The summer class I’m taking has way too many group discussions. The other day we were given yet another assignment to do and we ended up talking about guitarcenter store hours instead of the main points of our topic. My teacher said that study groups aren’t all that popular as they used to be and I can totally see why now. It’s easy to deviate from the original topic when there’s so much to talk about.
Before it turned into an overpriced buffet with significantly watered down food quality, we used to frequent this classy Japanese buffet religiously (maybe that’s why I’m so convinced that we’re Japanese). We went there for the wide spread of Japanese food but as the years went by, the customer profile began to change and eventually so did the menu. Soon they were serving things like porridge and chicken nuggets to people who had no decent manners (think: shoving others or cutting the queue at the buffet line or shouting like they were in their own home or piling their plates and leaving NONE for others or leaving the buffet lines filthy). It came as no surprise when we all jointly agreed to stop going there.
I like food but I also like manners. That’s a buffet story.
Here’s the potluck one: I always used to think that potlucks were gatherings where invited guests would bring batches or trays of homemade food. Because my mom never once showed up to a party with store-bought food and because I had never been to a potluck which had store-bought food, potlucks, to me, were always associated with the words ‘homemade food’. Maybe that’s completely wrong. Maybe it’s simply associated with the words ‘contributed dish’ which can mean either store-bought or homemade.
More than 20 years into my life, it was to my undisguised shock and confusion that I found out people actually bring store-bought food to potlucks. It was a Christmas party. We baked and brought – at the risk of sounding fluffy and clichéd – cupcakes (Mom suggested bringing deviled eggs but that didn’t happen). I feel some need to point out that we were not aboard the Cupcake Mania Express when cupcakes rose to stardom years ago. Anyway, off we went to the party with a box of freshly-frosted cupcakes. I couldn’t help but wonder what the other guests would bring. I happened to be aware that some of them are challenged in the culinary department.
The hosts were still cooking in the kitchen when we arrived. We were told to place our cupcakes on the table. A good idea, too, since oftentimes people forget about the food in the fridge that they meant to bring out for dessert later. A few minutes later, the doorbell rang. Some of the guys had arrived… with KFC meal buckets. And apparently two different groups of guys had run into each other at the same KFC.
I was stumped. I felt cheated. How can this be a potluck party with the Colonel’s mashed potatoes and Original Recipe chicken drumsticks?! That was before the store-bought papaya salad showed up. I began to realize, with a sinking feeling, that my idea of a potluck could have been wrong all this while. WRRRRRRRRRRONG. It’s like when they tell you the tooth fairy isn’t real (I always knew it was my mom slipping money under my pillow). That Christmas party forced me to rethink my idea of a potluck gathering.
I accept it. I accept that people do – and often – bring store-bought food to potlucks but here’s why I think it should be exception rather than the norm. I get that sometimes people don’t have time to prepare food – this 9-to-5 grind has made me rethink how I used to spend my free time since now the only time I get to go out is during the weekends (oh hell no) – and other reasons like not knowing how to cook or whatever. But cooking isn’t hard and there are a bazillion recipes out there that you can whip up in less than 15 minutes and yes, for more than 10 people! Better still, there are recipes you can prepare ahead of time and just bring on the day of the party! Unless it’s a super last minute party and you really can’t be bothered, at least try not to show up with KFC buckets?!
I think homemade food shows effort and sincerity. Not that store-bought food doesn’t (and it’s still way better than showing up empty-handed). Also, I don’t think you should feel pressured about cooking or overthink your kitchen skills. It’s not a Master Chef competition, after all, and hey, if people don’t like the food you made, at least you can say you tried.
Maybe I’m just old-school. Wouldn’t be the first time someone has thought that of me.
Oh, and there wasn’t enough food for everyone at that Christmas party. I think I went home and had ramen. A good potluck party should have just enough food, if not extra, for everyone and everyone, as guests, should take one helping per food and only go back for seconds if they need to.
Okay, you’re thinking, so you like buffets and potlucks, you like manners, and you don’t think someone should show up to a potluck with store-bought food. So what?
