the brave in the mundane.

sometimes, LA looks like soho, just sans the throngs of people, and it makes me homesick. in 32 days, i’ll be back home in brooklyn, and it’ll only be for a weekend, but i am so, so excited, especially because i'll be there for the brooklyn book festival, and i am very much looking forward to that. i've gone every year since i moved back to NYC in 2012, and i was worried i'd miss it this year, but i shan't!

but, ugh, where to begin — what a horrific weekend we’ve seen, what gross displays of despicable human behavior, from the privileged who lit up tiki torches and waved confederate flags and proudly toted the swastika to the ones at home who raise, love, and support the people on the streets and the institutions that enforce that privilege to the cheeto in the white house who’s been faster to call out women by name but wouldn’t condemn white supremacists.


anyway, hi, i’m having a hard time coming up with words, so here are some words i put up on instagram on sunday, words i've expanded on here.

the 2016 election has exposed and fortified a lot of the ugliness many of us knew still existed in this country, in this world, and the horrible reality is that that this ugliness is going to continue exhibiting itself in the near future. we're going to see a lot more fragile white [male] egoes exploding in irrational, hate-fueled rage, and we're going to see a lot more white privilege protecting itself in the delusion of "but *i'm* not like that," never mind that that statement itself betrays complicity.

we're going to get more statements from politicians but no action that supports said statements or moves toward change, and we're going to get more half-hearted, easily-appeased pseudo-disapproval from GOP congressmen over the mess that currently occupies our seat of government. we're going to get more senseless racist, bigoted, sexist tweets from the cheeto, emboldening the racism, bigotry, and misogyny that will further endanger the lives and livelihoods of POC, queer and straight, whatever our gender and/or our beliefs.

we're going to have days when it's easier to rally en masse and put up a fight. we're going to have days when it's easier to be diligent about keeping up with the shit our governments, whether federal, state, or local, are trying to pull to take away our rights. we're going to have days when it's easier to know what we're fighting for, to believe that change is possible, that the better future of equality we're hoping for can and will be the reality in which our children and their children grow up.

the other side is that we're going to have days when everything is simply harder. we're going to have days when it all feels futile, when change seems impossible, when the world appears to have progressed one step only to be regressing ten. we're going to have days when we feel small and insignificant, when we feel like we're just one human, one insignificant, scared, tiny human, and what can we accomplish when we're nobody and the whole of society seems to be against us, determined to see us as subhuman, to take away our rights but claim ownership of our bodies, our labor, our cultures?

but here is this: bravery isn't about super-strength or super-smarts or super-whatever. it's not about being an extraordinary human being. bravery is simply getting up in the morning and going about your day as best you can, refusing to fold over in the face of hatred.

bravery is being you, whoever you are, and existing because, sometimes, simply being here, being present, being alive in a hostile world is the most powerful form of rebellion there is because it's staking claim to your right to exist, to be seen and treated fairly, to be respected and known. it seems like nothing, going to work, taking your kids to school, paying your taxes, worshipping at your chosen place of worship, shopping for groceries and household supplies and clothes, but it's not nothing — with every act, you say, i have every right to be here, and the truth is that it's no small thing to be a POC, a queer person, a woman out and about in the world. that alone requires so much bravery, more bravery than we might even imagine we contain, although we do.

so i'm going to say this again: stay.

even in the face of all the hatred and violence and truly disgusting displays of human behavior we're seeing these days, stay. don't hide. don't run. don't take your own life.

stay. stay and fight, and, together, we'll make this world a better place. stay.

here are a few articles, some good reading amidst all the crap, because i spend a lot of time at work reading articles, and these are a few that have stuck with me.

01.  missbish, “bringing heat in and out of the kitchen”
might as well start with something nice about someone who makes me smile, and i’m sure my crush on kristen kish has been well documented by now, so here, start with some kristen.

02.  missbish, “the youtube who feels like a best friend”
i. love. claire. i secretly think about running into her in DTLA (or just, LA) and being her friend because the article title is right — claire marshall really does feel like a best friend, and her vlogs are my favorite. sometimes, i don’t know why they’re so fun to watch; they’re literally of her running errands and talking into the camera and doing boring day-to-day things; but i love them. i find them so soothing.

03.  electric literature, "jenny zhang doesn't care if you feel comfortable"
jenny's been doing some spectacular interviews during her press tour for sour heart (random house, 2017) (just do yourself a favor and read this fabulous collection already), but this one miiiiight be my favorite so far. if i had to pick a favorite.

(this one with i-D is also fabulous. and this one with lithub.)

04.  the white review, "interview with han kang"
han's human acts (portobello, 2016) is one of my favorite books about one of the most horrific acts in contemporary korean history, and the way han writes trauma is so visceral and intense and thoughtful.

05. the white review, "interview with jorge semprun"
also this from the white review: i first read this interview while doing research for a comp lit course in 2011, and i still think about it now, six years later. i love what he has to say about memory.

06. the new yorker, jia tolentino
tolentino has been killing it for the new yorker recently. i was going to try to pick a favorite, but i decided i didn't want to, so here's her archive instead. have at it; she's great.

