- Considerations of "Modern life"
- Creative writing
- Joie de vivre
- New York City
- The law
This morning, I felt, for the very first time, a sentimental pang of longing for US of A. If my naturalization was only ceremonial, then this moment of spirited fierte had truly ushered in a new era of citizenship (OR, perhaps, the moment only proved that as an outsider, only having been far removed from the daily systematic prejudices, disenfranchisement, and other such defects and impurities, am I able to identify with and value other American virtues, such as respect for traffic rules, for ex. But, that’s an aside. Another aside, today, my coworker, in one of those very very real, truth in jest moments, said to me, ah, but your case is quite dramatic, because you are nothing. You are not Chinese and you are not American.)
Anyway, so my point was that I felt so American that I took a detour from my morning Americano run from Costa for a Starbucks Iced Coffee. That is major, because I do protest and detest Starbucks in New York, but I was weak and hoped for half and half. Alas, I was to be disappointed on all counts.
And then, tonight, after trekking across 20 blocks in heels (that is nearly 20 street crossings with no guarantees from traffic lights), I came home to this: “That legislation, the Team USA Made in America Act of 2012, was duly introduced into the Senate and referred to committee on July 16.”
This actually happened? like, real senators sat around contemplating Olympic uniforms? Has the US become so utopian in the 2 months I’ve been gone that uniforms are now pressing matters?
On the one hand, it is moving to see the expediency of a political system when it is so moved and so compassionate about a cause. On the other hand, this is what they chose to dedicate that efficiency to?
I am not sure which is more terrifying: the gun toting Americans or the ever growing idiocy, each new layer of which never ceases to surprise with new delights. This is just as petty as Obama exploiting the American sentiment of resentment against China by harping on Romney’s off shore investments as if it embodies an enemy of the state. Not because the opacity of Romney’s actual position (flip flopper that he is) on anything should not draw ire and that he should not have to answer for his hypocrisies (on so many issues), but to use that fact as a platform is to perpetuate ignorance. It’s wrong. Especially from Obama? Why play into that game, bro?
“There is a race so different from our own that we do not permit those belonging to it to become citizens of the United States. Persons belonging to it are, with few exceptions, absolutely excluded from our country. I allude to the Chinese race. But by the statute in question, a Chinaman can ride in the same passenger coach with white citizens of the United States, while citizens of the black race [cannot]….” – Justice Harlan, 1896, in his famous Plessy v. Ferguson dissent, in which he rejects racial segregation in the Jim Crow south.
I attended this thing hosted by MOCA and AAWW almost three weeks ago, where I basically sat through 20 minutes of Wesley Yang’s very public very pathetic self-flagellation under the pretext of marginalization in America of Asianness, seething with the kind of anger only possible when you’re dealing with, on the one hand, secondary shame on someone else’s behalf, and on the other, a kind of derivative embarrassment caused by another due to the unfortunate association that he’s prescribed by way of his own inferiority complex and existential crisis.
In short, fuck Wesley Yang for being the unfortunate representative that we’ve been assigned, against our will. It is a shame that burns so deep that, after 3 weeks, having remembered not much else about the panel, I managed to encapsulate my rage in the long-winded, poorly constructed run on sentence above.
This is all to say, memory is vague and I can only now recap it in a very general way that doesn’t come anywhere close to the intense recap session post-panel, at Great NY Noodletown.
I grew up in China, and all I knew about America was from movies and sitcoms (Growing Pains dubbed with Chinese represented, as far as I was concerned, a life I was to lead once I cross over that ocean and go to America.). 美国人(American) meant white people with different color eyes and hair than my brown and black. I had the idea that I was going to a place that would vaguely resemble (in reality) a Scandinavian country. When I moved here in 5th grade, I started at an elementary school with all black, Latino, and Asian kids. The Hasidic Jews in the neighborhood startled me (as did the fact that squirrels and pigeons just roamed the streets; as my mother would say, in China, these animals would all be dead, and their existence represents the goodness and humanity of America). I didn’t see any white people until much later. I also didn’t realize the spectrum of ethnicity that exist in the US until I got here.
When we talk about race or racial identity in the US, non-black “minority” groups are a secondary mention or a non-issue, much like how my conception of the US did not include non-whites. Mainstream rhetoric just doesn’t make room for it, so discussions happen in the fringes. I understand the need to fit our narrative in accepted rhetoric like this, and that “are Asians black” is kind of a provocative thought that might make people go hmm, but ultimately, that hmm is followed by confusion. The answer is emphatically, no. However our stories might have converged (both groups have faced discrimination, there have some exchanges between cultural groups), references to those rare occurrences, even in sum, do not amount to a common story. True, we’re both subjects of a racial hierarchy constructed by a white society, but drawing a comparison based on that sad nugget of commonality reduces both groups to nothing more than victims.
