My Korean family came over on Mother’s Day for Vietnamese spring rolls (requested by Mother #1, aka my mom) and Chinese chicken salad (requested by Mother #2, aka my sister). The person who had the most enjoyable time was my two-year-old nephew Jinu. It was Jinu’s Day as far as he was concerned, and all my cushions, books and tchotchkes were for him to gleefully throw around. In the midst of all his rough-housing, he carved out some quality one-on-one time with Auntie Helen. I think little boys are also made of sugar and spice and everything nice.
(I skipped March because I was sick, off and on, for the whole month. Blegh.)
Sometimes when sitting in this tiny slice of the world (a slice that feels like such a big deal when it really isn’t), I look at the clouds passing across the sky above and I feel like my life is passing me by in the same fashion. Slow and steady, ever onward. I could grab hold if I wanted. You know, if I had the gumption.
My parents wonder why I can’t get my act together and I think of how I would go about explaining exactly what the problem is. I picture the expression on their faces when I tell them that, even with a decent IQ, education and resources, the feather-weight responsibility of paying the gas bill on time crushes my bones. They would ask more questions and suggest more solutions. My blood would boil, and my insides would get filled up with angry little exclamation points. Even as the jagged ends of the exclamation points were still pumping through my veins, though, I‘d start to feel guilty because I’d know my parents’ confusion and concern were genuine and quite innocent. Then I’d get mad again because I resented the guilt. Then I’d yell in frustration. Then I’d feel even more guilty. This is the circle of life I’m used to.
I would think to myself, this is why you shouldn’t even try.
But then I’d reply to myself, that wasn’t trying. You had a tantrum because they didn’t understand.
They who worked such long hours but stayed up late to help you with your reading comprehension homework in fourth grade because none of you spoke English fluently but at least you were figuring it out together.
They who didn’t understand your entitled American teenager ways but let you have all those clothes and makeup and chose to believe you whenever you told them you had to go to a school-sanctioned extracurricular event.
They who just want to make sure you’re going to be safe and taken care of when they’re gone.
Defeated, I slip out of that imagined scenario. I look back up at the clouds. Big or small, they all move along at the same speed. Slow and steady, ever onward.
My parents fret a lot because having a 39-year-old daughter in America in 2013 is the unknown, and they can’t keep me safe from what they don’t know. I fret a lot too. There is a lot I don’t know.
The constancy of the clouds is comforting today. And, you know, I don’t really feel the need to grab hold of anything, clouds or otherwise. I’m ok with letting them passing me by, for now.
Just a little more off the side than last time, please.
My life in a lot of ways plays out like an ongoing game of truth or dare. I have a tendency to push myself to do things, just to see if I have the guts. It’s a weird tick I can’t shake and has resulted in being on the high school swim team (I humiliated myself at every meet being that I was literally the worst swimmer), swinging into a gorge, jumping out of a plane, flying to Argentina on a whim, shaving off a part of my head, etc. etc. etc. None of these really speaks to my natural inclinations. My idea of bliss is being front of the TV for days in a supine position with snacks that are unnatural in hue and flavor. It’s that stupid tick that just won’t let good enough alone. So on Friday, February 1, at 7pm, I found myself dressed to the nines and being led to my table by the maître d’ at the Michelin-starred restaurant Providence. People stared. I felt sweaty and regretted my choice of four-inch heels. When I got to my table, there was one chair. Right. Party of one. Dare.
The market menu with wine pairing consisted of three amuse-bouches, six dishes, one cheese plate, two desserts and lots of wine with fancy names that I forgot as soon as they were uttered. The whole thing took about three hours to consume. One look at my face and my condition at the end of the feast is pretty obvious.
In the end, I discovered that the outing wasn’t as scary or intimidating as I thought it was going to be (thank you, wine), my stomach isn’t nearly as big as my eyes and I mutter to myself when left alone with nothing but food for three hours. Also, I definitely have an aldehyde dehydrogenase deficiency. Truth.
Last week, my friend Shannon had the most sumptuous bouquet of peonies and other flowers delivered to my house for my birthday. I don’t know if she knew, but peonies are my absolute favorite. Over these past few days, the two peonies in the bouquet opened and unfurled their petals and turned from blushing pink to ivory white. Everyday they look different but still so beautiful as they die an achingly slow and delicate death.
But when the melancholy fit shall fall
Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,
Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
Or on the wealth of globèd peonies;
Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,
Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave,
And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.
