Tag Archives: caroline knapp

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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Control

The other day I had a thought spiral about whether I will ever date a man. I felt frustrated, wondering what I had done in my past life (e.g., vote for Ronald Reagan) to deserve my attraction to men, while simmering in the injustice of not having met a man who interests me. When I slowed down and named these thoughts and feelings, I realized: wait a second, I literally don’t care about dating a man. I would be 100% happy if someone told me right now that I will never meet a man I want to date, or if I’d meet this person in ten years, or five. I recognized then that my angst came less from a lack of romance and more so from a lack of control about when and how this person may emerge or not.

A few days ago, I got a text from my bio mom that reminded me of where some of my control issues come from. Continue reading

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Queer Asian Confidence

Sometimes I struggle to honor my strengths. I have pretty high self-compassion and self-esteem, I just don’t like acknowledging what I’m good at. For example, I’m starting my fourth year of training as a psychologist. In my most recent therapy evaluation, my supervisor commended my “ability to connect with clients and make them feel safe with [me].” She also wrote that I have “an intuitive approach that is bolstered by [a] strong theoretical orientation… influenced by a multicultural lens, feminist therapy, ACT and CBT, and interpersonal process,” as well as an openness and genuineness that helps clients feel connected to me. Though I recognize my clients’ growth, I still think: am I actually good at this?

Even though I can grow in honoring my strengths, I like my modesty a lot. I think it stems from Asian values of humility, as well as not wanting to be like other men who have an inflated sense of their abilities. Instead of searching for the spotlight, I can spend more time honing my empathy, social justice advocacy, and mentoring. Still, internalizing modesty to an extreme may have its downsides. My supervisor also wrote in her evaluation, “I think Thomas is always a bit surprised at the progress of his clients, as he sometimes doubts that he is a good, actually excellent, therapist. I encourage his humility, but also think he would benefit from receiving the fact that he is very skilled and capable.”

Upon reflecting about my supervisor’s comments for the past several weeks, I feel like a lot of my hesitancy to own my strengths stems from my queer Asian male identity. Continue reading

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More Good News

In my six-year doctoral program, our last year consists of a year-long internship in which we provide therapy full time. The process to determine which site we will conduct our internship at works kinda like the med school residency application process. We apply to different sites, they extend interview offers, and after we interview, they rank us and we rank them. Every year, on “match day,” my doctoral program directors send an email to the entire program detailing which students matched at which sites. Everyone shares their congratulations. It feels wholesome.

This year, a faculty member sent an additional email to everyone in the program with the subject line “More good news on an already fine day for our interns…” In the email, this faculty member shared how one of his former students recently had his second child. Attached to the photos were pictures of this student and his children.

While I felt positive about this news – I really like this former student, because he’s into social justice in a quiet way where he walks the walk about it without showing off – I also felt a little perturbed at the arbitrariness of this email. Like, are we all so into the heteronormative nuclear family that we think “more good news” consists solely of sharing pictures of students who have children with their spouses? I don’t feel turned off by celebrating someone having kids, though I do think we can widen what constitutes good news: how about the grad student of color who’s fought through imposter syndrome that stemmed from racism in academia? How about the grad student who’s learned how to feel happiness on their own and their chosen communities, outside of a romantic partner? How about the grad student who enjoyed their Friday night watching Itzy music videos no, these are all not just slowly morphing into descriptions of me?

Because I’m super into sharing about how I cultivate a fulfilled life outside of romance and the heteronormative nuclear family – even though I may want a child of my own someday – I want to share about my iconic weekend. Continue reading

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The Men in 3019

“The guy for me doesn’t exist,” I told my therapist during one of our Tuesday morning sessions. “I’ve been alive for 24 years and not one guy has sustained my interest, so he just doesn’t exist.”

“So many of the men in your life have disappointed you,” she said. “It must feel really disappointing.”

Um, yeah, I thought to myself. All the men in my life besides like, my iconic former therapist, one mentor, an ex-friend, and my author crush Adam Haslett though I don’t actually know him so he could be garb-

“You are 24 though,” she said. “That’s pretty young. Maybe it’ll take time.”

“Yeah, like maybe if I existed in 3019 instead of 2019.” I leaned forward on her couch. “Like in 3019, maybe as a society we will have conquered toxic masculinity and men would actually be worth dating. I mean, we’ll probably all be dead because of climate change, but dead in like, a potentially non-toxically-masculine and emotionally intelligent way. Like in 3019, maybe men-” Continue reading

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A Love Letter to My Favorite Dead Writer, Caroline Knapp

Dear Caroline,

Your memoir Appetites saved my life. I first read it four years ago, at 18, the summer after my freshman year of college. You see, I had anorexia too, several years ago in my early adolescence. I starved myself for many of the same reasons you did. I wanted control over my life and didn’t have it, so I starved. I wanted to erase all the emotions I felt but I couldn’t, so I starved. I learned from my mother and the media and so many other sources that I could and should change my body, so I starved.

But I didn’t truly understand why I starved until I read Appetites. Continue reading

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Goodbye, to a Life Long Friendship

How do you deal with a long-distance friendship? I ask because one of my closest friends, A, moved away from the DC area about three months ago. Though we still text almost every day and FaceTime about once a week, I still feel sad. As I write this, I sit alone in my apartment’s living room space with all the lights on, covered in a semi-thick blanket, though I wish I were sitting a few feet across from her on her old apartment’s worn-down yet comfy grey couch. I am mourning: remembering the closeness we once had and confronting my life where I still have it in some ways, yet in other ways, no longer.

A and I met when I moved to the DC area for graduate school in August 2017. Continue reading

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Grief Lessons

I did not expect my grandmother’s death in December to bring so much of the pain from my past losses back to life. On a lot of days, my grief spills over into other parts of my heart, reawakening the devastation I felt from the loss of L, the therapist I stopped seeing last May, as well as the sadness of missing my close friends and mentors from undergrad.  I always knew that grief would take me on a curving, misery-laden path – no linear progressions, no easy fixes, no strong emotions that just fade into weaker ones over time – but you still feel heartbreak even if you prepare for it. Continue reading

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A Joyous Life, Without Romance

A few months ago, I got breakfast with two friends in one of our college’s cozy cafes. We had not hung out all semester, so I enjoyed catching up, until the topic turned to relationships and one of them said, “Thomas, I don’t know why you don’t have, like, three boyfriends, especially because you’re so caring and funny and smart. Why are you even single?” Continue reading

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