may i do sub

I have certain attributes that count as privileges when it comes to getting hired as an English teacher in Taiwan. I am white, female, American, straight, conventionally attractive, etc.

None of my quirks show up until after I’ve been working somewhere for a while and I start realizing that every move is lateral and I am teaching to pay for the lifestyle that is my Sisyphean quest to fill the hole that is never filled by teaching and buying new jackets.

Anyway for some people it’s harder. It sucks for people of color who come from English-speaking countries. You hear horror stories about black people being called dirty, or Asian folks being told they aren’t actually American or otherwise. A white face reassures the parents that they are dealing with a “respectable” foreigner, and is a lot less of a headache for the schools.

So I get hired, but the Korean-American woman does not.

So the white Afrikaners who speak heavily accented English as their second language get hired, but the Nigerians and the Singaporeans do not.

This is gross and awful, that goes without saying, but so is not working, so even if we complain, we rarely quit. We still have rent to pay…

For me, I mostly think anyone who speaks English a couple levels better than the students can teach English. The public-school English teachers here aren’t uniquely qualified to teach English: We all have stories about the weird stuff that our kids have been taught as rules at school. For me,  German guy who speaks English pretty well or a Jamaican woman who is just trying to earn some money for the semester she’s here can definitely teach English. Otherwise, it’s just me saying that one accent is objectively better than another, and somehow it’s my accent, and somehow colonialism and globalization are like accidents of history that have magically worked in my favor.

I don’t give a shit. As long as we can communicate in English, you probably speak English well enough to teach Taiwanese kids for an hour a week.

But sometimes, you need a sub, and you post in one of the big Facebook groups, and somebody sends you a message like

may i do sub

and you just have to say no, sorry, dude, you cannot do sub.

i finally did the thing

i finally did the thing

the thing that i have been low-key worried about for more than a decade

because driving here is dangerous and sometimes terrifying, and because when i get scared i get angry, and when i get angry i lose my temper

and when i am riding a scooter or a bicycle, my temper tantrum involves swearing and distributing “the bird”

yesterday i was riding my bike to school. i was actually feeling pretty good because i’d had a good writing session, i had a nice lunch waiting for me, and i’d gone to the bank and got some stuff done. and here i was about to be well early…

the light was green at the end of the alley so i started pumping my legs because i didn’t want to wait for the red. and i was just hitting the intersection–yeehaw!–when this fucker honked at me. the car behind honked at me and was trying to squeeze out of this narrow alley ahead of me.

i was already feeling like man i better hustle to make this light but i also better be prepared to stop in case it turns red cause i don’t want to be in the middle of the intersection when these cars start moving. so i was already on high-alert, already hustling, and this fucker honks at me. 

where was i supposed to go? all i can do is keep pedaling, and now i feel like i am pedaling for my life because a car is chasing me.

there’s no where to go. that’s driving in taiwan. there’s no bicycle or scooter lanes, or if there are, cars park in them. cars double park. caretakers push old people in wheelchairs alongside the double parked cars. grandmothers on 50cc scooters go slower than me on bicycle. pedestrians dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge their way down the roads because the sidewalks are blocked with parked cars and scooters. there’s no where to go when someone honks.

so i flicked her off. i held up the middle finger of my left hand and took the turn wide because this cunt was making a left, too. this dick was trying to mow me down just to make the light.

and then she turned into my school. it’s just right there. i had finally done what i had been afraid i might do: i flicked off a parent from my school.

i was still so scared and mad though that my first thought was “i am willing to get fired for this.” and “if i go down, i’m going down hard.” so i rolled into the lot right behind her and took it slow, glaring at her the whole time.

i imagined the stupid meeting the administrators would organize, where i would sit and sip tea and pretend to be ashamed of myself and recite a statement prepared for me by my boss and have to listen to them talk about me in chinese like i wasn’t there or couldn’t understand, about how foreigners have a different culture and aren’t used to the driving in taiwan and miss rae is oh so sorry and then they’d dismiss me and everyone would leave with very plastic smiles and giggles and lots of nodding like little bows.

i would literally rather be fired.

i rolled to the back of the school where i keep my bike and got my stuff without hesitating. i was going to own this, and if i had to go down, i wasn’t going to apologize for being furious that somebody else was driving dangerously.

but when i came into the courtyard, there was just a little boy was making his lone way to class. i asked him if his mom drove the gray car and he said yes…

when i got to the table where the other foreign teachers were eating lunch, my hands were still shaking.

i waited for her to come in. i waited for her to call, for my manager to call me into the office. but nothing happened.

best case scenario: she was so oblivious that she didn’t notice that i gave her the middle finger and pulled into the school behind her. this wouldn’t surprise me at all because that’s literally why driving here is so dangerous–people are oblivious.

bestest case scenario: she was so embarrassed that she almost ran over a teacher at her son’s school that she doesn’t want to show her face. she went home to think about what she had done and decided she needs to chill when she’s driving, that sitting at a red light is less of a hassle than manslaughter charges.

insofar as she was a member of my school community, of course i did not want to give her the bird. but insofar as she was a rude and dangerous driver who in that instant valued my safety less than the prospect of having to sit through a 75-second red light, fuck her.

