thoughts on queer visibility from intersectional point of view

Hi. I am an Asian-looking woman in her 20s who’s been living in Germany for the past 11 years. And I’m also queer.

I wasn’t born knowing I was gay. In fact, being anything other than heterosexual simply wasn’t a concept in the country I grew up in. I started questioning my (hetero)sexuality when I had already been living in Germany for six years, and it took me another five or six years to the point I am at today.

But by the time I first started noticing my attraction to girls, I was already familiar with racism and the feeling of being the “other”. It’s a disconcerting feeling, like a bucket of ice-cold water being thrown over your head every day when you least expect it. It’s also a constant companion, because you can never escape it as long as you are among white people. It’s the feeling of alienation and isolation and paranoia. It’s Du Bois’ double-consciousness and estrangement from yourself.

This feeling of otherness has accompanied me every single day for the past 11 years. One of the reasons why it’s inescapable and such a huge part of my identity is because of my appearance. A race visibility, if you will. I recently learned that an adult needs only 120 milliseconds to register another person’s skin color. Only after that you notice the gender, age, etc. I can’t change the way I look, even though during my teenage years, I would have scraped my skin off if that meant that I’d turn into a white-looking girl. I don’t know how to explain the crushing – and this feels literal – sense of alienation, of isolation. The desire to jump out of my skin, only literally.

So when it comes to being an Asian, a foreigner, I was thrust into the battlefield way before I was ready, and it’s a battle I take up every day. Because being a person of color is a visible thing, sometimes painfully so. But how about being queer?

Admittedly, the majority of the years I spent in confusion about my sexuality (which will come and go, I am sure), I did so in my head. It was an internal battle, and even when I did first come out as bisexual (because that’s how I identified myself as for that period of my life), it was only to a handful of closest friends, plus my mom and my sister. Most of them were like, oh okay, and the topic never came up again. Because how do you portray your sexuality?

In our heteronormative culture, most of us are assumed as being straight unless told or shown otherwise. I am dead sure that I pass as straight for 99% of the time, benefiting from straight privileges. This experience of passing – it’s so different from my experience as being an Asian that I am flabbergasted. On the one hand, it’s so nice not to have to spend the time and energy on trying to diffuse the feelings of otherness. On the other hand, though, the otherness doesn’t disappear just because they are not visible. What’s more, this invisibility might even have a further consequence, and that’s questioning the legitimacy of my identity.

Being queer is something I had to establish first. Because it isn’t tangible, I tried to ignore it, run away from it, trivialize it. And most of the time I did so by keeping quiet about it. Even now, heteronormativity is so pervasive that I catch myself thinking that I am not really gay, of course I am straight, I’m doing all this just to get attention! (And then I imagine myself in a heterosexual relationship and hit myself on the head. Of course I love women. Duh.) You know what helps against this constant questioning of yourself? Talking about it. Talking with others about your experiences, their experiences, your feelings, their feelings. Connecting with other people and sharing stories help me realize that confusion is normal. Feeling conflicted is normal. Best of all, all forms of loving is normal: same-sex, different-sex, non-binary, pansexual, asexual…

In order to have these conversations, though, you have to find other queer people, and “out” yourself in the process. (The only way I can think of is to go about wrapped up in a giant rainbow flag, so if you have any ideas about how to display queerness, please let me know in the comments.) I realize that being out is not something that every queer person can safely choose. We all have to decide for ourselves when and how to come out. To be very honest, I myself am not sure whether I am prepared to be confronted with the subtle (and not-so-subtle) homophobia every day.

But here’s the thing: I won’t have to confront homophobia every day, because, compared to being a person of color, being gay is less visible, especially if you are not in a relationship. At the end of the day, I am torn between wanting to be visible – to own that part of my identity – and my desire for a less exhausting life. Because it does drain you of energy, this constant awareness of being the “other”. There’s no easy solution for this, only personal choices.

Stay safe. Be brave.

