Green plant patch growing out of concrete

The problem with creatives, Asian daughters, and non-conformists.

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” – as attributed to Mike Tyson

OK. Here’s what I’ve told you. I had to come back to the US of A. We were not sure for how long, but we thought we’d give it a go, you know, return to America for good, regardless of Trump-apocalypse, blah, blah, blah, and see what we could make stick.

Staying with my mom in Hawaii was part of the short-term plan, but when our long-term plans fell spectacularly through the roof, we were tail-spinning, reaching for whatever vines or debris was there to grab on to.

Yeahhh.

You think I’m exaggerating.

Continue reading “The problem with creatives, Asian daughters, and non-conformists.”

I’m Chinese, but I’m not Chinese

little boy in chinese lion dragon costume
Who are we behind the costume? [Chiang Mai, 2014]
On a regular basis, I’m mistaken for being Chinese – as in from the Motherland, China, Chinese. Now, to be fair, I look pretty damn Chinese, but these days it’s getting ridiculous.

Continue reading “I’m Chinese, but I’m not Chinese”

I am Wonder Woman (an Asian American woman reflects on childhood female superheroes)

Occupation: Amazon Princess
Occupation: Amazon Princess

When I was a freshman in high school, about 14 or 15 years old, my younger brother and I wandered into a comic book store. It was located between Mililani, our home town, and Waihawa, the dead-beat-town-that-we-briefly-lived-in. We stopped there because my mom would visit her friend’s Thai grocery store. And like every other time, we kids tagged along because she had errands. We usually had to wait a very long time for her to talk and do her business.

Continue reading “I am Wonder Woman (an Asian American woman reflects on childhood female superheroes)”

closed to due to shit happening sign

An Asian American expat musings on the post-election malaise

As an expat, one of the things I experience is how different governments treat their people, and how my passport country measures up. Until I had moved overseas, I had taken for granted American infrastructure, rules and regulations and our homegrown love for criticizing politicians and government. I lived in a democracy where political cartoons are the norm and SNL skits are revered and expected.

Continue reading “An Asian American expat musings on the post-election malaise”

Celebrating 7 years abroad

An Asian American abroad photos

It was Facebook that reminded me that the milestone had passed. Otherwise, I’m sure I would have continued to scroll past this moment, drinking my coffee and eating my banana.

I posted, “I signed up for Intensive Thai, but based on my photo (with my application) I was enrolled in Intensive English instead.”

Would you hire an Asian American to teach English?
Ah, the face of a woman who needs to brush up on her English.

Now, normally, I’d write a long post about what these 7 years overseas has meant to me, what I’ve learned, etc., but after deciding that I hated half of what I wrote, I’ve settled on writing a list post, in an effort to stir up the punch, so to speak, and force me to distill my years abroad into one tasty beverage.

Ingredients:

Identity cocktail

  1. Being asked, upon hearing that I’m from Hawaii, “Are you from Hawaii China?”
  2. Always being asked, “Where are you from?” And almost always being started at, despite looking Asian living + traveling in Asian countries.
  3. Quickly learning how to say in Thai, “My mother is Thai and my father is Chinese, but I was born in Hawaii and I’m American”.
  4. Watching locals light up upon hearing I’m part Thai and Chinese.
  5. Having a Chinese Bible thrust under my nose in a park in Cuenca, Ecuador followed by my British friend’s laughter as she looked on.
  6. Being taunted on the streets of Cuenca by teenage boys yelling, “Konichiwa,” as I walk briskly home in the dark.
  7. Overhearing Thais say, “She speaks really good English,” after leaving a red taxi truck in Chiang Mai.

An Asian American abroad photos

Perspective blender

  1. Realizing that America has its own set of rules, constructs and artificial realities, and recognizing that culture is invisible.
  2. Attempting to see what is assumed.
  3. Seeing my mom on her home turf, connecting with her through her native language, and (hopefully) understanding her a little more.
  4. Getting out of comfort zone, regularly.
  5. Making friends from all over the world, living and working in an International environment, and being that Annoying American trying on her British accent.
  6. Having successful (and unsuccessful) interactions with locals using their language. Really having to rely on what I’ve retained and my creativity to navigate my way around (e.g. avoiding meltdowns).
  7. Learning to be more patient because that’s the way things are on this side of the world…

An Asian American abroad photos

Growth + goals garnishes

  1. Living a life that is much closer to how I want to live, through part time work, play and pursuing my passions.
  2. Finishing that damn memoir, my first book, after years of carrying it around the United States.
  3. Working on my second book with all its ups and downs of self-doubt peppered with excitement.
  4. Blogging consistently, writing every day for me, not losing sight of the dream.
  5. Successfully conquering my fear of driving a motorbike, but definitely not how traffic moves in SE Asia.
  6. Eating food that I once thought was gross, terrifying, weird and too different.
  7. Kicking my fears and failures in the gut by getting back into teaching. Namaste. Amen. Big hug for me.

What’s up with Asians obsession with white skin?

Cuenca, Ecuador, 2010
We’re covered up, fearing the sun, scared of a tan. [Cuenca, Ecuador, 2010]
https://soundcloud.com/lifetheuniverseandlani/whats-up-with-asians-obsession-with-white-skin

As many expats in Asia and perhaps even some travelers know, being white-skinned is considered beautiful, desirable and essential. This is quite laughable to the Westerner who wants to be tanned. Creams, sprays and salons are dedicated to making us look like we’ve just been to Mexico or the Bahamas. When I lived in Hawaii, I was sometimes teased for looking “too white,” for not getting enough beach time.