highlights from the conversation with my landlord

my landlord is old and withered-looking but he does tai chi and lives in a third-floor walkup. he’s real nice but he talks like an old dude so i only understand about 45% of what he is saying. he doesn’t do that annoying “niiii haaaaaooooo” shit and he never tries talking louder or slower, he just repeats himself like maybe if he says whatever he wants me to understand enough times, then it’ll stir up some dormant memory of chinese i learned in a past life and then i’ll be able to do more than look at my non-chinese-speaking husband if he knows what’s going on

here are the highlights from our conversation this morning, initiated because we want to extend our lease but also there’s a leak in the living room:

we showed him where the water is leaking through the carpet on our ceilings (our place has loads of personality) and he said he’d get someone to come take a look at it

i thought he was saying that we were wasting electricity and i wanted to be like “you are so right” and i was working up my “i’m gonna do some soul-searching” face but it turns out he just wants to get us hooked up with some solar power source of electricity cause that’ll conserve some electricity and be safer for us (than our gas water heater and gas stove)

i learned how to say solar power in chinese

we asked him to change the drape rails cause the little plastic riders are so old they’ve gotten brittle and break off when you touch them. he said he is willing to install and pay for some kind of covering for our big sliding glass doors at the front but he thinks a giant roller shade is the way to go. like he was really selling it because that’s what he has in his apartment–he even took us downstairs to show us his giant, ugly roller shade. i was on the fence when i thought he was talking about horizontal blinds and partly because i didn’t think horizontal blinds came in that size, but no, uh uh, i do not want a 10-foot wide white hospital screen between me and what is actually a nice view when the sun isn’t three feet away from our front windows. i suggested vertical blinds instead; he said he wasn’t sure if they exist but he’d ask the contractor.

if we’re willing, he’ll have the contractor come while we’re on holiday to fix up the roof and install the solar power apparatus

there was a pause and the landlord filled that pause with a pretty lengthy fart and then the pause was extended because jeremy and i couldn’t laugh, couldn’t look at each other, couldn’t talk

he thought the abstract painting i bought at the thrift store for like NT$250 was a picasso. like he went from keeping back, standing in the doorway of the master bedroom to like almost crawling up on the bed. he asked if he we had money to buy a picasso. i am not sure if he really understood that it was a cheap print because he got very animated.

some people in the neighborhood were talking about us because %$#&@&t^#g^%#, but he told them it was just our culture. anyway he knows it’s very difficult to carry my bike up five flights of stairs. i didn’t ask him to go into more detail because i like living here and i don’t want to worry about what the neighbors i never talk to might be saying about us.

(his wife told me i could leave my bike in the weird basementy area of our apartment…okay first of all there are two flights of stairs that go down but there’s no basement, just a bunch of a trash in a cave under the first floor landing. she told me i could keep my bike on the stairs and i did once but i was like low-key worried about it not being there when i woke up which is irrational because this is taiwan, and then when i went downstairs it was there but the whole cave area is dark and dirty and full of trash and you can tell that IT definitely hangs out there on like tuesdays when there’s nothing left to watch on netflix so fuck that, i will continue to carry my bike down and back up to the fifth floor every day)

he wants us to be comfortable in our place. he’ll be in touch when he lines up a contractor.


WHAT ARE THE NEIGHBORS SAYING ABOUT US?!

we don’t even do anything most of the time, just go to work and go home, sometimes i go for a walk in the mornings and sometimes we bring home takeout. we’ve had two christmas parties at christmas time. we take out the trash every saturday. what could they possibly have to say about us?!

IF YOU WATCH EVERYTHING I DO YOU ARE A FAN

lady of the flies

so EVERYONE is very upset that there is going to be a remake of the lord of the flies movie with an all-girl cast

i have never seen the lord of the flies movie. that doesn’t even sound like something i would want to see.

how can we make this book that is widely assigned in high-school english classes even better? let’s make a movie!

i read the lord of the flies in ninth grade, and then in tenth grade i watched the mission for a religion class, and by the end of the movie i was literally telling my teacher that i thought i needed jesus, and i cited that book and that movie as arguments in support of my conclusion

but what i remember from it now is like…boys…fruit…samneric…piggy…some boys were mean…they tried to kill a pig for meat….and sodomized either piggy or the actual pig. and then classroom conversations about the decent into anarchy, civilization as a force to constrain our baser impulses, etc.

i do not remember talking about toxic masculinity, though in hindsight i think that would have been appropriate.

anyway i don’t feel prepared to jump into these public conversations about a remake of the lord of the flies movie with an all-girl cast except that people i really respect and love to listen to, like roxane gay, are like

and if she does mean “a bunch of girls probably wouldn’t have sodomized a pig or another girl with a stick” then i am on the same page

but if she does mean–and lots of people seem to agree with this sentiment coming up in 3, 2, 1–that “a group of young women stranded on an island wouldn’t be horrible to each other”, then i disagree

and i know lots of women who disagree

i am firmly of the opinion that if you say things like “i don’t get along with other women” or “i’m not like other girls” then you have got a lot of reading and thinking to do. that shit is misogynistic, it reveals that you devalue the feminine and you get off on male attention, and btw the kind of male attention you get when you act like that is not the kind you can take to the bank. “girls are like so full of drama” is a phase and the faster you work through it, the better it is for all of us.

