Tuesday, 3 September 2019

On Vulnerability

I’ve always understood power to be the most sought out trait.  The word is synonymous with strength, respect and worth as a human being.  However, what I’ve come to realise is that power does not garner love or deep emotional connections.  In fact, power can be lonely and sad.  To be powerful involves appearing with no weaknesses, and as a result, possessing an unmonitored shame towards that which you are hiding.  I recently read an article in an online university magazine, stating:

Brene Brown describes shame as playing two lines in our heads: “Never good enough” and “Who do you think you are?”. They tell us to doubt ourselves. Shame makes us uncertain and it stops us from taking risks… The way out of shame? Vulnerability.

As I lie there questioning my closeness with those around me, I mindfully comment that I have always put up a front.  Throughout high school, the shame of wanting something desperately, whether it be a certain confidence, or a reputation, or to not be anxious to talk to people, would result in a pretence that I already possessed all these traits.  It was a thinly veiled attempt to fool my parents, my friends and myself into thinking that everything about myself was as I thought the status quo to be.  I’ve admired strong characters all my life, and my way of being one was to lie away all the things I am ashamed of.  Strong characters are always put together with no imperfections, right?

Yesterday my sister and my mother were having an argument.  She complained that she did not want to, and would not, ask a girl in her class for a minor favour.  Her fear of social awkwardness was laid clearly on the table in front of her. She had no shame and no reservations. My inherently judgmental personality would of course be harsh towards myself if I were to expose such discomfort, but when my sister nonchalantly revealed her feelings, I really couldn’t have been more indifferent.  It’s as the shame wizard from Big Mouth taunts each kid at the school sleepover. Inside their heads, the shame progresses into a powerful, self-hating force of denial.  Yet, if one kid were to be frank about their feelings, the others would probably feel a sense of relatability.  

The normalisation of these feelings within our heads would lead to an accelerated self-growth I wish I’d had.  In 2011 I watched Glee for the first time and found that the show made me uncomfortable.  The star of the show was annoying and self-obsessed.  The popular cheerleader was pregnant.  This was not your regular Hollywood teen television.  The same thing happened with The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  Why was Emma Watson so sad, and why did she have short hair?  Normal people don’t act like this.  Normal people are shiny and blonde like Kirsten Dunst from Bring it On.  Older now, I am a huge fan of both Glee and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, perhaps because their supposed quirkiness brings forward a truth about the way we feel.  They allow us to feel like any absurd thought we possess is in actuality okay.

This acceptance, both within society and the individual, should enable us to peel back this deceitful protective layer.  In recent years I have pride myself on transparency.  However, it’s like Lorde says, Let’s let things come out of the woodwork / I’ll give you my best side, tell you all my best lies / Yeah, awesome right?.  While I somehow truly believe I’m wearing my heart on my sleeve, in reality those things that bring me shame are still hiding deep within.  I guess addressing that those ‘weird’ thoughts are actually okay is easier said than done.

However, is showing your best side really all that deceitful?  Is being vulnerable all that necessary?  I’ve been grappling at the idea of a public versus private life, of mystery and maintaining a persona.  Over brunch today, my friend described how we are all too concerned about the projection of ourselves on other people.  Perhaps this brand we are demonstrating to the public is more effective and respectable with blocked out weaknesses and vulnerabilities. But where and when does this brand get replaced by the genuine truth in order to form close relationships?

I watched a video entitled Why you will marry the wrong person in which the psychologist states that when we say, ‘I love you’ what we are really saying is ‘I need you’.  We are putting ourselves in a vulnerable position.  He goes on to describe how your typical type A personality would respond to this scary feeling by almost saying and acting the opposite.  When we begin to feel vulnerable, we become avoidant, we begin to nag, and we act as if we don’t need them when we wish we could say the contrary.  This results in them questioning the relationship, leading to a cycle of low trust. If you are unable to acknowledge and understand all your own vulnerable thoughts and feelings, then how can you expect to have someone truly love you for who you are?

Additionally, honesty is attractive, and shame is not.  When asked about something I am insecure about, I find myself avoiding answering the question.  Sometimes I want the projection of myself to be something else so badly that I mimic the ‘strong’ self I wish I was.  After these incidences, I can’t help but see how two dimensional and flimsy each small dishonesty was.  Years later in hindsight, I see that if I had demonstrated the genuine self I was ashamed to be, that would have been stronger and surer.  That would have drawn the correct people.  That would have allowed people to understand my emotions, and potentially acknowledge the likeness of their own.  Ultimately, laying my vulnerable self on the table would have, and will always, lead to the most meaningful encounters.   

While we may subconsciously grow up daydreaming about the validation of receiving that trophy with the respect of all those standing below us, as we get older, we begin to realise this isn’t enough.  All the self-help books and the fairy-tale movies tell us we want love, family and ultimately to be understood.  However, bad habits of hidden insecurities are difficult to break.  In my opinion, if we acknowledge what we are ashamed of and unabashedly bear ourselves, all hidden grievances will become non-existent. Our burdens will be shared and understood by others.  Ultimately, the truth will set you free, so why not lay every single truth out there and just… be.   

Love,
M

Sunday, 1 September 2019

How Sally Rooney's 'Normal People' makes me feel

It makes me want someone in my life who makes me feel nervous, who I am so desperate to impress.

