Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: societal norms

Unspoken (and ever-changing) norms

Today over at Ask A Manager, in the first post of the day (5 questions type post, which is typically the first post), the first two questions got the most response. Thefirst question was about training a coworker who was hopeless, and the second about a pumping mother who was getting heat from HR. I knew those two questions were going to get the bulk of the comments, and I was not wrong.

However, it was the third one that had the most interesting responses (to me). The question was from someone who worked in fundraising in a room with two big whiteboards. They used the first one for work, but the second one was blank. They put up five pics of their family on that board. Their question was if that was too much. The usually saw the donors offsite. They didn’t want to be unprofessional, but they were in an office that talked freely about family. They (I think it’s a woman, but not 100% sure) were in their thirties, but perceived to be younger. They did not want the pictures to make them appear anything less than professional.

Alison’s reply was measured and thoughtful. She said it was probably fine in that office, but tif the letter writer (LW) really felt uncomfortable, they could pare back. Alison also said that it wouldn’t make the LW look young (that was another part of the concern) in the way photos of partying would. I had no disagreements with Alison’s answer; however, the comments from the commentariat were all over the place.

First thing to note is that I swear the LW mentioned putting up five photos, but I can’t find that referenec. In her answer, Alison says a dozen in too much. I was pretty sure someone in the comments–found it. Someone did mention 5 family photos. And the LW did say threeof their new baby and two of their wedding, but they also mentioned that they ‘filled’ the whiteboard and those seemed like an example so I don’t know how many.

That’s besides the point, though. It jjust seems wild to me that people in the comments were coming down so hard on the LW for the amount of pictures. One went so far as to do the ‘of course I want to hear about people’s families and of course I support people bringing their whole selves to work’–which was followed with the inevitable ‘but’.

It’s amusing to me bceasue I never put up anything personal when I worked in an office and that was considered weird. There have been letters to Alison about that as well. How people find it troubling when the OP didn’t have anything up on their walls. One said they got so many comments, they just brought in a few random things and the comments stopped.


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Normal is in the eye of the beholden

In yesterday’s post, I talked about not wanting children. It bothers me that in the year of our endemic, 2023, it’s still considered the norm to  have children. Or rather, that people perceived as women are still pushed to have them. I had naively thought that in the thirty years that have passed since I was in prime breeding years, we would have evolved on this issue. But, no. We have not. If anything, we have regressed on so many diversity issues, it hurts my heart. I did not come back from the dead twice to live in a world that is worse for my niblings than it was for me at their age.

I honestly thought that we would have become a bit more enlightened by this time, but no. I know that it’s partly because the reaction to unwanted change is often fear and rage, but I’m discouraged (and fucking pissed off) that the conservatives are winning the fight to go back to the 1950s. Some liberals like to say that the old conservatives are dying out, but it isn’t as if they aren’t passing along their norms. Yes, the younger generations are better than us in many ways, but prejudices die hard. Those who are my age aand claim that the younger generations are prejudice-free are naive at best and willfully dismissive at worst.

The sad fact is that we always need someone to look down on. There always has to be an out-group in order to have an in-group. One could argue that we don’t need an in-group, but that’s human nature–to have an in-group, I mean. We tend to gravitate towards people who are like us. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing because it’s natural. However, the key is to not hate those who are different or automatically suspect them, and we are terrible at that.

It’s funny because I assume that I’m the weirdo in any given situation. Therefore, tnhe few times I actually realize I’m in the norm, it’s a very weird feeling. Or when I find a group in which I actually fit (for that one thing). But the problem with the latter is that groups that focus on one thing are oftentimes not great in other areas. When I was in college, I saw this play out in real time. For example, I belonged to an Asian group and brought up women’s issues a few times. The leadher of the group (a guy) told me we didn’t have time to tackle that.


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Discussing family dysfunction

I come from two cultures that hammer home how important family is. Taiwanese and America, I don’t actually know much about the former other than what my mother and father have told me. The latter gives lip service to it, but doesn’t really put much effort into making it happen. In fact, during the pandemic, many companies showed exactly how much they cared about family (hint, not much if any).

There are many difficulties in discussing family dysfunction. One, there is a collective investment into pushing the narrative that family is everything (again, without actually promoting family. Many families had a really hard time during the pandemic, especially working mothers. This post is not about that, though).