[better to be a complete misanthrope like me]

but i don’t think that being stranded with a bunch of women would be anything like a picnic.

i think the differences in these plots would be like the differences between being in a women’s prison and being in a men’s prison. i don’t watch OITNB, but i suspect being in a women’s prison is less horrible than being in a men’s prison, but not something you’d actual volunteer to do because it’s still pretty fucking awful.

but the thing is, there are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more men in prison than women, because on the whole, men just do more ridiculous shit.

and men are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more responsible for violent crimes

so odds are, you’d be physically safer stranded on an island with a group of women than men.

less rape, but also less bacon.
[interesting how those things might be related]

and i think part of that is because of the way women are socialized: to be non-confrontational, non-violent, helpful, attentive, empathetic, etc. and i’m sticking with “socialized to be like that” and not “innately more like that” because i have adhd and a lot of the symptoms are the opposite of feminine, and anyway being feminine in almost any case ends up being more work (and more money, which is more work, etc.)

it’s just i don’t even think i could handpick a group of women i would get along with, and it’s not because they’re women, but because we’re humans: take away our indoor plumbing and our costco cards, and we’re bald monkeys. in order to feel secure in our access to resources, which would include the support and labor of the group, we’d start doing shit like cliquing off and limiting other people’s access to resources

#squadgoals

but yeah still…not getting the juiciest mangoes is not the same as sodomizing a pig (or a kid…) with a stick. i can appreciate the distinction.

there is a really rigorous selection process to see who gets to stay in the international space station. shoot, there is a really rigorous selection process to see who gets to work at google, and they STILL ended up with some halfwit who thinks menstruation is why girls are bad at math and science, or something. i’m just saying that a group of random women might not necessarily have all the ingredients for an island paradise.

i was thinking like what about that new book The Girls, by Emma Cline? kinda-sorta about the girls in the charles manson cult but then oh, yeah, they didn’t like make up killing people on their own, there was still a dude behind it.

and what about those hazing scenes from dazed and confused that i hate so much? but i hate them because the older girls are basically grooming the younger girls into like participating in the patriarchy with all the guys watching, which definitely makes me think loads of that would not be happening if the guys weren’t watching…since male attention is such a limited, desirable resource…

i do bet that a remake of the lord of the flies movie with an all-girl cast which by the fucking way is being written by two dudes, is going to at least sort of be an excuse to have 15 year-old girls mud wrestling in bikinis and leaf skirts

i will reread the lord of the flies presently and see if that changes my opinion. also later i think we should talk about our favorite women-stranded-on-an-island-creating-their-own-society stories because mine is Solitude by Ursula K. Le Guin, although it only sort-of fits the description. i just really love that story and if i could have that set-up but a) kids are optional; b) books exist; c) there’s wine; and d) we rode horses around, i’d have to call that paradise.

also i’m going to do a post on how my inability to believe that a bunch of women would get along well stranded on an uninhabited island might be a projection of my own insecurities

being frugal in zhongli or taiwan

except for riding a bike to work, i do zero of the following things, and my bike cost NT$8000 because it’s cute. but sometimes i think i could be frugal.

to my mind, the cool thing about being frugal is that it generally turns out being good for the earth and healthy, too. philosophically, i am down with frugal 100%…but then in reality…i end up spending more than i want to on beer and new restaurants, clothes and books, and whatever else catches my eye. still, overall, we’ve saved more here than we could back home, and we have more dispensable income…we’re working on it. hoping we’ll figure it out before the apocalypse. if not, hey…

ride a bike to work, or walk
a nice new scooter might cost you as much as NT$90,000. a lemon might be less than NT$10,000. because the cost of repairing and maintaining a scooter here is much less than repairing and maintaining a car back home, you might never spend that NT$80,000 difference in repairs. however, the mornings when you’re running late and that little asshole won’t start, you’ll wish you had a reliable set of wheels. if it’s too far to walk to work, consider getting a bicycle, especially a secondhand one. you won’t even have to pay the measly NT$150 a week it costs for gas. you might also consider renting a ubike, but even that NT$20-NT$40 a session might start to add up. bonus: bicycling is healthier, and if you enjoy it enough, it’s a good way to get out and explore on the weekends, too. make some cycling buddies!

drink at family mart aka “club FM”
i’m not saying don’t drink cause that’s crazy talk, but drinking is one thing that’s just about as expensive or even more expensive in taiwan than it is back home. but it’s totally permissible to sit in front of a 7-11 with your 7-11 beers and cigarettes and hang out with your buds. you can even get a bag of beers and go drink in the park, which is illegal back in the u.s.! just please don’t be assholes about it: don’t get rowdy, don’t start peeing everywhere that isn’t the bowl of the toilet/urinal, don’t be puking or shoplifting or scaring children. and when you see the old people doing their laps, that means the sun’s about to come up and it’s time for you to go home.

