I’m Real

The other day one of my best friends found out that if you google my full name and the word “blog,” this blog shows up as the first search result. When she messaged me this, I freaked out a little bit. Though I feel confident and secure in myself and in what I share on this blog, I still got shaken up by the notion of someone within my “professional” circle stumbling upon these posts especially my posts that involve strikethroughs and mentions of railings, anyway.

When I sat down and started to process my slight fear, I recognized that I felt concerned about people judging my competencies as an academic based on this blog. Continue reading

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You Look So F*cking Good

As a former anorexic, on rare occasion I struggle to figure out what I look like. While 9.87 times out of 10 I could not care less about my appearance, I sometimes feel the urge to figure out and then control my physique especially when life gets stressful. On a trip to Boston a few weeks ago, my non-severe body dysmorphia manifested in interactions like these on one of the gayest apps to ever exist, Grindr Continue reading

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Silver

Last week I went to my local hair salon and got my roots done. The process involves several steps. My stylist: applies a scalp protecting fluid all over my head, paints my roots with bleach in meticulous detail, washes out the bleach, heals my hair with restorative shampoos and conditioners, and finishes by applying toner to get the color just right. After almost getting my hair burned off with my old stylist in early April 2021, I appreciate my current stylist’s level of skill and attention to detail, especially given the difficulty of turning my natural black hair to light blonde in one sitting.

When I went home following my appointment last week, I looked at the mirror after my hair had dried and saw silver. Continue reading

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Safety

Several years ago, I judged one of my two best friends because she worked in marketing. She and I met through a part-time job we shared in undergrad, and we bonded over our enjoyment of writing and our shared Vietnamese ethnicity. During undergrad, we did not talk much outside of work, and we did not grow into best friends until a few years after we both graduated. We had different social circles back then, with hers including a boyfriend of several years. I also used to evaluate people more based on their jobs, and I thought more highly of people whose professions directly involved helping others or promoting social justice.

Our friendship intensified beginning in late 2018 to early 2019. This best friend and I love ourselves no matter what any man thinks of us, which introduces an element of irony because men helped bring us closer together. At that time, I found myself in a situationship with an academically successful, artistic, emotionally unavailable Asian man. She was in the midst of navigating a situationship with an exciting, chaotic, and uncommunicative man who shared her sense of humor. We texted each other support about these men; even now, we laugh about how she texted me while holding her phone underneath a boardroom table during an important meeting to roast the guy I found myself attracted to back then.

In May 2019, I took a risk with our friendship. Continue reading

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The New Era

A few nights ago, I had a dream in which I laughed with my old therapist, L. I laughed with him about my messy situationships with men and the mediocre dates I’ve went on since we last saw each other back in 2017. When I woke up, I reached over and wrote about the dream on the piece of paper I keep atop my bedside drawer. I felt gratitude and nostalgia both for L and for my current therapist, who I may stop seeing if I move in 2022 for the final year of my PhD program.

This dream made sense because L acted as one of the first people I ever talked to about more seriously dating men. Continue reading

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My Asian Father

A week and a half ago, I got an email from my father that contained 17 full sentences. I counted; my father has never said that many words to me in the span of one conversation throughout my entire life. The email evoked a lot of emotions: gratitude for the care he expressed, sadness at the struggles he experienced and how they affected our relationship, and annoyance that I had to email him first for him to send me this information.

I developed a sense of my father’s personality early on in my life: hard-working, intelligent, and a free thinker. Continue reading

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Are You There Stomach? It’s Me, Thomas

Sometimes I lift my shirt up in front of the mirror and sigh because I have a stomach. I could make this go away pretty easily, I think to myself, after I suck my fat in and my torso turns flat. A plan comes to mind: cut out dinner, eat only yogurt for breakfast and salad for lunch, and treat myself to potato chips and a soda on the occasional weekend. The regime feels familiar, because I implemented it often back in my early teen years.

At that time in my life, my mom yelled at me for hours almost every day, a doctor once told me I could stand to lose a few pounds, and a Korean girl I had talked to for weeks over AIM called me ugly when I finally sent her a photo of myself. Continue reading

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Michael and Julian

Sometimes I worry about how much I write about men on this blog. Omg, I think to myself, Do my negative two readers imagine me as a Gaysian who sits in their apartment, stares at the wall for hours on end, waiting for a man of color to rail them as Blackpink plays in the background? When I let myself feel this concern for a bit, I recognize that what my readers think of me matters less to me than what I think of myself: can I practice self-kindness about my attraction to men?

“If my attraction to men were a flower,” I told my therapist in our most recent session, “I feel like I’d either want it to bloom fully, or I’d want it not to exist. Like I’d either want to date a guy or just not be attracted to men at all.”

“Let’s run with this analogy,” my therapist said, her voice challenging yet warm. “I feel like you’ve been doing a really nice job of nurturing the flower.”

She may have been referring to how I have gone on four dates with three different cute Asian guys within the past month. Continue reading

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Picture This

This past Tuesday afternoon I talked with my therapist about my elongated struggle with men. I told her about how that morning, I spent around half an hour investigating when Caroline Knapp, one of my favorite writers, met the romantic partner she later married, Mark Morelli. I used my millennial/Gen Z cusp internet sleuthing skills and pulled up several articles about her, such as one about when she and Morelli went to couples therapy together and another that shared that she got sober at 36.

“I figured out that she met him in her early 30’s,” I said. “Which is kind of helpful but kind of not because if I do want to date a man, which is questionable, I want him now.”

“There’s a sense of urgency here,” my therapist said. We had stopped wearing masks at this point, both of us vaccinated and sitting at least six feet apart, so I could see her smile. “I wonder if you can think of this like growing a garden.”

Omg, she’s about to solve all of my mental health problems with florals, I thought to myself. Continue reading

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Reasons to Live

content warning: explicit writing about passive suicidal ideation

I thought about killing myself* for the first time in a while earlier this June. I did not have any active plan or means to do so. At the same time, I felt a lot of pain related to my attraction to men and wanted that pain to stop.

When I noticed these emotions, I googled a DBT worksheet about the pros and cons of engaging in self-destructive behavior and filled it out on a piece of paper I found lying around in my apartment. Continue reading

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