The book has given my mind a kind of genuine portrayal of love I could never have fathomed before.  And I know the feelings are so emotionally realistic because while I may not have ever experienced this kind of adoration first hand, it's the kind of thing I've been imagining a lot lately - how a single touch can make you feel special, beautiful, fragile but safe; the way he looks at you, you feel seen, feminine, adored, like you and only you have the power to make him feel sheer happiness; you know he would do anything for you, anything to make you happy, and you feel submissive to him in the same way; the kind of mutual respect for each other's opinions, and the way you could watch the cogs turn in his head all day, and you know he feels the same; when thinking about him makes you feel exquisitely happy, or sad, or something.

It's how the book begins with a conversation full of palpable tension - so hyperaware of every little movement and noise, thoughts are zoning in on the paper being rolled between your fingers.  It's something for them to do.  Heart pounding, awkward, and when it's over you go back to your room, look in the mirror and re-enact the way you must've looked, the way he must've seen you, wishing you could've done something or said something differently.  It makes you feel a heavy wave of hopelessness and sadness.  That is how much you want to impress him.  That is how intrigued you are by him.  At every waking moment, the thought of when you might see him again is in the background.  As you sort your thoughts out in the shower, you imagine telling him things, telling him honest opinions and anecdotes, and portraying yourself as your best self, but still yourself, and he is becoming a little more intrigued with your mind with every word.

This obsessive emotional connection is one I feel a stark relation to, a feeling I criticise as pointless.  Romance is supposed to be easy, isn't it?  It's supposed to feel right from the beginning, like you have a mutual emotional understanding.  There's no awkwardness; just a back-and-forth ease, full of laughter and fun, something that will progress so naturally that it requires no effort, easy vulnerability, and no sense of shame.  That's how you know he's the one, right?  I've never thought that feeling of awkwardness, genuine intrigue and nervousness could ever be a sign of potential, could ever lead to some kind of deep future connection.  If you're not easily open on first encounter, then how could you ever be easily open?  Yet, somehow, in this story, a nervous dreaded intrigued encounter grows progressively and beautifully, allowing two people to change each other for the better, like two thorns entwined during their most malleable years as they make their way towards the sky.

Upon buying the book, I was under the impression that the title, Normal People, was referring to how two normal people in our society behave, like an ode to all of us readers allowing us to feel less alone.  However, while lying in the dark in a vulnerable moment, Marianne asks why she can't be like normal people, like him, in a seemingly healthy relationship, with a seemingly healthy group of friends.  Whether this really is an ode to the general population, with our potentially shared grievances about belonging; or whether this is an ode to her character, and those alike, seemingly cold, unlovable, strong and alone.  There's something in a derisive, wild female personality that always makes her less of the ideal girlfriend who reads books quietly on the train like Rory from Gilmore Girls.  There's something about the unorthodox girl who feels stuck under a bell jar of being unlikeable, yet stubbornly defies socially liked characteristics anyway, if only to make excuses for the shame that stems from a lack of belonging.  Or does every girl feel this way sometimes?

And then there's the description about how the opinions of the people around us, the shame we have towards our honest feelings, can lead us to do illogical, regrettable, cruel things.  There's a kind of realness in the way she portrays the desperation to be liked by everybody, and how those with weaker personalities would 'betray any confidence, any kindness, for the promise of social acceptance'; or the way Helen criticises Marianne's choice to discuss ethics and politics over lighter conversations as self-obsessive.  I would probably give the same criticisms if put in the same situation.  But then, there's the way Marianne describes the social ladder in school, how she sees herself at the bottom, but sometimes sees herself as completely off the ladder altogether, unphased by the hierarchal social constructs put in place.  Whether this is self defensive or forward-thinking, I'm not sure.  But we have all thought that way some time, even if just to feel superior, and the book portrays this so incredibly well set in a university full of prestige, elitists and intellectuals.

All I feel is sadness now that I have finished.  This book has added an intensity and thoughtfulness to my life that I hope lingers for a while.  Two people experience the kind of love we have all experienced a part of, and I know that all love is different, and there is no one definition of love, but I truly hope that everybody experiences a level of closeness to another person that is something like this one day.

Love,
M


Monday, 5 August 2019

Vanity and Self Obsession - the modern day girl

We had a ball on Friday night.  Think of girls spending 4 hours getting ready for golden hour, standing in the spotlight of the sunlight taking 450 photos of themselves.  I love Instagram culture.  I truly do.  It's not about the likes or the influencer culture or any of that.  I think I just love sharing my life with people.  Is that the appeal for everyone?  Of course we all love getting that one perfect shot, but sometimes it's fun to post any old picture with a thoughtless caption and give your life absolute transparency.  I love that idea of absolute transparency.  Perhaps I just want someone, everyone, to truly know me.

Last month I read an article about how 'finstas' are toxic.  The author talked about how her account was a cry for help, a way of letting people know what was going on in her mind and in her life without actually burdening them.  If she was going through something, she'd post some dark image with a caption about how sad and edgy she was - you know what I mean.  I mean, just last night this girl I think is beautiful posted a caption "self care is eating frozen peas on the kitchen floor", and suddenly she dropped a few notches in my respect scale.  Margaret Zhang gave a talk about your private vs public life, and I think we all need a little privacy, not that I follow that rule.

As I said, I like complete transparency.  The propensity to lay your life on the table in front of somebody is a personality trait in itself, but the key word in that is somebody not everybody.  A year and a half ago my friend told me she used to lie in bed every night and every morning and manifest for a perfect boyfriend.  She told me she'd pray to the moon that he would appear in her life, and one month later there he was.  They're still dating.

