Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Being Preppy



The word "preppy" means different things to different people. But what image comes to mind when the word is said?

Do you think of someone who is well off, dressed in pastel colors, with gelled hair? The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes the word as "Someone who dresses or acts like a student at a prep school (such as by wearing neat, somewhat formal clothing or by using particular words and phrases)".

Since starting college, I've been looking into switching up my style. After two and a half years, I felt as if I had found the style that fitted my personality. In the past year or so, I've described myself as being preppy, not only in terms of dress but also in the morals that I believed in. To me, being preppy meant setting yourself to a higher standard and putting yourself second, if not third. I guess I've always had these inner standards. It just took time for my outer self to match my inner one.

In many ways, I see being preppy as being respectful of traditions and history. It is being respectful of where you come from, and the belief that just because something is new does not mean it's necessarily better. But most of all, being preppy means embodying charity, compassion, and the desire to help others without wanting something in return.

However, this leads me to what we see online: Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest. What do we see when we type up "preppy"? We see guys with monogrammed polo shirts posing in front of "their"sports cars that their parents paid for, girls lying on beaches sipping on some tropical drink. In short, we see people with backgrounds of privilege, affluence, and the attitude of getting more than what your neighbor has.

How about all the other things that are behind these pictures? Is being preppy having a closet stuffed with clothes and accessories? Or having money/property passed down from generation to generation instead of having a work-hard ethic to get where you are? Is that what preppy means?

There may be an endless number of attributes to what being preppy means, but at the end of the day, what does it all mean?

Am I guilty of playing into this trope of wanting to be preppy? Of course -- but who isn't? In the past 20 years or so (or should I say in the last 2-3 years), I've definitely tried to fit in, materialistically at least. In the attempt to find my own style, I had lost myself in a cycle of consumerism.

In short, it seems as if being preppy is not what it used to be. The word has been photoshopped, filtered, and edited to the point where the word has more extrinsic meaning than it does intrinsic. However, this doesn't mean that I don't respect the term --I did at one point in time, but it's been changed to the point where it's hard for me to find any part of the word that still relates to who I am today.

And what does this mean for me? I can't give you a clear answer. Based on how the term "preppy" is defined by pop culture, I definitely do not fit this definition, and I don't want to. I don't go on vacation in Southampton. I don't come from a rich background, nor do I have a plush bank account. My parents were foreigners from China. And my style of dress? It's a mix of everything.

So if there's one thing that you take away from this post, it's this: large brand names, big houses, and fast cars doesn't make a person better than the next. The best style is being true to who you are. At the end of the day, each one of us will be remembered for the kind of people we were, not what possessions we had.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Performance Art



I'll put this out there: I'm not good with kids. If you leave me around with a kid for more than half an hour, that is a minor inconvenience to me. If you leave two kids or more with me, then you either hate your kids or you hate me.
Don't get me wrong, I love kids. I really do, it's just that I'm not good at dealing with them in a mature manner. I'd make the worst parent because I don't have the nerve to say "no" to them or do what has to be done. And speaking of that, teenagers? Don't even go there with me. If you think I'm bad with little kids you should see me try to deal with a teenager. It's a joke.

But kids are great when they're supervised by their parents or if they are with a nanny. In that situation, they can be pretty entertaining and I can put up with them. Put that kid in a public situation with people they don't know and you get double the entertainment. That's your entertainment for the night.

Marina Abramovic once said that performance art was all about context and that the context of what you do is different in a museum than out in the real world. For example, if you bake bread in a museum, it is considered art, but if you do the same exact thing at home, you're just baking bread. Children have no sense of what "context" really means, which makes them the best performance artists in the world.

I was running around the track with the kid of one of my friends when she says to me "My mom told me that you're different from other people.""I...uh...hmmm." "She says it's okay to be gay. Are you single?""I....um.......no...uh."

I have another theory. I once read some commentary about what art should mean (I read this in a required reading for one of the classes that I took while in college). The author, who was quite prominent in the art community in San Francisco, said that "good" art should be disruptive; in other words, the goal of "good" art should disrupt people's perceived idea of what "reality" means to them. I wanted to see if the author had kids because if that was true, then kids would fulfill that purpose to a T.

To back this up, I would like to bring up an example. I was celebrating my birthday with a few friends in West Hollywood. I have friends of all ages: those old enough to be my parents to those just entering college. One of my friends brought her two children with her: one son and one daughter: the son was two years old and the daughter was 7 months. If there were ever an embodiment of hyperactive energy and restlessness, it was these two children. In the restaurant that we were in, there were several other large tables with people focused on their own events.

 Now, the two-year-old boy decided he wanted to run around all over, and my friend, after half an hour of running after him and trying to get him to settle down, gave up and thought that it would be best to just let him run until he was tired. This situation was already bad enough, but then the 7-month-old little girl decided that this would be an appropriate place to practice these bloodcurdling screams that she was passing off as human conversation. It felt excruciating. My friend tried to have her stop but this kid just wouldn't stop screaming. When I looked over at the other table I saw the disapproving stare of a teen. I gave her a fake smile and pretended that having a screaming kid at your lunch table was the most normal thing possible. Disruptive indeed.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Trading Up



Over coffee in a popular part of town in downtown Arcadia, Madison told me a story that touched on an aspect of dating which those of us who have been around the dating game for a bit could probably relate to. This story revolved around another friend of hers named Abby, who we viewed as a successful person (or at least as successful as you can be for someone who just graduated college). She, like so many of us, was looking for the love of her life. At some point, she was going out with someone by the name of Jonathon. From the looks of everything, it seemed as if they got along great; their personalities seemed to match, and they enjoyed being around one another. In terms of the relationship itself, or at least how they talked to and behaved around one another, it seemed like they didn't have any problems.