07. salon, "kate mckinnon and hollywood's big gay test"
i love kate (who doesn't?), and her career is one worth watching, not only as that of a great comedic actress but also as that of an openly gay woman in a still-long-ways-to-go-as-far-as-any-kind-of-diversity-goes industry. i hope she continues on the rise; she's just too good.

nine years (because we're counting years).

let's be honest: this is procrastination, pure and simple.

hi, i’m in the throes of editing my book, a collection of interrelated short stories about suicide that i’ve been working on for nine freaking years, and i’m procrastinating (of course), so here’s a list of shit i’ve learned over these long nine years.

one. writing takes time, and it always takes more time than you think it will, and there’s no point trying to run a race against time because that is a battle you will never win. be patient, and give yourself time because your writing will be that much better for it.

two. that doesn’t mean you shouldn't set deadlines for yourself, though. set deadlines, and try your damnedest to meet them, but don’t beat yourself up if you reach that deadline and look at your work and think, well, shit, this needs more work.

three. trust yourself. trust yourself as a reader, and trust yourself as a writer, and trust yourself as a reader of your work. none of that trust comes easily, and you’ll only build it as you read more of everything and learn to trust your taste and your standards. and, while we’re talking standards, it’s okay to have high standards for yourself, so long as you learn to balance that with kindness to yourself, for yourself. you’re not perfect; i’m not perfect; and it’s the endeavor that counts, which leads to …

four. the writing has to be reward enough. the act of the work itself has to be reward enough. the fact that you are able to do the work at all has to be reward enough. god knows if and when any other “rewards” will come, and, if you’re chasing those arbitrary things, if you’re chasing fame and glory and success, how ever it is you define any of those, you’ll just rot in envy.

five. if you can’t be happy for the successes of other people, no matter how big or small those successes, you will never be happy for or content with your own. envy is toxic, and envy is poison, and it’s never too soon to work to inoculate yourself against it. you’ll never be truly, 100% free from envy; we’re all human after all; but you can dismantle it and prevent it from destroying you (and your relationships) (don’t trick yourself into thinking that envy doesn’t have a cost).

six. a huge part of writing is being part of the literary community, so read, be as active as you can and want to be, and advocate for your peers’ work. truth be told, we’re all in this mess together, and we’re the best supporters we’ve got.

seven. people don’t have to understand or even necessarily believe in your work or your abilities to support you. support comes in all forms, and, sometimes, support comes in doubt. learn to fight your way through that and test your own faith in yourself — if you need to depend on the unwavering support of other people to do the work, you won’t last. find that in your core and hold onto it and protect it.

eight. that said, find people who believe in you and your work, not because they’re your friends or they like you or whatever but because they believe in you and your work, and lean on them for support. i would not have made it nine years working on this book, going through so many rewrites and so many disappointments and so many crazy stupid reckless idiotic decisions were it not for every single person who has believed in and continues to believe in me and my ability to write and tell my stories. that support is priceless, and i don’t take any of it for granted.

nine. do the work. lie fallow when you must. rest. know your limits. take care of yourself because writing isn’t a sprint, and it’s not even a marathon, it’s just constant non-stop running for god knows how long. you don’t know how long a project will take you, so settle in for the long haul, and do the work. writing hurts like hell, and there’s so much crap to deal with along the way, but none of it will ever mean anything if you don’t do the work. so show up, sit down, and do the work.


and, for funsies, while i procrastinate, here are nine random things about me:

one. i love eggs. eggs are great. you can do so much with eggs! you can soft scramble them and fry them and make them crispy and poach them and steam them and boil them, and any dish is elevated automatically by adding an egg (or two)!

two. i totally bought these baby cocottes because i wanted to make oeufs en cocotte, and so i made oeufs en cocotte, which are delicious and so easy to make, but now i’m like, … what else do i make with these?!? i might make mini curried chicken pot pies next. (i also love curry.)

three. i have a weird sense of brand loyalty. the first dutch oven i bought was from staub, which means that all other future cast iron enamel cookware will now always be from staub. most of this is visual consistency; i like things to look nice; and part of things looking nice is being consistent.

four. i wash my tights with face wash — yup, that means i wash my tights with glossier’s milky jelly cleanser. i also only wear opaque tights. i don’t like stockings or nylons or pantyhose or whatever else they’re called; the sheerness is weird to me and seems pointless.

five. if i were ten years younger, i’d go to culinary school in a heartbeat. it’s one of my few regrets — not going to culinary school. another is that my family moved out to california when i was young, so i didn’t grow up in the east coast, where i was born. a third is quitting piano. two of these were in my control, but the regret comes from a combination of fear and ego, i suppose, because i have a tendency to talk myself out of things i’m afraid of finding out i’m not brilliant at. does that make sense? 

six. because that’s maybe the strongest manifestation of my ego — i want to be brilliant. i don’t necessarily know where that comes from; maybe it’s an effect of having grown up in the distant shadow of my brilliant cousins (seriously, they’re brilliant); but i’ve always carried this with me, this desire not to be average and this fear of realizing that i am. it’s something i’ve been teaching myself out of, and i’d say i’ve definitely gotten better and am much more at ease with myself, with who i am, and with what i can do, but it hasn’t been easy.

seven. i also love [cow] milk. i like it whole, but i also like it 2%, and skim (or non-fat) milk is not milk. it’s milk-flavored water, and i’m sorry, but it’s gross. also, nut milk is not milk. it’s nut juice, let’s be real. it just doesn’t sound as appetizing when you call it that.

eight. i’m finding it really hard to think of nine things … to be honest, i don’t find myself that interesting a human. as it turns out, i am pretty average, and you know what? that's okay!

nine. my favorite band in the world is still nell.

about last week.

this minion perfectly illustrates my mood as it is now, as it was last week, as it has been the last few weeks.

last week was a [insert-adjective-here] week, what with the republican zombie healthcare bill that just won't die (or has it finally?!? i'm not holding my breath) and what with the cheeto vomiting more crap on twitter, this time about banning trans people from serving in the military, never mind that trans people display more courage in their day-to-day than the cheeto has shown in the entirety of his life — and never mind that trans people are apparently such terrifyingly formidable people that they should be barred from public bathrooms that align with their gender identity.

