Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: identity

Taking stock of my life

I’m coming up on two years of bonus days. That’s a lot of extra time, and I’m still grateful every day for it. The thing, though, is that I’m no longer assuming that it’s just borrowed time. I mean, it’s not just borrowed time. I don’t know when I’ll die for the third and presumably final time, but I have to make the most of my remaining time before that.

It’s too easy just to let each day slide by when I work from home and don’t really drive any more. I mean, I drive to the grocery store, and I’ve driven a few other local places in the last two years. But, for the most part, I no longer drive. It’s because my perception is terrible and I can’t cover my blind spots any longer. My perception has always been shaky, but now, it’s just awful.

The only reason I would want to drive, even, is because of my Taiji classes. They are in South Minneapolis, and I am in the north (suburbs). We’re talking a half hour drive. I used to do it three times a week before the pandemic. Now, however, it’s more than I’m willing to drive.

My mother asked me to go to Taiwan to help out with my father. Or rather, she phrased it as, “You wouldn’t be able to come, would you?”, but then was angry when I said I couldn’t and I wouldn’t be that much help, anyway (because I can’t speak the language). She said I would be a help, which, yes, I probably would have been. But I haven’t even flown in the states, let alone internationally.

My mother is now pressuring my brother to go. I get that she’s in a terrible bind and needs help, but it’s sad that she thinks guilting her children into going there is the way to go. I have a pretty iron-clad reason not to go (my health and the flight), but my brother has of a valid reason (in her mind) to not go. Especially as he just went to NYC for pleasure. I countered that was a great reason to say she couldn’t go to Taiwan–he couldn’t take back-to-back vacations. Granted, he’s a realtor and has no set schedule, but most people could understand not being able to take two lengthy vacations in a month.

We both agree that it would be better if they came back here, for them, I mean. the political climate in Taiwan right now, especially for Taiwanese people, is terrible. In addition, if they moved here, my brother and I would be able to help out much more. Me more than my brother because we would be living in the same house, but my brother as well becasue he could come over every day or at least several times a aweek.

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I’m finally at home

If I could have given my younger self some advice, it would be fuck the police. Er, fuck everyone olse. I can’t emphasize to her how little everyone eles’s opinion matter. Sure, you want to be kind and thoughtful. And, yes, you want to have good friends and connect with individuals, but those assholes who want to tell you what to do? Nope. don’t give them a second thought.

I would tell her, this includes your parents. Especially. This is somethin I really wished I had known much earlier in my life. My parents should not have had kids, and it’s not on me. It’s not because I was a bad kid that they treated me the way they did. You see, as a kid, I had cause and effect backwards. This is true of most kids who experience a less-than-great childhood. It’s human nature to assume there’s something wrong with you if your parents don’t love you.

And, yes, my parents don’t love me. I realized that when I was in my thirties or so. Before that, I thought it was just that they didn’t know how to show it. I didn’t fully acknowledge it until after my medical crisis because I didn’t realize it until then. I mean, I knew in the back of my brain that they had issues and did not show their love in a way that was meaningful to me. I danced around it because who wanted to admit that their parents didn’t love them? But with my medical crisis, I had to admit it because it was costing me to pretend it wasn’t true.

I’ve talked about it before, but what made me realize it was when I came home from the hospital. It was the second day home and my mother wanted me to show my father a stretch that helped me with my back. On the sceond day as I said. From dying twice. Well, to be more accurate, a week and two days after that. She wouldn’t listen to me when I said I was too tired to show him the stretch. That showed me that he was more important to her than I was, which I had known–but I hadn’t fully embraced.

I would tell Little Me that it’s not her fault that they did not like anything about her. My mother wanted a daughter to be her clone.  Or rather, to be the perfect little girl my mother wanted her to be. She made it known to me as an adult that she had had issues with her mother so part of her solution was to have a great relationship with her own daughter–which in theory was me.

The problem was that she didn’t allow for the possibility that her daughter would not be like her or like what she believes a girl should be. In other words, me. She had no idea that someone like me could even exist. Everything about me is offensive to her, apparently, and she takes it as a personal affront. She once said to me in exasperation that something being traditional didn’t mean it was wrong. I retorted that just because it was traditional, it didn’t mean it was right. That really pissed her off, but I didn’t care.

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I don’t care…much

Back in my twenties, there was a big discussion in the community* about emphasizing that sexual orientation was not a choice. “After all,” they said. “Straight people don’t choose to be straight.” which, true. But. And this is where my brain gets weird. I’m bisexual, for lack of a better word. Which in theory means I DO choose who I want to date/fuck. And, I prefer sex with penetration, but relationships with people without the hardware. This was back in the day of binaries, remember. I had a more simplistic idea of things.