Two weeks ago, I received a most delightful email in my work inbox. Potluck gathering in 2 weeks, please post the food item you’ll be bringing. I’m like, yeaaaaaaah fooooooooood yeaaaaaaaah! I only voiced my excitement when I got home, of course.
Over the next two weeks, I diligently opened every email regarding the potluck to read the updated list of foods that each department was bringing. I noted that most of the contributed foods would be store-bought.
On the day of the potluck, I brought a container. Y’know, just in case there was extra at the end and the organizers wanted to dump it (say no to food waste). I didn’t bring a container intending on filling it up to the top with food and gleefully running away with tonight’s dinner. I’m frugal and practical but my mom also taught me manners. I’m not going to, out of greed, deprive a fellow guest of their share of food.
I arrived at work, ready to leave my desk at 11:30 sharp to head upstairs for the party. An email popped up. I read it. I deflated. I had read the date wrong. The potluck wasn’t until three days later. Oh well, it was vegetarian day anyway so it was a good thing after all.
Three days later, it’s today! The day I get to take a 2-hour lunch break to enjoy a free meal at the expense of the generous folks in each department. I left the containers at home after several people warned me against it.
My mom doesn’t have to worry about our behavior when we attend events with food. We know the drill. She knows we won’t dive for the buffet bar before everyone else neither will we pile our plates embarrassingly high. We won’t attack the food as if we’ve been starved for weeks and we most certainly won’t waste food by taking things we know we don’t like. We may go for seconds but third rounds are rare.
I spend the morning on my work and finish it long before my boss graces us with her presence at, I don’t know, 10:30am? I poke around on CNN and New York Times until it’s 11:00am. I don’t want to be sardined in the elevator with the others later so I get up at 11:10 and go upstairs. I use the washroom because it’s the cleanest one out of the other floors and pop inside the office. I find my usual cozy spot and wait.
At 11:20, I crane my head over the row of cubicles to see if everything has been set up. No. Ladies are still bustling about, arranging food and cutlery and chairs. I get up anyway and walk over to inspect. Everything looks about done. I walk back to my seat and think, I’ll go back in 5 minutes.
More than 5 minutes later, I stand up and walk over to the meeting room where the spread is. I am stunned to find that there is a line snaking out the door. When did the horde arrive? In mere minutes too? I join the line. The line crawls. It’s like the city traffic jam at peak hour. The room is filled with people trying to get food. A young woman squeezes past me with a plate piled with meat skewers. It’s clear it’s not for one person.
I think little of it and reach for a plate. In front, someone cuts into the line. Nobody says anything. I am reminded of the article my mom read aloud to me about why Chinese people love cutting lines. I reach for the first dish. It’s a baked pasta dish. I cut a small slice and flop it onto my plate. I ignore the brownies and go for the fruit tarts. I adore fruit tarts.
The line stalls again. I look ahead. A girl steps out of the line – or should I say, clump since there were a few people all crammed up against the table – and I see her plate. It would seem that she emptied the entire container of fried snacks onto her plate. She scurries towards the exit the same way the woman earlier did.
The clump disperses. A guy has, if I’m not mistaken, grabbed dozens of bags of individually-packed fruit. He, too, leaves. I look around the room. There are a few other young men and women piling plates and plates with a single type of food. I begin to see a pattern and I begin to remember where I’ve seen these faces.
I begin to seethe but not that hard.
It’s them. The two rows of young men and women sitting one row behind me that are always screaming and shouting obnoxiously, having loud conversations without a care in the world. The ones whom I have thought many times of saying ‘WILL YOU SHUT THE F**K UP?’ to. The ones who so deeply remind me of all the similar folks that I had the displeasure of going to high school/college with. The ones who belong to a single ever-expanding group that continuously bring shame and a bad name to the decent people of our race and culture. Unprofessional twats. Rude twats.
Oh, will I just say it? The Chinese people whom you read about in the newspapers and snort in disgust at. The uncivilized Chinese people whose horrific behavior and manners bring shame to the rest of the good people of Chinese descent. Yes, there, I said it.