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November 2016 – Part II

Friday, November 18th
… Everything is falling apart. The great deconstruction has begun, and I don’t even know why I am doing anything anymore. To forget that, I’ve been medicating myself with The L Word, and now I have to be back in the real world, and I don’t know how to act. Everything feels unreal, and all I can think about is me, me, me. So self-centered…

Sunday, November 20th
… I hate the dark. I can’t believe I forgot how much I hate the dark. … Maybe it’s my winter blues again, but I’m fed up with obsessing about sex & relationship. … I look around & no one in my circle of acquaintances has a functioning relationship. The majority of the people I know lose themselves in the relationship or stay with people who makes them feel insecure & anxious. So far I can see that relationships are not only pain in the ass but also a huge energy-sucking distraction. …

Monday, November 21st
… Along with the will to push forward with my plan despite all the uncertainty is the desire to hide & run away for another degree. The desperation shouting, I’ll stay in Germany! The instinct for immediate security warring against the intuition for risks. Risks I can even consider taking because of my privileges.
I realized that I don’t know humans. I don’t understand them, what is going through their minds, what makes them do certain things.
All these years, I’ve looked at them through the lens of all the narratives I’d gobbled down. But the people in the books are simpler. Less conflicted. They change, or adapt to change, easily. They have two or three big traits that define them – bold, funny, soft-hearted, nice, aloof, insecure, etc. – and none of them has a dusty collection of tiny characteristics that are clumped & dumped together like abandoned toys. They are single-minded in their pursuit, so sure of who they are. They get over traumas easily without having a relapse. They never have socially awkward conversations (unless being awkward is one of their traits) with strangers/acquaintances/friends. Other people trust & like them so easily that I am green with envy. They are rarely lazy. Sometimes there are genuinely nice characters whose niceness doesn’t vanish no matter what is done to them.
They are not humans. They are created by humans as some sort of idols, similar enough to humans but ultimately too good to be real. None of them are messy, disgusting, abhorrent, conflicted about the smallest and the biggest thing.
It’s not easy to be loyal and vulnerable. It’s difficult as fuck to stay true to yourself or even to find yourself. It’s hard to escape the feeling of being an outsider, warranted or not. It’s probably normal to hate the world & everyone in it, because they all sicken you without any reason. We think about, like, and do certain disgusting things. We run away or medicate our pains a lot. We blame other people, we victimize ourselves (although watching Jenny Schecter has shown me how fucking selfish & revolting that be), we become irrational on regular basis.
Goddess, what fucking messes we all are.

Tuesday, November 22nd
The people in my head are translucent paper-people, and I don’t know how to turn them into solid, flesh-and-blood people.
… I tend to be pretty unforgiving towards people – esp. those whom I want to like. Once they are inside my heart, I don’t care as much, but until then…

Thursday, November 24th
My head is a cluttered place; a bleeding wound. I vomit other people’s words out of my ears.
… Being vulnerable – being authentic – is hard. Being self-compassionate is uncomfortable. Engaging with my fears feels like I’m going mad.
… I crave certainty like a drug addict, and yet at the same time, I harbor a disdain for the society’s rules. I want chaos. I already am chaos, but then I lose my head, certain that I will never find my way back to reality.
… I look at the reading log for this year, and 80% of the books I’ve read this year were escapist reads. And I spent a lot of time in front of my laptop, watching movies and TV series. I have been emotionally numbing myself the whole year.
And maybe I haven’t been honest with myself, either. I am happy alone, but at the same time I feel like no one is going to love me. I do want to write, but I am terrified I suck at it. I do like reading, but I am constantly ashamed of my choice of reading materials. I do practise the mindset of enough, but scarcity creeps up on me again and again. I still measure my proud moments against what other people would be impressed by. I am still loathe to disappoint my teachers and professors.
… It’s difficult to see myself as I am, because there are a slew of things I want to become, but can’t do until I accept my current self. Humans are messy and ugly and always, always struggling. I want to create art that captures that struggle. I want to be honest. I want to stop playing a saint and just be my selfish, quirky, lazy, intent, struggling self.

