Strong Bitch

When I wanted us to take a break

You thought that I was crazy.

But it’s crazy that you never took the time to fucking hear me.

And you never asked me what you can do better in the future.

So I’m always asking myself if I’m trying too hard to push you.

Then I become the villain when I expect so much out of my boyfriend.

I call it having standards and basic self-respect.

And it’s not my fault you can’t love me more than I love myself.

I don’t see anything wrong with that or else I’d be insecure as hell.


If you want to be my boyfriend

You have to be my friend first.

So why is it that you wanted to get out of “friend zone”?

It tells me that you don’t value me as a person,

And that being a friend should naturally lead to being my boyfriend.

So you think you’re the victim because you tried so hard to get out of the friend zone.

And because I rejected you, I don’t deserve respect and you can’t be nice to me anymore?

In reality the “nice guy” wasn’t nice at all. He was nice because he needed some stability in life.

But I’m not your fucking mom and you can’t blame me for not raising you right.

It’s your own goddam fault if you think you deserve any woman just because you think you’re “nice.”


So when I see your face now

All I see is a coward.

I want to call you a bitch

But you’re more like a flower.

I’d be insulting myself

If I paid you that compliment.

If you want to be a bad ass bitch

You have to be passionate and confident.

And you’re none of those things

Because feeling entitled isn’t a sign of confidence.

It means that you can’t bear to lose sight of your “God-given” privilege.


And you spent more time looking for the latest trend in blazers

Instead of thinking of your girlfriend

And how you could amaze her.

And how could I forget all those hours playing League—

Or whatever fucking game you played.

Does it really matter what it was?

You still sucked at them anyway.

And I know I said I’d love you for even all your flaws

But you embarrass me in front my friends when you tell them you’re a Bronze.

Cause you boast your expertise and then dare them to a challenge.

And it’s somehow disappointing losing badly to a Platinum.

Don’t be so naive and don’t get ahead of yourself.

Stop thinking you’re so smart if you can’t even ask for help.


Now I understand

Why you love your shoes so much.

Because they kept your feet on the ground when you walked away from us.

So when you leave the house

I hope you see yourself in the mirror.

While you wear your Brooks Brothers jacket,

Underneath is an attitude of terror.

Your life is a charade.

You try so hard to look put together,

But in your head, you think that people are out there trying to get you.

The reality is you don’t want to make life’s toughest decisions.

Because it’s hard to let a girl go once you’ve committed.

Losing that stability would mean facing more uncertainty

But I’ll never understand how you managed to drag me down with you without ever feeling guilty.


Breakup Confessions

You tell me you love me

And I want to believe it.

I don’t think I can see it.

I don’t think it’s even there.

When you tell me I’m beautiful

Is that really true?


With my heart broken so many times

How can I trust myself to love?

How will I know that the safety I feel isn’t going to dissolve?

How do I know what real love feels like if I every time I’ve said it

I’ve gotten nothing in return?

As that love has gone on unreciprocated

I begin to question if love is even worth chasing.

I begin to wonder if I can really love at all

Since I can’t really quantify my ability to love with decimals.

I’ve never seen the impact of that love

I’ve never been told that my love has done something right.

So what was event the point when

Everything simply culminated into a fight?

When that love disappeared with the wind?

I let those seeds scatter

But I’m still left with nothing.

Nothing grew from them.

They just fell to the ground.

Nothing grew from them.

So you can imagine my reaction

When I said I wouldn’t try that again.

Where did all that love go?

What was it all worth?

I still feel empty-handed.

It’s hard to think back on it

Without still feeling hurt.


So how can I love someone else if I can’t love myself?

How can I love him if I don’t see what he sees?

Because in my experience with men

Love changes so easily.

I’ve fallen in love with guys who don’t show it back.

Yeah, I would break up with them.

I can justify myself all day,

But at the end of it all

I’m the one who’s feeling like crap.

Am I just trying to have someone fill the hole I’ve dug myself?

Because it just feels like I’m trying to cover something up.


