Part 6: Weight, what? (Weight, who cares?)

Conclusion… kind of.

Well, I’m still not thin by Asian beauty standards therefore I suppose I’m not beautiful. But WHO CARES? Screw the standards. Tear them down and jump on ’em. I’m okay with not being a size 2 or even a size 6 (even though J.Crew lied to me and tried to make me feel better by allowing me to fit into a size 6 dress ?!?!). I’m okay with my broader-than-Asian-average shoulders and hips and let’s not forget that mini J.Lo booty.

I’m proud of the progress I’ve made. I’ve come a long way from being the exercise-loathing person with zero sense of portion control.

I exercise, I eat healthy (have I told you about the week we ate only walnuts for lunch?), I eat poorly (have I told you about the day I allowed myself to be handed a mountain of rice on a plate and I ate it all?), I gain weight, I lose weight, I fit into my jeans, sometimes I don’t, I still have anxiety but then I read Ajahn Brahm’s book and feel better, and at the end of the day, just to be cliché, I am meeeeeeee. I am enough.

And so are you.

You do healthy you and you’re fine. Who cares what people say about your size? Okay, it hurts and you can’t help caring but don’t let it hold you back or drag you under. We need to focus on inner beauty and stop all these needless mean comments. You might think it harmless to make a comment about someone’s size or looks but it could affect them more than you’ll ever know.

Especially as a child. There’s a difference between being a bit bigger than average and being unhealthy. If a child is not eating healthy and not getting any physical activity in, point them in the direction of living a healthy lifestyle, don’t label them as fat and tear down their self-esteem. Teach them self-love. Teach them that everyone’s body is different. Teach them that there is no specific size for healthy and beautiful.

It has been a long and slow back-and-forth process of accepting and not letting people tell me how I should feel about my own body but now when I look back at old photos, I don’t see a fat kid. I see me. I see me who had no problem being the size I was. And it’s a good feeling.

I still have my days – like this one – but for the most part, I now brush off ignorant comments about my size because I’m not going to let some distant relative – or some freaking stranger – tell me what I should look like and how I should feel. You can take your unsolicited advice and shove it up yours.

Elasticized waistbands and I still belong together no matter what you say, though. They have been with me, through thick and thin. Thick and thin, geddit? Haha.

P.S: Even as I wrote this, there was a battle going on inside my head, wondering if I’m being entirely ridiculous and stupid for writing this when in reality, I was and am fat. Can you see how ridiculous it is to have ‘fat’ and all its negative implications thrust upon you and having to deal with it for the rest of your life? ‘Rest of your life’ sounds absurd but the inner fat kid inferiority complex that remains even when you know you’ve lost weight? It’s as real as real gets. Please think the next time you intend to open your mouth and give ‘well-meaning’ comments about someone else’s size.

Double P.S: You’re supposed to read the ‘weight’ in my title as ‘wait’.

In case you missed it: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5.


Part 5: Weight, what? (The fitting room)

So where the heck does that first paragraph come in in this long story? It doesn’t. I’ve only just realized this after posting the first four parts. The fitting room stories that inspired the main gist of this mini-series, namely my struggles with my size/weight, don’t really tie in with the other parts. But well, who cares because I already wrote the rest of this post. So here goes anyway:

I’ve been yo-yoing. If you know anything about Christina Aguilera, you know what I’m talking about. One year she’s wearing XXL, the next she’s dancing in a tiny dress in Burlesque. Not that I have ever been that slim, no.

After slimming down as mentioned in the previous post, I put some of it back on. I acquired a new companion – his name is anxiety – in Vancouver and did a lot of emotional eating. Free flow of fish and chips? Bring it on. Oh, and can we get a refill of this endless bottle of tartar sauce? A whole box of Hong Kong roasted barbeque pork rice? Nope, not sharing. The only thing that I maintained was my butt which saw a lot of inclined walks. They say spot-reducing doesn’t work but well, inclines helped my butt stay toned lol.

