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because i srly need to talk about myself more

Losing

April 21, 2013

in therapy in session

I have lost 30 lbs. since last summer.

There. I said it.

I don’t know why I have been feeling too embarrassed to tell you this. I feel guilty. What’s with all the “you are beautiful the way you are” “girl power” blah blah rah rah Dove marketing speeches I tend to meander into. I did not come clean earlier because I am worried that you will somehow be mad. Somehow it feels like I have committed betrayal.

It all started last May when they were getting a Weight Watcher group together at work. Have I told you that my office has 500+ people and most of them are young and female, above-average-looking and most importantly, thin? It took a llllooooonnnnngggggg time to get 15 people (the minimum for a WW group leader to come onsite) to sign up. I thought, “Why not? I have nothing to lose [ha ha].” I was lucky that the WW method of counting points turned out to work for me. It was difficult in the beginning of course considering how an ounce of vodka is 5 points and I had only 29 points per day to spend. What saved me was the “rule” that all vegetables and fruits count as zero point and therefore I filled myself up with apples and bananas in the morning and ate a lot of grapes throughout the day. At night I ate a lot of egg whites and fish which I loved.

I eventually got a hang of it: counting points forced me to become aware of everything that went into my mouth. [Stop giggling, you pervs!] I learned to make mental trade-offs: “Do I want to have this piece of cheap cookie now or do I want a shot of vodka later?”  I started eating healthier with less carb and smaller portions without going hungry and found myself with lots more energy. When we left for Taiwan last August to visit my family I’d lost about 15 lbs.

I was excited to be home even more because I thought that my family would notice my weight loss and would, you know, say something nice.

What was I thinking?

I tried to brush off the usual comments about my “American” size –  These comments were laid upon me by everybody, I mean, EVERYBODY, sometimes even strangers (grandmothers with good intentions lest I lose my husband due to my not keeping myself in good shape…) every time I went home. you’d thought by then I’d gotten used to them.

Pardon the cliche, but the straw that broke the camel’s back was when a female relative greeted me with this line, “Come let me see how much fatter you are since the last time I saw you.” It sounds a lot worse in English. In Chinese, it could be interpreted as a good-humored tease, showing affection and familiarity. But what the fuck? I’d lost 15 lbs before I came home. How much thinner do I have to be to make you people happy?!

The thing about teasing by your Chinese family is that you cannot get upset. If you do, people will be offended that you cannot take a joke, and that somehow is a sign of poor upbringing.

“You bring dishonor to your family.” <– Ok. That was a joke.

I gritted my teeth and smiled while she spun me around.  As soon as she’s done “inspecting” me, I immediately accused myself so I could rush to the bathroom and quietly sob behind the door.

Usually I give up easily. I don’t ever remember myself being the type of people that turn rejection into a motivating force.

“You don’t like me? Fine. I will just crawl into a dark corner and die. Take THAT!”

Something clicked however last summer as I sat wide awake in our hotel room at dawn while the kids were still sound asleep. [Btw, THANK GOD for kids that do not suffer jet lags!] I started taking full advantage of the decked out gym and spa at W Taipei. I was on the machine for an hour in the morning. I went back to the machine for another hour in the evening, sometimes after midnight because I resented those beautiful people that were frolicking in the bar area surrounding the beautiful swimming pool. [I know this does not make any sense at all. Just work with me…]

Maybe that’s what did it. The 10 days of serious workout regiment kicked off some weird biological thing inside my body. Long story short, instead of gaining weight from stuffing myself with all the awesome food that I had missed (I was not going to let those people stop me from eating. Hell no! Carb or no carb!) I ended up shedding more lbs during the trip.

I will be honest even though I fear I sound like a hypocrite: I do like looking at my pictures more now. They look more like what I’ve imagined myself to look like all along. [Yes, I will also confess that I am a Narcissist.  So there!] Instead of deleting every single picture with me in it, I will do that to only 80% of them. Yes, possibly I have also become more vain: without telling people back home that I have lost weight, I started posting pictures of myself on Facebook. An actual announcement and especially the explanation of how would equal defeat in my mind, an admission that they have somehow won. Also, deep down I fear that some of them would probably have said, “Oh, you’ve lost weight? I did not notice. How much did you lose?…”

I was hoping that people would get the idea.

Oh no you didn't

I hope you regret it now because I was cute before and now I am just fucking gorgeous.

 

 

What was I thinking, really?