For people with good parents, it’s nearly unfathomable to them that other people have different families. It’s the same for anything, really, in that people think they are the norm. For whatever reason, though, it’s even more the case with faaaaaaamily. You’re supposed to forgive behavior from family members that  you would never forgive from anyone else.

Every family has an Uncle Tim who is to be avoided for whatever reason. Whether he’s creepy or gross or racist or whatnot, everyone speaks about him in hushed tones, but put up with him because ‘he’s faaaaaaaamily’.

There’s a truism that you don’t ask the unreasonable person to change their behavior beacuse you know that they won’t. Instead, you pressure the reasonable person to adapt because you have a better chance of getting that to happen. This is why my mother puts up with my father and scolds my brother and me for not catering to his every whim.

The last time they were here, my mother sent a long and guilt-tripping email to my brother and me, saying that we had to love and respect our father more. The day before, she told us not to speak so fast in front of him because he could not keep up and it made him feel bad. My brother and I only speak English. and we both speak very quickly.

When I pointed out that my brother and I were just talking to each other like normal people in the language we spoke (in other words, we weren’t speaking English AT my father, so to speak), she said we should go to the living room to do that. I pointed out that it would make my father even more paranoid if my brother and I were to LEAVE THE ROOM in order to talk with each other.

Back to the email. She said in Taiwanese culture, kids were supposed to love and respect their elders (that this was the most important thing). Which, yes? I guess? But there are qualifiers to that. At least I hope there are. And maybe this is the American in me, but that’s fine. I am an American, whether I like it or not. I’m Taiwanese by lineage, but I have never lived there. Nor, quite frankly, have I wanted to. Given what my parents have told me about the culture, why would I?

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Why can’t you be just like me?

One thing I’ve been harping on lately is my incredulity that people are incredulous that other people don’t think like them/act like them/believe what they do. I was reading old Ask A Manager posts, and the commentariat went off on a tangent about eating when you’re in a foreign country. Someone commented on how she found it really sad that her inlaws (Chinese) went to France and sought out Chinese restaurants instead of eating French food. She said she loved Chinese food, but she was still sad about their lack of trying French food.

Woman. 100% of East Asian people are lactose intolerant to varying degrees. 100%. Or, to be generous, 99%. What do French people use a shit-ton of? Cheese. And cream. And milk. I recently Googled gluten-free and dairy-free along with France, and they don’t believe in any of that shit. So, yeah, the in-laws sought out Chinese restaurants! Why the hell would you want to eat something that was terrible on your digestive system?

Other people talked about how they knew ‘picky’ eaters who brought food with them when they went to foreign countries, and wasn’t it so sad that they didn’t try the local food because that’s part of the country?

I would agree that food is one part of a country’s culture, but it’s not the only one. And there are several reasons not to eat the local food. People in that post rightly pointed out that it was nobody’s business and that there were several reasons why someone might not eat the local cuisine.

Some people doubled down, though, and said it was fine if it was allergies, but if it was ‘just’ pickiness, well, that was not ok! Excuse me? Why the fuck was it any of their business if someone had a bland palate for medical reasons, because they were ‘picky’, or for any other reason? Such as being a supertaster.

Even if it was that the person was truly being picky because they only liked certain foods, so what? There were several people talking condescendingly about how the person could unlearn being a picky eater. Which, maybe yes and maybe no, but no need to get an attitude about it. Also, again, why did it matter to anyone else? If you are traveling with them and they refuse to go to certain restaurants, then, yes, that’s something for you to cencern yourself about. If it’s just that they don’t want to try anything new, but they’re not imposing on you, then why do you care?

For me, I will never go to most of Europe because they are so big on pasta and cheese. Ican’t eat any of that. When I went to Malta and stayed in a Franciscan monastery, they had pasta for every meal. With cheese. Forntunately, they also had plain meat and plain veggies. Plus, gluten-free bread for breakfast. So I ate, but it was pretty miserable.

I just don’t understand why people care. About what other people eat, I mean. Again, if the person who is eating more plainly insists on not going to any place with the things they won’t eat, that’s one thing. Barely.