The gist is I gained and lost weight here and there, now and then. Part of me also allowed the yo-yoing to happen because I wanted to resist the idea that bigger-than-average or fat is not beautiful which are society’s and many cultures’ mindset when it comes to size. Am I less worthy if I am 5lbs heavier? Why can’t I be 5lbs heavier and be okay with it? Why do I feel disgusting when I look over at someone skinnier? Nevertheless, it was a never-ending tug of war – eat, exercise, portion control, eat some more, don’t exercise, no portion control.

That brings us to today. Whew, finally.

Where do I stand on the scale, so to speak, today? I still don’t know. Even now I have no exercise goals related to numbers. I have no plans of reducing myself to a number on the scale.

I think I’m a size 9… somewhere between 8 and 10, some days a 10, not quite an 8 yet, something like that. Decent, I would say. Could stand to lose a bit more belly fat but no complaints about being in between sizes some days and a full 10 (and a half) on others. Unless, of course, mean comments about my size are aimed my way then I either 1) fall back into my thinking that I’m fat therefore disgusting and unworthy or 2) struggle between feeling like I haven’t done enough or 3) think, F off, a**hole, you don’t know my life. Or all of the above.

I came home this summer, fully expecting to continue our workout regime. I worked but I managed not to slack off. The conflicting emotions after I lose weight or drop a jeans size aren’t as severe as they used to be either.

OR SO I THOUGHT. Cue more dramatic Dracula music.

/prelude Fitting rooms here are where I am taken back to the times when people made me feel bad about my size. When I look at myself in the mirror in the fitting rooms here, I remember the younger me who had this ugly love-hate relationship with her body. I didn’t hate my body but people around me made me. /end prelude haha

The wife of my dad’s friend recently gifted us a bag of clothes from South Korea. Korean fashion is something I never thought about until I started noticing my sister’s growing interest in it. I long ago stopped keeping up with the fashion world, if you’re wondering how that interest went.

What is Korean fashion? I haven’t studied it enough to give you a thorough overview but basically flowy A-line shapes, cute layering, trench coats that look impossibly good on men (this might only be Kpop men but correct me if I’m wrong), ripped jeans, platform shoes, and no showing your shoulders or armpits (at least that’s what I’ve read). Sounds good to me since I love sleeved clothes.

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise, after doing brief research, when we pulled out the clothes and I immediately noticed how oversized all the clothes in the bag were. By the way, a lot of their clothes are free-size (never understood this). The other obvious thing was the empire waist/A-line shape that ALL the clothes had. They are feminine, beautiful, expensive clothes but empire waists…?

You see where I’m going with this? Oh yeah. We tried on all the clothes that looked like they would be too big and shapeless to fit.

Much to my disappointment and embarrassment, I found out that I am no Korean female idol. Dreams of joining a female idol group evaporated as I stared down at the flowy dress with spaghetti straps. I’m kidding. I have loftier goals than that – joining a male idol group. Super Junior, let me in.

Empire-waist and A-line clothes make me look like I’m pregnant. Having never been your typical dainty Asian with a small frame or flat butt or small chest, it was clear that those clothes were not made for the likes of me. I could have been the Hulk (amen, Bruce Banner, whom they recently killed off in the comics; don’t tell me I spoiled it for you, it was in the news!!) being delusional, thinking he could still fit into a pair of tailored office slacks after morphing into that angry green giant.


Photo from YesStyle. I apparently saved it halfway lol.


Did anyone even think the clothes would look remotely like this on me? NO.

Yes, I was sad. No, I will not be wearing any of those clothes to meet my dad’s friend’s wife.

Later, for whatever masochistic reason, I went to browse Korean fashion sites. To my fascination, and masochism, if you will, I noted that most clothes with sizes only go up to a medium. Well, this one hasn’t worn an Asian size M in years. Looks like I will not be shopping at online Korean fashion stores.

