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April's theme is
MOTHERS & SISTERS.
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Confession: I’ve tried on the jeans of every single boy I’ve ever hooked up with.
Yes, I know that is beyond weird. You don’t have to tell me twice! I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone this before— especially not the men I’ve shared a bed with (hi guys). But it’s true. It’s true. It’s true. Some of you must be completely confused. I get it. Some of you must be completely amused. I get it. And some of you must be wondering, how? Longterm relationships, sure. But what about the drunken hookups where you left at the crack of dawn, the nights you fell asleep beside someone and woke up and knew instantly you NEEDED to get out of there, for both of your sakes? To that I have two answers: bathroom breaks, and few one-night flings. If you can imagine a half-naked me slipping into a crumpled pair of jeans on the floor, eyes on the second hand, calculatedly fingering the stupid 5-button flies that some boys like—then you’ve got the whole picture, the strange, deranged picture.
Why do I do this?
I’m still trying to figure that out. But I think I’ve come up with an answer for the time being, and it’s a simple one: I just wanted to make sure they fit. If I couldn’t fit into them, I wouldn’t be able to keep kissing this person in good faith, because I would be so incredibly disturbed. Images would start to envelop my consciousness. Me, giving him a piggyback. Me, “sitting” on his lap but keeping all of the weight in my feet and being terribly uncomfortable the entire time. Me, always on bottom during sex for fear of crushing him. Me, firmly planted on the ground whilst he stays floating in the air on a seesaw. Me, always on the back of our kayak/canoe/raft. Me, carrying him in my arms whilst saving us from an exploding building. The list goes on.
My relationship with my looks has always been complicated. I think I'm decent enough to get an acquittal with a tense smile when I step on someone’s foot, but really am nothing to write home about. I’m not the kind of girl you notice when I walk into a room. I’m not the kind of girl that you look at and think, “Man, what’s her story?” I’ve always thought of myself as a “hot pot” kind of girl, which is my self-conception as a mish-mash bowl of soup that’s quite ordinary, but put it on the backburner and let it simmer and reduce down for a while, and then you notice that you actually have a nice, warm and flavorful soup to eat and hey, that’s not bad! This metaphor works better in my head, I now realize. But I feel like that’s how I acquired all of my boyfriends/lovers. They weren’t initially attracted to me (as is rare!), but once my *personality* slowly began to shine through (I would do anything for my friends! I am very patient and have a grandmother’s intuition! I maintain a high level of body heat on cold nights!), they realized that I was an Okay Girl and then we started to date. Nice!
Though I appreciate this, and view my inner self with high esteem because of it, I’ve never really addressed my issues with my outer-self, which ranges from adoration to disgust, from worship to complete dismissal. Often, the things I’m told to hate most, I love most—namely my thick thighs and swelling belly-friend. I feel like they give me my power! My vitality! My sensuality! But so many times, that love does succumb and transform into a hate; throw in my Korean lion-nose and tiny mouth along with my above-average weight and waistline and I find myself looking in the mirror at something that less resembles me than some foreign, Play-Doh alien that mistakenly got placed on this planet (and will die alone?).
Growing up, almost every time I looked into said Mirror, I’d think the same sentence over and over again:
I will never be a heroine, because I do not look like one.
What I didn’t know at the time, was this Heroine I was thinking of was a distinctly white one. One with an elven nose and full lips, deep-set eyes, long-torsoed and fair. And because I did not believe I could be a Heroine, I consoled myself by reassuring myself that I could still “matter.” I could still be someone. I could be a Side Girl. I could be the Funny Friend. I could be the Artsy Accomplice. I could be the one who wore hats and suspenders, who read comics and did improv, who could do whatever else, really, so that in my mind, I still mattered. I still meant something. That despite my mediocre looks, I wouldn’t fade away.
Looking back at this strange girl slipping into these random pairs of pants over the years, I see a girl wanting to prove something to herself—prove that she deserved “love,” even in such a strange and disconnected way. That she deserved to be thought of as a “pretty girl.” That it made sense that a boy could like her, and a boy would want to kiss her. Because even though I felt four times bigger than these guys and like a Play-Doh alien, and like they would quickly realize they had somehow made a mistake…that one of these things wasn’t true. And that made me feel better, as twisted as that is, which is so fucked! And reveals what the media’s made me think about my higher BMI. Even if I made those jeans burst at the seams into one hundred strips of fabric, I deserved to be thought of as phenomenal. Because even if I couldn’t get a pant leg over my knee, the question should have always been, “Does this guy deserve to be with me right now? Because I’m super beautiful but also a good listener and also have great eyes but also work well with middle schoolers which is amazing because they’re a notoriously difficult age group!”
In any case, I’m still dealing with my shit. After 4.5 semi-to full-fledged relationships, I’ve still never believed a single guy when he’s told me that he thought I was beautiful. And I think it all boils down to that feeling I always had: that I could never be a Heroine because my face/body didn’t match its (implicit) definition. But I’m really trying to come to terms with it all. I’m looking in the mirror now, thinking that I can be someone to root for, someone that deserves to “win” and to be loved (both inside and out), someone that can win. It’s weird: over the years I’ve shifted from thinking about being seen as a Korean American woman here in the US, to (more importantly) just being a Korean American woman here in the US. And it’s caused really good things to happen inside of me.
In high school, I would watch movies and TV and read magazines and not know why I was left feeling so empty, hollow, worthless, and devoid of meaning. But now, I am able to mindfully feed my visual brain with the images it craves and hungers for, images of men and women who look like me, who look wildly different from me, and who, most importantly, look wildly different from what I was unknowingly force-fed growing up. When I discovered Korean dramas in middle school, I would stay up until 4am watching them every night, thinking I was just enjoying the addictive storylines, but now I can see that I was hungrily devouring the images of characters, main characters-- Heroines even!-- that looked like me.
Something that has sadly taken 23 years for me to learn is this:
We are all Heroines.
None of us are the Side Girls of our own lives. All of us deserve to be rooted for. All of us matter, despite our absence on screen, on page, on billboards, etc. I know this should have been obvious to me—but it sadly wasn’t until my last years of college, and I know that this also was the case for many of my friends. I also know I’m being redundant to many of you who are way more advanced than I am and many of you know this/live this/preach this already, but even though I’m late to the party I am HERE, and I want more of us here.
I’ve also made a promise to myself that I am not going to try on another pair of man-pants again, unless asked. These thighs can’t be contained, anyway.
With love and self-love,
PS. If this is something you find yourself dealing with, I humbly recommend starting to meaningfully self-curate the images you ingest and the images you give weight. I do this now through tumblr (http://coldhaunts.tumblr.com/) [lots of Sailor Moon/Pokemon gifs as well...], but for a while I had a folder on my desktop, and bookmarked links on my computer!! Also if you have favorite links, advice, texts, or other things to share, please email me (laurenjmoon [at] gmail) !