last week was also a low week personally, and it continues to be a series of low weeks as my insomnia continues to take its toll. my mood has been low, my dreams/nightmares/whatevers gone haywire, and i'm tired, tired, tired.

i wish i could sleep for days and wake up well-rested for once.

i can't seem to get that, though, so here, let's talk nice things.

when i think about nice things, i think automatically about food, so here is this: republique makes my favorite breakfast in all the land.

if you’re ever in los angeles, go to republique and order the regular breakfast with soft scrambled eggs (because they can actually soft scramble eggs), an iced dirty matcha latte (it’s better iced than hot), and a chewy chocolate-chocolate chip cookie (it has nuts, though, so nix this if you’re allergic). add a slice of tres leeches cake if you’re feeling indulgent (it’s not too sweet, don’t worry) and/or a hand pie if you’re starving and need something to tide you over while you wait for your food (they’ll heat the hand pie up for you; ask for sri racha).

come back and thank me for the bombass recommendation.

i spend a lot of time on twitter during the week, and i have no shame admitting that it’s my major news source, like, in that, it’s the source that alerts me to the fresh new hells being launched on the world — that, and the new yorker, which i also read religiously during the week. 

there was a nice thread on twitter last week, talking about work and creating art and why that matters today. it talked specifically about why writing books matters, books about made-up worlds and made-up people, books that don’t make overt political statements and/or take moral stances, and i understand that struggle, that conflict, that desire to create something of meaning, except what does that look like? what does it mean to create something that means something?

the twitterer (whom i unfortunately do not remember) made the point that it’s not about being an activist or about taking political stances or about delivering moral messages. it’s about the fact that the work itself is hope; whether we write fiction or memoirs or treatises, doing the work itself, the act of creating itself, is an example of a way to be. the work in its own, the act of doing the work, is to demonstrate a way to fight back.

and, so, we work, and we create, and that looks different to each person. i take photos of light and shadows, of minions from mcdonald’s happy meals, of everything i eat. i read. i write on this site, and i edit my short story collection, and i rewrite that essay on living with depression and suicide and falling in love last year. i take ages to reply to DMs on instagram, and i give up on ever catching up on comments, and i apologize for that, but that’s just the way things are.

i think about buying an actual camera, like a DSLR, instead of just using the camera on my iphone 7. i think of new projects, earmark restaurants to try, envision future collaborations and chart amorphous ways to making those ideas a reality.

i try.

i also spend a stupid amount of time during the week tracking my lunch deliveries. it’s kind of creepy, the fact that i can do this at all, stare at my browser and watch the little icon that signifies my drivers moving along the map. it gets funny when they near the office, the rounds they sometimes make around the block, and i’m just like, i put a note on there, saying you can call or text me, and i’ll come down to the street. parking’s an ass in LA. LA’s an ass of a city for deliveries, too sprawled out to allow for efficiency.

LA’s an ugly, weird city, and, yeah, it’s got its charms, but i feel the frustrations when i’m trying to get from point A to point B, for example when i’m trying to get from koreatown to west hollywood for a reading. i think, god, this place is hideous, and, ugh, it’s like someone just vomited flat ugliness onto hot land, and i think, okay, fine, maybe i shouldn’t be so uncharitable — LA’s not that bad, and it gets great light. you can’t deny the fabulous, kind of magical qualities of california light, but see how i can't even give LA that? i have to generalize to all of california to make any praiseworthy statement possible, though i don't mean to impart hostility here — it amuses me, this mess of a relationship i have with this place.

sometimes, i wonder if i've simply become so accustomed to hating on LA that it comes so naturally to me. other times, though, especially when i'm landing at LAX and looking down at the sprawl below me, i think, nah, it kinda deserves it.

and maybe part of me feels entitled to this, kind of like how i also feel entitled to hate on NYC for all its ills. in some way, LA is also my city after all, and it bears the baggage of my history and trauma, and i feel unbridled in expressing my distaste of this place because i’ve lived so much of my life here and it is a part of me.

in some way, this is my way of claiming this place as my own.

all i’ve been craving these days is something cold and sweet, and that’s all kinds of terrible when you’re type 2 like i am. i feel like i spend an incongruous amount of time making bargains with myself — like, okay, i can eat three pieces of watermelon, but only three. or, okay, i can eat some ice cream if i walk there and back. or, okay, yeah, i know this is all bullshit, i should just be abstaining, should be more afraid of the consequences of not eating well, of not getting my glucose levels down lower, of not taking care of myself because self-care, blah blah blah, i want something cold and sweet.

it doesn't help that i've finally tried jeni's and am obsessed. jeni's delivers everything i want in ice cream — it's creamy and not too sweet, and it tastes like the ingredients it uses, instead of like processed, sugary crap. like, the mango buttermilk frozen yogurt tastes like a creamy, frozen, pureed mango (i. love. mango), and the roasted strawberry buttermilk is one of the best ice creams i've eaten, and the brambleberry crisp is like pie in ice cream form, complete with crumble topping — and, omg, i can't get enough of jeni's. i went again on sunday, and i'm going again this weekend.

i know, i know, self-care, blah blah blah, but four and twenty blackbirds is also in town this weekend, and they're going to be at jeni's, and one of my favoritest people is back stateside, so pie and ice cream, there will be. i'll make up for it by eating cleaner meals.

in 45 days, i'll be back home in brooklyn.

here's some big, exciting news: jenny zhang’s sour heart comes out into the world today!!! go hie yourself to a bookstore and dive into this wonderful collection!

cue storytime?

i grew up reading exclusively (and i mean, exclusively) from “the classics,” aka the white canon, aka mostly dead white guys. i mean, sure, there were a few dead white women thrown into the mix, too, but they were mostly men, and i didn’t read contemporary fiction until i was well into college. the closest i got before then was in the twelfth grade, when my AP lit teacher (still one of my favorite teachers) spent the year having us read existentialists and absurdists.

