Last week, my Public Speaking and Debate students gave their first formal speeches. As always, I was intrigued by what each new set of students will talk about and how they will deliver their speeches. One student in particular gave a speech called, “How to love yourself without losing weight” that brought a tickle of tears behind my eyes.
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.
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.
Do you read fashion magazines? What do you think?
Ah, the joys of womanhood, eh? Every one of us ladies can remember our first visit from Uncle Payne and Auntie Flo. Or that time, you didn’t know you were going to have it and how you decided to wear light pink pants that day. Or that time in Bangkok, the city of grit and sweat, you saw that tourist wearing shorts soaked in her own blood and you were mortified that no one told her, so you did. It’s a really hot city.
It started off with shoes, but then it became a bigger question. Does where you live change the way you dress?
Yes. A resounding yes.
Being called crazy is usually considered positive and fun. Rarely is crazy what it really is – insanity. Blame it on slang, youth culture, or pop music – crazy, these days, seems to be crazier than ever.
“A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I or are the others crazy?”― Albert Einstein
I remember years ago taking an interest in this guy, and my friends and I were all hanging out with him and getting to know him better. It was a fun day being absolute sloths in Y’s apartment watching episodes of Glee and stuffing our gullets with pizza.
One of my girlfriends asked him, “So! What kind of girls do you like?” and I will never forget his answer because it REALLY pissed me off.
“Honestly? I like the crazy ones.”
Then, being a very modern woman I went home and googled, “why do men like crazy girls”. The best answers had to do these kinds of men wanting to “rescue” and “save a woman” and I suppose feel manly. What-ever. I mean, isn’t that like saying, “I like girls with low self-esteem?” Look, I get it. I have a touch of the Messiah-complex myself, but seriously? Believing crazy is “cute” is for those who don’t know what crazy really is.
If I’m honest, I grew up around crazy and it’s not fun. It’s not cute. It’s not entertaining or any of that other bullshit. As a child, it’s terrifying. Hey, I know! A-hole, for your next life, you come back as a daughter of crazy and you tell me how much it’s sexy and attractive. Let me know how that abusive environment worked out and what it was like to grow up in fear.
(That relationship with the idiot didn’t work out, but you knew that already, right? Remind me next time to not go back on my intuition, okay?)
“Here’s all you have to know about men and women: women are crazy, men are stupid. And the main reason women are crazy is that men are stupid.”― George Carlin, When Will Jesus Bring The Pork Chops
Our popular culture loves to shower and sparkle attention on crazy though. Now, I suppose, crazy can readily be confused with “outlandish”, as in Lady Gaga or other people who understand what a good publicity stunt can do for their popularity and career. But I’m talking about crazy, as in something Hollywood likes to romanticize.
Of course, sometimes crazy is portrayed in its true light. Yet, it seems very common to interpret crazy as different and special. And this is where I think boys like the above, and popular culture gets it wrong.
Yes, there is beauty and a vulnerability in crazy, but usually crazy people are unable to handle certain situations within the range of normality or are battling with dark and complex problems. In other words, something is wrong with them. Because nobody in their sane mind would want a crazy boss, a crazy taxi driver, or a crazy employee.
So, I don’t get this “I like crazy girls” nonsense.
“Taking crazy things seriously is a serious waste of time.”― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
I remember encouraging a friend to write because he said he always wanted to, and his response was, “But I didn’t have a crazy childhood. My life has been normal.” Even though he was being somewhat facetious, I knew this was how he really felt. Tragedy and angst breeds creativity.
We also seem to want our artists to be on the fringes as well. It’s too bad though because I think there are a lot of normal artists with talent who are not getting the attention they deserve. So the world thinks art is nothing, but abstract and conceptual. Bah!
“Being crazy isn’t enough.”― Dr. Seuss
And since we glorify those not playing with a full set of cards, we’re receiving less than the complete deck that we are certainly able to afford.
When I was much younger, I found it remarkable how much attention was given to negative news and behavior. So, for a long time, I shut off the TV and newspapers to all of it because I didn’t want to be effected, nor did I want to participate in a media that didn’t focus on the good guys.
I hope one day we will live in a world that showcases normal as healthy and something to aspire to. Now, I know I sound like a goody-goody, but this is how I feel. I won’t dip it in sugar, I had a shit childhood, but I worked hard to accept the hand I was given and move on. I made it a point to let go of dead weight and to not be held down by my past. But in order to be desirable to some guys, I guess I should have just embraced it and worn all of my sorrows like a thorny halo.
In the US, if you call someone fat, it is considered insulting, even if it is true. It’s more polite to say “heavy” or “big”. But in Thailand, the word “fat” does not have the same weight because it’s the height that means the most.