The fitting rooms here are where I first ‘confirmed’ the fat comments said to my face. From my pre-teen years onwards (or at least that’s when I first started looking at tags instead of just having my mom buy clothes for me) I didn’t need to bother looking at anything smaller than an L. School uniforms? Large. Okay, extra large. Jeans? Large. Size 10-12. T-shirts? Large. I was always ashamed of buying size L clothes. That is, until fitting rooms in the US entered my life. Well, they didn’t have that big an impact that time I went and gained a lot of weight but later when I slimmed down a little, I realized that I was actually pretty average-sized over there. Sometimes M even does it for me.

That was yet another aha moment for me when it dawned on me that I may not be as monstrously big as I was told and made to feel. BUT apparently, I don’t learn my fashion lessons too well because I still keep going back to try on Asian-sized clothes at the malls back here. I don’t do it often because I spend a lot of time glaring at racks and shelves of clothes, thinking, ‘nope’ but when I do, sometimes I come out of the fitting room, ready to go home and wallow in self-pity. Unless we’re going to Nando’s after that, no joke. Okay, maybe not self-pity… More like feeling irritated and angry with myself.

At a recent fitting room session, I had the sense to laugh off what I could classify as the worst piece of clothing I have taken in to try. It was a maxi skirt, size L. In my head, I didn’t look as good as the mannequin wearing it but could still somehow look okay in it. I tried it on. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I still hate trying on clothes here but at least now I know it’s not me, it’s the standards. And well, eff the standards and the people who bring down your self-esteem.


Part 4: Weight, what? (How do you like me now?)

Let me pick up where I left off and get back on track. The main topic: my size, not my fashion choices. Got it.

Fast forward to the year we left for Vancouver. At some point, I started working out more and more. Don’t know how or why but it happened. Jillian Michaels was my girl and her 30 Day Shred Workout was my jam. Only, of course, I wasn’t thaaat dedicated to the 30 Day Shred and missed days here and there. I also began to eat less. I halved my portions (I’m sorry, curry, I can only eat half of you; sorry, bowl, I’m only filling you up halfway; sorry, Asian roots, my white rice and noodle intake is being reduced for the greater good lol) but still had no one true goal to lose x amount of weight or be as thin as x celebrity.

When the term ‘thinspo’ blew out of proportion on the internet and girls started finding other thin girls to inspire them, I was nowhere near climbing onto that wagon but I did wonder now and then how awesome it would be to look like Erin Heatherton. Or at least the airbrushed healthier-looking Erin on the VS site, not the one whose rib cage was sticking out.

My mom encouraged me to find some kind of inspiration to keep going. Oddly enough, I lack that kind of drive/competitive streak which I blame partially – or entirely, depending on my mood – on the fact that I always missed joining the A (read: smart) class because my report card always somehow didn’t make it to the school in time. I don’t paste pictures of my idol or fitness quotes on the wall to motivate myself, I don’t make schedules or workout routines that I strictly follow, I don’t force myself to go on diets or cut out specific foods, I don’t think of being able to fit in smaller-sized pretty clothes. Not very inspiring, I know.

I made it very clear – well, I hope I did – to my family members that I was exercising for health’s sake, not for numbers’ or fitting into a size 2 dress’s sake. I meant it. I didn’t start working out to lose a specific amount of weight. I did it for me. I did it for my health. Because I knew that I wasn’t doing enough daily physical activity. The bonus, to me, is looking nice in things I would like to wear. Anyway, I lost weight, toned up, and for the first time ever, I felt healthy.

When people told me that I looked better after I started working out, I didn’t quite know what to feel. Of course, my first reaction was delight because people actually noticed that I had slimmed down but then later I would mull over it for a long time. Did I look better because I was thinner? Or did I look better because I looked healthier? Clearly, it was the former. Thinner, healthier, what is the freaking difference, right? To me, and I’m sure to many other people who know anything about anything, thin doesn’t automatically equal healthy.

I thought I would feel better after slimming down. Healthy? Yes. Better? I don’t know. I tried to explain it to my mom who told me, ‘Who cares what other people think? Do it for yourself.’ Truer words have never been spoken. But it was more than that, I feel. I still didn’t feel satisfied with the way I felt, if that makes any sense.