one day, several years ago, i was browsing the internet for one reason or another when i came across a blog called fashion for writers. at the time, it was written by jenny zhang, but it had been founded by esmé weijun wang (whose debut novel, the border of paradise, was published last year and is incredible), and there were links to their respective websites, links i followed to obsession, basically. i read esmé’s site religiously, and i mildly stalked jenny in new york, going to all her readings and totally having mini-omg! moments when i passed her twice — once, in powerhouse arena (in its former space) on my way to the bathroom and, once, on my way into mcnally jackson to pick up my preordered copy of the border of paradise.

it was so weird and so cool to read their writing, and you have to remember that i was this asian-american kid who'd always loved literature and loved writing but had never stopped to think that writing was this thing that i could do. i had no freaking idea that you could get paid to write, that people were doing this all the time, and, no, i wasn't stupid — i knew that people wrote for a living — i didn't think people like me did. you know. asian-american kids. asian-american daughters.

because, as far as i knew, in the world in which i grew up, we didn't write — we went to med school or law school or business school. we got married to nice [christian] asian-american boys. we had kids and stayed home and home-schooled.

we didn't write, and, more than that, we didn't write about mental health or bodies or the grimy, sticky areas of life. we didn't write about ourselves, our asian-american backgrounds, our experiences with sexism and racism and bigotry. we didn't write about sex or death or violence. we didn't do these things; we didn't put words on or give voice to anything that ran counter to the accepted status quo.

one of the things i have come to love the most is coming across a writer who makes me imagine different ways of writing, of being. jenny and esmé's writing introduced me to that, to new ways of thinking about myself, my asian-american identity, my own writing, and it's been an incredible experience since, seeing how all you really need is a spark to shed new light on the world and make it open up. i think about the women i've come to read and love in the last few years and have helped shape me as a writer — alice sola kim, patty yumi cottrell, nicole chung, rachel khong, krys lee, susan choi, celeste ng, women who do different things with their writing, who tell stories that illuminate different facets of the human experience and bring a rich vibrance to the world of books.

and i think about women in general, women whom i admire who live their truths and excel at their craft — barbara lynch, kristen kish, gabrielle hamilton, ellen bennett — omg, help me name someone who's not related to food — molly young, molly yeh, julia turshen — i suppose it's unavoidable; i love food; what can i say?

and all this loops back to what that twitterer said in that thread last week and what sherman alexie said to buzzfeed and what i wrote at the end of my hunger post — that what matters is that we are out here, that we are trying and creating and working. sometimes, most times, i dare say, at least on the everyday, day-to-day level, it's not about activism, and it's not about overt politicism. sometimes, it's just about telling our own truths, whatever those truths are, and all fiction — all good fiction, all good art — stems from the writer's truth.

and maybe that's how we effect change, not [solely] by converting those who stand against us but by bolstering and supporting those like us, by living alternate ways to be, to see the world, to write and tell stories and exist. i think we kind of undermine the amount of hope and encouragement that alone provides because it never feels like bravery or courage or like anything significant, just getting through the day and doing the work given to us, but it means something — at least, it means a whole lot to me, to be able to look up and see women who are doing the work simply by doing their work, whether it's writing, cooking, bookkeeping, raising children, teaching, whatever it is, women who are out there, living their truths and trying to bring about a better, more equal world.

and, so, i'll repeat what i said before because this is something i'll keep repeating, over and over and over again: stay.

we're out here, and we're women of color, and we're straight and queer and religious and not religious and able-bodied and disabled and you name it, we are it, and we write and cook and live, so stay. stay curious, stay open-minded, stay alive.


i ate at bestia last week. :3

it was delicious and amazing and everything i hoped it would be.

i want to eat there again.

here’s a summer reading list, given in no particular order, if you’re looking for something good to read in these last few weeks of summer:

  1. jenny zhang, sour heart (random house, 2017)
  2. rachel khong, goodbye, vitamin (holt, 2017)
  3. patty yumi cottrell, sorry to disrupt the peace (mcsweeney’s, 2017)
  4. celeste ng, everything i never told you (penguin press, 2014)
  5. yoojin grace wuertz, everything belongs to us (random house, 2017)
  6. esmé weijun wang, the border of paradise (unnamed press, 2016)
  7. ruth ozeki, a tale for the time being (penguin books, 2013)
  8. alexandra kleeman, you too can have a body like mine (harper, 2015)
  9. julie otsuka, when the emperor was divine (knopf, 2002)
  10. jung yun, shelter (picador, 2016)
  11. susan choi, my education (viking, 2013)

unruly bodies, unruly lives.

writing this book is the most difficult thing i’ve ever done. to lay myself so vulnerable has not been an easy thing. to face myself and what living in my body has been like has not been an easy thing, but i wrote this book because it felt necessary. in writing this memoir of my body, in telling you these truths about my body, i am sharing my truth and mine alone. i understand if that truth is not something you want to hear. the truth makes me uncomfortable too. but i am also saying, here is my heart, what’s left of it. here i am showing you the ferocity of my hunger. here i am, finally freeing myself to be vulnerable and terribly human. here i am, reveling in that freedom. here. see what i hunger for and what my truth has allowed me to create. (304)

skincare teaches you about patience, and it teaches you about discipline. skincare takes time, and it takes routine and ritual and repetition to see results, and, you know, that said, i guess this post is kind of a lie because this is what my nighttime skincare routine should look like every night but, y’know, doesn’t.

most nights, i just rinse my face with water and call it a night.