My thoughts are sporadic

And I question myself so much

That it’s hard to come to a decision.

I don’t think I’m ready.

Because it feels way too good to be true.

Nothing feels right

Because I’ve done nothing to deserve this.

I really can’t believe he’s mine.

And I really don’t want to lose my place in line.

So sometimes I want to ask

If I can take a number

Because I need to process what is going on

Before I can say, “I’m ready to order.”

I know I sound ridiculous

But hear me out.

I just have to make sure

You know what you’re getting yourself into

If you ask me to a date.

Because if you break up with me

Everything is fair game.

Because if you break up with me

I will berate you in the most elegant way I can.

That’s one part of me I don’t question

Because that’s just who I am.


Sorry Not Sorry

Male patriarchy, you can take a seat.

I have had enough.

You speak up before I have even spoken a word.

But I let you speak because you ought to be heard.

I validate your perspective because “sorry” is something I learned.

Ignorance and Intelligence both start with an “I”

But you can only have the latter if you have an open mind.

You accuse me of making mountains out of molehills

Because, “Baby, you don’t need to worry about the little things because we got chemistry.”

So I’m not supposed to look at my lover with a critical eye

Because I’m supposed to be obedient, submissive, and shy.

And I’m not allowed to talk about my insecurities

While you disclose to me all your sexual fantasies.


Go on, male patriarchy, just be yourself

Because stealing from the oppressed will add to your wealth.

Because society isn’t forcing it down your throat

Telling you to be somebody else.

Your sisters were down when you kicked them

Cause you think that holding a grudge means you’re the victim.

A girl who speaks her mind—you weren’t ready to hear it

So you tell her that her emotions are inappropriate.

So as I’m asking you to make an attitude shift

You turn around and call me a bitch.

Because a woman’s right to speech is stupid.

Because if I can’t take your criticism then I’m just stupid.

But if my brother taught me to have a thick skin

What does that make him?

I’m just being myself.

So I speak to you—

To my brother, to my ex’s, to my boyfriend, to my sexists,


Your rational mind isn’t rationally kind.

So if you want an equivalent exchange,

Then we don’t owe you shit.



Honest. Genuine. Happy. Extroverted.

How about Jealous?

I live my life with deeply buried feelings of insecurity burned inside me through years of bullying, and to have to mask that emotional scarring every day until I forget it’s there makes me feel disconnected from the persona I put on. Because I often feel that my social life is dissociated from my emotional being, my life actually feels ingenuine. I joke about not having friends growing up, being the least popular cousin in my family, and losing the few friends I did have, but sometimes I just want to break down and cry. And in those private moments of intense emotional agony, I cry out in my head, “Why doesn’t anyone love me?” I would physically collapse inward as if I’m a hollow Chinadoll whose bodily pieces were falling into the crevices of my being. The screaming gets so loud in my head, and my mouth would be forced open by the weight of those silent screams. But to anyone else in the house, the night is perfectly still. So these feelings of anger, frustration, and despair eat away at me on the inside without so much as an imperfection on the surface. On rare occasions, I feel this way when I see another person who is happily surrounded by friends and family (again, it rarely happens because I would also like to think I’m not constantly self-centered). When my emotions do flare up, it’s because I hear the voice in the back of my head asking me if I am as happy as the person I am comparing myself to.

And I don’t know if I can answer that question.

I have hated myself for as long as I can remember going to family parties as a young child. Time and time again these painful memories of feeling unwanted by my peers and family members who have ostracized me for one reason or another resurface. Easter egg hunts. Birthday parties. Tennis sleepovers. I was excluded from all of them. I cried when I read my sister’s school project in which she completely renounced me as her sister (I was eight). And I cried the summer after my freshman year of college because I realized that when I returned home, I had no one around me except the family members who aren’t really interested in seeing me again anyway (I was nineteen). The time between these two salient moments in my life is punctuated by many others just like them.