From the corner of my eye, I watch them leave the cramped room with their full plates. I chalk their behavior up to the typical every day behavior of their kind and continue making my way down the buffet line. I take a little bit of this and that. I skip two or three dishes because a new line has formed there. I carry my plates – one with dessert, the other with entrees – and find my cozy spot to enjoy lunch.
I’m eating halfway when it is announced that the meat skewers have finished. It has been barely fifteen minutes since the lunch started. I think to myself, oh, I should go get the rice and chicken that I missed before it’s gone. I abandon my plates and rejoin the line. The line crawls. I look at the other trays. Almost everything is nearly finished. Even the fruits that I didn’t put on my plate earlier are gone.
When I finally reach the rice, I find that there are only three miserable scoops left in the gigantic box. The two men behind me in line are only joining the line for the first time. There’s nothing left for them. I take half a scoop and look at the tray of chicken. Only piddly bits and bones are left. It doesn’t look appetizing. I scoop the sauce but leave the rest. I move down the line. The only dish remaining is stir-fried seafood noodles. I look back with mixed feelings at the men who are scraping whatever is left onto their plates. Next to going out to buy lunch, that’s all they can do.
I go back to my seat, seething for real now. I’m angry and upset. I picture those selfish a**holes/greedy f**ks feasting downstairs while here scraps are all the rest get. I feel a sense of injustice for those who haven’t eaten and those who wanted to wait a little for the lines to clear. I get very upset when I see that people don’t have enough to eat. This could have been easily avoided if everyone could be civilized or considerate enough to take only one helping each. The potluck could have used a little extra food but I’m sure there would have been enough for everyone if people didn’t take a big bunch of everything and leave nothing for the rest.
I am now just hearing from the two rows behind a girl crowing about the fact that her buddy, one of the guys, took five packets of noodles for himself.
I have nothing more to say.
It’s no secret that I enjoy a good buffet/potluck party and loathe selfish and rude partygoers.
In Asia, it’s always something like this:
Person A: Hey, can I borrow “object”?
You: Sure! (hands over object)
Person B to Person A: Hey, can I look at that?
Person A: Sure! (hands over object)
Person C to Person B: Can I see?
And on it goes.
This happened to me that day. I had to put up my hand because the teacher asked the person with full marks on the last part of the paper to do so. And suddenly, this little old hermit was a celebrity (for approximately three minutes). Everyone wanted to take a look at my paper. The above conversation happened between me and some girl who hardly speaks to me.
Sure, I said, ignoring the wary feeling in my stomach and assuming the best out of everyone even though this bullsh** has happened to me countless times.
She looks at it. The boy beside her peers over and looks at it.
“Holy sh**, that’s some long scripture right there,” he says with a big grin. He pulls out his phone and starts snapping pictures of my paper.
Again, I assume the best of everyone and think that he’s just going to keep those pictures for himself. After a while, it occurs to me that he might post it on the class group chat. (Yes, class group chats are common in [this part of] Asia because the teacher enjoys reading foul language posted at 2am and occasionally joins in on all the ‘fun’.)
Sure enough, he did exactly that, captioning the pictures with “Holy scripture”. A slew of ‘wows’ from my classmates follow.
I tried not to be annoyed. I really did try. But as an artist, I’ve read plenty of articles about copyright issues and seen many artists get depressed about copied artwork. As a person, I’ve seen plenty of my friends as well as relatives claim credit for something that they have never done before.
Some people might be all, “Why are you getting so worked up? It’s just a test paper!” But this is a general rule that applies to everything. If you want something from someone, you ask for their permission. You don’t assume in your own mind what a person will say or do and have it your way. You respect others by asking and confirming even though you think you know the answer.
I responded in the group chat by saying, “You didn’t ask before sharing.” Unsurprisingly, no one replied. The next message after that came hours later and it was some guy asking the teacher what day the final paper is on. It’s always like that. And so it goes on…
So if you’re like me and you suddenly realize that working out is fun and important in your life, you might wonder if you’re doing things right. One thing to make sure that you are doing things right is to be mindful. And to be mindful is to be fully aware of what you are doing. Be 100% with what you are doing. No thinking about what’s for dinner, no thinking about why the lady in the video is wearing red pants, no thinking about anything except the fact that you are working out.