In some ways I guess a finsta is like a boyfriend replacement.  It's somewhere to belt out random thoughts when you have nobody who is obliged to listen to them.  Although, even if I had a significant other, I don't think I'd stop relying on public opinion.  Is this attention seeking?  Immaturity? A bad habit? Simply my personality?

And what exactly is it that we want from commitment with boys?  Sure, some girls have strong healthy relationships and I can understand the companionship... but some girls are almost seeing boys just for the sake of it.  Perhaps it's for that feeling Monique described on the Bachelor.  Monique is this blonde girl, a lingerie model, who walks in, shrugs her shoulders and says, "I just want somebody to adore me."

The other day my friend and I were discussing being one of those girls who just exudes intrigue.  A muse.  We couldn't think of anybody we knew in real life, so I gave the example of Lana Del Rey, to which she replied, "But M, Lana Del Rey is a persona.  She isn't like that in real life.  Nobody can be."  I guess we're all just regular people who can only be loved like that from a distance.  That adoration is not real love.  But if that's not real love, then do I really want real love?

Again, I say transparency, but perhaps the self I lay on the table on social media is my persona.  It's not graceful or intriguing, but a reel of supposed genuinity and fun, as if every mundane moment in my life has an interesting, funny twinkle.  I think I'd rather be graceful and intriguing, but that might be a little late now.

And get this - here I am, sitting on my bed in front of the mirror in the sun.  I don't look graceful, perhaps intriguing at most.  I like my hair and my skin and my oversized jacket, and my eyes look big, a little fierce, a little thoughtful.  But I don't look loveable.  I never look loveable.  I always look best alone.

It's my friend's birthday today though.  If I'd bought her flowers and chocolate, instead of bursting into her room at midnight for a quick effortless hug, that's the kind of girl I'd like to be.  I'm not, and being unselfish is never on my mind, but perhaps all this grace and intrigue and capacity to be adored doesn't matter when you're too distracted with your concern for others to be concerned about yourself.

Love,
M

Sunday, 21 July 2019

There are different types of cultured, dimwit

After 1 week of chaos, and 1 week of recovery and dealing with the aftermath, I'm back.  I'm still coughing, but I'm back.

"Don't you just feel so... mundane right now?"  We watched a movie tonight.

"It's like when you've been flying for 22 hours and you've finally arrived.  It's like, what do you do now?  I'd call it... the boring quiet."

Honestly, it feels depressing.  Like post-concert depression. Or post-holiday depression. Or post-formal education depression, like what-do-I-do-now-that-I'm-a-fucking-adult vibes.  El depresso

Amongst my hazy tired experience of the last couple of weeks I met a boy I'd heard a lot about - private school perfect: good grades, leadership positions, girlfriend, liked by those who matter, elite, prestige, all that.  You'd think just from hearing that description that obviously I wouldn't like him.  You were right.  I sure didn't.  I think I described this dislike as an 'unpopular opinion' one drunken night, but that's besides the point.  Besides, you'd think people would always look at 'unpopular opinions' as cultured or interesting or whatever, but in reality to be 'cultured' they've got to be unpopular enough to not be basic but also not too unpopular.  It's whack.  Anyway, so basically this boy spoke of French books *ahem sorry, I mean  literature* and Roman artists (lol I could so be getting these cultures wrong but you get the gist).  He somehow made his childhood snacks sound cultured - like honey, just because you ate Twinkies as a kid does not make you superior to my jelly cups.  He went around the circle asking everybody what their dream career would have been, like some king deeming his subjects to speak.  Well, he asked everybody but myself, because clearly I am not deep enough to be considered respectable.

Finally the girl next to me pushed the talking stick to myself, to which my answer was of course, a writer.  To which I was returned with a spiel about creative literature and hoity toity talk I fully don't remember, and then was of course asked if I write anything anymore, to which I lied and said no.  I don't think I've felt smaller, like ever, and I don't know why.

Skip forward a few more days, and a few more not-so-cultured-but-hello-at-least-I-know-how-to-have-fun events later, and I'm sitting next to this boy's brother.  His brother is nice.  His version of cultured is niche memes, and he's not so obnoxious about it.  He names me youtubers such as David Dobrik, who I am vaguely familiar with and remember being funny in his Liza days, from my Youtube loving friends, and then some other people I don't know.  He named singers, who I didn't know, who were related to other singers, who I didn't know, who were related to other singers who I should surely know, who I didn't know.  Eventually I just had to make a joke about how I'm totally uncultured swine.  I mean, here I was mentioning Tana Mongeau and Jake Paul and their fake (or is it real) relationship, and he had no fucking clue what I was talking about.

He also mentioned his cousin who now has a youtube channel - "the kind where you laugh at it, not with it because she's funny, but at it."  I asked if she was interesting, and he told me she was super popular.  "Yeah, but is she interesting though."  He didn't answer the question, but like an hour ago I remembered this conversation and watched some of her videos because curiosity got the better of me.  No, she's not particularly interesting but I mean, she's pretty.  The only thing is, I know he sees me as same as her.  One night I joked about making a youtube channel, and he heard the end of the conversation and asked me if I had one.  He was definitely envisioning her's.  This whole thing makes me feel uninteresting, and basic, but without the face masks and hair masks and necklaces -- so like, ugly basic.

But watching her content makes me inspired to make content, as I am now.  I could hear the excitement in her voice towards making her little album of videos.  I can respect that.  I mean, I'm here throwing random content out into the internet abyss too.

