I Am Broken

white flagI am broken.  After a really shitty week, I give up.  Many of  my friends have bolstered my spirits (and a big thank you to you all), but the lingering sadness, pain, anger, and hopelessness have persisted.

I am vulnerable with no defense to the attacks that seemingly come from all side.  Of course, I am hypersensitive to them right now, but they are definitely there.  People blithely assuming that there way of life is the right way, the correct way, the mature way, the only way, the agreed-upon way.  Again and again, I am on the outside looking.  I have to either shut up and let the speaker assume that I am in agreement or speak up and be the troublemaker.

I am so tired.  My heart is heavy with all the added burden.  I alternate between being  absolutely numb and having tears stream down my face as if they will never end.

I have given up one path after the other in my life.  I have little personal regret over most of them, but they have caused me no end of grief when dealing with other people.  For example, not getting married and not having children.  To some extent, I would add my decision not to seek out a longterm monogamous relationship to the list.  These are all the accepted societal norm.  Indeed, as a woman, it is supposed to be my ultimate goal to get married and have children (so speaketh my mother, on the latter at least).   My decision not to have children was the easiest decision I have ever made in my life.  Just as some people know they want kids, I knew I didn’t want them.  Marriage was a little more difficult, but I eventually realized that for a variety of reasons (yes, including political), it wasn’t for me.

I didn’t go out of my way to bring up these issues, but they are not easy to avoid especailly for a woman.  Most of the skeptisim I faced as a young woman for my decision not to have children has faded as biology triumphs over social mores, but I still feel the sting bitterly.  It was an early reminder that besides my race, there are several things that set me apart from the rest of society.

Now.  Throw in the rest of my shit (bi, tats, total lack of appreciation for current pop culture, agnostic viewpoint, etc.), and I feel alienated even among the funky fresh cool people.  Take, for example, Quentin Tarantino.  He is considered this cool, hep, edgy director.  He’s won raves for his movies ranging from Reservoir Dogs to Pulp Fiction to Kill Bill.  I recently listened to a twenty-minute discussion (by really fucking cool people) over whether his newest movie, Inglourious Basterds is brilliant or merely really good.  Is Pulp Fiction his best film, or Reservoir Dogs?  I mentioned briefly that I hated Pulp Fiction, but I didn’t elaborate because I didn’t want to break into the Tarantino lovefest that was developing.  I never saw Pulp Fiction in the theaters because I knew I would hate it.  I only did, years later, because the guy I was dating thought it was a brilliant film and was convinced that I would love it.  then again, he also thought I would love Titanic, so fuck him.   Oh, and he dumped me after I told him why I didn’t like Pulp Fiction.  He said that he couldn’t be with someone who had my worldview.

I hated Pulp Fiction.  It’s on my list of the worst movies I’ve ever seen (with the addendum being of movies that were really hyped and not purely bad movies).  I thought it was pretentious, completely artificial, way too smugly impressed with itself, and just–bad.  I wasn’t shocked; I wasn’t floored; I wasn’t amazed; I was pretty much disgusted with the movie.  My list for worst supposedly-best movies includes (in no particular order):

  1. Pulp Fiction
  2. Star Wars (the original one)
  3. Amelie
  4. Being John Malkovich (I really liked it until the last ten minutes, and then it freaked me out, and I hated it)
  5. Titanic
  6. The English Patient (except for the hotness that is Naveen Andrews)
  7. Leaving Las Vegas
  8. Donnie Darko
  9. The Matrix (again, I enjoyed the movie up until the very end in which it gave in to the biggest movie cliche ever and therefore betrayed its very premise)

Music I don’t care for at all (who are icons):

  1. The Rolling Stones
  2. The Beatles
  3. Zepplin
  4. The Who
  5. Elvis Presley
  6. Bob Dylan
  7. Oasis

TV shows I don’t like or have no interest in (again, considered iconic or at least insanely popular):

  1. Seinfeld
  2. M*A*S*H
  3. Sopranos
  4. 24
  5. Dallas
  6. Monty Python’s Flying Circus
  7. The Simpsons
  8. Sex and the City
  9. The Office
  10. Lost
  11. Desperate Housewives

Granted, not being into pop culture is not a life or death situation, nor does it affect my daily life.  However, it does limit the conversations to which I can contribute.  I can’t even pretend to like most of the stuff in pop culture because that would mean actually having to watch/listen to/read the crap.  Lonely in a crowd, as it were.  It was a relief to find out my best friend hated Pulp Fiction as did another good friend of mine.  I felt a tad less alone.