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Wish I may, wish I might

When I was little, I had no dreams for the future. Mostly because I didn’t think I had one, nor did I really want to live. I just made my way through each day, hanging on until the end. Oh, wait. I had one dream. That was to be an actor. I loved to perform and would jump off the coffee table, yelling, “Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!” as I threw my arms in the air. No idea why. But then I never saw anyone who looked like me on TV except for the extras in M*A*S*H (which I hated, by the way), so I sadly concluded that there was no place in the business for me.

I did do some theater when I was in high school and in my twenties. The latter was with Theater Mu, which was the first regional Asian American theater. It was a great experience, but the company itself had a lot of issues. I did some solo performing after that in which I wrote, directed, practiced, and performed the pieces all by myself. That was great because I like being in control. It’s funny because my most memorable one had me stripping to my undies in front of a hundred or so women, and it was exhilirating. It wasn’t prurient, mind, but a piece about finding out who you really were.

I gave up on it in my thirties. No real reason. Well, if I were to be brutally honest, gaining weight probably had something to do with it. Plus, Taiji. Once I started doing that, I did not really feel compelled to go back to performing. Now, however, I have the urge to do it again.

It was my first love, and only now do I have the confidence to do it. Hm. I was just thinking that if I want to do videos (not want, but have to because blogging is dead), then I can combine the two. Performing and video, I mean. I’ve seen people do what I would call sketch comedy for their content creation, which is interesting.

Many of the people who do it aren’t that good at it, but that doesn’t seem to matter. I’ts personality-driven, and it’s peppy perky that people seem to like–when it comes to women. With men, it’s shouting a lot. Loudly. With many hand gestures. It’s fucking annoying.

Side note: I find it discouraging that in the year of our pleasure, 2023, diversity still is not considered important for many content creators. I watch a lot of British content creators, which I like in general, but they are not exactly up on diversity. There’s a popular cooking channel that I used to be subscribed to called Sorted. But, given their stubborn refusal to have anyone but white dudes on, well, I’m done. Yes, occasionally, there’s a white woman or a man of color, but it’s so rare. One of thein staff chefs is now a man of color, but he acts like one of the lads. They have a series in which they try to cook a burger in less than ten minutes. Each guy made his best burger and they’ve invited guest chefs to do the same. They’ve had half a dozen plus the original four staff members and no women. That’s when I quit watching them completely.

Many minorities don’t like the token minority because that one minority often doesn’t feel real. I agree, but at the same time, if there isn’t even a token minority, then that means the company/people in charge aren’t even thinking about it. That’s how I feel with Sorted. They don’t even think about having diversity. Seriously. Ten dudes (all but one white) making burgers. They couldn’t think of one woman they could ask?


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Forever a freak

I am going to talk about two seemingly disaparate things that are actually related. I was just messaging with K about the hate-fest that was happening in Philly. The Prejudiced Moms Who Want to Outlaw Minorities conference that I refuse to give its proper name. She was telling me that it has been dubbed Klanned Karenhood, which is chef’s kiss perfection. She and I have talked about how the original meaning of being a Karen has been diluted to basically a strong woman speaking up at all, but this usage of it truly adheres to the original meaning (white woman coming down hard on minorities, particularly black people).

I was saying to K that I while I understand on a superficial level that they are threatened by anything that is different from them, I don’t get it on a gut level. I don’t find much validation in the world, but I’ve never really cared about it. Once I realized that I was a weirdo and was most emphatically not like other people, I was fine with it. Sure, sometimes, it gets me down, but most of the time, I just shrug my shoulders and move on. I don’t care because I’m not going to change. I wrote about this yesterday in the area of gatekeeping. I have fully embraced that I have ‘terrible taste’, and I take glee in agreeing with people about it.

But, today I want to talk about it more in the terms of identity issues and sensory issues. I mentioned the former above, and the latter is like this. On Ask A Manager in the weekend thread, there is a question about what to provide for guests who are staying for a few days. There was another thread about this a few months ago. And I metaphorically ran screaming from the room at several of the suggestions.

The ones that were great: Provide towels, extra sheets, and period products. Extra lamp, amenities, etc. All of that is great. But, as someone with so many sensory issues and allergies, it is also fraught with potentional problems. I can’t stand any scented products. Most products are scented. I am also allergic to feathers, so no feathered pillows for me. I can’t use scented shampoo or conditioner–and certainly not soap.