make your coffee at home
okay no lie this one always feels like too much work to me since you can get coffee at 7-11 for like one u.s. dollar. but, hey, you can get a bag of grinds for a couple of bucks and make loads of coffee yourself, so…it is technically cheaper. however, i do think the convenience-store coffee, if you don’t hate it, is a good financial compromise between making your own and going to starbucks or some place where they cold-brew coffee in a chemistry set and charge NT$240 for it. bonus: even 7-11 will give you a small discount if you get your coffee in your travel mug instead of a paper cup. bonus bonus: also sometimes the coffee at 7-11 and Family Mart is “buy one, get one 50% off”…and they’ll tell you that and be like, do you wanna “ji yi bei”? and if you say yes, they’ll charge you for that coffee and the next one, but then they’ll give you a receipt with a special stamp on it or a little slip of paper, and as long as you bring it back to that exact same location and get the exact same drink, you get your coffee and you saved that money. Your future self will thank you!

no pets
this one makes me sad but it’s just a fact of life. even getting set up with a fish bowl or taking in an about-to-be-homeless hamster costs money. you got the big initial splurge, then the regular care costs, then you’re gonna wanna upgrade… then like one of the hamsters got sick and i took it to the vet and that cost NT$500 and then it died the next day, anyway. i love having pets, but if your mind is on your money, then you gotta know that they can be big expenses.

eat local
i don’t mean the same thing as back home when it means get all your meat and produce from the farmers market; i mean enjoy yourself some chinese food as often as possible. once you start getting into cheese and guacamole and all that, prices start rising, even if you’re cooking at home. and there are more benefits than the financial: the local food in taiwan is always amazing, but you know you’ve had some funky salads or pizzas you wish you could take back. and if you want to branch out, vietnamese places here have really good and cheap food, too. if you can learn to cook some chinese food at home, and shop at the markets instead of the grocery stores, you can save even more!

learn some chinese
if you know how to speak and even read some chinese, you can order loads more from local restaurants

wire money home as infrequently as possible
otherwise you get those transfer fees here, the bank fees there…they really add up!

rent an older place
what i mean is don’t rent one of the apartments in the nice, new buildings. first of all, you’ll end up paying extra in guard fees, parking fees, etc. then if you’re in a fancy neighborhood, which in zhongli is the sogo neighborhood, that’ll cost ya extra, too. we found a really old place down near the xinmin night market. it’s a five-floor walkup, so that might be an issue for some people, but for us it’s okay. we have very big rooms, and old hardwood floor, and more storage space than we need, all for NT$11,000 a month. and to hear our taiwanese friends tell it, we could have gotten it for even cheaper if we had bargained.

turn off your a.c.
i mean, i don’t do this at all because i am a large baby and i can’t stand the heat or hearing J complain about the heat, so when summer comes, it’s running all the time. but i’ve heard legends of people who get by with fans, or only use their a.c. at night, and they pay a ton less in electricity bills than we do.

get an e-book reader
if you’re a voracious reader, and i am, and you have sunk a lot of money into books that you had to toss when you had to pare your life down to what could fit into two suitcases, then devices like my kindle and my nook are dreamy. i get to keep whatever i buy! you can also legally download many versions of the literary classics because they’re old, or get them for real cheap on amazon. i still end up paying full price for some books, but i’ve gotten so many for free or cheap that i can’t be mad. and think of all the luggage space (and fees!) you save when you can pack 200 books in a device the size of a slim notebook. also, i think you can set up a local library account before you move out here (or when you’re back on holiday) and then you have access to gazillions of books for free. in the meantime, harvest time usually has some books available to borrow, or you can try to hit me up for some (zhongli only, and only if i know your face).

you don’t need a costco membership
if you aren’t making western food and you’re trying to save money, there isn’t much you need to buy at costco, and definitely not anything you can’t ask someone to pick up for you next time they go, like a NT$900 box of australian red wine.

steal clothes from your friends
like not really, but when people leave, and they can only pack what they’re really attached to, offer to be the receptacle for whatever they aren’t taking with them. and whatever you don’t want, take to the thrift store, and while you’re there, see what else they’ve got for you. otherwise, being heavier or bigger than most people here will save you money just because you won’t be able to find clothes that fit. until you find out how to order things online…

get that unlimited internet
i know a guy here who was paying NT$800 a month for unlimited internet for his phone, and then used it as a hotspot to get online at home. for everything short of downloading torrents, i don’t see why this wouldn’t work.

be picky
not everyone is gonna be on the same page about the same thing. if you think that eating out and drinking are places you could cut costs, but your friends are saving money on buying books and clothes so they can pig out on saturday nights, you might get distressed. but you can compromise by showing up just for a beer, or showing up just to say hi, or pregaming at home and meeting up with everyone later at the bar, or just, i don’t know, finding new friends. you aren’t gonna be talking to but three of these people a year after you move, and ten to one it’s not even the three people you think it is, so don’t stress about fitting their birthdays into your budget.

get a hobby
if you get into something like drinking old-people tea, playing guitar, painting, writing, learning chinese, becoming a film buff, etc., you have stuff to do on the weekends besides get drunk and overeat. invest some of that extra free time in yourself, and enjoy a skill or knowledge base that will bring you many happy returns.

what else is there?

what do you do to be frugal in taiwan?

adjusting to life in taiwan

you take off your shoes before you go in the house? now that’s just smart.

you eat food with two sticks instead of a fork and knife? lemme try that!

you put this fish tank here because it’ll attract money to your business? that’s cool. i like fish! shoot, i like money, too!

you take your tea with a little liquor? how cheeky! but i’ll give it a shot.