This week, I have just been hit hard with how “unacceptable” my viewpoint is on everything ranging from marriage to abortion to fucking Quentin Tarantino.  I spent much of my life trying to muzzle my true self, and I ended up in a severe depression.  Recently, I started cautiously letting the real me out only to have to deal, once again, with being a fucking freak.  The problem is, when one (and by one, I mean me) has the nonconventional view, it is assumed that I arrived to that point out of a deficiency or a weakness.  I’m in denial about how wonderful a lifetime relationship can be, for example.  I don’t understand how having children is the best thing a woman can do until I actually have them.  I am rationalizing a life I cannot have.

Even if that was true (and it’s not), what makeos people think that they don’t arrive to their conventional ideas out of weakness as well?  When I decided to be with my last longterm, committed (on and off) partner, I did so to prove that I was desirable, that I could be in a relationship, and because I needed someone else to be strong when I felt so weak.  I came to him out of weakness, and it’s no wonder the relationship foundered once I changed–and he didn’t.  Yet, if we had settled down and gotten married, it would have been with the approval of society–an approval that somehow is not marred much any more by divorce.  I could have stayed with him and struggled with a marriage filled more with frustration and longing than with satisfaction and joy.  We could have procreated and been a conventional family (well, mostly), and our day-to-day issues would have been considered normal.  However, since I chose to do something different,  many in society deem me deficient.

It happened when I deliberately decided to read only Asian American female writers my second and third year in college.  People would accuse me of being discriminatory, and I would reply, “Yes.  I am, and I bet I have still read more dead white guys than you have people of color.”  At that time, dead white male writers were still the norm, and it wasn’t considered discriminatory only to have read Faulkner, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Poe, Salinger, Heller, James (Henry), Hawthorne, Vonnegut, London, Steinbeck, Carver, Updike, Lewis (Sinclair), Orwell, Dreiser, Conrad (Joseph), Lawrence (D.H.), Miller (Henry), Roth, Kerouac, Hammett, Burroughs, Twain, Joyce, Kipling, etc.  To be fair, not all of them are dead, but they are all white men.  If you spent all your life only reading from the list above, you would be considered well-read and highly literate.  If you spent your whole life reading Angelou, Law-Yone (Wendy), Wright (Richard), Cisneros (Sandra), Anzaldua (Gloria), Wong (Nellie), Mirikitani (Janice), Sherman (Alexie), Yoshimoto (Banana), Massey (Sujata), Mura (David), Takagi (Akimitsu), Miyabe (Miyuki), Divakaruni (Chitra), Morrison (Toni), Cather (Willa), Hurston (Zora Neale), Lim (Shirley Geok-lin), Kogawa (Joy), Tsukiyama (Gail), etc., then you are being discriminatory.

I am a freak in the literal sense of the word.  From the Cambridge Online Dictionary, we learn that a freak is (as a noun):  a thing, person, animal, or event that is extremely unusual or unlikely and not like any other of its type.  It also means (as an adjective):  very unusual or unexpected.

Ninety percent of the time, I am fine with it.  This week, I am keenly aware of how lonely it is to be a freak.  I am set apart in little ways and in big ones.  I had a very painful event happen this week, and it just underscored that maybe, just maybe, it’s better to keep the real me under wraps.  I am tired of defending myself.  I am tired of being so unconventional.  How much fucking easier it would be if I just sanded away my rough edges and become smooth, bump-free, and blend the fuck in.  My fake-hubby told me to banish the Stepford-Minna because I would be popping the Valium on an hourly basis if I ever did follow the conventional path.  While I agree with him, sometimes, I am desperate enough to make that trade-off.   I will be Stepford-Minna if you would just stop judging me as deficient or weird.  I will be the me you want me to be if it will make this abyss of sadness, despair, hopelessness, and loneliness fade away.

I know it’s just a pipe dream because even if I assumed the trappings of conventionality, I would still be a freak on the inside.  I can’t deny the real me, as much as I want to right now.    I can muzzle her or hide her away, but I cannot kill her–no matter how hard I try.  And believe me, I have tried so very hard over the  years.  I am trying so desperately to be strong, and I am failing utterly.  The confluences of this week have firmly kicked my nonexistent ass.  To the greater society:  I wave the white flag, and I surrender.  You win.  I cannot keep fighting against the tide because I am just one grrl, and I recognize that my resistance is futile.  Not only is it futile–it’s worn down to nothing.   I cannot be who I am not, but it hurts too much to be who I am.  I am broken, and my warranty has expired.  No matter what Kel says, I don’t think any amount of duct tape is going to fix me.