Saturday, November 26th
… [I was at a poetry evening with a friend.] It was held in a studio place with a bit of run-down, starving-artist minimalist look. The people who came – there were many, and we were one of the early ones, so we had an ample time to observe them all – were very diverse in background & looks, but they all knew each other & we didn’t know these people, plus the music was too loud anyway, so we just sat there and looked around a lot. After an hour or so of socializing, some people read aloud their poems, and I liked having this read-and-share movement (also because it gave us a legitimate reason to sit around & not talk), but the poems… and the poets… they didn’t resonate with me at all. It’s definitely a matter of taste, but I couldn’t understand even the vaguest outline of their poems and it sounded like a string of words that conjured up all sorts of weird jumble of images – sexual, guttural, human waste. The theme or the form themselves weren’t disturbing, but what bothered & shook me the most was that I couldn’t feel the writer’s authenticity in their writings (except for one piece). The words felt empty, the whole presentation a cliché, and the art dishonest.
It is true that I am not into this twentysometing’s retro, hip & broke(n), artsy scene. The kind where the past seems to have been appropriated and the past authenticity turned into a grotesque cliché. Scenes where the said twentysomethings smoke pot, talk about having beautiful souls, and sprout Hemingway-esque poems (in the sense that they are vaguely misogynist and so male). … A year ago or less, I would have been intimidated into believing that an artist has to be like that way to be a “true” writer/poet. Maybe I’m being too hasty in my judgment/condemnation, but that’s the impression I had when we left the party. …

Tuesday, November 29th
… Does no one feel like this? Does no adult remember the emptiness? Does no on-the-cusp-of-adult experience this hollow space we call “self”?
… I am very rigid in my ideas of what I want when it comes to work. … Am I being too picky, so drenched in the privilege that I have my sight trained on too high? Or am I so afraid of working that I reject everything, thus deluding myself that I am “looking”, but at the same time still leaving the status quo untouched? …
I act and act and act out whatever I can get my hands on, because if I were to let myself be authentic, I’d probably sprout off some incoherent sentences at random, grin toothily, and scurry away.
… I just hate, hate, hate, HATE dealing with my emotions – there’s a reason why I’ve been numbing them for so long. I am not good at anything; this knowledge hits me like a brick on the back of my head, because my fragile ego had constructed this reassurance precisely to keep myself from this black-out. … And worst of all, I am disinterested in so many things that I can almost hear my neuron pathways dying off. It’s not that I find everything uninspiring or boring; I just don’t have any subject that I would dig into its depth to the center of the earth. …

Wednesday, November 30th
… Winter is the time of the year which I recoil from in the beginning and whose darkness I embrace eventually. Instead of brightening the room as much as possible, I am content with a flickering candlelight limiting my view to only what is right in front of me. Instead of feeling grateful for the technological advancement that allows us comfort (hello – radiators??!), I am annoyed that the city never truly sleeps, that it never lets its occupants recuperate.
I think that always being in search of my identity might be my identity. Perhaps because I had to learn the lesson about the instability of identity earlier than usual, and with more force than usual. Playing the various personas that are probably a part of me, all the while frantically searching for the core of my self, even though I know in the back if my mind that there is no such thing. But the emptiness – or the fragmentation – how to bear if without going mad?
… When we talked about “identity” in my Cultural Studies lecture, I encountered ideas/theories that opposed the Enlightenment notion of a core self. Certainly, how we perceive ourselves change a lot over the years, and I daresay it is influenced by external circumstances… but maybe it is a choice, you know? The characteristics that you choose to let go, and the ones you choose to hold on to. There are of course going to be parts of yourself that you are unaware of.
I feel so conflicted. … I do want to change, because I think change can lead to growth… but a part of me mourns the pieces I will inevitably have to leave behind, pieces that I have to let go in order to embrace new ones. Perhaps a human’s capacity for contradictions is limited. Another part of me, though, is terrified of both letting go and letting in. That part just wants to bury myself in the ground and talk myself into being content where I am right now.

