Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: weirdo

Mary, Mary, most contrary

I am not a contrarian. Not deliberately so, anyway. I know that my mother believes I do it on purpose, but I really don’t. It’s not like I wake up and choose violence. I don’t think, “Hm, what is the most contrary position I can take?” and then voice that.

My mother once said to me in exasperation, “Something isn’t bad just because it’s tradition.” To which I replied, “That doesn’t make it automatically good, either.” She did not like that. At all.

It’s true, though. Just because something is tradition, it doesn’t mean we should keep doing it. I don’t see anything wrong with questioning something in order to time-test it. If it’s good, then continue to do it. If not, then let it go. I don’t think that’s controversial, but I know it is.

The biggest examples in my life are having children and getting married. Let’s add to that being in a long-term hetero relationship. Let’s lump all that together under the umbrella of family shit. I knew since I was young that I was going to get married to a man and have children. My mother made it very clear that it was my duty as a woman to have children and to take care of my husband. In the other order, actually.

When I was 22, I was madly in love with my boyfriend at the time. We were talking about having children and I realized that I did not want them. At all. I cannot tell you how great that felt. My heart lifted and I was free! I didn’t have to have children. It’s still the best decision I’ve made in my life, by the way.

Along with the biggies, though, there are the more medium choices that I’ve made that are weird. Like my hobbies. Taiji isn’t weird in and of itself, though it’s less popular in the States than is yoga. I had to Google that because while it feels true, I didn’t know for sure. Roughly 2.5 million people practice Taiji in America versus 37 million people and yoga. So, yeah, I was right. Taiji is way less popular, which is of no surprise to me. Hm. Another resource says 3.7 million practice Taiji in America. At any rate, it’s roughly 1/10th the amount that practices yoga or less.

I can only guess that those who study Taiji weapons is even less. This makes it a very niche hobby, which isn’t surprising to me. I did not choose it because it’s the lesser-practiced meditative practice, but it’s not surprising that I’m drawn to it in part for that reason.

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Free to be me

I’m weird. I have known this since I was a young kid, but back then, I thought there was something wrong with me. Why couldn’t I just be like everyone else? It wasn’t just a little bit different or in a few ways–it was in nearly every way. I read all the time, which many considered strange. I even read the dictionary (I stopped at ‘I’ because I lost steam) and started calling my bullies ‘unintellectual imbeciles’, which, not cool, but I was pushed to it, and did not do anything because they did not know what I meant (I was seven or eight).

I was fat and awkward, and I knew nothing about American culture. We only watched Scooby-Doo, Fantasy Island, and The Love Boat in our family. I don’t even know what other shows existed at the time. We never went to the movies and I didn’t hear my first pop song until I was in the sixth grade. It was Electric Avenue by Eddy Grant.

Here’s the thing. My parents, especially my father, did not like living in America. My father was fiercely Taiwanese and came here for his studies. He and my mother met in grad school and fell in love. Or rather, my father wooed my mother and won her over. She was engaged to a man in Taiwan–

Fun fact: She was engaged to him because my grandmother had very outdated notions about dating. She refused to let my mother go on a date if she wasn’t engaged to the man.

My parents had a whirlwind romance. My mother finished her MA and would have had to go back to Taiwan if she didn’t find another way to stay in the country. My father’s American housemother urged them to get married, so they did. Then they moved to Minnesota so my father could pursue his PhD in Economics.

I sometimes think about the sliding door version of life where they didn’t rush to get married. I fully believe that if they had dated for another year, they probably would have broken up. Or maybe not. I mean, they’ve been together for nearly 55 years. So, even though it’s deep dysfunction that binds them (not to mention codependency), they have established a lasting routine.

I used to think that my mother would be happier without my father, but now I don’t think that’s true. Her sense of worth comes from the fact that she’s a martyr (and that she’s superior to my father in almost every way). In other words, she needs him to feel good about herself, even though he’s abusive. If she weren’t with him, she would just find someone else like him.

Once in a while, she’ll let the mask slip and display her utter contempt for him and how little she expects from him. Such as when she said she realized he wasn’t smart. It’s true, but it’s not a nice thing to say about your husband, especially to your child. I will admit that it helped me see him in a different light. Arguably, a more realistic one.