I was just going to take a shower tonight when a boy walked out of his room to use the communal bathroom.  Normally at this hour I'd avoid and ignore, but he's cool, so I gave him a nod and a 'what's up.'  His version of cultured is deep blue, or perhaps deep red, lighting and double monitors: reddit open on one, Spotify playing a playlist titled 'sad bois' on the other.  He'd listen to Tyler the Creator and have girls think of him as 'sensitive' while also not actually saying many words at all, besides the occasional highly inappropriate joke or something about being from the wrong side of the tracks.  Perhaps it's actions that speak louder than physically telling people you're cool because you watch vines, you know?  Bathroom boy is a good example of that appeal.

And then there was the boy who I sat with on the plane home who was so uninteresting yet so attractive that every single word he said, I still recall afterwards.  He didn't talk music, or movies, or books, or even anything particularly deep.  Yet, I still remember every mundane piece of information about his brother or his fights with his dad like it's a piece of art.  He may not know what art is, but you know what, put it all together and he was just as cultured as private school boy or bathroom boy.

Basically my point is, in a round-about way, there are very very different types of people, who in this life will probably rarely encounter, because I've noticed we're segregated like that.  As a result, there are many different forms of cultured to the point where I don't even know what's considered cool anymore, so like, fuck it.  Bathroom boy will never meet private school boy, and even if they did they would have nothing to talk about and probably part ways in like a second.  Is one more cultured than the other? No.  Liking David Dobrik does not make you more cultured than someone who likes Tana Mongeau.  Being a pretty basic girl is honestly a culture in itself.  You may read Kazuo Ishiguro but do you listen to Tyler the Creator?  Or Taylor Swift?  Does it even matter?  Which is more superior?

I don't know.  Fact is, everybody's 'cultured' so elitists need to chill.

Love,
M



Sunday, 30 June 2019

Writing

First of all, I got a new laptop.  I need an excuse to use this ridiculously smooth keyboard.

I'm home at the moment, and it's cold.  My nose is pink, my cheeks are rosy, and it makes me feel like a princess version of Jon Snow's red-head girlfriend, whatever her name was.  I like the Winter.  I wish Sydney was like this in Winter.  I like how the view from the mountain is so foggy that the stairs seem to lead to nothingness.  I like how the grass and the car freeze over every morning.  I like how the lake glistens icy blue as the sun sets soft and pink behind the manicured Australian trees.

Home used to make me feel nostalgic, but nowadays I feel nothing at all, like this place has wrapped itself around the person I currently am, giving the place a whole new meaning.  Yet, somehow, the place still reverts me a little every time.  It must be the room or the people, both of which have changed and grown as I have, but still will always act as a time capsule for the way things used to be.

It was cleaning out my old laptop to organise my new one that sparked this idea to write something.  There's folders and folders of stories and school reports in that hard drive, most of which I remember writing, and some of which I don't.  I remember learning about Kafka and non-integer dimensions and writing 14 year old stories about superficial romances, but I don't remember writing letters to myself, or characterising the people I found interesting around me.

That one was particularly interesting - the people of 2015.  There was an Asian girl who seemed like the perfect role model: sporty, had boys affectionately rubbing her head, so the opposite of every stereotype I had ever heard.  There was a girl who seemed so exceptionally cool at the time: 15 with two ex-boyfriends and a bong, cultivating her own sayings "help a brother out", calling everybody 'love', with so much love for her mother at an age where everybody else seemed to be embarrassed.  And there was the boy: he always wore socks with palm trees on them, which I thought was a metaphor for something.  He had long hair which he tied back, and seemed so independent for someone only 16.  He looked like he went on late night adventures, and if an asshole said something obscenely rude to innocent me, he'd look concerned and say "don't worry about it, ignore him."

And I realise I'm still very much the same: inspired and obsessed with the occasional person I find interesting or wish I could be or wish I could be with.  My 2015 self makes me want to write, to capture these people - or my perceptions of them at least - on a page, and to reminisce and understand who it is I want or wanted to be 5 years later.

I always thought my life only really began in 2017, and before that I was an insecure mess who's brain was filled with the mantra be confident, be confident.  It made me admire but misunderstand pre-teens who seemed to have so much personality, like the children in that television show On My Block, who were apparently born in 2004 (the horror).  But I guess I just forgot what it was like to be young.  I underestimated myself.  I forgot all those experiences other than the terribly embarrassing ones that caused me to dislike myself at that age.

This is why I'm glad I wrote.  In the summer of 2016 I wrote a few chapters of a story, which I realise is just a painting of that summer for me.  It's a mosaic of moments and thoughts that meant something, an overall languid, teenage mood of a 16 year old girl with nothing to do.  It's something I could acceptingly write as a teenager, but would feel absolutely stupid writing now.  And yet, as I read this document I don't feel ashamed.  I feel like it's a more enjoyable diary.  I recall legitimately wanting to be a writer at 15, and legitimately wanting to write a book at 16.  Judging from my fiction, I was definitely not good enough, absolutely cringe if anything.  Yet, something about reading these stories makes me want to write something again, now, to start a project, I just don't know what.

I remember being inspired by that chick flick: Stuck In Love - of a family of writers, creatives, people who only wrote from personal experiences and inner cynicism.  That's what I wanted to be.  And I guess if what I wrote was about all things immature and unimportant, that's because I hadn't experienced anything but the desire to experience something, anything.

At least my 16 year old stay-at-home self could conceptualise and document the experiences around her.  I'm unsure if I would even be capable of doing that now.