I’m not sure if I can explain it better now or if what I’m about to say accurately describes what I feel but I’ll try anyway:

I was comfortable in my own skin. I was comfortable in my own skin before people started calling me fat. I was made to feel uncomfortable even though I was perfectly okay being the size I was (which wasn’t fat). The fact that I was made to feel ashamed of my own body at such a young age repulses me. So after losing weight, I guess I felt like, ‘was my old self that bad? How much better is this? Was the old me not me? Is that all I am – a size? At size 12, I can’t be happy, but at a smaller size, I can be? Am I closer to ‘beauty’ now?

When I could have been focusing on things like building my self-esteem or working on my talents, I was made to feel self-conscious about my body?!

I don’t want people to like me because I’m thin. I have never wanted people to like me because of my size. I want people to like me because I’m funny and easygoing and loyal and practical and sometimes adventurous. I want people to like me for who I am, regardless of whether I’m a few pounds heavier or lighter. Too much to ask for? Too idealistic? Who knows?

I’m finally getting to the part about the fitting room in part 5.


Part 3: Weight, what? (What is enough?)

Where we left off last time, the question was, was my weight loss or drop in jeans size good enough for the people around me?

No. Not many people noticed – or cared – that I lost some weight. I guess it wasn’t significant enough for them. During my two years in college, I more or less maintained that size which I thought was good enough.

When is anything ever good enough in Asian culture though? You got an A? Get an A+, dammit. You earn $5k a month? Why don’t you earn $10k? You got a 99 on your paper? Why not 100? I believe there is a related post.

In college, I had a strange wake-up call. Gone were the school uniforms that were compulsory in public schools. Replacing them were booty shorts, miniskirts, crop tops, tiny dresses, basically tiny and tight clothes. None of which I could wear without feeling like I was going out without my pants on (which wouldn’t be too far away from the truth) or wanted to wear. I didn’t care.

Except I was made to care.

In high school, even what with being known as fat and having to look at myself as that, I loved fashion. I wanted to become a shoe designer after discovering Celine aka The Shoe Girl. I knew all the latest trends, enjoyed looking at Fashion Week pictures, spent a lot of time admiring fashion illustrations, the works. It even led me to buy a lush and lovely cardigan from Victoria’s Secret while conveniently forgetting to take into account the model’s 5’10 height. The cardigan’s hem brushed the model’s knees ever-so-slightly… When I tried it on, I was drowning in cloth. Needless to say, I shoved it into the back of the cupboard and prayed that my mom wouldn’t ask me where the $50 cardigan had gone.

Ah, the good old days. I mean, back when all we had to care about was whether our uniform sleeves had been ironed or not.

The girls in college, freed from the stiff and matronly school uniforms, went wild at Forever 21 and Topshop (before Asos and new non-sweatshop boutiques became a thing). Leave it to them to find the bootiest of booty shorts and the spagettini-est of spaghetti straps.

I tried, at first, to be fashionable. I like to think I dressed nicely. There were days when I would bother with jewelry and on other days, I had nail art to dress my nails up. I’m a practical dresser so wearing more than T-shirt and jeans was extra effort on my part.

So it came as a nasty surprise when I began to realize that I was being sneered at by more fashionably-dressed girls. If there weren’t sneers, there were ugly judging looks. I was not up to the female college student population’s standard. Cue dramatic Dracula music. Note that this has nothing to do with being ‘fat’ since girls bigger than me who lived up to the fashion standards were accepted.

The strange wake-up call was when I realized that it no longer mattered – or at least, it mattered a lot less – if I was ‘fat’ but it mattered whether or not I was wearing the right clothes. Also, my first step into our society that places far greater importance on appearance than on qualities such as intelligence and personality. I wasn’t enough in terms of size or fashion sense. MIND-BLOWING.

While those girls’ fashion sense heightened and clothes were reduced to pieces of cloth, mine was eventually reduced – like a properly-done Thanksgiving gravy – to my mom’s old T-shirts she had gotten on vacation or from company events. Phuket Island, Hard Rock, and Bondi Beach T-shirts – the ones with a logo on the left chest and a brilliant piece of graphic illustration on the back – took over my wardrobe, for the most part. Ah, bliss.