Anyway, I do think it’s a choice to an extent or a preference. I like people of all genders, but back in the day, I prefered sex with men. I haven’t been with someone in a decade, so I’m not sure where I would stand on the subject these days. I will say that the last person  I was eying on Bumble was a woman. Bumble is sadly limited, though, gender-wise.

I have the same feeling with gender identity. I don’t have a strong affinity for any. Yes, I know I’m not a man, but other than that, I feel mostly meh about it. I can’t fully understand peolpe who are rigidly set on their gender, but I respect it. I mean, if someone says their gender is important to them, then I accept that as true. I don’t have to feel something to believe that other people feel that way.

I do wonder if there was no sexism, would I feel the same way? I think if there wasn’t abject sexism in our country, I would be fine with being a woman. Again, I don’t have much affinity for it, but I don’t have animosity, either. I just don’t…care. Much. I think I would be more comfortable with ‘woman’ if it wasn’t so laden with bullshit and impossible expectations.

Story of my life, really. I wouldn’t care so much if not for the gross implications. “A woman is what you want it to be”. Except if you don’t like ANYTHING earmarked as traditionally feminine. This is where I get stuck with people who feel a deep affinity to their gender. I don’t know how to ask without it sounding snarky, condescending, or nasty: Why do you care about your gender? I certainly would not ask someone who is trans because that would be beyond insensitivity.

I really don’t get it, though. It’s not genitalia. But then people with misaligned genitalia can feel body dysphoria. I get both those statements, but not together. And, granted, it’s usually one or the other, but it can be both. That’s what I don’t get. I don’t have to get it, I know, but I would like to when it comes to me.

I like my body. I fucking LOVE my body now. It took a licking and kept on ticking. I like my boobs and my pussy, my thigh-length hair, and all my curves. I love the soft folds of my flesh, and I love that I look the way I do.

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Accepting additional info with ease

People talk about how difficult it is to adjust to the new pronouns of someone they’ve known and love for quite some time. For some reason, I do not have this problem. When gender identity started becoming more talked about as a social issue, I struggled with ‘they’ in the singular. When I changed my thinking to ‘Wait. I use ‘they’ in the singular when it’s a generic person, then it was no longer an issue for me. In other words, when I realized I already used they in the singual, I hod no problem accepting it as a singular pronoun.

And, yes, I kow it used to be one. That is an argument that is proffered frequently, but I don’t find it that persuasive because there are many things that used to be standard that we no longer use. Such as thou and thee. For me, personally, knowing that we currently use they in the singular is a better rationale to me. The other reason that resonated with me was that it’s what people want to be called. I can dig that.

I also had difficulty with neopronouns. I will admit that I’m not as comfortable with those, but that’ss a me-problem. In part, it’s the purpose of pronouns. There is a reason for a set amount of pronouns. They are meant to be stand-ins and not personally applicable to each individual. But, I do agree that he and she is way too limiting. Personally, Idon’t like they for myself, and I have no affinity for the rest of them. I will say that ey/em/eir are the closest to ones that I actually identify with, but it’s more an intellectual connection than a personal one. Honestly, call me any of them other than he/him, and we’re good.

It’s easy for me, though. I rarely slip up, and I also think it’s because I’m in so many ‘other’ categories. I’m not black or white–I’m Asian. Not gay or straight, but bi (or pan, I guess, but I really don’t like that. I tried to just leave it at ‘queer’, but people think that means gay). I have been trying to get away from bi for years, but there really isn’t anything else that I like.

When It comes to religion, I’m not Christian and I’m not an atheist. I am areligious, meaning I don’t care. I like using apathetic for religion, but it’s more hostile than I mean it to be. Or rather, it imparts an ill-intent that I don’t mean. Areligious is good for pubblic consumption because it’s about as bland a word as you can get.

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The more things change

Dying changed my life. And it didn’t. On the regular, I’m doing pretty much the same things I used to do. Writing a shit-ton of words on my computer, playing FromSoft games, cuddling with my cat, Shadow, from time to time, and nattering in the internet. Doing my hour-long Taiji routine every morning as I wake up. I eat the same thing almost every day, and I rarely go anywhere. That’s my life before I went to the hospital, and that’s mostly  my life now. I’ve added to my Taiji routine and I’m thinking of adding even more.