Here's the summer of 2016:

Chapter 1:
She was sitting on the sidewalk again.  In the sweltering, lazy heat of a suburban summer, her legs were lying straight on the empty road in front of her.  Hands placed behind her, she tipped her head back towards the sun, closing her eyes despite the protection of her round pink sunglasses.

Jessica Haydn craved adventure.  She craved firsts and unexpected moments, and most definitely not plans.  While she worried that high achieving, success-bound students were signing up for summer programs and leadership courses, getting ahead; as usual, she was perfectly happy to be doing absolutely nothing productive.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a photographer here to capture this precise moment in time, she thought to herself?  Wouldn’t it be picturesque if she were licking on a pink ice cream, to match her pink sunglasses?  She shook these thoughts away.  Not every moment needs to be captured.  It’s okay to just… be.  After all, wasn’t that why she came out onto this empty street in the first place?

A car drove past on the road in front of her, and for a second she wondered whether it would be him.  She imagined that the car would stop, and he would say, “Jessica?  What are you doing here?”  Then she would get in the car and he would take her on a spontaneous adventure. It wasn’t him, of course.  That would be a huge coincidence, or fate.

Being honest to herself, she didn’t really know him at all.  He was just Maisie Holland’s brother, and she wasn’t particularly close to Maisie anyway.  He had been one of the older boys she had always noticed from a distance at school, but he had graduated this year.  She had talked to him multiple times when she and Maisie were working on a school project, and he was so flirty and sarcastic.  She didn’t know if she had ever met a boy so easy to talk to.  She hadn’t seen him in a month and she was still thinking about him.

I am a creature of habits, she thought to herself.  Once I start thinking about something a lot, I never ever stop. Chances are Maisie Holland’s brother is really nothing special.  Chances are the place he takes in my mind is just there because it’s become a habit to think about him.  Perhaps she did need a summer project, after all.

I’m going to write a novel, she decided.  I’m going to write a big fat Great-American-style novel.  I will sit at my desk in an empty, quiet house with my hair in a writer’s knot and big artistic reading glasses, and I will write about life.  But how was she to write about life when she hadn’t experienced anything?  The extent of her experience was studying for a hazy looking future and a flurry of crushes on boys she probably didn’t even like. 

Maybe she should scrap the Great American novel.  Maybe she could learn to cook instead, or learn as many sonatinas on the piano as she possibly could.  With nothing but time spread out in front of her before her final year of school would begin, Jessica was feeling restless.

Chapter 4:
She had known Jasmine since they were toddlers.  Jasmine was one year younger than her and awkward.  She was openly honest and much too believing.  She cared very much about her relationships in the same way a twelve year old is scared of missing out.  Jasmine was innocent, and as was she.

Jasmine’s mother was taking them out for lunch at an Italian restaurant, along with Jessica’s mother and four other ladies.  Jasmine and Jessica sat opposite each other at the end of the table and while there was a lull in the conversation, they were happily munching on their garlic bread.

“My god, when was the last time I saw you?” Jessica said, having scoffed down a large piece of garlic bread in thirty seconds.

“Um, three weeks ago, I think.”

“Wow. Anything new?”

A huge grin spread across Jasmine’s face.  “I actually have something I really want to tell you.”

Jessica immediately gave a huge grin back.  “Yeah?  What?”

The two girls began to whisper excitedly like little girls amongst the laughter of the ladies beside them, their mothers oblivious to the conversation taking place.

“So, I uh, I gave Mitch a Christmas present the other day.”

“Yeah?”

“And it didn’t cost any money…”

“Yeah?”

“Do you see where I’m going with this?”

Jessica found this description very vague, but knowing the kind of things Jasmine seemed to think about, and admittedly she did too, she knew where she was going.

“Oh my god! But… three weeks ago you said you hadn’t even kissed him yet!”

“A lot can happen in three weeks.”

“Oh my god!”

“And I have more… but you can’t tell anyone.”

“Of course.”

“So we were out at Karolla Park and Mitch was meeting some friends.”

“Uh huh…”

“And we were sitting there hanging out, and you know how Mitch is.  He’s a skater boy and they kind of just sit there and smoke weed and hang out and shit.  So yeah, then they asked me if I wanted to try some and…”

“Oh my god! What did it feel like?”

“Oh, totally fine.  I mean, like I didn’t think I was really affected, but like, looking back I was.”

“Was how?”

“Like some of the things I said, and the way I was acting.”

“Oh my god! Jasmine!”

“You’re not judging me right?”

“No. Of course not.”  And she really really wasn’t.  In fact, inside, Jessica was wondering why she was always being left behind.  She was never experiencing any of these scandalous rites of passage, and while she may have dismissed these thoughts as stupid and learned that it was not worth caring about, she did enjoy at least knowing people who were experiencing everything.  

“Girls, you look happy.  What are you talking about?”  One of the ladies sitting at the table turned to pay them some attention.

“Oh, um, nothing.”

“Oh, okay then.”

Jasmine and Jessica gave each other the side eye and burst out giggling.

“I’m so happy with my life right now.”  Jasmine said.


Chapter 5:
She was standing through the sunroof of a car.  The music was blasting in the car beneath her, but as soon as her head had reached the sunlight, she couldn’t hear the music anymore.  She mouthed the words anyway and felt absolutely awesome. She was whooping and waving and singing and slightly frightened.

Eventually she didn’t know the lyrics or where the song was at anymore, and she stopped making noises and started to loosen up.  She was no longer gripping the ledge with absolute urgency.  She was no longer leaning awkwardly on the seatback beneath her.  She was standing and the wind was blowing her hair back behind her.

