Category Archives: Society

I Love Myself, I Love My Friends, I Love My Life Without Romance: Thank You to “Against the Couple Form”

Last weekend, I sat in the Chicago O’Hare airport sipping a Caribbean Passion smoothie from Jamba Juice when a friend sent me the essay “Against the Couple Form.” I opened it, expecting an okay analysis of living life without a romantic partner, but instead, I found one of the most radical, validating pieces of writing in my entire life.

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I care a lot about finding, cultivating, and maintaining love and connection outside of romance, in particular outside of romantic relationships with men. But fighting the patriarchal, heteronormative narrative that I need a man to complete me – the story sold to us by Disney movies, dating apps, and the wedding industrial complex – can feel lonely. It feels lonely when the majority of students in my graduate program and one of my feminist book clubs heavily prioritize romance and/or their romantic partners. It feels lonely when people post about their weddings and engagements and no one comments or adds a disclaimer about the problematic origins and implications of marriage. It feels lonely when people view my anger about the over prioritization of romance as a symptom of some unresolved internal pathology, as opposed to a justified emotion that acts as a reaction against the oppression of femmes, women, and all those who want to thrive outside of an antiquated social more.

But when my friend sent me the essay “Against the Couple Form,” I felt so validated and happy. Continue reading

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Thomas Practices Self-Care in the Face of Anorexic Thoughts and Watches a Glorious Movie, Girlhood

Sometimes I act a little dramatic. Earlier this week, after an eyeroll-worthy email exchange, I stopped harboring feelings for the crush I held onto for the past eight months. Afterward, I thought well, if this seemingly beautiful well-read social justice-oriented hunk of a man turned out to be awful and an emotionally stunted communicator, I will literally never ever trust or date a man on this planet. On top of that update, one of my good friends, who I still care about and respect, has started prioritizing her boyfriend in her life, and I thought well, if this is happening to a person who identifies as a feminist and used to rant with me about people who over-prioritize their boyfriends, I might as well never make new friends because they’ll all eventually prioritize their boyfriends. For a day or two I felt the urge to stop eating. I thought to myself, hm, if I cannot control the quality of men that exist in a patriarchal society and I cannot control the prioritization of men and romance in a patriarchal society, then I might as well control the prominence of my ribcage. I literally felt my heart freeze up, like someone sprayed an icy mist into my chest and made my insides all cold and untrusting.

But after feeling my feelings while playing tennis at 7:30 this morning and then waiting for my tuberculosis screening in a nearby CVS, I thought to myself, wait a f-ing second, this is not who I am, I am not a fundamentally cold and untrusting person. As I guzzled a Blue Machine Naked Juice while in line at the CVS and then an Orange Fanta in my apartment, I thought I’m Thomas, who values warmth, vulnerability, and over-disclosing about my personal life on the internet, I’m not going to let some random man on the internet and the patriarchy turn me into someone I’m not. Continue reading

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Filed under Movies, Personal, Society

I Will Never Ever Date a Man and Lose Myself: A Manifesto

The other day I had a conversation with a close friend that freaked me out. Whereas in the past this friend and I used to bond over our shared feminist singleness in the patriarchy, this conversation felt more like a defense of settling for mediocre men. While I love this friend, parts of this conversation stressed me out so much I literally opened a Word doc to draft a blog post titled “What If I Date a Man and Sacrifice All My Values and Become a Husk of My Former Self.”

Imagine this: I, a queer red-haired Vietnamese man, recline in an office chair in the guest bedroom of a generous friend. A near-empty glass of orange juice sits on the turquoise desk where I stare at an open Word document, journaling about my anxieties surrounding men and patriarchy. Continue reading

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Thirsty, Angry, Grateful Gay Asian Pride

June marks Pride Month, and as a super emotional human I have a lot of feelings about it! Instead of putting in the effort to create a post with smooth transitions, a strong narrative flow, and a clear central idea, I will sip my Minute Maid Orange Juice, sit on my couch, and split this update into three emotions related to my gayness and Pride as a whole: thirst, anger, and gratitude. Continue reading

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We Broke Up

My close friend Sorrah and I broke up this past week. I wrote about him several months ago, where I described him as one of the few men I ever trusted. Despite how our friendship has ended, I still feel grateful for the time we shared together and all that we meant to each other.

I will always value his way of seeing the world beyond superficial markers of success like awards or prizes, his concern for community, his love for words and breaking down binaries. Continue reading

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Stop Chasing Emotionally Unavailable Men and Create Rules for Healthy Relationships Instead

As a gay man, I learned a lot about unhealthy relationships through consuming queer media. I loved Justin and Brian’s relationship when I watched Queer as Folk in high school, though now I see how Brian’s character acted in abusive ways both toward Justin and his own friends. When I read and watched Call Me by Your Name as an early grad student, I felt repulsed by the relationship dynamics promoted by the narrative, the glorification of a relationship that entailed little to no healthy communication, boundary setting or conflict resolution, or clarity and mutual respect. I suspect that queer narratives may adopt these unhealthy relationship norms from toxic heterosexual/heteronormative relationships. So much media perpetuates the trope that we should chase a romantic flame – especially a man – even if they are emotionally unavailable, do not treat us well, or are outright manipulative or abusive.

I do not spend much time on romance and dating and men. That said, I have found myself within unhealthy relationships and relationship dynamics, ranging from my abusive mother and neglectful father, to the emotionally neglectful male friend I wrote about in an earlier post, to a few crushes I harbored on guys, to even a few former friendships with women. I feel so sad and angry that our society teaches us about valuing our work and careers and pursuing the heteronormative path of marriage and having children, yet it does not teach us much about what an actually healthy relationship looks like, between parent and child, friend and friend, or partner and partner. Since the fall out of my most recent crush, I have thought a lot about what my expectations for myself and others in healthy relationships. They look kinda like this list my therapist gave me several months ago: Continue reading

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Writers are Humans, Thomas, Duh

Sometimes I idealize people. Take for example, my most recent failed crush. When I read his writing, I thought, oh my goodness, this man is perfect, so this is the kinda guy Ariana Grande sung “Everyday” about. I later learned that this guy kinda sucked at in-depth interpersonal communication, or at least that type of communication to me. I had built him up in my head, my foolish, foolish head.

After this man and I stopped talking, I started to freak out about writing and my favorite authors. Wait a second, I thought to myself, if this man came across as such a talented, thoughtful writer yet actually treated me like a molded potato, how can I trust any writer to be a decent human being? As anyone who read this blog knows, I love books with all my heart, so the thought of my favorite authors treating people like dirt made me feel so hurt and gross. Continue reading

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Filed under Books, Personal, Society