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Forever a weirdo

I am a weirdo in almost every facet of my life. I don’t drink at all and I don’t want to be around other people who drink. For the most part. Most people vastly underestimate how drinking affects them, and it’s not pleasant to witness. It doesn’t help that because I am empathic, I absorb people’s emotions–especially the negative ones. People are much less able to hide or mask their emotions when they are drunk, which doesn’t help matters.

In addition, I don’t like any of the pop culture that other people like. I saw the Red Wedding episode of GoT and HATED it. Not just because of the brutality of the episode (especially the killing of the dire wolf), but because it just seemed…torture porn-y is the best way to put it. When I watch something that is gritty and realistic, my body doesn’t distinguish it as being made-up. Therefore, I have the same reactions I’d have if it was real. That’s a me-thing, but it’s one of the reasons I don’t like movies/TV.

It’s relevant in talking about games I like because I was watching the Summer Game Fest, and I was bored out of my mind. Granted, I was waiting for the Elden Ring DLC that never came, but it wasn’t as if I was really hyped for the event. I don’t get hyped about much of anything in the first place because that way lies madness. Geoff tried to keep expectations down by saying there wasn’t going to be any surprises this year (not like last year and Elden Ring).

Which, fine. No surprises. Whatever. But everything was tepid. Even things I was mildly interested it bored me. The vampire game was one I had an eye, but it didn’t really do anything for me. Same with most of the rest of the trailers. And it held true for the individual company conferences as well.

There was one game that intrigued me–it was called Pentiment by Obsidian Entertainment and came out of left field. Nobody knew it was coming, and it has a distinctive art style that just grabs you. It’s a medieval murder mystery that is very charming-looking. Do I get exactly what is going on? Hell, no! Am I going to download it on Game Pass Day One? Hell, yes! This was in the Xbox/Bethesda showcase.

Other than that, though, there was nothing that caught my interest. There were so many Dead Space rip-offs, I lost count. I don’t care about sci-fi or horror, so it’s a double no, dawg, for me. Plus the multi games. Don’t care about those a lick, either.

I know it’s not for me, so I don’t get too riled up about it. Nothing is for me. That’s what I’ve learned in my 51 years here on earth. I am not the target demo for anything, and while that can be frustrating at times, it’s also freeing. I don’t expect to like anything, so I’m pleasantly surprised when I actually DO like something.

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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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Dating is scary–at least the idea is

I haven’t dated in over a decade. The last time I was with someone, he love-bombed me to the point that we were planning on forever being together. It was all him, honestly, and my desire to be with someone  (and to please the person I’m with) that made me go along with it. I’m not a good partner, which is one reason I haven’t dated in a decade. After a whirlwind romance and a heartbreaking dump of me by him, I vowed off dating for a year. That year stretched out into several years.

Right before the pandemic hit, I started thinking about dating again. Obviously, that went on the backburner when the pandemic hit, but I had given some thought into what I actually wanted. I don’t want a lifetime partner; I enjoy being by myself too much. Me and Shadow work really well together; that’s all I want in my day-to-day life. He’s on my legs right now, his left forearm extended over the edge of the couch. He’s taking his fifth nap of the day and enjoying life to its fullest.

Here’s the bottom line. I like to do my own thing. I don’t like having to compromise. I don’t want to do what the other person wants to do all the time. Some of the time, fine, but not all of the time. If I want to eat cereal at three in the morning, then that’s what I’m going to do. If I want to play Elden Ring for four hours straight–hell, yeah! Nobody better say boo to me. Part of the reason I’m so adamant about this is because I tend to let people take advantage of me. I was taught at a very young age that my feelings don’t matter. My only purpose was to serve others–especially my parents. They are both narcissistic in their own way (sometimes in confusingly opposing ways). Add to that the fact that I can feel other people’s emotions, and, well, let’s just say it’s better for me to be on my own or with a trusted person.

So when I started thinking about dating, I had to really consider what I wanted–and more importantly, what I didn’t want. First of all, I’m an outside the norm in almost everything. I’m fat, middle-aged, Asian, queer, genderqueer/agender, apathetic about religion, apathetic about gender, apathetic about, well, lots of things that other people seem to think are important. Movies and television shows fall under this umbrella as well. Most of music, too. I just don’t care.