If it weren’t for the breathtaking view she would have closed her eyes and simply felt the pressure of the air on her face.  Instead she watched as the front of the car zoomed forward up the empty road, and the city got smaller and more expansive over the edge of the barriers.

And then the car was at the top of the mountain and turning.  She spotted a couple sitting by their car and gawking at her. She smiled at them before the car was off again, this time zooming down the winding road, faster.  The pressure began to become slightly uncomfortable and she began to lean with each turning.  The joyride had become a roller-coaster ride and she was whooping all over again.

“Okay, we’re reaching the main road now.  You have to get down now.”

It was over and she felt as if this must have been her best birthday ever.

Chapter 6:
She walked into the building of her dad’s office only to see a boy her age sitting in the waiting area.  She had seen him before at one of her dad’s work dinners, and while she had thought he was cute and tried to talk to him, it was difficult when she had other people to talk to and so did he.  In fact, she felt as if she had made a slight fool of herself at that dinner because she, admittedly, was slightly thrown off by his presence, and so, had completely forgotten about him after that night.

He smiled at her as if he knew her, but she knew he barely did.  “Hey.”

“Hey.” She smiled and took a seat next to him.

She was here quite regularly, always stopping by for her ride home, or in this case, dropping off her dad’s lunch because he’d forgotten.  The dropping off of food – this was a one-off scenario.

“So… what are you here for?” she asked him.

“Oh, I’m waiting for a ride home.  Yeah, my car is unavailable for the next six months so I’ll be doing this a lot.”

“Oh. How come?”

“My sister’s borrowing it for some great big road trip.”

“That sucks.”

“Yeah. So why are you here?”

“Dropping off my dad’s lunch.”

“You’re a good daughter.”

She laughed.  “Oh, trust me.  Usually I would say no.  My bus just happened to stop here on the way.”  She didn’t understand why she always talked herself down this way. Although, she guessed she was being honest.

The boy sitting next to her smiled.  He was impeccably well dressed, with a black Ralph Lauren shirt and Khaki shorts.  He was somehow wearing Adidas sneakers without looking basic at all.  She commended him for that.

“Um, can I help you guys?”  The receptionist had finally worked up the courage to ask them why they were sitting there.

“Yeah, we’re waiting for our parents,” she said.

“I’ve already texted my dad but he hasn’t replied.”

“Me too.”

“Oh, they’re probably in the big meeting they called an hour ago.  Your parents probably won’t be out for another hour.”

“Seriously?”  She wanted to take the bus home already, but she supposed it wouldn’t be too awful waiting here with this boy.

“Well, I don’t have another way home and I don’t really have much to do.”  He shrugged.

“Okay then,” the receptionist said.  “I’m just gonna go get some coffee.  I’ll be back.”

With the absence of her constant typing, the room was completely silent.  “So, what’s your name again?” Jessica asked him. She knew his name was Jack, because she’d had enough interest the first time she’d seen him, but she asked anyway.

“Jack. It’s Jess right?”

She blushed.  “Yeah.”

“So, do you have your license?”

“Well, my birthday was yesterday so technically I could, but no, not yet.”

“What!? Happy birthday for yesterday!  Why don’t you get your license?”

“Thanks.” She smiled.  “And I’m going away for a month so I didn’t think it was worth it.”

“Oh.” He smiled.

Over the next two hours she somehow managed to learn his entire life story and all his interests and who all their mutual friends were, until finally her dad came out to the waiting area and she felt as if no time had passed at all.

“Oh. You’re still here.”  Her dad joked.  “Hi Jack.”  He was trying to be a little louder and funnier since he had an audience. Jessica inwardly rolled her eyes. “How are you going?”

“Good thanks, Mr Haydn.  You?”

“Good and good to hear.  So I guess you can finally go home now?  Good thing Jack was here to keep you company.”

“Yeah.” She laughed awkwardly.

“Okay… well I have work to get back to so see you at home.”

He left and she awkwardly got up, with no excuse to stay any longer.

“Well, have fun in Singapore for a month.”  Jack smiled.

Now that she had met him, the thought of going away absolutely sucked.


Until next time.

Love,
M

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Girly Things - things I've learned and observed

There's this girl on Instagram who writes about her experiences in the loveliest manner.  She writes about being loved though, about feeling beautiful for a moment, which I've never experienced.  I watched a movie last night about this 15 year old boy who starts a band to get the girl.  She stands outside the girls' home across from his school smoking a cigarette every afternoon.  She looks like a young version of Lana Del Rey, somehow still pretty after jumping into the river even though she can't swim.  She stands out amongst the other 16 year old girls who awkwardly dance in the high school gym.  I wonder what it would be like to be a muse.

On Friday night I came home with angel wings and sat on the floor, out of place, watching some niche video people probably only understand while they're high on some boy's laptop.  The women in this video: one was being thrown into the air on a parachute at a bonfire, another had the most intense fringe and said "love me." when the man stumbled into the house.  Is that what they want?

So I got up and walked back to my room and sat in front of the mirror admiring my angel wings for a while.

In the movie, the first song he writes is about how it's better when you don't know anything about someone, because they can be whatever you want them to be.  Once you know them, they're limited.  But the problem is, you'd have to be exceedingly beautiful to make a boy think about you all the time without knowing anything about you.  You'd have to be exceedingly genuinely beautiful.  You'd have to have that air.

We are all too showy for that.