when i was younger, i used to be [more] careless about my skin, much in the same way i was careless about my body, though, at the same time, it wasn’t in the same way at all because that’s only a partial truth — i was careless about my body in that i wanted to care less about it, but i couldn’t, so i was careless with it, about it, at least as much as i could be.

to talk about skin is to talk about bodies, and to talk about bodies is to talk about shame. to talk about bodies is also to talk about want, and i think that these are languages we learn, that we learn to speak. my body wasn’t something i thought of much when i was a child; it wasn’t something i was cognizant of, something i had to concern myself with or think about; and i realize only in hindsight what a privilege that was. gone were my young days of being sick all the time, laid to bed in complete darkness and total silence because of migraines and laid to waste by bloody noses so bad clumps would rain out of my nostrils and make me faint, and, as i moved on from young childhood to mid-childhood to pre-adolescence, my body was just a body, something that was there, something that was a part of me.

and, then, my freshman year of high school, i was taught that i had a body, and i was taught that it was something to be ashamed of. it was something i was supposed to make small.

and, so, it became something i wanted to disappear.

i became something i wanted to disappear.


01. double cleanse.

start with cleansing. obviously. i go for the double cleanse, which means you use an oil cleanser and rinse, then use a water-based cleanser and rinse. the oil will remove your makeup and the gunk that's accumulated on your skin during the day, but it won't (or it shouldn't) break you out. one thing i've learned is not to be afraid of oil, whether for my skin or in my food. oil, when used correctly, is great.

the first oil cleanser i used was banila's clean it zero, and i still prefer that because it's solid, not liquid, and melts onto your face. i love that korean companies provide a little plastic spatula with their products, too, because who wants to put her/his/their fingers into a jar, bringing bacteria and other stuff into the product?

when i think about roxane gay, i think about grace.

while i'm not necessarily the biggest fan of her writing style, i love her voice. she writes with so much grace, so much kindness and generosity, even for the people who have hurt her, which doesn't mean that she's a pushover who simply takes the shit she's given — and it's truly incredible, the amount of bullshit she has to contend with on a daily basis.

even in the midst of all that grossness, she carries herself with grace, and it's something i admire, something i aspire to, and i am not the look-at-someone-and-find-something-aspirational sort. i rarely look at another writer and think, hey, i wish i could do that, but, as i was reading hunger (harper, 2017), i kept thinking, this is the book about my body i hope i can write some day.

i mean that more theoretically than anything because i don't know that i'd ever write a book about my body (i don't know if there's necessarily a story there) and because i use "my body" as a fill-in for other topics. there are things i want to write about, things i will write about, things that are difficult for me to broach today for various reasons, and hunger made me think that, one day, it may be possible for me to write the things i need to write with grace and generosity, not fury and spite and resentment.

and i think that as well because i think i have come a long way in writing about my body. even a year ago, there would have been more anger driving this post; today, all there is is what i have; and all i have to offer is my truth. and maybe i'm not the best person to be writing about any of this because, at my heaviest, i was maybe what roxane gay calls "lane bryant fat," too big for "regular" sizes but not too big for plus sizes. or maybe i’m not the best person to be writing about any of this because, today, i may not be tiny, but i can shop comfortably, don't look at narrow seating nervously, can relax when someone takes a full-body photo of me.

and, yet, my body and i have a long and painful history of being at odds with each other, and physical size is no indicator of health, whether physical or mental, anyway. physical size doesn't diminish the fact that i've lived with disordered eating and severe body dysmorphia since high school. it doesn't mean the shaming didn't happen, the obsessing over my weight, the self-loathing and self-hatred and total obliteration of my self-esteem.

because that is damage i carry, damage that bleeds into every single aspect of my life, and that is damage i have had to teach myself mercilessly to unlearn.

mine is not a weight loss story.

02. exfoliate.

one day, i will venture into the world of chemical exfoliants. until then ...

the other day, my therapist tells me that all the cells in our body regenerate every seven years, that we are literally, physically not the same people we were seven years ago. i love that fact, that we are constantly in turnover, constantly changing and becoming new, but, sometimes, in weeks like this, it's also frightening. part of me wants to find comfort in the constant change. i know that i never really will.

because here's the truth — or here's a truth: i write this post at a time of intense vulnerability, in a moment of decline. the last few weeks were generally good, great even, and i was stable for the most part, despite dealing with swirling anxiety that continues to feed my insomnia. however, the fact is that things cycle — i cycle; my moods cycle; and, sometimes, most times, it's out of my hands.

as i struggle not to go tumbling down this slope, i remind myself that things aren't technically bad. i remind myself that i'm lucky. i remind myself that this, too, will pass.

i remind myself of all the things i remind myself of when things start to get bad again. to live in the now, in the present, that the future will arrive when it does, and i will reckon with it then. to maintain perspective, to remember that i'm not the only one suffering, that other people might have it worse — i remember how much i hate this idea of "putting things in perspective," how much i hate looking for that damn silver lining because that doesn’t stop everything from being shit.

but we slough off pain like we slough off skin, and we try to get through these dark moments. i do believe we are built to survive, but, more than that, the fact is that the only other option is not to get through any of it, to pass on and die instead, and, when those are your options, what do you choose? generally, i’m someone who believes in middle grounds and shades of grey, but, when it comes to surviving, i think it's either/or — we survive, or we don't, and that is it. how you define surviving is up to you.