A post shared by Kevin🇨🇦 (@kevinkjchow) on

you let the old people start eating first before you take any food? that’s mighty decent of you.

you give kids red envelopes of money during the lunar new year? that’s interesting. tell me more!

you want me to come over your house and grill some skewers and take pictures of each other with pomelo rinds on our heads? sign me up, ya crazy animal!

A post shared by 耶耶 (@wu_ya__) on

you can’t whistle at night cause it will attract ghosts? i guess that’s like how we don’t open umbrellas in the house back home.

you wanna rent a room, get drunk, and sing avril lavigne songs at each other? did you just read my mind?!

you don’t let kids drink cold water, but you hand them bottle rockets? hey, they’re your kids.

you hire pole dancers and strippers to perform on the street for big funerals and major holidays? let me get my camera.

A post shared by Jerry Sung (@jerrys0121) on

you hired a cleaning service to clean this place before we moved in, and they didn’t sweep the cat hair out from under the sofa because you can’t see under the sofa? you paid money for someone to half-clean this house?! did you just pay them half?!

you just park wherever? but this is double-parking and you’re blocking traffic behind- omg watch out for that guy doing a u-turn in the middle of- jesus h. christ!

would it not be simpler if every driver on the damn island starting turning BEHIND the people in the right lane instead of speeding up and cutting them off?! maybe there needs to be like a government campaign or something…

if.you.needed.to.turn.left.why.were.you.on.the.far.right.why.why.answer.me.why.

WHAT KIND OF MONSTER CUTS IN LINE?! I DON’T CARE HOW OLD YOU ARE OR HOW BUSY YOU THINK YOU ARE RELATIVE TO THE OTHER PEOPLE WHO WERE HERE FIRST! YOU GO RIGHT TO HELL!

this is why i can’t find anything to watch

we might have cable–i don’t know–and we have netflix, but i can never find anything to watch between monday nights when i watch game of thrones and insecure. i poke around netflix like looking in a fridge full of condiments for something to eat but i can’t find anything to watch because these stupid blurbs are the only thing i have to go on. tell me if you would watch these shows based on these descriptions:

“Great friends, hot new dining spots, spontaneous adventures. He’s living his best life, but he’s ready to level up.”
this sounds like the status update of a dude who just broke up with his cheating partner and also inexplicably talks about himself in the third person.

“He moved from Idaho to New York and looks like a 1950s ice cream man. But there’s a lot going on behind that happy face.”
i don’t do horror flicks and this definitely sounds like the tagline for a movie about a serial killer and not a stand-up comedy special

“Sam’s on the spectrum. He’s ready to start dating. But growing up means growing pains for his family.”
this should be great because normally when children hit adolescence it barely registers with their family members.
get the popcorn, honey!

“Rob’s madly in love and about to married. Unfortunately he’s also naked, stuck in an elevator, and caught in a time loop.”
you silly goose where is your pants

“They’re young, they’re attractive, they’re in love. They’re also renting living space in a derelict hospital.”
this sounds like netflix is spoofing itself. wtf wants to watch a show based on this description?

“What’s a Midwest girl to do after she’s spent the last fifteen years trapped underground? Moved to New York of course.”
OMG DOES SHE MEET ALL KINDS OF WACKY BIG-CITY TYPES??!!
hijinks ensue

“These guys are different, but one thing they do have in common is that they’re totally hopeless in dating and life.”
this sounds like something you’d put on while you’re babysitting, and if your charges are too young to appreciate jokes about pedophiles, cocks, hitler, cancer, and so on, then you’re fine.

“Her staff is stoned, her patients are baked, and she’s definitely flying high. Welcome to Ruth’s Alternative Caring.”
those drug jokes are so edgy.
did your mom write a blurb for a netflix show about medical marijuana?

“Some people can accept rejection and move on with their lives. This teenage girl isn’t one of them.”
that is not something that anyone thinks teenage girls do. if i wanted to get invested in a story about a teenage girl who doesn’t accept rejection like a financially-independent divorcée, i would ask you what high school was like for you

“Their search for The One takes some seriously awkward detours. But in the meantime, they’ve got each other.”
based on this blurb i refused to watch lovesick for a while but then i read that it was a show about a guy who found out he had chlamydia and had to go back to all the women he’d slept with and tell them he had an std and meanwhile his best friend is in love with him and then i watched both seasons in one weekend

put on your big girl pants

seeing 40 in the near distance, it’s much scarier than 30. i embraced 30. 30 felt like i was incontrovertibly grown-up. as a single woman of 20, i could be dismissed, but at 30, at least i had age in my corner.

i mean, in my experience, you still get dismissed, by men; interrupted, by men; and mansplained to, but you roll your eyes a lot more and end conversations more quickly. when i don’t actually argue, because i already feel like i am always hacking at the underbrush but never clearing a path, then i am able to just walk away, especially from men my age: how can someone can be 40 years old and so lacking in self-awareness?