People love to impress each other.  That's what I've found.  They'll be ingenuine just to impress each other.  Or to be liked.  Or to be loved.  But it's not real.
I wrote in my diary the other day that I don't trust her, my friend who seems so dearly close to the eyes of the world around me.  "I don't know why, but I don't trust her."  That's the feeling you get when it's all not real.

We've been learning about personality lately.  Personality is the unique organisation of fairly permanent characteristics that sets the individual apart from other individuals, and at the same time, determines how others respond to her or him.  And then there's temperament, which is biological.  Temperament is consistent over time.  We cannot change it.  So, no matter the sociocultural influences, we can never all truly be the same.
This is what's real.  Personality comes in five dimensions, four of which are independent of each other.  We should all, theoretically, have multifaceted personalities; multifaceted, different personalities.  So why do I sometimes feel like I must fit this cookie cutter mould - for simplicity - so he'll truly know me.  And then I add a personality trait, layer by layer, each one becoming more showy than the last --> and now he thinks I'm complicated and multifaceted.. but I'm still in my cookie cutter mould.

And as we grow older the things that make us change.  The pile grows bigger and bigger.  At this point, will anyone ever truly know you?

But the television screen and the niche video boys watch when they're high turn the girl into a one dimensional character again.  No wonder so many girls try to fit the cookie cutter mould for simplicity.  And sadder so, many girls seem to have lost their multifaceted personalities, whilst the boys have gotten to keep their's all along.


Additionally, and off topic, I did a research assignment about the East in the West and why we might be feeling ugly a few weeks ago:

Pressure for Thinness

As with those of Caucasian background, Asians are also susceptible to sociocultural theory and are largely influenced by the media’s beauty standards.  However, Kimber et al. (2015) found that first generation immigrant females were more likely to experience body distortion than 3rd generation-or-later adolescents.  This could be due to “acculturative” stress, where foreign-born adolescents are forced to interact with media and social circumstances that resemble the behaviours and values of Western culture.  Through these interactions, foreign-born adolescents may internalise the perceived difference between their own appearance and the beauty standards of their host country.  Marques et al. (2011) found that Asians commonly reported concerns about straight hair and dark skin, features associated with stereotypes and distinguishing them from the Caucasian majority.  Furthermore, the most common forms of plastic surgery among Asian American women include procedures that minimise their distinctive facial features, such as eyelid procedures (American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 2006).

However, Marques et al. (2011) found that Caucasians are more likely to be concerned about their stomach, hips, waist and buttocks.  An explanation could be that Asian women’s actual and self-perceived body sizes tend to be closer to the thin ideal, limiting the discrepancies for comparison (Grabe & Jackson, 2009).

Asian women are also found to be less susceptible to objectification theory than Caucasian women (Grabe & Jackson, 2009).  Research has demonstrated that Asian American and Caucasian American women’s bodies are portrayed differently and with different prominence in the media (Kim & Chung, 2005).  Additionally, Jackson et al. (2016) found that Chinese women who reported that their favourite mass media came from Asian countries were more likely to judge themselves as overweight, supporting social comparison theory.  Social comparison theory and this mainstream view of a thin, idealised white woman’s body leave Caucasian women more vulnerable to self-objectification and the influence of Western media in general (Grabe & Jackson, 2009).

Ethnic Identity

Concepts of self, and consequently concepts of human differences, vary between Western and Asian cultures (Crystal et al., 1998).  The independent self, commonly found in Western cultures, seeks to distinguish the self from others, making more distinctions in competitive domains such as physical attractiveness.  Alternatively, the interdependent self, commonly found in East Asian cultures, emphasises interpersonal harmony, minimises social differences and is more likely to discriminate on behaviour than physical attractiveness.  Hence, it is commonly hypothesised that a strong ethnic identity may protect Asian women from being influenced by Western beauty standards (Croll et al., 2002; Kempa & Thomas, 2000).

However, Phan and Tylka (2006) found that ethnic identity intensified the relationship between pressure for thinness and body preoccupation (Figure 3).  This could be explained by interdependence, as family and friends are often the source of pressure for thinness, and those of strong ethnic identity may feel that their weight reflects badly on their loved ones.  Another explanation is that Asian women with strong ethnic identity may compare themselves to an Asian reference group rather than a Caucasian reference group, and may subsequently feel larger as many of their Asian peers may be petite.  
Until next time.

Love,
M

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Ambience, a vibe, whatever you want to call it

I guess the reason I haven't posted in a while is because I'm often inspired to write when I'm feeling somewhat... beautiful... emotional... 'edgy' if you want to be ironic about it.  My head must be a jumble of existentialism, superiority and sadness.  I'll feel like that girl wearing a satin white slip dress by the pool, who writes poetry and somehow always looks soft and perfect.  Or I could be that girl in a grey cardigan sitting in her childhood home, at the cluttered glass table with a mug of coffee and sun streaming through the blinds.  Instead I've got a headache in a dirty college room under surgical lighting, wearing an oversized t-shirt and adidas track pants, with bare feet.

And this is what I mean.

This is how my life is while I'm here in this version of home - if you can even call it that. 'home'

I've come to realise that this room has been treated like my summer camp cabin, a stopping place for me to come in and out of.  Sure, there's photos and a clutter of books, tissues and soap on the shelves, but it's not mine.  My neighbours have fairy lights, decorative pillows, scents, plants, characteristic couches -- all distinctly them, all creating a certain ambience, a vibe, whatever you want to call it.

(In the last week, with most people gone, I've been spending more time in this room.  It's given me a sense of routine, a sense of how my life was before this whole experience -- a sense of being in my own space.)