She dwells with Beauty—Beauty that must die;
And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips
Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh,
Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips:
Ay, in the very temple of Delight
Veil’d Melancholy has her sovran shrine,
Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue
Can burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine;
His soul shall taste the sadness of her might,
And be among her cloudy trophies hung.
Excerpt from Ode on Melancholy by John Keats
I put on my fat pants this morning. They were tight. Happy birthday to me.
If you ask me how I feel about my birthday, I would say it’s no big deal. A part of me must feel like it’s a big deal, though. I was at a morning networking meeting where no one knew it was my birthday — because, I mean, how would they know it was my birthday? — and I felt oddly disappointed. I ran some errands afterwards and more people kept on not knowing. Of course, friends and family knew, and they made sure to Facebook me, send me texts and sing “Happy Birthday” over the phone. I suppose I have the luxury of thinking it’s no big deal because in my heart of hearts I know the important people will remember.
I can’t tell you how I felt about my birthday last year, or the year before that, but I can tell you that I feel a sense of melancholy this year. I am 39 today, and this is the year I have dubbed my 40 Eve. Getting older doesn’t make me sad. I would not trade the years already lived to go back to any point in time, no matter how fondly I remember it or how much I wish I could change it. What makes me sad is the aloneness. I was never one to approach my life with a premeditated time line but I guess I thought I would be married with kids by now. Maybe I would feel this aloneness even if I had companionship or a family of my own; the walk of life is ultimately a solitary endeavor, after all. But it would be nice if someone else pulled me out of bed in the morning sometimes, decided my birthday should be a big deal and told me I looked nice even if I did have to squeeze myself into my fat pants.
Today, I forced myself out of bed, sat through meetings and appointments incognito as not-birthday girl and drove myself to H&M to find something decent to wear instead of indulging in the solace of draw-string sweatpants. I also treated myself to Fun 39 Hair, even though I wanted to pull a brown paper bag over my Cheeto-eating, beer-swigging face.
In the full spectrum of Fun Hair, what I got today is nothing crazy. It did upset my mother, though, and I think that is a prerequisite for bona fide fun hair. And I wasn’t alone — my sister and one-year-old nephew came by, with my brother-in-law making a last-minute guest appearance. Plus, I was in the trusty hands of the divine Miss Christina Held at Double-O Salon.
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It’s the little things that keep you going sometimes. Happy birthday to me.
The beginning of the year is all gone and I feel like I have nothing to show for it. Since my massive car accident at the end of January, I have been sporadically sick and in bed for a total of three and a half weeks. I’m pretty sure it was just a flu bug I had a hard time getting over but it took a dang long time to get over and friends and family were concerned. Anyway, my sick days were steeped in endless hours of Hulu, Netflix and Bejeweled. There is nothing that makes you feel more like your life is passing you by than getting carpal tunnel from playing too much Bejeweled as you become mummified in the debris of your unwashed and un-groomed self. In other words, I’m a little behind on my sentence-a-day project.
A project like this is bound to bring out insecurities, and I don’t plan to deride myself every time I post a new set of sentences. Still, I’m pretty embarrassed to hit the publish button today.
I knew it was a bad idea even as I said yes. I was never very good at saying no, and apparently that wasn’t going to change any time soon. Internet dates were pretty awkward to begin with, and once things started heading toward an actual date with Kyle, it seemed too mortifying to turn back — the option to stop responding or straight out say that I’ve changed my mind seemed like the action of a braver person. Anyway, it’s just one date. No big deal.
I was always working overtime to convince myself of things.
Even after figuring out the logistics of our date, Kyle wanted to keep me on the phone. He asked me about movies I liked, the food I ate today, my plans for the weekend. I answered each question with deliberate adequacy. It was a very dull game of conversational volley.
His confidence swelled to a delicate crescendo as our conversation droned on. He told me a story about the days of his wild and reckless youth. He assured me that I had nothing to worry about. Those days were behind him and he was ready for love. Ready for someone like me. I regretted everything all over again but still, even then, my instant cowardice told me I had to hang on.
I explained I had a long day tomorrow.
Oh ok, he said.
So, what kind of books do you read?
I felt my face overheating and my head start to throb.
You need to push the eject button, I told myself.
You should’ve done it before, you sad little mouse, but you really have to do it now.
He just equated you with love and if you’re scared to reject him now, imagine how it’s gonna be later.
I felt sick. After everything, I not only had to disappoint him, I had to do it while he and I both stared at the reflection of my pathetic cowardice. I really, really regretted everything then: saying yes to a date, responding to Kyle’s private message, having a profile on a dating site, wanting romance, feeling lonely. I should have stuck it out with lonely. I had been just fine with lonely.