December 2016 – Part I

Friday, December 2nd
… Our relationships are fragmented. Friendships aren’t bound to geographical locations anymore. We literally have friends from all over the world, friends whom we see maybe once a year if we are lucky. … We are still able to build on these friendships. Time may chip away at the foundation little by little, but we can renew a coat when we see each other again.
But we are always so busy catching each other up on the major events that have happened. As consequence, I have no one to turn to with the everyday tales – no one to fully share my life with. When I need a warm shelter from an emotional turmoil, I have no immediate number to dial, because first I’d need to renew some intimacy bridges with my friends before I pour out my woe to them.

Tuesday, December 6th
Return to mindfulness, Day Zero. …

Thursday, December 8th
… My body and I have a difficult relationship. At most, I tolerate my body. I have not grown to love it in all of its angles and varieties. I still hate my body in photos. My immediate thought is, no one will want to hug this ugly body.
Bodies are so… messy. So loud, burpy, slick with all sorts of liquids and semi-liquids. Bodies smell, sometimes terribly so. They make all kinds of noises.
But bodies are also wonderfully soft and comforting. Surprisingly agile and adaptive. They are an extension of ourselves, because they are so expressive. They are very intricate and delicately balanced out. The tip of our tongue leans against our palate and teeth to create sounds that have the tremendous power to release us from this agonizing isolation.

Friday, December 9th
… The best thing about the performance was this incredible and instinctive connectedness. As the showtime came nearer, we started to open up more, to rely on each other, to support each other. Audience didn’t really matter, only to the fact that their presence helped to bring us closer. Before, during and immediately after the performance – we were close and connected in ways that differ from the immediate & almost automatic love of family, or the easy and comfortable friendship, or even the quick surge of love between lovers.
Our connection was more instinctive. Intuitive. A smooth flow of bodies and consciousness. There was no judgment, only compassion. No one hid or shied away from the group. It was a big, warm hug, cozier than a sunny wintry morning with a cup of tea and a good book in front of a fireplace, safer than being in my mother’s arms.

Tuesday, December 13th
… Being strong means going through the life being who you are (or who you think you are), trying to not kill your heart but instead trying to feel its every beat. Being strong means allowing your heart to be torn into pieces and putting them back together, and letting that change you. Strength is the humble acknowledgment that we can’t control all of our lives, that unfair things will happen, that by chasing after happiness, we lose the present moment. …

Wednesday, December 14th
What is gender? What does it mean, in this 21st century, to be a woman? A man? By now, these have become personal questions for each of us, since there is no generalizable answer.
I find myself torn between wanting to assume the “traditionally male” behaviors and wanting to keep the integrity of femininity, whatever the fuck that means. Perhaps I should stop labeling/gendering everything I do, and just do whatever strikes my fancy.

Friday, December 16th
… I was afraid to have opinions, because none of them were “fully” informed, and I feared people would criticize me for it. The only thing that has changed is that I have begun to just acknowledge the shortcoming in myself & everyone else, because our opinions are always going to be partial, incomplete, subjective, unfinished.

December 2016 – Part II

Sunday, December 18th
I can already feel it happening. The slipping. The slide into conformity. The strange metamorphosis that takes place inside me at this strange place called airport. …

Tuesday, December 20th
…An oppressive force that kills my creativity and causes me to be (or at least try to be) the Angel of the House. It’s no wonder my sister can’t create anymore. Her time and energy are demanded and allocated already. The scary thing is that this culture? system? makes you want to be the Angel, so you give up your time & energy voluntarily.
… I don’t want to hide who I am, but I am camouflaging already, on auto-pilot. As my grandma went on about finding a husband & etc., I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I have met a person who is making me feel all these tender feelings, and that she’s a girl. …

Wednesday, December 21st (Yule)
… Family is all-consuming – you are a part of the bigger puzzle; each of us has a role to play and burden to share (we all lay out our burdens and divvy up). Opinions to ask for, advices to be sought after, even if you have no intention of heeding them. Even when you are far away, physically, your place is reserved for you. Once you come back, you are expected to slide into your role seamlessly. The only alternative, so I feel, is to alienate yourself from the web so much that you are finally cut off, and the gap you leave behind is filled quickly enough.
There are things that I have to necessarily hide, but these deceptions/half-truths don’t torment me as much anymore. Perhaps because I’ve finally accepted that demanding from my family to accept me unconditionally will create too much of a weight on this fragile web. …

