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