If you really focus on working out, I think it’ll definitely have a great effect on what you’re aiming to achieve whether it’s health, weight loss or just some fun. Keep in mind I’m no expert and these are tips that work for me and not everyone.
- Keep your eyes on the goal. What is it that you want to get from working out? Fun? Muscles? Energy? Think about it. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s always good to have some goals, long-term or not. If we don’t know why we’re doing something, it’s easy to give up because of the lack of commitment. Someone recently gave me a pretty dress so I have absolutely no reason to not have a goal (lol). While I’m working out, I like to be all “Hey, don’t you want to buy a new pair of jeans!? You don’t want to look good in that shirt? What about fantastic arms?” It’s a fun bickering session, basically, but remember not to be too harsh on yourself!
- Posture! Very important to prevent injuries. I watched a video of how two women lost some weight and it had a lot to do with their posture. They looked so much better after losing the slouch. I’ve always been guilty of slouching so I’ve always kind of hated doing structured workouts that required me to stand or balance in a certain way. But! working out has helped me to take notice of my posture all around the clock and it has also reduced the tiredness I feel when sitting up straight.
- Muscles/fat. What kind of muscles do you want to build? Or how much fat do you want to lose? When I’m doing weights, I like to think about my arms and the muscles that are working. If I don’t think about them, I might just end up putting too little or too much strength in my moves and using momentum to guide what should be deliberate movements. I know I used to strain my legs too much while carrying weights. There was some soreness in my arms the next day but on that same day I worked out, I felt like I hadn’t done a lot because I was thinking of something else. I highly recommend watching any workout video for the first time with sound because sometimes the person in the video will tell you what muscles you should be feeling.
- Fun! If the workout doesn’t suit you, find something that does. Even better, start out with something fun like dancing and the rest of your workout will go by in a flash. For the past few months, I’ve been guilty of being angry while working out. Working out is my outlet for negative emotions but inserting those negative emotions have made my workouts quite unpleasant. Maybe it helped me finish more reps, but lots of people talk to me when I’m working out so I’m trying to make an effort these days to stop being the nastiest person on earth. And yes, doing some kind of freestyle dancing after your warmups helps to set an awesome mood!!
I originally named this post “What you should think of while working out” but it sounded wrong because it felt like I was demanding people to do something that they may or may not do, so I changed it so people wouldn’t misunderstand that I’m some expert. Better to sound self-centered than to have people read the title and be all, Lady, don’t tell me what to do!! (lol)
The mood has been decidedly down these past few days. That’s why I’m writing. I find that lately – well, the past few months or more – I write when I am upset, anxious, angry, or just about any other negative emotion. Is this a good thing? When I look back at my recent blog posts, I see myself from someone else’s eyes. I see someone else reading those depressing blog posts and thinking, I’m not coming back here again. But somehow I can’t seem to find that brightness in my writing anymore. In my head, I’m still sometimes witty and funny. Then I sit down and write and when I read it from the top, I realize that things get depressing, fast, as in a matter of 500 words or so. Is there something wrong with me? Am I not happy? Well, never mind that. That was a bad intro. Let’s start over.
As I sat at our dining table this afternoon, spreading copious amounts of butter onto my tuna sandwich which I am prone to doing when my sister isn’t watching me with disapproving eyes, there was a moment of peace. Just a moment. In that moment, I managed to think, why can’t it be like this every day? The next thought followed immediately, I suppose every day would be boring then.
Then that moment ended (read in Flynn Rider voice). “Shut up and learn to keep your mouth closed.” Not to me, but that would have burst anyone’s bubble.
Anyway, I meant to write about writing yesterday but never got around to it because 1) I spent too much overthinking what to write and ended up reading Michael Procopio’s blog for hours and 2) I wanted to start a new piece of fiction and was overthinking that too but I’ve learned that it’s usually not a good idea to start writing when I’m in a funk/crappy mood.