Right now, I’m obsessed with Chun-Li. I’ve never played a Street Fighter, but I’ve always loved her because she’s Asian and has dem thicc thighs. I also have muscular thighs, but nowhere near as thiccccc as hers. I seem to remember some fanboi angst at them slimming her thighs a bit or putting her in less revealing clothes. I don’t want to Google it, but I did. i can’t find the specific thing I was looking for, but there was the usual muttering about how she’s fat, not muscular, blah blah blah.

What the fuck ever. She’s my girl and I will not hear a word against her. I have never played any of the games, but that doesn’t matter! I wear my hair in the two buns and I have the thick thighs, plus I’m East Asian. And the boobs. How could I not be her? So I want to be known as Chunky Chun-Li.

I am so into my body right now. I don’t give a fuck if it seems like I’m arrogant. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I spent decades hating my body. I thought I was gross and disgusting, that I wasn’t fit to live. I felt like I had to apologize for taking up space. So, pardon me if I’m showing a bit of self-love.

When I realized I didn’t want to have kids, I felt a huge sense of relief. I cannot tell you how amazing it made me feel. I felt light and airy, and I had never felt better than I did in that moment. Man, did I get shot down repeatedly for responding that I didn’t want kids when asked. I tried to find other women who felt the way I did, but I could not. All the articles I read about it were of women who shamefully said  they weren’t going to have them, then provided a zillion reasons why not. I don’t blame them. It’s such a strong societal stricture: thou art destined to procreate if thou art deemed a female human.

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I am, but. And, again, but.

I’ve struggled with identity all my life. Growing up as a fat, brainy, weirdo Asian chick in a very white Minnesota suburb was all but guaranteed to make me feel like a freak. I got picked on almost every day, and the days I didn’t, it pretty much was me wandering around lost in my own thoughts and never quite understanding what was expected of me. I like to joke that I was raised by wolves, but it’s pretty true. I have an apocryphal story about how the first pop song I heard was Electric Avenue by Eddy Grant when I was in sixth grade. The first movie I remembered seeing was Star Wars (the original, whatever the fuck it’s called) when I was seven or eight, and I hated it. I also saw Superman at the time with my youth group roughly around the same time and had nightmares for a month.

I’m just going to say it. I don’t like movies and TV for the most part. I once told a professor I had in grad school that I didn’t like movies, and she looked at me as if I said I ate puppies for fun. She said it was like saying I didn’t like sandwiches, which was a bad analogy for me because sandwiches are delicious. I realized then that my opinion was objectively Bad, and I should keep it to myself.

Side note: I wasn’t going to get into why I don’t like movies and television shows for the most part, but it’s actually an integral part of this post, so here we go, the Cliff Notes version. I have a vast imagination, and I like to let it run wild. It’s one reason I can write fiction almost endlessly, and I’ve only had one serious writer’s block in my life. Tandem to that is that my brain never. stops. thinking. Worrying, ruminating, chewing over every goddamn thing. It’s exhausting, but it’s something I’ve dealt with most of my life as well.

Put these two things together, and you might be able to see why I don’t really care for movies or television. The whole time I’m watching a movie, the criticizing part of my brain is chattering on and on about what is wrong whatever I’m watching while the other side of my brain, the creative side, is thinking of a dozen ways it would have done the scene differently–and better. I can never forget that I’m watching a movie or television, and I never really get into it.

To that end, most of the shows/movies I like either are based on the premise that the theatricality is part and parcel of the show (one reason I love musicals), or the writing is good enough to pull me in and allow me to override the chattering in my brain.

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Modeling Your Minorities

Back in the Stone Ages, I attended grad school for Writing & Consciousness at a schoool that was several years afterwards stripped of their accreditation*. It had its positive and negatives, and the best thing it did for me was made me write every day. Prolifically. Anyhow, I wrote a short story (more like a novellla) about a young woman who was sickened by all the serial murders and rapists (how apropos) who weren’t prosecuted for their crimes for one reason or another. She decided she was to be the avenging angel, and she tortured and murdered several of them (all men) in particularly brutal ways. She mimicked their behaviors to torture them, and I’ve never written anything like it. It was so brutal, I had a hard time reading it myself.

My adviser, who was Mexican himself and was well aware of racism in America, suggested I make the protagonist white so that people wouldn’t get hung up on the fact that she was Asian. Which she was. Did I forget to mention that? I make most of my protagonists Asian queer women for obvious reasons, and this one was no exception. I’m not sure I made her queer, but she definitely was Asian. He said that if I made the character Asian, that was all people would talk about, and the meat of my story would be lost.

