Over the past two weeks I finished rewatching Fleabag, a show I first saw in 2019. This time around – thanks to years of therapy, I think – I see a lot more of myself in the character Claire, the protagonist’s sister. Claire is caring, though also uptight and perfectionistic and rather rigid. In a scene in episode three of season one, Claire tells her sister “it’s a 7pm arrival for a 7:30 surprise,” referring to her own surprise birthday party.
When I heard that line this time around, I thought ooooooh yep that’s me. I joke though not joke with my friends that for me, submitting something on time means submitting it at least one month early. I plan every hour of every day, I almost never cancel any of my commitments, and I almost always do exactly what I say I will do. When I talked about this with my therapist C, the queer woman I saw when I lived around D.C., she once asked me, “what do you do with your unstructured time?” I just looked at her, like, what do you mean by that?
At one point the main character of the show, Fleabag, provokes Claire by asking her why she doesn’t do what she wants, and Claire says something to the effect of, because I have to take care of my weird stepson and my broken sister. The level of responsibility in Claire’s line resonated with me. Growing up in my messed up household, I looked around and thought, I will be the one who gets out of this, I will be the one who practices compassion and healthy communication, I will do something with my life that actually helps people. I’m not saying that I always was a compassionate person or am a compassionate person in every moment, rather, I share this to highlight that I still feel the pressure to have my life together because I grew up in an environment where almost no one else held it together for me.
I think being a queer Asian man intensifies my rigidity and perfectionism at times. I have seen so many stereotypes and portrayals of queer Asian men as disempowered and obsessed with white men. Though I have met a couple of rad queer Asian men colleagues, I have also met a lot of real yikes queer Asian men in my personal life – the one who told me that I’d eventually settle for a man and who he himself got engaged to a mediocre white man who literally cannot hold a conversation, the one who told me that he is only attracted to more masculine lighter-skinned Asian men, the one who entered a polyamorous relationship and then broke up with both of his romantic partners and then told me he’d improve himself and never did. I feel pressure to transcend all of that mess: I want to feel confident, self-aware, and in control of my destiny.
Be messy, my therapist C once said to me. Yeah, okay, whatever, I would think, though now, I respect and honor her recommendation more. Similar to Claire in Fleabag, I’m learning to sit longer with ambiguity and imperfection. I’m also acknowledging that sitting with ambiguity and imperfection doesn’t mean I have to lower my standards, because no matter what I’m still gonna get things done the way I want to and emit my typically intense yet warm aura.
About a week and a half ago the new K-Pop group NewJeans released their song “Hype Boy” out of nowhere, with no teasers or prerelease advertisement. If you follow me on Twitter you know I’m obsessed with the song. As peculiar as this sounds, sometimes I sit and listen to the song and think, wow, this song is absolutely amazing and I did literally nothing to make it happen. Then I remind myself that, despite what my childhood trauma and control-oriented personality may tell me, I can sit back and enjoy things that I didn’t plan. I can sit back and simply listen.
Are you a planner or not, and what contributes to that? Have you ever revisited media a few years later and gained new or different insight from it? Why is “Hype Boy” literally the best song of 2022 by a margin of 10,000 miles? I’m applying for jobs right now and I’m like, it’s kind of heinous that I, a Gaysian whose father partially abandoned him, have to apply for jobs. Anyway it’s going okay though and I’m still posting on here so yay. Until next post!