Two days ago – or was it three? – I was bored at work – and since I finish my work fairly quickly, I’m left with many hours of spare time – so I decided to Google for more food blogs to read because I discovered Serious Eats (where has it been all my life?) earlier last month and I’ve been spending my free time reading food blogs ever since. My everyday internet browsing ritual – Tasty on Youtube, CNN, New York Times, Serious Eats, local food blogs, in that specific order; sometimes National Geographic (where I read up on the Tiger Temple controversy, felt a surge of anger towards human beings who deliberately abuse animals and make money off them then lie about it, and briefly wondered what my mom would say if I told her I wanted to be an animal activist). But I soon exhausted all those sources quickly and there are only 1 or 2 Tasty videos uploaded a day (sad).
So I Googled and clicked on The Food Blogs You Should Be Reading Right Now, According to Saveur on Huffington Post. It took me to the site where food blogs were categorized under labels such as Best Cooking Blog, Best Culinary Travel Blog, Best Photography Blog, you get the drift. I browsed through the blogs under the Best Cooking Blog label but found none to my taste. Those blogs feel too elegant and stuffy with their fancy photography and tiny fonts and pristine layout. I’m sure they are wonderful blogs with great recipes and I have nothing against neatness and fanciness but I’ll pass on those.
I skipped the Baking and Desserts category because as I’ve announced on more than one occasion, baking is not for me. Not that I don’t bake. I do. I just highly prefer cooking over baking and I wouldn’t want to be a baker. The measurements are too precise and tedious to work with. I’m a no-measurements-please kind of person. That’s why I took the easy math class in college even though my math doesn’t suck.
I skipped past the Best Cocktail Blog and Best Wine or Beer Blog categories, past the Best Regional Cuisine Blog and Best Culinary Travel Blog section (briefly acknowledging Eating Asia which I discovered only two weeks ago), and spent some time looking through the Best Family Cooking Blog. I have a soft spot for family cooking blogs since Menu Musings was where I found my now favorite dish to make – tomato basil chicken pasta. Best. Recipe. Ever.
Is this post even about writing anymore? I do this – wind off some other path and talk about something other than the main thing I mean to talk about – but I’m getting there though, I swear. The part about writing, I mean.
The next category was Best Photography. Something about perfect edited photos make me uncomfortable. I admire people who take the time, trouble, and patience to arrange food, lighting, and props to create beautiful food photos but I honestly cannot see myself arranging strand after strand or leaf after leaf or spoonful after spoonful of whatever food just for a photo. Also, I want to see a bit of imperfection. Food that is not so staged. Pictures of food that people can relate to – a smudge (or ten) on the plate, uneven potatoes, a burnt edge, a salad accidentally drowning in dressing. On the other hand, maybe that’s why I don’t think anyone would read my food blog if I were to ever create one.
My favorite category turned out to be Best Writing. Best Food Writing? I thought. What could that be? Well, I’ll tell you. Culinary Bro-down is genius. I laughed until I nearly cracked a rib and had to dry my eyes on my sleeve reading Josh’s writing. His writing is honest and hilarious with a dash (read: piles) of profanities my mom wouldn’t be proud of. Oh, and his recipes are great though I doubt I’ll ever make that 8-layer burger.
Food for the Thoughtless written by Michael Procopio is also genius. His dry humor captivated me immediately followed by his remarkable arsenal of vocabulary and down-to-earth style. I wanted to read more… and more… and more… Okay, I started reading his blog from the very beginning because I didn’t want to miss a post. His ‘Yelp’ post set me off again and I couldn’t stop laughing for a full two minutes. He is the kind of writer I look up to, equal parts awe and envy.
I want to write like that, I think whenever I come across awe-inducing writing like Michael’s and Metin’s and Ashten’s (I’m terribly sorry I haven’t replied to your email, please forgive me). Needless to say, my mom is in that awe-inducing writer category since she is the reason I started writing. I want dry humor and wit and honesty and passion and impressive words and the ability to mash that all up into a beautiful, fluid piece of writing.
