progress report (may is mental health awareness month).

the most valuable piece i took away from top chef was that i was able to do something i didn't think i could do. [...] once i realized it was kind of okay, and i got positive feedback for being exactly who i was and keeping my head down and just cooking, i was able to be who i was. so that's what top chef did for me. all the other things — the shiny things — are just bonus. (kristen kish)

hi! so, may is mental health awareness month, and i've been back in california for five months now, in therapy for two-and-a-half and on medication for a little over one, so i thought, hey, why not post a progress report?

for the uninitiated, i have major depressive disorder, recurrent episode, panic disorder, and ADHD. i have a history of suicidal thinking and ideation, and i've lived with major depression for my entire young adult and adult life. i've only very recently started getting help for it.

it terrifies the fuck out of me to be so open about this. it's frankly unnerving to put so much of me out there to be seen, to be consumed, and to attach my face to it (at least, on instagram), to say, hey, this is me, this is what i look like, this is the shit i carry.

i ask myself constantly why i do this, and i suppose it boils down to a few things. one is that i want to be known, to be recognized. another is that i'd rather be rejected for who i am, flaws and deficits and all, than for this idea of a perfect being i could pretend to be. yet another is that i think it's important to talk about all this shit, not only after we've "survived" it but as we're going through it, in these dark moments when the future is uncertain and unknowable. i don't believe that only stories with survival clauses are worth telling because the bleak truth is that, sometimes, there are no happy endings, and, sometimes, these demons in our brains and bodies lead us to take our lives.

that's not the point, though. the end isn't the point. the point is that we try.

here is a list of lessons i've been learning as i've been seeking professional help.

it's not just about going to therapy or taking meds or seeing your psychiatrist. a pill is not going to fix everything; a therapist isn't going to put your life in order; and a psychiatrist is not going to keep you alive. it's about everything. it's about making the effort, being kind to yourself, letting people love you and care for you and support you. it's about showing up, whether it's to therapy sessions or doctor's appointments or lunch dates or special events or the gym. it's about listening to your brain and your body, knowing when to step back and rest, letting yourself have bad days. it's about everything.

it takes time. an anti-depressant takes a few weeks to start working, and they're not always the most pleasant few weeks. my first week on an anti-depressant, i was so nauseated, i couldn't sit up. my second week, i was so out of it, i couldn't focus on the smallest, most inconsequential task. my third week, my inability to sleep and stay asleep got even worse — and stayed worse.

when it started working, though, the anti-depressant (i started on citalopram, or celexa) did stabilize my mood, and, other than the nausea and insomnia, i did start feeling better. celexa totally exacerbated my sleep issues, though, so my psychiatrist and i decided last week to switch anti-depressants, to try good, old prozac and see if that will do away with the nausea and sleep issues. this is going to take a few weeks, too, though, and i don't know what the side effects will be yet.

so, again, it bears repeating: it takes time. it takes everything you've got. and it's not easy. i still wake up to panic; i woke up absurdly early this very morning because i was having a panic attack; and, still, hours later, i feel physically sick and nauseated and uneasy. i have nightmares almost every night, all around the themes of rootlessness, homesickness, and loneliness. i go to therapy every week, email my psychiatrist with concerns if my side effects are really bad, and take my meds as prescribed. i try to eat well, exercise regularly, keep a routine. i do everything i can, and some days are better than others, and some are worse, but they're all days to get through.

by all accounts, i'm a high-functioning adult who is, at least in this moment of her life, managing her anxiety and depression and ADHD fairly well. i get up in the morning, work out, eat breakfast, and go to work. i have meaningful social relationships; i create content regularly; and i read and write and think and function and, on some days, thrive.

which goes to my last "lesson," the thing i will say and repeat over and over and over again — mental health issues, mental illnesses, seeking professional help and/or taking medication — none of these diminishes your humanity. you're not crazy or psycho or subhuman, no matter what it is going on in your brain and/or your body; you're simply human. don't ever let anyone make you doubt that, that you are a sentient, thinking, feeling human being, deserving of respect and decency. people who make you feel any less are shit.

on saturday, i went to hear kristen kish, a chef from boston. she's currently doing a tour with macy's for asian pacific american heritage month (because may is also APA heritage month), and she was in los angeles for an afternoon taste and talk, and, obviously, i went.

i sat there thinking, god, you're fucking cute as hell, adorably fidgety with that smile, that ease, and i thought about visibility, about the comfort of being yourself, about the confidence and security that come from being out and open about who you are, as you are, and being okay with that. i thought about how it's kind of strange and kind of sad that that's something that we have to learn to be okay with, to learn to see ourselves for who we are and accept ourselves — and, consequently, to learn to be okay with the fact that people will see us as they wish, will project on us their own fears and insecurities, and we can't control that.

we can't control what people think of us, but we can control how they make us feel.

she said:

up until my mid-twenties, i projected what i thought i was supposed to be. [...] once i let go of all that, that's when things really took off.

kish also said:

[the attention] is absolutely fascinating. for the majority of my life, i'm slinging in the back of a kitchen and working my butt off and living my life, and, suddenly, now i'm out there, and i think my responsibility is to continue to put my life out there. it's the fact that i am who i am, and, hopefully, what you see and what you can relate to is helpful.


if you don't feel fearful in some ways, if you don't feel nervous, then it's not something worth doing.

and i think, okay, fine, maybe there's something to all this, to being so confessional and at least making the effort to be my true self and be known. i will never be able to share my full, whole self on this website, just like i will never be able to share my full, whole self on social media or in my fiction or, even, in person-to-person relationships. there will always be limits to how fully and deeply we can be known, even by the people directly in our lives.

we make the effort, though. we try to express ourselves, and we try to listen. we try to be there for each other, and we try to connect. and i believe that the discomfort and fear i often feel when i share so much about my mental and physical health, about my fears and anxieties, even about the things i love — i believe that, somehow, in some way, it is a discomfort that propels me on because it tells me that it is something worth exploring. all this shit is worth sharing because the thing i learn over and over again is that we are not all that different, that i am not alone, that these things — whatever they are — need to be talked about.

fundamentally, i believe in breaking stigma, in ending the shame and guilt that keep us silent about mental health, sexuality, body image issues, doubt, etcetera, and, if anything, i am here to say to someone out there, whoever you are, whatever you struggle with, that you are not alone. for what it's worth, here is a human being who is doing everything she can to stay alive and thrive, even though her mental and physical limitations scare the shit out of her every single fucking day, so fight. hold on. stay.

kish also said, "my culinary influences are every single thing that has happened in my life, from the fun to the hard to the whimsical — but the underlying thing under all my food is proper technique."

and, "my style of cooking is a general tasting menu. not one dish is supposed to stand out," and there's an arc to it, an exploration of different textures and tastes, and, "at the end of the meal, you should feel full and satisfied."

and, "i struggled a lot with self-identify and self-worth and who am i and what am i going to do."

and, "the one chef i get starstruck by every time — and i don't get starstruck — is gabrielle hamilton [of prune in nyc]."

