Infinite you

This morning, I woke up, and the first thing I saw through my thicket of eyelashes was the skin on your cheeks — tan, slightly porous, little pricks of hair sticking out. You shaved the day before, but adamantly, they push through your skin and out into the air again. Your skin looked different up front; more real, more flawed, more intimate. It wasn’t at all like the skin I see on your face when I peek at you while you’re driving — there’s no dappled sunlight to wash over everything, adding a natural filter.

I love these quiet moments in the morning, when it’s just me and you in our biome of tousled sheets, the promise of life inhabiting every corner of the bed, as our toes stretch and contract, our lower backs rubbing against each other, trying to recover some semblance of the pliability they had the day before. You and I, a slow-moving forest, a couple fossils waking up from our slumber.

I look at the skin on your shoulders, smooth and brown and darkly freckled against the white sheets, like goose eggs found in the wild. The contrast is almost a shock to my eyes. I look at you, and see the miracle that occurred within your mother’s body for the nine months that she carried you; she made your long limbs and your puckered lips and your earth-colored eyes. In the soft, soundless chamber within your mother, a cell would attach to another, infinitely, to make the promise of you, the you that I saw in my bed today. I think of you, and feel the universe that aligned to bring you into my life — what a world to be alive in, the world that introduced me to you.

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Women & their (in)visible power

It’s been a strange week.

A couple nights ago, my Vietnamese co-worker got smacked in the head by some random guy at a bus stop. A few days ago, an acquaintance of mine who is Taiwanese got punched in the face by her father, bruising her eye.

Women, and specifically women of color, are harmed every day — and not just by complete strangers, but by our own kind, and people we know and love. Am I paranoid because I am assuming the physical insult done to my co-worker was because of her race? Maybe I am. And is it sad that I’m not surprised my acquaintance got punched by her father? Maybe it is. But faced with these abuses, what did my friends do? Nothing. No call to the police, no reporting, no self-defense, nothing.

* * *

There is an almost complacent reaction when women of color endure such abuse, like it’s expected and there’s nothing we can do about it. Why?

Because we are used to it. We experience it every day.

Generations of physical, emotional, and mental trauma has — for whatever reason, whether it be displacement, sexual abuse, cultural expectations, family dynamics, life — sunken permanently into the soil. A woman, her mother, her mother’s mother, and so on, have experienced pain, and shoved it into the mouth of her daughter, to be a bitter taste in the back of her throat for as long as she will live. For the women who have passed on that pain, they know no better. They cannot fight patriarchy and break the cycle; tradition is too formidable a force. And in their frustration, they misplace their anger onto the next generation.

If I promise to myself I will never beat my daughter as I have been by my own mother, will I keep that promise? If I swear to myself I will never emotionally tear down my daughter as I had been, will I uphold it? Will the cycle stop with me? Or will my willpower slip because of my anger?

* * *

Women are taught, from birth to death, to have constant doubts about themselves. The media, the men in our lives, our workplaces, all teach us that it is normal, even desired to have all these qualms and anxieties: am I pretty enough, smart enough, thin enough, good enough? In a Twitter post, Feminista Jones dares other women:

Not surprisingly, women began replying back with situations where they simply said thank you, accepting the compliment without further ado. The men who said them either retracted their compliments or just moved on to direct insults. As Feminista Jones says in an interview about that post:

It’s the idea that they [men] bestow the compliment on you, and you’re not supposed to be aware of it.

It’s almost as if recognizing our own beauty as women is unacceptable. We can be complimented, yes — but we have to act modest, as if we are undeserving of such affirmation. It’s almost as if low self-esteem is required for a woman to be desirable to a man. It’s almost like it is a sin for a woman to recognize her own power.

My friends being hurt; the subtle microaggressions I and countless women face every day, the resurrection of feminism in the 21st century, the intergenerational trauma that women of color are burdened by, and how that manifests — it is all palpable, especially in the States’ harrowing political climate. The macro feeds into the micro, and vice versa. The unrest can be felt.

It is time for a change. I ask you: When will it stop?