Then I get sad because I know that I can’t. Then I also get sad as I start to criticize my own writing style and wonder if I could have done something in the past to bring my writing style a bit closer to these demigods (just kidding, I wanted to use this phrase after seeing it in an article about the current Japanese emperor who plans on abdicating the throne).
Should I have read more? I should have read more. I should read more. Why didn’t I read Shakespeare when the whole damned volume surfaced in our house? Should I have become an English major? Damn it, if I had grown up elsewhere in a school system that didn’t focus on forcing kids into molds and suppressing creativity or if I had grown up in a place that emphasized less collectivism and more individualism, would I be writing like that now too? Those two questions would just make my mom sad for reasons I cannot divulge. I also wonder if English weren’t my native language, would I be able to write better? That might be a funny thought to you but non-native English speakers actually make good writers because they learn the language from scratch and appreciate it the way native speakers hardly do.
But then, it is what it is, isn’t it? My mom and sister tell me my writing style is casual and funny (I’m sorry, I don’t remember exactly what the adjectives are). I don’t see it. I see a tween writing choppy posts with no clear goal on her Myspace account (I’ve never had a Myspace account), using lots of ‘like’s and ‘kind of’s and ‘really’s. Okay, that might be exaggeration. (I did say above that I sometimes write witty and funny) But I see it even less these days since all I have to offer are chunks of my anxiety or sadness laced into my writing. I have avoided calling myself a writer for years and I don’t have the guts to show anyone my writing so yeah (see, what I mean about the tween?). Cue insertion of ‘the struggle is real’ meme.
That’s the sad ending. The not-so-sad ending is that my dream has always been to write a book. I don’t know if it will be in this life or the next but it will be done. I will write that acknowledgement page, I just know it. The neutral ending is that I don’t know if I’d actually want to write like anyone else rather than me. Include insightful Dr. Seuss quote that I sadly can’t think of since Dr. Seuss wasn’t a big part of my childhood.
I’m all over the page today – pun intended.
I understand that I write with a lot of parentheses. I suppose I could remove them and make them into regular sentences but I just like that bubble around the words, you know?
Hey, I managed to write about food and writing – two things I am particularly fond of – in the same post. Not too shabby, self, not too shabby.
After what felt like the best and most relaxing lunch of the entire month since I started interning, I skipped back to my cubicle and plonked myself down, ready to tackle the incredibly slow server and remaining workload of the day.
But first, I pulled open my little metal drawer under my cubicle and poked around the mess of stationery items for a sharpener. How else was I supposed to continue my self-taught Korean lessons with a blunt pencil? No such luck. I swear there had been a sharpener in the stationery pack I’d gotten on my first day of work. Oh well. I closed the drawer and dug out my headphones instead. After combing through articles on the Internet about the appropriateness of using headphones at work (the responses were mixed), I decided that it was alright. My work does not involve much (or any) interaction with others and I’m not the kind who listens to music until I can’t hear the world around me.
I unreeled my headphones and only managed to stick them into the laptop port before someone said from behind me, “You didn’t go to lunch with the rest of them?”
I immediately recognized the voice as the same one that had greeted me unexpectedly yet cheerfully just this morning. During these past few weeks, I have kept to myself. I speak when spoken to and send messages when I have questions but other than that, it has been quiet and, well, peaceful. I have observed my colleagues and the people around me enough to know who comes in at what time and who they are close with.
Naturally, I have noticed this one 40-something-year-old woman who sits at the end of the aisle behind me. She comes in before or at 9am every day and I recognize her footsteps by the black booties she wears. I know her name from the name list each aisle has, I have seen her having lunch with some ladies who work upstairs, and I know that even though she is from my department, her work differs from what most of the others do.
We have passed each other in the lobby once or twice but the most we have done is exchange polite nods and smiles.
This morning, she announced as she walked to her seat, “Hello, it’s just you today, huh?”
Taken aback and realizing a millisecond later that I was the only one in the aisle, I looked up at her. “Oh, hello, yes, just me,” was what I managed.
I didn’t think too much about her greeting, thinking she was just being friendly.