and, she never cooked at home, but she wanted to cook for her ex-girlfriend, and "learning how to navigate a home kitchen was quite difficult."

anyway, all of which is to say that i fucking love her and am glad she's out there doing her thing, and i had a great saturday, then i woke up having a panic attack on sunday, feeling sick to my stomach because of anxiety-induced nausea. i gave up on sleep and took lorazepam in hopes that it would help quell the anxiety, which it did a little but didn't stop the effects of my early morning panic attack from incapacitating me for the rest of the day.

i managed to get out of my head to make dinner reservations for my parents at republique, one of my favorite restaurants, scrounged up enough energy to shower, get dressed, and drive out to la brea for one hell of a dinner. the kusshi oysters were sweet and creamy and so good; the grilled octopus was tender and succulent, though the salad had too much mint for me; and the brussels sprouts with friseé and bacon and a soft egg were awesome (and made for great fried rice the day after). the new york strip was perfectly medium-rare, dry-aged for 45 days, in this beautiful sauce, but the winner of the night was the spinach cavatelli with porcini and morel mushrooms and ramps.

(ramps. it's the season for ramps, y'all. and i'm starting to like mushrooms.)

i love a good handmade pasta; there is little that gives me the depth and fullness of joy and happiness that a bowl of great handmade pasta delivers. it's just so comforting and soothing, and i love it more because i love making pasta myself, understand what goes into crafting a bowl, though, of course, the pasta i make is nowhere near as great.

and, anyway, all of which is to say that mental well-being is about more than just therapy or meds or psychiatry appointments. those are important; i'm not diminishing how crucial it is to get help; but it's also about getting out of your head, doing nice things for other people (when you are able), finding enjoyment and pleasure in the little things. it's about meals and literature and women you have crushes on and think are badass, people who model the kind of life you'd like to live, the kind of person you'd like to be (while remembering that they are still humans, and they are not perfect, and they fuck up and have flaws and insecurities, too).

it's about being the best you can be and learning to live within limitations, and it's about remembering that everyone struggles, everyone flails, and everyone kind of fundamentally wants the same things from life. it's about remembering that you aren't alone, no matter how much the monsters in your brain and/or body try to convince you otherwise. it's about reminding yourself that you are stronger than you think you are, that the fact that you have made it this far to this point in your life is the very evidence of that.

it's about telling yourself, making yourself believe that you are worth it, so get the help you need, reach out to the people around you, and live.

gender traitor, mango eater.

ordinary, said aunt lydia, is what you are used to. this may not seem ordinary to you now, but after a time it will. it will become ordinary. (33)

hi! it’s been a whirlwind of a week-and-a-half, filled with emotions and time zones and sleepless nights. we went from los angeles to san francisco to cancún to san francisco to los angeles, and we watched my brother be wedded to my now-sister-in-law, the same weekend that i watched the hulu adaptation of margaret atwood’s the handmaid’s tale (vintage, 1985) and started rereading the novel.

which is a juxtaposition worth noting because it was a weekend of religious, church-y services, and it was a jarring juxtaposition indeed.

(there will be no spoilers for the hulu adaptation in this post. i’m waiting for the halfway point to write about that.) (all quotes in this post, except for one noted below, are from the handmaid's tale.)

it’s the usual story, the usual stories. god to adam, god to noah. be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. then comes the moldy old rachel and leah stuff we had drummed into us at the center. give me children, or else i die. am i in god’s stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb? behold my maid bilhah. she shall bear upon my knees, that i may also have children by her. and so on and so forth. we had it read to us every breakfast, as we sat in the high school cafeteria, eating porridge with cream and brown sugar. you’re getting the best, you know, said aunt lydia. there’s a war on, things are rationed. you are spoiled girls, she twinkled, as if rebuking a kitten. naughty puss. (88-9)

if you want to spend a week feeling terror, read the handmaid’s tale and chase that with rebecca solnit’s the mother of all questions (haymarket books, 2016).

if you’re not familiar with the handmaid’s tale yet, you should be. the novel follows a first-person narrator who is named as offred, though that isn’t her actual name, simply her designation as she is the handmaid assigned to a commander named fred.

a handmaid is a class of women in this city of gilead, and handmaids are women who are still able to get pregnant and bear children, a blessing in this time when the birthrate is down and pregnancy is rare, which, of course, is a fault that is borne entirely by women because men cannot be held to blame.

gilead is a hyper-conservative, hyper-religious city, and, with her novel, atwood gives us hyper-literal interpretations of the bible. handmaids are monthly subject to “the ceremony,” in which the handmaid lays between the legs of the wife, who holds the handmaid’s wrists, while the husband fucks (read: rapes) the handmaid, a literal take of the biblical passage, genesis 30:1-3.

there’s a lot in the novel that takes the bible literally.

given that, unsurprisingly, this is a world in which women have no rights, no money, no property. instead, they are property, and it is illegal for them to read, write, think even, i dare say. it doesn’t matter whether they’re a wife or a handmaid or an aunt — and one of the things atwood does so brilliantly in her novel is to show how women are complicit in enforcing and reinforcing the patriarchy and misogyny and sexism.

gilead needs the aunts with their cattle prods and indoctrination to force the handmaids to submit. it needs the wives to call handmaids sluts and whores while requiring them for childbearing. it needs the handmaids, too, to spy on each other, report on each other, keep them in place. the patriarchy doesn’t keep itself in power simply by the participation and force of men.

and, if you think this is some far-fetched fictional world, think about this — we hold each other to impossible standards; we shame each other for dressing provocatively, wearing too much makeup, acting “inappropriately.” we blame victims of sexual assault and tell our girls that boys are being mean to them because they have crushes on them and encourage each other to stay in abusive relationships for the sake of our children. we tear each other down and keep each other in our proper place, scoffing when one of us tries to break the glass ceiling, wants more than we should, tries to be different and wants more, even if it’s something as basic as equal pay and the right to make decisions about our own bodies.

and think about this — women voted for the cheeto. women held hillary clinton to an impossible standard, despite the fact that she was qualified for the job at hand. women defended the cheeto’s horrific statement of “grab them by the pussy” by dismissing it as men’s locker talk. women voted for him. women did that.


after the wedding, my extended family — all my aunts and uncles on my father’s side — goes to mexico. it’s hard to say we go to mexico, though, because we spend the entirety of the time on a fancy resort an hour from cancún, in this little bubble enclave of wealth and pampering.

while i’m in transit, in these sleepless in-between spaces, i think about a lot of things.

i think about the bubbles these fancy resorts are, the drive from cancún international airport to the resort, this one hour traversed on a highway that crosses through trees and exposes little of the world around us. nature, here, is meant to hide. i think about the stuffy privilege of all this, of cloistering ourselves away on these all-inclusive grounds, our every need being met, greeted with smiles and friendly holas and can-i-get-anything-for-you,-miss-es? i think about the hypocrisy of being uncomfortable about all this but receiving the services, anyway, of enjoying the comforts of my privilege, of my family being one that can have.

