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
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
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
I grew up in a household with constant conflict. My mother yelled at everyone for the smallest infringements, ranging from my brother for looking at her the “wrong” way to me for walking with too much bounce in my step to my father for wearing a t-shirt outside instead of covering his psoriasis-affected skin. I remember sitting in the basement listening to every creak of the floorboards upstairs, to see if I could sneak into the kitchen to get some orange juice to drink without having to see her and risk her wrath.
Now, I live in an apartment on the basement level where no one screams at me. My life feels conflict free. Though I do love me some drama and gossip, I wanted to write a blog post to celebrate this quiet period of contentment in my twenties, because as writers we tend to gravitate toward the bad stuff, the pain and the conflict and all of that. I want to capture this time of great self-love and love of friends and love of community, so I and others can look back on it when
I write blog posts about my future crushes inevitably disappointing me I grow older.
I saw this tweet on my timeline the other day and I thought, like, relatable. Except I am a therapist, and I’m working toward the idea of going toward what gives me pleasure (e.g., stability in the face of a white supremacist patriarchal society).
I feel like writing a list exudes an air of not caring enough to invest the energy into not writing a list and writing in paragraphs instead. But, I subjected myself to a Hemingway seminar in undergrad so now I get to do whatever I want after surviving that misogynist homophobic dumpster fire’s writing. So now, a list of some great life things in this period of stability, contentment, and happiness: Continue reading
I turned 24 today, huzzah! In some ways it feels surreal that I have spent 24 years on this earth reading books, obsessing over pop stars, and over-disclosing about my life on the internet. Though this year has had its share of downs, ranging from encountering aversive racism in my professional life to falling for an emotionally unavailable man on the internet, it has also contained several ups. On the whole, who knew that the weird, not-so-socially-conscious high school kid who started this blog would transform into a
similarly weird, similarly extra red-haired therapist icon who went to therapy himself and figured out his life and worked through his trauma?
To celebrate 24, I wanted to write a list of 24 things, people, etc. I feel grateful for. Continue reading
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
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