03. tone and use essence.

of course, as these things tend to go, i took these photographs, and, then, i acquired missha's time revolution essence, which many swear is comparable to SKII without the high price tag. that acquisition happened through luck because alaska air decided not to board our luggage when we were en route to seattle, so we were left without our things for a night and day, including our toiletries, and they said they'd reimburse us for anything we purchased.

hence, missha.

to be honest, i still couldn't explain to you what toner and essence are. i've had them explained to me several times, but i still don't know — and i think koreans might approach toner differently from others. like, i know some people are obsessed with witch hazel toner, and i used to use that, too, except, as it turns out, it's not actually that great for skin because it strips the natural oils from your skin and dries it out.

truth to be told, no, i don't understand all the science behind skincare, but i do know that you don't want to strip the natural oils from your skin, and you don't want to damage the skin barrier, and you don’t want to throw off your pH levels. it's when you do the above that you can't regulate sebum production, and that causes your skin to become oilier and break out.

… have i got all that right?

you'd think i'd know better, but it’s like science has wings, flying way over my head every time i try to catch it.

there is a lot gay writes about in hunger that i sympathize with but can’t identify with because she is who she is and i am obviously my own person. she has endured trauma i have been fortunate not to have experienced. i’m sure she could say the same back to me.

i identify with a lot of what she writes, though.

i identify with her confidence in her intellect and her ability to write. i identify with so much she has to say about bodies and being body shamed and specifically being body shamed by your family. i identify with the self-loathing and the self-destructive behavior, with the bile that rises with every “i do this because i love you” excuse, with the way she had to learn to put her foot down and say this wasn’t acceptable, it wasn’t okay to keep making comments on her body.

and i identify with her when she says that she loves her family, that she is grateful for them, that they have always been there for her, supporting her, loving her, catching her when she falls, and i believe her. i believe her when she speaks lovingly, glowingly of her parents — her parents sound like amazing, loving, generous, brilliant, immigrant parents who would do anything for their kids.

her parents sound a lot like mine.

maybe it's one of the great cruelties of life that the people who love you most (and whom you love most) are the people who will hurt you most. it's not a one-way thing, either; the people you love most (and whom you love most) are the people you will hurt most. maybe it's to do with how, the more you care, the more vulnerable you become — the more you open yourself to the possibility (and probability) of hurt.

love is a complex beast, though, and love is complicated. love becomes muddled as it moves between human bodies, between human people, as it gets lost in translation, which it inevitably does because we all have our own individual languages for love. love gets tangled up in individuality. love invariably becomes intertwined with expectations, and expectations always lead to disappointment. love will always be disappointed.

when you're different, when you think differently, look differently, want differently, you start being acutely aware of this. you look at the people around you and wonder, how can you hurt me so? how can you reject me so? because, to you, these differences, whether they be physical or sexual or religious, seem like nothing to you. they don’t seem important enough to you to hang a relationship on, and, yet, so many of us are the ones who have to walk away to save ourselves.

one of the things that body shaming and body dysmorphia have taught me is that love is complex, that love is complicated.

it is possible to be angry at what people have done, and it is possible to acknowledge and confront the harm they have done you, and it is possible to love them fiercely all at the same time. it is possible to be disappointed by people, to be hurt by them, and love them fiercely at the same time. it is possible to mourn and despise the damage you carry and the years of your life you have lost because of people’s destructive behavior and still love them fiercely at the same time.

the existence of one does not negate or diminish the existence of the other.

i use son & park's beauty water as my toner, shaking some onto a cotton pad and swiping it around my face, and then i use essence. i really don't know what essence is. i've just used it for forever, and i will keep using it for forever until someone gives me a really good reason why i shouldn't.

04. apply serum, oil.

i love the ordinary's niacinamide/zinc serum; it’s been brightening and smoothing my face out beautifully, giving it a nice glow from within. i also really like its rosehip oil, and i like these two products so much, i purchased more products from the ordinary, all of which should arrive next week and i am excited to use. one's specifically supposed to help fade hyperpigmentation.

i'm obsessed with trying to fade my hyperpigmentation.

i even tried getting them laser-removed once, which was supposed to happen over two sessions, but, while the first was effective, the second was not, and i am still hyperpigmented all over my face, which annoys me to irrational levels.

i mean, skin is just skin, except it's not. skin is that thing we live in.

skin is that thing we sometimes mark.

in hunger, gay writes about her tattoos, and she talks about visibility when wanting to be invisible. i think about tattoos, how they mark us and make us seen, how they identify us and render us recognizable. i think about how tattoos are choices, exercises in taking control, a way of saying, this is my body, and it is mine. i will mark it as i will.

and, yet, getting a tattoo is also an act of letting go, of trusting your artist to take your vision and make it into reality and leave you with something permanent that will carry with it whatever significance you’re attaching to it, how ever great or small that may be.

there’s something i like about that, about how marking yourself is something you do with another person, and i think tattoos are very literal, visual reminders of the ways we touch each other and leave our marks on each other’s lives. in the case of getting inked, you’re [hopefully] delivering yourself into your artist’s hands, entrusting her/him/them with a part of your skin, your body, but, when it comes to the rest of life, we’ve no idea what we leave behind — we’ve no control over that — or of the impact others will have on us and our lives.

sometimes, we mete out horrible damage, and, sometimes, we do that willfully and intentionally. other times, we try to soothe and to comfort, try to do good, to be positive forces, but, sometimes, that doesn’t succeed and we end up doing harm instead. sometimes, though, we do succeed, and we do provide some healing, some warmth. we just never know.

these marks are invisible, though, not like the tattoos some of us, myself included, bear on our skin, and one of the things i’ve learned is never to assume. there is only so much we can extrapolate from someone’s behavior, and there is so much we project onto the people around us — we take our fears, our insecurities, our hurts and interpret others through those lenses. we see the world through the kaleidoscope of ourselves. there is so much we can’t understand, and, unless we actively seek to listen, not to hear what we want to hear or see what we want to see, we will never be better people, and we will never make a better world.