i think about complicity, how we’re all complicit in something. i’m complicit by simply having said yes, okay, to this vacation with my extended family. i’m complicit by partaking of these services. i’m no better than anyone else just because i feel guilty — maybe i’m worse because of it — and i think, what can i do about this? what can i do instead of simply feeling badly about it?

i don’t yet have an answer to that.

i think about passports and borders and the privilege and protection my US citizenship grants me. i think about that time i was driving across the country, and i was in new mexico when all traffic was stopped at border patrol. i sat in that queue, wondering where my passport was, if i’d need it, if my california license would be enough to prove my citizenship, but, then, i got to the kiosk, and all the man asked was, are you a citizen, ma’am?

i said, yes, and he said, thank you, ma’am, and waved me through, and i thought how simple that was, how all i said was one word and that was sufficient.

on thursday, i leave cancún to return to the states, and, as i go through the airport in mexico, i think about how my US passport might be considered more valuable than my person. as i land at LAX and head to immigration, showing my passport to security who direct me to the line for US citizens, i think what a privilege this is, to be able to know that i can reenter my country of residence without trouble, that this little book of paper is enough for me to stake my claim.

i think about what krys lee wrote about borders in her novel how i became a north korean (viking, 2016):

i often think about borders.  it's hard not to.  there were the guatemalans and mexicans i read about in the paper who died of dehydration while trying to cross into america.  or later, the syrians fleeing war and flooding into turkey.  arizona had the nerve to ban books by latino writers when only a few hundred years ago arizona was actually mexico.  or the sheer existence of passports, twentieth-century creations that decide who gets to stay and leave.  (lee, 60)

and i think about how borders are lines on a map and passports are books of paper, and yet, and yet.

over the past week-and-a-half, i think, too, about gender treachery, about passing. passing is not something i do intentionally; i happen to be very femme; and we live in a heteronormative society that assumes straightness, especially when one fits into the expected visual of gender norms. i think about that privilege and how it’s not one i necessarily want and isn’t one i’ve pursued, but that makes me think about privilege overall and how privilege doesn’t tend to be something we’ve actively pursued — that’s why it’s privilege.

the other day, my father asked if i considered myself an activist, and i said, no, i don’t. i don’t consider myself an activist at all. just because i like to talk about things, because i believe it’s important to talk about mental health, sexuality, heteronormativity, body positivity, feminism, that doesn’t make me an activist.

what makes an activist, though? i’m loathe to align myself in such ways because i don’t think my talking about things makes much of a tangible difference. i’m not here trying to change policy or trying to advocate for more equal rights or anything; i write these words mostly in the hopes that someone out there will recognize them and maybe feel a little less alone and, in turn, will help me feel less isolated. i hardly consider that activism. 


in mexico, i eat as many mango halves as i can.

the mango halves are only available during breakfast and lunch, so that means i’m eating, like, four mangoes a day because i’m eating four halves at breakfast, four halves at lunch, and i’d eat more if i didn’t think that would be overkill. maybe some people might think four mangoes a day are overkill, but i don’t — i love mangoes, though i didn’t always.

in mexico, the mangoes come sliced the way i like — cut in half, grids cut into them, the fruit still in its peel. you flip it out, so it makes for easy eating because a ripe mango will come easily off its peel as you bite into it, juice dribbling down your hands and wrists and arms. it’s sticky and messy, but it’s mango, and the mess is part of the fun.

it’s kind of like pizza; i’ll never get people who eat pizza with a fork and knife. you fold the slice in half and bring the whole thing up to your face and bite and chew and swallow. likewise, you flip the mango out, bring it to your face, and enjoy the mess it makes, just like you do with ripe, juicy peaches.

i wish i'd eaten more mangoes the two-and-a-half days i was on that fancy resort.

it was after the catastrophe, when they shot the president and machine-gunned the congress and the army declared a state of emergency. they blamed it on the islamic fanatics, at the time.

keep calm, they said on television. everything is under control.

i was stunned. everyone was, i know that. it was hard to believe. the entire government, gone like that. how did they get in, how did it happen?

that was when they suspended the constitution. they said it would be temporary. there wasn’t even any rioting in the streets. people stayed home at night, watching television, looking for some direction. there wasn’t even an enemy you could put your finger on.


things continued on in that state of suspended animation for weeks, although some things did happen. newspapers were censored and some were closed down, for security reasons they said. the roadblocks began to appear, and identipasses. everyone approved of that, since it was obvious you couldn’t be too careful. they said that new elections would be held, but that it would take some time to prepare for them. the thing to do, they said, was to continue on as usual. (174)

the handmaid’s tale reads like a warning.

do not normalize this president. do not normalize violence against women, the taking of women’s rights to make decisions about their own bodies, the denial of consent. do not normalize discrimination and hate crimes committed against people because of the color of their skin, the gender with which they identify, their sexual orientation, the god they worship. do not normalize this administration’s lies and manipulations.

do not normalize. the nightmare of the handmaid’s tale begins with normalization.

this was a travelogue.

never lose the wonderment.

wick tells me we live in an alternate reality, but i tell him the company is the alternate reality, was always the alternate reality. the real reality is something we create every moment of every day, that realities spin off from our decisions in every second we’re alive. i tell him the company is the past preying on the future — that we are the future. (318)

a spot of comfort, a spot of familiarity: this is my bastardization of hainanese chicken rice.

i love hainanese chicken rice; i’d go eat it every 2-3 weeks back home in nyc; and, one day, i looked it up on a whim to see if i could make it at home. i eat mine like soup because i love the broth — it’s gingery, garlic-y, scallion-y — and, though my version isn’t quite like the delicious hainanese chicken rice from nyonya, it’s the dish i crave when i’m feeling under the weather or in need of comfort.

it was the perfect thing to cook last week in an attempt to perk up my appetite.

that’s the problem with people who are not human. you can’t tell how badly they’re hurt, or how much they need your help, and until you ask, they don’t always know how to tell you. (148)

i feel like i’ve spent a fair amount of time in recent months talking about books that are relevant to our times, so it might sound like that’s all i’ve been reading. part of that has been deliberate, given the times we live in, but a good part of that has been unintentional — i’m not necessarily the most intentional of readers. i don’t plan out what i’m going to read when; i don’t make or follow a schedule or reading plan; and, sometimes, most times, this happens — i get super excited for a book, run out and buy it immediately, and don’t actually get to it for months.