I had a lot more to say, especially about the many, many fallacies of Wesley Yang’s pathetic little monologue constructed based on arbitrary statistics that can be construed many different ways, as statistics often can be made to do, but I don’t have the energy to revisit his spiel.
This is not to say that I did not enjoy the program. I appreciate that we’re trying to have a dialogue, especially not just amongst ourselves as Asians but in a wider demographic, but I just think the focus could have been different and, maybe more narrow. Because a survey panel of such varied perspectives need at least like, a day, to be comprehensive.
“I’m not a foodie, I just like what I like,” she says. “Yes, I know, it’s just like hipsters saying, ‘I’m not a hipster.’ ” (The cliché cracks her up.) “But it’s like when my boss says, ‘Oh, you’re such a foodie.’ I’m like, Oh God. When I hear the word foodie, I think of Yelp. I don’t want to be lumped in with Yelp.” – Young Foodie Culture via @Davidchang
I’m not taking offense because of the narrow exception of myself and a handful of Yelp friends whose reviews are merited not only for their candor but also for the writing itself. I have a problem with people who so emphatically dismiss (or worship)a group of people without exception or clear basis. While I’m not a cheerleader for team Yelp, I can’t deny the undeniable place the site has established for itself regardless of the deteriorating quality of its reviewers (o, it can be personal). This influx of “foodies” seem to take that aversion to new heights, effectively establishing a hierarchy of a sort of authenticity (oh, exploring new foods is a personal hobby, it’s a part of my identity. It’s inherent in my being; I didn’t need an external incentive like a forum of expression.) Well, having your rhetoric memorialized in a publication like New York Magazine closes every inch of that gap – the magazine’s perspective and identity being informed by what everyone else is saying. Plus, the obvious fact here is that your reference to Yelp in that context renders your whole shit reactionary and derivative – as if not being a Yelper is supposed to validate and legitimize you, as if the restaurant owner who replied to my review with: nyt gave us 2 stars, is supposed to render my review invalid. To you I say: who you? Seriously, like who are you to tell me that you know better just because you’re not on Yelp? The problem isn’t “Yelp”, sure it provides a medium for people who delight in an imaginary audience (hi!), but really, you’re both drawn by the same force and your self-branding as a non-foodie food lover who likes what you like follows the same rhetoric. It’s the same whether you use your hands or a toy; you’re still just getting yourself off.
Food is a basic and subjective concept the quality of which anyone can discern (some might choose to be more or less discriminating). That sort of faux denial laced of a self-congratulatory tone (oh, I’m a hipster without the shackles of a label). Spending your money on pickled lambs tongue, because it’s a new frontier and soon to be item du jour is not “liking what you like”, and you, Diane Chang, are a sucker. This is not about the ridiculousness of your chosen lifestyle from my point of view (I mean spending a quarter of an income that’s described as modest is pretty bad finances, but I probably spend more on worse things like dresses I never wear), I could care less about how you spend your money. Buying into a marketed commercial movement all the while coloring yourself as an exceptional instance is delusional, as if a label is your problem.
“Daisey’s fiction was predicated on the notion that China is essentially unknowable, that reporters never go to factory gates, that highways exit to nowhere.” – Evan Osnos
And that is the state of America’s xenophobia. It goes beyond a mea culpa that cripples any interactions with China. The most dangerous aspect of ignorance is the strength of the conviction. It’s a conviction that drove Daisey to contrive a story to corroborate his assumptions. The most disheartening aspect of the story is that so many of us fell for it. It’s like the moment in French class when I realized that Diderot’s Bougainville doesn’t tell us about any “real” exoticisms of the island people, but that it does tell everything about the distorted prejudices of the very French narrator.
I can’t help but draw a parallel between the Daisey story and Steven of “Seeking Asian Female” (or, Single Asian Females’ worst nightmare). Stereotypes do not waver in the face of actual interactions; however unsubstantiated those stereotypes end up being – it could always be written off as an exception. As if reality can always make concessions to fit a picture painted in broad strokes.
It is particularly disheartening, because this kind of noise and theatrics will almost always drown out sincere attempts at dialogue and truth seeking. The sources for that are out there, but Americans love propaganda more than any socialist do. You’d better believe that shit.
