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Monday, August 25, 2014


One could say that I'm really insecure - I've had people call me brave for always being myself and whatnot, but under the facade that was built to face the world, I pretty much hate myself and every aspect of it.

This stems from the fact that I always needed the approval of people. One time I finally got an A for science after failing the subject for a few years in primary school, and skipped home and waited for my mum to get home, only to be a subject from the typical Asian tough love, or as we typically call it, "泼冷水". It varies from parent to parent, but some of the parents I know often use reverse psychology to encourage their kids to do better.

Unfortunately, reverse psychology didn't work for me. Having to have to deal with sibling rivalry on top of that, I sought every method I could to gain approval and acceptance.

That wasn't so prominent in primary school, because I was still really shy, and all I needed was my best friends at the time, and we shared a passion for Harry Potter.

High school came, and the only other people I recognized were people I wasn't too familiar with from primary school. As with typical high school problems (minus a lot of the exaggerated drama from American TV and movies), making friends was a problem, and a huge pressure to fit in suddenly settled upon my shoulders.

In high school, puberty hits you, and you start to get conscious of how you look. That was the start of my "weight loss" journey. While I discovered amazing Japanese artists and musicians, I made myself listen to Taiwanese and Korean music as well, so I wouldn't be the only one sitting in a corner listening to my friends (at that time) discuss about bands I didn't know about.

In high school, I started to be conscious of a lot of things I wasn't conscious of before - my hair, my skin, how my uniform looked, the hip accessories every other girl had, even down to how they laced their North Star shoes that were typically frowned upon by our disciplinary board.

Something that I have mixed feelings about that I picked up in high school was the range of foul language. People have commended me for being "real" for extensively using foul language, but I've also had the very common dirty looks from some people for using too much, or even a teensy sprinkle of it in daily conversation. But I picked it up anyway, because everyone was saying it, and at that time I thought that if you didn't know them, then you're not part of modern civilization. Aaand I also had a few crushes who were from the non-elite classes, and they were typically delinquents who practically used foul language as an actual conversational language.

I was even more conscious about my body, as well as my language skills. Even though I went through all my education up to primary school in Chinese, my family spoke mainly in English, and my mother's side of the family were pretty much certified grammar Nazis. The fact that we have a ton of English novels at home adds to that.

Perhaps they were saying it jokingly, or they were annoyed, or it was one of their back-handed ways to tell me to just shut up - I was basically told to stop showing off my English (I was among some of the English top scorers in my year). I still continued to write 800-word essays for exam questions that requested only 350 words, and I continued reading novels. Like no way in hell am I going to lower my bar just because it's higher than the average.

For that, I could boastfully ("bitchyly" would be another way to put it) say that I didn't give too many fucks to how people thought about my English skills - it was a skill that I knew would be useful to me, and would put me in a more advantageous position at work.

As for body image... not so much. While my mum would tell me to ignore the taunts I got from my uncles from before I started schooling, and some of my late dad's attempts to keep me from ballooning, the fact that skinny girls saying that they were fat really killed me. At that time, all I could think of was... "if they're fat, then what am I?"

Over the years, I've learned to embrace my actual shape - pear shaped, with really wide hips and as a result, thunder thighs. Plus the fact that I have really broad shoulders. Most times I'd look in the mirror and admire myself from practically every angle possible, until I start noticing the flaws. It's something like how you would notice the details of a picture the longer you look at it. There's a weird dent in between my hips and thighs, extra flesh at the underarm that was caused by wearing the wrong bra in the long-term, how my cheeks were always puffy... All that.

It's sometimes even worse, when I look in the mirror just before a shower, when I've been through a long day and I felt like shit. On the surface, I would put on a mask that pretty much screams "look at me, I'm the hottest girl you'll ever lay eyes on"; inside, I'd look at all the other girls around me... I don't think I need to explain further.

What's helped a lot has been encouragement from my mum and her sisters. I guess women would know women's minds better.

The real turning point - even when I'm still struggling now - is my current boyfriend. He's been really supportive, and undeniably honest. No sugarcoating. He'd point out my flaws if I raise the topic, or when what I wear isn't flattering, and he'd say he loved me anyway.

He isn't telling me I'm ugly and flawed, but what's important is beyond all the unsightly bulges and jiggly parts that I hate. Love? I'd like to think of it as his own way of telling me to love everything regardless.

Thursday, August 21, 2014


She emerged from the water gasping, her clothes drenched. She vaguely heard someone calling her name above the fury that someone had intervened.

The smell of rust spiked the air and violated her taste buds. That person gripped her wrist hard, making the blood gush everywhere. Drops of them stained the side of the tub, the floor, and stood stark against the fresh white towels.

Soon there was a strip of cloth around her wrist just below the cut that exposed her bones. The ringing in her ears drowned out the words spoken to her, but all she felt now was distraught as darkness started to consume her vision as the person beside her cradled her to him.

She awoke to the beeping of a machine. She heard that before, from movies, and television programs.

The afternoon light hurt her eyes, and she felt alien objects all around her body, connecting her to the jumble of machinery that surrounded her. Her fingers touched something obnoxiously cold, then warm fingers. Her palm was pressed against a stubbly face.

She made out his figure, then slowly, his features. Light shone from his grief-darkened face, and watched as his lips said her name. He was so scared, he said, he thought he lost her.

He said again and again that he was sorry, that he didn't mean to, that he had no choice.