In terms of problems, the only one they had was that everyone around them thought that Jonathon was not in Abby's league. He wasn't particularly handsome, or motivated, or blessed with a natural talent that could have made up for everything that was average. In short, he was average in every sense of the word. Abby's friends didn't know why she was dating him, and apart from the fact that she liked Jonathon, it seemed as if Abby had no idea why she was dating him either. But because she tends to listen to her friends' input and opinions on who she dates, and also because she felt as if what they were saying had logical reasons, she decided to break up with Jonathon. It wasn't a nasty breakup, but Jonathon still had his heart broken.

A few months later, Abby heard that Jonathon had moved on and was dating another girl named Shavan. Shavan was a popular girl who was even more successful, better looking, and seemingly had a wealthier background than Abby. Abby couldn't comprehend what had happened. The main reason why Abby broke up with Jonathon in the first place was because she felt as if she needed to "be better" so to speak, and in the most ironic twist, Abby was left alone while Jonathon was the one who traded up. To her, the whole situation was confusing.

 This story was particularly interesting to me because when I was still desperate to date someone, I would always fall into this cycle. I was never truly satisfied with the person I was with, and therefore I always kept an eye on a possible person who was "better" than the person who I was currently dating. Here's what I learned from my past in this regard: that's the worst possible way to go about dating people. It's not fair for either party. It's exceptionally superficial, and doesn't get to the heart of what dating should be about, which is being with someone who you truly care about. You can either love someone or not. If too much value is put in superficial things, thinking that there is only a group of very specific people you can date or can have a possibility of falling in love with, it seems to limiting and unnecessary. From my experience, it seems that falling in love with someone (or "liking" them) is more often than not a tricky thing. It's often better to accept these feelings as a gift rather than look for problems in the other person.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

What's In A Name?



A few days ago I was walking through the mall when I heard my name being called by a voice I didn't recognize. At first, I thought it was directed at someone else, but I turned around and I saw a guy walking towards me with his hand extended. I shook it and realized that he seemed to know me but I couldn't remember meeting him.

There are people out there who are good at remembering names but not faces? And those who are good at remembering faces but not names? Well, I'm good at neither. I'm one of those unfortunate people who are bad at both. Which is not good for someone who is socially awkward in most situations (namely, me). I'm bad at small talk with people I don't really know, and adding the fact that I needed to pretend I knew someone just contributed to the mess.

Unfortunately, situations like this have become something of a regular occurrence in my life. I'd meet someone who I could not recognize, and they'd talk to me about a conversation or event that we had together with such detail that I knew I was going to be a rude prick if, in the middle of the conversation, I suddenly asked how I knew them. So, me trying to avoid confrontation at all costs, would usually just stand around and nod hoping that our conversation would end soon and that the other person would not realize that I was only pretending to remember who they were for the past half hour.

And soon, I realized, this kind of behavior is a mistake. Here's why I think so: in a conversation, there's a window of opportunity when someone can ask the other their name and how they know each other, without coming off as rude. This window is definitely within the first five minutes. After 15-20 minutes, it might come off as strange, but you can still do it. But after the conversation is over, this opportunity is out the window, as they say. This will make the next conversation not only very awkward but if you ask their name, they will be very humiliated and you will be an asshole.

This is why now, particularly after starting college, I have quite a few acquaintances who I bump into often whose names I don't know, but recognize because I know they are the people whose names escape me. There are some "mutual friends" that I hang out with, and who I sincerely hope never realize that I don't even know what their name is. Sometimes I'll give them a nickname to compensate. "Oh gosh, it's that banana costume dude. I need to look as if I forgot something in my bag so it looks like I didn't see him and I'm not ignoring him; it's just I'm really busy looking for something super important in my bag."

So going back to my mall story, I was standing there very awkwardly, hoping that I could find my way out of the conversation before he realized that I just wanted a way out of talking to him. I figured that I'd listen to him for a few more minutes before I excused myself and pretended I was meeting someone.

All this was going as planned until one of my friends walked along and joined our conversation. The polite thing, of course, would be to introduce them, and I would have done that, except the only problem was that you can't really introduce your friend to someone you don't really know, and that person was talking to you assuming that you knew who they were this whole time.

So of course, there was a moment of silence. I have never been stuck in a more awkward position. I was standing there looking at both of them like an idiot because I knew they were both waiting for me to introduce them. After another period of silence, I just decided to take a risk and introduce them.
"Hey, so this is my friend Mark." I just pulled a name out of a hat and hoped that I was correct in my guesswork. "Peter? Are you sure? You look like a Mike," I might have added.

Another period of silence. Then the guy looked at the ground, smiled, and introduced himself. I forced a smile back, and tried to look as if I knew his name the whole time, and that I just didn't know how to make a good introduction. Which I realize makes me look rude and incompetent at understanding social cues. Apparently, there is no winning option.