(i think publishers might find that annoying, especially when they’ve been generous enough to send me books, especially when i’ve requested them. sometimes, i will just sit on books, though, not because i don’t like them but because i’m not quite in that particular mood or place.)

this was not the case with borne (FSG, 2017), though. i pretty much devoured it once i had it in my hands. (note that i did purchase my own copy.)

what jeff vandermeer does particularly well is build very smart, complex, vivid worlds. reading vandermeer is often like getting drunk on language, the ways he conveys the physicality of his worlds, the strangenesses, the colors, the smells, and, as i was reading borne, i’d get wrapped up in his visuals, these rich, evocative passages, feeling like the words themselves were undulating beneath my fingertips, beneath my eyes.

he’s such a visceral writer, and this is something i loved so much about his southern reach trilogy as well — how vibrant and alive everything is, how much tension seems to throb on the page. his writing fairly breathes, though i do wish that, pace-wise, borne had moved a little faster, had been a little more tightly wound. i did feel that the novel had a slight lag at parts, felt a little too heavy in moments and weighted down for it, but these are small criticisms, i want to say, because vandermeer has created a novel of wonder.

and god damn, that closing passage is so good.

whenever i make this dish, i keep saying i’m poaching a chicken, but that’s a lie. i boil it, but it sounds so much better to say “poached chicken” than “boiled chicken.” i mean, “boiled chicken” just does not sound as appetizing.

there isn’t much to this at all. you buy a chicken, not a giant one, 3-4 pounds is good (it’s terrifying, the gargantuan chickens you find these days). i rub the skin over with coarse sea salt to give it a scrub and buff it out, though i don’t know if i’d say that’s a strictly necessary step, so you could just give your chicken a good pat-down with a paper towel or two, and peel some garlic, chop up some scallions (in thirds), and cut off a knob of ginger. stuff all that into the chicken’s cavity (that you have washed), and put the whole thing into a pot and drown it with water.

and then, boil.

one of the things i love about vandermeer’s novels is that he raises a fair number of questions about what it is to be a human existing in the world-at-large — in the case of borne and the southern reach trilogy (which i loved and wrote about here), the world gone wrong. he asks about the effects of greed and experimentation on the world, about technology, about corporate power and control, and he asks who we are, who we’ve become within everything gone awry.

one key question raised in borne is: what does it mean to be a person? the follow-up to which is, and does it matter?

it sounds like a question with an obvious answer — a person is a human, homo sapien, upright, four-limbed creature with opposable thumbs, individual will, cognitive capabilities, and the ability to feel — and, maybe, by all rights, it should be a question with an obvious answer.

however, as it goes, personhood in itself is complicated. the human race is one that has, since its inception i dare say, sought power and dominion, whether over the earth itself or over each other, which assumes that one group is superior to others. we create Others of people who don’t look like us, want like us, think like us, and we seek out the familiar and create cliques and cause division. to some degree, you might argue that this is natural; it’s an instinctive impulse for survival and for comfort and strength. you might also argue that we are all guilty of snap, surface judgments, of comparing ourselves to each other and creating contrasts in those ways. to some degree, you would be right.

the extreme end of that, though, is that we dehumanize the Other because, by putting ourselves above them, by elevating ourselves and exploiting our positions of privilege and power, we make ourselves superior, and we make them less than human.

we make them not a person.

in vandermeer’s novel, borne is clearly not a person, not physically. he is a creature that the narrator, rachel, finds when she is out scavenging in the post-apocalyptic world (i’d argue it’s fair to describe it as such) in which borne is set. she’s stalking mord, the giant bear monster/creature that has wreaked havoc upon the city, after having been created himself by the company that was the catalyst for all this destruction, and she finds borne in mord’s fur. intrigued, she names the creature borne and takes him home to the balcony cliffs, a former apartment complex, where she lives with wick, a former employee of the company.

borne is not human; he is an entity, a living, cognitive being that can change at will, assume other forms, and mimic via consumption. he can shape shift and cast light and grow, and he can read and feel and be sarcastic and want to be part of a family. his physical form makes it clear that he isn’t human, though, that he is, rather, something that was clearly created, something that came from the company, something that wick wants to take apart and break down into parts because borne is suspect — he could be a weapon; he could be a spy; his physicality automatically renders him a threat, something not to be trusted.

to rachel, though, borne is a person. he thinks. he feels. he wants. she considers him her child, having taken care of him since he was a wee creature and watched him grow, witnessed him experiencing the world, being wounded, learning deception. vandermeer, too, doesn’t challenge borne’s personhood; whether borne, specifically, can or cannot be a person isn’t really the central question of the novel.

rather, it’s the question of what constitutes a person in general. does personhood demand physical familiarity? and, if we were to argue that it’s physical familiarity, what, then, of the people who don’t look like us, who have different skin colors, hair textures, physiques? is it, then, an internal commonality? but what about those of us who don’t share the same worldview, worship the same god (or any god at all), want people of the same gender? is it about sharing the places we’re from, the things we want, the morals we embody?

where does familiarity begin, and where does it end?

with your chicken in the pot, bring the water to a low boil, then turn the heat down to medium-low. you want your soup to simmer for 30 minutes, during which you want to skim, skim, skim. get off the scum that rises to the surface, the fat, the oil.

to be honest, i don’t know why i cook a chicken with the skin on; i throw the skin away, anyway.

season with salt. taste, skim, simmer.

i’d been teaching him the whole time, with every last little thing i did, even when i didn’t realize i was teaching him. with every last little thing i did, not just those things i tried to teach him. every moment i had been teaching him, and how i wanted now to take back some of those moments. how i wanted now not to have snuck into wick’s apartment. how i wished i had been a better person. (191)

sometimes, i think that it’s easy to look at dystopian fiction (or sci-fi or war stories) and think, “oh, i would never.” i would never kill someone to save my own life. i would never leave someone outside to die. i would never do just about anything to survive; i would have limits; i would never cross the boundaries of decent humanity.

and that’s not restricted to attitudes toward fictional characters or war stories or whatever because it’s easy to look at anything, any situation, and think that — oh, i would never get an abortion. i would never physically assault someone. i would never exploit a vulnerable person. i would never be so cruel. i would never do this, i would never do that, i would never.

it’s easy to self-elevate ourselves onto some moral high-ground, when, yet, the truth is that we are all capable of great violence, and we are all capable of committing horrendous acts of harm and damage. we are all capable of giving in to our worst selves and doing all kinds of fucked up shit if it means self-preservation, if it means survival.

and this, too, is a way that we deny people personhood — by saying, “oh, i would never” and constructing false boundaries that create Others and keep them out. it’s a mentality that hurts us, though, because, when we try to block off the uglinesses that inform our own personhood, we will never be better — we will never exist together.

and, yet, it is easier to hide in that i would never. i would never resort to that. i would never act like that. i would never have done this that time if it hadn’t been for this.

i would never.

instead, i lay in my bed in my apartment, doubled over and sobbing until i hurt from it, wanted to hurt from it. i didn’t care what happened to me. mord could have dug me up and swallowed me whole as a morsel and some part of me would have been grateful. and yet there was another part of rachel, the part that had lasted six years in the city, who waited patiently behind the scenes, saying, get it out, get it all out now so it doesn’t kill you later. (187)

the thing about hainanese chicken rice is that you cook your rice in the broth, not in water, which means that you cook your chicken before you start your rice. which is fine because hainanese chicken rice is eaten at room temperature.