Continue reading “What’s up with Asians obsession with white skin?”

google-shot-of womens magazines

Why I stopped reading women’s magazines

google-shot-of-magazines

There is a blogger I follow on Instagram (I don’t know why, really, I don’t read her blog, but I find her – a curiosity) and she’s posted recently that she LOVES women’s magazines and how she’s obsessed with them. It reminded me of a time when I felt the same way.

I used to be a fan, too. I used to have so many teen and women’s magazines you’d laugh over the sheer volume. It got so ridiculous that I quickly learned that I could donate my zines to the local library and old folk’s homes.  I suppose you could have called me a collector because I looked them over and over again and, well, bought them in stacks and eagerly awaited new issues like a dog at the front window.

I grew up watching my mom pour over her Thai soap opera + movie star magazines that I suppose it became natural for me to seek out my own. Although, I did look through hers quite often and I can tell you that the language barrier wasn’t a problem in figuring them out. Glossy extensions of the cover were at the beginning or a middle insert, then gossip columns and interviews, beauty ads sprinkled throughout with erotic-looking romance series and horoscopes towards the end. Call *009 for a kinky chat with big breasted Japanese-looking ingénues were at the back, and why those types of things were in a women’s magazine, I’ll never know.

It started when I grabbed a Redbook out of sheer boredom on a road trip and while it was too adult for me at the time, I was hooked. The habit of flipping through the pages is akin to smoking a cigarette, it’s a ritual that gives a short high and it is an addiction. I mean, how can it not be? You are looking at beautiful women and desirable things. Sometimes, it even smells nice if you like the perfume samples between the pages. And other times there are celebrity interviews, fun stories and facts and stuff about boys – BOYS!

It took years though, certainly well after college, until I realized how reading/flipping through these magazines made me feel. Ever since I was a teen, I was aware of race. I never saw an Asian woman on the cover of Glamour, Elle, Teen, Vogue, Cosmo, Harper’s Bazaar, In Style, Seventeen, Marie Claire and W. Of course, I certainly remember Jenny Shimizu, the only Asian American supermodel to go mainstream.

Jenny-Shimizu
I used to have this very picture hanging on my college bedroom wall, along with a zillion other magazine pages that I found worthy…

But other than the exceptional Jenny, there wasn’t much for me to relate to. And for some reason, I paid close attention to women of color. There was one model that was half Asian and half white in Teen that I like the best, purely based on color and looking back at young Lani and I think, “Now there is a girl who wanted a role model.” I was actually very unhappy with the way I looked growing up and I have to wonder how much looking at fashion spreads and flawless women contributed to this.

A lot probably – it took me ages to get over being small on top, short and that I had bad skin. I considered myself too Asian-looking, as well, if you can believe it.

Even now when we’re all aware of Photoshop, and phone aps that make us look ‘beauty’, I feel like many young women (and men!) unconsciously compare themselves to an ideal industry standard. But maybe I’m wrong, it’s very easy to upload yourself on social media and make yourself into whoever you want to be these days.

But growing up when I did, being Asian didn’t feel beautiful and like most young women, I wanted to be desirable. It certainly didn’t help that I was teased for having a flat face, something that I learned later in Physical Anthropology is a rather Chinese characteristic. I must confess during that class, I felt such a startling weight leave my body. I felt relief and, for the first time, a little proud.

I also noticed how many things in these magazines were EXPENSIVE. I’d scoff at the “Under $99” page. The idea of buying a $70 blouse or bracelet seemed incredibly wasteful and outrageous, especially in my 20s when I was struggling with credit card and student loan debt. I learned to be frugal instead, going through mad coupon cutting phases and certainly falling in love with second-hand or consignment stores. I felt no shame in buying dresses at Goodwill. I couldn’t afford to.

Of course, some parts of the magazines were useful (if not ironic) like the articles on having a healthy body image or tricks to snag boys. Those articles gave me ideas on bravery and so I had no problem walking up to a boy I knew from class and asking him out on a date. They always replied, “no,” so then, I had to read the articles on rejection and boosting self-confidence. Vicious cycle.

I’m starting to sound pathetic, huh?

Women’s mags are good for learning aesthetics and studying advertisements, product placement and the psychology of these types of things. Once I started paying attention to how I felt looking at these zines, I started to wean myself off of them. This probably corresponded with figuring out how expensive this little addiction was as well. I also noticed how the British Glamour’s magazine size was half as big as the American version and I thought about environmental waste, too.

So I ended subscriptions and eventually stopped buying them all together. Then I became one of those folks who goes to Barnes & Noble and stands by the mag section perusing them for free. And the great thing was I started checking out other sections besides “Women’s Interests” and eventually learned to skip the magazines all together and study the bestsellers lists and get my hands on some books.

To be clear, I used to read books and magazines, but now I don’t read women’s magazines. Occasionally, I’ll look at them at airports or when a friend has a copy, but I don’t feel the pull like I did and the magic has certainly worn off. It’s made it easier to not covet unnecessary beauty products, designer brands, feel nonexistent and that the world revolves around celebrities.

It hasn’t made me less girly though, just more myself.

Asian beauty magazines
The perks of living in Asia. Seeing yourself. Represent!

Do you read fashion magazines? What do you think?