Apocalyptica, a four-cello cover band of Metallica, doing Fade to Black, lyrics here (H/T to Morbo, a commenter at BJ for unleashing the awesomeness that is Apocalytica on me.  I played the cello when I was younger, and it’s my all-time favorite instrument).

P.S.  Of course, I know it’s up to me to ignore and deflect, but I just don’t have it in me right now.

16 Responses to I Am Broken

  1. I’m sorry you’re feeling so down, Minna. None of the above vexes me in the least about you, least of all your not liking Quentin Tarantino.

    Well, that isn’t entirely true — your feeling alienated for being who are bothers me. I may be among the first on this thread to say I like you the way you are, but I predict I won’t be the last.

  2. Maybe that’s why we get along. We do have a lot more in common, except for the tv thing (chung-chung!).

    Of course, it helps that I have a thing for hot Asian women 😉

    That, and I own every Apocalyptica CD.

  3. You and I are more alike than you even realize…although I do like most of the musicians you singled out for your dislike. Except for Elvis and Oasis. I can leave them alone.;)

  4. Sorry this week sucked… Here’s hoping your next week is filled with people who celebrate your differences and don’t condemn you for having a different opinion.

    And in the meantime, thanks for sharing the Apocalyptica music! 🙂

  5. Minna, I wonder if being Asian makes this worse. If memory serves right, I read something ages ago about either Japanese or Chinese kids in school resorting to suicide when they weren’t the norm for some reason, because standing out in some way is contradictory to the culture (which equals “bad”, apparently, much worse than here in the US). Does this thought have any merit? If so, does that make a difference, like, let’s say, because it would put part of the cause of your feelings in the racial heritage corner of yourself?

    As opposed to what the outside world throws our way, what happens inside of us is usually something we can influence. Meaning, IF there’s any merit to the above, you’re NOT entirely stuck with turning up your toes and assimilating yourself to “normal”. Having a choice, you know… it works wonders when you’re needing solutions for a problem.

    If I’m totally off with this, feel free to tell me to shut the hell up 🙂

  6. P.S.: Out of your list of movies, I’ve seen one – Titanic. Liked it ok.
    Out of the list of TV shows, I’ve seen a few episodes of Seinfeld, that’s all. Didn’t like it.
    Of the music list, I know all but the last two, and the former happen to be my kind of music when I can’t have classical something. But I wouldn’t be able to have any kind of conversation about any of the groups or singers.

    Furthermore, I have two failed marriages under my belt along with a lifelong conviction that I don’t want kids. I’m a foreigner, definitely weird, have no contact with any of my family except for my sister, have very few friends, have a zero sexlife and like it that way, and I have a face that’s – quite memorable.

    When you call yourself a freak like that’s a bad thing, I’m self-centered enough to hear that I’m a freak too and that’s a bad thing. You callin’ me a freak, grrl?? Huh, huh???

  7. Gregory, thank you for your ongoing support. It really has helped me tremendously. I know that my real friends don’t give a shit about all that I wrote above, but the more I creep out into the real world, the more I feel overwhelmed by how strange I am. It’s one reason I kept my world so small for so long.

    Original Jim, heh, yeah. Chung-chung can get on my nerves after awhile. As for the hot Asian woman thing, well, I will cop to the latter two at least. I am duly impressed that you own every Apocalyptica. They fucking rock, and so do you for commenting on this post. Thanks, my friend.

    Cole!, it’s fucking awesome to see you on my blog. I bet spooning with you, Lily, AND Tunchie would really hit the spot! Thanks for the offer. Oh, and thanks for hosting the best political blog, in my opinion. (Balloon Juice for those of you who are not regular readers).

    Cleo of DeNial, yeah, I would say we’re very alike since I siphon your soul on a daily basis. Thank you for being one of my IRL friends. I value you a great deal.

    Alex, yeah, that’s why I’m back on FB (until they kick me off again). I know where to find my peeps (including you). Thank you for your friendship and your mad musical skills. Ha! I knew a group you didn’t! (For a day or two, at least).

    Iratwo, oh, I didn’t even try to fit in at church–which was a Taiwanese church. Yes, I was taught to fit in, but to excel at school. I was supposed to go to college and have a career as something really fucking prestigious, but I was also supposed to be the bestest wife and mother I could be. This was of primary importance. My mom finally gave up on me having kids (this trip), but she’s still pushing for me to get married.