but 40 feels like a deadline. i thought it would be nice to be published for my short stories or personal essays or travel pieces and paid to write at 30. then 35. now i feel like there’s a deadline: i don’t want to tell people i am 40 and i half-ass maintain my blog and half-ass write stories and know 8 guitar chords. i have less than four years now to make something coherent out of this mess of a life.

not really, but still.

what i think i know:

  • if you have problems with more than a few people, the problem is you
    • you don’t “not get along with most women”–you’re a jerk, you don’t value your relationships with women, and i will put money on you pandering to men even when they don’t value you. also “i’ve just always gotten along with guys better. there’s less drama” is a stage like bad skin, but if you’re there for more than a little while in your adolescence, you’re just perpetuating the patriarchy that wants to keep women fractured and competitive and values stereotypically masculine traits and contributions over the feminine.
    • sometimes i am not eating meat and sometimes i am saving money but if you see me with a hamburger or new clothes and you have any questions for me besides how is it? or what’d you get?, keep them to yourself. what goes into my mouth or out of my wallet is only my business and my husband’s
    • on wednesday i did want to go out on friday but now that it’s friday all i want to do is practice finger-picking killing me softly and finish season 4 of daria so please have other friends
    • i rarely cook for myself or my husband so going to your potluck feels like more work than you know and it’s not even a holiday. i’m either not coming or i’m picking something on the way. you can count on me for a bottle of something red and cheap because that’s what we drink at home.
    • not feeling like the state of my house reflects on my worth as a woman and a human being and not allowing a cluttered living room to be a source of frustration has freed up loads of time and mental space, but some of that space has been reallocated to worrying about how my deciding not to cook something from scratch for your party makes me a beneficiary of women’s work but not a participant
    • the amount of anxiety you might feel running behind schedule in a foreign and unfamiliar airport is the level at which i start my day so don’t feel so special if i flake or freak out because it’s not you, it’s definitely me
    • i have opted out of having kids and buying a house and even going into debt for grad school because i like to have time to read books, write, and explore other hobbies. your assuming that i’m not doing anything important because i’m not being paid nt$600 (us$20) to do it is insulting
    • what you don’t know if you don’t get out of the house: the water gets warmer after a few minutes. your breath comes easier after the first mile.

sometimes i feel like men think i am pretending to be younger than i am, because they ask how old i am and i tell them and i don’t lie and they recoil i’ve dropped the mask and they can see what was hidden–the crow’s feet, the droopy lips, the saggy tits, the dry and uncompromising cunt, the expectations, the demands, the ability to walk away knowing i am self-repairing and self-reliant. it must be terrifying to them. but i never lied about my age–i just have genes that age well, long hair, and i go to the bar in my t-shirts and jeans same as i did when i was 23, so if anybody’s mask is removed when i say i’m 36, it’s theirs because they projected their ideas about women in their 20s and women in their 30s onto me. fuck em.

i used to think women lied about their age because they were embarrassed. but it’s not because they are embarrassed to be that age, it’s because other people think they should embarrassed. or because other people have ideas about what a woman in her 30s, 40s, 50s, etc. can and should do, and they know they can do more and are more than a generic, off-the-dusty-shelf middle-aged woman. so they say they’re 27, 28, 29 because they have all the verse and energy of a woman in her 20s and don’t want to have to fight to prove it all the time.

my mother-in-law went ziplining with us in thailand two weeks after her 70th birthday so that’s all i have to say about that. i’d post a picture of her but i don’t think she’d want to be featured in a post where i talked about my “dry and uncompromising cunt”.

surfboard as an accessory
surfing lesson going badly at 33 years old

it’s a pasta and ramen kind of day

i am sitting here slurping on a bowl of creamy tom yum instant noodles that i made with too much water. i don’t normally eat instant noodles or food from 7-11, but tonight i did both because today sucked and i want it to choke it dead with carbohydrates.

i woke up early and went for a walk and that seemed like a promising beginning, but while i was walking i got stuck behind an old man slowly pedaling down the walking/bike path ahead of me. every few feet, he would hork a loogie to the right and then let sail a snot rocket to the left. one or two expectorations from an old dude in the morning is still fucking gross but within the realm of shit that happens, but this dude was a bicycling biohazard. i kept back and tried to avoid seeing whatever the fuck he was leaving in a trail behind him. he stopped his bicycle at the intersection and took a long drag of his cigarette and i realized he was killing himself and mindlessly spreading contagions like he’d decided the rest of us have nothing to live for. thanks, old dude.

that was fine.

i had trouble getting focused but i nailed out the last couple paragraphs of a short story that i started working on like two weeks ago and at least i have a rough draft now. i thought that would be enough joy to get me through the day, knowing i’ve finished yet another story, but no:

i went to this smoothie place at like i swear to god 12:15, it was not that late. maybe 12:20. there are a couple of tables, but just one couple at one table and that’s it. i walk in an order a smoothie and a wrap. to be clear, this is food that has to be assembled, not made, and this is basically the only food available at this place: coffee, smoothies, and three kinds of sandwiches.