So when she spoke to me again after lunch, I was surprised. And when I looked up from untangling my headphones, she was beside my desk, gazing down at me.
“Go to lunch? Where?” I replied, thinking they’d had a department lunch but that I’d left too early for lunch and missed it. Not that it really mattered since my mom and sister came all the way to eat with me. I would’ve had to say no to a lunch invitation anyway.
“I don’t know,” was her reply. “They went to lunch.”
“By the way, what’s your name?” she asked.
Ah, she’s making conversation. She’s curious about me.
I told her.
I told her.
“What is it in Chinese?” she wanted to know.
Um. At this point, I’m getting wary because her eagerness and questions are beginning to resemble the behavior and questions nosy relatives/my dad’s nosy friends ask at Chinese New Year or dinners. Those, I do not like. Those relatives I tend to stay faaar away from.
“I don’t know it,” I told her. “I didn’t go to Chinese school.”
I was lying. Back here, I tend to tell people that I don’t know any Chinese because it makes things less complicated. Also, I don’t like telling people (who don’t deserve to know) what my name means.
At this, she made an amused smile. “You didn’t go to Chinese school? You don’t know what your name means in Chinese? Wait, in the first place, are you Chinese?”
I didn’t know whether to be offended or surprised so I went with a joke, “I don’t look Chinese?”
She laughed and somehow we moved on to another topic. “Where do you go to school?”
I told her that I’m back for summer.
“Oh, from where?”
I told her.
“I see. It’s a nice place.” She paused then added, “I have never been there but my old boss was from there.”
“What are you studying?”
The alarms and bells were going off in my head at this point. I prepared myself to be interrogated thoroughly, just like during Chinese New Year visits when aunties and uncles who aren’t even that close to me ask annoyingly personal or unnecessary questions. None of your business, is what I want to say most of the time.
I told her.
“It’s not related to what we do here.” It was more of a statement than a question.
So I simply said, “No. I just wanted something to do over summer.”
“I see.” She hopped to the next topic. “I always see you but you’re so quiet and always eating lunch by yourself.”
I blinked owlishly at the latter part of her statement. Always? But you can more often than not find me having a bowl of delicious flat rice noodles at the stall with my dad… is what I thought. Not that eating lunch by myself isn’t nice and rewarding. Does she think that eating alone is pathetic?
“How do you know I eat lunch by myself?” is what I ended up saying.
“I’ve seen you upstairs,” she said.
Oh, right. Once or twice. That’s not always, is it? But then again, I haven’t had lunch with any colleagues since I arrived. It’s not so much that I don’t want to have lunch with them than I’d rather eat lunch by myself.
“Ahhh,” I said with what I hoped was a modest laugh.
Quiet, though. That’s an appropriate description. I have kept true to my desire to keep to myself while working here.
Just as I thought she was going to finally leave, she looked up over the cubicle walls and called out to someone, “Hey, come here, come here, your sister is here.”
If I had to describe the first emotion that arises when people say stuff like that, it has to be annoyance. If I had to describe a stronger emotion, it might be rage.
On the several occasions people have compared me to a stranger or told me that someone looks like me or suggested a random stranger is related to me, I have felt these emotions in order: confusion, humiliation, insulted, annoyance, anger, and a strong desire to scream ‘shut up!!!!!’.
Sister? As an insulted Cantonese-speaking person would exclaim, “CHOI!!” I have a sister and she looks nothing like that. I have a sister and I don’t need some stranger trying to link me and this random other person as siblings.
Commenting on someone’s appearance or comparing their appearance to a stranger’s, especially in front of yourself and the stranger, is rude and insulting. It’s also an Asian thing.
I looked up over the cubicle wall to see who she was referring to. I swear I flinched.
It was the woman who has been doing nothing but bitching all this time. For weeks, since I started working, I have been hearing her talking loudly, either complaining or talking rubbish.
Even then, she glanced at me and scoffed as she walked past, “Yeah right, we don’t look anything alike! Why are you always going around saying people are good-looking or that people look alike?”
She could have been trying to hide her humiliation but I had moved on to being irritated and insulted.