Thursday, December 22nd
… I was thinking about whether ‘angel of the house’ is an appropriate term cross-culture, then I realized that there already is a Korean term for this phenomenon: 착한 여자, or ‘good woman’.’Good woman’ has, in the Western societies, a sexual connotation, but in Korea, ‘착한 여자’ is a woman who neglects herself, denies herself rest and pleasure, and spends all her time and energy on taking care of others’ needs. Critical voices have already commented on the toxicness and impossibility of such an ideal, but the truth (as I see it) is, our [Korean] cultural expectations breed such women. It’s couched in terms such as kindness, discipline, filial obedience, but the result is the same ‘착한 여자’. …

Friday, December 23rd
This is the place where I stopped growing. Each time I come back, no matter how much maturity I have gained in the mean time, I revert back to an 11-yr-old, all irrational irritations & too easily bent under the family pressure (while exerting the same pressure on sb else and so keeping the family “together”).
You are to take up a free-time activity that can be put down at a moment’s notice. Nothing that requires your concentration, for that’s needed somewhere else. Grandma never had the leisure to write any of her thoughts down, so she resorts to speaking. Whenever she lies down to rest, when any of her children/grandchildren are over for a visit, she tells us stories – but more often grievances. There are so many unvoiced stories inside her. …
Sorrow. There is so much sorrow here. Sorrow and guilt. …

Monday, December 26th
… It is funny – almost scary, even – how one becomes attuned to the moods of the others in the same microcosmic community. There was something off about Dad tonight, he didn’t plop himself in front of the TV as usual. Whether he knew it or not, he craved human connection, so he sought it from us – his gezin. And perceiving this, it was impossible to leave this island of community to attend to my own things. …

Tuesday, December 27th
Saints are boring. They certainly aren’t humans. To sacrifice oneself – the body, the mind, the soul, the time – for others is very ego-less, but it also lets one off the hook about developing oneself. …

Friday, December 30th
… It’s a curious culture, ours. Or theirs. Or anyone’s. I think there is a certain advantage to living with their primary family, i.e. the family they are born with, until they found a family of their own. There’s less loneliness, for one. A certain psychological stability. But certainly, there are also disadvantages – not using all the years (20s, 30s, 40s even!) to develop their own identity, to experiment, to find out who they are, to grow used to solitariness (even if they never get married & live with their primary family forever, some day their parents are going to die).
… It still feels like my heart’s being torn, that moment of saying goodbye, the instant of physical separation. The moment when the reconstruction begins, the self dissolves, and my head enters the schizophrenic zone again. …

에쿠니 가오리

에쿠니 가오리(江國 香織) 의 책을 읽으면 과연 이 작가 책을 서양 언어로 번역 했을 때 잘 팔릴까, 하는 생각이 든다. 특히 지금 읽고 있는 책 (장미 비파 레몬 薔薇の木 枇杷の木 檸檬の木), 딱히 줄거리라고 할 수 있는 건 없고 오히려 십여명의 등장인물의 성격과 라이프스타일을 천천히 알아가는 듯한 느낌이 든다. 물론 영국이나 미국 시장에도 (다른 나라는 잘 몰라서 뭐라고 말을 못 하겠다) 그런식의 소설 – ‘literary fiction’ – 이 있지만 에쿠니 가오리의 ‘장미 비파 레몬’과는 달리 집중과 끈기를 요구한다.

역시 동양에서 자란 사람이라 어쩔 수 없는걸까.

아니면 에쿠니 가오리의 소설은 캐릭터의 속 깊이 안 들어가는걸까? 그렇지만 또 꼭 그런 것도 아니다. 물론 지금 동양국가에 사는 게 아니라서 잘은 모르지만, 그래도 지금 읽고 있는 책의 주인공들을 보면 2000년대 한국 사회에 (16년 만에 얼마나 많이 바뀌었는지!) 충분히 있을만한 사람들이라고 생각이 된다. 정은 있되 사랑 없는 부부생활과 어느 나라던 존제하는 짝사랑과 불륜, 아주 독립적인 여자와 연상의 보호와 애정을 바라는 여자까지, 실제로의 삶은 책이 그려낸 것 보다 물론 더 복잡하겠지만 (특히 시집 갈등이 없는 게 신기하다 – 일본은 좀 다른 문화인가?).