roughly 30-45 minutes in, poke your chicken in the thigh. if the juices run clear, it is done. remove the chicken very, very carefully from the broth; i usually do this with tongs and a giant spoon, trying to drain as much broth from the chicken as i can before moving it quickly to the cutting board i’ve placed as close to my pot as possible. rub some sesame oil onto the skin of the chicken, not a whole lot because sesame oil is not a subtle flavor and a little goes a long way. let the chicken rest and cool.

ladle broth into your rice (which you should have washed) (jasmine rice is my favorite for this dish), and cook. chop some scallions while you wait. also watch for for broth puddles emitted by your chicken.

my main takeaway from borne, though, is this — it is important for us to retain a sense of wonder.

no matter how shitty the world gets, no matter how much it falls apart, and no matter how fucked up our lives become, there is always something in the world to maintain wonder, and it is important for us to hold onto that.

when borne is still a child, rachel is taken away by how he finds the world beautiful. the world in the novel is a toxic one, the river poisonous sludge, the city laid waste by mord and riddled with traps. it’s a world of dangers and hazards, where rachel has no idea how long she and wick will be able to continue defending and surviving in the balcony cliffs, where animals and humans are both engineered to be vicious, killing monsters.

it is a world you might look at and see nothing but horror and destruction.

and, yet, borne looks out at that world and sees beauty.

we went out on the balcony. borne pretended he couldn’t see through his sunglasses and took them off. his new mouth formed a genuinely surprised “o.”

“it’s beautiful,” he exclaimed. “its beautiful beautiful beautiful …” another new word.

the killing thing, the thing i couldn’t ever get over, is that it was beautiful. it was so incredibly beautiful, and i’d never seen that before. in the strange dark sea-blue of late afternoon, the river below splashing in lavender, gold, and orange up against the numerous rock islands and their outcroppings of trees … the river looked amazing. the balcony cliffs in that light took on a luminous deep color that was almost black but not, almost blue but not, the jutting shadows solid and cool. (56)

sometimes, i go on twitter and wonder why the fuck i went on twitter in the first place. everything’s a total shitshow, whether it’s whatever’s going on in DC, in korea, in local governments here, and i’m constantly asking myself what the fuck is happening, if this is really the world we’re living in.

similarly, sometimes, given all the crap going haywire in my brain and my body, i get lost in despair, in the swallowing hopelessness that this is forever — my depression, my anxiety, my ADHD, my diabetes — these are disorders and limitations i am going to have to live with forever, and, sometimes, on my bad days, it all becomes too much to handle.

it’s easy to get tired, to want to give up and give in, but, then, i look up at the sky, and it’s streaked in the most marvelous, dramatic colors. i go to the ocean and watch the waves crashing into the shore, look out at that horizon and think, awed, at how magical that line is where the sky meets the sea and the possibilities seem endless. i walk down the street and see spring all around me, the flowers bursting in colors, the sun making shadows dance beneath my feet, the way life comes around full-circle.

and that, i think, is wonderment, not an overblown, grandiose attempt to cast the world in a veneer of false gold or to see silver linings everywhere — i fucking hate silver linings. i don’t mean wonderment in the sense of forcing yourself to look for it, to see it everywhere, to maintain a sunny, delusional attitude that there is always something good to be found in the shit. sometimes, shit is just shit.

however, it is another thing to remain open to the possibility of wonder, and i think that is crucial because wonderment is linked with the ability to hope. we cannot hope if we do not believe that there is something worth hoping for, and keeping ourselves open to wonder is one way of keeping that hope alive.

a few weeks ago, i shared a post on instagram with the caption:

one of the things i will always find hopeful is my ability to recognize and appreciate beauty because that's something depression takes away. and, as much as i love the beauty of mountains, my heart is most at ease by water.

i fully believe this, and i oftentimes believe that the only reason i am still here today is that wonder. it is my ability to look at the world around me and still see it to be a beautiful place, to find that somewhere in me lies a heart that is still beating.

because, even in the worst of my depression last year, when i was suicidal and so close to taking my own life, i would go on these long walks around brooklyn. i’d walk over to brooklyn bridge park, to prospect park, all over park slope and cobble hill, and, as i would walk and walk and walk, sometimes, i would ache so badly inside because it hurt how beautiful i still found the world. at that time, in those moments, i wanted so badly for all this pain to be over, for my life to be over, and i’d sit on a bench somewhere and look at the world around me and breathe in the air and think that, god damn, i was hurting so badly inside, and my world felt so small and so dark and so impossible, but there was this world, this city, outside me, outside my pain and hurt and despair, and it was beautiful and good, and my ability to recognize that and respond to it must mean that there was still a part of me that wasn’t willing to die.*

* by no means am i trying to imply that going on long walks and appreciating the world around you are enough to get over suicidal depression. that couldn not be farther from the truth. it’s taking me weekly therapy appointments, monthly meetings with my psychiatrist, medication, meals with people i love, a lot of generosity and kindness for myself. it’s taking me books and food and cooking, routine, instagram, events, family. it’s taking everything just to stay alive.

when your chicken is cool, carve it or shred it with your fingers or dissemble it how ever you prefer. spoon some rice into your dish, top with chicken, ladle some broth over it, top with minced scallions, and eat with sri racha. there’s a sauce you could make instead of just resorting to plain sri racha, but i’m too lazy for that. oops.

because we have faces.

when i think about beauty, i think about a few things.

i think about this quote by professor elaine scarry: “if people become cut off from the love of beauty, that sabotages their love of the world and increases their willingness to compromise it.”

i think about all the women i find beautiful, how beauty is subjective and not entirely physical, how a personality is really what gives someone that glow that catches your eye and keeps it. i think, too, about how beauty is used to value and devalue women, to build them up and tear them down, to say, “you’re beautiful … but that’s all you are” because beauty is made to be something desirable until it becomes a weapon with which to undercut women and their accomplishments. if a woman succeeds, if she stands out, especially in undeniably male-dominated fields, it must have been because of her beauty.

in that vein, i think about that asinine but telling comment by that food critic to put down dominique crenn, a two-michelin-starred chef, to say that, yes, she might have talent, but she’s also a beautiful woman, which, it is implied, is obviously a factor in her success. i think about what kristen kish said about how much had been written about her, her looks, her sexuality, but nothing about her food when she was chef du cuisine at menton. i think about that ridiculous ruckus raised over stephanie danler being blonde and pretty when her debut novel, sweetbitter, was published by an acclaimed literary house (knopf) last year.

and i think, god damn, it’s 2017. this is so fucking boring.

sometimes, i look in the mirror and wonder what people might make of me, my face, my body.

for much of my life, i felt hyper-visible, even while i tried to disappear myself, because, for much of my life, i was overweight. it was something that was made a Thing of because to be fat was to commit the worst offense. i was called names, mocked for my love of food, told that no one would hire me because of my size, that no one would date me, that, essentially, my life wouldn’t begin until i was thin enough to be accepted by the world. i couldn’t wear dresses or bright colors, anything that would bring attention to me and show off or accentuate my body in any way — the point was to hide, to mask, to cover.

the point was to disappear.