The last two semesters of college were absolute bliss when I stopped giving a shit about what the ‘fashion-savvy’ girls thought of me. Boys did not, I think, think of me as part of the female population and I became ‘one of the boys’. Fine with me.

P.S: I suppose it didn’t help that I wore glasses (still do) and no makeup (I do now).

I suppose I’ve messed up the flow of my original topic, haven’t I? I’ll bring it back around in part 4.


Part 2: Weight, what? (The numbers game)

Continuation from part 1.

I don’t weigh myself. I don’t believe in playing the numbers game when it comes to weight. I don’t want to be that person who obsesses about how much I weigh or how many pounds I should drop to be the ‘perfect weight’ or how many calories I should eat, burn or lose. Don’t we focus too much on numbers in our everyday life already? Can’t we not make our weight into another obsession with numbers?

In elementary school: “Who got first place in class?” Well, obviously NOT ME. Second place, a few times. First, nah. Once, and only once, I got twentieth place in class. “Fa Mulan, you are a disgrace to your family!” Or whatever the matchmaker said to Mulan when she messed up. There was no dramatic returning home and avoiding my father by hiding behind my horse or rubbing off my makeup in front of a reflective surface or singing ‘Reflection’. There was, however, a deadly silence in the car on the way home. Actually, wait, I remember coming in no. 27 in class one time. How did I get away with that?

Other life examples: “So-and-so is the reading scholar of the year, having read 200 books in the school year.” <<- bullshit but we would all clap and be like, cool. “My son got into the number one university in Australia.” “My son got 365As in his exam.” “My daughter plays 9 instruments and speaks 46 languages.” “My daughter earns $10k per month right out of college.” <<- only my dad believes this and note that the degree earned was not a special one. “My shoe size is 7.” <<- oh, wait, this doesn’t belong here.

The only time I will step on a scale is at the doctor’s office when the nurse makes you do it. Even then, I don’t look at the scale.

I am already defined by a lovely label with a negative connotation – fat. Do I really need to look at the scale and see that I’m not 120lbs then feel miserable about it because I am not the average weight of girls my age? Besides, the number on the scale doesn’t tell you things that matter like muscle mass and, well, whatever other health things that I would be more interested in.

For years, my family would egg me to step on the scale at the gym. I hated that. It was embarrassing and I couldn’t understand why they couldn’t understand my lack of need to know how many pounds I was.

After years of being ‘fat’ (as if it’s a profession), I eventually found my defense mechanism: self-deprecation. Yes to Ryan Reynolds movies and the lessons on being self-deprecating. How else could I deal with all those constant self-esteem-tearing comments while growing up? I’m not the type to run to the bathroom and cry and not like it was possible to do that in front of relatives so I just tried to laugh it off while tearing up on the inside. It’s not an entirely healthy method but it worked for me for quite some time.

Where did we leave off in part 1 again? Going to the gym before college started. Right. Okay. I started going on a regular basis since many of my classes in the first semester started late. I can’t say how much weight I lost per se but I did notice the gap behind my jeans getting bigger. Not to the point where I could be viewed by people around me as ‘thin and beautiful’ and thus celebrate the shedding of my beloved label ‘fat’. But it was enough for me.

Was it enough for other people though?


Part 1: Weight, what?

I have a confession: I hate trying on clothes. Correction: I hate trying on clothes back here. Where sizes run small and there’s no room on the shelf for a 73cm waist pair of shorts, I find more and more reasons to shy away from heading towards the fitting room. I discovered my true feelings towards clothes here years ago when I was a teenager, when I was no longer told that if I ran a bit more, my puppy fat would melt away and I would simply become who I was meant to be – thin and, well, what word is paired with thin in Asian culture? Oh, that’s right. Thin and beautiful.

Well, I guess I haven’t been beautiful since I haven’t been ‘thin’. Except maybe when I was a tiny baby who only weighed 6lbs…

Part 1

I never used to think of myself as fat. Oh, the dreaded word. The word – and the negative connotations behind it – was planted into my head by well-meaning family members (lol) and relatives whom I only saw once a year (never mind that after meeting for the very first time in our respective lives, one of the first few things they would comment on would be my weight).

