Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: tradition

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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What I’m thankful for this year

I don’t do holidays. I did them as a kid and when my niece and nephews were kids, but I’ve never liked them. Holidays, I hasten to clarify, not my niece and nephews. Them, I like a lot. More and more the older they get! They’re really great young adults. But holidays? Being forced to be around people I may or may not spend time with on the regular given my druthers? Nah, son. Not for me. My mother once said to me indignantly that just because something is a tradition, it doesn’t mean it’s bad. Which, true. But, I would counter that just because it’s tradition, it doesn’t make it good, either.

This year, my brother is having a Thanksgiving lunch. I am not going because I don’t feel comfortable being around groups yet. If I hadn’t been in the hospital recently, I would consider it. Well, no, I wouldn’t because if I hadn’t gone into the hospital, my viewpoint would be not to do holiday things as it’s been in the past. It’s the hospital that changed my thoughts on many things, including the pandemic. Which is now endemic. It’s here to stay and I’m not letting it rule my life any longer.

So, if I were a year out of being in the hospital, I would consider going to my brother’s for Thanksgiving. This year, though, it’s too close to my hospital stay for me to consider it. I don’t want to get sick again. And while I’ve relaxed on the pandemic, I’m not ready to be around a group of people again.

So. I do feel grateful this year, though. Thankful, if you will. I’ve spent the last few months pondering my life and the fact that I’m still alive. A brief recap: I somehow got pneumonia. Not sure how. I wasn’t going outside much at that time, but I did open it up a crack from my earlier days of self-isolation. I called 9-1-1, opened the front door for the cops, then collapsed in the front hallway. The cops bagged me when they arrived (with oxygen) while waiting for the EMS. During the ambulance ride, I had two cardiac arrests and a stroke. They had to shock my heart twice and applied an Epi pen once.

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An Ode/Eulogy to Valentine’s Day

Ed. Note: I wrote this on Valentine’s Day, even though it won’t be posted until the day after. Just so there’s no confusion.

I have a complicated relationship with Valentine’s Day. I have always professed to hate it, and I do, mostly, but it’s for more complex reasons than I normally admit. I would tell people when asked (and sometimes unprompted) that I deplored the commercial aspects and being told that I have to buy lavish gifts to demonstrate my love. I firmly believed that you could show your love in many different ways at any time of the year, and I didn’t need Hallmark to dictate when I should display my love, damn it. That was all true and sincerely felt, but there was a deeper, darker reason I hated it so much–it’s because it consistently let me down. Yes, even I, as jaded and bitter as I was, I had bought into the promises and dreams Valentine’s day had fed to me, lies, really, during my teenage years and into my twenties. I wanted the romance, to be wined and dined, and to be made to feel like a queen. I wanted happily-ever-after that was the bailiwick of fairy tales and Harlequin Romance novels. When I was in a relationship during those years, even though I would pooh-pooh Valentine’s Day, I would secretly hope that my partner would surprise me with a magical night. It never happened, and each time it didn’t, I became increasingly bitter. Even though I tried to pretend I was fine with having a low-key Valentine’s Day, I wasn’t. In other words, I was a lover scorned being spiteful towards my ex-lover.

During my thirties, I tried to make my peace with Valentine’s Day, even though I dreaded its arrival every year. I was not in a relationship more often than I was, and each Valentine’s Day was a stark reminder that I was single. Our society is very couple-centric, and it’s not like I need another day to shove my alone-ness in my face. I get enough of that wherever I go–you really can’t escape it anywhere. Back in my thirties, I desperately wanted to be in a relationship, although I would have vigorously denied it. I was an independent, strong woman, damn it, and I didn’t need no man or woman to make me complete. Yet, there was something inside me that longed to be one half of a couple. I couldn’t squash the feeling, no matter how hard I tried. So, much of my bluster about Valentine’s Day was because it made me feel my lack of a romantic relationship keenly, and I hated feeling that way.

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This President Has No Home Training

eternal facepalm.
Uncle Sam is ashamed of us!

There is a GIF circulating the internet of Prime Minister Abe (of Japan) rolling his eyes and leaning away after this president shook his hand. Which the president did for a long time. I joined in the merriment, but then I thought more about it, and it’s such a classic bully thing to do. This president does that macho bullshit of crushing people’s hands when he shakes them, and he really did not want to let go of Prime Minister Abe’s hand. It’s a dominance thing in which the so-called alpha male shows he literally has the upper hand, and Prime Minister Abe’s discomfort was clearly evident. Then, the news that PM Abe’s wife was not accompanied by Melania Trump on her tour of DC broke, and I was stunned by the lack of etiquette. No, it’s not Mrs. Abe’s first trip to DC, and, no, she wasn’t completely alone, but still. She’s the wife of a very prominent foreign dignitary. You make it your priority to accompany her on her tour of your fucking city.*

This isn’t even Politics 101; it’s just common courtesy. You do not let an honor and esteemed guest wander about your city without being there. You. Just. Don’t. I’m not the biggest fan of mindless traditional behavior, but I do think there’s a base level of decency that we must extend to each other, especially if you’re the President of the Fucking United States. It’s embarrassing to watch this president interact with the heads of foreign countries, especially Asian ones. Asians are very big on face and showing utmost respect to others in public. There is an elaborate ritualistic dance you must perform, and anyone who doesn’t is viewed with askance. I’m not saying it’s a great thing in general, but I do think having a rudimentary knowledge of other cultures is important as president. Prime Minister Abe and his wife may never mention these indignities, but they will not forget them–I can guarantee you that.
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