그런걸 다 떠나서 나는 책에서 우려나오는 그 편안함이 좋다. 영어의 ‘cozy’라는 표현에 그나마 제일 잘 어울리는 것 같은 그 포근함은 어쩔 수 없이 현실에 존제하지 않기 때문에 더 좋은 것 이다. 나는 성격이 워낙 전전긍긍하는 성격이라서 그런지, 혼자 할 일 없이 한 오후를 보내라고 하면 오히려 스트레스만 만땅 받을 사람이다. 오후에 개와 산책을 하면서 가끔 꽃을 사서 들어가는 도우코나 이혼할 생각이면서 아무렇지도 않게 꽃집을 운영하고 남편을 위해 요리하는 에미코의 삶은 내 불확신하고 1년 앞이 안 보이는 삶에 비해 더 안정적이게 느껴진다. 그리고 그렇기 때문에 위안의 환상을 안겨준다.

도우코나 에미코 같은 사람들도 자기만의 전투가 분명히 있을텐데, 괴로워하고 절망하는 면이 있을 텐데, ‘장미 비파 레몬’에서 에쿠니 가오리는 그런 모습을 보여주지 않는다 (적어도 아직 까지는 – 아직 다 읽지 않았으니까). 나는 나의 삶의 절반 이상을 그렇게 나 나름대로 힘들어 하면서 보냈기 때문에 (솔직히 요즘 시대에 그렇게 안 사는 사람이 어딨나) 내가 만약 글을 쓴다면 그런 모습을 담고 싶지만, 가끔은 이렇게 편안한 책을 읽으면서 영혼을 쉬게 해주고 싶다. 그렇지만 진정한 평화는 도피를 통해서 얻을 수 있는게 아니라고 생각한다. 개인의 전쟁을 치르지 않으면 안되는 것 이다. 그런 의미에서, 오늘은 여기까지.

on image, expression, gender identity, and what society has got to do with them

There were days – more often than not – that I’d look in the mirror, and not like what I saw reflected on the smooth surface. Yes, that was my face. But there was… something missing? Something didn’t feel right. It was jarring.
Then there were days I’d look in the mirror, and say Oh yeah, that’s me all right and feel totally comfortable.

For the longest time, I thought Scenario 1 was the result of the pressure from the media and other people’s comments on how ‘a girl’ is ‘supposed to’ look. I wasn’t “girly” enough, so that’s why I thought I was lacking something. My response was to say fuck ’em and try not to bow to the pressure. I’d remain the way I am, no make-up and minimal hair fuss; I’d remain natural. I thought I was saying NO to the stereotyping of gender, that I wasn’t adhering to the society’s opinion of how I am supposed to look – ‘like a girl’. But by maintaining those ideas in my head (girl=make-up & frilly, soft-lined clothes), wasn’t I exactly doing that? I was affirming the society’s standard, even by refusing to bow to it.

What I never thought of doing was this: I’d look into the mirror, and not like what I saw reflected on its smooth surface. Yes, that was my face. But there was something missing – something didn’t feel right. So I’d take whatever tools I have available – clothes, hairbands, contact lenses, make-up, shoes – to add  to and substract from my natural body until I could express what I felt like that day. Until I could look in the mirror and say Yes, that’s who I am today. Until I could tell myself how feminine or masculine I feel today.
One day I’ll wear skinny jeans, a white, frilly blouse, my hairs in a ponytail, glasses and red lip gloss from NARS. The next one I’ll cut my hair really short, wear shirt with tie, black slacks and loafers. I’ll add foundation and maybe light eye-make-up. Or I will go out in baggy sweatshirts and trousers.