Sure, I was always a bit bigger, a bit chubbier, a bit rounder than some classmates. But I wasn’t fat. Unhealthy, maybe. Fat, no. I was only fat in terms of the standard of beauty. I wasn’t stick thin with arms that could break as easily as a wafer biscuit, the circumference of my waist wasn’t narrower than a soccer ball, my ribs didn’t poke out against my PE shirt, and later when I hit puberty, my hips didn’t remain the same diameter as my waist. Not your typical Asian girl.

My parents didn’t overfeed us but unlike other Asian families at that time, my parents having studied abroad were more westernized than others. So this led us to places like McDonald’s and Chili’s or restaurants that served things like chicken pie (oh, glorious mashed potatoes and gravy), lasagna, pastries, basically cheesy, creamy, and rich goodness. I suppose they were also lax on things like junk food and processed food but we never ate it excessively.

Once the idea of me being fat was planted into my head, however, I could no longer look at pictures of myself without thinking, ‘fat’. Add to the fact that I wasn’t athletic, I suppose there was even more reason to call me fat.

Things people have said to my face:

“Lose a few pounds, you’ll look better.”

“I know you’re happy the way you are and it’s good to be happy, but you’d look better a few pounds lighter.”

“Quite chubby.”

“You’re a bit bigger than your sister, huh?”

“You two look alike but I can tell who is who since you are bigger size.” – people at school.

“Because you’re fat.” – boy whose face I should have hit. What followed after his tactless announcement was awkward silence. My friends struggled to console me but I don’t remember what they said anymore. None of my friends has ever said ‘you’re fat’ to my face but I think they all thought it. All I remember was feeling like I’d been doused with a bucket of ice water and shame. At that time, I didn’t know how to respond. I guess I kind of laughed it off. Later that comment made me cry. It was hurtful. Or at least the word has a negative meaning attached to it.

“You put on some weight since I last saw you.” – popular phrase among relatives.

“You’re twice the size of that girl.” Or ‘That girl is half your size.” – thank you, I wasn’t self-conscious enough already.

Only when my mom brought up my weight was it ever about my health (and she only started bringing it up when it was obvious that the puppy fat was not shedding). Other people just made it seem like it was a crime and a horror and a downright shame to be bigger than the average kid.

I wasn’t actually fat until my high school years. By then, I was tired and angry of people telling me I was fat, and I was also beginning my downward spiral into the shame – often accompanied by self-loathing – of being bigger than the average girl that I would feel even till today. I adopted an ‘I don’t care’ attitude, ate whatever I wanted, and refused to follow my mom to the gym.

If that’s what I’m going to be labeled as and all I’ll ever be thought of as, a few more pounds won’t matter, is what I thought.

I also spent 6 weeks vacationing in the US right after graduating from high school. I admit, there was a lot of food. I barely recognize my full-moon face in the pictures from that period of time. I even bought a pair of jeans over there when I was my heaviest that I’ve ever been and when I returned home and eventually lost some weight, I could no longer fit in those jeans. If anyone cares, I never wore those jeans and planned on giving them away but earlier this month, I found them hiding in the back of our shared cupboard and had them repurposed into a pair of shorts (no, I don’t sew; yes, I requested that the waist be pinched).

Anyway, those 6 weeks and the few weeks after that, I can safely say that, ‘well, yes, I ate too much and put on more weight than I imagined’. I guess if you want to put a label on it, you can say I was fat.

When I came home, my mom convinced me (or at least that’s what I think happened) to go to the gym with her since I wouldn’t start going to the local college until 3 months later. I did. There were days when I would kick up a fuss and refuse to go but eventually I began to enjoy our mother-daughter gym mornings. No, there were not a lot of pounds shed.

I guess that’s where part 2 comes in.


An inconsiderate potluck party

potluck1It’s no secret that I enjoy a good buffet/potluck party.

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?

Here’s 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.

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