* * *

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Daily Post prompt: Qualm

Growing up, and the (dis)appearance of loose ends

You know, my mother used to tell me to put things back where I got them. I used to struggle with this as a child. I would take something, do something, and then—nothing. I couldn’t follow my bread crumbs back. There would always be some loose end around the house — scissors left on the coffee table, shoes blocking the doorway threatening to trip someone, a jacket on my bedroom floor… My mother would be a rich woman if she got paid every time she had to tell me to return things where I got them.

Now, in my mid-20s, I am so good at it. I take something, do something, and as if my feet were following some script, I walk back and put this “something” where I found it, exactly how I found it. You would be proud of me, Ma. Maybe this is how you are getting compensated — your daughter’s finally learned her lesson, and is admitting it publicly.

When did I metamorphose into this very tangible adult? I walk like an adult. I talk like an adult. I pay my bills. I work about eight hours a day, but really, only six, because I read an article recently that Sweden only makes its people work six hours a day to maintain that work-life balance, and I fancy myself a Scandinavian. And! I put things back. There are no loose ends — at least, none that can be immediately seen. (And I am slightly despondent to come to the realization that that is an adult — a human with no visible loose ends. Is that what we all are, when we finally “grow up”?)

And yet, there are so many invisible loose ends. In fact, I feel like one giant loose end. I feel like trendy jeans — you know, the type that taper down to your ankle and are frayed oh-so-tidily at the hem? That’s what I feel like. Like trendy, frayed jeans — like, I got popular, but for no good reason.

It feels like the more life I experience, the more I encounter this frayed feeling. And I have this theory for that.

We’re all told to put things back, and not just to put things back, but to put them back the way we found them. So, you spend half your life trying to follow this laissez-faire mentality, of leaving things alone, of keeping things to that baseline, of not rocking the boat—when you finally figure out, mid-way through a stressful, life-changing experience—you’re supposed to rock. that. boat. You don’t just put things back the way you found them. No, none of that passive bullshit.

You’re supposed to leave things better than you found them — be an interfere-er, be an idealist, be self-motivated. 

So, in light of this newly-realized philosophy, you become this walking, talking, “8”-hour-working, bill-paying adult who not only puts things back, but improves them. Or at least, tries to. Because, well, it’s so much more demanding of your time and energy. And the risk for loose ends and frays and all that, increases, as you develop these things for yourself, what do you call them… oh, what’s the word… goals! You develop goals for yourself. And your world gets messier as you try to enrich yourself contrary to your generation’s famous habit for instant self-gratification.

But it’s also so much more rewarding. 

I’m still getting accustomed to the idea. I’m not quite at the “doing” phase yet. But I have to laugh a bit, because wouldn’t it be so much more efficient to tell children, at the advent of their youth, that they are champions, and that they’re supposed to make the world a better place, one little action at a time, rather than waiting for them to figure it out 20, 30 years later?

Rock that boat, kids. 


Daily Post prompt: Champion

Betrayed by a “maybe”

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Sometimes I think, did my mother really allow her daughter to get molested?

Sometimes I think, did she know the extent of the harm she was causing by allowing this to happen?

Sometimes I think, did she know she had inflicted permanent scars upon me the very day she found out and made silence her response?

* * *

I remember the day I confronted her. We were in my stepdad’s office. We were glowering at each other. I had done something despicable to her, and I, stubbornly unapologetic, thought that moment opportune to turn it around on her.

I said, “Ma, did you know what [he] did to me?” I paused and tried to read the expression on her face. She gave nothing away yet. “Did you know he was touching me inappropriately back on the island?”

Her lips pursed, and she looked sideways, almost as if the memory could be found splattered on the wall or something. Then she looked back at me with searing eyes and said, “Maybe. I think so.”

I was rendered so numb by her answer that I forgot I was staring at her. It was like I blacked out with my eyes wide open.

All I could do was think back to all the little hints from my childhood that possibly implicated her:

When he would pick me up right in front of her and jokingly tell her I would have the body of a porn star when I got older … When he would keep asking me to give him a forehead massage right in front of her … When he would stay home while she would run errands …

* * *

Sometimes it feels like a bad dream. But I knew it was reality as soon as I heard my mother confirm my worst fear. Screw her half-assed “maybe”. She knew. And over the course of my childhood, she let it happen.


Daily Post Prompt: Maybe