My mom called tonight.

“So and so was showing me your pictures from Face Book. She said that you seem to have lost a lot of weight. I said, ‘Nooo. Did she? Nah.’ Did you? You didn’t right? You look the same to me.”

I shut my eyes tightly and took a deep breath.

I said nothing.

Nothing.

 

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This post is inspired by The Bloggess‘ latest post I have no fucking idea what I am doing which has inspired 500 (and counting) comments so far, including the three comments I’ve left there… *cough cough* yes, I am a comment hog… 

I have been grappling with this question: Who am I? since high school, and it has induced a lot of angst and crazy shit, including reading and misreading existentialist novels, and a suicide attempt because it felt exhausting and pointless to go on living.

I remember one of my teachers was particularly asinine. For example, this being an all girls’ school, she would interfere in people’s friendships whenever she thought the young women were too close to each other emotionally. (More about that, and my life in all girls high school some time later…)  Anyway, one day she decided to talk about our mottos in life. So she wrote a bunch of standard, expected, nice things, e.g. the Golden Rule, be grateful, Karma, etc. Then she asked us to vote. I did not raise my hand, thinking it would not matter. That bitch went and added up the vote, and got pissed when she realized she was one person short. “Who did not raise their hand?!” she hissed. She had that look on her face that made me defiant (otherwise I’m usually quite easy going) and so I raised my hand.

“Why didn’t you vote?”

“Because none of them are my motto in life.”

She smirked. “Well, what is it then?”

I got up and walked to the blackboard, picked up a piece of chalk and wrote my name. True (or truth). Then I sat back down.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” She hissed again, taunting.

“It means one should be true to themselves and be who they are.”

She rolled her eyes. “Ok then. Let’s vote again.”

Nobody raised their hand for the first choice. Nor for the second one. Nor for the third one… … When she got to the last one, the one I added, every single person in my class raised her hand.

This youthful obsession with finding oneself and staying true to it came hand in hand with my obsession of Hermann Hesse’s Demian. I was hooked by the very first line from the book:

I wanted only to try to live my life in accord with the promptings which came from my true self.  Why was that so very difficult?

This being one of the classic Bildungsroman, the protagonist’s main objective was to find himself, on a path to enlightenment and self realization.

Each man’s life represents the road toward himself, and attempt at such a road, the intimation of a path. No man has ever been entirely and completely himself. Yet each one strives to become that — one in an awkward, the other in a more intelligent way, each as best he can.

This sounds great and vaguely romantic on paper, unfortunately, it caused a lot of heartaches and confusion because try as I might, as pretentious as I wanted to be, I could not seem to embark on that journey. I did not even know where the Yellow Brick Road started.

During my “self searching” formative years, I wrote the only short story of mine that was ever published. Don’t get too excited, it was published by the school magazine. I don’t even have a copy of the magazine and I can only barely remember what I wrote. It was narrated in first person (of course!) fashioned after Notes from the Underground. The Narrator complained about having trouble recognizing her own face in the shop windows when she walked by, in the mirrors, and in group photos. What she saw was a young woman with an unnatural smile that made her look as if the corners of her mouth were pinned to the sides of her cheeks. She could not recognize her. Blah blah blah. She ended up carving herself a smile. (WAY before The Dark Knight with Heath Ledger as The Joker…)

Now that I am (much much) older and (debatable) wiser, I think I’ve got it figured out. The problem is that most people still subscribe to the idea of a true self being somewhere to be found, that there is this essence of oneself to be discovered.  (I think this has something to do with Plato and Aristotle from the very beginning but I have given all my knowledge about Greek philosophers back to the teacher as soon as I received my diploma…)  It is somehow our job, as we grow, to discover what that essence, that core, i.e. our true self, is.

But here is the right question to ask, imo: What if there is no core? What if we are more like onions? What if we are made up of all the layers? If so and you still believe in finding that core, no wonder you feel lost: as you peel away each layer of the onion, you are like, FUCK! There is another door behind this door!   What if we shift the paradigm of how “selves” are defined, and that every single layer is YOU?  The real you. Everything you do, everything you say, every decision you make, every breath you take, is what makes you you.

To steal Sartre’s famous line: “Existence precedes essence. ” Your essence, who you are, is defined by the way you live your life, the actions you take, the decisions you make.  This also means one’s true self is constantly changing, because our actions are constantly changing.

The person you encounter each time, even though she may be slightly different from one moment to the next, is you.