And I did everything I could to boost my self-esteem. I joined the tennis team and speech team in high school. I worked hard to get accepted into an elite private university. I have made many friends. I ran a half marathon. But even now, nothing can expunge this feeling of emptiness—this feeling that I am never enough, not for myself, but for the people who I care about. As I am trying to make sense of and differentiate between the insecurity of being enough for myself and being enough for someone else, I drive myself crazy. People have always told me that I only have myself to impress. That no one else’s opinion of me matters.

But to what extent can I truly accept that advice in the circumstance that I am happy with who I am but not happy with whom I’m around. The solution seems to be as simple as changing my social environment, but how can I truly forget those who share my blood? Forget that expectation of kinship and love? Forget the friendship that ended because of a misunderstanding that I desperately tried, but failed, to fix. Forget the desire to find closure from the relationships I leave behind? Forget my family when I see others with theirs? When family is the only thing I have—yet sometimes it still feels like I have nothing.

When some of the most important relationships I have had impart feelings of empty-handedness, some pathetic part of me tells me that I don’t, in fact, have any proof of my worth. That need for belonging continues to go unfulfilled, and I have dug myself into a ditch of self-consciousness that reminds me every day of my greatest fear of being unworthy of love. How far can someone go in life without feeling the love of others? Love for oneself simply cannot be enough, otherwise I would be a narcissist. But am I not a narcissist by longing for more attention from others? In which case, I feel wrongfully entitled by wishing for that unconditional love which seems to surround everyone else. To me, it comes to you the way a present arrives on Christmas, right? If you get it, you deserve it, if not then you don’t. It’s an insidious way to perceive how my world functions, I know, but it’s become so involuntary for my thoughts to stray to this because I have become chained to the affect of my past.

So when I analyze myself, I hold up a mental self-portrait. Sometimes I see what others see, but how much of it is really me? Is the reality of my outward self less material with the existence of my juxtaposing inward self? I guess I won’t know until I expose everything.



After writing this, I realize now how these reflections as a second-generation Asian American may resonate with others who feel generational/cultural gaps within their families. I certainly attribute the thoughts of self-loathing I express in this piece to that identity, but I also realize now that condition I have lies on the extreme end of social disconnect. I feel comforted knowing that in spite the severity of my self-inflicted criticisms, people can relate to feeling conflicted around the issue of belonging. I would not have been able to understand myself better had I not written about this, and the feedback I have gotten from others has been an added benefit. Thank  you.

Romance: A Family Affair

“This time I’m gonna break out and be free/Stop needin’ what I want and start wantin’ what I need.”

—Clara C

I have learned that our romantic preferences are socially constructed, and when we ask ourselves why we like someone with a certain skin color, hair, eyes, etc. couldn’t we all find some possible, albeit obscure, answer to those questions that point to outside influences? The very meaning of beauty is socially constructed, we know that. Some years, big hips and hourglasses are hot; others, it’s Twiggy. The socializing source can be anything from societal norms to our own parents, but the growing counterculture tells us to marry whomever we love, regardless of appearance.

It’s unpopular of me to say, then, that I am purposefully selecting a partner based on physical appearance.

As I grow older, I have physically grown apart from my parents, and I have had time to rationalize the crazy things that they say and do. The weight of their survival and selflessness began to set in when I learned about the dangers of escaping Vietnam in 1975 and my parents’ journey to America as refugees. My parents may live the “American Dream” but they have never enjoyed life the way my brother, my sister, and I undeservingly have. They never go on vacations if the purpose is not to see family. They never go to fancy restaurants. They never do anything “fun.” For them, the primary purpose of their existence has always been to provide for not only us, but our family members who struggle for money either here or in Vietnam. That is why I carry this guilt on my shoulders: my existence would be nothing without the courage, sacrifice, and wellbeing of my parents. So when people tell me to live my life for myself and myself only, I think, Isn’t that selfish?

Had my parents taken that advice, they would have separated years ago; I would not have had the means to go to a prestigious university; I would never see my mom and dad in the same room again; I would lose the home I grew up in; I would become family with strangers if my parents remarried. But that didn’t happen because my parents live by a different set of values that are uncommon—unpopular, even—in America.