I get that. He’s not wrong, and it’s still a pervasive idea that if you have a minority as a character, you need to highlight all the differences over and over again. Recently, Leonard Chang, a mystery writer (whom I’ve met in real life once back in the same Stone Ages) discussed how he had’s had editors in the past who’ve told him to Chink it up with his characters (my words, not his). One editor wrote in rejecting Chang’s novel, The Lockpicker (which has since been published):

What fails for me is that it [that] virtually nothing is made of the fact that these guys are Koreans. I suppose in the alleged melting pot of America that might be a good thing, but for the book it doesn’t lend anything even lightly exotic to the narrative or the characters.

Emphasis mine. The implied thinking is that why one earth would we want a novel with Korean characters if they’re not going to act Korean? They might as well be white guys, amirite? From the same link, which, by the way is Teen Vogue. They’re doing great things socially and politically, and how I wish they existed back when I was a teen. Anyway, Chang also said a different editor had this to say about his characters:

The characters, especially the main character, just do not seem Asian enough. They act like everyone else. They don’t eat Korean food, they don’t speak Korean, and you have to think about ways to make these characters more ’ethnic,’ more different. We get too much of the minutiae of [the characters’] lives and none of the details that separate Koreans and Korean-Americans from the rest of us. For example, in the scene when she looks into the mirror, you don’t show how she sees her slanted eyes, or how she thinks of her Asianness.

Again, emphasis mine. The first part is the same as the other, but the bolded part adds yet another wrinkle to the othering grossness. Because being Asian is foreign to them, it’s of utmost interest. For those of us who are Asian, it is but one aspect of our personalities. I can guarantee you that I don’t stare in the mirror, pondering my ‘slanted’ eyes** and think about how Asian I am. It actually reminds me of a quote I saw about how if you read a book and all the women are talking/thinking about their boobs, it’s probably written by a guy. Same principle. Those of us who have grown up having boobs for most of our lives, it really isn’t a day-to-day topic burning the forefront of my mind.

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The Identity of Politics

My taiji teacher and I were talking about our food allergies today. She’s allergic to dairy (and maybe casein and/or whey). I am lactose intolerant (and perhaps have issues with casein and/or whey), and I have gluten sensitivities. It morphed into a discussion about why are some people assholes about food sensitivities to the point of not believing the person who says they have them. This led to a discussion about how people can be such jerks to vegetarians/vegans, and I pointed out that to be fair, there are some vegetarians/vegans who are assholes. She agreed, but pointed out that the vast majority are not. She gave the example of bikers. Yeah, there are some asshole bikers, but they would be assholes if they were drivers or pedestrians. In other words, they were just assholes in general.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about lately, and it’s actually what I wanted to write my post about today even before the discussion. I have an issue with someone who’s a minority saying, “I’m ________, therefore I am the expert on this issue. If you disagree with me, then you’re ______ist.” This might be true. It might also be that you’re an asshole and/or wrong. I have made a truism: You can be a minority AND an asshole; the two are not mutually exclusive. It’s hard for me to be coherent about this because I have many conflicting thoughts. One, it’s good to include a diversity of opinions. In the past, the automatic default of straight white bio-male meant that a lot of people were being overlooked. One example relevant to me: most medical studies in the past were done on white men. When I had trouble sleeping, my psychiatrist at the time suggested I try sleeping pills and gave me the lowest dose. I took a pill and didn’t wake up for nearly twenty-four hours. I cut it in half at her suggestion, but I still slept for far longer than I wished. I cut it into a fourth, but it still knocked me the fuck out. I gave up and stopped using them. Many years later, I learned that Asian people need a smaller dose than white people, and, of course, women in general need less than men. Had I know that at the time, I would have been  lot less frustrated.

Two, experiences as a minority vary widely. Growing up Asian American in a Minnesota suburb in the eighties is very different than growing up Asian American in LA ten years ago. My experience is valid, and I’ve run into many Asian Americans around my age who grew up in similar environments and had similar experiences. However, it would be a dick move on my part to insist that my Asian American experience is the ONLY Asian American experience,  and anyone who said anything different was invalidating my experience AND a racist to boot.

Three, pointing out problematic behavior/thoughts/words is the beginning of a conversation, not the end. There are some things that are definitely, say, racist. Let’s take the obvious extreme–being a Nazi/white supremacist. Oh, wait. That’s apparently not so obvious these days, but that’s beside the point. Most rational people would agree that thinking you’re a better person just because you’re white and explicitly stating this is racist, so let’s move on. The problem is, there’s a lot of gray area when it comes to social issues, and not everybody agrees where the line is drawn. There’s a lot of talk about microagressions these days, but one person’s microaggression is another person’s hilarious joke.

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