Ergo, even when I am pretending, I am being myself because in some sense, when I become so sure of myself, I cease being myself. Ouch my head hurts! I need to stop right now!

Before I end this rambling, I just want to quote e.e.cummings, yes, again, because the quotient of pretentiousness in this post has not gone through the roof just yet!

 

 

* I am not endorsing the message from the one-hit wonder I’ve Never Been to Me. Just borrowing the title. Although I’ll admit, the song is a sweet sweet gem for a good old drunken Karaoke session.

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I saw these for sale when I made an emergency run for coffee at the store: a dozen for $1.99. I normally do not buy flowers, the same reason I do not make the bed: What’s the point? But I made an impulse purchase that day and I am glad I did. Whenever I pass by them, which is all too frequently since they are sitting on the kitchen table now, a smile pulls into my face. Flowers do that to you. Besides, they are so much cheaper than a diamond necklace.

 

I held out the daffodils the way He-Man pulled out his Power Sword, screaming: “By the power of Narcissus!” Willing Spring the coy bitch to finally show her face.

I did that often when I was young: holding up my umbrella, yelling, “The omnipotent gods, please endow me with the power of miracle!”, the Chinese dubbed version. I harbored this longing to be a super hero, or a swordsman. All of these fantasies involved me cross-dressing incognito. There is a lot of theorizing available behind a cross-dressing story such as HUA Mulan (Don’t say “Fa” please. Use the historically correct pronunciation, in Mandarin…) : being male in appearances somehow signified a path to empowerment and freedom, provided you are not found out.

 

Back to Spring. Or the lack of sighting of that pesky bitch forever running late or simply no-show even after she had RSVP’d when the universe was first created. The sky was dressed in blue and adorned himself with glorious white clouds yesterday, waiting for her.*

Whenever the kids and I see the sky looking like this, we’d say, “Look! The Simpsons!” And we all could hear the intro music to The Simpsons wafting in closer from behind the clouds. Or maybe it’s just me.

 

Back to the lingering thoughts of cross-dressing. Sister Merry Hellish recently wrote a great post on “Men in the corporate culture, their ties, and the women who fight them” aptly titled Sex, Ties and Reconditioning. She had asked several bloggers to send her pictures of themselves wearing a tie, and I am honored to be one of them. You really should click over and read the post. Actually, don’t even worry about finishing this post and leaving me a comment (srly sometimes I wonder what I myself would say if I had to comment on the gibberish coming out of my keyboard…). Just stop and hop over there right now!

As always, assignments of self-portrait stresses me out to no end and I did not pick up the camera until the last minute. In the end though, I had to admit that I had a lot of fun posing with a hat and a tie inside our powder room, holding a camera with my right hand, snapping pictures of myself in the bathroom mirror. I, a 40-year-old woman, was playing dress-up in a tiny bathroom, in the middle of the night, by myself. And I had not even been drinking.

Do you ever wonder now what your parents were doing when you were sleeping back then?

It was really late when I sent SMH my submissions, and I knew she waited up for me so she could work on her post before she went to bed. I continued to play with Picnik.com, or what I like to call, A Woman’s Best Friend. After much cropping (for you could see the toilet in the original picture AND I was wearing a pair of hot pink pajama pants underneath. They were only $5 on sale!), massive editing, and over-applications of effects, I have to say I love how I look in a fedora* and tie.

The funny, and slightly disturbing thing is how often I stare at this picture of myself ever since. I know it is not real: Too much cropping and softening and posterizing effects have been involved. But it makes me feel strong inside when I close my eyes and see myself in a hat and tie thusly. Does that even make any sense?

I hope I can manage to retain this mental image of myself channeling Annie Lennox (who is a very strong outspoken feminist. Yes, she does not deny that she is a feminst) on days when I feel oh so unworthy of working side by side next to all these men around the conference table.

Self: I can’t do this any more. These men think I am an idiot.

Annie Lennox:

You’re a bird in the sky now baby
Earthbound
Feet on the ground

 

 

Today, in a very self-serving way, I am going to declare that we all need a little bit Narcissus in us.

 

 

 

* On second thought, I guess we can’t blame Lady Spring for not showing up this weekend after all since blue tux & white ruffles combo inadvertently conjures up the image of Jeff Daniels in Dumb and Dumber

The fedora actually belongs to Mr. Monk, my 8 year old. I now am convinced that every man and woman should own a fedora.

 

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