I’ve pulled back on the pandemic. It just doesn’t terrify me the way it used to. In part because I’m fully vaxxed (no booster yet), but more because, well, my perspective was turned 180 while I was in the hospital. Suddenly, I had more important things to worry about–more immediate things. That’s something having a death-defying experience will do for you–change your priorities in a hurry.

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Chuck out the framework entirely

I can’t stop thinking about my brother saying of course I didn’t like movies because I was two steps ahead of the plot at all times (because of my high sensitivity to people’s emotions). Funnily enough, that’s why I enjoy mystery books–because I know who the perp is halfway into the novel. I usually know why they did it, too, but not always. And, counterintuitively, I like musicals because of how obvious people’s motives are and how theatrical musicals are. There is no way to mistake them for real life, which is nice.

My brother and I were talking about his inability to distinguish more than the base emotions. He can tell if someone is happy or unhappy, for example, but not to what extent or why. He can’t pick up on their emotions if they are masking to any extent, which made the first few years of his real estate career rocky. He wanted me to help him interact with other people better, but it’s not easy to coach someone on it. He’s the type who’s used to doing anything he puts his mind to do. I gave him a few tips and he was like, “Yeah, yeah, can do”, which made me smile in amusement. Ingrained behaviors are difficult to change. It’s not just a matter of putting your mind to it, which my brother soon learned. One thing I told him was that he talks too fast. So do I, but I’m able to slow it down when needed. He’s not. Another is that he never used to show any interest in other people’s emotions. He was my ride to the airport when I needed it, and he never asked me how a trip went when I got back. Until several years after he started in the real estate business. One time, I came home from a trip to visit Ian and my brother actually asked how it went. I was so gobsmacked, I didn’t answer for several seconds. Now, he’s gotten to the point where he will ask how I am on the regs and such. So he has the basics down of social oiling. Er, you know what I mean.

It’s funny because I’m so attuned to other people’s emotions; it’s one reason I don’t like to be in a crowd. I’m better now that I know how to erect an emotional shield and keep it in place. I am better at maneuvering through crowds so I don’t feel like I’m trapped, largely in thanks to Taiji. I’ve been bringing up the Dunning-Kruger study often in the past few days, the lesser-known effect (people who are good at something underestimate how much better they are at it than other people), and I’m bringing it up again because it fits here. I have always been perceptive about other people’s emotions and motivations. I can see through the veneer that people put up 9 times out of time. Hell, I’d say 97 times out of 100.

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Blending in with the normies

I went to the pharmacy the other day to pick up my meds, duh. I made the chitchat with the person at the counter, which, as we live in Minnesota, was about the weather.  It’s a balmy 41 degrees, but it’s going to dramatically drop soon. There is a severe weather warning for sudden drop in temps and gusts of wind up to 40 mph. The teller was saying, “That’s what we get for living in Minnesota” while I sympathetically said it’s time to get the heater going. I know the right words to say in this situation!

Never mind that I love cold and that I am grumpy with 41 degrees. Never mind that we do, indeed, live in Minnesota, which is notorious for its cold. We are in the middle of a Wind Chill Advisory at the moment with warnings that it could get down to -35 windchill. That’s pretty cold, even for me.

Anyway! I have had a version of this ‘it’s so cold’ chat many times while paying for my groceries. There was a period in my life when I’d try to say that I liked cold or something to that effect because I wanted to put it out there that not everyone hated cold. I gave up on that rather quickly, however, because no one wanted to hear that. Also, the cashiers don’t need that in their life. They’re just making small talk, not trying to get to know me and my philosophies.

I don’t feel the need to make my uniqueness known to people I’m not going to interact with on a meaningful level. I have to admit that I was irked after getting out of the hospital because my mother would blurt out my life story to anyone who would listen. She would use it as a way to get what she wanted, which made me very uncomfortable. I was venting to my brother about it and he said, “Remember, no one will think of you at the end of the day.” Which, weirdly enough, comforted me. He was right. These people would go home at the end of the day and not even remember they met me. You are never as big in someone else’s mind as you are in your own.