when you spend so much of your life, your entire adolescence and young adulthood, attaching value to your body, hating your body and detaching yourself from it, that kind of thing seeps into every aspect of your life. i see that consequent insecurity, that complete lack of self-esteem, in everything — how i conduct myself in the workplace, how i approach relationships with people, how i regard myself. it’s in the way i regard food, in the decisions i’ve made throughout my life, in the lack of confidence to pursue the things i love and want to do. it’s in the fact that i didn’t start dating until last year, haven’t had sex, haven’t pursued any kind of intimacy because i’m afraid of touch, of being considered repulsive, of not being attractive enough to be wanted or desired. it’s been easier to retreat and pretend to be indifferent than put myself out there to be rejected because of my size.

my history of being body shamed is what makes my recent diagnosis of type 2 diabetes so agonizing. on a cognitive level, i acknowledge that this is not the end of the world; there are worse things with which to be ill. i can manage it by managing what i eat, taking my meds, and exercising. i can bring down my sugar levels and reintroduce foods into my diet, and these limitations don’t have to destroy my life.

however, i have spent much of my life obsessively controlling what i eat (or trying) because i was always on one diet or another, always trying to lose weight, always reading labels and counting calories and logging gym time. i would hate myself when all that effort came to nothing because i would inevitably dive off that diet wagon and binge and gain weight instead, caught in a vicious cycle that just reinforced all my self-loathing and self-hatred and reminded me that i was worth nothing — i couldn’t even maintain the discipline or find the willpower to lose weight; what could i do with my life? if i couldn’t even have the perseverance to maintain my body, then how would i ever accomplish anything professionally? personally? relationally?

and this is what has made this type 2 diagnosis so fucking painful — that i have spent the last four years letting go of all that, of healing, finally learning to love myself, at least to respect and appreciate my body if i couldn’t love it, to be generous and kind to myself. it’s been a process to unload all that self-hatred, to stop conflating my ability (or lack thereof) to lose weight with everything else in life, and i’d finally reached a point where i was fairly comfortable in my body and didn’t hate myself for everything i put in my mouth and was finally able to wear what i wanted, be who i wanted, and be okay with me as i was in the present moment, flaws and all.

to have to come back to a place, then, where i need to read labels and obsess over what i eat, where i feel so guilty when i miss a single workout or eat a bite of something i shouldn’t — i don’t think words can fully express how devastating that has been. no matter how much i try to remind myself that this is okay, this is necessary for my health, this feels like disordered eating.

of course, this restrictive diet means that i’ve been continuing to lose weight (hilariously, the weight started coming off once i stopped giving a shit last year), and, of course, that brings with it the expected chorus of delight around me — omg, you’re getting so pretty! you’ve lost so much weight! — and i hate it all. i wince every time someone compliments me for how i look; it makes me twist and rage inside; and, even now, as clothes fit better and i feel lighter, still, i hate my body.

i didn’t start wearing makeup until last year, when glossier released their skin tint and stretch concealer.

i’d been reading into the gloss for a few years, but i hadn’t paid muchattention to glossier until last january when they launched their milky jelly cleanser. i loved milky jelly, which is still one of my top two favorite glossier products (the other being boy brow), so, when they started launching their makeup products, i was paying attention — and intrigued.

two things about me, i suppose: (01) i hate having things on my face, and (02) i’m lazy. i can’t be bothered with brushes, and i can’t be bothered with makeup routines that take more than ten minutes. i’m also lucky enough to have clear skin and, thus, not require heavy foundation or concealer, which sticks me right in that glossier niche — their products really do work freakishly well on my skin.

i’m a skin girl, in that i’m obsessed with skincare (i do actually do the korean 10-step routine) — and, then, i’m a lipstick and mascara girl. i don’t wear makeup everyday, not even to work, but i’ll usually always apply a lip color because, otherwise, i look pretty damn tired and kind of dead. when it comes to lip colors, i’m obsessed with oranges and reds, maybe some corals thrown in there, and, as much as i try to get into more wine or vampier shades, i just can’t get away from those bright oranges and reds. i love a bright lip; there’s just something so fun and sassy about it.

when it comes to skin, i’m a huge proponent of the double-cleanse — i use an oil (currently, using laneige; previously, used banila co; love/loved both) to remove all my makeup, and then i use milky jelly to wash it all off. then i’ll splash some son & park beauty water on a cotton swab and run that over my face and neck to get any last oil/makeup/residue off, and, then, it’s emulsion, serums, lotion, maybe a pack. every other night, i use the bite lip scrub because all that lipstick makes my lips peel, and i slather on a thick layer of balm dotcom in mint. (i carry all the other flavors around with me for day use.)

in the morning, i use a cleanser from the face shop in the shower, and, in the evening, if i’ve put on my face, i’ll wipe the day off my face with neogen’s cleansing water in rose (on a cotton swab).

and that is pretty much it. simple, no? simple is good. i mean, 75% of the reason i wear makeup is to make sure i wash my face at night.

i’m aware that there is a fair amount of privilege involved in my being able to write this. i don’t think i’m some great beauty, but i know i’m not ugly. i don’t feel super self-conscious posting the occasional selca on social media — or, well, i do, but not because of the way i look, per se. i might be bigger than some, but i can run into any big box retailer and find clothes that fit (the ethics of big box retailers is another topic).

it might, thus, appear a little nonsensical that i might be writing any of this at all, but body shaming is something very real with very real, deep consequences that i have dealt with for much of my life. it didn’t stop until i fought for it to stop a year ago, until i finally found the confidence in me to give voice to all that pent-up rage, to say, no, this wasn’t right, this had to come to an end. that’s not something i developed over night, either; i was well into my late-twenties before that even happened.

even now, i still see the shaming peeking out at me, except now it’s cloaked in praise and glee — oh, you lost so much weight; oh, you look so pretty; oh, do you have a boyfriend? (heteronormativity is also another topic — and, no, there is no boyfriend. there will never be a boyfriend.) some might say that compliments are good, and i wouldn’t disagree, but there is the opposite to everything and that glee is an expression of something far more insidious — this pervasive mentality that prettiness is to be desired, to be praised, that thinness is the baseline for a woman’s, a girl’s value.

and part of me sometimes feels weird for celebrating beauty and beauty products, for getting excited over shit like this because i don’t want to be complicit in a system or a cultural mentality that metes out so much harm upon young girls, upon women. it makes me uncomfortable, sometimes, to celebrate a woman’s looks, to notice her thinness because a part of me still gets jealous, still believes (irrational and untrue though it may be) that life would have been so much easier had i been thin. 

like many (most) people, though, i respond to beauty, not only in people but also in the world around me, and i think it’s worth noticing, celebrating, remembering. and i think there’s nothing wrong with makeup or with beauty products either, that we all (most of us) want to be attractive and have that confidence going into the world. i know that, sometimes, oftentimes, putting our faces on is akin to putting our armor on, and i think that is worth celebrating, too.

and, so, here are some products i like, some things i enjoy and wear on a regular basis, and here are the books i’m currently reading and/or will be reading soon — because, idk, i’m really into these or excited for them, and this space is all about geeking out over shit that gets me going.


