s shrugging your shoulders and giving up. In other words, it’s a copout. Yes, we know the world is not fair, but we don’t have to contribute to it. We’re not automatons who just unthinkingly do whatever the world tells us to do. We can make decisions for ourselves and one of those decisions could be to make the world better for one person. We can make that decision every day!

If we all had that mindset, there wouldn’t have been the Civil Rights movement or women’s suffragette movement. Or more recently, the #MeToo movement. Or trans rights coming to the forefront of our collective consciousness. Imagine if Martin Luther King Jr. looked at the inequality around him and said, “Well, that’s just how it is. Life is unfair!” Or Gandhi. Or Rosa Park. None of the major societal improvements would have happened if someone hadn’t stood up and said, “This ain’t right. What’s’ more, I’m going to do something about it.” We need the disrupters who are willing to put their lives on the line to be the change they want to see in the world.

On a smaller scale, that’s what many marginalized creative people do with their works. They don’t see what they want to see out there, so they create it. I do that with my writing. I make my protags bisexual Taiwanese American woman-shaped people with black cats. Is it limiting? A bit, but it’s better than writing about boring and bland straight white dudes. Honestly, if I never read another book with a straight white dude protagonist (or watch such a movie), it’ll be too soon. I was in college when I first made the decision to only ready women of color (preferably Asian women) in my free time. In the mystery genre, that wasn’t possible in the ’09s, so I widened it to white women as well. I did read white dudes once in a great while, but it had to be someone highly recommended by someone I respected. A white dude once said to me in a tone of high dudgeon, “Isn’t that just as discriminatory as not reading minority authors?” I looked at him in disdain and said, “I bet I’ve read way more white straight dudes than you have women of color.” He had nothing to say to that because I was speaking the truth.

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