    In addition, my father gave me this sage advice on how to get a boyfriend (I was sixteen before I dated): Never beat a guy in sports; ask a guy to help you with something like changing a flat tire; speak in a higher-pitched voice. I thought about it for a minute and said: If that’s what it takes to get a boyfriend, then I don’t want one.

    Plus, in both cultures, I am fat, outspoken, and just strange. So, yes, I think you are right that being Taiwanese has also shaped my feelings of alienation. I get to be a freak in two cultures! I’m bi-freaky! Um, that didn’t sound right, but you know what I mean.

    No, I am not calling you a freak. I don’t mind being called a freak for the most part because I am unusual and strange. It’s the same reason I embrace queer because I am in so many ways. For the most part, I’m fine with being regarded as odd. It’s just this week was a little too much. Iratwo, thank you for being there (here) for me. I appreciate you very much.

    I appreciate you all.

  8. Minna, I’m a bit late to this, but I want to throw in my support. I can see possible reasons why any of the movies, music, or tv shows you listed could be disliked. One big reason could be the people who love them without analyzing them, and expect everyone else to validate their good taste by agreeing.

    I really like your unconventuality because I really like YOU. You are making some very hard but very honest decisions about your life, and anything I can do to support them I will do. You don’t make rash or reckless decisions about anything big.

    I’m a freak, too, and that helps me empathize. A lot of seemingly ‘freaky’ people I’ve met over the years are simply ‘normal’ people with drug/emotional/psychological problems. You are not one of these people. It’s refreshing and inspiring for me to meet TRUE freaks.

    Still, it can feel very lonely sometimes. But you are not an anomaly to me. I see you as a rare treasure.

  9. I have to tell you that the reason I packed my bags and left the US was that I felt like a freak. I felt like an alien in somebody else’s skin and I had to get out. I finally became comfortable being myself when I put myself in the situation of literally being a foreigner rather than just feeling like one. So instead of “why is she different? Weirdo!” I am “ah, she’s different because she is (shoulders shrugged) we’ll just deal with it!” Then I married a man who is also something of a cultural/societal freak and together we are an island, very few friends who accept us and think we are okay enough to be involved with. They are fascinated by our lifestyle which eschews all things of popular culture, yet afraid of it. We are different, usual, freaks. It only works for us because we found each other, we are a team with our own zip code. And thanks to the internet I have found like-minded souls (or like-souled minds?), like you, Minna, and our group of friends.

    Funny thing, my father advised me not to get married and have kids until I had my PhD and an excellent job just so I could avoid the trap of “housewife with babies”. Ha!

    And almost all of the films, groups and tv shows you list I either didn’t like or refused to see. Monty Python accepted – I grew up on it, freaks that we were in a small town.

    We do love you Minna, and for people like us it is your “freakiness” and not your socially accepted ordinariness that intrigues us, attracts us and makes us not only love you but feel connected to you. Don’t feel down, feel different, feel strong. I love being unusual – it makes me feel stronger and unique. And that is why I love you!

  10. Choolie, it was really good to see you Saturday and talk to you. I know you can relate to the freak factor, and I agree. It’s empowering to meet other freaks who are that way out of a honesty to who they are rather than to chemicals or because they are trying to be freaks. Thank you for being a positive freak role model for me–as a teacher and a friend.

    Jamie, ah, yes, my France-livin’ freakified foodie friend. I admire you for packing up your things and moving to France when you felt out of place in America. I contemplated moving to Canada during the W. regime, but I never actually did it, obviously. What I like about your anecdote about your father is that everyone has a different idea of what a good way of living life. It’s usually not a matter of right or wrong (as I have to keep reminding myself), but what is right for me at this time in my life. As I keep telling myself, “You’re the one who has to live your life, so you better choose something you want to/NEED to do (from the soul).

    “Like-souled minds”. I like it. I’m stealing it. Thank you for being a positive, joyful force in my life and for being such a caring friend.

  11. Guided By Voices has a song called Hot Freaks. L has changed the words: “Hot freaks…this one is better than ever…this one we love for sure.” I am singing her version to/for you! And, you know my patio is always open for cigs, JD, and conversation. I LOVE YOU, YOU, YOU!!!

  12. Beautiful
    Sweet
    Empathetic
    Caring
    Intelligent
    Witty
    Observant
    Strong
    Literate
    Communicative
    Curious
    BALLSY!!
    Aware
    Eloquent
    Amazing
    Verbose
    Wonderful
    Unique
    Talented
    On Point
    Sensitive
    Respectful
    Thoughtful
    Determined
    Loyal
    Brave

    Should I go on?