I am a weirdo, I will cheerfully admit it. I revel in it and have no problem with people knowing it. I am known to be oppositional, but I come by it honestly. It started when I was a fat, gawky, Taiwanese American girl in a lily-white St. Paul suburb. I didn’t know anything about pop culture and I had no idea how to fake it. Seriously. We didn’t go to movies and the first pop song I ever heard was Electric Avenue by Eddy Grant in sixth grade. That’s probably an apocryphal story rather an actual memory, but it sums up my childhood experience rather neatly.

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The quiet place of me

I have talked at length about how I’m different than most people. I’m talking in big ways–Asian, bi, not married, no children, agnostic, food issues, etc.–and small–liking winter, preferring night to day, etc. When it comes to pop culture, it’s pretty much a guarantee that if something is popular, I will hate it. Movies I hate: Star Wars, Titanic, Amelie, Se7en, and Pulp Fiction. Music groups: The Who, Led Zepplin, and The Beatles. Books turned into movies I tried to read and couldn’t: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I read the first chapter of the first one three times before finally giving up because it was such bad prose. As for the latter, I instantly haaaaaaaaated the narrator and couldn’t get past it. Oh, one more. The first Game of Thrones book by George R. R. Martin. The prose was so purple and turgid, I had a hard time not laughing out loud. A few more: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by David Eggers, White Teeth by Zadie Smith, and The Night Listener by Armistead Maupin.

Let’s move onto TV. It’s the area in which I am the weirdest. It’s also something I don’t talk about hardly at all because I’m so squarely on the side of weird. Popular TV shows I absolutely hate: Seinfeld; It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia; Game of Thrones*; Breaking Bad; House of Cards; Arrested Development. I will add that I’ve only seen one episode of GoT and BB so there’s that. The GoT one was the Red Wedding and the BB one was the penultimate episode. I absolutely LOATHE Seinfeld. All the characters are narcissistic, smug, entitled, whiny, and overwhelmingly white.

Speaking of, the most recent movie I watched was Knives Out. I was really looking forward to it because it had gotten such great acclaim and I loved Agatha Christie, especially Poirot; it was clear the movie was an homage of sorts to Christie. The cast was stellar, ranging from Jamie Lee Curtis to Toni Colette to Don Johnson. Oh, and Daniel Craig as the detective. I wasn’t impressed by the frenetic cut-editing of the trailer, but I figured it was just a way to get people to see the movie.

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On the contrary; life as a contrarian

I’m a contrarian. I know this and to some extent, I embrace it. I swear to the heavens that it’s not out of spite or because I think I’m better than anyone else, but it’s just how my brain works. I tend to look at something from several angles and poking holes in theories. I will say that part of it is me always rooting for the underdog, which means I want to represent the minority viewpoint more often than not. It’s also because I hate things being misrepresented. It’s one reason I had to step back from politics because of the in-fighting. I expect Republicans to attack Dems, but it’s Dems viciously tearing each other apart that drives me fucking nuts. It’s always been that way, but it started getting really bad during the 2016 primaries and it has just gotten worse over time.

I am a far leftie in theory and a not-quite-as-far leftie in practice. That means I get to see the ugly on both sides. It really irks me that some Democrats online spend more time slinging arrows at each other than across the bow. What is the fucking point? I’m not talking about discussing the differences and hashing out what’s important to the party. I’m talking about demonizing the other side and declaring them the enemy. Seriously. We’re talking about degrees of how far we should go on an issue rather than being on opposite sides. It’s frustrating and irritating, and I want no part of it.

However, this post isn’t about me being a contrarian about ideas and politics and whatnot, but rather about me being contrarian when it comes to pop culture.  Now, while it’s true that in the aforementioned instances, there is often a small part of pure contrarian because that’s who I am. It’s 95% not that, but maybe 5% that. In this case, though, it’s simply I don’t like what other people like. I know some people think it’s me being hip or whatever, but it truly isn’t.

A recent(ish) example is Knives Out. It was a huge success and it got raved about over and over again. So many superlatives, so little time. It was an ensemble cast with a quirky detective, which should have been right up my alley. I watched the trailer and was…not impressed. Everyone talked about how great Daniel Craig was, but I could not get past how terrible his accent was. Maybe it was purposeful? I mean, he’s a great actor so I cannot imagine he couldn’t do a spot-on accent. Also, he appears clueless, but it had to be an act, right? Like Poirot.

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