These different images I create every day – are they even real? Am I just applying a mask after another to confuse everyone, including me? Or are they maybe even more real than my naked face?

I used to think – I can choose only one – girl or boy; if I want to be feminine, I have to be feminine every day until I switch to the masculine side – then I have to be masculine every day until I switch back, but these periods should be of substantial duration, like, I can’t switch back and forth every frickin’ day; I can’t buy a tie for myself; I’m a girl I’m a girl I’m a girl I’magirli’magirlimagirl; I wish I was a boy; I don’t hate my body, I love my female body, but why do I have to LOOK so female?; Why do I always look like an awkward boy?; I have super short hair, so I can’t wear skirts; Damn it, I want to wear a tie.
All these thoughts were driving me crazy.
Today I say: Do whatever you want so you can express the YOU every day; if it means you have to create a different look every day, or even twice a day, so be it. It’s YOU. No one can tell YOU what to do, how to look, how to behave, what to think.

I had this epiphany yesterday when my sister said how people are so driven to look pretty, they never look beautiful. I asked her to elaborate, and what looking beautiful has to do with make-ups.
She said, and I paraphrase: “Well, a person is beautiful when their – essence – shines through. Their personality – you can see it in their eyes, it just radiates. It’s very striking. But so many people just look at the models in magazines or celebrities in TV and think ‘oh, they look sooo pretty, so I will copy their exact make-up and apply it on myself, so I’ll look just like them’. What they don’t get is that what looks good on those models doesn’t necessarily look good on them. They are just following the “trend”. Like, smokey eyes are super in in Korea right now, so I see friends making smokey eyes even though they have such beautiful eyes that should not be smudged by smokey eyeshadow! Make-ups are just tools to express yourself – but you have to really know your face to do that. First you have to experiment, though, until you get to know your face.”

I hate it when people tell me “Oh, that’s so not you!”. This does not apply only to how I look, but what I say and how I behave. Like, who are they to tell me how I have to be? How dare they tell me that they know me better than I myself? I let myself retreat from myself due to this sort of comments. I let my self-confidence that I had built up crumble because I wanted to blend in, unnoticeable and off the hook. If they had done that because they hate me and want me to feel bad, maybe I’d have stood up to my ideas of myself. But very often, these people were the ones who loved me, or at least wanted the best for me. They didn’t mean to cripple my self-esteem. They just were careless, like all of us can be careless. They just wanted their opinions to overpower mine.
I had to find myself. So I retreated from the society. Not literally, like Thoreau. But I avoided human company and when I couldn’t, I forced myself to be indifferent so that nothing they said could touch me. I wanted to create myself before I let others in. But I could feel myself become really indifferent to the point of inconsiderate. That’s not who I wanted to be.
So right now I am learning to be empathetic and considerate but still to be able to say no firmly when others try to shove their ideas of ‘what I should be’ at me.

In short, I am trying to be authentic, inside and out. It’s a long process, but one that I can and want to control.

Pride and Prejudice: Chapters 1 – 10

I'm reading this wonderful Wordsworth edition
I’m reading this wonderful Wordsworth edition

Pride and Prejudice, Part I: Chapters 1 ~ 10

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

With this famous sentence the book opens – and if you are like me, you are sick of hearing this one sentence over and over as if it is the most profound sentence in the book.
I actually don’t understand why that phrase is so popular other than the fact that it is a pretty funny mockery. And it’s an example of Austen’s sense of humor.

I watched the BBC serialization (with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth) before I “read” the book. I say “read” because I didn’t really read the book; I just attempted to. Even now I have some struggles understanding a sentence here and an expression there, and I have quite a few vocab problems. Well. And I first “read” the book about four years ago when my English wasn’t fluent at all.

