Sunday, September 09, 2018

YELLOW FLICKER BEAT

I'll say it again, I don't date white guys only because they're white, but because they tend to be the lesser of two evils, in my opinion. They're not Singaporean/Asian, the kind of men who think they own women. I see the ones whom my family members and friends are dating, the men who don't quite like their girlfriends wearing this outfit, or going to that club at night, the ones who think they have a say in a woman's life under the pretext of caring for the ladies. Of course, this happens because the women themselves allow it to happen, because our parents have all taught us that women must defer to men, and it is natural to defer to a man's opinion, and to cater to his happiness. So no, I will not date Asian men, especially Asian men who are so insecure they have to make snide remarks about Asian girls dating white men. I am not here to please you, nobody owns me, my mother does not own my body, and I will not allow you to own me.

A couple weeks ago, or whenever it was before Jon left for the States, he asked "why do you like me?" and this was because we both knew we didn't want the same things, and he could be very mean to me, so what he left unsaid was, "why do you like me despite my making myself dislikeable to you?" I asked him, "why don't you like me?" and what was left unsaid was, "why don't you like me, despite my being incredibly witty, funny, sweet, and making myself likeable to you?" I hadn't thought of it at the time, but it wasn't the first time I was asking such a question. I'd asked many other men before him, the same thing, in different ways and forms, and I realise those weren't even the first times, they were all echoes of my trying to win my parents' approval, which I never earned, despite my sincerest, deepest efforts to. I cannot find love from anyone else, if I cannot love myself the way I am.


After I'd been meeting with Professor Steinberg for a month, I wrote an essay comparing Edmund Burke with Publius, the persona under which James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay had written The Federalist Papers. I barely slept for two weeks: every moment my eyes were open, I was either reading or thinking about those texts.

From my father I had learned that books were to be either adored or exiled. Books that were of God — books written by the Mormon prophets or the Founding Fathers — were not to be studied so much as cherished, like a thing perfect in itself. I had been taught to read the words of men like Madison as a cast into which I ought to pour the plaster of my own mind, to be reshaped according to the contours of their faultless model. I read them to learn what to think, not how to think for myself. Books that were not of God were banished; they were a danger, powerful and irresistible in their cunning.

To write my essay I had to read books differently, without giving myself over to either fear or adoration. Because Burke had defended the British monarchy, Dad would have said he was an agent of tyranny. He wouldn't have wanted the book in the house. There was a thrill in trusting myself to read the words. I felt a similar thrill in reading Madison, Hamilton and Jay, especially on those occasions when I discarded their conclusions in favor of Burke's, or when it seemed to me that their ideas were not really different in substance, only in form. There were wonderful suppositions embedded in this method of reading: that books are not tricks, and that I was not feeble.

I finished the essay and sent it to Professor Steinberg. Two days later, when I arrived for our next meeting, he was subdued. He peered at me from across the table. I waited for him to say the essay was a disaster, the product of an ignorant mind, that it had overreached, drawn too many conclusions from too little material.

"I have been teaching in Cambridge for thirty years," he said. "And this is one of the best essays I've read."

I was prepared for insults but I was not prepared for this.

Professor Steinberg must have said something more about the essay but I heard nothing. My mind was consumed with a wrenching need to get out of that room. In that moment I was no longer in a clock tower in Cambridge. I was seventeen, in a red jeep, and a boy I loved had just touched my hand. I bolted.

I could tolerate any form of cruelty better than kindness. Praise was a poison to me; I choked on it. I wanted the professor to shout at me, wanted it so deeply I felt dizzy from the deprivation. The ugliness of me had to be given expression. If it was not expressed in his voice, I would need to express it in mine.

I don't remember leaving the clock tower, or how I passed the afternoon. That evening there was a black-tie dinner. The hall was lit by candlelight, which was beautiful, but it cheered me for another reason: I wasn't wearing formal clothing, just a black shirt and black pants, and I thought people might not notice in the dim lighting. My friend Laura arrived late. She explained that her parents had visited and taken her to France. She had only just returned. She was wearing a dress of rich purple with crisp pleats in the skirt. The hemline bounced several inches above her knee, and for a moment I thought the dress was whorish, until she said her father had bought it for her in Paris. A gift from one's father could not be whorish. A gift from one's father seemed to me the definitive signal that a woman was not a whore. I struggled with this dissonance — a whorish dress, gifted to a loved daughter — until the meal had been finished and the plates cleared away.
I've been reading Educated: A Memoir for the past few days. It's a factual memoir written by a lady who was raised in Midwest North America, in a Mormon family, by a father who had bipolar disorder.

The writer and her siblings were not allowed to go to school, for her father's fear that it was brainwashing from the Government. They also never went to the hospital, and never took pills, because "if you believe in doctors, you believe in the devil and not God's work", etc.

Although my family is not such an extreme case, I do recall the resistance that my mother would have towards medicine and painkillers, with the explanation being that it would take years to flush out of our bodies, making me inherently suspicious of painkillers, until only very recently, because of course a parent's suspicions tend to also become their children's.

I know not many people are born wealthy, but I'm guessing everybody sometimes wishes they could be really well-off. Or is it just me? Sometimes I really wish I were a legacy kid. That I could have had a clear and encouraged path to academia, in Harvard or Oxford or wherever my parents went to. That I didn't have to worry about money or health or living in the same room as my parents and siblings during my childhood, that I could have pursued whatever I wanted to. I wish that I were in an alternate universe, where nobody judges me for wanting to study when I clearly can't afford to, or wanting to study for the sake of studying, which I know is frivolous and impractical. I wish I were so rich that nobody thinks I'm a sellout for enjoying the act of studying, of reading and writing essays, and using my brain's capacity for synapses in learning to code, or being an activist on gender and race studies, or I dunno, just doing creative writing the formal-conventional-university way, instead of struggling with my physical tiredness in an industry I do not enjoy. Sometimes I hate saying such things here, because I know it sounds like I'm whiny, but this is my space, and I'm allowed to feel and say what I want. I'm not asking anyone to sponsor me, I just wish things were different, a lot of the time. I wish that I were challenging my brain to make a difference in an avenue I could be useful to, instead of remembering the thousands of details I know about men I've met. I mean, my memory could be so useful, my best friend depends on me to remember tiny details from our shared past, or to navigate in foreign situations that we've only been in once, and all I use it for, is men. Men, who appear, and leave. I wish Rick and Morty were real, so I could travel to an alternate universe.




For the next couple of days, my workplace @lushvivocity is holding a contest in which you choose your favorite perfume from Lush and write or draw how it makes you feel. You stand to win a bottle of it! We contributed our submissions (although nope, I can't win - but if you have the time, I totes recommend that you pop by our store and enter!) and because I am not the most artistically-inclined of people, I wrote about 1000 Kisses Deep: "this reminds me of my favorite memory in my life so far, my happiest and the prettiest picture I can paint in my mind. I am watching the sun set in a pink sky, over calm waters on RAT Beach in California. even though the place and its people eventually brought me to depression, there is a love I will always have for Cali, that lies deep beneath the turmoil, and I think it is the kind of love that is a thousand kisses deep and cannot be shaken." #lush #lushsg #gorillaperfume #1000kissesdeep #love #rightaftertorrance
A post shared by Sarah Mei Lyana (@sarahmeilyana) on

On a lighter note, I was in Bangkok with my family for four days, and my mom still apparently does not know about my tattoo. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

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