She chuckled at him. There's always a choice. She had a choice, but she chose him nonetheless. What he chose, however, was something she would never understand, just like how everyone else would never understand her.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Why Asian parenting and Western ideals of freedom shouldn't mix

Before you dive into a deep hole of criticism about my logic, hear me out. My perception, knowledge, and direction of approach may differ from others.

In my perception, the bottom line of Asian parenting is teaching your child to be obedient, loyal and responsible - the words of your elders are ultimate, be responsible and loyal to your family who raised you, be responsible at your job and make lots of money, and basically please everyone, and let everyone else walk all over you for the entirety of your life, all in the name of peace.

Low-key should be how life should be lived, in many aspects. Humility is a praised trait, and being conservative is expected. Basically, you blend into daily life as smoothly as the flowing water. You should never be proud or boastful, and always adhere to tradition and norms. Violation of which would lead to dishonor.

America isn't called the land of freedom for nothing - Americans fight for and in the very name of freedom. In general, Americans and Europeans emphasize freedom as a basic need and human right. Freedom of speech, action, thought, religion, and everything else, as is the freedom of speaking up for yourself.

Life should be lived with zeal, and they believe in fulfilling their own dreams. Parents who allow their children to continue living with them past the age of 21 are considered spoiling their children. Legal issues involving children demanding things from their parents in the name of freedom are increasingly common, but the ideal of freedom makes its leak to the Eastern parts of the earth anyway.

When you mix these two together, you get very confused children. Imagine you're an Asian kid who spent his childhood meddling in the media of the West - your parents tell you to listen to everyone, get the highest-paying major and career, and start saving up for your future children's future; but every other American movie tells you to follow your dreams, even if your parents disagree with it.

You get what I mean? You were raised with the "never talk back" concept, but you're encouraged to speak up for yourself. It's confusing, and painful.

Of course, you can't have everything. Each person has their own story, and each story isn't like the novels we read - they don't always have happy endings, and the emotions are seldom as aloft as the novels portray them. Perhaps emotions are better understood when they are felt, and descriptions never suffice.

My story is that I was raised with semi-traditional Chinese family values - respect your elders, listen to them, don't talk back, keep your opinions to yourself, the typical conservative aspects. But I exposed myself more to the ideals of the West, of freedom, ambition, and self-righteousness.

And as with every other modern human, I had my share of load juggling - the typical sibling rivalry, the long-term absence of my father as he worked abroad for a better life for us, the pressure of keeping up with my education, and peer pressure. As I grew up, of course, expectations were heightened, and my horizons slowly expanded, in directions that were deemed not too agreeable by traditional Asian standards.

So, you could describe my situation this way: I'm told to listen to everyone, obey everyone, but I found the concept of freedom more exciting. Even when I knew my mother would likely object, I did things anyway.

Another thing about the different ideals... The Asians typically believe in just keeping quiet about things and letting things mellow over time to preserve peace; while Western logic orients around being vocal but civilized whenever there is dissatisfaction or disagreement.

When you combine the two, what you get is a big pot of confusion. Encouraging the voicing of opinions but hacking them down with statements suggesting that they should have just swallowed it isn't really helpful.

Sometimes, things are the way they are for a reason, and they never mixed for a reason. While globalization is a good thing that encourages for wider acceptance of different cultures, some traditions and ideals should remain untouched by others.

Saturday, August 2, 2014


She held him close. The feeling of his bareback against her naked body was so magnificent. Her fingers and palms traced his lightly chiseled muscles, skimming his chest, abdomen, barely wandering to the crease at the thighs.

He took a puff from his cigarette, feeling her breasts press against his back has he inhaled. Her arms tightened slightly around him as he blew out a cloud of smoke, concealing them in a shroud in the dimly lit room. He felt his skin tingle at every point where her body touched his skin, especially where her cold wedding ring pressed momentarily on his chest, but it was a confusing feeling – a feeling of satisfaction, and detachment.

It’d been a month since they’d seen each other – his work often brought him to places, always for months at a time. He’d been able to come back early this time, but his mind was still lingering in that city of foreign lights and people…

He put out the cigarette with a sigh.

He felt her raise her cheek from his body, her arms tensing slightly, as if sensing something wrong.

He assured her he was just tired from all the work and travelling. She seemed sceptical, but gave him a soft kiss at the base of his neck anyway, and pressed her cheek slightly left to where she had it previously.

She was so blissful he was back that she ignored the nagging feeling that something changed in him. Perhaps he was affected by the culture? Perhaps he was really just tired from the travelling? All that didn’t matter – he was back with her, with an intricate gift from that foreign country, and he’d loved her as passionately as he did.

Somewhere in the corner of the room, his phone lit up. She noticed it too, but he made no movement to reach for it as he usually did. She noted this oddity, but pushed it to the back of her mind.

She whispered his name before a light kiss on his back. She was pregnant with their child, and she exclaimed how blessed she felt, to be finally bestowed this gift of love.

He responded in a way that every married man would when he was about to become a father – he embraced her, muttering words of gratefulness, giving her loving kisses. In his mind was a war of conflicting feelings.

He rose to take the ashtray and his cigarettes out of the room and open the windows a little, and went back to embracing her.

As they lay down to sleep, his arms around her body and his nose in her hair, he told himself she didn’t need to know. She didn’t need to have her heartbroken knowing that he found the woman of his dreams in the foreign land. She didn’t need to know that the text was her asking if he’d told her that he wanted a divorce.
No one needed to know, and life would continue the way it had before he went away.