Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Masks That We Wear


I was in a club in West Hollywood with my friend Allison, looking down from a balcony at the large group of people dancing on the main floor. Allison was not in a good mood, mainly because her boss was giving her a hard time. When she was in a bad mood, she tended to rant.

"Look at them. It's so gross."
Raising my eyebrows, I looked at her and asked, "What do you mean?"
"Everyone is fake. They're all just pretending down there."
"Pretending? I still don't understand."

"Fake. Pretentious. Example: look at that dude over there." She pointed at a guy wearing a thin tie dancing on a table on the right side of the dance floor. "I'm pretty sure when it's not the weekend, he's hauling ass at a minimum wage job who probably had to save up a week's worth of money just to afford to be in here. But look at him! He acts like he's the coolest guy in here. It's just so annoying."

"I'm sure he just wants to have fun. Besides, we don't know his history."

"Of course he isn't. Just look at him. That annoying posture. That fake swagger. He acts like he's a gift from God."
  
I didn't really know how to respond, so I decided to keep quiet. 
"Look, here's my theory. A lot of people who act cool, composed, and perfect, both here and on social media tend to be such losers out in the real world."
She now had my full attention. I looked at her seriously this time, trying to see if she actually believed what she was saying.
"That's what frustrates me so much. Why we wear the masks that we do."
"We all wear masks to some degree Ally. You should know that better than anyone else here. Hell, your job is to make people look better than they really are. I believe that you call that advertising or something. But here, in the real world, we would call that lying."
"Haha, Gina. I don't know how to respond to that because there is some truth. But here's the thing, it's one thing to wear a mask and know that it's not your true self, and really it's quite another when you start to believe your mask is the real thing."
"That's true. But the thing is, I think we all need to wear masks for our own reasons sometimes."

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Family


A few weeks ago I had dinner with a few friends, most of whom I haven't seen in a long while. To put into context: I used to see them at least once a week, and this time around I haven't seen them in a couple of months. I missed them very much. They were practically my family when I was in college.

 The idea of what a family means has always been interesting, in the sense that it implies so much: love and responsibility, affection towards one another. Parents. Perhaps children. And we hold the ideal of a family like a shield against everything else; that is to say, we assume that family members are not capable of hating one another, or not be responsible, or that it requires two parents instead of just one, right along a lot of other notions that we associate with the word "family". So many people are surprised, or even angry, when a family does not resemble their ideals. A family is supposed to look like this you say, because families just are supposed to be like this. People say this as if all families are supposed to be cut from the same cloth. People say this like families cannot be as different as the people who make them.
But what about the other kinds of families? The families that you create when the one that you were born into are too busy, or just don't care to spend time. The standards that we place aren't the same, because they're not our real family. But what does a real family  mean?

For many people who are naturally inclined for something else, and being pressured by society to be similar to everyone around them, they are chained, and rebel because they feel as if they have no choice in the matter. Some people are quiet about it, fearing the consequences of being different. Some do it loudly, putting a finger out to what the world may think about them. And there are those who choose to simply live, and hope that no one bothers them and they can be left in peace.
In a sense, we are all different (hopefully not in fundamental qualities like love or a capacity to care for others) because of the lives we live. Many of us have an ideal of what the term family means, but what reality is tends to fall short of the ideals most people set forth. It's the same with everything in life, I think. We start out with an ideal, and when reality sets in it always surprises us when the person or object that we idealized falls short of our expectations.

When I was growing up, I always felt like there was something different about me. I couldn't put a finger on what it was, but I always thought that I needed to fit in to whatever image other people expected me to be. I was taller than many of my peers growing up, so I hadto play a sport. I was a girl, so I hadto be attracted to guys. I was Asian, so I hadto do better at school so my mom could tell other families in the neighborhood my grades. All these chains that held me down chafed at me, and the endless barrage of what was expected of me morphed into resentment towards my parents, some drinking problems, a sense of having to prove myself to the world, and a lot of anger. All these expectations and the feeling of never living up to what my parents wanted led me to seek approval in all the wrong places.
  
But who knows where I would be if these expectations weren't there in the first place.
Tying all this back to what a family means, it blows my mind that we put so much pressure both on ourselves and on each other to fit an ideal that we made up in our heads of what a "family" means. This isn't to say that there's something wrong with a family that does fit the traditional ideals of being loving and compassionate to each other; all I'm saying is that if we broaden our minds a bit, maybe we can at least believe to a degree that all a real family needs is to be loving and caring towards one another. Maybe nothing else is needed. In other words, why should the concept of a family be tied down to a few superficial standards?

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

This Way, Not That: A Letter to My Mom


I remember sitting in the car with you, and you were talking about my future, and how you wanted me to be this way, not that. What you meant by these phrases, you never fully explained, but I remember you putting your point across by flipping your hand back and forth. And that flip-flop of your hand spoke louder than words to me, because in that one clumsy gesture with the flick of your wrist, you summarized to me what it meant to be gay.

And I remember feeling awful for both of us, and how difficult it must have been for you to even broach this subject considering the fact that you couldn't even say the word out loud. So instead of saying it, you flipped your hand over and over again, knowing that I would know what you were talking about, because I knew where you were going with this conversation, and because I knew your daughter.

Maybe you couldn't say the word out loud because saying them would make it true. And I know that to this day, you want so much for the opposite to be true. Maybe you regret ever bringing the topic up in the first place, like ignoring the problem would have kept the issue away.

I also remember not knowing what to say, or whether or not I should lie to you, someone that I've never lied to before.

So I decided to say nothing. As you were talking, I wanted to hold your hand and say to you that your daughter would turn out to be more than just okay, she is a caring, decent, thoughtful human who is in the process of possibly becoming a fine adult, and that this, the word that you couldn't even make yourself say, it doesn't matter because it shouldn't matter. In the grand scheme of things, it is a defining attribute but is also the least important attribute your daughter has been blessed with.

And I also wanted to say that I know you are worried about her because she lives in a society where there are people who would think of her as abnormal and weird, for something that she has no control over and that differentiates her from the majority of the population. And that worry you have only comes from your love, but that it doesn't change the fact that your daughter would rather have you support her because, at the end of it all, it is only when she accepts herself for who she is, and when the people she loves accepts her, will she be truly happy with her life.

And I wanted to say that you did not make a mistake with parenting, that you did not do something "wrong" to make your daughter feel "that way" about girls, and that she is simply who she is.

But instead, I remained silent. Because, to this day, you would rather believe a lie than to hear the truth about your own child. Your only child.

And so we continue to live our lives, my thoughts a blur, you in your seat worrying what you did wrong to make your daughter go "wrong". Yes, the world can be a terrifying place to live in, but it is even more so when the people who claim to love you the most are the first to reject you for the person you are.