  • milky jelly cleanser
  • priming moisturizer
  • stretch concealer (medium)
  • skin tint (medium)
  • boy brow (black)
  • cloud paint (dusk)
  • haloscope (topaz)
  • balm dotcom (all of them)
  • generation g (zip and cake)

other face things:

  • neogen cleansing water (rose)
  • son & park highlighter cube
  • lancome mascara
  • bite lip scrub 


  • clinique chubby stick (heftiest hibiscus)
  • mac lipstick (vegas volt)
  • fresh sugar lip balm (coral)
  • sephora cream lip stain (always red)
  • dior fluidstick (639 artifice)
  • dior addict lipstick (756 my love)

matters of the heart.

we are all migrants through time. (hamid, 209)

when i think about scrambling eggs, i think about the first girl group i loved, k-pop trio, s.e.s.

s.e.s was managed by sm entertainment, arguably korea’s largest talent management company, and, for a very brief time in the 90s, sm’s thing was to create albums with narrative tracks interspersed between the songs. most of the narrations were forgettable (and it’s a form sm never tried again), but one of the narratives on s.e.s’ third studio album, love, was titled “scramble.”

it was, surprise surprise, about scrambling eggs. the only thing i remember from it is to whisk your eggs in a clear glass bowl.

in a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, a young man met a young woman in a classroom and did not speak to her. for many days. his name was saeed and her name was nadia and he had a beard, not a full beard, more a studiously maintained stubble, and she was always clad from the tips of her toes to the bottom of her jugular notch in a flowing black robe. back then people continued to enjoy the luxury of wearing more or less what they wanted to wear, clothing and hair wise, within certain bounds of course, and so these choices meant something.

it might seem odd that in cities teetering at the edge of the abyss young people still go to class — in this case an evening class on corporate identity and product branding — but that is the way of things, with cities as with life, for one moment we are puttering about our errands as usual and the next we are dying, and our eternally impending ending does not put a stop to our transient beginnings and middles until the instant when it does. (hamid, 3-4)

last week brought two disparate books. one was moshin hamid’s much-lauded exit west (riverhead, 2017), and the other chef barbara lynch’s out of line (atria, 2017), one of my personally most anticipated books of the year. i read them mostly at the same time, during the same week, so i decided i’d talk about them both here, despite the fact that they share little commonality..

starting with the hamid — exit west is an Important Book, capital-I, capital-B, and it reads like one. i don’t mean that hamid seems to have set out to write an Important Book, but the prescience of the novel and its clear connection to current events inevitably have made it so, maybe more than hamid intended — or, also, exactly to the extent that he did.

we follow saeed and nadia, a couple who meet in an evening class and start to get to know each other. they aren’t quite dating, not quite an item, when militarized violence begins to take over their city, bringing an end to everything normal and ultimately causing them to flee their home for the west. there’s an element of magic realism to exit west, as transit is done through doors — if you can find the right door (and there is an entire industry set up around these doors), you can walk through and find yourself in another part of the world.

ultimately, exit west reminds us that refugees are human beings. it reminds us that refugees are people who often led lives similar to those we live here in the west; they went to school, went to work, used social media, hung out in cafes, fell in love, smoked pot, got in trouble for staying out all night. refugees are people whose lives were disrupted by conflict, by violence, by war, and they are people who have fled their homes, risking their lives to cross borders and bodies of water with nothing, for nothing but safety and the ability to live their own lives.

i appreciated that hamid doesn’t simply try to inspire sympathy for refugees by presenting them only in the most positive light. instead, he takes us into their conflicts, into ways that refugees, too, flock amongst their own and draw lines between themselves and others, and he shows us the brazenness that is often required for survival — the ability to lay claim to a space that is not yours, to intrude, to demand the right to exist. he shows us that that is human. he shows us that, fundamentally, we are not all that different.

my method of scrambling eggs has gotten lazier over time. in the beginning, years ago when i started cooking eggs, i’d take greater care, whisking my eggs in a nice [clear glass] bowl, adding some cream or water, and making a little show of scrambling them up.

that was then, this is now, and, today, i start with a small saucepan — the higher walls trap steam, which produces fluffier eggs. i add a pat of butter to my cold saucepan, then set that on the lowest possible heat, leaving the butter to melt as slowly as possible so it doesn’t lose all its water content. when the butter is all melted and starting to make noises at me, i turn the heat up to medium-high and crack my eggs directly into my saucepan and add a pinch of salt.

yeah, fuck those clear glass bowls.

for fifty-plus years, i lived within seven minutes of southie, the place where i was born: where i learned to lie, steal and fight; to take any dare and to tell anyone to fuck off; to rise above cement, piercing sharps, and newspapers damp with vinegar; to throw off the terror of hissing pipes, clammy darkness, and the stench of piss; to be staunch in friendship and values and ferocious in effort; to cook, awakening my senses, and then to create; to be open to all the possibilities of life, since, when you come from nothing, you have everything to gain.

so now my radius has expanded, beyond seven minutes, to maybe an hour, depending on traffic. i’m living proof that you don’t have to go far, or ever lose sight of where you come from, to discover and embrace the whole wide world. (lynch, 271)

one of the things i love about chef memoirs and cookbooks is that they can’t help but be full of heart — they are, by nature, love stories.

they’re testimonies to passion, too, not the frou frou romanticized bullshit version of passion touted by modern culture, but the deep-in-your-bones, take-over-your-life kind of obsessive, driven passion that leads someone to spend a ridiculous number of hours a day on the line for shit pay, to cobble together all her savings only to spend it on traveling and eating, to miss weddings and holidays and big personal life events because she has to work.

there’s a part of me that viscerally responds to this because i fucking love it, reading about, talking to, being around people who have that thing they love and are driven by and work their asses off for, especially when it’s to do with food. i can’t get enough of it.

and then there is also this — that my takeaway from chef memoirs is that these people, these chefs who have gone on to illustrious careers, didn’t make it there simply on their brilliance and hard work. they got there because of people.

this isn’t to diminish doggedness and perseverance and intuition in any way, but, in any creative field, hard work is a given, as is a certain measure of natural talent. ultimately, it’s the people who get you places, people who see a special something in you and take a chance on you, people who invest — financially and/or emotionally — in you, people who encourage you and believe in you and give you the feedback and criticism you need to keep being the best version of yourself you can be.

barbara lynch’s story gets right at this. today, she’s a big-name, james beard-award-winning chef and restauranteur, 7 restaurants and a catering company to her name, but she came from nothing. born and raised in south boston, she built herself from the ground up, working her ass off and clawing her way into her dreams, but she didn’t do it alone. there was the home ec teacher who insisted on letting her repeat the class so she’d stay in school. there were the chefs who hired her despite her inexperience; there were the investors who backed her financially; and there were her friends, the ones who might have thought she was reaching for the stars but stood by her and have been there for her through the years.