i step back and look at my watch. as long as i am out of here by 12:40, i will definitely have time to bike to work. but i am certain that i will be out of there before 12:40 because that would be ridiculous. these people put lunch meat and slices of lettuce on bread for a living, they are professionals. at 12:35, the chick walks out from behind the counter and i jump up, ready to grab my stuff, and OMG SHE IS JUST BRINGING TWO FUCKING SMOOTHIES TO THESE OTHER PEOPLE. like i watched this chick cut up some strawberries, wash them all, rehome them in some tupperware, wash the plastic box they came in…and none of that was for me. i have been there twenty minutes, these people even longer. and the manager was over there interviewing a prospective employee at 12:30 AS YOU DO IN A RESTAURANT…i took a deep breath because obviously now that these smoothies are out of the way, these ridiculous fucking smoothies with fruit arranged on top like a goddamn carmen-miranda headpiece, this chick will be able to roll up some lunch meat in a tortilla and send me on my way. so i wait til 12:40 and i can’t really wait any longer, it’s gonna take me 15 minutes to get to work, and i peek over the counter AND THIS BITCH IS MAKING WAFFLES AND GRILLING CHICKEN.

i did not order waffles or chicken.

i told her i had to go, but like right now, sorry and thanks, tee-hee, and she shuffles the shuffle of the overworked and underpaid and pulls out a tupperware container with some meat in it and starts to put the beef on the grill like i have twenty more minutes to waste on her making bad life choices. finally the manager was done and also tuned in to what was happening and she saw a solution, how about i just take the chicken if i’m in such a rush?

if i had fucking wanted chicken…but fine, it’s actually too late for me to get food anywhere else at this point anyway. so there’s like US$7 which is actually pretty pricey for lunch in zhongli and like a solid 40 minutes of my life wasted getting somebody else’s overpriced lunch.

and then on the way to work, literally just riding my bicycle down the side of the road, a car passed me. i noticed she had her right turn signal on pretty much right when she turned. i slammed both my brakes, and when you do that on a bicycle, you stop dead, unless you slide for a second on your not-moving wheels, which is what i did. i was furious–i hadn’t been going slow at all and it wouldn’t have taken but a second for her to turn behind me instead of cut me off. i almost fell over the handlebars, and then the person behind me honked their horn. i was apoplectic and residually afraid for me life, so i screamed at that guy and waved my arms, “don’t fucking honk at me! it was that car!” and then that car was still there so i did what any professional elementary school teacher would do in public when she’s lost her fucking mind and i tore off down that road with the intention of i don’t know, ringing my bicycle bell at her a bunch of times and flipping her the bird.

lo and fucking behold, she’d stopped like just right there because some other jackass was doing a surprise u-turn. so she’d almost caused an accident because she had to make that right turn so fucking fast, and here she is waiting because it’s zhongli and nobody can drive and everyone double parks and the roads suck SO WHAT IS THE POINT. i got alongside her, i waved my right arm around and shouted, “you’re a real dick, you know that?” because that was what was in my heart of hearts at that moment. and then because the other car was still not pointed in the right direction i drifted past them both and then had to stop to make a left to get back on the road i was actually supposed to be on so i could go to work, since i was running late. she had to pass behind me, and when she did, i gave her the stinkiest of stink eyes, and willed the stench to stay with her the rest of the day.

of course by the time i got to school i felt bad for losing my cool–what if that had been a parent driving the car? awkward. but i also felt a teensy bit justified since she’d made me almost shit my pants.

i am afraid of ending up on youtube. i actually feel sorry for people some people who lose their shit and end up on youtube because sometimes unless they are racist or transphobic or what, i feel like i get it. there but for the grace go i…

and then i had to teach, within like an hour of me wanting to see some lady bounce her own head off her steering wheel. but that’s fine, i’m fine with the students. we made little posters and read a story about a pig named slim and it was fine. the “poo-poo” all over the floor of the boys’ bathroom was actually mud and the “blood” was actually blood, but it was just a nosebleed. all in all it was fine.

then i spent thirty minutes of my prep time looking for the shitfucking projector i was meant to use, and then thirty minutes of a forty-minute class looking for damn files on the usb because i knew that as soon as class was over, any other teacher there was going to show me where the files were and say something passive-aggressive about my being an idiot. only nobody could find the files after class and then we found the last person who had used the usb labelled “reading adventures” and found out that satan had compelled her to remove the “reading adventures” files from that usb and put whatever the hell she wanted on it.

THAT’S OKAY TEEHEE TEEHEE

i went to the dentist after work to try and find my health insurance card and the receptionist asked me about a dozen questions and told me to wait a minute and i kept explaining to her that i only wanted to know if i’d forgotten my health card and she kept saying it would take a minute to find out…then she finally came from the back with a file with my name on it and said you just want to know to know if we have your health card? and i said yes, and she said of course we don’t, if we did, we would call you. and since that wasn’t the dumbest thing that happened today i just accepted it.

and then the vietnamese place was closed and i could have gone to the night market but people, and i thought about going to madotz for hot pot but people, so i got pasta carbonara at 7-11 and the lady said “nihao” to me and didn’t grab anything out of my hands so that was pretty much the best part of my day so far, except for actually finishing the first draft of that story.

but i don’t have my health card so i can’t go to the doctor (without paying US$15 instead of US$3 for a doctor’s visit) so this cold is just gonna hang out here. unlike the old man, i will not force anything out of my body, i will just sit here with leaks sprouting in my eyes and nose.

