aapi heritage month '22: 5/10

2022-06-04  egg

The weekend I got back from SF, someone asked me if I too felt like we were going through a very underwhelming spring. We talked about all the blooming that hadn't happened this year. They pointed at the moon, low and waning, through the branches of a budding tree. A couple weeks later my podiatrist told me about how usually at this time of year she has to bat her way through worms hanging from the trees when jogging around the Upper West Side and sweep the caterpillars that have inched their way across her office threshold back out onto the sidewalk. "Not this year though," she clucked, looking at me meaningfully. I nodded solemnly in agreement. This was how I'd been responding to her for much of our conversation during this visit, which felt so unhinged that I thought of the crazy therapist in My Year of Rest & Relaxation and wondered briefly if I really trusted this woman with my foot health. It felt like everyday I was texting Katie about how glum I felt. One morning as I woke up in a bad mood yet again I seriously contemplated whether I was feeling terrible because Mercury was in retrograde. The good weather that happened upon us occasionally during the week never lasted through the weekend, each one colder and rainier than the last. The trend finally broke a couple weeks ago with two consecutive 90-degree days, terrible. Katie and I walked to Frankel's from the Bedford L on one of those days, already tense but the heat making us extra grumpy to boot. Each weekend felt barely pieced together; whereas for the past six months each night of the weekend felt like an exercise in self-actualization, no duds, something kept falling through this past month - bad music, a bad crowd, bad weather. Even though nobody truly close to me was out of town, I felt at a loss for who to turn to when putting my plans together. One of the best nights of the month was when we went to the Chairman Mao DJ set, but those ten minutes of shrooms-induced melancholy have also lingered with and plagued me since then. "Who can I talk to when I'm sad?" It wasn't a great AAPI heritage month for me, life is a hate crime. I cringe a little whenever I see an anonymous Asian woman/white man couple ("the Asian girl to ugly Jewish man pipeline," Cora calls it), like last weekend on the L when I saw a hot Asian girl with a completely unremarkable-looking alt white boy. I was reminded of R&R again, that section when she's skewering the wannabe-sensitive philosophy-major hipsters who position themselves as different than the Chads of mainstream masculine culture but who are ultimately cut from the same cloth, insecure and vain and all dating Asian women. It feels fucked up to use this superficial and shallow evaluation as a starting point for how I feel... I hate using "cringe" and perceptions OF things as part of the reasons why I'm against something, and I want to be able to articulate on a deeper level what bothers me, but I can't get away from the image, it haunts me. When I was talking to the bartender guy and he admitted that his last girlfriend was Korean (his current girlfriend is also Asian), I felt icky in a way I had never experienced before, not even when people would say in college that so-and-so had yellow fever. He was aware of how it looked--"That's where it stops, I promise!"--and I can't tell if that made it better or worse... Probably better, but the damage was done. I believe that he doesn't have a fetish for Asian women, but it's weird to feel part of a pattern. Usually the criticism of fetishization is that it makes those being fetishized feel interchangeable, but that's not what I felt here, it's more that we were both aware of how it looked, and that knowledge was enough to dampen a situation that might otherwise have been a fun fling. There was too much shame, deserved or otherwise. Again, it feels dumb that all of this is coming/came from the appearance of something, maybe I'm more image-obsessed than I thought, but it also feels inescapable as a larger mode of being that we all have been conditioned into. We've been polluted into being overly articulate in symbols and signifiers and we're all in Plato's dumbass cave trying to get back to the real. There is also some part of thinking about race and your own racial identity that is inseparable from analyzing visual culture, but that shouldn't be all of it when it comes to interrogating your interpersonal relations. For most of the last week of May I listened to OK Computer and commiserated over text with friends about feeling antsy and discontent. There was also a week where I played Dominion with Catherine, Juhi, and Jeffrey almost every night. A little sadly, what's made me consistently the happiest this past month has been work, joking around and laughing with my teammates while getting shit done and seeing both my coding and code reviewing skills improve. My relationship to my team is kind of stressful to me because sometimes I wonder if I'm just flirting with everyone (what the hell is flirting anyway), and I worry about whether the other guys on my team are into me or whether that's something I'm going to have to manage (I don't think anything would ever happen, but I worry). One thing that was really nice about being in a relationship, I never had to worry about subtly enforcing platonic boundaries because it was just a given that I wouldn't reciprocate any advances. But I definitely attribute the ease with which I've become a part of my team to some vague, general male enjoyment of my being perky, and sometimes I can no longer tell if it's a persona I've adopted because I know it's beneficial to me in these contexts or if that's just actually my personality. Whenever I think about this I think about the term "soft power," how this attitude/personality/whatever I project at work is so useful to defuse tension, ease working relations, and generally get people to cut you slack. I also think about how I definitely don't act this way towards my female teammates and how I get stressed when talking to the hot senior engineer on my team because she, as kind and inclusive as she is, can definitely see through this shit. She does do the same thing to a certain extent, but it's in a concretely useful way; she uses it to advocate for her opinions and the changes she'd like to make in a way that is both friendly and firm. My never-ending rewatch of Survivor: Micronesia and observation of Parvati's game during this season has had me thinking about flirting and its usefulness for a couple months now because everyone describes her as using flirting as a social strategy, but there are few concrete examples of it. She just generally seems fun and perky and chatty, and it makes me wonder whether that's all that casual flirting is, and if so, whether I've just been doing that with everyone without knowing that's what I'm doing, even if to some extent I'm aware of it as an endearing behavior. Flirting of the verbal, innuendo/double entendre variety is so outside my wheelhouse that I don't think I could do it even if I tried. As part of my essay for the zine on friend crushes and Frances Ha, and also due to some recent friendship conflicts, I've been thinking a lot about my past friendship breakups and what caused them. Last week I was feeling really sad about one of my close friendships, and as I was falling asleep one night I was thinking about how scared I was of drifting slowly apart from them. It never feels good to let someone down, even when your relationship evolves and becomes stronger due to being forced to explicitly recognize and accept someone's flaws. It made me think of what Katie said in the fall about TV friendships--the kind of friendship where you can scream at each other and then make up and have everything go back to normal--and how how they're idealized in media as what close female friendships should look like, but actually in real life it would be stressful and probably impossible to sustain. I realized then that this month has sucked probably also in part because I've barely seen Katie, and it felt so good to hang out this past week, each sitting on opposite ends of my swaying couch, like old times.