They chose a life that they thought was better for their children. It’s still far from perfect (and sometimes I wish they would just take a day off work without complaining about the money they would lose), but in theory, what they did was selfless.

So when I arrive at the question of who to date, I have been socialized by this guilt, but whether that is right or wrong is a question of morality. My parents set constraints to whom I can date/marry, and although it contradicts popular meanings of liberation, obliging my parents along these lines also frees me from the burden of choice. Choice is often paralyzing in this era of unlimited option, and to know that respecting my parents with a choice that makes them happy ultimately makes my life easier and is worth more to me than preserving my “God-given freedom.” Freedom may be entitled to everyone, but not every one is blessed to live in it. In fact, I should be grateful for even having the privilege of choice at all and not have my choices revoked from me simply because I was labeled by society as undesirable by my skin color, a stigma that many Black women must live with. My American lineage is but two generations old, so it’s easier for me than for others to see where I came from. Many of us, at one point or another, lose sight of that. Maybe that’s why many Millenials feel so entitled to everything.


Beauty in the Heart, Heart on My Sleeve

People say to pay it forward. Pay for someone’s lunch bill, help someone carry his/her groceries, or give a compliment. Taking that moment to acknowledge the people around you to appreciate the world you live in and value the good you can accomplish through simple acts of kindness. But what if giving a compliment doesn’t do anything good for the other person? What if telling a girl that she is pretty only makes her feel horrible and remind her of her latent self-loathing.

This shouldn’t make sense, but to me, it’s how I’ve felt for a long time. I thank the people who compliment me on my looks, who tell me that I’m pretty, and often they are very nice people overall. But on that rare occasion that this does happen, it has never improved my own self-perception. Sure—sometimes I take way too many selfies at once and choose the best ones from a catalogue of pretend modeling and post it on Facebook or Instagram. Who doesn’t do this nowadays? But displaying my “best self” isn’t enough either. Not because I think I’m faking “it,” whatever it is—society’s definition of beauty—but because I have never heard someone who continues to be someone I truly care about tell me I’m beautiful on the inside.

Every day, we walk around and see other people’s faces. We see people we have never met regularly at work and at school, and we see our friends’ faces very often, which leaves very little time to be looking at our own faces. The logical conclusion is that we will go through life knowing our friends’ faces better than our own. So for me, simply looking at my own physical beauty does not invoke strong emotions the way that my thoughts and opinions do because most of the time, I’m not even thinking about how I look. In the mornings, I participate in the ritual of making myself presentable by our society’s standards, but throughout the day, the way I look is usually not my first thought. My mind is constantly wondering what others perceive of me as a personality, and although I generally do not let people’s judgments dictate my actions I can’t help but be conscious of the fact that how I act will have an impression on people.

I compliment my friends when they are not around:

“I love Hannah. She’s really nice.”

“Ted may seem self-centered, but he’s a great guy once you get to know him.”

“Let’s just say Katie is an interesting person. She’s a great photographer and writes really well, though.”

Do I tell my friends about these epithets? I guess I don’t do it enough. Maybe many of us don’t directly compliment our friends nearly enough. On social media, it’s easy to say someone looks beautiful in a picture, but how beautiful is that person on the inside? What do those epithets tell about my inner beauty?

Now, I don’t want to make this situation into a game of comparing people’s personalities and ranking one personality as more “beautiful” than another. But just like how physical beauty attracts attention through optical curiosity, inner beauty should then attract people via social curiosity. A physical trait, like a person’s face, may represent the item of attraction, but what are the personality traits that make a person attractive? Physical beauty can and does change drastically day-to-day, but inner beauty grounds that physical metamorphosis we all undergo and continues to be the essence of our existence. So if one’s inner beauty is not validated by others, does that person truly exist? Can her footprints be seen in the snow?

This kind of perspective is inherently self-centered, so the solution to it would be—coincidently—pay it forward. Put others before yourself. However, when it comes to complimenting a friend, the type of compliment may matter in generating the intended effect.