    I look at everything your FRIENDS have said to you and almost cried. What an amazing outpouring of Love for an amazing woman.
    There is nothing wrong with you Minna. Your differences, some real and some not as rare as you think, are what drew me to you.
    They say water seeks its own level. Look at all the levels you have responding to you. If this is true, if we gravitate to our likeness then I couldn’t be in better fucking company. I am proud to call you my friend.
    You feel other people’s pain and suffering and you, unlike so many others, act.
    I look at my Story People daily. It came with a Story People card, which had a typed label containing your words. That was too nice to throw away even so it is at work on a board above my desk. Everyday my life is enriched knowing I have a friend like you in my life.
    Sometimes I KNOW, Minna is the only one I want to share this with. You draw people to you, maybe you just don’t see it. I actively sought a friendship out with you. I remember sitting there at The Flats Forum wondering if it would invade your world if I sent you an e-mail. I don’t in the least regret doing it.
    Yes it is draining being different.
    Yes it is hard standing out.
    Yes it is painful to feel like your on the outside.

    We all have our down times, but your difference is what drew me to you, the fact that you stood out wasn’t a bad thing. Sometimes you were like the poster in a spot light, your words so loud and powerful and they would resonate in my head like an aural symphony. (sounds kinky huh?) And maybe you’re not as on the outside as you think. Maybe the others are really trying to get in, but just don’t know how to evolve.

    People become fearful of what they don’t understand, threatened by what they can’t control, and resentful of what they can’t be, but I firmly believe you are on the right path in being who you are meant to be. To be anyone other than who you truly are would be a waste of your time, and a lie I know you aren’t willing to live.
    Others may be fucktards, but maybe they just believe the World began 5000 years ago and can’t evolve.

    Gregory, you’re right because I Love Minna just the way she is.
    I am proud to have you as my friend Minna. My path was blessed when I saw Ms. Chow in your face, ranting about queer, LGBT issues with a fierceness that made me want to kiss your cheek and kick some ass!

    Maybe life will never be perfect for those of us who feel so square peg/round hole, but if we learn where to go to recharge ourselves when the rest of the craziness gets to be too much then we can keep pushing.

    Articulate
    Special
    Sincere
    Real
    Great Taste (you said I’m hot.)

    Don’t change for anyone but you and your OWN true desire to do so. It would make me sad.
    I’m posting a song to you at my page. Please come listen.

  13. Kat, you are beautiful to me. You are my soul mate. You are my heart, and you are my friend for life. Love the song, by the way–and I love L’s version even more. Thank you for your unwavering support (and the Jim Beam). Your patio is the first one I always want to visit.

    whabs, you truly are a bright light in my life. Sometimes, you just shine steadily to show me the way. Sometimes, you burn and rage mightily to scour the earth of her impurities. I felt so fucking lucky when you emailed me the first time around because I saw someone who had gone to battle much in the same way I had. You emerged scarred, but stronger than ever. Truly, your spirit has been forged by the fire. Mine, too, and you are right that I can only be me.

    Thank you again to one and all who have responded with so much kindness. I am touched.

  14. I loved Silly Whabbit’s list of your strengths. I would want to add authentic. You are struggling to be who you truly are. As someone who is unique to the point of freakdom (which I hope you claim as a battle cry not a pejorative), you have to have many times that are difficult. I image sometimes you can deal with those difficulties and sometimes you can’t.

    When I lived in Connecticut, I found a Folklore pattern for a Kinsale Cloak. I made it out of heavy slate gray wool. It has a pewter clasp and a gathered hood and it just clears the ground when I wear it. I really like how it turned out, but I found out that I have to be feeling really strong to wear it. I have worn it in public on times other than Halloween but…it stands out. It screams, “I am different.” And sometimes that takes more energy to do than I have.

    You are different. You stand out. And that is wonderful. But sometimes it demands more energy than you have at the time. I can take my cloak off and hide it in the closet, because it is only a small portion of who I am. I guess sometimes you have to go into the closet to recoup your energy so you can continue to be all the wonderful, authentic, freakish person you are. I look forward to when you came out again.

  15. Crystal, you are exactly right in that most times, I am OK to be different. I am working on being proud of it, but that will be slow in coming, I’m sure. Your cloak sounds fabulous. I would love to see a pic of it if you want to post it.

    I hear you about sometimes simply not having the energy. Last week was that week for me, only I am not so good at blending in for many reasons. That’s why, I blogged today about finally shutting the door of conventionality and walking away from it with no regrets.

    Thank you for your very kind words. I appreciate them very much.