05. moisturize and/or mask.

i genuinely love glossier; their products tend to work very well on my skin; but i was not a fan of their priming moisturizer. i thought the texture was kind of weird, and i hated that smell, not like it was very strong (not to me) but just kind of ... strange and faint and kind of there but not, kind of unpleasant but tolerable.

when they announced priming moisturizer rich, i was like, pffffft, no thanks. and then this one korean beauty vlogger i love posted about her glossier haul and said she loved priming moisturizer rich — she loved the texture, and she even liked the scent, even if it were pretty strong and even if it did smell of lavender, which isn't the most friendly to sensitive skin.

i am fortunate enough not to have sensitive skin (i also have combination skin for those curious), so i was intrigued, so i went down the google black hole. people seemed to like priming moisturizer rich in general, so i went for it — and, you know, i love it. i love the texture. i love the scent. i love how my skin absorbs it happily, and i love the heaviness of it, especially during these dryass los angeles summer months.

because, of course, there's a reversal here — back home in new york, during the summer, my skincare routine gets much, much lighter because of all the humidity in the air. here, the dryness destroys my skin, so my skincare routine pretty much stays the same in the summer as it does in winter. i might hate humidity because i hate heat, but my skin hates the dryness, and i think i’d rather have happy skin.

priming moisturizer rich comes in a jar but doesn't come with a spatula, which, to me, makes no sense. i use the one that came with my laneige water sleeping mask, which i use occasionally instead of moisturizer when i want to give my skin an extra dousing of moisture. i love this smell, too — i mean, i love good smells in general, even in my skincare. again, i'm fortunate enough not to have sensitive skin.

and this, usually, is where my nighttime skincare routine ends.


06. scrub.

this is out of order because, on nights i use the bite lip scrub, which i do maybe every 2-3 days, i use it right after i cleanse/exfoliate my face and before i start applying anything to my skin. 

i'm all about lips — when it comes to makeup, my fall-back, lazy routine is mascara and lipstick. my really, really lazy routine is just lipstick. (and sunscreen. always, always use sunscreen, even when you're staying indoors.)

lip products might be my giant weakness, and they're why i avoid sephora. it's why i've tried to enforce a rule that i can only buy new lip colors that are more than 3 shades removed from colors i already own — and i tend to gravitate towards oranges and cool reds. it is one of my great joys that i can wear orange lipstick.

i think that one of the reasons i love lipstick so much is that i love color, but i've shied away from color for so long in my clothing choices. i've been afraid of wearing anything bright, anything white, anything that might call attention to me or make me appear bigger than i already was, and that's something that stays with me, continues to linger, the way i stick to darker colors, to neutrals, to greys and blues, despite the fact that my eye automatically goes to oranges and purples and greens, to shades that are less conventional, more odd.

lipstick is a nice pop of color, and it offsets the tiredness that usually lingers under my eyes. i do tend towards chapped lips, though, so i usually apply some glossier balm dotcom under my lipstick (i have all the balm dotcoms; i love balm dotcom), and i use the bite lip scrub every 2-3 days. i don’t need to use a lot (a little goes a long way), and i love the feeling of scrubbing off dead skin, of getting my lips nice and clean but not dry and chafed. the bite scrub is a sugar scrub, too, so it smells lovely, though don’t eat it — it tastes horrible. i’m always careful when i’m rinsing it off and trying not to let it get past my lips.

after i’ve scrubbed, i slather balm dotcom on my lips. i keep the mint flavor in my bathroom specifically for this use. the rest, i carry in one of those pink glossier pouches with the rest of my lipstick.

i meant to write more about hunger in this post than i feel like i actually am.

07. pack.

sometimes, on sunday mornings, i like to do face packs. i’m not that into sheet masks, but i do love a good face pack — and i love these from glossier. (is there enough glossier in this post for you?)  i use them one after the other, first the galaxy greens then the moon mask, and they leave my face feeling fresh and clean and moisturized. i like doing them in the morning specifically, too; that way i can enjoy the renewed springiness in my face all day.

and here is a massive tangent.

in a recent interview with buzzfeed, sherman alexie says:

there’s a fantasy, alexie thinks, that fame means power — or the ability to change things. “it depresses people to think that i have exactly the same vote as they do — that i don’t have power to change oil company policy, that i have not changed a single human being’s mind about environmental policy.”

what about soft power, then? the idea that his books can humanize native americans — and in so doing, quietly change people’s racist minds? “listen, i’ve never met a conservative person whose mind has been changed about natives,” alexie countered. “i’ve never received that letter. my primary power is for the weird brown kid who gets to know that they’re not alone. i don’t mean to undervalue what i do: me and my art can make some people feel less lonely; i exist because of the books that made me feel less lonely. we don’t have power. something like ‘poets against trump’ doesn’t change minds. what we can do is help people get through another day.”

when i first read those words, my immediate reaction was to feel discouraged. i thought, well, that’s kind of sad. if we can’t implement any kind of positive change, then what’s the point?

the more i kept thinking about it, though, the more i thought, what better way is there to change the world than to reach the lonely people, the kids you look like you, hurt like you, break like you? what better way is there than to help some isolated kid struggling with her/his/their personhood, sexuality, ethnicity, differences, etcetera that she/he/they is not alone, that it is okay to be who she/he/they is? that, yeah, the world is still a shitty, dangerous place, but, slowly, very slowly, as we all learn to live in our skin, we can and we will bring about that change?

why wait for the world to change when that change lies within us, within each other?

and i know these are words easier said than lived most times, and i know how horrible solitude is, feeling alone and weird and strange. and i used to think i was writing my book — a collection of interrelated short stories about suicide — so that non-depressed, non-suicidal people could understand what it is to be depressed and suicidal. i used to think i was writing it to help bridge these barriers of understanding, to help fill the spaces where empathy is apparently impossible and basic human decency is too much to expect.

and it’s not that i’ve stopped believing in the importance of dialoguing with people who disagree with you or see the world differently. we all need to learn to do it.

however, the more i think about it, the less important it becomes for me to try to change those people’s minds or hearts, and the more important it becomes for me to reach people like me and let them know, you’re okay. you’re not alone. you’re not broken and damaged beyond repair. you’re not ugly. you’re not unlovable. you’re not unworthy.

so stay.

don’t hide. don’t run. don’t try to disappear.

don’t harm yourself, and don’t take your own life.


