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 →
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.
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 →
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 →
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 →
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.
I feel at peace with myself and enjoy my life a lot nowadays, which struck me as a bit odd the other day. Part of that odd feeling I think stems from themes I have noticed crop up consistently in fiction about gay men’s lives: persistent self-loathing and engaging in unhealthy relationships. Some popular titles that include these themes includeCall Me by Your Name by André Aciman, Real Life by Brandon Taylor, and Memorial by Bryan Washington. The queer protagonists of these novels possess deep insecurities, date men who mistreat them, and lack self-awareness about their intrapersonal and interpersonal patterns.
I am not suggesting that these stories are unimportant or that artists should only portray happy, healthy queer men in their work. Gay men – especially gay men with additional marginalized identities related to race, fatness, femininity, and more – go through a lot of oppression and it’s important to capture that oppression and its effects. I acknowledge the power and compassion of honoring people’s pain without trying to force them into healing or more positive emotional states right away. Especially in light of the AIDS crisis in the United States and how the government’s mishandling of that situation killed many queer artists and queer people in general, I feel grateful for the presence of queer art and how that art exists in a heteronormative world.
At the same time, I feel annoyed when these stories about queer pain receive the most publicity or popularity compared to art that promotes queer joy and healing. Continue reading →
In my pre-teen years, I gained a somewhat large internet following through writing Naruto fanfiction on fanfiction.net. While I always wrote stories that occurred within the original Naruto series, other writers created narratives that occurred in alternative universes, or AUs, like if the characters went to modern-day high schools or worked in modern-day bars or nightclubs. This past week, I reflected on an alternate universe in which my situationship with my former crush, AWLOB, played out differently. Continue reading →
A few weeks ago, I judged myself for my former crush on AWLOB (attractive writer labor organizer boy), the queer Asian organizer I pined for from December 2018 to mid-June 2020. Long story short, he messaged me through this blog, we began an intense email conversation, then started and stopped that convo as he broke up with his boyfriend of five years (December 2018), told me he felt attracted to me (January 2019), then began seeing other guys even before getting over his boyfriend (apparently throughout 2019 to 2020). I ended my desire for him in June 2020 after I sent him a pretty mean email about how he hurt my feelings.
Over the past few weeks, I have thought to myself, Thomas, how the heck did you not know this guy was garbage from the beginning?Continue reading →
Over the past month or so I thought about whether I should change my red hair back to black, or even to a tamer brown. In the next couple of years, I will apply for my psychology predoctoral internship as well as for a faculty position or postdoc. Because of white supremacist professionalism, I figured I may want to play it safe and revert to a more common hair color. Then, BlackPink’s “Lovesick Girls” came out and Rosé wrecked me as well as everyone else on this planet with her fabulous pink hair. Upon witnessing her gorgeous emotive performance in the “Lovesick Girls” music video, I thought to myself, oh, I have to go pink now. I chose to color my hair pink because pink represents my commitment to accepting and loving myself as a femme queer Vietnamese American who survived an eating disorder and PTSD, who does not care about fitting into white supremacist and patriarchal societal standards.
My journey of self-love and self-acceptance started with my grandmother. Continue reading →