No Febreeze for god’s sake. I’m imploring you. That stuff is so nasty. I used it once after my late cat, Raven, sprayed on a wall. I tried to find the most innocuous scent and chose somtehing like Clouds & Rain because that sounded as close to natural as possible. It was so bad, I had to open up all the windows and the sliding glass door to the patio because I was gagging and choking on the fumes. And I only sprayed once! I would rather smell cat piss than Febreeze, and that’s saying something.


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All the gatekeepers of the world can fuck off

In the RKG Discord, someone was going off on gatekeeping. Not in video games, but elsewhere. His main point was that as long as someone wasn’t hurting someone else, let them like what they like. I agreed because I have been put down for my tastes all my life. I find it more amusing than hurtful, but it’s still annoying after a while.

To be clear, I don’t go around saying I think Star Wars is boring (I do) or that I found The Big Lebowski exceedingly distasteful (which I did), but I’m also not going to lie about it if I’m asked. I don’t like many of the popular pop culture, but I keep my mouth shut. Unless I’m specifically asked. Or, if I’m opining on my own Twitter feed/Facebook wall, etc. In other words, in my own home. I’ve had people take offense at that, and I take great pleasure in agreeing with them that my taste is terrible.

I mentioned boba tea, which was invented by my people–the Taiwanese people, that is. It was all the rage when I was in the Bay Area, and I tried it when I was out there. I don’t know if it’s still the case, but I was given a contaner of tea with big, thick, chewy tapioca ‘pearls’ at the bottom of the cup. There was a big straw in the cup, and you were supposed to suck up the pearls through the straw.

I could not suck hard enough to get that pearl through the straw. Wow. That sounds sexual, doesn’t it? I could not do it. No idea why I wasn’t given a spoon as well, but I faithfully tried again. When I managed to get one through the straw, I momentarily panicked that it was going to get stuck in my throat. Plus, it was soft and squishy. I do not like solid things in my liquids, at least not the ones I’m drinking (which excludes soup).

When I moved back to Minnesota and it became a thing here (roughly three years after it was a trend in San Francisco, I refused to get any. Even though people around me raved about it. Now, I would not be able to have it because it has milk in it, which is fine by me.

I get that people have their own preferences, but I don’t get why people care so much about what other people like or don’t like. I have a friend whose husband takes it very personally if she doesn’t like the same thing he does. He takes it as a rejection of him, which I understand, but I don’t agree with.


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Walking the tightrope

There is a post today on Ask A Manager on bad ice breakers. In general, I don’t like them (though I don’t have to do them) because at best, they’re bland and boring. At worst, they’re othering and fraught. I mean, “What’s your favorite movie?” is boring for the most part, but for me, it’s fraught because I don’t watch movies any longer. The last movie I watched, I really thought I’d like it–but I hated it. The last movie I watched that I truly liked was Guardians of the Galaxy. Bookwise, I mostly don’t read popular novels because I–well, this is a requirement I have of most of the media I consume. There have to be minorities in it, and not just as tokens. This cuts out a large swath of media. It’s amazing how I can watch a trailer for something and dimiss it in the first ten seconds because it’s, as I’m fond of phrasing it, ‘white people doing white people things’.

It’s one reason I watch cozy competition shows–there are plenty of minorities in the ones I watch. It’s harder to have judges and MCs who are PoC, but there are those as well. It’s one reason I really liked the first season of Next in Fashion (let’s not talk about the second season) because almost everyone on the show was a minority in one way or the other; several were double or triple minorities. I have no interest in fashion, but I have a lot of interest in diversity.

Back to icebreakers.

In the thread, someone mentioned that they had a coworker who was in a coma for two months after she was hit by a car. The teacher in the class asked for an interesting fact about each person, and the coworker, ‘Sandra’, mentioned what happened to her. The instructor was fascinated and asked follow-up questions.

The commenter who posted this story said they asked Sandra if she made the comment on purpose, which Sandra did not seem to undrestand. The commenter suggested not bringing it up agian so as to ‘not freak out the teacher’. They went on to suggest using ‘fun fact’ rather than ‘interesting fact’ to avoid a situation like this, but I was truly puzzled.