Anyway, back (did we even start?) to the story: The third paragraph already introduces us to the unpleasant chatter of Mrs. Bennet. (I say ‘unpleasant’ because I always have Ms. Alison Steadman’s voice in my head whenever I read Mrs. Bennet’s dialogue. She [Ms. Steadman] is an amazing actress, though.) In the course of the next few chapters, we meet the whole Bennet family: Mr. Bennet (who, for the life of me, I can’t fathom why he married Mrs. Bennet), the head of the house and already used to Mrs. Bennet’s chatter (he prefers his quiet library, though); Mrs. Bennet, who is quite silly; Jane, the eldest daughter and the most beautiful, who is of a gentle and rather timid nature when it comes to expressing her feelings; Elizabeth “Lizzy”, father’s favorite and a young woman of a lively spirit who likes to make fun of many things; Mary, the most plain sister who turns to knowledge and musical accomplishments to make up for her lack of beauty; Catherine “Kitty”, who is quite influenced by Lydia and thus equally silly even though her nature is less daring; Lydia, the youngest and the tallest (“… for though I am the youngest, I’m the tallest.”) who acts without any thought spent on its consequence, and the silliest of all, in my opinion.

We also soon meet up with the heroes of the story, Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley. (We also meet less-than-nice Miss Bingley and Mrs Hurst.)
Mr. Darcy, who made the famous remark “She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me” (“… he looked for a moment at Elizabeth, till catching her eye, he withdrew his own and coldly said, ‘She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other man. …'”, Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 3) soon changes his mind at the next opportunity he sees her: “But no sooner had he made it clear to himself and his friends that she had hardly a good feature in her face, than he began to find it was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes. To this discovery succeeded some others equally mortifying. …”, Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 6)

Elizabeth, who overheard Mr. Darcy’s first opinion of her, immediately finds him disagreeable (Jane, for example, would have given him the benefit of doubt) and makes her opinion of him very clear to other ladies. She is irritated when Mr. Darcy attempts to listen in to her conversation with others and stare at her because she can’t understand why Mr. Darcy, who finds her just so tolerable, doesn’t ignore her like she does him. And Lizzy can’t understand that because she isn’t allowing him the room to change. People change, and people’s opinions change. Yet her first impression of him was so strongly negative – supported by the fact that he made it clear that he did not wish to mingle with the people in the ballroom – that she has already made up her mind: Mr. Darcy is a proud, standoffish gentleman she shouldn’t pay a single thought on.
She’s not offended, per se. I think it’s because she doesn’t know him well enough to let his opinion affect her. That’s admirable because I care what a stranger thinks of me. Speaking of which, I’m reminded by Mary’s observation:

“Pride … is a very common failing I believe. … [H]uman nature is very prone to it, and … there are very few of us who do not cherish a feeling of self-complacency on the score of some quality or other, real or imaginary. Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. … Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.” (Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 5)

Mary also says it is possible to be proud without being vain. So is it also possible to be vain without being proud? Oh dear, I’m afraid that would be me. I care too much about what others think of me while I try not to sound like a show-off.
It is most peculiar. Our society teaches us (at least mine did) that we should not down-play our abilities, that we should showcase them and even exaggerate them (on a CV/résumé for example) but at the same time, it is frowned upon to be boastful. Not exactly ‘frowned upon’, perhaps, but nobody likes a boaster. Such a person just sounds so full of oneself.

I have digressed yet again. Back to the story, in which our heroine judges Miss Caroline Bingley and Mrs Louisa Hurst to be not very agreeable persons. Their affection towards Jane, however, seems genuine, which softens Lizzy’s judgment a bit. When Jane gets a nasty cold thanks to her mother and has to remain at Netherfield and Lizzy makes her way to Bingley’s estate, she later observes that Miss Caroline’s and Mrs Hurst’s concerns for Jane seem to be coming from their heart. Of course, it does not escape her notice that Caroline becomes anxious to remove Jane – and thus Lizzy – from Netherfield and from Mr. Darcy’s attentions. Because it is obvious to anyone how hard Caroline Bingley is trying to impress Mr. Darcy.

During her stay, Lizzy does not seem to have become any better acquaintance of Mr. Darcy’s. Whenever he does something thoughtful, she waves if off as him being pretentious or half-hearted. She is puzzled when Darcy does not say what she expected him to but that does not seem to change her opinion of him – not one iota. Oh, Lizzy! We wish you were less stubborn!

Part II: Chapters 11 ~ 20