what i particularly love is that lynch doesn’t take any of that for granted and is dedicated to returning all that support back into the culinary scene in boston. she’s committed to education, not interested in simply running kitchens that cooks move through but in creating spaces where chefs can be nurtured, can grow into their skills, and can learn to fly. she’s committed, too, to boston, to maintaining a food industry and culture that encourages innovation and helps homegrown talent and gives them space to expand, so boston, as a city, can grow.

basically, my takeaway from out of line is that barbara lynch is one fucking badass.

i love that, seeing young chefs really shine. sometimes, they’ve been learning and then there’s a sudden breakthrough moment, when they crush it. in others, like kristen [kish], there’s a certain magic or inborn skill, which they just need a chance to express. either way, these are the times when it’s thrilling to be a mentor. (lynch, 196)

this is what i envy — i don’t envy people their careers. i don’t envy people their successes, and i don’t envy people their books or writing styles or voices. i can grow my own career; i can find my own success; and i have my own voice, my own style, my own stories to tell.

what i envy people are people.

i envy people their partners, their support systems, their people with whom to do life. i envy people their mentors. i envy them their guiding lights, their packs. i envy people, people.

this isn’t to dismiss the people in my life who are and have been and continue to be amazing and supportive because i’m lucky to have incredible, generous people who support me and care for me. it doesn’t negate the fact that i do wish i had more community, though, that, sometimes, i wonder if my social group might look different, might be stronger in certain ways had i gone for that MFA (which, to be honest, i didn’t — and still don’t — want). it doesn’t negate the fact that i wish i had more people in my life with whom to share the things i love.

and here’s this, too — i know that this envy stems a lot from insecurity and fear. like, i can go around saying that i’m a writer, i’m working on a book, but i carry my fair share of imposter’s syndrome, that i’m not really a writer until i’ve been published, until i have an agent, until i have a book deal. i’m not really a writer until someone says i am, until someone in publishing is sitting squarely in my corner and vouching for me. it’s stupid, and it’s bullshit, but it’s there.

and, then, there is the personal fear, that belief that i am too broken to be loved or wanted or known in that “until death do us part, in sickness and in health” sort of way. it’s hard to believe that anyone would look at me with my suicidal depression and anxiety and ADHD and type 2 and think that i am someone worth taking a risk on, worth investing a future in — and, because i do not see myself as someone worth that risk, i look at other relationships in want and envy and feel that emptiness in my own life and wonder if i will feel like this forever.

this envy is not something i’m proud of, and it’s something i actively work constantly to quell. i remind myself that this is stupid, it’s bullshit, there’s no rationale for this. i remind myself that, if someone were to use my mental health as a reason not to work with me or be with me, then that professional or personal partnership is likely one i didn't want, anyway. i remind myself that i have great people in my life, people who may not be physically in los angeles but spread across the continent and around the world, but people who care for me and want for me and love me.

sometimes, though, a book like out of line comes around at a time when i’m feeling particularly vulnerable and alone, stranded in a city i hate, where i know very few people, have no close friends, and have no community, and it simultaneously inspires me and hits me where it hurts. i actually had to put out of line down for a few days because, one, lynch has this way of describing food that made me so annoyingly hungry and, two, it was compounding all my loneliness and homesickness and reminding me of the things i want and would love to have — a mentor, a guiding force of some kind, someone to take my hand and say, “hey, you’re doing okay; you haven’t fucked everything up.”

because, despite fully believing that we need to rely on ourselves first instead of seeking external affirmation, i have to admit — sometimes, we all need that kind of validation in our lives. we all need to know we belong somewhere.

what i appreciated most about out of line is lynch's lack of self-consciousness. lynch isn’t concerned with making a defense of her life or the decisions she’s made along the way, and she’s not writing these things down to impart some deep, moral wisdom — she’s not here to judge you for your shitty life decisions. she’s telling stories from her life, and they’re oftentimes hilarious, always full of heart and life and vigor. there’s a gleefulness running through the book, too, a happy, contented nostalgia tinged with the sober awareness that maybe things weren’t all madcap hilarity, that maybe things could have been, should have been different — there shouldn’t have been so much reckless drinking and drugging; there shouldn’t have been sexual violence and abandonment; there shouldn’t have been so much loss.

lynch isn’t one to linger, though, isn’t one to prettify shit or dramatize them, and what she offers in her memoir is the matter-of-fact kind of wisdom that comes from retrospect, from having lived through the years, fighting her way through every step of the way. things didn’t come easy to her, and she had a fair number of limitations to overcome — ADD, dyslexia, depression amongst them — but she never took “no” for an answer and found her own way through.

and i loved this so much about out of line — that lynch has delivered us a book full of frank honesty, hilarious bluntness, a tendency just to say what she wants to say, no bullshit, no pretenses, no apologies. it’s refreshing to see, a woman who is who she is, who is proud of who she is and where she comes from and who she is still becoming. she isn’t perfect, but no one is, and that’s okay because she’s trying and fighting. most of all, she is a woman who models what she believes and is giving back what she has received, trying to be to others who others have been for her, and she is a helluva woman, indeed.

amazingly, there were investors willing to gamble on my dream. i remember meeting the first one face-to-face. i was so anxious that i practically dissociated from my body, circling it like a soul in a near-death experience. hard as i tried, i couldn’t work up my usual fuck it, i’ll figure it out attitude. this wasn’t like bullshitting a cruise-ship captain to get a job. it was much more intimate, exposing my heart — my deepest, most private vision of my own future — to a judge who would decide it it was worthy.


my whole life i’d had to fight — to teach myself, to achieve, to prove what i could do, to overcome a million doubts and fears, including my own. now, someone had given my skills and accomplishments a definite value, in dollars. that degree of respect stunned me, touching me at level deeper than any glowing review or award. it granted me a professional stature that i had hardly dared to envision for myself. (lynch, 148-9)

when it comes to scrambling eggs, i find that a rice scooper works best. i keep the heat on medium-high and get scrambling with my rice scooper, not frantically or hurriedly but gently, giving the eggs a few turns, flipping them onto themselves. i like my eggs soft-scrambled, so i turn the heat off when they’re just set and no longer runny but still look wet and shiny, which doesn’t take long at all, a few minutes at most. i give them one more turn with the rice scooper off the heat before piling the eggs on a slice of buttered toast and eat them immediately with a cup of strong, hot coffee.

that’s my lazy version.

if you’re feeling more ambitious and want heavenly eggs, here’s the 45-minute version from out of line. i haven’t tried it yet, but i will this weekend. as it goes, the only thing i’ve been cooking since my type 2 diagnosis are eggs.

one of the dishes [marchesa] mastered was scrambled eggs a l’escoffier, which is a forty-five minute process. you melt butter in a pan over low heat, then just perfume it with a clove of garlic speared on the tines of a fork. after whisking the eggs lightly in a bowl, you very gently pour them into the pan and let them set. every ten or fifteen minutes, you walk by and give them a tiny nudge with a rubber spatula until they’re done, more heavenly and creamy than any scrambled eggs you’ve ever eaten. (lynch, 218)