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Ignoring the box

So, I was talking yesterday about being outside the box in so many categories. K said that it gave me a unique perspective, which is true. But it’s also alienating. Most of the time, whatever I think/feel is outside the norm. Basic things like can people of different genders be friends? I have known so many people who say no. When I was in college, I was telling my then-boyfriend about my cool guy friends (he knew many of them). He looked at me and said, “They all want to get into your pants.”

I took it at face value back then because I assumed he knew guys betetr than I did. Looking back, I didn’t think he was right. HE wanted to get into my pants, which he eventually did, but that didn’t mean every guy felt that way.

I love dudes. I love dudes a lot. Dudes are great. I felt more drawn for guys at that time in my life because I had more in common with them. That in and of itself was not bad, but I definitely had the chill girl vibe–meaning, I’m not like the other chicks please don’t hate me.

I honestly don’t understand people who think people of different genders can’t be friends. Or, you can’t be friends with people of the gender(s) you’re attracted to. That would mean I can’t have any friends! This is also why I am leaning towards agender. Gender just dosn’t mean much to me. I was saying to K that I had the experiences of a woman because that was how I am perceived, so I felt a kinship there. But I don’t understand the sentiment, “my gender is so important to me”.

I don’t know what gender is. I’m saying this without snark, and I want to be very careful to say that this is just about me. I know gender is very important to other people, but when I think about gender for me, I just get confused. In part it’s because I have been told all my life that I’m not feminine. Not even that I wasn’tfeminine enough, but that I wasn’t feminine at all. I’ve been told things I think and do are not things women think and do. I’ve also been told that I have failed as a woman because I did not get married and have kids. Granted, the last is mostly by my mother, but still.

I do think if I were a youngin, I would just slap on the label agender and be done with it. I don’t know why I don’t do it now. I think it’s because I’m…just tired thinking about it. I was in the hospital after I died. Say it with me. Twice. Waking up, I had a new appreciation for life and for my body. I joked with K that it was partly because I was high on drugs, and man were those some good drugs, but I walked out of the hospital l-o-v-i-n-g my body.


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I am the diversity

I go through my life being a weirdo and pretty much ignoring all the evidence that I am a weirdo because I know I’m a weirdo and I don’t really care. Most of the time. Plus, that’s too many uses of the word ‘weirdo’ in one sentence. But I’m making a point. The point being that I’m a weirdo.

Anyway, the reason I’m thinking about it is beacuse I’ll read old posts at Ask A Manager as a way to wind down at night. The one I chose last night was from someone who knew a new hire from working with him in a different place. In the last place, there was rampant sexism because they hired from a Christian college that proclaims that women should submit to men. The letter writer asked how, if she had been on the hiring board, could she probe for this kind of attitude?

Alison said (broadly paraphrasing), that she would ask about diversity issues. This was for a managing position, so the questions were geared towards that. One of them was, “How do you think about equity and bias around things like race and gender when hiring or developing people?” She had possible follow-up questions to each question. the one for this question was, “How have you known when your efforts to foster equity were working or not?”

I have seen other posts (not necessarily from her) about asking people how they work with people of different genders, races, ethnicities, religions, etc. It’s funny to me beacuse I always have to work with people of different everything. I’m the minority in almost every category I can think of. Protected by law, I mean. Gender, religion, race,  sexual orientation, and age. Agender, areligious, Taiwanese, bisexual, fifty-something. Back in the day, I used to joke that I was a triple threat (race, sexual orientation, gender) and that was before I went even more buckwild.

That’s why I get frustrated when people try to lecture me about looking at it from other points of view. Not that I can’t afford to widen my horizons because of course I can. Everyone can. But it’s irritating because it never feels ilke it’s a two-way thing.

About a decade ago, when being more aware of social inequities came to the forefront, I noticed an interesting phenomenon. Any time issues of, say, gender or sexual orientation were brought up, white cis dudes were given a free pass. What I mean is that the people most pushed on the isuses were minorities themselves. I understood it was partly because of the whole ‘a reasonable perosn will more likely change than an unreasonable one’, but it was frustrating.


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