“But you two look alike!” the first woman insisted. “Your hair is the same and from the back you look alike.”
I had just pulled my hair back into a ponytail because it was hot and our floor never turns the A/C on. Right then, I wanted to rip the hair tie out of my hair and scream, “No, we don’t!”
Can she just stop now? I thought. No. Obviously.
Instead, she called out to her friend who was walking by and went, “Hey, hey, these two look alike, right?”
Her friend stood at the mouth of the aisle and looked back and forth between me and the other woman. To nobody’s surprise, she said, “Yeah, they do.”
I wanted them to go away. I wanted the ugly emotions in my gut to go away.
It wasn’t enough for the first woman. She flagged the female janitor down and asked again, “These two look alike, right? Right?”
The female janitor made a hesitant smile but I suppose in an effort to not offend the bigger fish, she nodded and said, “Yes, somewhat.”
I pointedly turned back to my screen and began to continue working in an attempt to get the woman off my case about looking like this complete stranger who I obviously do NOT look like.
Finally, it was enough for her. She’d had her fun and thought it was all good. She left.
I don’t want to speak to her ever again. That’s unlikely since she has initiated a conversation and thinks that we are pals now.
As I sat there and was looked over by the two ‘judges’, I couldn’t help but feel self-conscious and insecure. When she said ‘from the back, they look alike’, I immediately felt this curtain of shame fall onto me and sunk lower into my chair. My first thought was, I’m fat. I have been feeling guilty about eating more these past few weeks but today, this morning, before she made that comment, I’d actually been feeling good about myself again.
For a while after that, I continued to feel self-conscious and upset. Then I shook it off and wrote this post instead.
Look alikes exist but since you don’t know if people will appreciate you comparing them to some random person, don’t do it. Do not comment on people’s appearance or compare them to some random person in front of them. It is not funny and it most certainly is NOT a compliment.
Well, from today onwards, I will be turning on my ‘leave me the heck alone’ mode and that woman will be another nosy and rude person to mark down in my mental ‘stay the heck away from’ list.
In my class, we were put into groups and asked to discuss about how to critique others properly. For 5 minutes, we were talking about that. But after that, we drifted off into another topic and one guy ended up talking about his Music Friend’s yamaha yas-23. It was interesting to hear about different kinds of instruments and how they worked. When the teacher came back into the classroom, she guessed that we hadn’t discussed much about the topic she had given. She was definitely right!
Six years ago, I fell in love with Super Junior.
Six years ago? Surely you mean six weeks ago?
A lot of things that I didn’t say in the past make me sound pretentious in the present day. I have tons of those moments. We all have those moments. When we thought what we liked was uncool but later on it became cool and then you were like, dang I could’ve started a trend!
But, I will tell you that if I had been pushed harder, “six years ago, I fell in love with Super Junior” would’ve been a fact today.
My sister’s friends were performing Sorry, Sorry for some high school event. When the song came on, I felt like dancing. And when I feel like dancing to a song, it means serious business. Those kids who were straining their necks to watch that performance? I was one of them.
I believe I tried to listen to the song after that, but it just felt too weird. Repetitive songs weren’t a big thing back then. So I mostly felt embarrassed and strange, and that was why I did not fall into the big Kpop thing that was spreading so rapidly across Asia.
Last year, when I started listening to Korean music, I only stuck to girl groups. I imagined myself liking boy bands, imagined myself cheering at some bleached blond dude on my screen and felt a chill run down my spine. It was a lonely feeling. How was I to convince my sister to like something like that? What kind of expression would my mom make? Who was I going to tell ‘oh, I just found out that cute kpop guy #1 likes spaghetti’? I faced that kind of loneliness before my sister joined in on all the anime fun and it was frustrating, not being able to make those kind of comments on impulse.
It turns out that my mom and sister continue to surprise me again and again. I have finally realized that a large part of this is caused by my own false perceptions and harsh self-judgment.
Well, it’s been only two months since I started listening to SJ’s songs. Hard to believe. All that fun makes it seem like two years. Here’s to many more months!