So I’m not sure what I was expecting when I queued up for the J. Crew sample sale today – what the hell was I doing at a J. Crew sample sale period? [need for sweaters, lured by the promise of cashmere for cheap] But let me tell you, the scene was wholly unsavory. Racks of nubbing cashmere sweaters. Inventory so picked over that I thought I was digging through Salvation Army. No hyperbole. Shoes tied with rubber bands. Even with discounts being only modest, shoppers were walking away with garbage bags worth of said items. Two things that are evident at a sample sale: you can get away with a lot if you slap a “sample sale” at the end; merchandising is money.
All of a sudden bargain shopping is the new thing. But it’s not as smart as people like to make it seem since there is an inevitable sample sale google effect. I am not exempt from the occasional shopper’s fervor caused by a blind zeal for particular brands. Oh, a pair of Herchicovitch pants two sizes too large that looks more awkward than hot, a clunky and utterly unremarkable bag purchase on account of it being Chloe and a bunch of utterly regrettable purchases come to mind. But my god, I love laughing at women snatching up nubby sweaters when you can get better and newer versions for the same price.
I’ve finally settled back into the routine, though I chose to abstain from shenanigans this weekend, which came as a surprise to even myself. During my last week in China, I had a major emo moment with Janelle [via bbm thankgod] re: my experiment with running away from humanity [ok, don’t take it literally, I’m not making a subversive comment on Chinese and Korean people and their exclusion from humanity.]. Yet after a handful of the requisite “I’ve missed you so and tell me all about your trips” mini reunions, I am looking for a break again. So I took the night off to write and watch “Up in the Air” for the 3rd time in as many months [yes, really]. The movie touches me in so many places; I don’t even know where to start.
I’ve been feeling uneasy all week, for a number of reasons, not all of which can be divulged here. But the mixture of jetlag and lingering cold is doing nothing for my insomniac tendencies. Tossing and turning until the wee hours of the morning makes me more neurotic than usual.
The thing is, I’m not sure what I need right now. I guess it’s just a weird time in life? I just paid my deposit for a seat at L-School, which means this blog may soon turn into a giant snoozefest. I had all these grand epiphanies when I was away – a combination of being on my own a lot and having too much time to think and being in a new place always makes me all introspective about where I am and shit [figuratively and literally]. Whenever I visit a city, I get all curious about history on a much more significant way than I would ever think about New York. I don’t ever think about the fact that I am in New York, like how I think about my place in this other city
So, maybe a brief recap?
I hate it when…
Someone tries to approach me/befriend me based on a supposed common interest when it’s really just based on my interest. Or maybe, I’m dismissive of other people having that interest if they don’t know as much or just suck at having the interest.
Ok, more specifically, I guess I’m speaking of fashion, which is most common.
I’m really not a snob about fashion. I have friends who don’t care about fashion and just wear what they think look good on them and while I don’t always agree, I’m also not friends with them because I can talk about Helmut Lang with them for hours at a time. It’s really not that serious. You don’t have to like fashion or even care, shit, most of the time, I don’t care. When you don’t know jack shit about it and want to talk to me about it, though, for the sake of talking, it doesn’t flatter me that you’re trying to talk to me, I’m annoyed and that’s when I’d judge you and that judgment is excessively judgey. Like, when you say you like Anna Sui and think that that’s a jumping off point for us to conversate, you don’t care or know whatever you’re saying. Be yourself, like what you like, yo.
There’s this broad at school who approached me because she saw that I’m into clothes/shopping, so she figured we’d get along. I mean, fair, but she likes shopping the way all women like shopping. It’s mostly mindless, sequined/pretty shit that’s uninformed and has no perspective. Not that I’m super pared down or edited, but a general interest in clothing doesn’t do a damn thing for me in terms of a camaraderie. Don’t ask me to go shopping for a cocktail dress, I will be bored to death looking at frilly and pointless embellishments and will hate you forever and ever. We don’t have a common interest in that. If you don’t have anything else to say, you might wonder if you have anything else to offer or if you think that’s all there is to me, then should you really want to know me? It is ok, dawg. Trust me, fashion is not known to forge strong friendships. This is why I couldn’t even deal with the fashion club (YEAH I KNOW IMAGINE?). Mindless consumption and not having taste. I just can’t. I mean, it’s like someone approaching a music snob and saying, I love music, don’t you just love that song about the G6? I mean, really. Get out of my face.