[seattle] take heart, take care.

so, while i'm in seattle, i meet up with a friend, and we talk about a whole lot of things, one of which is self-care. i feel like self-care has become this trendy word, this idea that's being thrown about casually — or maybe not so casually — it just sometimes feels that way because it usually leaves me wondering, okay, so what the hell is self-care?

what does it look like?

self-care is important, though. it's important and crucial that we learn to care for ourselves, that we nurture ourselves and are kind to ourselves, but words are words, and theories are theories, and the question comes down to, how do we practice that then?

again, what does it look like?

we exist in a culture that's all about constant motion, one that likes to chart progress and success like they're quantifiable things. we should hit certain milestones in our lives at certain ages, and we should always be moving forward, always going on to the next thing, always moving up and up and up. we should always be running; to be still is to falter — it is to fail.

it's a pervasive mentality. there was this horrible ad i saw once on the bart in SF, and it had something to do with being a doer, and being a doer meant that you never slept, drank coffee for lunch, were aways on the hustle. the ad made all this sound positive, like it was desirable, like, if you weren't a doer in this crazed sense, then you would never amount to much — you were already a failure; you weren't a doer; you were a nothing, no ambitions, no drive, no potential.

and i thought how stupid that was, how inane, how damaging. i thought how stupid it was that we live in a culture that's so fixated on the go go go, so obsessed with the idea of motion that it'll willingly and masochistically fester in this deception that motion is the same as productivity, that motion is some kind of measure with which to determine someone's skills or passion or determination.

it irritates me because it feeds into this idea that there is one way to be. success must look a certain way; ambition must exhibit in a certain way; and we must fit into our assigned narratives and hit all the milestones that will lead us on the path to a good, meaningful life.

the fundamental problem with that, though, is that there is no such thing as one way to be. there is no one life to live. there is no one "good" and "meaningful."

the more fundamental problem with that is that there is no one kind of human in the world. we're all different, and we come in different shapes and sizes and styles with different ambitions and dreams and passions, and we come in different bodies.

we come with different brains.

that means that we come with different limitations, different priorities, different wants, and that further means that we come with different skills, different abilities, different strengths. like, my weaknesses might be that i’m shit with organization and ascertaining the most direct route to any task, but my strengths are that i can think out of the box, have a strong visual eye and creative perspective, and am flexible, able to adapt and change and run with it, whatever “it” is. i might have issues with maintaining strict order (or, uh, following it), but i can solve problems and come up with creative solutions. if my weaknesses are others’ strengths, then my strengths are others’ weaknesses.

and that is crucial, i believe, and that is where i’ll always argue against the idea that there is one “right” or “best” way to be. there are many “right” and “best” ways to be, and there are so many ways that we all contribute to society. we can’t all be hyperactive “doers,” just like we can’t all be corporate ladder climbers or artists or stay-at-home parents. we can’t all be planners, and we can’t all be accountants, and we can’t all be musicians.

however, we all need each other for society to thrive, and we need to respect that we are all different, that we have different needs, that we have different ways of hustling and struggling and persevering — and i’m feeling kind of blah about this post so far because i feel kind of preachy, but i don’t know — this has been sitting on my chest, and i wanted to get it off.

in seattle, we eat really great sushi.

a few random things, then, i suppose:

i like staying at the w because i like that their toiletries are sourced from bliss. i love the smell of bliss products, how clean and not cloying the scent is, and i love the quality (except for the conditioning rinse; that does nothing for my hair) — but, more than that, i like that i can sample bliss products because, body butter withstanding, i still can’t commit to purchasing any of them.

i always hate that hotels give you bars of soap, though. who uses a whole bar of soap? unless it’s during a super extended stay? it feels like such a waste. can you recycle soap?

seattle is supposed to be a coffee town, but i don’t drink a single cup of seattle coffee there. or maybe i do — i’m not sure where little oddfellows in the elliott bay book company sources its beans from, but i don’t go to any “iconic” seattle coffee shops, nor do i try any of their roasters, nor do i have any coffee that blows me away.

part of that is time and laziness. part of that is also that i’m still thinking about the beans i brought back from reykjavik and wishing i could find those again … those were damn good beans.

next time i go to seattle, i’ll drink more coffee.

i think it’s adorable how frequently animals seem to factor into the names of eateries in seattle. you’ve got the fat hen, the wandering goose, general porpoise, the walrus and the carpenter, etcetera etcetera etcetera. i love it.

going back to self-care, though — i’m still working on it. i’m still working on figuring out what it looks like — and, specifically, what it looks like for me. i’ve figured out a few things, like, that learning to be kind to myself is learning to be okay with myself, to remind myself that, hey, i’m okay right now as i am, flaws and all. that taking care of myself means listening to my body, my brain, and knowing when to take an easy day and when to be more ambitious. that self-care ultimately means balance; it means trial and error; and it means having bad days and having good days and not attaching more to either than necessary. a good day is a good day, and a bad day is a bad day, but they are all days to get through, to survive, and that is what we strive to do — to get through, to survive, and, hopefully, to thrive.