And with all my own time, I've come to realise that my person is much like my room.  My self has no ambience.  I do not smell of rose oil, or moisturise my face lavishly, or wear cute skirts while writing in my diary.  I am like a summer camp cabin who has been thrown together for the moment -- a transitional, thoughtless, self-limiting phase.

(ugh.  I feel like my vibe is the sound my poor-energy-rating fridge intermittently constantly makes in my room -- dirty and unnecessary with a lack of aesthetic)

My friend who is currently obsessed with documentaries about Roman Emperors and Michael Angelo, who wore a pearl headband to class yesterday, who somehow wears makeup without looking like she's wearing makeup, she said she's been obsessed with Lana Del Rey since she was 13.  I guess that's almost life-long cultivation of a vibe.  I feel like that takes a large amount of self-assurance from a young age.
And yet, she captioned a video "and no, I don't have a personality"

Either, or... Self love is actually having a self, and not just being influenced in all different directions. Creating ambience must be being cultured, by your own version of art or pop culture in your own way.  These things can only be discovered alone and on the internet, or through real real feelings.  Self love is looking and feeling like Kylie Jenner in her KylieSkin ads -- clean.  It's perhaps covering your pimples and not wearing pyjamas in public.  It's perhaps buying perfume and wearing it every day.  I guess what I'm trying to say is, it's emulating Dorian Grey's 'life is art'.

All I've got is a headache and a straight-laced analytic mind.  She says the same thing every day.

My friend was one minute in Sydney, the next in Mexico in a cop car, tequila tasting in tequila, covered in foam.  It's not what I need, but I thought I'd mention it.  I'll want that vibe later.

Cartia Mallan was beach hopping during sunset in an oversized band t-shirt, with her tanned boyfriend, with blankets and pillows in the boot.

Bubbles sits in the corner, watery blue eyes and blonde pigtails, saying "I am not a chubby crybaby".  I love that for some reason.  I'm not a sad girl though.  That's not self love.

My current dream is in a hotel room, with white crisp sheets, a view, and a complementary buffet breakfast on silver platters in the morning.

Love,
M

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Insatiable

Yes, I stole the word from that TV show starring Debby Ryan.  The show's a good play on words.

Insatiable
Impossible to satisfy

If you knew me personally, you'd know that I'm renowned for always eating food, taking photos of food, and posting said photos of food.  This trait is two-dimensional, being both a representation of my greed, and a representation of the importance I must put on what people think of me.  The thing is, this habit has gone on for so long that I simply cannot stop.  It's a ritual.  It's sickeningly satisfying.

Unhealthy habits are born on the basis of repetition.

Anyway, if there were to be a blurb under the heading of this post, it would be: "what I am learning from Malaysia".  Having not been back in two years, there are so many things I had forgotten, aside from the fact that my insatiable personality cannot stop eating food and is paying health-wise, as it has the other 18 times I've spent the summer here.

On the first night, an hour after we had landed, I sat through a dinner in which my uncle discussed my future with me (of course he did).  The conversation had an under-theme of success, money, showing off, and acting International (because god forbid we are Malaysian).  This is not rare with Asian relatives, and that night I wrote, "Perhaps it was these Asian characteristics that I was running from in the first place."  Similarly, at a Chinese dinner on New Year's Day, with all the distant relatives on my grandmother's side wearing Ralph Lauren polo shirts with absurdly large logos, a man interrogated me about whether I was doing medicine for the money, always assuming we are greedy.  My grandfather then proceeded to tell me that this man owned a company that was doing very well, but he was very quiet about it, and how noble was that! - his words

We spent New Year's Eve in a condominium with a view of the Twin Towers, with guests who all spoke English, but in different accents: Spanish, Australian, British, American, and the classic international mix you cannot quite place.  The wives and mothers were in their 50s, dressed like they were 20, saying, "Are you drunk or am I drunk?"  The men were wealthy professionals: doctors, bankers, and spoke of such.  There was a mixed boy with a British accent who looked like Nick Young, speaking of KL bars and clubs and friends who know managers, too smooth to be true.  A girl in a white jumpsuit said she would rather chat over cocktails, saying she was given a tour by the owner of the Crazy Rich Asians house, and was taking her friends Batik painting if you'd like to join.  I felt like I was in the true success story of Asia, like Peik Lin and her family would drop their cutlery and say, "Ayah! Why didn't you tell me you knew them!"  With them I felt pretty, classy, and superficial, and like I could never... switch off *in the same up tight manner my New Year's resolutions are trying to escape. (Is it in my culture's nature to never let loose?)* This is the epitome of what people in my culture seem to want, and I don't think I want it.

However, I am currently sitting beside a mini golf course and a swimming pool... in a backyard.  I have spent the last three hours sunbathing and swimming laps with a red Ferrari and a green Porsche around the corner.  I have spent the last three days using the home cinema to watch Brooklyn 99, and waking up to the sun streaming in through crisp white curtains to a balcony overlooking the pool.  I cannot say I hate it.  I cannot say that I don't have big dreams to one day have a swimming pool and a balcony and a view.

While sunbathing, I have been reading The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  The book has the recurring theme we have all heard before, that true joy does not come from materialistic things, but rather from true relationships and compassion, among other more meaningful pillars of joy.
Sometimes I wonder whether pretending that materialistic things will bring you contentment is easier, because forming true relationships and feeling true compassion is a difficult task that takes work.  I mean, evidently it takes the Dalai Lama 5 hours of prayer every morning.  Perhaps our laziness or insecurity is what makes me, and others, insatiable.

Love,
M