at least i am not in texas. nor do i have children. and there’s still one more episode of game of thrones and a new episode of insecure.

and loads more ramen.

my lovely lady links 8-26

i am rediscovering my high-school interest in impressionism:

Victorine Meurent in Manet's Olympia
Victorine Meurent in Manet’s Olympia

Victorine Meurent is remembered as Manet’s favorite model and the nude star of his controversial paintings le Dejeuner sur l’Herbe and Olympia, but in this 2008 article, the Guardian explains that she was also a painter in her own right and who SURPRISE SURPRISE has been abused when not neglected by history. i mean she got into the 1876 Salon when Manet was rejected which you can look back and say that doesn’t mean much because what ended up in the Salon was not always what history has celebrated but you’d be an ass not to acknowledge how prestigious that was at the time.

Meurent's own Palm Sunday
Meurent’s own Palm Sunday

the BBC has a three-part (three hours) factual docudrama on the Impressionists on youtube

do you have to be racist, sexist, or otherwise an asshole to be funny? i was like NO WAY but then i read this article on the fader wherein they interviewed six actual comedians and now i’m like “he value of making my joke funny is far more important than the value of making my joke comfortable” which still kinda sounds like bullshit to me?

and now i am remembering wanda sykes’s bit about the detachable pussy, widely-hailed as like the one funny joke about rape (though for my money vagina dentata are pretty funny)

you can’t actually start talking about clarice lispector without noting that nobody knows who she is, but for somebody that we usually get to be like “you probably haven’t heard of her”, she keeps showing up in my life: here’s a podcast of a couple of her short stories on selected shorts (fucking listen to it, the writing and the reading are amazing) and here’s a review of a book I now want to read, based on lines from a Lispector story:

Having no dolls to play with, and maternity already pulsating terribly in the hearts of those orphans, the sly little girls had concealed another girl’s death from the nun. They hid the corpse in a wardrobe until the nun left, and played with the dead girl, giving her baths and little snacks, punishing her just so they could kiss her afterward, consoling her.

samanatha irby god among women delivered the truth about shitty people on social media: block them and pretend they died

every time someone’s internet presence feels like a personal attack on my life i first try to have compassionate thoughts like “what if something terrible is happening in her life?” because even though we know it isn’t there’s still a very slim chance hell is real and i’d like to have a plausible defense of my actions on earth should there be some sort of way to argue my way out of damnation. but then i think, “well if she were actually suffering there’s no way she’d be spamming me links to all these pyramid schemes” and my guilt evaporates just long enough for me to click that block button so i can move on with my day. i’m a patient person and hesitant to alienate anyone who might have fifteen dollars lying around to buy my books, but it dawned on me the other day that for me, the internet has to be a meticulously curated digital space in which your uncle’s vaguely racist tweets have no place.

Roxane Gay on feminism and her book Difficult Women at the Appel Salon at the Toronto Public Library.

so i’m like a casual spectator of financial blogs and early retirement blogs like mr. money mustache and budgets are sexy, and a lot of them are committed to FIRE, which stands for Financially Independent, Retired Early…but since that requires busting your ass for however many years at first, and since a lot of those people who achieve it end up doing something that looks a whole lot like work anyway, this dude is advocating for HEAT: Half-Employed, Adjusted Living. that sounds kinda like what we are doing out here teaching english except for not really saving and not investing

this American Life episode on Afrofuturism. it’s on my to-listen list.

apparently abraham lincoln thought that once emancipated it would be a good idea for black americans to just remove themselves from the country since their presence was causing so much trouble among whites…but since it was black americans labor–blood, sweat, and tears–that built up the country, why should they leave? but how tragic is it to stay in a country where you sometimes feel you aren’t wanted? or to feel like there’s no country that really wants you? from Avidly

so in 2017 oh forget it nothing surprises me at this point, lord help us. some actual paid intellectuals think that white bourgeois culture is actually superior to other cultures and wrote an op-ed touting the awesomeness of family values and respect for authority…
look, those phrases are like 500lb suitcases that shouldn’t be tossed around carelessly and would take forever to unpack

This cultural script began to break down in the late 1960s. A combination of factors — prosperity, the Pill, the expansion of higher education and the doubts surrounding the Vietnam War — encouraged an anti-authoritarian, adolescent, wish-fulfillment ideal — sex, drugs and rock-and-roll — that was unworthy of, and unworkable for, a mature, prosperous adult society. This era saw the beginnings of an identity politics that inverted the color-blind aspirations of civil rights leaders like the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. into an obsession with race, ethnicity, gender and now sexual preference.

ugh i remember being spoonfed this pap at my conservative christian college…anybody else have to read Slouching Towards Gomorrah?

anyway

here’s a giant long interview with somebody about george harrison if that’s what you’re into. i was going to read it but i think if i just closed the tab and moved on i wouldn’t feel that bad.

yup. i feel fine.

Can the science of purpose help explain white supremacy? A sense of purpose makes us physically and psychologically stronger. But what if your purpose is hateful and destructive?

i am literally just copying and pasting stuff now i’m gonna call it