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cuteness overload

I had the privilege of flying on one of Eva Airlines’ Hello Kitty planes today.

Here's a screenshot so you know what I'm talking about

 

Everywhere you turn on the plane, you see signs of Hello Kitty: from the pins on the flight attendants’ uniforms, their pink aprons, the pillow covers, to the air freshener in the lavatory.

Eva Airlines is seriously dedicated to Hello Kitty

 

I started chuckling as I stepped onto the plane. It’s cute and adorable. But soon I grew weary. [Yes, I tend to overthink. Are you even surprised?]

There are obvious social and cultural reasons that girls, and in fact, women under 50, are encouraged to be cute, to find cutesy things desirable, and also to screech in delight whenever such cutesy things are encountered: In a patriarchal, male-dominant society, men prefer women that are dependent and docile (or at least seemingly so) and find them to be more attractive.

A nation of young women marching to the drumbeat of cuteness. Some critics have even gone so far to call it the “infantilization of women”.

There is the voice that many women here speak in. High-pitched and nasal. 

The facial expressions: eyes blinking deliberately with eyelashes a-fluttering, better yet if they appear to be watery & starry. Verisimilitude of manga characters.

I imagine myself a reject from the Hello Kitty factory.

I’ve never been able to be cute – partly because I am 5’7″ and not starving myself. By Taiwan standard, I am enormous. I also cannot fake Jennifer Tilly’s voice. Just imagine Lucy Lawless feigning cuteness. That. Did you throw up in your mouth too?

That being said, I begin to lean towards + on the cuteness scale when I arrive. It’s as if when I speak in Chinese, I assume a different personality. Or maybe they’ve spiked all the food here.

I tilt my head. I blink my eyes. I smile vacuously.

I know tomorrow I will start making a bunny sign when having pictures taken.

This is like an emergency note written by a survivor before the inevitable Borg invasion.

 

 

 

 

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I am sitting in the United Airlines lounge, home for the famous automatic beer pouring machine, (not quite) halfway back to Chicago, but already I stop talking to people in Chinese, and I am transitioning to my American self again. (My apology for falsely reinforcing the dichotomy of East vs. West. This is strictly personal: I no longer feel the need to look smaller by haunching or sucking in my guts, or to look cute and agreeable, or to bat my eyelashes innocently. Feel free to expand. Take all the space you want. Of course, I will still complain about any non-Asian person trying to impose such a rigid contrast between East vs. West or subscribe to the idea that Asian women are oppressed. Bite my contradictory, non-consistent ass if you wish.)

First of all, I just want to thank all of you to continue to visit my blog even when I am not able to reciprocate. Sometimes I feel that blogging is ultimately a selfish act. Or rather, the reason why I blog. Or rather, the reason why I started blogging which has undergone some significant change over the course. It is selfish because when I have limited time and energy and am forced to choose, I almost always choose to post blogs rather than to read and comment. It is both selfish and self-indulgent and at the same time, an act of self-preservation as I need to jot down what’s swirling inside my head so I can clear it through the process.

When I hit the publish button, it is in the ether, in some sense, no longer my concern.

Of course, most of these are random things I found amusing of which I kept mental notes so I could regale an audience at a dinner party one day. Who am I kidding? I don’t think there is any dinner/cocktail party in my stars. So I put them out there. Voile! Carte blanche. ’cause my mental Post-It pad is as thin as the free ones you find on the desks in hotel rooms.

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I was assaulted by a wall of pink cuteness at the airport, a place you kind of expected to be safe from a culture that encourages its womanfolks, young and old, to be cute and adorable.

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Kawai. Japanese for cute, adorable. 可愛 in Chinese. It is a cultural obsession.

When I packed for this trip, I consciously left out tops that are too revealing, knowing that any indication of self-professed sexuality would be frowned upon. Unfortunately, I misjudged and two of my shirts, when I lean forward, reveal my cleavage, and this caused some visible discomfort in strangers, both male and female. At first it was quite puzzling to me: judging by the amount of advertisements devoted to breast augmentation, next only to those devoted to weight loss naturally, you’d think that people are at least used to the idea that boobs exist. Isn’t this contradictory?

Paradoxically, this actually falls in line with the schizophrenic idea of the female ideal: If you know Manga and Anime, you know we want our women to be Innocent + Sexy. Somewhat different from the Madonna + Whore paradox, we want our women to be CUTE. Juvenile. Forever 16 or 18. (Can you imagine La Madonna dressed in pink and adorned with Hello Kitty?)

I am pretty sure there is an entire dissertation worth of theorizing here but I am just going to do Stream-of-Consciousness which is to say, I have no idea what the fuck I am talking about and I am just going to type them up as thought clouds appear.

Someone asked me how much I drank when I was home. The answer is none. I do not drink when I am with my family because first of all they assume/prefer to think that I do not drink. Furthermore, the ability to hold your liquor is not something that will add to one’s desirability (not that I am looking to be desirable, being married and all, but you know what I mean…)

I am getting a clearer idea of why I always feel so out of place when I am home: I feel awkward, physically. Even if I were rail thin, Bulimia thin (which would be just about right according to the standards here. Ha!), I would still have been too tall. Cuteness and I simply do not mix. It was  already like this when I was in college: I tried to dress the part, cutesy prints, flowery adornments, frilly edges and all, but there was always this gnawing in the back of my head telling me how ridiculous I looked trying to look adorable when I was towering over 80%* of the female population, and probably the male too.

Puke.

I am so relieved now to be sitting here, sipping my Bloody Mary, showing my cleavage, surveying the world, narrowing my eyes and sitting in a manner that suggests Yes, I know I am sexy and you want a piece of this.

Incidentally, I was informed that in many restaurants and all self-respecting KTVs (Karaoke with all private party rooms) in Taiwan, you can find a mini version of the urinal in the men’s bathroom for puking. Ingenious, isn’t it? We should get these into the bars in the U.S., and of course, in both MEN’s and WOMEN’s Rooms.

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* Number pulled out of my ass, in no way scientific.

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